We have been fortunate enough to have the pleasure of working with London Irish and Welsh RFC and I'm not going to tell you anything different to what I told them. The most important thing in sports conditioning is to condition the movement pattern and demand on the body that you're trying to optimise for.
Movement patterns and demands
Depending what position you play and your style of play, you're going to want to condition different movement patterns. Identify what it is that you're trying to improve and then start to include some of our recommended exercises into your workouts.
The main categories that you may fall into are change of pace and direction, strength and fitness. I see a lot of players going wrong by categorising themselves by their positions. A forward will generally be conditioned differently to a back, but a big hitting back like Tuiliagi will be conditioned similarly to a forward like Chris Robshaw and an agile back like Billy Twelvetrees will be conditioned similarly to a forward like Mako Vunipola who has great footwork for their size and position. This is because regardless of their positing they are putting themselves through similar demand from their style of play.
Lets talk about some of the main categories and what type of exercises you should be doing to improve your sports related fitness in them.
Change of pace and direction
If you're trying to improve your change of pace and direction try to concentrate on your tempo. You want the tempo to be explosive, dynamic and a similar movement pattern to the demands on you during the match. Aim for 1:1 tempo and maximal power. If you're in a position where change of pace and direction is important remember to not neglect your hand off. To condition this perform decline bench press as the majority of hand offs will be pushing downwards. A few good exercises to including in your training plan are:
Decline Bench Press
To improve your strength stick to large compound lifts that are going to work your major muscle groups. You want to be sticking to reps of 6 or less with a few carefully selected isometric holds. There are a lot of isometric holds in rugby with small eccentric and concentric contractions. (scrums, rucks, malls, etc). Try to put some isometric holds into your plan. For example when performing a squat lower yourself down gently for two seconds, hold the squat position for 2 seconds and then power up as quickly as possible.A few good exercises to including in your training plan are:
Decline Bench Press,
And Prowler Work
The best way to improve your fitness for rugby is to be playing the game. Try to speed up the rate of play by doing drills like touch rugby. Other good ways to do this is to include some of the exercises below into your training plan. When performing them don't allow yourself too much recovery by giving yourself around 30 seconds rest. As your fitness improves try to reduce the rest period. A few good exercises to including in your training plan are:
Heart Rate Training,
And Altitude Training.