The Importance of Strength Training for Rugby

The Importance of Strength Training for Rugby

   Strength training is essential to any sport, whether you play a strength and power dominated sport like rugby or compete in an endurance sport like long distance running, you are seriously missing out on your true potential if you do not partake in strength training. The benefits of strength training are vast and it is my firm opinion that athlete or not, it should form part of a successful program.

Weight training is an essential component of any conditioning program and will increase structural stability and mobility, reduce the risk of injury and enhance a player’s strength and power. The outcome of this will mean player’s can optimise their skills, both for team and individual tactics.

Gone are the days when coaches frowned upon strength training through fear that their athletes would become big, slow and cumbersome. The beliefs that somehow athletes would all of a sudden become muscle bound and therefore hinder their skill and ability on the field is ridiculous!

Training specifically for rugby requires a more scientific approach than just simply lifting weights to fatigue, as a bodybuilder would. Rugby requires a combination of explosive power, muscular endurance and maximal strength. All of which CANNOT be achieved without lifting weights!

So what makes up a strength training program for rugby???

Hypertrophy, or increased muscle size, is what most people believe make up a strength training program. However, training for muscular size only makes up a fraction of what should be included in a rugby specific program. Due to the nature of the game, rugby players require a good amount of fat free mass to help prevent injury from hard contact and provide more weight to weight ratio in efforts where weight is important like scrums. But to solely base a weights program on hypertrophy is just wrong and pretty stupid, unless you are a bodybuilder. Too much increased mass in this case would present a hindrance!

Maximal strength can be defined as the highest level of force a muscle can generate and training for maximal strength should play a key role in a rugby training program, depending on the phase of season a player is in. What many people fail to realise is that power is a product of strength! The greater maximal strength a person possesses, the higher the potential for power to be developed. Also, worth noting is that maximal strength training has NOT been shown to increase muscle mass, so ladies… no need to worry about putting on excess size!

Power is the rate in which you can perform work. It is a product of strength and speed and is essential to all athletes. Rarely do rugby players, or most other athletes except weightlifters, require just one burst of power. This is where power endurance becomes important. A rugby player is required to repeatedly perform bouts of power during a game. Actions such as jumping, tackling and sprinting all require significant amounts of power. It is essential that the gains made from the maximal strength phase of training are converted into rugby specific power to ensure that training is effective. For example, a player could be exceptionally strong but be unable to produce any substantial amounts of power because they cannot contract the muscles needed quickly enough. Power training, along with plyometrics will convert strength into a game usable energy by improving the rate of force production (the ability of a muscle to produce force quickly).

So in order for a rugby player to be performing at their best, regardless of their technical ability, they MUST be partaking in an appropriate strength training program that focuses on strength, power, and muscular endurance. Simply relying on fitness training is not an acceptable method of improving a player’s game. Speed, agility and fitness will never be the best they can become unless a player is following a well designed program.



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