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Strength Training

The information in this section stresses the difference between resistance training and the sports of weight lifting, power lifting, and bodybuilding. Resistance training involves the individualised prescription and performance of exercises in an attempt to make a young player stronger and more powerful. Resistance training does not have to involve the use of maximal or near-maximal resistances or loads. The risk of injuries from weight lifting in young players may not be as dramatic as perceived. Nevertheless, in weight Iifting or power lifting the object is to lift as much as possible for one repetition of a particular competitive exercise. Training for these sports consequently does require lifting maximal or near-maximal resistances. NB. This form of resistance training where maximal or near-maximal loads are used is not appropriate for the young player.

The goal of resistance training for the young player is to help enhance physical fitness and sport performance and to reduce the probability of injury during sport and recreational activities. Paradoxically, many competitive sporting activities that children participate in carry much greater risk of injury than strength or resistance training. The benefits of a properly designed and supervised resistance training program appear to outweigh the risks. Numerous position statements from Sport and Exercise authorities suggest that children can benefit from participation in a properly prescribed and supervised resistance training program. The major benefits include:

* Increased muscular strength and local muscular endurance (i.e., the ability of a muscle or muscles to perform multiple repetitions against a given resistance)
* Decreased injuries in sports and recreational activities
* Improved performance capacity in sports and recreational activities

Although professionals have supported the use of resistance exercise programmes for children, they have cautioned parents, teachers, and coaches about the need for proper programme design, competent supervision, and correct teaching of exercise techniques. These areas are paramount for safe and effective resistance training programmes for children. Some of the benefits (e.g., performance enhancement in preadolescence) need further study to verify anecdotal and clinical impressions. However, greater understanding has started to diminish the unrealistic fears about young players and resistance training.

Is Resistance Training safe for the young player? Programme design Spotting considerations Increase resistance slowly Body weight circuits and partner-resisted exercises
Resistance exercise equipment guidelines Resistance training programme for 12-14 year old player Resistance training programme for 15-18 year old player Summary

Is Resistance training safe for the young player?

Much research on the topic over the past several years has demonstrated equivocally that strength gains in children occur with resistance training when compared with children who do not perform resistance training. In the late 1970s opponents of resistance training for children argued that little if any gains in strength or muscle hypertrophy (beyond that caused by normal growth) could be achieved because of their immature hormonal systems of the child. This argument appeared to be supported by the first studies, which were unable to demonstrate strength gains in children after a resistance training programme. The lack of strength changes found by various studies over the years may have been caused by poorly designed resistance training programme or poor experimental designs. Building on previous scientific studies, more recent investigations provide evidence showing that muscular strength improvements are indeed possible in children, including preadolescents.

Recent research clearly demonstrates that resistance training of preadolescent boys can result in significant increases in strength. These studies indicate that strength gains in boys occur from performing resistance training over a wide range of ages. In addition, many of the studies state that no injuries occurred from the resistance training programmes. back to top

Programme Design

The two most important characteristics needed to teach any activity, including resistance training exercise techniques, are patience with the young player and knowledge of the material being taught. Improper lifting and spotting techniques can lead to injury of the lifter. Therefore, knowing and teaching correct exercise techniques are very important for a safe and effective programme.

Know Proper Exercise Technique You must completely understand the technique of an exercise before attempting to teach it to others. This is especially true for multijoint exercises such as the squat. Follow up workshops will outline correct lifting techniques and all coaches are recommended to acquaint themselves with these techniques or to have access to an individual who is qualified and experienced at resistance training who will demonstrate, coach and supervise all resistance training sessions. For the coach or trainer it is essential that he studies and practices the lifts that he plans to teach. When trying to learn a new exercise start with a very light resistance. Examine the exercise technique yourself by watching yourself in a mirror, or have an experienced individual (perhaps a training partner or strength coach) assess it.

Complete full range of motion

In using proper technique, the lifter performs the exercise with the fullest range of motion possible as dictated by the body position of the exercise and uses only those muscles that are supposed to be involved in the exercise. Using full range of motion means lowering and lifting the resistance as far as possible during each repetition. Using muscles that are not supposed to be trained by the exercise compromises the training effect for the muscles that are supposed to be trained by the exercise.

