Of all the set pieces in rugby, the lineout is the one that is most likely to be evenly contested. Scrums are generally won by the team with the put-in, but lineouts can go either way. While throwing accuracy plays a big part, the winner of the lineout is often the team with the fastest, highest jumpers.

If you are a lineout jumper, you can and should expect plenty of help from your lifters, but they can’t do all the work. If you want to get above your opposition to secure the ball, you need to work hard to get some air.

An explosive jump requires powerful quads, hamstrings, and glutes, muscles that are worked when you do squats, deadlifts, lunges, and leg presses. However, you need more than pure strength to be an effective lineout jumper, you need power too.

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Power if your ability to generate a lot of force in a very short period of time; it’s the difference between a slow but heavy bench press, and a super-fast knockout punch. General strength training WILL increase your power, but to increase jumping height, you need an additional and altogether more specific type of training.

Programming guidelines

You can incorporate these exercises and drills into your workouts in several ways:

  • Before general strength training e.g. box jumps before squats
  • After general strength training, e.g. deadlifts followed by banded kettlebell swings
  • Perform strength-power supersets/complexes e.g. squats followed by squat jumps
  • Do a jump-training specific workout once or twice a week

However you do them, it is crucial that you follow these golden rules:

  • Warm up thoroughly
  • Do every rep with maximal effort – think EXPLODE!
  • Keep your reps low – 1-6 being optimal
  • Take long rests between sets for allow for full nervous system recovery
  • Stop your set the moment you feel unable to generate maximum force
  • Remember, you are training power and not endurance!
  • Make your jump training more rugby specific by holding a ball in your hands when safe and appropriate to do so
  • Use the same width stance for your jump training is you use in the lineout for the majority of your workouts
  • Avoid jump training if you are tired, injured, or feeling unwell

Here are TEN explosion drills designed to improve your jumping in the lineout.

1. Box jumps

Box jumps have become increasingly popular since the folk at CrossFit started putting them into their workouts. The trouble is, this has resulted in a whole lot of people doing ugly, dangerous, and even pointless box jumps!

A lot of exercisers turn box jumps into a high rep conditioning exercise, or use such a high box that they are forced to tuck their knees up to their chins to stick the landing. This will not help you increase lower body power and jumping height. Instead, you should do low-rep sets, focusing on jump quality and not quantity, and avoid using a box so high that it causes you to land in anything lower than a parallel squat.

Check out this video to see how to perform a proper box jump:

2. Seated box jumps

With seated box jumps, we remove the eccentric part of the movement, meaning you have to work much harder to drive your body up and into the air. Because this exercise forces you to work harder, it’s a good way to overload your jumping muscles for improved jumping performance. However, you will not be able to jump as high, so adjust your box accordingly.

See how to do this exercise here:

3. Paused squat jump

This exercise, like seated squat jumps, starts from a dead-stop. This mid-rep pause eliminates momentum to make each jump harder. Pause for 3-5 seconds between reps to allow the elasticity in your muscles to dissipate.

Here’s a video of this exercise in action:

4. Depth jumps

Depth jumps are also called reactive jumps. When a muscle is rapidly loaded or stretched, it responds with a more powerful-than-usual contraction. This increases both overload and force generation, increasing your jumping ability.

This type of training is called plyometrics and should only be attempted if you have a decent level of strength, and have done some more basic jump training such as regular box jumps. When you start this type of training, start by jumping from a relatively low platform, and increase height gradually over several workouts.

See depth jumps in action here:

5. Bulgarian squat jumps

The majority of jumping exercises involve using both legs at a time. However, this can disguise left to right strength imbalances. Having one leg stronger than the other could lead to injury and poor jumping performance, so at least some of your lineout jumping training should be done one leg at a time.

You could do single leg box jumps and depth jumps, as well as various plyometric hopping drills, but for heavier-than-average ruggers, those exercises may constitute too high a risk of injury. Instead, you can turn that gym favorite Bulgarian split squats into a single leg emphasis jumping exercise.

Check out this video to learn how to do Bulgarian squat jumps:

6. Knees to feet jumps

Most jumping exercises are designed to increase jumping height, but this exercise is more about jumping speed. If you try and do this exercise with anything other than maximal speed, you will not be successful.

Another benefit is that, as jumping exercises go, it is relatively low impact, making it ideal for when you want to provide your lower body with a break from the pounding normally associated with jump training.

See how to do this exercise here:

7. Banded kettlebell swings

Kettlebell swings are a jumping exercise in disguise. Instead of leaving the ground, you use your energy to swing the kettlebell forward and upward. Easier to learn than power cleans and snatches, and kinder to your joints than all jumping exercises, this gym-friendly exercise is a very convenient way to increase your lineout performance. Adding a band means you have to work extra hard to accelerate the kettlebell, making it even more jump-specific.

Check out this video to see how to set up and perform this exercise:

8. Speed deadlifts

If you look at the movement in deadlifts, you are essentially performing a slow jump with a weight in your hands. That’s why deadlifts are such an important exercise for all athletes, and especially ruggers. You can make deadlifts even more jump-specific by using the dynamic effort (DE) method and turning them into speed deadlifts.

As the name suggests, you do your reps much faster than usual, using around 50-60% of your 1RM. Limit yourself to 2-3 reps per set, and do 5-8 sets in total. Focus on lifting the bar as fast as possible; make those plates rattle!

Watch this video for more details on how to perform speed deadlifts:

9. Speed squats

You can also use the dynamic effort method with squats to increase jumping power without actually leaving the floor.

Check out this video to see how:

10. Squat jumps in deep water

The biggest problem with all jumping exercises is the landing. Ruggers, being bigger and heavier than average, land with a lot of force, and that force could lead to injury. And the more powerful you get, the bigger that landing impact will be.

One way to get around this problem is to do your jump training in deep water. When you jump in deep water, you can generate as much force as you like, but will land much more softly and safely. You will, however, need to hold weights in your hands to overcome your natural buoyancy.

This may sound a little crazy but, if you are an aging, beat up rugger, this type of training could mean you can continue playing and training for years to come.

Here’s a video of squat jumps being performed in deep water:

Hopefully, the prop will always send the ball right into your hands – even if he plays for the opposition! But, if you want to increase your chances of securing possession, you need to work on your lineout jumping height too. Use these exercises, especially in the off-season, to develop serious air time.

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