Aerobic Workouts for Rugby Players

Players in a Rugby Game

Heather Atherton

The key difference between workouts before and during the season is that when you're playing rugby during the season, your joints (shoulders, knees, ankles, hips) will be taking a serious beating, and you don't want to compound that with your workouts between practices and matches.

Pre-season, though (which, depending on whether you play sevens or not, can be anywhere from two to six months), is the time for building up your stamina and overall fitness level, which means your workouts will be longer and more strenuous than they should be during the season. Odds are, you'll probably be pretty beaten up during the season anyway, and there will be a limit on what you can accomplish during these workouts.

Off-Season Priorities

Primary consideration: Get on your feet and move. Get your body used to running for a certain amount of time.

Duration: Use your off-season workouts to get your body used to working aerobically for an amount of time equivalent to a rugby match, i.e. 40-80 minutes. Also, this will help get your joints used to the pounding they're going to take during the season without destroying your ability to perform.

Tools: Mix and match with walking, running, StairMasters, treadmills, elliptical trainers, stationary bikes, actual bikes, rowing machines, or, yes, even aerobics or spinning classes. You don't have to belong to a gym or buy all of these tools to aerobically train for rugby—just put your shoes on and head outside. You can add variety to "going for a run" by changing your routes, mixing up paces, stopping for a snack halfway through, whatever.

Off-Season Workouts

  • Walk for 45 minutes, StairMaster for 15 minutes
  • Row for 20 minutes, rest for 1 minute, then repeat cycle twice
  • One spinning class (possibly two if the instructor isn't tough enough)
  • Ride a stationary bike for the duration of two episodes of your favorite TV show
  • Run for 80 minutes (you should work up to this; elite runners can do a half-marathon in this amount of time)

In-Season Priorities

Primary consideration: Getting the rust out, i.e. doing enough to keep fit without harming your ability to perform during practices or matches. Ease up there, chief.

Duration: Much less than your off-season workouts. Again, these workouts are more about maintenance, i.e. staying fit rather than getting fit. Therefore, these workouts should be between 15 and 30 minutes.

Tools: Anything that gets you off your feet, or works you out at a lower intensity. If it hurts to do it after the warmup period, stop and find something lower impact, especially the day after a match or a practice session with a lot of contact. Swimming, for example, is a great in-season workout. Bikes, either stationary or actual, are also good, as are elliptical trainers. But, again, if you don't belong to a gym, just put on your shoes, go outside, and go for a walk or a jog.

In-Season Workouts

  • Swim for 20 minutes
  • Run 3 laps on a track, walk 1 lap, repeat cycle 2 more times
  • 15-minute bike ride to lunch; eat lunch, ride back but in under 15 minutes
  • Walk up steps in an office building for 15 minutes