Constantly stress proper exercise technique

Improper exercise technique may also place undue stress on a body part, resulting in injury. This is especially true in exercises involving the lower back and the use of heavy resistances, such as squats or dead lifts. A player can also injure the lower back while performing arm curls or shoulder presses if he uses a rocking motion of the back to initiate movement of the resistance. When the young player uses improper exercise technique, it's usually because he either is trying to lift too much weight or he loses concentration on proper form. Improper progression in resistance can also cause improper technique and possible injury. Improper progression in resistance many times is due to the increases in resistance being too great or occurring too soon in the training programme. back to top

Spotting Considerations

Know Proper Spotting Technique Good spotting technique is vital for a safe resistance training programme. The following box provides a checklist that spotters should use at all times

Spotting Checklist

1. Know proper exercise technique
2. Know proper spotting technique
3. Be sure you are strong enough to assist the lifter with the resistance he is using
4. Know how many repetitions the lifter intends to do
5. Be attentive to the lifter at all times
6. Stop the exercise if technique is wrong. Have the lifter practice the exercise with little or no resistance.
7. Know the plan of action if a serious injury occurs.

The goal of correct spotting is to prevent injury. A lifter should always have access to a spotter. You and the young player should know correct exercise and spotting techniques for all exercises performed in the training program, and when possible, the young player should spot each other on exercises that require spotting. If the young player cannot spot one another, as may be the case in some situations (eg. classes in which training pairs are unequal with regard to strength), enlist the help of other adults or reduce the number of participants.

Provide Spotting and Exercise Technique Practice

When you teach a new exercise, demonstrate proper exercise and spotting techniques and discuss the major points of the techniques. Then allow each young player to try the exercise using a very light resistance. For free-weight exercises a light resistance may be a barbell or dumbbell with no resistance or added plates on the bar, or even a broomstick. For an exercise performed with a machine, using a light resistance may mean removing all weight from the machine or taking the pin out of the weight stack. After the young player attempts to perform the exercise, point out any flaws in technique. Then continue further technique practice with light resistances, which will minimize the effects of fatigue during the learning stage. In addition to practicing the exercise, all young players should demonstrate proper spotting techniques for the exercises.

You will usually need more time to teach proper exercise and spotting techniques for free-weight exercises than for exercises on machines. This is because free weights require the lifter to balance the resistance in all directions (left, right, forward, backward, up, down). Machines "groove" the exercises into one plane of movement and require little if any balancing. Still, both free weight and machine exercises are important for a well-rounded programme. Additional time may be needed to teach proper exercise techniques for multijoint exercises. This is especially true for free weight multijoint exercises, such as squats, because coordination of movement at several joints is needed to balance the resistance.

Attempting to teach techniques for too many exercises at once, especially multijoint exercises, will slow down the learning process. How many exercise techniques a young player can learn at one time will vary. A good starting point is seven to eight exercises, of which one to three should be multijoint exercises. back to top

Increase Resistance Slowly

Increasing the resistance too quickly when a young player is attempting to learn proper technique will slow down the learning process and can result in injury. If an increase of resistance results in poor technique, the increase is too great. This is true for both beginning and experienced lifters.

During the initial 3 to 4 weeks of a strength training programme, the resistance that the young player can lift typically increases greatly. If the young player has previously performed the exercise, increases in resistance are smaller. These initial increases are not due to true increases in strength or power but rather to the young player learning to perform the exercise correctly. Keep this in mind as you formulate goals concerning increases in strength. If you are planning to use testing to evaluate the young player's strength or power, do not conduct the test until the player can properly perform the exercise.

Teach Proper Breathing Technique The lifter should inhale just before and during the lowering phase of the repetition and exhale during the lifting phase. During isometric training, the lifter should not hold his breath during the muscular contraction. Some breath holding will occur during the last repetition of a set but don't allow breath holding throughout a complete repetition. When a lifter holds his breath, blood pressure rises drastically. This makes it very difficult for the heart to pump blood and reduces blood flow to the heart from the rest of the body. When the breath is released, blood flow to the head and brain is reduced. This can cause light-headedness after completion of a set and even fainting, which can result in loss of control of the resistance and possible injury. Because lifting maximal or near-maximal resistances is not the object of a young player's training session, there is no need for excessive breath holding.

Provide Constant Feedback

All players regardless of age should receive constant feedback on their exercise and spotting techniques. You must provide this feedback in language they can understand. Feedback is as important after weeks or even months of training as it is at the start of a program. Without feedback concerning proper technique, it is easy for a player to gradually develop a flaw in lifting technique as resistances increase.

Encourage Symmetrical Muscular Development

Symmetrical muscular development depends upon the use of single-arm and single-leg exercises, called unilateral exercises. If only doublearm or double-leg exercises are used, called bilateral exercises, the stronger limb can compensate for the weaker one. This is especially true on most resistance training machines. Although it is natural for one arm or leg to be stronger, the difference in strength between limbs should be less than 10%. Proper exercise programming and use of unilateral exercises can reduce any drastic differences. This may reduce possibilities of injury and will promote good physical development. Although bilateral exercises are important to a programme, you should also include appropriate unilateral exercises.

