Rugby Workouts: How to Train in 30-Second Bursts

Rugby player holding ball on field
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Getting fit for rugby can be achieved by performing a series of exercises and training techniques that will help you condition yourself both mentally and physically specifically so you can play rugby. The following workout tips and tricks have been put together with the assistance of two fitness experts who have years of experience training both rugby and American football players, namely Randy Berning at Brickwise and Rainer Hartmann at Das Gym/Crossfit Cincinnati.

Train Solo or With a Group

The following exercises and drills can be performed by yourself or with one other person, as well as with a minimum amount of equipment. Additionally, most of the exercises can be done almost anywhere with as little cost to you as possible. This is done to both to enable anyone to train who wants to and also to give you no excuses for avoiding the exercises beyond “I don’t feel like it.”

You won’t need a team of trainers and lots of shiny equipment to get fit for rugby. In fact, you don’t even need a rugby club: perhaps you don’t even want to play rugby but you want to get fit.

Get in the Headspace

Rugby is almost as much about mental preparation as physical, so being trained to think and react more effectively on the rugby pitch is key. Exercises will be presented in a context that will train your mind and body at the same time to react to the rigors of playing rugby, all of which is a way of introducing the “30-second rule,” which boils down to the following.

The 30-Second Rule

Rugby is played in 30-second bursts, so it is critical to train your body to be ready for 30 seconds of intense activity at a time, followed by brief rest periods.

The time you get to rest in a rugby match, frankly, depends on the level of play, with less time to rest the higher up you go. As a general rule, it’s best to think of a rugby match as being a series of 30-seconds-on, 30-seconds-off sequences. Here’s the tough part: a rugby match is 80 minutes long, with a five to 10-minute halftime, so depending on how efficiently the game is managed, you will have between 60 and 80 of these 30-second bursts.

Time Yourself

The first step is to structure your workouts to reflect this reality: each individual exercise should last 30 seconds, with a 30-second rest period. For example, do push-ups for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds, then do another 30-second set. Repeat until you ​can't-do them anymore. If you want to do this as a group exercise, divide the group into two sub-groups and have the first group do push-ups while the other group rests, then have them switch after thirty seconds.

Structure your workouts so that your body gets used to the time structure of a match. You won’t be able to do an eighty-minute workout right off the bat, so start with twenty minutes and work your way up.

Take a Lap or Two

For this exercise, it's best if you have an oval 440-yard track for this one. The idea here is simple: run as hard as you can for 30 seconds, then walk for 30 seconds. Repeat for a 20-minute cycle (30 seconds run, 30 seconds walk). The nice thing about this exercise is that if you do it with a group, everybody should be equally exhausted by the end. If you do it with a group, it’s best to break them into subgroups by position, and space these subgroups out along the track.