10 HIIT Workouts for Faster
Rugby Fitness

Time is arguably the most valuable commodity. It’s something that often seems to run out fast, and it’s tough to make more. That’s especially true for rugby players because, on top of your work and family commitments, you also need to find time for team practices and traveling to games.

And, if you want to play at your best, you also need to find time for fitness and strength training. After all, there is no point in being a skillful rugger if you can’t keep up with the flow of play or your tackles are too weak to stop an opponent.

The good news is that you don’t have to spend hours in the gym or out running to develop an acceptable fitness level for rugby.

In fact, you can get in pretty good shape with just two or three 20 to 30-minute workouts per week, especially if you adopt HIIT, which is short for high-intensity interval training.

HIIT workouts are brief, sharp, varied, but effective and can be used to develop all the fitness components involved in rugby. In many cases, you don’t even need to go to the gym, as many HIIT workouts involve bodyweight exercises.

So, to that end, in this article, we’ve got ten HIIT workouts that are ideal for busy ruggers.

Just remember to prepare your body for your training session with a quick warm-up consisting of a few minutes of light cardio and some dynamic mobility and flexibility exercises. Even counting your warm-up, you should still be done in about 30 to 40-minutes, if not less.


1. Cindy Plus Workout

Cindy is a full-body workout from CrossFit. It involves all your major muscles but, until now, lacked any real cardiovascular element. We’ve taken this workout and customized it to make it more encompassing and better for ruggers.

Simply do as many laps of the following circuit as you can in 20 minutes. If you’ve got time for a longer workout, and are feeling fit, increase the duration to 25 or 30 minutes.

  1. 5 pull-ups or chin-ups
  2. 10 push-ups
  3. 15 squats
  4. 20 calories

For the final part of each lap, hop on a rower, Assault bike, elliptical, or treadmill and burn 20 calories as fast as you can. Or, if you are doing this workout at home, pump out 200 jump rope turns.


2. 3×3 Workout

The 3×3 workout was developed by Matt Brzycki, Health, Fitness, Strength, and Conditioning Coordinator at Princeton University. In many ways, it’s the perfect HIIT workout for rugby players because it develops muscular and cardiovascular fitness at the same time. But, like all good HIIT workouts, it’s over and done in 20 minutes or less.

Do three laps of the following three exercises (hence the name 3×3 workout) as fast as you can. Don’t rush the exercises themselves. Instead, move as quickly as you can from one movement to the next. Each set is taken to failure.

  1. Squats
  2. Bench press
  3. Pull-ups

Select loads that allow you to start with around 20 reps for the leg exercise and 12 reps for the upper body exercise. The high-rep leg exercise will spike your heart rate to provide the conditioning aspect of this workout.

As you move from set to set, and fatigue starts to set in, you’ll reach failure sooner, so your workout will end up looking something like this:

  1. Squats x 20 reps (approximately 55% of your 1RM)
  2. Bench press x 12 reps (Approximately 70% of your 1RM)
  3. Pull-ups x 12 reps (Approximately 70% of your 1RM)
  4. Squats x 15 reps
  5. Bench press x 10 reps
  6. Pull-ups x 10 reps
  7. Squats x 12 reps
  8. Bench press x 8 reps
  9. Pull-ups x 8 reps

Not a fan of squats? Can’t do 12 pull-ups? Don’t worry – you can change the exercises based on your wants, needs, and the equipment you’ve got available. For example, you could do:

  1. Deadlifts
  2. Overhead press
  3. Lat pulldowns


  1. Trap bar deadlift
  2. Dips
  3. Incline rows


  1. Leg press
  2. Dumbbell bench press
  3. Seated rows


3. Broken 5,000 Meter Rowing Workout

Rugby players have a long history of training on rowing machines. Rowing is a low-impact activity, so it’s easier on your joints than running, and provides a full-body workout. Ruggers are often built to row – being a big unit has its advantages!

One of the standard rowing test distances is 5,000 meters but, let’s be honest, that’s a) a challenging workout and b) pretty dull!

This workout takes the 5,000-meter distance and breaks it down into more manageable chunks, so you can push harder with less risk of boredom.

Power through the following sequence:

  1. Row 2,000 meters, rest two minutes
  2. Row 1,500 meters, rest 90 seconds
  3. Row 1000 meters, rest 60 seconds
  4. Row 500 meters and finish!

Treat each interval as a time trial and try to cover the distance in the fastest possible time. However, you also need to pace yourself to ensure you complete each interval. So, increase your speed set by set, so the final 500 meters is a real sprint for home.

You can also do this workout on an Assault bike or even running on a treadmill.


4. Prison Cell Bodyweight Workout

All you need for this workout is a couple of meters of space. As such, you can do it in your spare room at home, your garden or garage, in your hotel room when you’re on vacation or a rugby tour, or even in a prison cell!

Do ten sets of the following four-exercise sequence, starting each set every two minutes. So, if it takes you 70 seconds to complete all four exercises, you get 50 seconds of rest before you start again.

  1. 5 burpees
  2. 10 push-ups
  3. 15 squats
  4. 20 mountain climbers – 10 per leg


5. Three-Minute Rounds Workout

Boxers have a high level of cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance, and part of the reason for this is their reliance on three-minute rounds in training. After all, like ruggers, boxers train as they compete.

