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  • Writer's pictureJason St Clair Newman

Rugby Off Season Training - Part 1

Updated: May 14, 2022

It's time to level up

Nights are longer, sun is back out and the rugby off season is now here.

With the rugby season finishing up for most amateur rugby clubs now here in the U.K and summer sports starting up, it's a time to transition from the season and a time to look at


  • What went well?

  • What didn't go so well? and

  • What would you do differently?


For me as coach I go through that process so I am better and more valuable to the athletes I work with. For players I think they are good questions to ask and if you are honest with yourself it will give you good targets for your next season to come back better and a level up.


So on that note here are some Tips for your Rugby off season training to start thinking about.


Have some time out, but don't waste your time

Have a transition time, but don't waste the hard work you have put in over the season with your training. Often players will just stop doing what was making them better players and then be back at the same starting point for the next season.


This doesn't mean you have to be doing full contact live training sessions but think about

your fitness, ranges of motion, strength, power, speed and agility work and ask

yourself questions

"How can I progress over the off season so I can come in at a higher level for next season?"

"What did my coaches feed back to me to work on?"

"What are my targets for next season?"



Keep your base fitness

It's okay to back off the hard intense fitness work and fall back in to some lower intensity work for now - often approaching this through different sports such as cycling, trail running, surfing, swimming, touch rugby for example are all great ways of maintaining a good base over the summer period without doing anything rugby specific. You can even use these sessions essentially as active recovery sessions from gym work.


Do you have to include all the hard interval HIIT work .. in short no I don't think you do, there's a time and a place and the off season isn't that place right now. It's often too intense and if you are actually doing it right your body can't handle extended periods of it without going too many times to the well.

Every now and then is totally fine I just personally I wouldn't recommend it more than that, leave that for the pre season.

Watch for future posts as I will be writing examples of different workout sessions in the coming weeks and months.


Use the time to rebalance

No not your chakras.. although meditation is great for you.

Rebalancing in the off-season should be a time of initially addressing any niggles, injuries and imbalances from the previous season like sprains, beaten up joints and the like.


Look at your ranges of motion - how's your flexibility could it improve? do I need to do any rehab work so I can get back to building robustness and then looking at your strengths and weaknesses - 'what strengths can I make even stronger? and what weaknesses can I bring up?'.



In the gym

In the gym it's time to build upon what you built up your previous off season and hopefully maintained or even improved throughout your season - too often players let themselves fall back and have to start all over again never improving the way they really could.

you are a rugby player not a body builder, so train like one.

A good way of keeping the body in tune is through weight circuits that involve exercises with multiple planes of movement with medicine balls, dumbbells and/or barbells

Some strongman sessions are also a great option in the off season.


Watch for future posts as I will be writing examples of different workout sessions in the coming weeks and months - (also check My Training Routine posts for different examples as I regularly post different workouts there).


In the gym over the rugby off-season most players want to get stronger, develop their body armour (build muscle mass) if need be and improve their power.

It's not a 5 minute job and consistency is the key but it is the best time to do this.

What I don't like seeing is players working out like bodybuilders - you are a rugby player not a body builder, so train like one.


Gym sessions should be no longer than 45-60 minutes, if it's taking you longer you need to start working out more and do less chatting!


The big exercises are key

Think all the Squat and Deadlift varieties / Over head pressing / Chest presses / Cleans and Snatches (if you are capable) / Chin ups and Rows for the back - these are the types of exercises that build strength and power faster and give you a bigger hormone response when it comes to building that body armour - as a side note I will include abdominal work in there as well.



Getting faster...

No coach ever said they were worried their players were getting too fast

The rugby off season is by far the best time to include your speed work, you have the most time to rest, the weather is nice and you can dedicate more time to training it.


Getting faster takes time and you have to put in the work to do it.


As I like to say no coach ever said they were worried their players were getting too fast

If you do want to improve your speed I would definitely say you need to be looking at a minimum of twice per week sessions.


Biggest hurdle players have with speed work is taking long enough rests and doing really high speed work to get faster you need to improve poor technique and

run fast... like really really fast.


One mistake I have seen players make is they end up turning speed sessions in to semi-fitness sessions by not taking enough rest between reps and sets, or they just go out with trying to do too much and end up running slow because of fatigue.

Think quality not quantity when it comes to speed development.


Speed sessions are a great time to incorporate plyometric work as well which are great for developing that explosiveness and building robust bodies.

I will will also write in future posts abut speed sessions so subscribe now so you

don't miss these.




I want to step like Cheslin

let's be honest it's more fun going up against teammates and trying to beat them than running at a cone.

The off season is a good time to address how well you move on the pitch and is a great time to develop these skills.

Agility training isn't change of direction work or vice versa - it's fairly frustrating to see people who advertise themselves as 'agility coaches' then just making people run around cones and in and out of ladders - probably not your best choice of someone to go to.


Quick definition of Agility and Change of direction training


Agility training requires reactive decision making in response to an external stimuli normally another player or a coaches movement for example.


Change of direction training allows you to preplan your movement - I want you to sprint to that cone, cut laterally to your right and then cut laterally to your left at the next cone.

There is no reaction to an external stimuli here, such as another players movement,

you just make the cut and go.


There is room for both training - initially change of direction work can help build a foundation of different patterns, strength of a movement and help reinforce good technique, but this should be followed by Agility work and its reaction to external stimuli to have

a more game like crossover.

And let's be honest it's more fun going up against teammates and trying to beat them than running at a cone.



Develop your skills

Can you pass both ways well?

Kick off both feet with different types of kicks?

What are you like under the high ball?

What's your kicking and passing accuracy like?


Now is the time to work on skills you can improve on, in field work session using your rest periods can be an ideal way of filling in the time, don't always have to be sitting around.

Use the time to work on skills that you need to improve on a little can go along way and regular micro dosing of these skills will add up in the long run.


Part 1 finished

Part one is now finished and I hope this has stimulated your thinking about what you can do over your rugby off season.

  • Will you get stronger?

  • Maybe faster?

  • Work on your skills? or

  • Will you start stepping like Cheslin ...

What ever your targets are use the off season to your advantage and come in to your next season a level up from your last.




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