What does Sport Specific really mean?


Rugby is a violent sport. So does your training emphasise the fact that on the pitch it’s hurt or be hurt?


Do you train specifically for performance? Or just train to look good on the beach?


There are many mistakes that a rugby player can make in the gym; top of the mistake list is designing a training program that doesn’t benefit the sport whatsoever. It is really easy to fool yourself into thinking that an extra rep on the bench or a few more kilos on the barbell curl will make you a better athlete. The reality is that you need to match up movements in the gym with movements on the field.


For example, if you want to absolutely destroy your opponent with a bone-crunching tackle we need to break down the movement of the tackle as such:


Action Movement/s Most effective Exercise/s
Tackling uni/bi-lateral hip hinge plus triple extension Single Leg RDL. Mid-thigh pull.
Tackling Upper body isometric squeeze with lower body carry Farmers Walk. Bottoms-up kettlebell walk
Tackling Upper body hold with unilateral hip hinge Bear-Hug Single Leg RDL
Tackling Upper Body Pull Pull-ups



As you can see in the table above, I’ve taken the movement of the tackle and separated it into the individual movements that your body will go through before, during and after the point of contact.


To summarise, this means that you’ll start from a split-stance, push off one leg and squeeze/pull your opponent whilst driving forwards with your legs.


Once you know the movements that your body must go through, simply match them up with good, basic strength exercises. This could be the secret to high performance that you’ve been missing!


Another point I should add is that you must break your training up into 3-4 week cycles, with a deload/lighter week at the end of each cycle. But most importantly, only pick 1-2 exercises or sports movements to focus on at any one time! Don’t do 5 exercises for your tackling strength, 5 for sprinting strength and 5 for scrummaging. You’ll burn out faster than you can imagine.


Try to improve one part of your game every month with a well-thought out 3 week cycle. Then have a light week, plan out the next 3 week cycle for the following month and go and train!


A lot of people forget to maintain their strength gains, so be sure to start your workouts with a BIG exercise, either squats, bench or deadlifts and always keep those movements in regardless of what month it is. So 6 months of training for rugby might be broken down as follows:


Month/Goal Workout
September – Sprint Speed Squat, bench – sprint specific exercises
October – Tackling Strength Squat, bench – tackle strength exercises
November – Mauling Strength Squat, bench – mauling strength exercises
December – Scrummaging Strength Squat, bench – scrum strength exercises
January – Sprint Speed Squat, bench – sprint specific exercises
February – Tackling Strength Squat, bench – tackle strength exercises


Simple is best.