Rugby & CrossFit: A Coaching Crossover Story – Coach Conor

For about 30 years, I have played rugby. It’s a sport for thugs played by ridiculous lumps of meat pretending to be gentlemen. It’s essentially decriminalised assault. Aging, and a desire to retain what function is left in my limbs, spine, fingers, and vital organs, has meant a gradual transition to coaching the game and doing some CrossFit. So, five years ago I started coaching Blackheath Women’s Rugby Club and joined Thames. You may have met some of my team, loitering around the box on a Sunday.

In those 30 playing years, I have worn a few different club colours, with people who went on to play at the highest levels; those who had been there and done it; serious amateurs; dilettantes; show-boaters; workhorses; farmers; accountants; the indolent; and Americans. In the amateur era, before the mid-90s, international players would put down their pint, stub out a cigarette and take to the field. Now, 20 years into professional rugby, there’s a lot more science, and the game has radically changed. Players are now larger, faster, stronger, and spending more time in the gym.

The transition from playing a field sport to CrossFit has been interesting. The fitness requirements are similar, there’s lots of high-intensity interval work. Players need endurance, strength, speed, agility, and balance. At least, they do if they want to be competitive. CrossFit workouts feel similar to pre-season rugby training sessions, but with less running.

Of course, there are some fairly significant differences. In CrossFit, there’s greater emphasis on relative strength, gymnastics, and mobility. In competitive fitness it’s usually an advantage to be average height, and not particularly heavy. Field sports are inherently chaotic, with layers of structure, while CrossFit workouts, competitive or otherwise tend to be fairly predictable, and with limited scope for using alternative methods to complete them. This is not a weakness, it’s a necessary part of training. Structure and predictability provide the framework for incremental improvement.

A good rugby player will also be something of an all-rounder, but depending on the position they play, they will seek to weight their physical capacity appropriately. Props (short stubby fellows, of scrummaging proud, of visage ugly) will squat very heavy, be heavy, and are ideally quick over short distances. Back rows are moderately quick, are very good at repeating high-intensity effort, and have remarkable balance and strength in a hinge position, and in some cases, weirdly long arms. Wings are usually exceptionally fast, smaller than the props and back-rows, good at repeating sprints over longer distances, and very agile.

Players need a variety of athletic skills to cope with the fluidity of the game, their roles can change as the game progresses, so can’t become specialists. Rugby players are the CrossFitters to American Football’s powerlifters.


Week 6 – June 25th to June 30th

Monday

A) Back Squat
3 @ 70%
3 @ 80%
3+ @ 90%
AMRAP @ 70%

B) 10-1
Squat Clean 60/40kg
HSPU

Tuesday

A) Deadlift
3 @ 70%
3 @ 80%
3+ @ 90%
AMRAP @ 70%

B) Sprint Efforts
12 x 100m row sprints,
**1 min Rest interval

Wednesday – Gymnastics Day

A) Muscle Ups
Some devoted time towards skills, progressions, and getting you better at it!

B) 4 Rounds of
21/18 Calorie Row
2 Bar Muscle Ups
4 Chest to bar
6 Toes to bar
21/18 Calorie AD
2 Strict Ring Muscle Ups
4 Strict Ring Dips
6 Toes to rings
40 DU
**Rest 2 Mins

Thursday

A) Overhead Squat
3 @ 70%
3 @ 80%
3+ @ 90%
AMRAP @ 70%

B) 20 Minute AMRAP
200m Farmers Carry (Challenging weight!)
40 DU
30 Hollow Rocks
20 Pull Ups
10 Burpees

Friday

A) Shoulder Press
3 @ 70%
3 @ 80%
3+ @ 90%
AMRAP @ 70%

Superset with: 3 x 40m single arm OH KB carry (each), AHAP, rest as required

B) 30 Thrusters 40/30kg
30 Toes to Bar
20 Thrusters
20 T2B
10 Thrusters
10 T2B

Saturday

A) Power Clean
12 Minutes to build to a heavy 3 for the day

B) 21-15-9
Calorie AD/Row
200m Run

**Straight into:
15-12-9
Calorie AD/Row (Swap from last round)
400m Run

**Straight into:
12-9-6
Burpee To target
800m Run

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