The Rugby Union World Cup is in full swing and moving towards the Quarter Finals  stage. The players are a superb combination of power, speed and enduarnce as well as incredible resiliance. So here is a timely look at some rugby based training.

Rugby strength and conditioning seems to have a lot in common with traditional body building methods – the outcome seeming to be centered on building body mass.

Although mass is important to give out (and take) the hits, it’s also crucial that players pay special attention to body parts such as their shoulders, using specific exercises to keep them strong and injury resilient.


Some traditional shoulder strengthening exercises

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The shoulder press, standing one arm row and the barbell bench press should form a part of your rugby conditioning, however there are some more specific moves that you should also incorporate.

If we consider the stress that the shoulder will need to endure during a successful well executed tackle – and perhaps more importantly a less well executed tackle that may result in injury – then we can identify the movement patterns that need working on specifically

Two tackle types resulting in the player either travelling backwards or forwards

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In this photo, you can see a successful tackle where the player is stopped and sent backwards

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In this photo, you can see a successful tackle where the player continues forward and the tackler is sent backwards

In these tackles the tackler is subject to a number of forces coming through their shoulder, while having to negotiate momentum and impact. The following exercises are designed to replicate these forces.

1. Squat and press from floor to above head Press

Start position Wide Press Squat thrust start Finish position. This is a great way to warm-up for the shoulder press combination. Based on the cable wood chop the key is speed – not the size of the dumbbell!

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2. Shoulder press with hip and foot integrated in the traditional shoulder press

You will be coached to maintain a straight or neutral spine, however this variation requires the integration the motions of the hip and foot, so that the whole body is assisted in protecting the shoulder at the end range of each press.

This has a great carry over into the tackle, where you slow down the shoulder impact using the whole of your body. This is the start position for the press – each finish position could be done as an individual set or alternatively you could aim for a different press per repetition.

If you want to push this exercise on to the next level, then incorporate a squat thrust first, then jump to the shoulder press. This will make for a really challenging exercise that will push your strength endurance.

The final set of exercises replicate the forces of the tackle almost exactly

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Exercise for where the player is sent backwards when making a tackle

This exercise replicates the feeling of the shoulder on the same side as the lunging leg, while the opposite hand drives down and back to open up the chest and drive the thoracic (mid) spine towards flexion.

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Exercise for the tackle where the player continues forwards

This exercise replicates the feeling of the shoulder on the same side as the lunging leg, by throwing the weight with the direction of the lunge. Using a rotational lunge, that opens up the hips, replicates the motion that is required as the tackled player passes you.

All the above exercises could work as a session and you could move from traditional to functional exercises across the session. Alternatively, you could do the exercises as a circuit. You could even do the exercises outdoors and intersperse or follow them with some sprints.


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