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    Programming for the Back Three

    Ashley Jones

    Almost 10 years ago I had the honour of working alongside, Andy Friend, he came up with a terminology for grouping positions on the field, he used the term finishers for the Back Three and the centre, which I thought was a very apt way to describe the job of these players, of course you could easily choose Outside backs as well. Whatever you choose the job remains the same, and they depend on good levels of fitness, particularly the full back, with high levels of power, and good acceleration with top end finishing speed. Outlined below is how I would train these players for the demands of the game of rugby. In this first installment I will look at the weight training aspects.


    I think a more power focus is appropriate for these players and would choose a 2 power and 1 strength session per week approach. If I was going to do a combination speed power session on Wednesday I would do another power session on the Monday and finish the week with a strength session on the Friday. If this was not able to be done I would do a power workout on Monday and Friday with the Strength workout on the Wednesday. Let me outline both plans for you and you can make the decision which method fits best in your plans.

    Power Monday & Friday

    Select from the following:

    2 x Olympic style movement lower body plyometric/jump exercise contrast

    1 x Squat movement lower body plyometric/jump exercise contrast

    1 x Upper Body Push upper body plyometric exercise contrast


    Power Snatch from blocks Depth Jumps
    Power Clean from floor repeat hurdle jumps
    Band Box Squats Knees to feet jumps
    Push Press Clap Chest Push ups

    Use a three week progression and change exercises each 3weeks:

    Week 1: 3 x 5 @ 60% max 3 x 10 reps on the contrast
    Week 2: 4 x 4 @ 70% max 4 x 8 reps on the contrast
    Week 3: 5 x 3 @ 80% max 5 x 6 reps on the contrast

    I would put some upper body hypertrophy work in with this as well if it was required for the specific or some upper body strength work, it is all player dependant. I am becoming more with tune with what Damian Marsh has said for a long time that he believes upper body power work to be somewhat redundant as most stimulus is through the ground hence lower body specific. So I may drop out the last exercise and replace it with a push and pull super set for strength reps (explained in next section) or a hypertrophy selection, such as a 3 way Shoulder raise, then dips and chins 3 sets of max reps in super set style, the choices are endless.

    Another option which I have used would be to just do a different type of workout on both Monday and Friday, based around different set, rep and percentage loadings

    In the first workout of the week utilize a schedule based on light and fast, an inter muscular co-ordination approach (Schmidtbliecher):

    3 x 5 @ 60% of max, light and fast

    The second workout in the week utilize a heavier load with attempted acceleration, even if the bar does not move fast you are still selectively recruiting the fast twitch motor units, an intra muscular co-ordination approach (Schmidtbliecher):

    5 x 3 @ 80% of max, compensatory acceleration (Hatfield)

    Now for the exercises, select one exercise from each group:

    Explosive Rotational
    Hammer Push/Pull
    Power Tackler
    Rotational Jammer

    Explosive Pull

    Explosive Push
    Band Bench Press
    Push Press

    Explosive Squat
    Band Squat
    ¼ Explosive Squat
    Jump Squat

    There are many derivations form these three exercises per group, so it is up to you to select the movements that provide you with the best results.

    The Wednesday workout would be a strength workout,

    1 x Deadlift variation

    1 x Single leg squat variation

    1 x hamstring/lower back variation

    2 x Upper Body Push/Pull variations
    (1 x horizontal and 1 x vertical)

    For example:

    Trap bar Dead Lift
    Bulgarian Sprinters Squat
    Glut Ham Raise
    Incline Bench Press s/s Bent Over Row
    Seated DB Shoulder Press s/s Weighted Chins

    I would also hold this for 3 weeks and then change the exercises, a possible progression would be as follows:

    Week 1: 4 x 6
    Week 2: 2 x 5, 3 x 3
    Week 3: 5,4,3,2,1

    Speed / Weights Combo

    If using the Wednesday session as a combination speed and power session you could set it out as follows the F refers to field and the G to the gym

    F1. Dynamic Movement Warm up
    Micro Fastfoot Ladders and Quicken Micro and Mini hurdle sequences

    F2. Medicine Ball throws and acceleration sprints over 10 – 15 metres

    G1. Depth or Box Jumps in gym

    F3. Assisted sprints utilizing short (mini slingshot overspeed trainers)and/or long (slingshot overspeed trainers)

    G2. Power Snatch from blocks set at knee height, Block Cleans or Jump Squats (6 sets of 3 reps at 30 – 40%)

    F4. Maximal velocity work over 30 – 60 metres

    G3. Clean or Snatch Pulls from the floor or Band Box Squats (6 sets of 3 reps at 60 – 80%)

    F5. Resisted speed efforts utilizing either pro power speed resistors, power speed chutes, power speed sleds, these are often performed with a contrast sprint after the loaded sprint

    G4. Trap Bar Dead lifts or Front or Back Squats (6 sets of 3 reps at > 90% 1RM loading)

    Whichever method you choose I would still try and do three speed sessions each week, and do them before the strength and/or power workout planned for that day, ideally going from the speed directly into the gym, which I have found works very well.

