How to develop and build muscle

Increasing muscle is a wise goal for many rugby players. Increased muscle allows you to attain a higher maximum strength while protecting you from injury.

Most rugby players use inefficient techniques to build muscle. To build muscle you must do two things. (1) Provide the body with a stimulus to build muscle. This comes from resistance training and (2) gives the body the nutrients it needs to build muscle.

(1) Provide the body with a stimulus to build muscle

To stimulate the body to build muscle you need to be lifting weights. However, simply going down the gym or doing a couple of exercises in your home will not guarantee muscle growth. Instead you need to follow a few key principles.


Intensity refers to the weight you are lifting compared to the heaviest possible weight you could lift. It is vital to use the right weight so that you induce fatigue by your target rep number. Using too low an intensity will prevent you getting any real results.


For building muscle the more sets during an exercise session you take to the point where you ‘fail’ – can’t lift anymore. The better the effect on your body for muscle gain. Do not sacrifice any part of your perfect exercise technique in favour of another repetition. As you tire you will be tempted to bend, twist or swing your body to finish the exercise. Do not do this! It is pointless, if the muscle cant lift it…stop!

All body training

The key to getting muscle growth is not just feeling some burning in the muscle you want to develop but it is challenging the whole body to adapt. This is best done by having high focus on the all body exercises involving the leg. This will give you the greatest development hormonally which will allow you to build muscle well.

Split routines versus all body routine

To build muscle you must hit each muscle group at least twice a week. Therefore you can only use a split routine e.g. upper body one day, lower body the next if you are training at least 4 times per week. For anything less than this use an all body workout. Whatever split routine you use your legs must be challenged, via all body exercise e.g. squat, dead lifts, lunge etc at least twice a week.

Sets, reps and rest

There are different ways to build muscle. In general the parameters can be said to be, though not exclusively as:

Reps: 5 – 15
Intensity: To failure
Rest : 30 second – 3 minutes
Sets : Instead of worrying how many set you have done, ask how many sets have you taken to failure (cannot lift anymore). When this is done using large all body exercises you will find the number of sets per muscle group can reduce to maybe just 1-2.

Periodization – how to vary your training

The key to long term gains is how you vary the above parameters from week to week and month to month. For this you must use Periodization principles otherwise you may make gains just for 4 weeks and then plateau.

(2) Give your body the nutrients it needs to build muscle

Unless you are providing the right foods in the right amounts building muscle will be difficult. Metabolic typing is the system that identifies what foods and nutrients your cells need to function efficiently.

Metabolic typing addresses different aspects of nutrition which when put in place will greatly increase the ability to build muscle. These are eating the right foods, in the right amounts while avoiding food intolerances and maximizing your vitamin and mineral intake:

Eat the right foods for your body

This varies greatly from one person to the next. There is no one food that is healthy for all of us. Not everyone should use protein shakes, nor does every one need red meat while others must have it. You must discover what foods you need

Eating the right amounts of food

Everyone has an ideal fuel mix to consume at each meal. This is a specific amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat per meal. When you consume this your cells will efficiently build muscle and function well.

Avoiding food intolerances

If you are eating foods your body has difficulty processing you will greatly reduce your ability to build muscle. This is because you are too busy fighting the food you are eating rather than spending this energy on muscle growth. The most common food sensitivities are to Wheat / oats (Gluten) and Dairy.

Obtaining large amounts of the right vitamins and minerals

To build muscle the cells need their vitamins and mineral in optimal amounts. To do this you first must learn which vitamins and minerals are low within your cells. This is done through a metabolic typing analysis. Then you can optimize the amounts of the nutrients you need by eating plenty of certain vegetables (not any old ones) and by taking specific supplements formulated for your body.


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