Upgrader diary: rugby – part 4

Niall Moody
(Image credit: Unknown)

The new season starts in less than a month and I can’t wait. That’s nothing new. Every year I can’t wait to leave pre-season training behind and start playing competitively. 

But usually my body isn’t quite in sync with my mind. I’m normally carrying a knock and some stubborn holiday weight picked up adhering to the Mediterranean diet. Not this year. All the mobility drills, single-leg exercises and conditioning runs I’ve been doing for the past few months with Saracens S&C coach Andy Edwards are paying off. 

I feel fit, strong and, above all, confident. I’m training with my club twice a week, in the gym three times a week and on the weekend I try to go running or cycling for active recovery and to keep up a base of conditioning. 

In training we’ve shifted from strength work to sprint sessions and used high-volume cluster sets to build more muscle. For example, with the bench press my 5RM is 105kg. For the cluster sets I drop it to 85kg, do five reps then rest for ten seconds, do four reps then rest for ten seconds and repeat down to one rep. They’re kicking my arse, but I like it.

My diet has made a big difference too. I’m still taking Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre-Workout before my training sessions and Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey protein after my weights workouts to help me recover, but with the Men’s Fitness photoshoot coming up I’ve cut out the carbs in my shake to help me get lean. Boosted performance with aesthetic perks - that’s the goal. 


‘I’ve been really impressed with Niall,’ says his trainer Andy Edwards, the Saracens strength and conditioning coach. ‘Every time I see him he’s more motivated to train hard and attack this rugby season. Now he's back in training, the priorities are to spend time with his team-mates and familiarise himself with rugby after a long summer off, but he also needs to keep his strength and conditioning topped up with extra drills before and after his regular training sessions.'


Niall uses this short, explosive sprint session before his rugby training when he’s fresh to improve his acceleration. 


Accelerate over 10m for four reps, building from 50% up to 90% maximum effort.

Resisted acceleration 

Pulling a sled or tyre. Niall drags 20kg over 10m for four reps. Recover fully before repeating each rep so you can give each rep total effort.

Unresisted acceleration

Sprint 10m for four reps. This contrasts with the sled drags.

Multidirectional sprints

Run 5m then change direction left or right on the coach’s call and sprint another 5m. Repeat for four reps. These are designed to boost agility.

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