    Actual Program for a player used during a 3 week break from competition in the Japan Top League, the player is a full back:

    Monday – Power
    High Block Power Snatch contrast with Depth Jumps

    Quarter Explosive Squats(bar resting on pins in power rack) contrast with DB weighted Knees to Feet Jumps

    Thick Bar Push Press contrast with Clap Chest Push Ups

    Week 1 – 6 x 3 @ 60% 6 x 6 contrasts
    Week 2 – 6 x 3 @ 70% 6 x 6 contrasts
    Week 3 – 6 x 3 @ 80% 6 x 6 contrasts

    Tuesday – Beastly Circuit

    Wednesday – Repeated Speed   Upper Body
    10 x 50 metres run as fast as you can from try line to 1/2 way line then ease out and walk to far try line immediately turn and go again; then
    20 x 22 metres going every 15 seconds with every second one off the ground

    Upper Body
    Week 1:
    Incline Barbell super set with Wide Grip Chins (6,5,4)
    Seated DB Shoulder Press super set with Seated DB Snatch(12, 10, 8)
    Hindu Push ups super set with Rope Chins(3 x max reps)

    Week 2:

    3 x 5 Thick Bar Push Press s/s with Weighted Chins
    4 x 4 Seated DB Clean Seated DB Press
    5 x 5 DB Flat Bench Press s/s with DB One Arm Row

    Week 3:
    4 x 6 Close grip 3 board bench press s/s with Prone Row
    3 x 8 Incline DB Bench s/s with Pulldown to Chest
    2 x 12 3 Way Shoulder Raise
    – DB Lateral
    – Plate Front
    – Cable Bent Over

    Thursday – Cross Training or Boxing Session

    Friday – Power
    Medium Block Power Clean Push Press contrast with Jumps up to Box

    Jump Squats contrast with Knees to Feet Jumps up onto Rubber Mats

    Band Bench Press contrast with Rebound Push Ups onto Rubber Mats

    Week 1 – 3 x 6 @ 40% 3 x 12 contrasts
    Week 2 – 3 x 6 @ 50% 3 x 12 contrasts
    Week 3 – 3 x 6 @ 60% 3 x 12 contrasts

    In the next installment of this training program I will outline the speed and conditioning elements I would use and then how to program it all into a weekly plan.

    Part 2



    Hey guys, here is the easy print copy (.pdf) of ash’s program Programming for the Back Three.

    Download here!


    Hey Ash,

    Looking forward to trying the full programme next off season, as I’m in season now however how would you utilise the principles of the programme? I was thinking the following – doing one of the power sessions on the monday with core work, and doing a strength session without the heavy deadlift on the wednesday with some upper back/rotator cuff work???

    What do you think of the following adaption to the programme for in season?

    Power Monday

    Select from the following:

    1 x Olympic style movement lower body plyometric/jump exercise contrast

    1 x Squat movement lower body plyometric/jump exercise contrast

    1 x Upper Body Push upper body plyometric exercise contrast

    1 x core i.e woodchops, barbell twists, suitcase deads etc

    Use a three week progression and change exercises each 3weeks:

    Week 1: 3 x 5 @ 60% max 3 x 5 reps on the contrast
    Week 2: 4 x 4 @ 70% max 4 x 4 reps on the contrast
    Week 3: 5 x 3 @ 80% max 5 x 3 reps on the contrast

    Wednesday Strength

    1 x Single leg squat variation

    1 x hamstring/lower back variation

    2 x Upper Body Push/Pull variations (1 x strength focus, 1 x size focus)
    (1 x horizontal and 1 x vertical)

    Rear Delt/Upper Back option 3 x 8 – 12

    Rear Delt Flyes
    Face Pulls
    Seated DB Cleans/Snatch
    Band Pull Aparts

    I play full back 1.78m 82kg and was also wondering how/if you would use speed sessions during the season (less than 40metres), I have club training tuesday and thursday and play every saturday. I am quite happy with my size and strength so would you recommend I just concentrate on my speed and have one power and/or strength maintenance session in the gym???
    As for active recovery/stretch sessions I was thinking about doing a session on friday and sunday – what do you think? I’ve got a copy of magnificent mobility which you reccomended which is great for warm ups and I was looking along the lines of using these exercises along with some light cardio and hard foam roller for recovery. I try and use the foam roller and some of the exercises everyday to keep me loose.

