Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

Day 26 of August pre season training tips: day of rest!? by David Clarke

August 26

Day of rest

You know you have a long season ahead. But your players will forget that as they throw themselves around in an attempt to be ready for the season.

Can you afford to have a day of rest? Well, unless you are a professional team, you are likely not to see the players every day of the week. But, you can still help them manage their levels of workload so they can be fit and ready for the season.

1. Honesty diary: have them write out their previous week’s activity. They should include any training outside club training, plus any other sporting activity. They should say if they have been out or had late nights. Frankly, some will lie (if not most!). But the focus helps them see the week in the context of playing a game.
2. From the honesty diary you can give them a fair idea of whether should up their training levels, and where they should be resting. The diary also gives you a better idea of their lifestyles.
3. A day of rest is a day when no training takes place and the players keep off their feet as much as their working/school lives allow them.
4. Publish a diary or schedule of events up to the first game of the season. This gives them a better idea of how to plan their week to make sure they have not done too much at the wrong end of the week.


Make sure you have a day of rest. If you are like me, then you will be so excited before the start of the season that you do not rest your mind from rugby. It is a long season ahead, and you need to keep your own rugby energy levels up.

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Day twenty of the August pre season training tips: warm down by David Clarke

August 20

Warm down

Pre season is a good time work on helping players maintain good habits. After each session, though the temptation will be to jump in the car and go, it is important to have some form of warm down.

Think of warm down as part of the recovery process towards being in better shape for the next session. There are several ways you can help your players warm down effectively.

1. Finish the session with “static” stretches to the large muscle groups. Static stretches are held extensions of the muscles. The large muscles groups are mainly the legs and back.
2. Use some gentle jogging.
3. Encourage the players to take a cold shower. Use an ice bath set up, if you have one (and if you do, you will have an understanding of the timings involved).
4. Ask the players to invest in some compression tights.
5. Encourage the players to be off their feet as much as possible the day after a very heavy session.

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Day fifteen of the August pre season training tips: warm ups by David Clarke

August 15

Warm ups

I am going to be a little controversial here. You don’t need to warm up.

There I said it.

Actually, you need to change the mindset to “preparing to train or play”. The mind and body need to be switched into action. That cannot be done immediately. Spend some time gradually building up the intensity.

What needs to be in your pre season warm up (last time I use that expression in this piece)

1. A game (like touch rugby or rugby netball) – this will get players onto the pitch quicker.
2. Some raising of the heart rate – this can be done in a game.
3. An increase in mental arousal – to put players in the right frame of mind (again can be done in a game).
4. Some movements and contact which start to replicate the exercises ahead.
5. A minute or two for players to “stretch” themselves if they want to. Players who are stiff or recovering from injury might use this time to activate their muscles. Others will simply run around with a ball.

Anecdotally, I used these activities before sessions most of last season when I was in charge of teams. I can report no pulled or strained muscles during the sessions.
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Day five of August pre season training tips: recovery time by David Clarke

August 5

Recovery time

In pre season, players must rest and recovery.

Here are five ways to recovery better.

1. Straight after training: light stretching, cool shower (not hot bath), stay off the feet, drink water and sports drinks.
2. Rest days: define a rest day for each week. That means no training. It has a funny psychological effect of making players think they should be training on the other days!
3. Rest injuries in pre season. A player should isolate their injury and work on other areas. Leg injuries – upper body work. Upper body, running or cycling.
4. Recovery can include recovering the mind as well. Play other sports.
5. Sleep! Encourage players to take early nights to help their recovery process.

Rugby fitness and pre season rugby conditioning

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Day four of August pre season training tips: body weights by David Clarke

August 4

Body weights

Not every team has access to a weights room. Use controlled body weight exercises in training to improve strength for rugby.

Here are three easy to implement tips
1. Have a press ups league: the most “perfect form” press ups in a minute. You define the perfect form, but look for straight back, and proper bend in the arms.
2. Press up variety box: give the players a number depending on their fitness level and then ask them to perform that number of each type of five press ups:
i. Normal
ii. Wide hand base
iii. Narrow hand base (hands almost together)
iv. Super man (with one foot in the air)
v. One hand (with one hand behind the back)
3. Dead man lift: lie on the ground with the arms out with one player lying cross the other player. This player has to get up as quickly as possible from this position.

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Day three of the August pre season training tips: running by David Clarke

August 3


Players spend most of their time on their feet in rugby, but not the entire time running.

Here are eight running tips for your players in pre season:

1. Use pre season for perfecting running styles, as used by sprinters or long distance runners. Briefly, everything should be going forward: head, arms, hands, knees, feet.
2. Train for sprinting when the players are fresh.
3. Train for rugby running when the players are fatigued. Rugby running: short bursts, changing directions, going from contact to contact, sidestepping and swerving.
4. Train slipstreaming: a ball carrier who is weaving followed by a support player.
5. Train under pressure: running winners and losers.
6. Run in positional groups.
7. Overspeed: run downhill at speed to check for good form.
8. Hold and release: improve leg drive by getting one player to hold another player by the shorts for five metres before letting go.

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Weight training for youngsters by David Clarke
January 19, 2010, 11:30 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Fitness | Tags: , , , ,

When can a young player start weight training?

There is no definitive answer, just read the debate in “The Huddle”

I think we can all agree that any training should take place in a safe and supervised environment, but what about the nature of what, how much and for how long?

I am no gym bunny myself though I can admit to an unhealthy obsession with a Concept 2 rowing machine.

However I did find “Rocket Rugby” helpful in explaining some programmes to players who asked.

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The IRB strength and conditioning website by David Clarke
December 3, 2009, 5:29 pm
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Fitness | Tags: , , ,

IRB launch free strength and conditioning guide

From the IRB:

“On this site, you will learn about the basics of Health and Safety, Exercise Instruction, Gymnasium Induction & Environment and via our online learning system you can start on the pathway to achieving Strength and Conditioning accreditation, as recognised by the IRB.

This exciting format connects basic exercises to the dynamics of the Game. The learning process uses the written word along with video demonstration and real time international game footage, as shown opposite and below.

Modular additions will logically be provided on a quarterly basis followed by the Level 2 qualification in September 2010.”

You need to complete the Rugby Ready strength and conditioning course.

The link to visit is here.

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Day in the life of a top rugby player by David Clarke
September 29, 2009, 7:55 am
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby Fitness, Rugby Skills | Tags: , , ,

Openside flanker Tanuerau Latimer, or “Lats”, gives us an insight into some of the training he does with the All Blacks.

I have followed Lats’ career with special interest after I coached him for half a season when he came over on a rugby exchange at the school I used to teach at. He was only 15, but his playing ability and strength was outstanding. He didn’t look big on the pitch, but few will forget being tackled by him.

What impressed me most about him:
1. His dedication to his personal health and welfare.
2. His constant strive to find better ways to win at the breakdown.
3. His demeanour on and off the pitch. He was calm and yet ruthless.

He loved playing rugby. He inspired others around him. I can only say that I facilitated his development in the short time I was coaching him.

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Rugby wrestling by David Clarke

I have been using a defence drill which uses some of the elements of wrestling. It follows up research I did into 600 tackles over five games and the types of tackle players perform around the ruck and scrum. To warm up I use some of the drills used in the video above.

The drill and game situation will be available in mid August as an Advanced Skills Smart Session.

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