The case for ‘bulking up’ for rugby

What Does It Take To Develop Rugby Muscle?

Let’s get something straight about developing muscle for the rugby field. Firstly it doesn’t happen overnight. It requires commitment. 

Clear goals on what you want to achieve. Consistent professional training and nutritional habits. A positive mindset and daily affirmations teaching the body and the mind to grow. 

Let’s dive a little deeper into the subject of bulking up for Rugby or what we like to say going deep. Your ability to effectively achieve lean muscle with minimal fat gain is influenced by a number of factors. 

Hard work will certainly help, but there are certain limitations we all have, and it’s worth keeping them in mind before you start going hypertrophy-mad. 

Your Genetic Potential

A great coach and friend of ProRugby club Travis McIntyre explains it simply. He asks his Academy boys “What do you think a pro coach would say to you if you had that size and skill set?”  Travis looks at their genetics first and then makes a path for them to succeed through honesty. It is about getting the most out of each person and pushing them into pro and semi-pro environments. 

So if he has a 16-year-old student who is a lock at 6 foot he will look at his potential growth and if he does not have a lot more to grow a tactical positional change may be required for a longer term view than short term wins.

Training Program & Training Ethic

Muscle won’t grow on its own. If you do not have a designed weight training or strength and conditioning program specific to your needs nothing will change. Having said that if you have a great training program on paper doesn’t mean you will succeed. You need to take action on that program. Push past your PBs, go through the pain barrier be the guy who everyone is looking at in the gym because you are fucking smashing it.

Nutrition & Lifestyle

This is another big one which a lot of boys struggle with because we love a few beers. However, if you want to become that pro or smash your opposition you need to follow a plan to back up all the hard work in the gym. We are not saying quit drinking we are saying to ask yourself the question. Is this going to help be become a professional rugby player?

Rest & Sleep

When developing rugby muscle or bulking up a lot of boys overlook rest and sleep. Doing what it takes to get good quality sleep consistently will help you recover, have more energy and feel fresh.

Natural Human Growth Hormone

Not that shit people inject into themselves. We are talking about the hormones that kick in when you sleep. This helps you repair the muscle tissue you broke down by smashing it in the gym. It’s all about the gains so remember sleep is important and naps are essential. Taking a 20-30 minute nap is jut about the best way to boost your natural HBH levels. 

Eating Post-Workout

Now there is some debate of what to eat but we like to keep it simple here at Ruck Science. Eating something immediately after training enhances your recovery and muscle growth. Eating also helps drive nutrients to the broken down muscle.



Eat For Bulk

So we have been asked a lot about what sorts of food help Rugby players bulk up or develop muscle. Again we like to keep it simple. Treat your body as an investment feed it good things and watch it grow. Personally, I would say my body is my temple. It is what we are going to be using to compete as an athlete on the Rugby field.

Simple Steps To Follow

  • Eat something every 2-3 hours. Depending on what your training looks like you will be doing this anyway.
  • Plan your food for the week. Take or prepare snacks for throughout the day, when you are at work, school or studying. We like to keep a few protein bars on hand just in case there is no quality protein available.
  • If you have struggled with bulking up or muscle gain then look at the types of foods you are eating. Think of fat as good not bad like a lot of society say. Increase your healthy fats such as raw nuts, seeds, avocado, flax oil, olive oil and coconut butter.
  • As young men, we already demand a high amount of energy for growth so if you are adding in training there may be times when you are not hungry but need to eat.
  • Remember muscle burns fat so if you feed the fire with good food and training you get the gains.
  • Be realistic when it comes to weight gain. Rapid weight gain can hinder your performance on the field so do it slowly if you want to limit the amount of fat. However, if you get a lot of gains in the offseason remember there is a great pre-season block to come and you can trim up then if need be.

What foods will help you bulk up?

You are probably saying to yourself right now, I just want to get into beast mode so what foods should I be eating to do that? Well, you don’t need a dietitian but if you have access to one they can provide some really good information. To get you started here are some of our favorite meals you can add to your eating plan.


Effectively a wrap filled with either chicken or beef, chilli, mixed beans, avocado, salsa, coleslaw and plain yoghurt or sour cream to finish it off. Optional to add brown rice. Salt and pepper to taste.


Bacon or Chicken toasted or fresh in a panini or bun with lettuce, tomato, and avocado.

Poached Eggs, Omelette or Frittata

Eggs are a great protein and fat source. Eggs also contain a laundry list of vitamins for short term and long term health. More importantly, they are great for Rugby muscle and bulking up. Simply poach a few eggs and serve on toast with tomatoes and avocado. For an omelette whisk up 3-4 eggs and pour into a medium heated fry pan. Add spinach and onion. Frittata is basically an omelette but add a number of other vegetables to it. We like every vegetable so its normally whatever we have in the fridge or leftover gets fired in.

Protein Pancakes

These little beauties are easy to make and a good pre-gym workout. Mix 3 eggs, one scoop of whey protein, half a cup of raw oats and a smashed banana together. Mix up and then pan fry on medium heat on both sides until cooked. Serve with natural or greek yoghurt and a few blueberries.

20-1-20 PROGRAM


What Supplements Should I Be Taking?

So we have mentioned whey protein. Let’s just keep things simple. If you are going to be taking supplements make sure they are cleared by some sort of governing body as safe. If you are buying online make sure it’s the quality assured stuff as sometimes supplements can contain traces of illegal substances. If you want to become a pro its an easy win but if you just want to get massive crack on.

Simple Supplement Formula To Rugby Muscle & Bulking

1-2 grams per kg of bodyweight and 30-40% of your diet is just enough
Whey Protein – Pre and Post Workouts
Casein Protein – Before Bed

Advance Supplement Formula To Rugby Muscle & Bulking

Increase your protein intake to 1.5-3.5grams of protein per kilo of bodyweight
Whey Protein – Pre and Post Workouts
Casein Protein – Before Bed (optional)
300gm of Alpha Lipoic 30mins before food
10grams of Glutamine every 2 hours up to a total of 80grams
Creatine 5-6 Grams upon waking and before bed mixed with water

Hydration & Bulking Success

Do not underestimate the importance of being hydrated. By increasing the amount you drink each day in small increments will help you develop good habits. A good tip to see how much water you are drinking is to use the same one litre bottle throughout the day record how many bottles you consume. Start with drinking at least 3 a day, morning, noon and evening. Keep it simple, if you are thirsty you have not had enough water.

Bulking Up – Case Study

Here is one of our players who was just looking to bulk up to simply be bigger. While he is still working on things he is consistently working on it and getting results from the formula above. Also if you are looking for the exercises to do check out our post here.

bulking up for rugby


Nick McCashin

Nick McCashin

Nick McCashin is a former Bay of Plenty representative who has played professionally in England, France and Spain. Nick is currently playing and coaching in Scotland where he is writing and developing content to help players excel on and off the field.