    Any advice would be great,



    I would say you have things in the right sequence and all looks solid and you have answered your own questions very well, so would not be changing much at all just a few suggestions:

    speed on a thursday a short burst after training, foot work and acceleration

    repeated speed on a Tuesday a short burst after training say 10 – 15 minutes some repeat 22m and some 50s

    this is what we did with the All Blacks and seemed to work okay

    just a slight increase on the contrast numbers, I found to be a better combination

    Week 1: 3 x 5 @ 60% max 3 x 10 reps on the contrast
    Week 2: 4 x 4 @ 70% max 4 x 8 reps on the contrast
    Week 3: 5 x 3 @ 80% max 5 x 6 reps on the contrast

    The weekly plan I feel is best for your position is as follows:

    Monday – Beastly circuit

    Tuesday – Full Body Strength as per what you have written/ repeat speed

    Wednesday – recovery, yoga stretch, you suggested recovery details are fine for this day

    Thursday – Power workout, speed

    Friday – Stretch

    Saturday – Game Day

    Sunday – Active recovery, swim, spa, stretch, relax

    hope this helps, ash


    Cheers Ash, sounds great
    If I were to do a weights session the same day as club training would it be fine to go straight from the gym into club training or do you feel I need a few hours in between to recover??? I presume doing both weights and team training sessions the same day frees up a couple of extra days for recovery during the week which is better???


    Yes that is correct recovery is the key in season, it is relaly up to you, if you feel that you can give club training your best coming out of th egym then that is the way to go if not maybe split it up I have known of people doing both these methods so not one is better it is relaly up to how you are feeling, cheers, ash


    Ash, how would you adapt that program to be effective for pre season?


    Hi Andy, well if we are in game preparation, ie trials, we would be reverting to our standard week prep, which would be weights on 2 – 3 days per week, a speed session once a week and a games session once per week, the days these are offered would be altered to fit in with the coaches needs, but would look like this:

    Monday: Beastly circuit or Upper Body weights, Anaerobic games

    Tuesday: Speed training, Lower Body or Full Body strength

    Wednesday: players day off with options as to specific needs conditioning available

    Thursday: Full body power or lower power upper size/strength, short acceleration speed option

    Friday: captains run

    Saturday: play

    Sunday: own recovery

    but in saying this everything is player depandant on what they need to present on Saturday 100% ready to perform so there are many different options throughout each week, cheers, ashley


    Ash, do you do the weights straight after the speed session or do you leave it for a few hours??

    Speed sessions as you know can be quite demanding- would that a have knock on effect on the lower leg strength session?

    I am going to working with players with a younger training life and think that it may be a bit too much for them to do back to back session like that (thinking about the time issue as they are no full time).

    As always Ash your input on this site is fantastic mate.

    P.S If I put up my program for the pre season will you give me some feedback?


    Hi Andy yes we try and go straight in and do our weights after speed if we can, but I would have no problem if they wante dto wait for a few hours and do them later, happy to look over your program and make any comments that may have a benefit to you and your players, cheers, ash


    Mon- Field Based Session- 15 x 100m (First x10 with 25s rest, x5 x100 35s rest)
    Tuesday- Full Body Development (Strength) I was going to choose a part of the olympic lift to work on such as hang clean or high pull, 1 x bilateral squat and 1 x unilateral, 1 x SLDL/Glute with x2 Upper Body S/S exercises
    Wednesday- Strongman Conditioning (Field Based with me)
    Thursday- Swim/Massage
    Friday- 10 x 1-5 reps Power Clean with x2 accessory exercises
    Saturday- Strongman Conditioning or Bodyweight Circuit (as your program)
    Sunday- Swim/Massage

    I am choosing this because they can’t train twice a day and limited with their time. Also, it’s more about the intensity during the sessions and not the amount of exercises they have in total.
    My intention is to work on a 3 week rota but still keep the reps between 8-4 and not any lower than this.

    Ash, what is your expectations for your players during xmas break- do they have a routine to follow albeit limited sessions?

    Thank again!!


    Hey Andy, that all looks very solid to me, I would be happy to run something similar, attached is my plan for the Christmas break for my guys to follow, it just keeps them ticking along till they come back for pre-season, cheers, ashley



    Always learning and growing mate; thanks to this site and your input along with others!!

    Have a good christmas:D

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