A Comprehensive Guide to Speed Training for Rugby Players

Speed, agility, and endurance are cornerstones of rugby performance. Whether you’re sprinting down the field to score a try, evading defenders with agility, or covering the pitch for the full 80 minutes, honing these skills is essential. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the latest scientific studies and recommend a detailed training plan, packed with exercises, to help rugby players elevate their speed, agility, and endurance to elite levels.

Phase 1: Establishing a Foundation (Weeks 1-4)

Building the Athletic Base

Warm-Up (10 minutes): Begin with a dynamic warm-up, including leg swings, high knees, butt kicks, and mobility exercises to prepare your muscles for training.

Speed Endurance Runs (2-3 sessions per week): Start with 150-200m sprints at 80-90% effort. Ensure sufficient recovery time (2-3 minutes) between sprints. Gradually increase the number of repetitions each week, based on your fitness level.

Strength Training (2-3 sessions per week): Focus on compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, and bench presses. Incorporate plyometric exercises like box jumps and squat jumps to develop explosive power.

Core Stability (2-3 sessions per week): Strengthen your core with exercises like planks, Russian twists, medicine ball slams, and stability ball exercises. A strong core is vital for sprint mechanics.

Phase 2: Speed Development (Weeks 5-8)

Enhancing Speed and Agility

Warm-Up (10 minutes): Continue dynamic stretches and mobility drills.

Speed Drills (2-3 sessions per week):

  • A-skips and B-skips: Focus on proper knee drive and foot strike.
  • Ladder drills: Improve foot speed, coordination, and agility.
  • Cone drills: Enhance change of direction and acceleration.

Sprint Intervals (2-3 sessions per week): Implement short, high-intensity sprints (20-40m) with full recovery (2-3 minutes) between sets. Emphasize explosive starts and maximal effort.

Strength Training (2-3 sessions per week): Maintain strength workouts, incrementally increasing weights or intensity.

Agility Training (2-3 sessions per week):

  • Shuttle runs: Develop lateral quickness and change-of-direction speed.
  • Reaction drills: Improve cognitive and physical responsiveness.

Phase 3: Peak Performance (Weeks 9-12)

Fine-Tuning and Peaking

Warm-Up (10 minutes): Continue dynamic stretches and mobility exercises.

Advanced Speed Drills (2-3 sessions per week): Refine your technique and intensify your drills.

Extended Speed Endurance (2-3 sessions per week): Extend the length of speed endurance runs to 300-400m while maintaining high intensity. Simulate game scenarios requiring more ground coverage.

Strength and Power (2-3 sessions per week): Transition to more advanced explosive lifts like power cleans, kettlebell swings, and Olympic lifts. Maintain core stability exercises.

Recovery (1-2 sessions per week): Incorporate active recovery sessions, such as swimming or yoga, to facilitate muscle recovery and prevent injuries.

Additional Tips:

  • Nutrition: Consume a balanced diet rich in carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats to support training and recovery. Stay hydrated throughout your workouts.
  • Rest and Recovery: Prioritize adequate sleep and rest days to allow muscles to repair and grow stronger.
  • Sports-Specific Training: Include rugby-specific drills and scenarios in your training to replicate real-game situations and demands.
  • Professional Guidance: Consider seeking guidance from a certified speed coach or rugby-specific trainer for personalized guidance and assessments.

Consistency and patience are essential in speed training. Track your progress, and continually challenge yourself. This rigorous training plan, combined with the latest scientific insights, will help you elevate your speed, agility, and endurance, ultimately giving you a competitive edge on the rugby field.


Why is speed important in rugby?

Speed is essential in rugby for several reasons. It allows players to evade defenders, make long runs to score tries, chase down opponents, and cover ground quickly in both attack and defense. Speed can be a decisive factor in the outcome of a match.

Can anyone improve their speed for rugby, or is it primarily a genetic trait?

While genetics do play a role in determining an individual’s speed potential, nearly anyone can improve their speed through proper training, technique refinement, and agility work. Speed is a trainable skill that can be enhanced with focused efforts.

What are the key components of speed in rugby?

Speed in rugby comprises several components, including acceleration (the ability to reach top speed quickly), maximum velocity (top speed), and speed endurance (sustaining high-speed efforts over time). Agility, change of direction, and reaction time are also crucial aspects.

What kind of training can help rugby players improve their speed?

Speed training for rugby involves a combination of sprinting drills, agility exercises, strength training, and plyometrics. Focusing on technique, explosiveness, and power development is essential. A structured training plan can systematically target speed improvement.

How often should rugby players incorporate speed training into their routines?

The frequency of speed training sessions can vary depending on the player’s level of experience and overall training program. However, two to three sessions per week focusing on speed, agility, and sprint mechanics is a common guideline.

Are there specific exercises that can help rugby players become faster?

Yes, several exercises can aid in improving speed for rugby players, including:

  • Sprint drills (various distances)
  • Agility ladder drills
  • Cone drills for change of direction
  • Plyometric exercises (e.g., box jumps, squat jumps)
  • Strength training for leg and core muscles
  • Hill sprints and resisted sprints (using resistance bands or sleds)

Does speed training increase the risk of injuries in rugby?

Speed training, when done correctly, should not increase the risk of injuries. In fact, it can enhance injury prevention by improving muscle strength, joint stability, and overall body control. Proper warm-ups, cooldowns, and form are essential to reduce injury risks.

Are there specific speed training programs or coaches for rugby players?

Yes, many speed training programs and coaches specialize in training rugby players. These programs often incorporate rugby-specific drills and conditioning to enhance on-field performance. Seek qualified coaches or programs with experience in rugby.

How long does it take to see improvements in speed with dedicated training?

The rate of improvement can vary among individuals, but significant speed gains can be observed within a few months of dedicated training. Consistency, proper form, and progressively challenging workouts are key to rapid improvement.

How can a rugby player maintain and continue to improve their speed during the season?

During the season, it’s important to maintain speed gains through regular maintenance workouts. These should include shorter, high-intensity speed sessions, agility work, and strength training. Recovery and injury prevention should remain priorities.

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