Pre-Season Rugby Fitness Training – Phase 2

MultipowerThe season may have only just finished, but some players’ thoughts are already turning to pre-season fitness, and how to make themselves bigger and better. Fitness trainer Matt Cross continues the Rugby Fitness series with the second part of his pre-season training programme, in association with Multipower. Click here to read Phase 1.

Pre Season Training Phase 2 – Contrast training

This next phase of training uses a method known as Contrast and should be performed for three weeks after you have completed the first phase. I would advise giving your body a week off after the completion of phase 1 – in order for joint and muscle recovery to occur and this rest also allows the body and neural systems to adapt to the first phase of training. If you are the kind of person that struggles to have a complete week of rest then perform some OFF FEET conditioning (rowing, cycling and swimming etc.).

The idea behind contrast training is to bridge the gap between strength and power and to continue to gain strength while creating a dynamic component to each movement, in effect killing two birds with one stone. Essentially you do a set of heavy reps and then do the equivalent power movement for the same muscle group with a fast and powerful lighter set. I have seen some great results with some of my clients with this style of training.

How does it work in a nutshell?

Contrast training essentially works because of PAP (post activation potentiation for the geeks amongst us!). This in essence is the ability for the explosive capability of a muscle to be enhanced after a maximal (or close to maximal) effort. You are basically in simple terms allowing your body to chuck more muscle fibres and motor units towards the lift in question allowing the body to increase its power output on each repetition.

The sessions

There are three different sessions listed below. Because of the effect and extra load through the joints and the high neural stress that this type of training puts on the body, I would suggest 48 hours recovery between sessions (so if you train Monday morning then your next session should be Wednesday morning for instance).

Each session contains 3 pairs (supersets) of contrast exercises and a superset at the end of each session designed to aid abdominal strength and help with injury prevention. The first exercise in the contrast pairs should be heavy in weight and performed under control; the second exercise should be with body weight or light in weight, but each repetition should be performed as fast and as possible with maximal effort.

Session 1

Deadlift x 6
Vertical Jump x 10
Superset x 5 sets

Chin ups x 10
Medicine Ball Slams x 10
Superset x 5 sets

Walking Lunge x 6 each leg
Resisted Sprints x 6 (20 metres)
Superset x 5 sets

Single leg jumps BOSU balance (ankle stability) x 12 each leg
Barbell Roll outs x 10
Superset x 3 sets

Session 2

Front Squat x 6
Box Jumps x 8
Superset x 5 sets

Bench press x 6
Clap Press ups x max
Superset x 5 sets

Sled Drags x 5 (20 metres)
Sprints x 5 (20 metres)
Superset x 5 sets

Banded Shoulder internal/external rotator cuff work x 10 each arm
Hanging leg raise x max
Superset x 3 sets

Session 3

Seated Shoulder Press x 6
Standing Dumbell Jerk x 6
Superset x 5 sets

Plate Rotation x 8
Light Load Cable Rotation x 8 each side
Superset x 5 sets

Weighted triceps dips x 8
Close diamond grip press ups x max
Superset x 5 sets

Plank Complex (Front plank, side plank, side plank) 30/30/30
Single leg Squats 10 each leg
Superset x 3 sets

As before this is designed to be performed in my studio, so may need some adjustment for the facilities you have available. If you have any questions about the exercises, technique or if you are unsure on what an exercise is or if you need a replacement for some of the exercises because you don’t have the space or equipment email me at

Multipower are the nutritional sponsors of Mark Cueto, RC Toulon and Leeds Carnegie. For Sports nutrition tailored to your individual needs visit Follow Multipower on Facebook at www.facebook/multipowersportsfooduk

Matt Cross is currently Head of Strength and Conditioning at Bond Fitness and is based in their bespoke performance centre in Hertfordshire. Matt works with elite athletes from many sporting disciplines that include rugby, football, golf and triathlon. He specialises in sport specific training, functional movement training and injury rehabilitation.

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