Rugby ranks among the most physically demanding sports around, so physical strength and fitness should be at the forefront of the mind of anyone that takes the game even slightly seriously. Whether amateur or professional, your physical condition will go a long way towards establishing your performance levels on the field. We’ve selected these 10 tips specifically with rugby players in mind. While there may be some overlap with other sporting diets and training regimes, this feature aims explicitly to make you a better player with the ball, potentially without even setting foot on the pitch.
1. Get into the Right Frame of Mind
While the focus in rugby is often on the physical side, if you want to make the best improvements you can on that side of things, it is essential to consider the mental side first. If nothing else, it’s always a good idea to try to relax before and after every game. Unless you’re the kind of player that thrives on stress and pressure – and such players are few and far between – your preparation and recovery will be aided by entering a chilled state. This allows for more lucid thought during the game, followed by reducing the risk of burnout between games.
2. Design a Regime You Can Stick To
It’s okay to be ambitious and optimistic when you plan out your fitness and practice goals. However, you need to be realistic. Unless you’re a full-time professional, there’s probably more going on in your life than rugby training and both time and difficulty can play a part in making it hard to keep up. You shouldn’t underestimate the drawbacks of missing your goals either. Disappointment in yourself can sap your motivation and set you back much further than you might have thought possible.
3. Don’t Neglect Your Responsibilities in the Kitchen
This is one of those tips you might well have come across before here on the site, as we are firm believers that health, fitness, weight loss and anything else where people overstate the importance of gym work could benefit from more work in the kitchen. If you want to excel at rugby, bigger often means better, but the days are gone when even some professionals look like they could lose a few pounds. You’ll focus on building mass and muscle rather than fat, and that means working with foods like chicken, pasta and rice. These foods provide the energy you need on game day and throughout the week but burn off quickly enough during physical activity so as not to have a negative impact on your weight goals.
4. Prioritise the Warmup and Warm Down
The game itself is the fun part and what your career or hobby is all about. However, to appreciate the fun, it’s essential not to overlook the trickier or more boring parts. Warmups can feel like unnecessary exertion, but you should never be tempted to ignore this part of the process to conserve energy or because you can’t be bothered. You need to get this part right if you want to continue playing, as you increase your risk of injury during the game.
Just as important are the warmup and warm down surrounding training sessions. While you might not go all out in training as you would in a game situation, stretching out the muscles and preparing for repetitive movements can make all the difference to your stamina and longevity.
5. If You Only Focus on One Area, Make it Speed
For those outside the game, it is difficult to tell what sets apart a good rugby player from a great one. Most can throw and catch, and they’re of sufficient size and technique to make and avoid tackles. It is no coincidence that the players that become household names outside rugby circles tend to be the fastest. Rugby is a sport that seemingly gets quicker every year, so if you need an area on which to focus your training, make speed a priority.
6. Don’t Overlook Your Handling Skills
Unless you feel like your handling skills rival those of seasoned professionals, you should never forget to include them in your training routine. A team that plays well will see results on the field, but those that make mistakes are those that will fall behind in the long-term. Ensure you train until you’re comfortable with running with the ball, kicking, passing and receiving. Even if you’re highly competent, there’s no harm in adding it into your routine on occasion to ensure you stay on top of things.
7. Use Interval Training for Aerobic Fitness
Many amateur rugby teams overlook aerobic fitness in organised sessions. The good news is that this is something you can work on in your own time if you so choose. Mix up skipping, running and jumping with a few weights to implement a high-intensity workout that is more than capable of complementing your lifestyle and doesn’t take long at all.
8. Strength Training is a Must
Strength is second only to speed in terms of setting apart good rugby players from bad ones and most fitness regimes include strength training as standard. The ease of inclusion means that you should enjoy strength training regardless of its influence on performance. If you’re yet to start or want to specialise further based on your role, you can focus on the upper body and legs as a forward and a combination of all-round strength and stamina as a back.
9. Use Supplements if You Need Them
We appreciate rugby as a clean game, so we only advise using legal, over the counter supplements. Proteins, vitamins and all sorts of easily accessible supplements can aid both diet and training, and you should not be afraid to make the investment if you feel they could contribute to you becoming a better player.
10. Do What’s Needed to Prevent Injury
Unless you’re paid handsomely for your services, you play rugby because you enjoy it. If you’re injured, you’re not playing, so prevention shouldn’t be overlooked. As well as a strong focus on warmups, consider any protective gear that may benefit you and don’t shy away from seeking medical assistance early when you feel something might be wrong.