Jeremy Hickmans – Rugby League Pre Season Strength Program

Pre Season in any sport is the time in which the foundation qualities needed for the long season ahead are established. In a collision sport like rugby league the intense mental and physical challenges of the game need to be not only mirrored but exceeded in this period, allowing the player to feel confident to face any of the myriad of trials that are presented to them on the field. This period can make or break your season, so programs must be designed carefully, pushing players to the limit of their capacity without going over the line. The programs develop the qualities of strength and power in a progressive, challenging manner applicable to a fast, aggressive contact sport.


DB Uneven Squat
The DB Uneven Squat is an exercise particularly used to develop the postural qualities of the squat in a staggered environment. One foot is placed on a box, with the other on the ground. Holding the dumbbell between the legs with both hands lower to the ground and repeat.

Romanian Deadlift
This exercise is essential in developing eccentric strength through the posterior chain, focusing on the muscles of the lower back and hamstrings. It is essential to keep a derivative of this exercise in the program to aid in reducing soft tissue injuries. Hold a barbell placed on the ground in front of you. Bend the knees slightly and keep the shins vertical, hips back and back straight. This will be your starting position. Keeping your back and arms completely straight at all times, use your hips to lift the bar as you exhale. Once you are standing completely straight up, lower the bar by pushing the hips back, only slightly bending the knees

Standing Barbell Split Power Press
When developing upper body strength it is essential to develop the upper-lower body strength transfer. The Split Power Press emphasises triple extension through the ankles, knees and hips, transferring the strength into an upper body vertical pushing action whilst also stressing contralateral trunk strength and shoulder stability. Using a barbell loaded at one end, place the unloaded end into a corner so that it will not slide. With the barbell held in one hand at shoulder height and feet staggered, perform a quarter squat and drive upwards through the lower body, pressing the barbell overhead.

Bulgarian Split Squats
It is often missed that most sports are performed in a predominantly single leg environment. The Bulgarian Split Squat introduces single strength in a semi-stable environment allowing an increased emphasis on load rather than difficulty. Place the loaded bar across your shoulders and move one foot back so that your toe is resting on a flat bench 1m behind you. Your other foot should be stationary in front of you. Slowly lower your leg until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Leading with the chest and hips and contracting the quadriceps, elevate your leg back to the starting position.

Step Ups with Knee Drive
This exercise helps develop single leg power and postural strength in a more specific movement pattern crossing over with the type of drill performed within speed development sessions. This exercise can be progressed by adding elastic resistance around the hip area to further improve hip drive and trunk integrity essential for speed development. With barbell on shoulders step up onto a knee height box driving the opposite knee up and through with full hip extension. Repeat.

Jeremy Hickmans is the Performance Director for Wayne Bennett and the Newcastle Knights in the NRL. Please click here to learn more about Jeremy Hickmans and purchase his Rugby League Training Programs.

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