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    Hi Everyone,

    I have managed to secure a position as the strength and conditioning coach for an amature open division rugby union club, and if you could spare the time I would like to ask you all for some advice.

    The head coach of the club is very keen to impliment some core work into the clubs conditioning schedule this season as previously there wasnt any. Due to the nature of the training sessions (field sessions with a lack of equipment), I am struggling to find any suitable core exercises that are both functional and effective. Would anyone perhaps know of any effective exercises or programs, or of anywhere online or in literature where I could find some?

    Any advice would be much appreciated.



    Hi Ben, congrats on your appointment, working on the field I would suggest a lot of wrestling drills, go to any number of wrestling sites on line and they will have dozens of drills, also the combat conditioning of Matt Furey is packed with activities you can do with just partner and body weight that will satisfy your head coach’s desire to work core, also there is a book on the ironmind site over body weight exercises that is quite useful, and the big one would be some strongman activities like tyre flips and truck push and pull, which you can set up relatively easily, they are also very competitive and may do the job for you as well, cheers,a shley


    Hey Ash,

    Thanks for the advice ill start looking into the exercises tonight and see if I can throw them together into a suitable program. 🙂

    Cheers, Ben


    Hi Ben, I would pop down to a local farm or tyre place and get some tyres from there- they won’t mind you taking them at all. I would also go to the local forrestry commission and see if you can get logs from there, again they should be glad to help as it is getting re-used.

    Cut some holes in the logs and feed some old climbing rope through (again pop across to a local climbing centre and see if they have old rope that can be cut up).

    Local Army surplus stores do the old kit bags that can filled with sand (make sure you put it in a plastic bag first and use gaffer tape to wrap it up tight).

    As Ash says there is lots you can do with bodyweight- try this…

    Player 1 lays on his back with his hands clasped creating a loop with his arms.
    Player 2 gets on all fours (balls of feet and hands) and uses the loop of player 1 around the the back of his neck. player 2 then keeps a low body position and drives forward staying on all fours and dragging player 1. It’s hard and the boys will love it.

    You can do all sorts from that with player 1 holding a ball as he is being dragged, whistle blast then player 2 stops dragging and rips the ball from player 1.

    I tend to use the tabata intervals with bodyweight exercises such as clap press ups, up downs, squat thrusts, firemans carry, baby carry, ball wrestles with short sprints.

    Have fun mate especially when you improvise with things around the club.

    Oh, try this one for body position and core-

    Player gets down in good low body position, places hands on top of a rucking shield and then drives it forward. Now if they push down with their hips up too high they will not move and find it difficult (funny when this happens). When they get the right body position and a stronger core to hold themselves up they will glide along the grass.

    Hope you can understand that mate and let us know how you get on and more importantly what you come up with…lol


    Thanks for the advice Andy, very informative. Ill put the exercises to use and let you know how I go 🙂


    i have found these very useful and the players certainly enjoy them:

    car pushing- have teams of three push cars for say 30 meters, racing against other teams of three.

    tug of war- just need 15-20 meters of thick rope

    fireman carrys- easy to apply, tough to do!

    if you can get hold of some heavy medicine balls or equivalent, these can be great for throwing exercises

    and as ash mentioned, any form of wrestling/grappling is great for contact conditioning.

    hope this helps!



    Hey everyone thanks for your advice! 🙂

    Ive put it all together with some other things Ive learnt at university and have decided on a draft program. Im thinking of setting out a 25 minute session twice a week that goes as follows:

    Firstly light core activation exercises (5 minutes) such as Pilates exercises etc, to practise specifically activating core – as most of the guys probably wont even know how to activate it. Then move onto wrestling/grappling body weight drills in partners, all the while making sure that they try to keep their cores engaged during the drills (10 minutes). Then a strong man type circuit, inlcuding tyre flips, fireman carries, etc, with an emphasis on the core activation as used before (10 minutes).

    Hopefully this does the trick, im thinking the session may run too long though due to time constraints. Any comments, suggestions, or ideas?

    Thanks, Ben


    G’day Ben

    I’m interested in why you think your players won’t be able to “activate their core” and what transfer they will get from these drills?




