Rugby & CrossFit: Lessons from Sport to Sport – The Physical Aspects – Coach Conor

Rugby is chaotic, like most field sports, and there are lots of ways to achieve success. Teams can counter the strengths of the opposition, or exploit their weaknesses, by playing in different ways. Some teams are heavy and strong, and keep the ball for long periods, some are fast and run around the opposition, some are good at kicking, some like structure, some like a broken field. Unless you’re New Zealand, then you’re good at everything, and it takes 111 years to figure out how to beat you.

As a player, you need to adapt to the conditions of each game, and devise strategies for solving these problems, often under extreme fatigue. You need to be aware of your physical capacity, and how to leverage that to the greatest effect in the execution of your plan, and in coordination with the skills and ability of the players around you.

So, what are the lessons CrossFit can take from Rugby, and vice-versa?

Core to Extremity and Movement Quality
Something that has lately come into rugby with improvements in training methods, but is still better expressed in CrossFit. Initiating movements from the big driver muscles of the hips and torso, and translating that power to skills performed by the arms, hands and feet.

CrossFit is a great way to train for sport. I wish I had found it years earlier. It would have made a big difference to my playing career. That said, CrossFitters shy away from running, and rarely do it on uneven ground. Occasionally, I join in on some sprint conditioning with my team, and my hamstrings wail for days afterwards. That wasn’t the case when I played regularly. I daresay there’ll be a blog post about running soon, but we should all run more. It is good.

Lateral Movement
While CrossFit has started to embrace more asymmetrical movements, for example single arm and leg work, it doesn’t yet have much emphasis on moving sideways. It may seem mundane, but it’s one of the most important features of almost every field sport. Asymmetrical exercises prepare us for this, but we also need to learn the skills involved in lateral movement. Working on them greatly improves balance, proprioception; injury resilience; and your ability to make someone else look foolish.

Observe Quade Cooper at work:

CrossFit is very good at varied workouts, broad time and modal domains and all that, but field sports bring one more aspect: fluidity. CrossFit workouts rarely change while you’re doing them. Think about doing Fran and then when you’re on rep 7 of 15, the coach tells you to do Murph immediately, and then a third of the way through Murph you are told to set a 3RM squat
Rugby does this all the time. Your physical output has to change to adapt to a tactical change by your team or the opposition, or to altered conditions, or the decisions of the referee. Hundreds of factors, small and large, change the work you have to do, while you’re doing it

Can we simulate this in our training? Yes, and it has happened at Thames before. Doing workouts that include unknown elements that only become known as we do them. The challenge of this lies in working to our limits in each part, before we know what’s next.

Week 7 Class Programming – July 2nd to July 6th


A) Shoulder Press
5 @ 75%
3 @ 85%
1+ @ 95%

B) 7 Sprint Sets:
5 Tng Power Cleans 70/50kg
7 Lateral Burpee over the bar
9 Toes to bar
*:60 rest


A) Back Squat
5 @ 75%
3 @ 85%
1+ @ 95%

B) 15-12-9
Muscle Ups
Between each set: 1 length Handstand Walk


A) 20 Min Alternating EMOM
Min 1: 12/10 Cal Row
Min 2: Skill Of Choice (Strength Element)
Min 3: 45 Seconds Double Unders
Min 4: Skill Of Choice (Skill Element)

B) 10-15 Minutes Skill Work

C) 5-10 Minutes Mobility/Mashing Work


A) Deadlift
5 @ 75%
3 @ 85%
1+ @ 95%

B) 3 Sets:
*:90 rest

C) 2k row tester


A) Strict Pull Ups
5 x AMRAP @ 3030 tempo
*:60 rest

B) 0-10 on the clock:

Mile Run
10 OHS 60/40kg
50 DU

10-20 on the clock:
800m Run
20 OHS 45/30
50 DU

20-30 On the Clock:
400m Run
50 OHS 30/20
50 DU


**Gym Closed**

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