Off-Season Training for Rugby

Hello and welcome to 2006 with Dominate Athletic™. We are glad you could join us. Today I am going to discuss the subject of off-season training for the sport of rugby. “Why?” you ask. Well, because I know that the off-season training of rugby players in this country is not exactly optimal and is not going to prepare the athletes to step out and DOMINATE in one of the most brutal sports on the planet come April!

The problem with off-season preparation for a sport like rugby in South Africa is that most of the emphasis is put on cardiovascular endurance, especially pre-season. When the athletes do get into the weightroom, they are mostly messing around with bodybuilding-type programmes that will not do very much toward preparing a club-level rugby player for his much-loved winter pastime, let alone getting someone REALLY ready to DOMINATE in a fashion that will get them recognised and selected for higher-level competition!

The club rugby off-season in South Africa runs from October to April. In those 6 months, as a rugby player you need to be in the weightroom or local gymnasium at least 3 times a week. With your entire focus on getting as strong as you can, especially in the first 3 months of that period. You only really need a maximum of 6 weeks to get cardiovascularly conditioned for your sport, therefore most of the off-season MUST be dedicated to quality strength training!

The problem is that most of the Head Club Rugby Coaches in this country want all the emphasis to be on cardiovascular endurance from as early on as January! Now, as sincere as they are in their passion for getting their players match-fit really early, this WILL negatively impact the athletes’ performance come rugby season because they will not have the strength to DOMINATE on the field due to the fact that they have spent the last 3 months running for 2 hours, 3 days a week!

Under-20 False Bay Loose Forward Bradley Knight drives up another Back Squat as we lay a solid foundation of Strength and Technique in his Off-Season Rugby TrainingI implore you at this stage of the season to keep your focus on your strength training.

Keep hitting the gym 3 times a week working through the major compound movements, then after building a solid base of strength and technique you need to go into the weightroom and hit the big lifts hard and heavy! You need to go in there with the attitude that you have when you are going to be playing your biggest rivals – you want to SMASH them, you want to drive them back in every collision … YOU WANT TO DOMINATE!!! Do the same thing in the gym, go in there and for 45min to an hour hit those squats, deadlifts, cleans, snatches, overhead squats, overhead presses, push-presses, pull ups (whatever you do that day) HARD. Perform every rep of every set with the same perfect focus and attention and aggression that you can muster – don’t go to the gym to think about life or hit on the honey in the corner on those thigh adductor + abductor machines – NO, go to the gym and FOCUS on what you’re doing, get up a big sweat and keep your eye on the ball. What is the ball? Well, in this case, the ball is the fact that you are training for one of the most brutal and violent sports on the planet and you are training to DOMINATE within it, not just survive. So, when your training session gets tough, just think about how really applying yourself wholeheartedly to this next set of heavy grinds of deadlifts will empower you when you are being hunted by 15 blood-thirsty animals who are trying to smash your head in!!! Keep your eye on the ball and you will not have a problem with motivation at all!

Alright, so now we know to maintain our primary focus on strength training until about 6 weeks out, then we will need to shift our focus to getting conditioned from an endurance perspective for the game of rugby. The one thing you must NOT do is drop the strength and power stuff, you need to maintain your strength and power training all the way until your season begins and even throughout the season, otherwise you will lose strength as the season unfolds which will obviously hamper your performance and also open you up to injury.


October – February: Strength Train 3x/week and Endurance 1x/week
February: Strength/Power 2x/week and Endurance 2x/week
March – April: Strength/Power 2x/week and Sport-Specific Endurance 3x/week
April – October: Strength/Power 2x/week(Half an Hour) and Sport-Specific Endurance 2x/week

If you follow a template like this you will be in good stead to DOMINATE when you step out onto the field in April for your first encounter of a long and tough season of rugger!

If you are unsure of how to lay a foundation of strength for your sport then please read my: “Back Squat 4 Size + Brute Strength” Series – it will show you how to lay a foundation of strength from which we can build a truly DOMINANT Athlete!

Have a great 1 and get into the gym, lift hard and heavy, go home … eat BIG and sleep TIGHT, then do it all over again.

Til next time.

Dig Deep!

Graham Dean.


    DOMINATE ATHLETIC™ is a specialised Athletic Performance Coaching Company based in Cape Town, South Africa.