Strength and Condition Like a Rugby Union Player

Rugby Union is one of the biggest sports in the world and makes for one of the biggest and best events in our University calendar. Rugby players put in a lot of training in preparation for the upcoming season and with our team’s ever strong focus on beating Leeds Beckett strength and conditioning training has been essential to their development.

The rugby boys facing off against Beckett in the Varsity Finale

The sport requires players to have a blend of many physical qualities, including strength, power, size, speed, and endurance. Most sports focus on one or two of these elements. Having to develop them all is a tricky balancing act. With Rugby Union being the showcase event at Leeds Varsity, this does not give the team much time to prepare. Therefore, they were given a focus on one physical quality over preseason: muscular endurance.

Muscular endurance is the ability for a muscle to perform at the required level repeatedly. For rugby players, this means that their bodies become accustomed to working hard for long periods of time and are able to quickly recover to work hard again – as they would in a match.

3 of the key exercises that were used to prepare the players for Leeds Varsity are the box squat, bent-over row, and Romanian deadlift.


  1. Box Squat

The way we are using the box is just as a guide for depth. Right now we don’t want the players going deeper than this with their squats, as this height will have the most carryover to making them fast and powerful on the pitch.

Box squat start position


Box squat bottom position

  1. Bent-over Row

This exercise ticks lots of boxes at once. Having to keep a flat back and brace the core in that position will develop great trunk strength; the row itself develops muscular endurance for the pulling muscles, which are very important for rugby players and often underdeveloped; and the hamstrings are becoming used to having to hold that position too, which again is very important for rugby players and will help with the ability to perform the 3rd key exercise, the Romanian Deadlift.

Bent-over row start position

Bent-over row top position

  1. Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

The RDL strengthens the hamstrings and glutes, which are key for preventing injury and producing power on the pitch. Increasing the muscular endurance of the hamstrings is especially important, as with the large amount of running that the players do over preseason, the hamstrings can become tired without the required muscular endurance, and this is where the likelihood of injury increases.

RDL start position

RDL bottom position