In rugby, you don’t spend 12 weeks training to peak once - we have to peak almost every single weekend for 8-9 months. Because of this, gaining strength or size in-season can seem an impossible dream to chase, but in reality, you could just be going about it the wrong way. The push to develop strength or build mass when training and competing in rugby becomes too much, and ends up negatively affecting performance on game day. You simply can’t give 100% physical effort to multiple things and expect nothing to give.

 

In rugby, you don't have to peak once - you have to peak every weekend.

Peaking every weekend for nine months takes its toll. Use big but effective exercises to keep your performance high.

 

A Weekly Undulating Approach

Step forward sub-maximal strength training. Put simply, you drop your training percentages by 10%, allowing you more energy for other areas of your training. By continuing with this method long term, eventually your old max becomes what you do for reps. Through my experience of working with professional, semi-pro, and amateur rugby teams I’ve found the most success when applying this through a weekly undulating approach – allowing the player to progress not only with gaining strength, but also building some size.

 

A weekly undulating approach is a fancy way of saying you’re working in different rep ranges week to week. Rather than doing four weeks of hypertrophy, followed by strength, followed by power, you incorporate rep ranges to cater for each of these goals weekly to stay close to your best week in, week out.  

 

This sub-maximal approach is the linchpin of this programme, and you'll use it for the main movement of each day. You will get to the gym, do the important work first, and use these big but effective exercises to make consistent progress. This way, if like most people, you have an hour to get in, work out, and get out, you’ve already done the good stuff. The rest can be a bonus as and when you find the time.

 

Have fun with it, stay within your limits, and enjoy the benefits on the pitch.

 

The 4-Week In-Season Strength Programme

Before Starting This Programme

1. Take your 1 rep max (1RM), or an estimated version using the following calculation:

 

(((Weight lifted x reps competed) x0.0333) +weight lifted)

 

2. Times that by .90 to get your Training Max (TM).

3. Apply that new training max into the programme below.

 

Week 1

Day 1 – Lower Body

1.  Jump or Throw Variation– 4 sets of 2 reps

(continue warm up, with mobilising and activation between sets)

 

Jump Variation examples:

  • Box Jump 
  • Seated Box Jump
  • Standing Broad Jump
  • Single Leg Power Step Up

 

Throw Variation examples:

  • Underhand forward throw 
  • Underhand overhead throw (for distance behind)
  • Underhand overhead throw (for height vertically)
  • Standing Chest Throw with jump

 

2. Back Squat – work up to 8 reps at 85% TM

 

3a. BB Glute Bridge – 4 sets of 6 reps

3b. BB Bent Over Row – 4 sets of 8 reps

(All A+B exercises to be completed as a superset)

 

4a. Weighted Plank – 4 sets of 30 seconds

4b. Rope Face Pull – 4 sets of 15 reps

 

Day 2 – Upper Body

1.  Jump or Throw Variation – 4 sets of 2 reps

 

2. Bench Press – work up to 8 reps at 85% TM

 

3a. DB Overhead Press – 4 sets of 6 reps

3b. Single Arm Pulldown – 4 sets of 8 reps each side

 

4a. Cable Woodchop – 4 sets of 10 reps each side

4b. Band Pull Apart – 4 sets of 20 reps

 

Day 3 – Total Body

1. Jump or Throw Variation – 4 sets of 2 reps

 

2a. Bulgarian Split Squat – 4 sets of 6 reps each side

2b. BB Push Press – 4 sets of 6 reps

 

3a. DB Incline Press – 4 sets of 8 reps

3b. DB Chest Supported Row – 4 sets of 8 reps

 

4a. Biceps Curl – 4 sets of 12 reps

4b. Rope Pushdown – 4 sets of 12 reps

4c. Hanging Knee Raise – 4 sets of 12 reps

 

Week 2

Day 1 – Lower Body

1. Jump or Throw Variation – 4 sets of 2 reps

 

2. Back Squat – work up to 6 reps at 90% TM

 

