How to Do a Rugby Forward Workout
Here is what you need to do...
In 15s rugby there are 8 forwards on the field at a time. The starting forwards are numbered 1-8 and their positions are; 1- loose head prop, 2- hooker, 3- tight head prop, 4- left lock (second row), 5- right lock (second row), 6- blind side flanker, 7- open side flanker, 8- eight man. 1-5 are known as the tight 5 and 6-8 are known as the loose forwards.
Although the individual on-the-field duties of each forward position vary, the off the field training is very similar. All forwards need big strong legs, heavy shoulders, tight cores (even if they have a prop gut), and explosiveness. The next few steps will outline the essential workouts for these muscle groups.
We'll start from the bottom and build up so let's talk about legs first. The best lift for legs is hands down the squat. Squating engages all the muscles in the legs, glutes, lower back, and core. There are several variations of squating and each variation exaggerates a certain aspect of the lift. Some variations will allow you to lift more than others and some variations will require only your body weight. While squatting, regardless of the variation, form is of utmost importance. Like all lifts keep shoulders back and down, chest out, head up, and your core tight. **Make sure your knees don't bend in front of your toes!! This is a very important note on form. While squatting your weight should be evenly distributed through both your feet, think of them as your roots. When lowering your body make sure the knees stay behind the toes and bring your rear end as close to the floor as possible. If you aren't able to make an angle less than 90 degrees with your leg than you need to decrease the weight. Squat variations include- front squats, single leg squats, box squats, and the extremely difficult pistol squat.
Squats are one of the best all around leg workouts, however, there are several other exercises you can do to improve the strength and size of your legs. Lunges are probably the second best leg lift you can do. The main variations of the lunge are forward and backward, basically just the direction you step before you kneel. You can either hold dumbbells at your sides or a barbell over your back like a squat. Typically you can lunge more weight holding a barbell over your shoulders.
Squats and lunges should make up the corner stone of a leg workout, but there are other lifts that should be included every few lifts. The first of these is the cross over step up. It's kind of a hard lift to describe, but basically you start with a barbell over your shoulders like a squat. Stand to the side of a bench and with your outside foot step across the front of your body up on to the bench and follow with your inside foot, then step down with the starting foot across the back of your body and step down with the second. If you did this right you should now be on the other side of the bench, step up again with the new outside foot and repeat. Other helpful lifts are leg curls, calf raises, dead lift, straight leg dead lift, and leg press.
Continuing to work up the body, the next group of exercises we'll cover is core workouts. Planks and plank variations are one of the best all around core exercises you can do. To preform a standard plank lie on your stomach and push yourself up so you are balanced on the balls of your feet and elbows/forearms. Keep your back flat, feet close together, and your belly button sucked back. Side planks are just as beneficial but target the left and right obliques respectively. Planks increase the strength and stability of your core muscles, they also burn fat and tighten everything up which can be especially helpful for some chunky props. Weighted ab exercises are extremely beneficial too. Most gyms have machines specific for these exercises. If you want to use free weights, though, start by lying on your back with a dumbbell in one hand. Bend the knee on the side the dumbbell is on, hold the dumbbell straight up, keep the opposite hand flat on the ground, engage your abs and crunch up keeping your eyes fixed on the dumbbell as it lifts above your head. Do 10-20 on each side and switch for 2-3 sets.
The next muscle group forwards need to focus on is their shoulders. This does not mean, though, to only do lifts that target the shoulders. Focus should also be given to the chest and upper back muscles. Shoulder press variations are an extremely important lift. Try them single armed, double armed, sitting, standing, military press, and push press. A push press is like a regular shoulder press but power can be derived from bending and extending the knees. Bench press variations are vital as well. Inclined bench press will target the upper chest and frontal shoulder; decline press hits the lower pectoral muscles. Row variations are important to strengthen the back and traps. Big traps help prevent neck injuries for forwards especially. Again try single arm, double arm, seated, standing, bent, machine, etc. Low weight shoulder exercises such as y-raises and rotator cuff extensions create micro tears which increases the strength of the shoulders. All upper body exercises should be performed with a benefit to the shoulders in mind. Biceps and triceps are secondary show muscles so don't spend too much time worrying about those.
Many forwards prefer to include some power lifts in their routine to improve their explosiveness on the field. Working in a mix of cleans, thrusters, and other power moves a couple times a week will increase strength, power, and explosiveness.
Difficulties people often experience or parts that need special attention to do it right.
The best forwards are the biggest, strongest, quickest, and most powerful. These assets are best developed by putting in hard work at the weight room. Make sure you always focus on proper form: head up, chest out, shoulders back, and belly button sucked in. A few extra tips from one forward to another-- get angry, get pumped up, and get hungry for the ball!
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Funny or interesting story about this topic...
There is a popular saying in rugby that goes- forwards determine who wins the game, backs decide by how much. Being a forward on a 15s rugby team is one of the toughest and manliest positions in all of sports. Forwards are responsible for scrumming, line outs, and blowing up as many rucks as they can. They're expected to run hard and hit even harder.
When did you first do this & how did you get started?
When someone is first starting rugby, they're dubbed either a forward or back based on their body type. Bigger guys tend to be forwards. At 6'3" 240lbs (at the time) I was a perfect fit for a forward position. Specifically second row.