RUGBY: Bigger, stronger, quicker….Back-row training

You want to be Richie McCaw.
who is in most people’s minds the quintessential open side flanker in world rugby.

If you have the time I would recommend the following program:
Strength/Power training: 3 per week, ideally Mon/Wed/Fri

Speed: 3 if you are if good shape (can you run a 2,400 metres (1.5 mile) in less than 9 minutes 30 seconds to 9 minutes) if you are outside these parameters get yourself fitter

Conditioning: 2 or 3 depending on where you are fitness wise

Monday & Friday – lower body strength/power focus, upper size/strength focus

2 x Full body Strength
Select exercises from each of the following categories, use the same exercise for 3 weeks then change the exercise and repeat the 3 week progression, have a different selection of exercises for the second workout.
3 sets each exercises with the following reps:

Lower Body: Week 1 – 6,5,4 Week 2 – 5,4,3 Week 3 – 4,3,2

Upper 1: Week 1 – 5×5
Week 2 –(5, 3, 1 ) wave x2…wave=do your first round of 5, 3, 1…then repeat it but 2-5% heavier.
Week 3 – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…x2 ( do 5 reps, rest 10secs, do 4 rest 10 secs….the weight should roughly be about your 8 rep max)

1 x Full Body exercise…any Olympic variation…power clean is a good starting block and good for tackling power.

1 x Squat exercise…full or box squat is a good foundation, Bulgarian split squats are brilliant, dont bother with leg presses.

1 x Hamstring/Lower Back…stiff leg deadlifts, glute/hamstring raises, good mornings, weighted back extensions or single back extensions really do hit your hamstrings.

2 x Upper Body Push super set with Upper Body Pull…keep it simple…..standing shoulder press with any row…
pull ups with bench press.

You can choose any exercises in here…avoid machines though. Being strong is your building block. We all remember good back rowers we’ve played against…funnily enough we dont remember the WEAK ones though.

Full Body Power

Stay with same exercise for 3 weeks

2 x Full Body exercises do a jump exercise after each set…so do power cleans, then straight away squat jumps.

2 x Squat (eg Box Squats & jump Squats) do a jump exercise after each set

2 x Upper Body Push ( Bench Press & Barbell Split Jerk) do an upper body plyometric exercise after each set

One exercise per grouping at 6 x 3 reps coupled with 6 x 3 plyos/jumps
Second exercise is 3 x 6 reps coupled with 3 x 6 jumps/plyos

Jump Options:
Knees to feet jump, Jump onto Box, Depth Jump (advanced), Repeat Hurdle Jumps, Band Jump outs, Tuck Jumps
Upper Body Plyos:
Clap Chest Push Ups, Clap Push Ups, Jump Ups onto a box, Med Ball Drop & Push away, Cross Over Push Ups, Med Ball Throw against a Wall, Wheelbarrow Arm Hops

2 x Speed
Session 1:
Full Movement Warm up 10 minutes
Ladders – forward series
Hurdles – 2 x march, 2 x skip, 2 x run + 10m accelerate
10 x MB throw + 10m sprint
4 x Repeat long jumps 22 metres

Alactate Power

2 sets x 4 x 20m build + 30m fly, walk back recovery between reps, 3 minutes between sets

Session 2:
Low hurdle jumps 5 x 5 + 10 m sprint out

10 x 1 x Tyre flip then sprint out 10 metres

Max. Velocity
6 x 40 m with a slow walk back in between each rep

Session 3:
Full Movement Warm up 10 minutes
Ladders – Full series
Hurdles – Full series

Select 2 drills and do 75 foot contacts
1. Bounding x 40m
2. Power Skip x 40m
3. Single leg hop L to 22m R to 50m repeat with reverse distances
4. Power Jumps
5. Vertical Tuck jumps
6. Single leg rebound vertical jumps

