How Professional Rugby Players Train in the Gym

Rugby players may not be able to compete with distance runners or football players when it comes to endurance, nor with boxers or power lifters when it comes to raw strength, but they are some of the fittest all-around athletes, needing a mix of strength and staying power few other sports require.

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How players can achieve anaerobic fitness is fairly obvious – there aren’t really any tricks to improving endurance. But how do top-tier rugby players improve their overall fitness in a gym setting?

Some of the Old Tricks Are the Best Tricks

There are new fad exercises, machines and techniques that claim to provide improved strength gains compared to more traditional techniques, but you won’t find many of them in a rugby-focused gym.

For professional rugby players, a lot of the oldest techniques, maybe with some small modern tweaks, are the core of their fitness regimen. Squats are a part of most rugby routines, possibly performed as box squats to increase the possible squat distance. Deadlifts and the military press, also known as the overhead press, are some of the oldest barbell exercises but still have a massive presence with a few tweaks – maybe just using a trap-bar to reduce the chance of injury with a deadlift.

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Multi-Joint Movements Instead of Single-Joint

Most rugby drills, such as those from, will avoid single-joint exercises, such as the bicep curl, and instead try to maximize the number of muscle groups used in each compound movement.

This starts with some of the traditional exercises already mentioned, with military press, squats and deadlift all working the arms, shoulders and core stability, and with squats and deadlift stressing legs as well. Other exercises are also quite old-fashioned – chin-ups and dips among other exercises.

Improving Movement

While you might never expect to see it, most professional-level rugby routines will include yoga. Surprisingly, yoga isn’t just for people who are looking for low-impact weight loss. Traditionally ‘butch’ professional athletes, from rugby players to mixed martial artists, swear by the improved movement yoga brings.

Movement doesn’t just mean aerobic fitness but also flexibility. The ability to smoothly and easily move between positions on the ground or standing is incredibly important to rugby players and a host of other athletes. Combined with its use as a warm-up, cool-down or recovery exercise, yoga is everywhere.