Does Rugby Make You Strong?

If you have ever been around rugby players it won’t be long before it becomes apparent just how strong they are. Those bulging muscles aren’t just for show they put them to good use on the rugby pitch when they are running over their opponents and picking them driving them to the ground in a tackle. It’s time to explore whether or not the sport of rugby is responsible for the players strength or if there are other contributing factors. 

Why are rugby players so strong?

Rugby players are strong because rugby results in muscular development to the legs, arms and back. Rugby players further develop their strength by lifting weights.  Footy players are also masters at using leverage and maintaining balance which makes them appear even stronger than they are.

Why Do Rugby Players Need Strength?

Rugby players need strength to tackle, clean out, scrummage and break tackles. The stronger you are, the easier it is to tackle and avoid being tackled. Try tackling a 110kg man sprinting towards you without using strength and tell me how that goes for you. 

Rugby is a physical game. With the average player standing over 6ft tall and weighing over 100kg they are capable of generating huge amounts of force during contact. 

If a player does not have sufficient strength he won’t be able to handle the force other players are able to generate resulting in the player not gaining metres during runs and losing territory or dropping the ball when being tackled.

Does Rugby Build Muscle?

Does rugby build muscle? 

Yes, rugby does build muscle. Tackling will build your legs, arms and shoulders Scrummaging will build your back, legs and neck. Sprinting will develop your legs. Cleaning out and mauling will build your legs, neck and back. All rugby techniques will develop your abs.

If you want to know if rugby builds muscle simply do rugby tackling drills. Run the ball 10m as fast you can, lower boy height and hit your teammate while they are holding a tackling pad. Then drive and pump your legs and further 10m. After doing this for 15 minutes your legs, back and shoulders will be on fire. Your muscles will be pumped full of blood.

Rugby players spend hours every week completing similar drills that place an enormous amount of strain on their muscles. To respond to this stress rugby players’ muscles will grow.

You won’t only get muscular legs from rugby. Rugby will also force your neck to grow. Rugby players use their neck as a weapon to make their tackles more powerful to finish clean outs at the breakdown. This is why you see so many footy players with enormous bulging necks. Next time you are tackling someone don’t just use your legs and arms to finish a tackle try using your neck and see how much easier your opposition hits the deck.

What Muscles Do Rugby Players Use?

Rugby players use all the muscles in the body. Rugby places extra stress on players’ legs from sprinting, running through contact and driving in tackles. Rugby players regularly use their shoulders and necks during tackles, mauling, scrummaging and cleaning out.

Do Rugby Players Lift Weights

Do rugby players lift weights? 

Yes, rugby players do lift weights. Weightlifting is very common and mandated for many rugby players. South African players are particularly known for weightlifting. Rugby players typically do kettlebells, powerlifting movements, olympic weightlifting exercises, weighted dips/pullups, weighted situps and neck harness exercises.

A big reason why rugby players are so strong is due to their dedication to their strength and conditioning programs. Rugby players are known for not only killing themselves on the rugby pitch but also for pushing their physical limits in the weight room. Footy players develop their strength by lifting weights and performing a variety of strength exercises which target the legs, back, neck, arms, shoulders and abs.

A number of rugby players are big proponents of the bench press and squat, putting up some very big numbers. All Blacks Ben Franks is known for squatting 300kg and front squatting over 200kg. Manu Tuilagi the English wrecking ball has benched 190kg.

Here Are Some Common Exercises Rugby Players Perform To Increase Their Strength:


  • Kettlebell movements – curls, press, push press, lateral raises, front raises
  • Barbell movements – curls, press, push press, bench press
  • Dumbbell movements – curls (hammer, conventional, reverse), press, lateral raises, front raises
  • Picking up barbell plates with one hand and flipping them
  • Weighted dips


  • Kettlebell movements – swings, clean, deadlift, goblet squat, turkish get up, snatch
  • Barbell movements – clean and jerk, push press, snatch, upright row, bent over row, squat, deadlift
  • Dumbbell movements – one arm row, push press
  • Weighted pull ups
  • Reverse hyper


  • Weighted neck harness – move neck in different directions
  • Bridge
  • Headstand
  • 4 way neck exercise – place weight plate on neck, move neck side to side, up and down

Rugby Players Use Of Superior Body Mechanics

Rugby players may not be quite as powerful as you first thought. I have played with rugby players who felt extremely strong on the rugby pitch however they never lifted weights and would struggle to deadlift 225 pounds. The reason that many rugby players appear to be so strong is because they have great technique and they have a deep understanding of optimal body mechanics.

For example you are an average rugby player, you play for your local club and you know you are a strong tackler. A former professional player joins your club and you start doing some live tackling drills together. You go for your standard tackle that has knocked many men on their arse. 

You drop your body height, drive off your back foot and attempt to get good shoulder contact on your new training partner only to feel like you have run into a brick wall. You bounce off the former pro who didn’t budge and is smiling. You are mystified at how strong this rugby player is as you are used to driving your teammates to the ground and are known for your hard hits.

Lets take a look at exactly what happened in this situation. It isn’t that the former pro player is so much stronger than  that prevented your tackle from moving him even slightly. It is the fact that when you went for the tackle your teammate was balanced, his feet were placed in the optimal position, he saw your attack coming and he thrust his hips into your attack.

The former pro used correct technique combined with optimal body mechanics which resulted in the illusion of superhuman strength.

If before you had gone for your big hit you had timed your tackle better and waited until your teammate was off balance he would not have felt nearly as strong and it is very likely you would have driven him to the ground.


Rugby players are so strong because rugby develops your muscles as they are forced to grow to handle the great stress footy places on your neck, legs, back, arms and shoulders. Footy players further increase their muscle mass by lifting weights and performing strength exercises such as powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting and kettlebell exercises.

Even though rugby players are much stronger and more muscular than the average man their strength is overstated as their technical proficiency, balance and optimal use of leverage makes them feel stronger than they are.

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