This takes people two ways:

A) It makes you want to cry knowing that you’ve done jack all over the summer, got fat and are going to hate every second of it.


B) Can not wait to fuck shit up! You’re bigger, stronger faster and fitter than last year and now is the time it’s going to pay off.


I know which group I’d like to be in bud!

And I know which group you’re probably in.

That’s cool though because I’m going to show you how to organise yourself this pre-season and turn yourself into an animal.

Quick tip, it’s way simpler than you think

So why even bother structuring this stuff? Why not just go running every day?

Because just doing stuff doesn’t work, people don’t stick to something if there isn’t a plan. Okay, though say you’re a special guy and you can stick to it, that’s fine as well. Go you! That’s not going to work either.


Sorry pal.


It’s all well and good deciding you’re going to hit the pavement every morning straight after waking up but how do you know you’re getting better at it (or maybe I should say how do you know you’re increasing your anaerobic threshold)?

Timing yourself?

Yep, that’ll work for all of two weeks then your body to adapt and become more efficient (this is not what you want) and it’ll be the end of you bodies adaptation to the exercise.

Or maybe you’ll be a lad and say I’m going to power-clean, squat, and overhead press every week? Well firstly well done. You’ve got off your ass and are doing something worthwhile with your time.

But don’t get too comfortable homeslice.

If you’re just wandering into the gym doing your stuff and buggering off with no thought to progress, recording or really anything else then you’re diddling yourself (and not it the good way).

All makes sense yeah?


You need to be structured to know that you’re improving the qualities that you want to change. Even if it’s just writing down the weight you use for each lift that’s something because you then know what you have to beat next time.

Which brings me and you to the big picture. How to structure your pre-season.

Here’s the way I do it

I work from macro to micro, biggest to smallest. What’s the most important values for rugby or what do you want to improve the most this pre-season (or if you want to see a really big picture what’re your goals in life I guess).

For this situation lets say you decide for yourself that your main goal of pre-season is to shed some fat (so you’re more mobile around the park right? Nothing to do with that sixpack) and get faster. That’s cool because these are pretty common and simple goals to achieve. So you know what you want to better now. It’s a case of going again from bigger to smaller.

Fat loss – at this level it’s simple… don’t eat shit food.

Get Faster – again at this level it’s simple. Just losing that fat will increase your strength to weight ratio. So if you can still put the same force into the ground it’ll do more because there is less weight to move.

Zoom in again

Fat loss – This might be the level where you look at exactly what you’re eating. So fresh food, loads of meat and loads of green veg.

Get Faster – Look at what makes you faster. It’s well documented that your maximal squat is directly correlated to your maximal sprint so maybe it’s an idea to work on your max squat. For fuck’s sake though bud you got to structure that as well. Know what you’re going to do, use the right weights at the right rep ranges and record everything!

Zoom in again

Fat loss – So now we’re getting a bit more detailed. You’re doing the main things right, you’re eating the right things that’s a good start but we want the best (we always want the best) so let’s look at the total calories you’re eating. Work out your maintenance calorie allowance (I’ll be really simplistic and say bodyweight in lbs x 14) and see how little you can take off that and start losing fat.

Get Faster – So you know that squatting makes your sprint better so the next step is figuring out what makes your squat better.

This is next level stuff. It’s not super-complicated, it’s really supper simple, it’s just making the effort to think the extra step.

So what builds the squatting pattern?

Stronger quads, stronger glutes, stronger hamstrings, stronger lower back, stronger upper back. Really just getting stronger! Which is kind of useless just saying “get stronger”. You need to figure out what area you’re lacking in (I’ll give you a hint, it’s your lower back and hamstrings) and fix that.


Zoom in again

You get the idea.


You keep zooming in again and again until have not only perfected the big stuff, you’ve actually gone two or three steps further than the average person and you’ve building on the foundations of the foundation of the things you want to build.

You probably want to know why this stuff works.

I kind of foretold this in the get faster sections.

By going that extra step and building foundations for foundations you’re really working on your weak areas.

These are the areas that are holding you back, even if you don’t know that’s what’s doing it.

I’ll take squatting as an example again (because I love squats). If you’re squatting and stalling at a weight there is a reason why, and it’s usually because you’re not strong enough. But you’re probably only not strong enough in one place. So no matter how strong you make your quads, if your lower back is only good for 250kg you’re never going to hit that 300kg squat. Unless of course you fix your lower back, the weak point. See it’s just like I said this is so much simpler than you think. It just takes a little effort.
So you’ve seen me break this down already so here is an example of a pre-season breakdown for a flanker who wants to smash people in the contact area, get better around the paddock and lose some weight.

