The Eternal triangle of conditioning to play back row in Rugby – Ashley Jones

Author Ashley Jones

Bigger, Stronger, Quicker
The Eternal triangle of conditioning to play back row in Rugby.
Ashley Jones

So you are getting ready for your season, you play back row and are around 6ft (183cms) tall and weigh roughly 14 stone (89kg), you want to be in good shape metabolically, slightly bigger and quick to the breakdown. You want to be Richie McCaw, who is in most people’s minds is 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 metabolic shape (can you run a 2,400 metres (1.5 mile) in less than 9 minutes 30 seconds to 9 minutes) 2 if you are outside these parameters get yourself fitter

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

Combat training: 1 or 2, boxing or wrestling or MMA, or judo


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 – 5,4,3,2,1 x 4 Week 2 – 6/12/25 x 3 Week 3 – (7,5,3) wave x 2

And second workout of each week do the following scheme:
Upper 2: Week 1 – 12/10/8 Week 2 – 10/8/6 Week 3: 8/6/4

1 x Full Body exercise

1 x Squat exercise

1 x Hamstring/Lower Back

2 x Upper Body Push super set with Upper Body Pull


Full Body Power

Stay with same exercise for 3 weeks

2 x Full Body exercises do a jump exercise after each set

2 x Squat (Band Box Squats & Quarter Explosive Squats) do a jump exercise after each set

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

One exercise per grouping at 6 x 3 reps @60 – 80% coupled with 6 x 3 plyos/jumps
Second exercise is 3 x 6 reps @ 25 – 40% 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:

Full Movement Warm up 10 minutes

Ladders – lateral series

Hurdles – lateral series

Harnesses – lateral series + release

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: 2,470 m in 31 minutes

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

Click here for the .pdf file of this program

Ashley Jones

Ashley Jones specialist in the physical preparation of rugby athletes. He has worked with professional sports teams that include Sydney Kings, Newcastle Knights, Parramatta Eels, Northern Eagles, Crusaders, New Zealand All Blacks, and Australian Wallabies. Irish by Ancestry, Australian by Birth, Japanese by Accident and a Kiwi by Choice.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 1 comments
Zerpan2 - 4 years ago

Hi There,

I have folloeed this plan a few years ago and enjoyed it. I have a few questions though regarding the program.

Could you possible give some examples of full body exercises? I am stuck for ideas such as clean and press variations and deadlifts.

By ‘ladder series’ is there a certain set range, intensity and repetition range we should be aiming to achieve?




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