There are different types of weight training methods you can do in the gym. Most players just do one type of training over and over and to makes things worse it is not even the most effective for rugby performance.

As you become more experienced with resistance training you have to start using different strategies into certain phases of your schedule. This is governed by periodization.

The main types of methods used are:

Functional training

Developed to train the muscle in the way they are used in the real world (hence functional). The training uses exercises that coordinate and challenge the brain (nervous system) as well as the individual muscles. The emphasis is on developing the stabilizer muscles and thus increasing the overall strength and coordination of the body on the rugby field. Functional training uses many cables and unilateral (one arm, single leg etc) exercises. It is the best form of exercise for the general gym user and certainly has benefits when used in conjunction with the other areas for a rugby player.

Bodybuilding (General hypertrophy)

The origin of weight training was from guys wanting to get big and still it dominates the industry. The main focus of a body building routine is to take as many sets of the exercise to the point of failure and do as many exercises and sets as possible on the muscles. It uses resistance machines as well as free weights because they give a greater burn in a particular muscle, this is because there is little need for stability on machines.

It is a beneficial method if done correctly for increasing muscle size but it does not develop the natural coordination or strength which is used on a rugby field. For example, being able to sit on a machine and push a weight is totally different to having to stabilize your own body while pushing another player.

This training is typified by using 2 and 3 day split routines, 8-12 reps and feeling the burn in the muscle. It is completely overused by rugby players and does not give you anywhere near as much benefit as most players think.

Functional bodybuilding

This is the term I have given to a type of training that merges the above two methods. The idea is to merge the goals of increasing the size of the muscles yet also developing the balance, coordination and functional skills within the body. It is more effective than body building techniques in general life as it develops your functional strength as well as increasing muscles size. It therefore gives you the best of both worlds.

It is done by combining the bodybuilding element of taking as many sets as possible to the point of fatigue as possible but on exercises that challenge stability and coordination. It is a trade off as the more unstable an exercise the less of a burn you are able to generate and vice versa.

Specific hypertrophy

This relates more to sports performance and is focused on developing the size of the specific muscles that are needed during rugby. It can also be employed by the general enthusiasts by focusing on the main muscles you would like to develop or simply as a variation to your routine.

Each set is taken to the point of failure but there are longer rest periods between the sets and between exercises of similar nature. This allows a higher weight to be used.

Strength training

A type of resistance exercise designed to get the body to lift as heavy a weight as possible. The training gains are made from mostly the alterations in the nervous system as it learns to increase its ability to activate the prime mover muscles while relaxing the antagonists.

Strength training also has significant effects on hormone level within the body and thus should be used by people looking to increase muscle size. For safety do not do this training if you have been lifting weights for less than a year and ensure you do not start on this method without first completing a functional training and specific hypertrophy phase.

The training will involve all body movements and be performed for 5 reps or less per set.

Power training

This method increases the speed you apply your strength – your explosive power. The training uses lighter resistance’s with the focus on explosiveness rather than the pure weight used. The gains are made mostly through the adaptations of the nervous system

The training uses all body movements like strength training but it uses a slightly lighter weight than maximal to allow for quick powerful movements to be used. THis helps your speed on the rugby field.

Power Endurance training

This method develops the ability to be powerful after a number of repetitions. It is ideal for sports training and especially for rugby players The idea is that doing a few powerful reps is not going to help you if you fatigue after the 15 consecutive movements your sport requires. e.g. a hundred meter sprint requires rapid explosive movements for about 30 repetitions per leg. So power endurance training can focus on preparing the muscles for this.

Endurance training

This training is designed to increase the overall endurance for the muscles. Using light weights and high reps you should aim to stay explosive as you aid your body’s endurance ability.

This method is used for people who do endurance type events which rugby comes under during certain phases of play.

Other training methods.

Other popular training methods include kettle bells, medicine balls, weighted vests, body weight exercises, complex training and more. These are all just variations of one of the above methods depending on the weight used, reps performed, rest etc. So feel free to interchange as desired.

Agree? Disagree? It is always good to hear from you.