How do pro rugby players bulk up their physiques?

Rugby is an incredibly demanding contact sport and you don’t need to be an expert in the game to know that players typically need to be strong, powerful, and bulky to withstand the punishing environment on the pitch. However, you also need to be lean, athletic, and have a high level of fitness to make it through these games as well.

So how do pro players do this? Here we’ve taken a closer look at the typical exercise and diet regimes of today’s top rugby stars.


Earlier this year there was a story on Rugby Onslaught which reported on a viral video doing the rounds that showed how a top bodybuilder managed to cope fairly well with a rigorous rugby training course – essentially because he had the right stature for it. As such, it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that many rugby players do plenty of lifting, and we’re talking big lifts.

Some players even tend to start with their max weights first doing lower reps (be it squats, deadlifts, dips, etc.) and then move down the weights and increase the sets. This can understandably be quite draining but is said to be highly effective at building muscle.

Strategic cardio

As mentioned earlier, there’s still a requirement to stay trim and athletic when bulking, but even a novice knows that long-distance running isn’t the solution here. Instead, rugby players are known to improve their endurance with running drills over shorter distances, some of which even help encourage leg muscle growth and core strength improvement.

This article from Joe gives a number of instances of this being put into practice by professional players. A few examples include: 15m sprint drills, conditioning runs of over 10 sets of 50m runs, hit sessions on rowing machines and 20–30-minute sessions on exercise bikes.

Big appetites

To complement all the exercise and to aid bulking and recovery, rugby players need to eat a lot – and we mean a lot. Some can have upwards of 6,000 calories a day and rather than three square meals, there are three main large meals, plus snacks (between four and five daily).

Protein plays a huge part in this, especially if the size is a player’s physical goal, and according to experts, 40-50g per portion for each meal is what’s needed to get bigger. This is then balanced by plenty of carbs for fuel (rice, pasta, fruits) and some carb loading at the start of a busy training week.


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