Kettlebell Training for Rugby


Kettlebells–Russian weight-training equipment made from cast iron–are growing in popularity for their ability to reproduce sport-specific movements, including those for rugby. Rugby players increase strength with the bench press, squat and deadlift, and the kettlebell complements those exercises.


Rugby requires full-body strength for success. Kettlebells are used to build the total body strength, power, balance and stability needed in rugby. Training with kettlebells trains each of these specific skills by resembling the physical and metabolic demands of a rugby game. With the high intensity, rugby players that will see increased power and speed for running, increased functional strength for tackling and increased lower body strength for breaking tackles, ultimately leading to improved performance on the field.


Kettlebell training programs should be broken into three categories: preseason, in season and offseason. Preseason focuses on sport-specific movements to prepare for the upcoming season. These movements may include lunges, squats and kettlebell swings that train the lower body and core for improved power and speed while running and tackling ball carriers. In season focuses on maintaining the strength and skills achieved during preseason. And the off season is the time to build strength and improve any weaknesses. Strength in the scrum–a play where players stand side-by-side and lock arms to start a play–can give a team an advantage by gaining possession of the ball.


Kettlebell exercises are endless. They include the kettlebell swing, shoulder press, front squat and reverse lunge.

For the kettlebell swing, stand while holding the kettlebell with both hands and lower your hips into a partial squat. Powerfully extend the hips–stand up–as you swing the kettlebell with straight arms until the kettlebell is overhead. Lower the kettlebell and hips to the starting position, and repeat. For the shoulder press, grab a kettlebell with one hand and rest it on the shoulder. While standing, press the kettlebell straight overhead until the arm is straight, and return to the starting position. For the front squat, hold two kettlebells–one in each hand–as they rest on your chest. Lower your hips into a full range of motion squat, and return to the starting position. To execute the reverse lunge, rest one kettlebell on your shoulder and move the opposite leg behind you and lower your hips into a lunge. Return the foot to the starting position, and repeat.

Sample Workout

An example of an in season workout to maintain strength involves a circuit of each exercise: kettlebell swing, shoulder press, front squat and reverse lunge. By grouping the exercises in a circuit, the workout will resemble the metabolic demands of a game by training the muscles used for running and tackling. Perform three rounds of 10 repetitions on each exercise with a maximum of one minute of rest between rounds.


Kettlebell training for rugby requires technical mechanics to complete the exercises. Make sure a coach, strength coach or personal trainer teaches each player how to safely execute each exercise. Have a coach monitor each workout to ensure each player uses proper form. As fatigue sets in during training, form can break down, which can lead to injury.

About this Author

Based in Nebraska, Jeremy Hoefs began writing outdoor, hunting and fitness articles in 2006. His articles have been published in “Star City Sports,” “Hunting Fitness Magazine” and RutWear field journals. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from Nebraska Wesleyan University.