3a. BB Romanian Deadlift – 4 sets of 6 reps

3b. Chin Up – 4 sets of 8 reps

 

4a. Roll-out – 4 sets of 5-10 reps (ability dependent)

4b. 45 Degree Row – 4 sets of 15 reps

 

Day 2 – Upper Body

1. Jump or Throw Variation – 4 sets of 2 reps

 

2. Bench Press – work up to 6 reps at 90% TM

 

3a. DB Overhead Press – 4 sets of 6 reps

3b. Seated Cable Row – 4 sets of 12 reps

 

4a. Russian Twist – 4 sets of 10 reps each side

4b. Banded Neck Isolations – 4 sets of 15 seconds each way

 

Day 3 – Total Body

1. Jump or Throw Variation – 4 sets of 2 reps

 

2a. Split Squat – 4 sets of 6 reps each side

2b. BB Push Press – 4 sets of 6 reps

 

3a. Dips – 4 sets of 8 reps

3b. Bench Pull/Prone Row – 4 sets of 8 reps

 

4a. Biceps Curl – 4 sets of 12 reps

4b. Rope Pushdown – 4 sets of 12 reps

4c. Hanging Knee Raise – 4 sets of 12 reps

 

Week 3

Day 1 – Lower Body

1. Jump or Throw Variation – 4 sets of 2 reps

 

2. Back Squat – work up to 4 reps at 95% TM

 

3a. BB Glute Bridge – 4 sets of 6 reps

3b. BB Bent Over Row – 4 sets of 8 reps

 

4a. Weighted Plank – 4 sets of 30seconds

4b. Rope Face Pull – 4 sets of 15 reps

 

Day 2 – Upper Body

1. Jump or Throw Variation – 4 sets of 2 reps

 

2. Bench Press – work up to 4 reps at 95% TM

 

3a. DB Overhead Press – 4 sets of 6 reps

3b. Single Arm Pulldown – 4 sets of 8 reps each side

 

4a. Cable Woodchop – 4 sets of 10 reps each side

4b. Band Pull Apart – 4 sets of 20 reps

 

Day 3 – Total Body

1. Jump or Throw Variation – 4 sets of 2 reps

 

2a. Bulgarian Split Squat – 4 sets of 6 reps each side

2b. BB Push Press – 4 sets of 6 reps

 

3a. DB Incline Press – 4 sets of 8 reps

3b. DB Chest Supported Row – 4 sets of 8 reps

 

4a. Biceps Curl – 4 sets of 12 reps

4b. Rope Pushdown – 4 sets of 12 reps

4c. Hanging Knee Raise – 4 sets of 12 reps

 

Week 4

Day 1 – Lower Body

1. Jump or Throw Variation – 4 sets of 2 reps

 

2. Back Squat – work up to 2 reps at 100% TM

 

3a. BB Romanian Deadlift – 4 sets of 6 reps

3b. Chin Up – 4 sets of 8 reps

 

4a. Roll-out – 4 sets of 5-10 reps (ability dependent)

4b. 45 Degree Row – 4 sets of 15 reps

 

Day 2 – Upper Body

1. Jump or Throw Variation– 4 sets of 2 reps

 

2. Bench Press – work up to 2 reps at 100% TM

 

3a. DB Overhead Press – 4 sets of 6 reps

3b. Seated Cable Row – 4 sets of 12 reps

 

4a. Russian Twist – 4 sets of 10 reps each side

4b. Banded Neck Isolations – 4 sets of 15 seconds each way

 

Day 3 – Total Body

1. Jump or Throw Variation – 4 sets of 2 reps

 

2a. Split Squat – 4 sets of 6 reps each side

2b. BB Push Press – 4 sets of 6 reps

 

3a. Dips – 4 sets of 8 reps

3b. Bench Pull/Prone Row – 4 sets of 8 reps

 

4a. Biceps Curl – 4 sets of 12 reps

4b. Rope Pushdown – 4 sets of 12 reps

4c. Hanging Knee Raise – 4 sets of 12 reps

 

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