By Nico de Villiers
Posted: Updated:

I wrote this article on the back of writing several home programs for elite rugby players during the Lockdown period in South Africa due to the COVID  19 virus.

This article is aimed at only bodyweight training, so that all can make use of it.

The big difference between a bodyweight program for rugby players and the average home program is just that, there is nothing average about it. Rugby players don’t need endless circuits with medium intensity and heaps of volume. They need output, intent, structure, progression and it needs to transfer to the field with specificity.

The program consist of three different sessions:


This session focuses on output and targeting the central nervous system. All movement will be fast with the minimal ground contact time, utilizing the stretch shorting cycle, that is critical in developing speed and power.


Normally we develop strength by moving heavy external resistance and focusing on the concentric portion of contraction. This is however not the only way to develop strength. We often neglect eccentric and isometric contraction. These contraction methods are not only great for injury prevention but also benefit you in pure performance terms. Good eccentric and isometric contraction allows you to store energy in your tendons and fascia, whilst strongly activating the stretch reflex and promoting stronger body positions.  This is a very unutilized aspect of most rugby strength programs so there could be some good returns on these methods if you are doing it for the first time

Size & endurance

This will be a low CNS day and is more focusing on your traditional muscle pump. Rugby players want to feel confidant and make sure they don’t lose any muscle mass during this time. A great method to use where you don’t have access to external load is doing some bodyweight tempo exercises that will lead to an increase in blood flow and metabolic stress, which is one of the methods you can use to stimulate growth in muscles.

Additionally, you could focus on some endurance/conditioning circuits ones or twice a week, but please know that this will not develop the output required and not help you to dominant or handle contact and high-intensity burst in the game.


You can break your week down as follow:

  • Monday: Explosive
  • Tuesday: Circuits
  • Wednesday: Strength day:
  • Thursday: Circuits:
  • Friday: Size & Endurance


Day 1 (Explosive focus)

Extensive jump circuit (Short ground contact time)


Complete as a circuit with 20sec between sets & 3-4min between rounds

Intensive jumps circuit (Long ground contact time)

You can find more jump and plyometric options and progressions here.


Day 3 (Strength focus)- pick one exercise from each category

Knee dominant:

  • Rearfoot elevated squat
  • Step-ups
  • Pistol squat on box

Hip dominant:

  • Single leg hip thrust
  • Single leg  RDL
  • Skater squat

Knee flexion:

  • Eccentric Nordic hamstring

Upper Body Push:

  • Push up
  • Pike Push up
  • Diamond Push up

Upper Body Pull:

  • Pull up (Choose any object you can hang from safely and get full ROM)
  • Horizontal pull up (bench, chair, table)
  • Upright row (would need an extra load for this)


  • Weighted plank or side planks
  • Dead bugs
  • Dragon flag



Once you have decided your exercise,  do 3 sets of 10sec isometric holds followed by 3 explosive reps with maximal speed. The isometric hold should be done as follow:

Knee dominant:  At the bottom of the range, push with ball of foot into the ground/box/step as hard as possible, without moving concentrically. At the same time contract your quad muscles for maximal intent for the allotted time. For each set move the position where you hold a little higher up the ROM.

Hip dominant: At the bottom of the range, push with the heel of the foot into the ground as hard as possible while trying to pull back (imagine spinning the earth with your foot), without moving concentrically. At the same time contract your glutes and hamstrings muscles for maximal intent for the allotted time. For each set move the position where you hold a little higher up the ROM.

Push: At the bottom of the range, push your palms into the ground while trying to pull your hands closer together, without moving concentrically. Imagine trying to push the planet down. At the same time contract your pecks and deltoid muscles for maximal intent for the allotted time. For each set move the position where you hold a little higher up the ROM.

Pull: At the top of the range,  try and pull the object that you are holding onto closer to you without moving concentrically. At the same time, pull your scapula down and closer to each other while contracting your lats and rhomboids with maximal intent for the allotted time. For each set move the position where you hold a little further down the ROM.

Knee flexion: Do eccentric nordic hamstring during this time. Try and move through the entire ROM as slow as possible while keeping a neutral pelvis and a straight spine.

Torso: mix exercises between Isometric planks (30-60sec loaded) and eccentrically focus dead bugs (3 x 15-25) and dragon flags (3 x 5-8)

Day 5 (Size & endurance focus):

There is a multitude of methods you could use to get the desired effect, but I want to suggest using the metabolic stress method since its easy to do at home and will give you that feeling that you have really worked afterward.

One method I would suggest is using tempo reps. Use a constant tempo throughout every rep of 3-4 sec down and 3-4sec up without pausing at top or bottom. This will lead to an increase in blood flow and by-products. This method can be done with light weights or even bodyweight exercises and can be done close to failure.

Do 3-4 sets to failure with 60sec between sets. Each week reduce the rest by 15sec until you can do 4 sets of max reps with 30sec rest between them. You can use the same exercises as in the strength session.

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