Get Rugby Fit With This Full-Body Workout

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Photo Credit: Getty Images for Harlequins

Even if you have no intention of ever stepping on the rugby pitch, there’s no shortage of reasons to take workout cues from the sport. The physical challenge of playing pro rugby requires its players to be in supreme shape.

Being rugby fit means packing on enough muscle to tackle your equally huge opponents, while also building the pace and power to run through those same opponents when you have the ball. Add in the stamina challenge of having to do both those things for 80 minutes and it’s easy to see why rugby players spend a lot of time in the gym.

According to Adam Bishop, strength and conditioning coach at Premiership club Harlequins, the best way to get rugby fit is to stick with the basics.

“The tried and tested traditional methods are what we build our programme on,” says Bishop.

“If guys can squat, they will squat. If they can’t squat then it will be a variation of a squat as their main leg stimulus. The larger the compound lift – so the more joints it’s using – the bigger the stimulus.”

Another key aspect of getting rugby fit is to embrace the exercises you hate, because they’re probably the ones that are doing you the most good.

“All players are different,” says Bishop. “There are exercises that guys are not going to like but they are all essential for them. Sometimes you do have to nurse them through it, but most of the time they get on with it.

“The stuff they hate is often the stuff that they need to work on the most.”

Five-Move Rugby Workout

This five-step full-body workout hits all the big muscle groups and is typical of the kind of session Bishop gets his charges at Harlequins to do.

1 Barbell front-loaded split squat

Hold the barbell on top of your chest, using an overhand grip. Position your feet in a staggered stance, approximately shoulder-width apart. Keep your upper arms parallel to the floor as you lower your hips until your back knee is about 2-3cm from the ground. Pause at the bottom, then rise back to the starting position.

Romanian deadlift

Hold the bar at hip level, using a palms-down grip with your shoulders back, your back arched and your knees slightly bent. Lower the bar by pushing your backside back as far as possible. Keep the bar close to your body, with your head looking forwards and shoulders back. At the bottom of your range of motion (usually just below the knee), stop and return to your starting position.

3 Incline dumbbell bench press

Lie back on an incline bench and hold one dumbbell in each hand, with your hands shoulder-width apart and palms facing outwards. Breathe out and press the dumbbells up in front of your chest. Lock your arms at the top, then slowly lower the weights, taking approximately twice the amount of time to lower them as it took to lift them.


Grip the pull-up bar with your palms facing forwards and shoulder-width apart. Pull your torso up until your chest reaches the bar, breathing out as you rise and pulling your shoulders and upper arms down and back. Hold this position for one second, then breathe in and lower yourself slowly back to your starting position.

5 Sit-up

Lie on your back with knees bent. Clasp your hands behind your head. Raise your body until your back is at a 45° degree angle to your thighs, breathing out as you do so. As your torso begins to contract, return to your starting position, breathing in as you do so.

You can see Harlequins' home Premiership matches at The Stoop, Twickenham. For more info visit

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.