In the first part I covered the very foundations that rugby training comprises that rugby coaches and players should udnerstand. This refers to the base conditioning. If every player covered this in their plans they would attain a far higher level of performance and dominate on the field of play. Today we are going into the unseen factors that underpin high level success.

Below the surface 

If the main rugby areas are what determine the fitness of rugby players the question to ask is why do some players have much greater results and abilities than other players? As Rugby coaches we often overlook this question and just hope a better player comes to our club. As a rugby player you put it down to genetics.


The real answer to this lies not in genetics but factors below the surface. (Yes genetics has a part at say international rugby but for most leagues below this it doesn’t). In a team environment those that have these in place become starters of the team. Those that don’t, are replaced by those that do. If training yourself though, there is no hiding place. You cannot trade yourself in. Either quit (which most people do) or get intelligent and address these factors.

Muscle activation patterns

The body is well catered for injury. Almost every movement the body can select to favour certain muscles over the other. While this is good if being attacked and running from predators. It is awful if the chosen muscle activation pattern makes you weaker and slower on the rugby field.

An example activation pattern is the thigh musculature and glutes during a squat. In an ideal environment there would be heavy activity in the VMO muscle (the tear drop muscle above the knee) and heavy involvement of the glute muscles. What usually happens is low activation of the VMO and glutes and heavy use of the thighs and back muscles. You can still lift heavy weights doing this but when you step on the rugby field you are neither as fast or as strong as you could be if the VMO/glutes were working and your joints are less stable and therefore prone to injury.

There are various muscle activation patterns that are important on the body, these include glute-thigh relationship, lower rhomboids/trapz, core activation, and breathing patterns.

Muscle and fascial integrity

Muscle strength relies in great part on muscle integrity which affects joint position and nervous system activity (see below) as well as the influence of the fascia. The surrounding sheath of a muscle that runs up and down your body.

Spots of muscle/fascial tightness and restriction affect the ability of the brain to recruit as many parts of the muscle as possible. It also creates distortions in posture and joint position

Joint alignment – inhibition

The angle and alignment of your joints can immediately switch off or switch on a muscle. When the joint is out of ideal alignment It can distort the muscle activation pattern and inhibit the nervous system to prevent you using your full strength.

A misaligned joint is not like a broken or dislocated joint. It could simply be your ankle bones are a couple of mm closer together than they should be due to another player standing on your foot by mistake. Unlock that 2mm distortion and then you can see your buttock, core and posture immediately start to function and thus your speed and balance improves instantaneously. The most important joints for realignment include the spine, ankles, wrists and sacrum

Chemical environment

The extent of how your body improves is greatly related to the chemical environment within your body. The more powerful your hormonal system the greater the magnitude of response from a set training session and the faster you achieve results. This is why some guys pack on muscle much faster than others, or why some can improve their fitness more quickly than their counterparts. The hormonal environment can be created and developed through intelligent programme design and a solid nutrition programme. Key supplements are also used with high level athletes to attain maximal output.

There are other factors too but these are the main reasons why one player will get better results or achieve a higher level of seemingly similar programmes. Therefore copying a famous players plan may sound a good idea. But the success will be limited by these unseen factors. In the next part I will give some examples of different training plans,

The Star Performer Blueprint is the first and only Rugby Performance Course that addresses these hidden factors alongside the base conditioning fundamentals discussed in part 1

Agree? Disagree? Have a thought to share? Comment below, it is always good to hear from you.