Top 10 Rugby exercises


Rugby is a huge worldwide sport, played across 123 countries with 9.6 million players globally. 2.7 million of those are female players. It is a sport synonymous with injury due to the high physical demands of the game. The front row (2 props and one hooker) account for 26% of all injuries that happen during a rugby game. Between 5-25% of rugby injuries are head injuries, including concussion.

Rugby Stats

The safety of the game is extremely important in the modern game, and prevention and early assessment of concussion is now well recognised.

Ligament or tendon sprains are also a common occurrence. Keeping strong muscles to support the joints and ligaments is important to limit the risk of these injuries. The main actions which occur in rugby include scrummaging, rucking, mauling, tackling and running. Some of the movement patterns we need to achieve these involve squatting, bending, pushing and pulling. These patterns can be used in the exercises we consider to be as specific to the demands of the game as possible.  

Here are some excellent exercises to try as a prehab programme to condition the body for the rugby field. Practising good form in these exercises will build the strength and stamina needed in the body to handle most of the demands on the pitch:

1. Lateral step up and over

This is a great warm up exercise encouraging speed and lateral movement in the lower limb. It is a plyometric exercise, helping to build fast action muscle fibres which are important in sprinting.

2. Kettlebell stiff leg deadlift

Rugby involves a significant amount of bending, and this is a great exercise to work on one sided strength and flexibility into the bend.

3. Split squat with rear foot elevated

Another excellent exercise to strengthen the lower limb, one leg at a time. The elevated rear foot brings an extra layer of difficulty to completing this exercise well.

4. Kettlebell twist

This exercise works on abdominal strength in a twisting action, a key area to keep strong in rugby players. This not only keeps you strong in the tackle, but gives you strength in passing the ball as well.

5. Side plank elevated

Another exercise which focuses on strength in the trunk / core, and will help protect your back from the stresses of the sport.

6. Pistol squat

Coming back to the lower limb, this exercise takes it one step further than a single leg squat, to work on controlled movement lower down in the range. This can be progressed by doing while holding a medicine ball or lowering closer to the floor.

7. Plyometric push up

Taking the classic press-up and adding in the explosive power to push up at speed and with force takes this to another level. As it’s much harder than a regular press up, you’ll get much more out of doing fewer reps.

8. Squat to press

A combination of a lower limb power exercise into a shoulder press for a full body workout in 1 simple exercise.

9. Kettlebell halos

Great for developing overhead shoulder strength. This requires a strong core to do the exercise with good form.

10. Squat to hamstring stretch

A nice way to finish off a hard group of challenging strength exercises with a final focus on flexibility through the back and legs.

The above exercises are recommendations to consider for Rugby and are undertaken at your own risk. The choice of weight you use should be based on current ability and experience. If you require any further guidance or assessment of an injury we recommend booking in with one of our physiotherapy team, who would be more than happy to help.

Steve Canning

Clinical Director & Senior Physiotherapist

Steve is the Clinical Director and a Senior Physiotherapist at the White House clinic and has worked at the clinic since 2005. He qualified with a BSc in Physiotherapy from Sheffield Hallam University in 2002.

Steve Canning

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Top 10 Rugby exercises

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