Unlocking Lower Body Strength For Rugby

Understanding foundational movements & programming tools for the game of Rugby.

Lower body strength is extremely important in rugby as it’s the foundation for all the movements involved in playing the game.

Rugby players need strong lower body muscles to run, jump, tackle, scrum, and change direction quickly. A strong lower body enables a player to generate power and explosiveness in their movements, which is crucial for making quick sprints, breaking tackles, and driving forward in scrums.

When programming lower body strength for rugby, exercise selection is important. Exercise selection should be based on movements that will build strength, robustness, and resilience in our athletes. To keep exercise selection easy, I like to use the term “Weapons and Armour”, which I learned from S&C Coach John Mitchell.


Weapons are exercises that produce a high amount of force. Think of weapons as the main compound (big rock) exercises in your program.

Armour are exercises to build robust muscles in our athletes. Think of armour as isolated movements (small rocks) in your program.

Here are examples of exercises that fall into the two categories:


·      BB Back Squat

·      BB Bulgarian

·      Sled March

·      Trap Bar Deadlift



·      BB RDLs

·      GHD Hamstring Holds  

·      Calf Raises

·      Skipping

Now that you understand exercise selection, here is an example of a lower body program for rugby athletes during late pre-season/early in-season:

Lower Body Strength Program

Movement Prep

1a) Single Leg Step Downs

3 Sets x 10 Reps ES




1 Min Rest

2:2 Tempo

1b) DB Prone Press

3 Sets x 10 Reps

2:2 Tempo

1c) Skipping

3 Sets x 30s



2a) Sled March

3 Sets x 5 Reps ES



2-3 Mins Rest


2b) Banded Accelerations

3 Sets x 1 Rep ES



3) Trap Bar Deadlift

4 Sets x 5 Reps (RIR 3)

2-3 Mins Rest

1:1 Tempo

4a) BB Step-Ups

3 Sets x 6 Reps

(RIR 3)


2-3 Mins Rest

1: 2 Tempo

4b) Banded Wood-Chops

3 Sets x 10 Reps ES

1:1 Tempo


5a) BB RDLs

3 Sets x 8 Reps (RIR 3)



1-2 Mins Rest

2:1 Tempo

5b) Single Leg DB Calf Raises

3 Sets x 10 Reps ES

2:2 Tempo

6a) Ab Rollouts

3 Sets x 8 Reps


Cool-Down Mobility

Perform 2-3 mobility exercises on self-selected areas

*ES = Each Side, RIR= Reps in Reserve, DB= Dumbbell & BB= Barbell

The lower body strength program above is simple and effective. The program has weapon exercises to maximise force output and allow the athlete to express their force. To balance out the program, there are armour exercises which are less taxing on the body but build strong and robust muscles.


Programming for rugby doesn’t need to be complicated. The best coaches I have worked with and seen, have simple and effective programs, like the program above. You may agree with this program, or you may not. Either way, that’s totally fine. This program maximises the athlete's time and will have them in a good position to recover and best prepare themselves for their next training session and game.


Before you go, here are some considerations to consider when designing your program for rugby athletes:


·      Avoid too many eccentric exercises on one day

·      Avoid too many weapon exercises in one day

·      Have a balanced approach to posterior to anterior exercises

·      Have a balanced approach of double-leg to single-leg

·      Have power exercises in your program and perform them first before strength exercises


I hope you got something out of this blog post. If you want more information, want to talk shop, or have a conversation about programming for rugby union or rugby league, please reach out. I am more than happy to have a chat. Best to contact me via the Elite Rugby SandC Instagram page.

Kieren Norcott

Elite Rugby SandC

Website: https://eliterugbysandc.com/