“You need to be strong to play rugby.” Boy… Isn't that the overstatement of the century? Those bone-jarring tackles and lightning-quick sprints need a lot of energy and it takes a lot of work to make it. There are no shortcuts, sadly, but if you include powerlifting into your routine, your performance will show it. 

Rugby League is known for its relentless physical demands and it will push you to your limits. You need explosive bursts, speed, and then you need to be able to take colliding with other players. All. The. Time.

Strength isn't your asset here, it's a necessity, and that's where powerlifting comes in. We'll go over all the benefits powerlifting has and how it can help you.

Let's get into some powerlifting!

Why Is Strength Training Important for Rugby League?

If you're an Instagram influencer, you need to look like a powerhouse. If you're a rugby league player, you need to be one. Getting buff is just a neat bonus, it's not about having muscles but about having functional strength. Rugby is no joke and the scrums, tackles, and sprints don't just need skill – they demand raw power. You'll build muscle out of sheer necessity because stronger legs mean explosive dashes, and a robust core will give you stability in the chaos. 

You really can't overestimate the importance of strength in rugby because it's the backbone that will make sure you thrive instead of getting trampled. 

The Relationship Between Powerlifting and Rugby League

The squat, bench press, and deadlift – that's what is in the heart of the teamwork between powerlifting and rugby league. Powerlifting teaches you strength, resilience, and how to build muscles the smart way. Squats are amazing for strengthening your lower body, which will translate into quicker sprints and holding strong in scrums. The bench press will shape your upper body strength for tackles and smooth ball moves, while the deadlift is an all-around hero. It will build strength and power to bust through defenses and handle the chaos that's usual in this game.

These movements create the magic recipe for success; they're a mix of strength, speed, power, and you can never have too much of any of that stuff if you're a rugby league player. 

4 Benefits of Powerlifting for Rugby League Players

Powerlifting has a bunch of benefits that work extremely well with the demands of the rugby league field, like bulking up your muscle mass and sharpening your agility. It gives you a strategic edge and acts as your training partner – one that's completely tailored to your needs. There is a decent amount of free programs like this from Torokhtiy that act as a roadmap to getting these advantages. 

  • Enhanced Muscle Mass and Strength

Squats, deadlifts, and bench presses stimulate significant muscle growth through hypertrophy, which then translates into having more strength. This will give you a solid foundation that you need for explosive plays and robust scrummaging. As those weights rise, so does the potential for dominating the physical confrontations on the field.

  • More Speed and Agility

Powerlifting (especially squats) plays a huge role in ramping up sprint speed and agility. Squats will help you develop explosive leg power, and that will result in quick accelerations and nimble maneuvers on the field. The force that comes from the squats will allow you to outpace your opponents, and you'll be a lot faster and a lot more agile. 

  • Better Tackling Power

Squats will do wonders for your lower body in terms of strength, and you'll get a base for effective tackling. If you want to drive through your opponents with power and control, you'll need to do some squats because they'll improve the strength in your lower body.

  • Less Risk of Injury

The rugby league field is kind of like a battleground, but powerlifting can act sort of like a strategic shield against injuries. Since the focus is on controlled compound movements, you'll be at less risk of injuries that are usually associated with other training methods. You need a lot of discipline for powerlifting that will build strength, but also fortify your body against the wear and tear of rugby league. 

FAQ

Can powerlifting improve my speed on the rugby league field?

Absolutely! Powerlifting (especially squats) will improve the strength in your lower body, as well as explosive power. This is directly linked to having more speed on the field because the force that comes from powerlifting contributes to quicker accelerations and more dynamic movements. You'll have quite the edge in speed and agility during gameplay. 

Is powerlifting suitable for all rugby league positions, or are there positions that need to focus more on it?

Impact might be different, but in general, players in all positions will benefit from powerlifting. Forwards (especially front rowers) put a lot of emphasis on scrummaging and strength, so powerlifting is crucial. Backs will also benefit from more speed and agility. 

What are the key powerlifting exercises rugby league players should focus on?

All of them. Squats will strengthen your lower body and improve speed, deadlifts will build overall strength and power, and bench presses will make your upper body stronger. If you're a rugby league player, you need all of these movements because they will give you a comprehensive foundation for improving your performance. 

Conclusion

There's a bridge between muscle and might, and it's called powerlifting. It's the behind-the-scenes MVP for all rugby league positions and when you include powerlifting in your training, your game will reach new heights. Powerlifting is way more than just lifting weights because it can sculpt both your body and mindset to be ready to conquer all challenges that come from the field. Hit the gym and before you know it, you'll stare in wonder at the performance powerlifting helped you have. 

How do you include strength training into your regimen? Did you know what benefits powerlifting has? Do you have a program you like to follow?

Don't be shy and share those tips; we know you have them! 

References:

  1. Federico Nigro and Sandro Bartolomei "A Comparison Between the Squat and the Deadlift for Lower Body Strength and Power Training," Journal of Human Kinetics, 2020 Jul; 73: 145–152. Published online 2020 Jul 21.
  2. Jane Chertoff “What Muscles Do Bench Presses Work?,” Healthline, https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/bench-press-muscles-worked (accessed March 7th, 2024)