How to Do a Rugby Prop Workout

Step-by-step Instructions

Here is what you need to do...
Step 1

There are two different prop positions in rugby, the loose head and the tight head. The loose head wears the number 1 jersey and sets up on the left side of scrums, the tight head wears the number 3 jersey and sets up on the right side of scrums. Both props stand on their respective sides of their hooker and those three make up the front row of the scrum.

Step 2

Props should be the strongest guys on the team. They might not be the quickest, most elusive, or strongest runners, but they need to be able to hit, push and drive forward harder than anyone on the field. The weight room is the best place to gain this prowess. Props should have a lift at least once a week where they focus on heavy lifting. This is a great way to build the mass and strength needed to play prop.

Step 3

Leg lifts- Props are never allowed to skip leg day. 90% much of the drive in a scrum comes from the legs and the other 10% is the core. Props should be doing squats focussing on increasing weight every time. Deadlifts are another great lift that strengthens both the legs and the core. Isometric leg press is vital to building that leg muscle mass as well. Good props are explosive in rucks and scrums, including some power moves such as thursters during lifts is a good way to improve explosive power.

Step 4

Upper body lifts- Props want a big upper body. Not only will it make their prop gut look smaller, it will give them an advantage in strength. Bench press, incline bench press, and decline bench press are great to hit all the areas of the chest. Using varieties such as dumbell bench press, or single arm bench press wil keep the muscles from getting acclimated to certain lift and gains can be made faster. Big shoulders are obviously a must since its one of the most used muscle groups in rugby contact. Heavy military press will bulk up that frontal shoulder and upper chest area. Heavy shrugs and rows are great for strengthening a bulking up the traps and upper back muscles. Big traps are especially helpful and can prevent a lot of neck soreness after a game full of scrums.

Step 5

Flexibility- Props need to be able to get low which can be a difficult task for bigger guys. Stretching after every lift will improve flexibility and muscle growth. Getting lower than the prop across from you in a scrum is a huge advantage. In the words of my forwards coach “eye to eye is too high”.

Step 6

Loosehead tips- When the two front rows engage in a scrum everyones’ head goes to the left of the player across from them so the Loosehead prop has no one on the left side of his head. Before the engage the loosehead should set his feet with his outside foot’s heel in line with his inside foot’s toes. On the set he needs to launch forward and quickly step his feet to a parallel position. It is essential to keep your head up. This will save you a lot of neck soreness and if you do it well enough, you can bore the back of your head into the opposite props sternum which makes the scrum very uncomfortable for him.

Step 7

Tighthead tips- The tight head prop will have the opposite teams loosehead’s head to his right and their hookers head to his left. Tighthead is a much harder position to play than loosehead when is comes to scrummaging. Tightheads need to deal with an opposite loosehead’s skull driving into there sternum. Since the ref is on the opposite side of the scrum many tight heads will pull on the outside shoulder of the loosehead prop to try to prevent this. However, this is illegal and if the scrum collapses the ref will call a penalty.

Special Attention

Difficulties people often experience or parts that need special attention to do it right.

Its all about being low and driving forward. Keep your head up, pinch your traps, and squeeze every muscle you have to beat that other team in the scurms. Keep your shins parallel to the ground and your back flat. Don’t let your backside stick up in the air, you should be a like a workbench. Happy scrummaging!

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Funny or interesting story about this topic...

The stereotypical preconceived notions about props is that they’re chubby, slow, hard hitting bowling balls that aren't nearly as athletic as the rest of the team. The last thing you would expect a prop to do is kick for points after a try is scored. In spite of this, when I played for AURFCs second side it was our loose head prop that kicked drop goals for points. Don’t get me wrong, he fit every other stereotype. He was about 5’6”, over 300lbs, and slow, but I swear that guy could slot a kick from anywhere on the pitch. Samoan style!

When did you first do this & how did you get started?

During my first season playing with OSU I weighed about 250-260lbs, and I definitely had what is known in the rugby world as a ‘prop gut’. Standing 6’3” I was a bit taller than your average prop but my coaches decided to put me in that position anyway and I actually got pretty good at it. As I continued my rugby career all the conditioning made me lose my prop gut and I made the move to second row when I weighed about 240lbs. Playing a season and a half at prop, though, taught me a lot of the ins and outs of the position, and even as a second row a lot of the training is the same. In the following steps I’ll talk about some important lifts for props as well as some intricacies about the position.

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