Training for Sports – Touch Rugby


Many of my clients play sports and sometimes they ask me to build their personal training sessions to help them improve their performance.   I touched on this in my January blog – “Active Winter Holidays – Training Ideas” but this month I wanted to take a deeper dive into how this might work for another client of mine, Matt.  Whilst I work with clients who have varying levels of ability, Matt plays touch rugby and wanted to improve his game by increasing his general strength and agility, so we came up with a plan to help him achieve his fitness goals.

When I started working with Matt, he gave me a very clear brief that he wanted to build his ability when playing touch rugby.  With this in mind, I started to explore training session ideas to help him improve stamina, strength and the other skills needed to play touch rugby.  As with most team sports, an ability to quickly accelerate towards the ball, to change direction safely on the move and endurance to last the length of a match are all important.

To help Matt build on these abilities, we needed to focus on springing drills, building core strength, increasing leg strength and endurance-style running.

Sprinting drills include building strength in the hip flexors, calves, quads and hamstrings paired with arm and leg coordination for maximum power. The exercises we focus on include big skips, high knee and bum kick runs, side gallops, walking lunges with arms, and short sprints (5-8 seconds of maximum power).

For Core strength training, we need to work all the muscles in the trunk of the body, not just the abdominals, glutes, lower mid and upper back and chest. Swiss ball exercises like crunches, rotations and rollouts, and exercises like turning planks, resistance band glutes, dorsal raises, mountain climbers, inchworms, and burpees, are all excellent.

Endurance running is usually mixed into the session, and we use one of the football pitches at a local park; rather than running laps which my clients could do on their own, we use the pitch but sometimes combine the drills and pitch runs.  We use the football pitch markings to run between the goal area lines or the penalty box lines for side gallops or high knee runs with slow and steady running along the side-lines.

Leg strengthening exercises will include several of the following; weighted squats, deadlifts, calf raises, side lunges and curtsey lunges. A training session always includes some lateral movements as they are important for quick changes in direction to keep up with play.

 A typical weekly PT session might look something like this:

Warm-up (5-7 minutes).

Starting with movements like side lunges, squat and swing arms, big arm circles, calf raises, twists movements, and any movements that warm up the muscles around joints. Any extra warm-up for anywhere feeling restricted or tight, like hamstring swings, followed by a static stretch if needed. Warm-up jog of 2-3 minutes

Main session (25 -30 minutes)

  1. Run one lap of the pitch, turning and running at a mix of fast and slow paces.
  2. Sprint drills, any two from; big skips, high knee and bum kick runs, side gallops, walking lunges with arms, and short sprints (5-8 seconds of maximum power).
  3. Heavy-weighted Sumo squats with either a kettlebell or dumbbell.
  4. Weighted calf raises.
  5. Swiss ball crunches.
  6. Weighted side lunges.
  7. Deadlifts.
  8. Inchworm walkouts with toe taps (in plank – keeping hips in line with knees and shoulders).

We would usually complete 4 to 5 rounds of the above during the main session, with 10 to 12 repetitions of each exercise, 3 to 7. 4 to 6 repetitions of the inchworms and choosing two different sprint drills in each round.

Cool down and stretches (5 mins)

If the heart rate is elevated, we would spend a few minutes lowering the heart rate by walking or marching on the spot. Focusing on holding static stretches for the big muscles used in the main session, calves, hamstrings, quads, glutes, hip flexors, all for at least 30 seconds, and then stretching shoulders, chest and, upper back and anywhere else that feels tight or tired.  

I have been working with Matt for a year now in this way, and this is what he said about our sessions:-

“As Sara said, we’ve been working together for just over a year now and I’ve really seen a big impact in my game following our sessions. Sara is constantly keeping the sessions fresh and open to feedback on ways I think we might be able to get more out of them. Often, I can be overzealous with my requests which she’s very good at keeping me in check and focussed on my goals.

The weekly sessions are a welcome respite to the monotony of work & family life – Not only being a great trainer, Sara is also a fantastic listener. In between sets (which often isn’t a lot of time – @Sara hint hint😉), I have the chance to offload some of my life challenges. However trivial they may be, Sara always has a kind word to say or helps to rationalise.

I’d recommend reaching out to Sara to help with your health & fitness goals. She has a wealth of knowledge; and if something isn’t within her repertoire, she’ll go away and research it ready for next time.


If you play a sport such as tennis, cricket, football, hockey or rugby and are keen to support your development, we can build a training plan to help you improve your performance.  Please get in touch to see what this might look like for you.

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Sara McDonnell

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