Having played physical team sports since primary school, frequent injuries, (often bones) have come and gone and led to a shift in my focus to the gym. This being said, I would never have entered the gym had I not started playing rugby – getting injured was actually what made me want to get bigger. Here are a few tips for supporting your performance on the pitch with regard to training and supplementation.
The big 3: Bench, Deadlift, Squat
Using compound lifts to target multiple muscle groups gets you the most benefit for your time, and if done properly, the most noticeable progress – they really are the big 3 for a reason.
Do not be tempted (as I did initially, to my shame) to skip leg day. While you may wish to build your bench, to brag about ‘how much you bench’, the squat has huge benefits for legs – providing more power with which to drive yourself at (and through) any opposition. NB - Especially useful for forwards within the scrum.
This isn’t to say that you can’t train back & biceps, and that you have to hit legs every time you go to the gym – to build a strong physique all muscles should be trained, but its best to start with strong foundations (legs). If nothing else, think about how much easier it is to tackle a player with skinny legs.
Cardio: (Does not kill gains) Though I always avoided cardio at all costs initially, a lack of cardiovascular fitness will definitely hurt your game. While many people want to pack on size and so will head straight for the weight room, fitness is hugely important – it doesn’t matter how big you are, if you only last 20 minutes on the pitch, your game can only improve so much (and you can only enjoy it so much). Use cardio in order to build fitness, but also prevent you from gaining too much fat (especially if you’re part of a team that enjoys one or two after each game).
Nutrition is key to growing and progressing in the gym. In terms of supplements, the top 3 I would recommend are as follows:
Whey protein: The go-to supplement (and first one I tried) – an easy way to increase your daily protein intake in order to aid protein synthesis, for growth and repair.
Creatine: Widely researched, creatine enables you to improve overall strength and bulk up – offering benefits both in the gym and on the rugby pitch, especially in high intensity actions, such as the scrum.
Fish Oil & Multivitamins – As a physical game, rugby puts a lot of stress on your joints. Getting injuries is often a part of the process, but broken bones set you back both on the pitch and in the gym – joint health is key. Taking multivits will aid with overall wellness and enable you to train more frequently in the long run.