Getting physical with Rugby

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Rugby players aim for a rare athletic mix of strength, speed, and stamina.

GETTING PHYSICAL. The Volcanoes break a sweat in a difficult training session. Photo courtesy of Timothy Kong.

MANILA, Philippines – Engaging in physical activity is part and parcel of getting healthy.  

Though sometimes overlooked in the Philippines, rugby is a sport that conditions strong all-around athletes, who have stamina, strength, and speed. 

Hatched in England, the sport calls for players to run, throw or kick a ball to the opponent’s end of the pitch. Nearly non-stop running over an area roughly the size of a football field is required for two 40-minute halves. 

MOB OF MUSCLES. Volcanoes coach Expo Mejia says, "Because of the physical demands of the game, they need to be strong in the shoulders and have a lot of muscles for the tackles." Photo courtesy of Timothy Kong.

All the players work together to mount attacking and defensive plays so endurance is paramount. There are no timeouts like in football but rugby is just as brutally physical. Players ram into each other with little to no padding. 

“They have the muscles for power yet they have the aerobic capacity to run for a long time,” explains Expo Mejia, the coach of the National Rugby Team of the Philippines, the Volcanoes.

Professional rugby players often look like they have the muscular thighs for football, the lean frame for soccer, and the toned arms for basketball. 

BEST OF ALL WORLDS. Player Oliver Saunders seems to glide across the field as his team pushes for a victory against Singapore on April 15, 2012. Photo courtesy of Timothy Kong. 

How the Philippine rugby team gets in shape

The Volcanoes gave Rappler insights into how they geared up for their current tournament, the HSBC Asian Five Nations Division 1 (A5N)

Coach Expo Mejia said his strategy is to focus more on weight training in the off season and shift towards intensive cardio exercises before competitions. 

The men build up their stamina with 30-40 minute non-stop jogs. As the games get closer, they shift to running 6 sets of 400 meter sprints, sometimes uphill for an extra challenge. 

“Leading into a competition like the A5N, players will generally be in the gym 3-4 times per week and on the field 2-4 times per week. Then as you get closer, you get out of the gym and spend more time in the field,” said 29-year-old player Joseph Matthews. 

“The volume of training comes down as you get closer but the intensity goes up,” he added. 

 FIELD TRAINING. The Volcanoes run through plays on the pitch. Photo courtesy of Timothy Kong.

Matthews, who owns a strength and conditioning gym, said, “There’s plenty of workouts that you can do. But my advice to anyone wanting to excel in Rugby is first and foremost to get strong. You must improve your strength first and then start to work on your aerobic and anaerobic conditioning. Strength will transition well into the other energy systems.” –

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