It is no news that rugby players have gotten bigger since the game turned professional. And it is basic physics that the bigger the player the more momentum they can generate to dominate the collision. Bigger players have an advantage.
But that size can’t be useless weight. To be an effective player you need get stronger and more explosive too. You can’t just get muscle bound and slow. And the wrong training program can lead this plus the risk of injury.
Read on for Rugby Renegades Top 10 Tips for Getting Bigger for Rugby:
1. Get Strong
Increasing your strength will not only improve your performance and prevent injuries but will allow you to stimulate greater hypertrophy. You see the heavier weights you lift the bigger the stimulus on the muscles and therefore the greater the potential for hypertrophy.
2. Use Sufficient Volume
Contrary to popular belief high reps aren’t the key to hypertrophy. Research shows that any rep range will stimulate muscle gain provide you perform enough total volume. 25-50 reps seems about right so try 3×8, 5×5, 3×10, 6×6, 5×10 4×8, 4×12 etc.
3. Eat a Caloric Surplus
To build muscle you need energy to repair you muscles and lay down new muscle tissue. To do this with out gaining excess body fat try to increase what you are eating by 10%. Monitor your progress every two weeks. If you aren’t gaining weight increase again or if you are increasing maintain at this level. Check again in two weeks and modify accordingly.
4. Focus on Big Compound Lifts
Big compound lifts like the squat, bench press and deadlift are ideal exercises for packing on muscle and strength at the same time. They are easy to progress and load and increase the demand on your muscles. These exercises should take up about 80% of your training time.
5. Minimize Cardio
As we said you need energy to build muscle tissue so you don’t want to expend too much on other activities. However, you’re a rugby player first so you don’t want to limit your rugby training but an extra conditioning should take a backseat until you are happy with your weight. 2-3 sessions a week (including rugby) should be enough.
6. Increase Protein Intake
Protein is the king when it comes to recovering from exercise and building muscle mass. Aim to get at least a fist-sized portion of protein with every meal and supplement with a whey protein shake after weight training. Lean meat, fish and eggs are great sources.
7. Don’t Avoid Eccentrics
The eccentric part of an exercise is when you are lowering the weight. It is during the eccentric that most of the muscle damage is done which stimulates hypertrophy. Eccentrics also are a great stimulus for strength gains and injury prevention. For some of your training include slow eccentrics eg. Lower the weight for 5 seconds and lift normally. Beware! This will cause soreness!
8. Use Isolation Exercises Correctly
So if 80% of your training is big compound exercises the other 20% consists of isolation exercises. These exercises are single joint or target one muscle group but can be used to bring up muscle imbalances and add extra volume (remember tip 2!) without being too much stress on the body. Shrugs, lateral raises, glute bridges, leg curls, calf raises and arm work are ideal here.
8. Don’t Neglect Carbs
Most popular diets involve restricting carbs and have given them somewhat of a bad reputation. But carbohydrates are essential to fuel high intensity activity (think rugby and weight training!) and aid recovery. You shouldn’t over eat carbs but it is important to consume some especially after training and from the right sources. Avoid white rice and pasta and go for wholemeal pasta, brown rice, potatoes, quinoa, cous cous and fruit.
10. Slow and Steady Wins the Race!
Unfortunately muscle gain isn’t an overnight thing and whenever people increase mass too quickly it is usually a recipe for disaster and injuries soon follow. Prepare yourself for a slow and incremental increase in strength and bodyweight and you will soon be buying new t-shirts and bumping off the opposition!
So there you go 10 tips you need to follow to get bigger the right way for rugby. If you want more training advice specifically for rugby check out Rugby Renegade.