Unlocking the Power of Bench Press: A Game-Changer for Rugby Players

Rugby is a physically demanding sport that requires a combination of strength, speed, agility, and endurance. To excel on the rugby field, players must be in peak physical condition, and strength training plays a crucial role in achieving this. One of the fundamental exercises in a rugby player’s strength training regimen is the bench press. In this comprehensive article, we will explore the benefits of bench press for rugby players, the muscles it activates, an ideal bench press training program, how it can enhance on-field performance, notable rugby players with impressive bench press records, and the ideal bench press technique for rugby players. We will also delve into the different types of bench press and determine which ones are best suited for rugby players.

The Benefits of Bench Press for Rugby Players

  1. Increased Upper Body Strength: The bench press primarily targets the muscles in the chest, shoulders, and triceps. For rugby players, a strong upper body is essential for tackling, scrummaging, and winning collisions. Bench press helps develop the raw power needed for these aspects of the game.
  2. Improved Pushing Strength: Rugby involves a lot of pushing and shoving, whether in scrums, rucks, or mauls. A robust bench press can significantly enhance a player’s ability to drive opponents backward and create space for their team.
  3. Enhanced Core Stability: While bench pressing, the core muscles are engaged to stabilize the body. This indirectly benefits rugby players by improving their balance and stability, which is crucial for maintaining control during tackles, rucks, and lineouts.
  4. Injury Prevention: A well-rounded strength training program, including bench press, can help prevent injuries common in rugby, such as shoulder dislocations and muscle strains. Strengthening the shoulder girdle and chest can provide more stability and reduce the risk of injury.
  5. Increased Explosive Power: Rugby requires bursts of explosive power, whether it’s breaking through the defensive line or making a tackle. Bench press helps improve the ability to generate power quickly, which can be applied on the field.

Muscles Activated by Bench Press

To understand the full impact of bench press on a rugby player’s physique and performance, let’s take a closer look at the muscles it activates:

  1. Pectoralis Major: The chest muscles are the primary target of the bench press. A well-developed chest is crucial for pushing opponents and maintaining a strong defensive posture.
  2. Deltoids (Shoulders): Bench press also engages the front and middle deltoid muscles. Strong shoulders are essential for tackling and lifting in lineouts.
  3. Triceps Brachii: The triceps, located on the back of the upper arm, play a significant role in extending the elbow joint during the bench press. They are crucial for effective tackling and ball handling.
  4. Serratus Anterior: This muscle helps stabilize the shoulder blades and is essential for maintaining proper shoulder health and mobility.
  5. Core Muscles: The core muscles, including the rectus abdominis and obliques, are engaged to stabilize the body and prevent excessive arching of the lower back.

An Ideal Bench Press Training Program for Rugby Players

To maximize the benefits of bench press for rugby, players should follow a structured training program. Here’s an example of an ideal bench press program:

Frequency: Perform bench press exercises 2-3 times a week, allowing adequate time for recovery between sessions.

Sets and Repetitions: Start with 3-4 sets of 6-8 repetitions for strength development. As you progress, incorporate higher rep ranges (10-12) for muscle endurance.

Progressive Overload: Continually increase the weight you lift to challenge your muscles and stimulate growth. This can be achieved by adding small increments of weight or increasing the number of repetitions.

Variation: Include different bench press variations in your program to target various muscle groups and prevent plateaus. These variations can include incline bench press, decline bench press, and dumbbell bench press.

Safety: Always use a spotter, especially when lifting heavy weights. Proper form is crucial to avoid injury.

How Bench Press Can Improve On-Field Performance

  1. Tackling: A strong chest and triceps from bench press training can help rugby players drive through opponents more effectively during tackles, increasing the chances of a successful stop.
  2. Scrummaging: In the scrum, the front row relies heavily on upper body strength. Bench press can provide the necessary power to dominate in the scrum and maintain a strong bind.
  3. Lineout Lifting: Players who lift in lineouts require strong shoulders and triceps. Bench press enhances these muscle groups, making it easier to lift teammates during lineout throws.
  4. Breaking Through the Defensive Line: To break through the defensive line and gain ground, rugby players need explosive power. Bench press helps develop the explosive strength necessary to burst through tackles.

Rugby Players with Impressive Bench Press Records

Several rugby players have gained notoriety for their impressive bench press records. While individual strength levels can vary, here are a few notable examples:

  1. Sebastien Chabal: The former French international and Sale Sharks player was known for his immense strength. Chabal reportedly had a bench press max of over 200 kilograms (440 pounds).
  2. Jonah Lomu: The legendary All Blacks winger possessed not only speed and agility but also remarkable strength. His bench press numbers were rumored to be around 170 kilograms (375 pounds).
  3. Mamuka Gorgodze: The Georgian rugby star is renowned for his physicality and strength. He has reportedly benched over 190 kilograms (420 pounds).

Ideal Bench Press Technique for Rugby Players

Proper technique is vital for maximizing the benefits of bench press while minimizing the risk of injury. Here are the key steps to achieve the ideal bench press technique:

  1. Set Up: Lie flat on the bench with your eyes under the bar. Grip the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, keeping your wrists straight.
  2. Foot Placement: Plant your feet firmly on the ground, creating a stable base. Your feet should be positioned flat, with your knees at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Arch Your Back: Slightly arch your lower back while keeping your glutes, upper back, and head in contact with the bench. This arch helps maintain stability.
  4. Unrack the Bar: Lift the bar off the rack, straightening your arms. Hold the bar directly over your chest with locked elbows.
  5. Lower the Bar: Inhale and lower the bar to your chest in a controlled manner. Aim to touch the bar to your mid-chest or slightly below. Maintain a slight elbow tuck to protect your shoulders.
  6. Press the Bar Up: Exhale and press the bar back up to the starting position, extending your elbows fully.
  7. Lockout: At the top of the movement, lock your elbows and squeeze your chest and triceps. Hold this position for a moment before beginning the next repetition.
  8. Spotter: Always have a spotter ready, especially when lifting heavy weights. They can assist with unracking and provide assistance if needed.

Different Types of Bench Press for Rugby Players

While the traditional flat bench press is the most commonly used variation, rugby players can benefit from incorporating different types of bench presses into their training routine:

  1. Incline Bench Press: Targets the upper chest and shoulders. It can help rugby players develop the strength needed for lineouts and tackling from an elevated position.
  2. Decline Bench Press: Focuses on the lower chest and triceps. This variation can be beneficial for scrummaging, as it mimics the position of the upper body during a scrum engagement.
  3. Dumbbell Bench Press: Provides a greater range of motion and helps address muscle imbalances. It also engages stabilizer muscles, enhancing overall upper body strength.


In the world of rugby, where strength, power, and physicality are paramount, the bench press stands as a fundamental exercise that can significantly benefit players. By targeting key upper body muscles, improving pushing strength, and enhancing core stability, rugby players can elevate their on-field performance and reduce the risk of injuries. When incorporated into a well-structured training program, the bench press can contribute to a player’s success in scrums, tackles, lineouts, and breaking through the defensive line. Remember, mastering proper technique and incorporating variations can further amplify the advantages of bench press training for rugby players.

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