Smash people in the contact area:

  1. Really means have a more aggressive tackle which in turn means get stronger in lower back, glutes, hamstrings and quads and well as being able to get into a better position to make the tackle in the first place.
  2. What will strengthen all these muscles? Deadlifts, Squats, Oly lifts.
  3. So start deadlifting and squatting ( or if you’re a proficient Olympic lifter do them, but most people aren’t).
  4. What increases deadlifts and squats or even better what are the areas holding the deadlifts and squats back?  In this guys lower back, hamstrings, and abs are all weak.
  5. What fixes the weak areas? GHR, back extension, good mornings, direct hamstring work, leg raises. Shit we could even look at something like a supra-maximal front squat hold for ab work!

Get better around the paddock:

  1. This is essentially improving your cardio, being able to go faster for longer
  2. For now we’ll let the strength work cover the speed portion so this will cover the longer part
  3. Usually the limiting factor in endurance is that an athlete will stop producing ATP (ATP can just be thought of as fuel for muscles) so efficiently and eventually this will lead to gassing out. This inefficiency in producing ATP comes when you’re body switching from the aerobic energy system to the anaerobic energy system.
  4. Zooming in the next level is to figure out how to improve (or in this case delay) the switch in energy systems. I’ll refer to the work of Joel Jamieson here in reference to the fact that increasing base aerobic capacity will raise an athletes anaerobic threshold (the crossover point between aerobic and anaerobic).
  5. So here is the case for some aerobic work, cardio essentially. But remember any time you’re not working anaerobically you’re working aerobically. It takes some measuring but for arguments sake we’ll call this guys anaerobic threshold 150 beats per minutes (BPM). So as long as he stays say between 135 and 150 BPM he’s going to be working to increase that threshold.

The losing weight (what he means is losing fat, no-one wants to lose muscle):

I went through this before so no messing around

  1. Stop eating shit food
  2. All fresh food, green veg and meat, carbs around workouts
  3. Work out calories and make sure you’re as little under maintenance as it takes
  4. Possibly cycle calories
  5. Possibly cycle carbs.

So all that broken down into a pre-season program?

Here it is. Day A

  Exercise Weight Rep Set Rest
1A Deadlift 85.00% + work to a daily max* 3 + work to max 5 + work to max sets As needed
2A Front Squat 85.00% 3 5 As needed
3A Push Press 75.00% 6 3 As needed
4A BB Row 70.00% 5 5 60-90s
5A Back ext + GHR BW Max 5  
5B Face Pulls Light to Mid 8 5  
6A Ab Work*   100/50 As few as possible  

Day B

  Exercise Weight Rep Set Rest
1A Box Squat 85.00% + work to a daily max* 3 + work to max 5 + work to max sets As needed
2A Deficit Deadlift 60.00% 3 8 45-60s
3A Floor Press 75.00% 6 3 As needed
4A Kroc Row Heavy as Fuck As many as Poss (>15) 2 each arm As needed
5A Back ext + GHR BW Max 5  
5B Face Pulls Light to Mid 8 5  
6A Ab Work**   100/50 As few as possible  

Day C (Competition Day)

  Exercise Choose whatever movements you like that fit the category and challenge your training partner. either go heavy, go max reps in a set time or go for distance (or a combination).

My preference would be

1) Log or Keg Press for reps

2) Heavy Yoke for max distance

3)Axle Deadlift for weight

Last thing, pulling movements includes sleds and prowlers

1A Any Overhead Movement
2A Heavy Carry/Carry for Distance
3A Any Pulling Move
4A Ab Work*

* Only work to daily max if you feel good about it.

**Choose from Leg Raises, Roll outs, a single arm loaded carry or Pull Ups (for 50 reps)

A two week cycle would look like this

Week 1:

Monday: Day A

Wednesday: Day B

Thursday: Day A

Saturday: Day C

Week 2:

Monday: Day B

Wednesday: Day A

Thursday: Day B

Saturday: Day C

And repeat.

"Hug it out to celebrate a great preseason!"
“Hug it out to celebrate a great preseason!”

Every 2 weeks add 2.5kg to lower body max (even if when you’re working up to your daily maxes it’s more!) and 1.25kg to your upper body. This will keep your progress going and going.

Aerobic base building should be done on either on your off days of at least 4 hours away from training on training day. This work should consist of steady state movements (rowing, running, cycling etc) for however long you can stand it without raising your heart rate above your anaerobic threshold or less than 15 beats below you anaerobic threshold.

More than that I’m not going to say, do whatever works best for you.

Last things chap,

As with everything in life you don’t want to blow your load too soon. Don’t feel you need to add everything in straight away (this is particularly relevant to the food stuff). Milk it all for what it’s worth. So if you’re still seeing fat loss after 4 weeks and all you’ve done is cut out the shit food and nothing else keep doing that until you stop seeing good results and then get to the next level. Likewise if you’ve been adding weight every couple of weeks but your lifts are slow and grinding then don’t sweat it. Stick on the same weight and work your ass off to increase the bar speed until you’re happy with it again.

You know what to do now to achieve whatever goals you set yourself for pre-season or any other time.

You have to get out and do it now.