How Much Can Rugby Players Bench Press?

We all know rugby players are big and strong with the average professional standing at 6ft 1 and weighing an impressive 100kg. Rugby players love to hit the weight room and throw around some big weights to build their muscular frames.

As bench press is a common exercise performed by rugby athletes I’m sure you’re wondering just how much your favourite players are able to lift…Lets find out!

How much can rugby players bench press?

Rugby players are expected to bench press 1.3 to 1.5 times their body weight. With the average player weighing 100kg they are expected to bench press 130kg to 150kg. These are minimums, many players are capable of bench pressing more, such as Biyi Alo and Gheorghe Gajion who both have lifted over 200kg.

As the bench pressing standards of rugby are based on body weight and the average weight of rugby players differs greatly between positions their expected bench press numbers also vary greatly.

Prop – Average weight – 118kg – Expected bench press – 153kg to 177kg

Hooker – Average weight – 106kg – Expected bench press – 138kg to 159kg

Lock – Average weight – 117kg – Expected bench press – 152kg to 175kg

Flanker – Average weight – 108kg – Expected bench press – 140kg to 162kg

Number 8 – Average weight – 110kg – Expected bench press – 143kg to 165kg

Halfback – Average weight – 84kg – Expected bench press – 109kg to 126kg

Five Eighth – Average weight – 90kg – Expected bench press – 117kg to 135kg

Inside Centre – Average weight – 97kg – Expected bench press – 126kg to 145kg

Outside Centre – Average weight – 94kg – Expected bench press – 122kg to 141kg

Wing – Average weight – 90kg – Expected bench press – 117kg to 135kg

Fullback – Average weight – 90kg – Expected bench press – 117kg to 135kg

Which Rugby Players Can Bench Press The Most?

Gheorghe Gajion from Moldova who plays for Ospreys is the rugby player with the highest bench press at 230kg (506 pounds). In number 2 spot is Biyi Alo of Wasps who has bench pressed 220kg (484 pounds). Rounding out the top 3 is Tongan international, Leo Halavatau who has lifted 217.5kg (478.5 pounds).

16.11.19 – Ospreys v Munster, Heineken Champions Cup – Gheorghe Gajion of Ospreys take on Kevin O’Byrne of Munster

Rugby players don’t just have impressive physiques they have the strength to match. Top professional rugby players have bench pressed huge numbers which are respectable for full time powerlifters.

The aforementioned 3 players aren’t the only rugby stars benching huge weights in the gym. Aled de Malmanche, Andrew Sheridan, Alfie To’oala Vaeluaga, WillGriff John, Max Lahiff, Nicky Smith, Rory Sutherland, Jon Welsh, Tom Court, Jack Whetton have all benched over 200kg which is a strong deadlift let alone a bench press.

The fact that rugby players can bench press such high numbers while still training rugby full time is an amazing feat. You would expect all the running involved and physical contact involved in rugby to hurt players’ performances in the weightroom but it appears it hasn’t. 

It would be interesting to see just how much a player like Gheorghe Gajion or Biyi Alo could bench press if they quit rugby and focused on powerlifting. I would expect them to hit the 300kg (660 pounds) mark.

How Can Rugby Players Increase Their Bench Press?

To increase their bench press rugby players need to program their weightlifting using linear periodisation by slowly increasing the intensity of their workouts over time. Rugby players should add supplemental exercises to their regime eg. barbell press, weighted dips, incline press and clap push ups.

BORDEAUX, FRANCE – OCTOBER 01: Stephen Moore of the Wallabies spots team mate Wycliff Palu as he bench presses during an Australian Wallabies strength training session at the Colombier Gymnasium October 1, 2007 in Bordeaux, France. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Many rugby players go into the weight room with no real plan and don’t follow a program. This is a recipe for failure. If you do not follow a strength program you will fail to improve your lifting numbers and any initial progress you do make will quickly stall and plateau.

To ensure rugby players continue to make good gains in the weight room they should follow an easy to implement strength program. One of the most effective strength programs is linear periodisation.

Linear periodisation involves continually increasing the intensity of your workout over time. For example week 1 you bench press 70kg for 6 sets of 3 reps and then in week 2 you bench press 72.5 kg for 6 sets of 3 reps.

Linear periodisation places increased stress on your body which forces it to adapt resulting in increased strength and muscle. If you are not consistently pushing your body it will stay the same and your strength and muscle levels will not change. Too many rugby players do not attempt to increase the intensity of their workouts in a consistent fashion and end up making no gains.

Here is an easy and simple bench press program that rugby players can use to add some serious weight to their bench press max.

Take 60% of your current bench press max. Bench press twice a week and perform 3 sets of 8 each workout. At the start of each new week add 2 to 2.5 kg to your working weight. Perform this program for 10 to 12 weeks.

For example if your current max bench press is 100kg the program will look like this:

  1. Monday & Thursday – 60kg – 3 sets, 8 reps
  2. Monday & Thursday – 62.5kg – 3 sets, 8 reps
  3. Monday & Thursday – 65kg – 3 sets, 8 reps
  4. Monday & Thursday – 67.5kg – 3 sets, 8 reps
  5. Monday & Thursday – 70kg – 3 sets, 8 reps
  6. Monday & Thursday – 72.5kg – 3 sets, 8 reps
  7. Monday & Thursday – 75kg – 3 sets, 8 reps
  8. Monday & Thursday – 77.5kg – 3 sets, 8 reps
  9. Monday & Thursday – 80kg – 3 sets, 8 reps
  10. Monday & Thursday – 82.5kg – 3 sets, 8 reps
  11. Monday & Thursday – 85kg – 3 sets, 8 reps
  12. Monday & Thursday – 87.5kg – 3 sets, 8 reps
  13.  Test 1 rep max – goal should be 115% of your old max

If you are able to consistently add 2.5 kg every week by the end of the program you should be lifting your former 87.5% of your max for 3 sets of 8. This should give you the work capacity to increase your old bench press max by 10% to 15%.

Apart from effectively using linear periodisation the other way rugby players can increase their bench press is through incorporating effective supplemental exercises into their programs.

To bench press big numbers you need strong triceps. Weighted dips are one of the most effective exercises at building explosive, big and power dips. Weighted dips should be performed 1 to 2 times a week. Before you add weight you should be able to perform 3 to 4 sets of 20 of body weight dips.

During the bench press you need to be able to explode off the bottom to get the bar off your chest. Many rugby players lack explosive power and speed and end up failing their bench press reps because they can’t get the bar off their chest. 

To ensure you never have any issues moving the bar from your chest you need to incorporate clap push ups into your training. Clap pushups specifically train the explosive part of the bench press. Perform these once per week and 5 sets 4.

If you are a rugby player looking to increase their bench press then you better have strong and powerful shoulders. The shoulder dominant movement with greatest carry over to the bench press is the barbell press. 

This exercise should be performed 1 to 2 times a week. Start off light as this is a very difficult movement. Perform 3 sets of 8. Once rugby players start barbell pressing it is only a matter of time before they start hitting personal records on the bench press.

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