    Hey Damian,

    My belief that the players will be unable to activate their core effectively is mostly due to the majority of them being amature athletes with no prior core training. As I am only a novice coach odds are that I may be wrong. Although from my experience as an amature rugby player I have found that most of my peers beleive that strengthing their core means working their six pack and have no real knowledge in regards to activating TA and other important core stabilisers.

    In regards to transfer I’m hoping that once they are able to locate and activate their core muscles effectively through the basic exercises, that they may be able to effectively utilise their core during more dynamic whole body exercises such as wrestling. From there I’m hoping to see some element of transfer through to more rugby specific movements such as mauling, tackling and holding their ground at the break down.

    But as I said before I’m still quite new to coaching so your thoughts would be appreciated. 🙂

    Thanks, Ben


    G’day Ben

    At least you are backing yourself and trying something. At the end of the day evaluate and make your own decisions and the real odds are that you will be better for the experience one way or the other.

    But for my 2 cents, I believe it is a big leap of faith that any TA activation exercises will transfer to any of your Rugby skills. I also believe it is a big assumption that your players won’t be able to recruit TA unless they have some back pain which may be causing inhibition. Even if you were trying to activate TA, it is an extremely hard thing to do consciously (it should just occur naturally) unless under ultrasound so most players will just end up bracing through their abdominal region. Not that bracing is a bad thing. So in a group environment I think it will be difficult to achieve what you are trying to do. I believe just doing your wrestling drills will force your players to brace through their abs like they are about to take a punch which is what you want. Some general ab and bracing exercises are fine and i particularly like things like plate walk and chops or walking plate rotations etc. Remember that all S&C is general and a means to an end so you must use your time wisely to get as much bang for buck out of each activity as possible.

    Hope my ramblings make some sense!




    Hey Damian,

    Thanks for the advice. You have convinced me to stray away from the whole activation componant. From the sounds of things it will potentially just waste time as you had mentioned. I dont really have too much knowledge on TA other than a couple of lectures we did at uni, so putting it in perspective it would be a pretty large leap of faith. Ill try to keep things simple and hopefully I get the results required! 🙂

    Thanks, Ben.


    I’m fully with Damian on this one.

    If some big raw prop is about to smash a player and the first thing he’s thinking about is bracing his TVA then he has a big problem.

    I think the best ‘core exercise’ that can be done before training is stretching the hip flexors! Tightened hip flexors from constant sitting tend to allow the body to ‘switch off the core’, stretching them eases the lordosis and encourages a better posture. Also in the gym Bulgarian split squats are a great exercise too.


    Hey guys,

    Have a look at the following link covering muscle activation


    System entails overriding defense mechanisms in the body. I saw the physio/kinesio Doug Heel demonstrate his techniques and was astounded by the results. It makes for interesting reading, it did take me a while to get my head around the methodologies though.

    Doug’s principles of Muscle Activation:

    * When you are defending, you cannot be performing
    * What is in the mind is in the body
    * What is in the body is in the mind
    * When we connect the mind to the muscle the body shifts immediately

    It takes approx 5 minutes and possibly this could be used in the warm-ups.

    I’m interested to see the response from the readers.



    This is a different concept from isolated muscle activation.

    There are many such techniques out there and MAT in the US is not new – but the principle is the same – which is why I say stretching the Hip Flexors and competing muscle groups is probably going to do more good than trying to ‘activate’ a muscle that is in ‘in competition’ with hyper active groups. It is very rare (if even possible) in my experience that a muscle does not deactivates when needed in healthy individuals.

    Also bear in mind that what may work for a chronic case does not nor should always translate into ‘prehab’


    Mate, I would pretty much say its a bit dangerous to start doing core activation after a couple of uni lectures. TVA activation sometimes needs to be taught after LB injuries. To get it right takes 1 on 1 tuition in a rehab setting. Trying that in a group of rugby players would be ineffective in terms of core activation.

    As the guys have said the act of doing the wrestling will serve as a core exercise and give you the desired training effect.

    Because of the limited time you have to train as an amatuer I would suggest you do game related stuff that covers both the skills and the fitness side of things. Use your knowledge as player and put in some fitness principles and the boys will love it. Carry out some tyre flipping with the forwards straight into line out drills or scrum machine and then back onto another element of the game.

    Good luck!

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