Accelerations from different starts 20 metres maximum distance for 10 minutes:
3 point stance
lying on chest
lying on back
lying on back roll to left and roll to right
hurdle jump & go
standing facing opposite direction
chip kick regather then go
grubber kick regather and go

Maximal Velocity
Select 2 drills from this list and do for 15 minutes
Flying 28’s – build for 22m and then sprint maximally to the half way line
In & Outs – hard for 20m easy for 10m hard for 20 easy for 10
Change of direction cut – sprint hard for 30m hard cut diagonal for 10m then hard cut off other foot to straighten for another 30m
Straight sprints – 40m, 50m, 60m, 78m or 5m, 10m, 15m, 22m, 30, 35m

2 x Repeated Speed
Option 1: 20 x 40secs on 20secs rest distance based on 110% of VO2 max from 2,400m time trial range 150m to 220m

Option 2: Sprint 50m then slow down and walk to other end of the field, turn and go again x 20;
10 x ½ Gasser every 60 seconds try and keep each run under 30 seconds(start lying face down chin on sideline get up sprint to the other side of the field, go down to ground get up and sprint back to start)

Option 3 : 200m in 40 seconds rest 20 seconds then 100m in 20 seconds rest 40 seconds x 10

Option 4: 5 minute continuous run then 5 x 10 x 50m every 30 secs with a 2.5 minute walk recovery between sets, then 5 minute continuous run

Option 5: 20 x 22m every 15 secs – 2 min walk recovery 15 x 50m every 30 secs – 2 min walk recovery 10 x 78m every 45 secs – 2 min walk recovery
5 x 100m every 60 secs – finish

Option 6: 5 minute continuous run then;
10 x ½ Gasser every 60 seconds – start lying face down on the sideline get up and sprint to far side of the field get down to ground face down then get up and sprint back to start
3 x set of 6 Malcolm Drill (1:1) – start lying face down on half way line get up back pedal to 10m line go down on chest get up and run through to opposite 10m line go down on chest get up and back pedal to half way line and go down, that is one rep
6 x Coat Hangers – competitive – 2 groups either side of half way line on sideline, sprint down around goal posts then the length of the field around the goal post and finish at the sideline half way line junction.

1 x Hill Repeats
5minute warm up run, sprint up the hill for the set time and then walk back down the hill for the same time.
Option 1: 1 x 5 min, 5 x 3 min, 5 x 1min (1:0.5 walk back recovery)
Option 2: 10 x 60secs/45secs/30secs/15secs 1:1 work:rest ratio
Option 3: 5 x 1 minute, 10 x 30 seconds, 5 x 1 minute, 10 x 30 seconds 1:1 walk back recovery
Option 4: 15 x 30secs/15secs/45secs/ 1:1 work:rest ratio

Once again a lot of info. great info again from ashley jones, who actually coached MCcaw at canterbury.
I had great results from doing the full body training, doing the power stuff and jumps after and the Olympic lifts did improve my power. But beware…i found that you can over do this stuff…its good to cycle it in and out your program. This is just what happened to me, what i’d do now would be to do this program for 2 months, then take the Olympic moves out….or do defranco’s program for 2 months and keep cycling them in and out. You would get great results from doing this.

The conditioning work was brutal. To start with try and do half of what he prescribed…then build it up.

Hopefully you’ll get a good idea of how i think you should train, its only my opinion. You get some people who are just naturals and dont have to train that much…wankers. But if you feel like you could improve, then by improving your body’s power, strength etc then you can get the best out of you….good luck…


6 Responses

  1. you didn’t even give ash jones a plug!

  2. Effective workout.. All true and well.. Only the strong survive, so can’t handle it? Harden the f@rk up!

  3. I live in South Africa, I’m black and not the best falanker in my province nw by far, cz I’m small bt hav been told I hav a gud mind.I admire and respect you and the way u play ball

  4. damn , hardcore

  5. […] Read Full Workout Here: Back Row Training […]

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