Mollie Martin by Mollie Martin

rugby team

Currently the second most popular sport in the world, rugby is a game rooted in strength, speed and skill. The following workout was designed to improve agility, balance, coordination, endurance, and strength, all of which are required to play rugby, but these skills are essential to a wide range of sports and activities, whether you are an experienced athlete or a beginning fitness enthusiast.

For this circuit, use the following pyramid as a guideline for how long you should perform each exercise based on your current fitness level.  


 *Rest time should be half of the desired station time in between each set.

If you don’t have access to equipment, the exercises in the parentheses offer a modified version of each exercise. You can also split your exercises into specific days rather than incorporate them into a circuit. Here is a typical weekly workout plan (be sure to give yourself at least 48 hours of recovery per muscle group):

Monday and Thursday: Upper body and abs/oblique

Tuesday and Friday: Lower body/lower back

Wednesday: Flexibility, speed and agility

Saturday: Rugby day

Sunday: Recovery—swim, bike, walk or other low-impact activities


Prior to starting your circuit, perform dynamic movements and ballistic stretches such as body weight squats, good mornings, and other same-movement exercises to prepare the body.

The Circuit

Bear Crawls (core)

bear crawls

Perform multi-directional ear crawls, moving forward, backward or diagonally on all fours. Keep your knees at 90 degrees, back in a flat, table-top position, head aligned with your spine, elbows slightly bent and core engaged. Don’t let your elbows lock or your hips to raise above your head.

Triceps Extensions (upper body)

triceps extensions

Have a teammate or workout partner begin on all fours to create a sturdy tabletop. Start facing away from your partner with your hands placed on their hips and shoulders (your hands should be about shoulder-width apart). Keep your elbows tucked in as you lower yourself. Engage your core and keep your body as flat as a plank. Extend your arms (but do not let them lock) and keep your neck neutrally aligned. You can make the exercise eaiser by bending at the knees and bringing your feet closer to your body.

(Alternate exercise: negative triceps dips on a bench)

Explosive Movements (lower body)

squat jump

Moves like box jumps, lunge explosions, squat jumps and tuck jumps help to build explosive power. Choose one of these exercises to target your fast-twitch muscle fibers and focus on coordination. Begin with a slow coil to the starting position and explode up through the hips by engaging the glutes. These moves will definitely get your heart rate up and muscles burning.

Plank Jacks (core)

scissor planks

Begin in plank position on your elbows or hands. Jump the feet out as wide as possible, keeping the body flat and the hips in between the shoulders and ankles. Jump the feet back in to starting position. Remember to engage the glutes to take pressure off the lower back.

Running With Resistance Bands (lower body)

running with resistance band

Secure a heavy-weight resistance band to an anchor and loop the band around the hips as you face away from the anchor. Begin with your body at a 45-degree angle and drive the right knee and the left arm up, mimicking a running motion. Remember to keep your head aligned with your spine and your core engaged, and take small, light steps. (Alternate exercise: mountain climbers)

Resisted Multidirectional Sit-ups (core)

resisted multidirectional situps

This exercise can be performed with a partner, resistance band or weight plate. Begin with your feet secured and resistance across your chest. Engage your abdominal muscles to sit up quickly and then return to starting position with a 3-second count. Sit up again, this time bringing your opposite elbow to the opposite thigh; return to starting position. Repeat on the other side. Partner can change up resistance at will.

Chest Claps (upper body)

chest claps

This exercise can be done with weights, cables, resistance bands or a TRX. Start with arms extended, with a slight bend at the elbows. Engage the core and drop the chest as you explode up and bring your palms together for a clap. Return to the starting position with a 3-second eccentric count; repeat. (Alternate exercise: wide explosive push-ups)

Burpees (cardio)


Start standing tall with arms overhead. Drop down into plank and perform a push-up; jump your feet back in and stand up tall; repeat.

Leap Frogs (lower body)

leap frogs

Begin in a low, wide squat. Use your legs and arms to propel your body forward as far as possible, landing lightly on your feet. Regain your balance and repeat, trying to jump farther each time.  

Superman Twists (core)

superman twists

Lie face down on the floor, with arms above the head. Raise your legs and arms off the ground and reach with your right hand to your right knee. Rotate to the left side and repeat. Be sure to keep your neck neutrally aligned with your spine.

Ice Skaters (lower body)

ice skaters

Begin in a low-squat position with your back flat, shoulders back and head aligned with your upper body. Transfer your weight onto one leg while the other leg crosses behind front leg. Do not let the back leg touch the ground to work on balance and ankle stability. Use your arms for stabilization and movement; once you get the hang of it, explode from one leg to the next.

Slow-motion Scissor Kicks (core)

scissor kicks

Begin by lying on your back; prop yourself up on your elbows. Engage your core and relax your ankles to avoid using your leg muscles). Slowly scissor kicking your feet and then return to the starting position. Don’t forget to breathe!

Ladders Ickey Shuffle (cardio)


Start with both feet inside the square. Begin by bringing the right foot outside of the box and follow a three count of “In Out Up.” The foot that is inside of the ladder moves forward to the next box. Be sure to use your arms—the faster they go, the faster your feet will go! (Alternate exercise: use chalk or the lines on the pitch)

Be sure to ALWAYS end your workout with stretching. Static stretching, myofascial release (foam rolling) and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation can help decrease your risk of injury by helping your joints move through their full range of motion and enable muscles to work the most effectively. 

A big thank you to the San Diego Surfers Women’s Rugby team for participating in this photoshoot!

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