Power Your Way into the Rugby Season

Rugby Union needs no introduction when it comes to testing out the physicality of its players.

The sport requires players to have a diverse range of physical attributes including strength, speed, power, endurance, agility and flexibility, along with technical skill and knowledge of the game.

Preparing for the upcoming season must cover all of the following training characteristics that make a great player – not only for injury prevention, but performance.

A lot of people perceive rugby players as gym junkies. From the outset, most involved in the sport are racing to the weights room and loading up the bicep curls – and that isn’t necessarily wrong.

Many amateur players LOVE lifting big weights, feeling stronger and looking better. While pumping it up inside the gym is important, many players fall into the trap of following programs that are not specific to their game and train like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

There is no denying strength is important, but players require a greater explosive force to be successful for things such as contact (e.g. scrums, lineouts, rucking/mauling, tackling) and acceleration/speed.

That’s right – we are talking POWER!

While strength gets all the accolades, power and speed are what separate great players from the rest.

Have you ever wondered how to progress in your training? How to be more dominant on the field?

Include more explosive power in the weights room and speed outside into your training.


Power comes from strength and speed, which are all fundamentals of Rugby Union. Training in rugby is different from many sports where almost every position on the field requires a different training approach.

Front row forwards need power to push in the scrums – an openside flanker needs the power to drive over the ruck to disrupt the ball – a centre requires power to break tackles and a wingers biggest threat is speed… which is power.

Incorporating power training into your programming increases players speed, acceleration and explosive movements. Contrary to popular belief, athletes will not put on weight or find their mobility impaired by power training, says Accredited Exercise Scientist, Simon Price.

“The common denominator here is that no matter the position, power influences performance”.

“A lot of players believe because they are lifting big numbers in functional movements such as your squats and bench press, they have already won the contact on the field”.

“Power is key for any contact sport and should be incorporated into all training programs, at elite or amateur level”.

Some powerful advice:

Being a powerful Rugby player is a product of force (strength) and velocity (speed).  Power = Force * Velocity.  When strength training, your focus should prioritise improving your force and velocity profile, which will make you are more powerful Rugby player.

A powerful Rugby player is more effective at the collision and will have more opportunities of evading opponents – Power is key, especially in a contact sport.

Do all positions incorporate power training into their preparation?

Yes, all positions should incorporate some aspect of their training to Power training.  Forwards need to be powerful enough to remove opponents from rucks and mauls, lift in lineouts and apply force in scrums and rolling mauls.  Backs need to be powerful enough to run around and through opponents, kick the ball and make mistakes so the forwards can clean up their mess.

What are examples of power exercises and drills an amateur rugby player should incorporate into their training each week?

Inside the gym:

Olympic Lifts

    • Hang shrug
    • Hang high pull
    • Hang cleans


Plyometric Exercises 

    • Body weighted jump squats
    • Weighted jump squats
    • Hurdle jumps


Outside the gym:

Sprint Training:

    • 10 x 15m sprints (walk back slowly and recover as needed)
    • 8 x 25m sprints (walk back slowly and recover as needed)
    • 6 x 40m sprints (walk back and recover as needed)
    • 4 x 70 m sprints (walk back and recover as needed)


Cool Down – more light jogging, followed by static stretching and foam rolling.

The training examples will also help improve player’s resistance to rotational and lateral forces on their joints. This is what most will be subjected to during a game which helps keep the risk of injury to a minimum.



If you would like to talk to an Accredited Exercise Professional to help maximise your body’s potential for the upcoming rugby season, click here.

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We have partnered with Nike Australia Pty Ltd for this article series.

The views expressed in this article, unless otherwise cited, are exclusively those of the author, Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA). ESSA is a professional organisation committed to establishing, promoting and defending the career paths of tertiary trained exercise and sports science practitioners.

Nike had no role in the collection, analysis, or interpretation of data or research or the writing of this article.