Is Velocity Based Training Good For Rugby Players

There are many different methods rugby coaches use to improve their players’ on field performance. One method that is effective in helping rugby players increase their explosive power is velocity based training. It is time to show you how rugby athletes can use velocity based training to take their playing abilities to new heights.

What is Velocity Based Training?

Velocity based training (VBT) is the measuring of speed and power when an athlete performs a strength exercise. For example measuring the speed a rugby player can perform a squat is an example of VBT training.

Velocity based training has grown in popularity in recent years as the technology has become cheaper and easier to use with the creation of smartphones and apps.

Velocity based training is good for rugby players. VBT can help rugby players improve their strength, power and speed by training them to move the weight more explosively. VBT helps rugby coaches identify fatigue levels allowing them to select ideal training loads, making their strength program more effective.

Why Should Rugby Players Use Velocity Based Training?

Maximal strength is only one aspect that can help improve a rugby player’s performance. Explosiveness and speed is another major factor that determines how well a player fares on the rugby field. VBT training is designed to specifically improve an athlete’s speed.

How Rugby Athletes Can Use Velocity Based Training?

Monitoring Velocity

Rugby strength coaches and athletes use 1 rep maxes to determine if a player is getting stronger and producing more total force. However, this does not reveal if a rugby player is getting more explosive and faster.

By monitoring velocity using velocity measuring devices when a rugby athlete is lifting weights, coaches can accurately identify if their athletes are improving their explosiveness and speed both of which are critical on the rugby field.

Strength coaches can use this data to determine if their rugby players’ speed is improving, regressing, or stagnating.

Programming with Velocity

Velocity based training is a more effective way to program strength training for rugby players as it takes into account an athlete’s fatigue levels on any given day. Typically, a strength program will be based on a rugby athlete’s 1 rep max. For example if a rugby player has a max squat of 100kg a heavy set squat day would be 3 sets of 3 reps at 90kg.

The problem with programming based on 1 rep max is that athletes will have days where they are very weak and days where they are very strong based on a host of reasons such as level of sleep, nutrition, stress, injuries, soreness and accumulated fatigue. An athlete who is having a bad day may not be physically capable of squatting 9 total reps of 90%.

As rugby is a tough sport players will often be battling high levels of fatigue after a gruelling training session or game. If you use a training program based on 1RM the program is too rigid to adjust to a rugby player’s fatigue levels and it may result in the athlete failing his prescribed lifts and receiving inadequate strength training.

By using VBT training rugby strength coaches can measure the fatigue levels of their athletes by analysing how quickly they are moving the bar and then adjust the training loads accordingly. For example if the training program prescribed a medium load day but the rugby player is moving the bar very quickly you can take advantage of this good form by increasing the weight.

This concept of adjusting training loads based on a rugby player’s readiness on a particular day is known as auto regulation. VBT allows strength coaches to accurately adjust training loads instead of going by the eye test or how players say they feel.

VBT training also allows rugby strength coaches to train specific qualities most effectively. For example if an exercise is best trained at a particular speed a coach does not have to guess which weight this might be but can use data to find the exact weight that their rugby players should be lifting.

Measuring Proximity to Failure

Measuring proximity to fail is another auto-regulation technique. To use this strategy you take a sub maximal determine what speed at which you are likely to fail a maximal attempt.

You then perform sets and reps until you hit the speed which would have resulted in a failed rep if you were lifting your 1 rep max. You find failure speeds for the major strength exercises such as squat, deadlift and bench press online.

Measuring proximity to failure can ensure you are pushing your body while also maintaining good form. It can also help with training selection load as your top set for the training session should be the maximum weight you can perform all of the prescribed reps with while staying above the speed threshold.

Drop Off

The drop off method is a great way for rugby players to train their power endurance. To use the drop off method perform a set max and finish the set when you drop below 90% of your best speed for that particular set.

For example take 70% of your best squat and perform as many reps as possible until you perform a rep which is below 90% of your best speed for that set. Once you fail the speed test finish your set.

Velocity Based Training techniques is all about developing your ability to move the bar as quickly as possible.

What Are The Best Velocity Based Training Devices For Rugby Players?

The best velocity based training devices for rugby players which are most popular among professional clubs are the Train With Push Band, Tendo Unit and Gym Aware. For rugby athletes it is best to use a VBT device which tells you your speed after each rep rather than at the end of the set so you can adjust your training easier. 

What Are The Problems With Velocity Based Training For Rugby Athletes?

The problem with velocity based training for rugby is that some players will sacrifice technique in an effort to increase their speed. This can lead to less effective training and place rugby athletes at risk of injury. VBT should only be used by athletes who have solid weightlifting technique and are able to maintain ideal body mechanics when developing their speed.

Velocity based training is best suited to intermediate and advanced rugby players who have at least a few years of weightlifting experience. If a player is struggling to perform a squat or deadlift with good form at a normal tempo then they are going to suffer serious technical breakdown when implementing VBT training. 

Before you add VBT training to your strength regime ensure you can perform the exercise with good form at normal speed and when using VBT do not prioritise speed over technique. The fastest lift should also be done with textbook technique.


Velocity Based Training can be very beneficial for rugby players looking to increase their speed and auto regulate their training ensuring they are getting the most out of every strength and conditioning session irrespective of fatigue levels.

Recent Posts