So, for this workout, you’re going to make like a boxer and do three-minute circuits alternated with one-minute rests.

But, to ensure that you can maintain a fast pace throughout, each circuit comprises six exercises, each one done for 30 seconds. This will help spread the workload around your body so you can really push yourself to the limit on each and every exercise.

Do four laps of the following sequence, resting one minute between laps, to total 20 minutes:

  1. Jump jacks or jump rope
  2. Push-ups
  3. Squat jumps
  4. Sit-ups
  5. Step-ups
  6. Bench dips

Feel free to change the exercises according to your needs and whatever equipment you have available. However, make sure you can move quickly from one movement to the next.


6. Triple Tabata Workout

The Tabata interval training method was invented by Japanese sports scientist Izumi Tabata. It involves doing eight sets of 20-seconds high-intensity exercise, alternated with 10-seconds of rest. Dr. Tabata discovered that his short but intense workout increased aerobic AND anaerobic fitness simultaneously.

For this HIIT workout, you will do three separate Tabatas with 1-2 minutes rest in between.

  1. Tabata sprints 8 x 20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest
    Rest 1-2 minutes
  2. Tabata push-ups 8 x 20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest
    Rest 1-2 minutes
  3. Tabata air squats 8 x 20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest

For the sprints, you can head outside and do them on a track, at the park, or on a rugby field. Or, if you prefer, hop on a rower or assault bike. Just remember, sprinting means going as fast as you can!


7. Kettlebell and Bodyweight 40/20 Interval Workout

Ruggers need strength endurance. It’s not enough to have a huge squat or bench press 1RM. Instead, need the ability to generate lots of force over and over until the final whistle blows. This workout is designed to simulate these demands.

You only need one kettlebell for this workout. One that weighs between 12-16kg should be fine for most ruggers. No kettlebell? No problem! You can also use a single dumbbell.

Do 40 seconds of the following exercises with 20 seconds rest between one. Repeat the entire sequence three times to total 24 minutes.

  1. Kettlebell swing
  2. Lunges
  3. Kettlebell overhead press – left arm
  4. Kettlebell overhead press – right arm
  5. Kettlebell goblet squat
  6. Push-ups
  7. Crunches
  8. Kettlebell halos


8. Run and Squat Workout

Rugby involves a lot of running. Most players can expect to cover 6-8km per game. However, unlike recreational and competitive runners, ruggers have to run with tired legs, perhaps after a brutal scrum or jumping in the lineout.

This workout is designed to build fitness while improving your capacity for running with tired legs. Do this workout on a treadmill or outdoors as preferred.

Complete the following sequence as fast as you can:

  1. 100 air squats
  2. Run 1000 meters
  3. 75 air squats
  4. Run 750 meters
  5. 50 air squats
  6. Run 500 meters
  7. 25 air squats
  8. Run 250 meters

If necessary, break the squats down into smaller sets, e.g., do 50 reps, take a few breaths, 30 reps, rest again, and then the final 20 reps before hopping on the treadmill.

9. Farmer’s Walk and Push-up Workout

This short but intense workout builds strength, endurance, and fitness. It’s a great stand-alone workout for when time is short but you can also do it as a finisher after your regular strength training workout.

Place two markers 10-meters apart. Grab two dumbbells that add up to close to your body weight. Alternatively, use a trap bar. Too heavy? Use a lighter but still challenging load.

Pick up the weight(s) and, with your arms by your sides, walk 10 meters. Put the weights down and pump out a quick set of ten push-ups. Pick up the weights again and walk another 10 meters. This time do nine push-ups. Continue in this fashion until you get down to one push-up.

If you are something of a push-up ninja, feel free to start at 20 push-ups and come down in steps of two reps, i.e., 20, 18, 16, etc.


10. Cardio Calorie Pyramid and Burpees Workout

This workout combines the calorie-burning cardio activity of your choice with every rugger’s favorite conditioning exercise; burpees. Good cardio choices include rowing, Assault bike, or the treadmill.

Storm through the following sequence as fast as you can. As you can see, as the calorie intervals get shorter, the burpee sets get longer, making this a challenging but time-efficient total conditioning workout.

  1. 100 calories
  2. 1 burpee
  3. 90 calories
  4. 2 burpees
  5. 80 calories
  6. 3 burpees
  7. 70 calories
  8. 4 burpees
  9. 60 calories
  10. 5 burpees
  11. 50 calories
  12. 6 burpees
  13. 40 calories
  14. 7 burpees
  15. 30 calories
  16. 8 burpees
  17. 20 calories
  18. 9 burpees
  19. 10 calories
  20. 10 burpees


HIIT Workouts for Faster Rugby Fitness – Wrapping Up

Professional rugby players can dedicate their entire day to fitness training. For example, they might do weights in the morning followed by cardio later in the day and still have plenty of time for rest, recovery, and piles of healthy food.

The average amateur player is probably not so fortunate, and some may even struggle to find time to do much more than attend a couple of weekly practices between games.

The good news is that you don’t have to dedicate hours and hours to getting fit for rugby. Just a couple of 20 to 30-minute HIIT workouts per week will help improve your fitness and make you a better-conditioned player.

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