What everyone can learn from rugby training

By Shea Turner, Personal Trainer
"Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard."


Admittedly, rugby might come across as a bit of an extreme to hold insights for our sportive challenges and competitions, let aside for our everyday life and workout routines. But actually, you would be surprised about the parallels in training, preparation, and abilities.


Relevant Observations

Rugby in Hong Kong is especially interesting thanks to the fact that it brings together professionals, semi-professionals and those who just play for the fun and love of the game, all into one competition. With this you get players that are different in size, strength, ability and fitness. While this definitely brings together a great spectacle to watch(!) it also unfortunately can bring about an unbalanced match and increase in sporting injuries. When some players are bigger, stronger, and more conditioned than others, injuries are inevitably going to occur. When the game turns from a regular 80-minute match to a 100-minute match because of a tied score at the end of regular time in the playoffs, the stress on the body is multiplied and those who aren’t as well conditioned won’t make it to a meaningful end. They are also even more prone to injury. Does this kind of stressful, demanding, exhausting environment sound familiar (in work or sports!)?

Performance needs

As in life, the game of rugby is continuously changing. Since rugby turned professional in 1995, the game has changed in leaps and bounds. Players are stronger and a hell of a lot bigger. They are also faster and fitter, with a skill level far beyond those playing the game 25 years ago. It’s about taking the combined knowledge of skills, strength, power, hypertrophy training, nutrition and endurance training and being able to apply it to rugby in the correct balance. It's making sure that you’re strong and explosive, big and still have the endurance to last 80 minutes (better yet - 100 minutes!), to be able to apply the playing skills at full speed and make sure the food you’re eating is sufficient to fuel your body. Does any of this ring any bells?


Age and recovery

As the body ages, bouncing back following a tough game becomes harder and harder. The body’s natural breakdown and repair systems slow down as we get older (and/or work our bodies harder). Being smart about recovery becomes more important, and giving your body the building blocks for what it needs also becomes more important. You want to be able to get back into training as quick as possible and injury free. Making sure that cooling down is effectively done and following up with a day of active recovery will fundamentally help. Eating more wisely and supplementing your nutrition with anything you may be missing will also have a huge impact.


A great example is getting in the pool and moving around to get the blood flowing to and through the muscles (slow walking or hiking or bike riding can do the same trick). Something that is just as important as the cool down and recovery is ensuring that the body is properly primed before games and trainings. This means that an effective warm up that primes the whole body is carried out. This not only improves the performance, but it helps the recovery post game as well.

How do I train to keep myself on the field?

How and what you train for depends a lot on the position you play (what do you train for? What is your real goal?). I play hooker, a front row forward. We're expected to be a stronghold in the scrum but also extremely agile and quick around the field. Being smaller than the average hooker, a lot of my focus is on size and strength, but I still need to make sure that I’m keeping myself on the field and injury free. This means I need to make sure that my training is designed in a way to look after my joints and optimize my performance with the right amount of intensity and volume to make sure I am not overtraining. It is rather easy to grow big in size fast, but usually, the joints will not be able to cope as fast with the additional strength. Failure and injuries are pre-programmed, in case the training is not catered towards a balanced build up. Yes, it takes more time, but functionally is an absolute pre-requisite. To our regular readers: does this sound familiar to you?


The combination of weight and energy system training prepares me best for what’s needed on the field, and along with this, I do supplement my body with mobility work as well as build on any weak links that may bring down the overall integrity of my performance. 


This way I can give 100% to the game while still keeping myself healthy and safe. 


Looking to keep yourself in the game

Be sure to have the right balance of training and nutrition. If you need more guidance, set up an appointment with us here at R3 Personal Training. We can help you train towards your relevant goals with efficiency and stay in the game!


Shea is a professional rugby player, grown and groomed in New Zealand. Want to learn more about how we can help you reach your goals? Hit us up on any of our social media, we use real people so we can answer real questions. Plus, we tell some great jokes.