Examples of unilateral exercises are single-leg knee extensions, single-leg knee curls, and one arm shoulder presses with dumbbells. A leg press or bench press for which the Iifter uses both legs or both arms at the same time is a bilateral exercise.

Muscle balance around a joint is also very important. Thus, if a lifter does a quadriceps exercise during a workout, then he or she should also do a hamstring exercise. Balance of the muscles around a joint may reduce the potential for injury.

Have an Emergency Plan Prepared

Safety considerations and proper supervision are concerns of all conditioning programmes for adolescents. Injuries due to a properly supervised resistance training programme are rare, with the most common type of injury being muscle strains. The following are some possible causes of injury during resistance training:

* The lifter attempts to lift too much weight
* The lifter uses improper lifting technique
* The lifter improperly places feet or hands on a resistance training machine so they slide off of the pedals or handles
* The lifter places hands on the chain or pulley system of a resistance training machine
* The lifter places hands between the weight plates of a resistance training machine
* The Iifter drops free weights or the weight stack of a resistance training machine after completion of a repetition
* Spotters are inattentive
* There is improper behaviour in the facility
* A bench or piece of equipment slides during the exercise
* Worn out equipment breaks during lifting (e.g. machine cables or pulleys)
* The lifter does not use collars on free weights
* The Iifter accidentally drops free weight plates while loading or unloading a bar
* Body Weight Circuits and Partner-Resisted Exercises

As with all exercise programmes, you must take care not to overwork the players during the initial training sessions. Instruct them to perform only one set of each exercise during the first two to three training sessions. During the next two to three sessions, two sets of each exercise should be performed. Thereafter, the young players can perform the programme as outlined with three sets of each exercise.

You can use the following guidelines with either a circuit or a set-repetition format. To use a circuit format, the lifter performs one set of an exercise, then moves to the next exercise after a predetermined rest period. If two or three sets of the exercises are to be performed, the lifter performs all sets of a particular exercise before moving to the next exercise. The sets and exercises in a set-repetition format are separated bv predetermined rest periods. back to top

General Body Weight and Partner Resisted Programme

Suitable for junior players (12-14 year olds)

* The young player performs exercises in the order listed
* The Warm-up may consist of general exercise consisting of jogging or cycling or SAQ drills for about 5-10 minutes followed by a general stretching routine

Resistance Exercises

1. Push-up with core control
2. Body-weight squat - use a broom handle
3. Partner-resisted elbow curl - use a towel
4. Calf raise - on step of stairs or box
5. Partner-resisted lateral arm raise
6. Lying back extension
7. Bent-leg sit-up - without partner

Approximate Time:

Two to three training sessions per week with at least 1 day separating sessions. A total time of 25 to 45 minutes per session

Additional or Replacement Exercises:

Progression to other resistance exercises (using body weight and partner resistance) after successfully mastering body weight and partner resistance exercise techniques after 4 weeks.

Advanced Exercises:

Progression to resistance equipment exercises. Note that not all body weight-resisted exercises are simple or beginning exercises.

Push-ups and pull-ups may be very difficult if the trainee is unable to perform at least 8 repetitions. In this case, using exercise equipment will allow the lifter to progress to body weight resisted exercises. Otherwise modify the exercise so that at least 8 repetitions are possible while maintaining excellent technique.

Programme Notes

Format: set-repetition or circuit
Number of sets or circuits: one initially; young player progresses to three over the year
Resistance: a minimum of 10 to 12 RM
Rest periods between sets and exercises: 2 minutes initially; lifter progresses to 1 minute
Repetitions per set for abdominal exercises: 20-30 · Other: The young player should move through the full range of motion for each exercise.
Partner resistance: Partner resistance must be applied smoothly. If applying resistance becomes difficult, or if body weight exercises are too difficult or too easy to perform, have the lifter use resistance training equipment or modify the difficulty of the exercise. back to top

Resistance Exercise Equipment Guidelines

When the young player uses resistance training equipment, several factors concerning safety must be emphasized. There should always be adult supervision of the programme and facility. The equipment must physically fit the player, and you must continually stress spotting and proper technique. You must maintain proper conduct in the resistance training facility and have adult supervision at all times. The lifter must control the resistance throughout the entire range of motion of an exercise, and increases in the resistance must be controlled and gradual. Finally, you must individualize programme progression for each exercise. These factors ensure the safety of the trainees and prevent damage to equipment.

The player's age and resistance training experience will impact the programme. A 16- to 17-year-old may be able to perform the entire programme, whereas a 14- to 15-year-old may have to limit the exercise programme to three or four multijoint exercises and a few selected single-joint exercises in order to tolerate the workout. Because an example programme can only act as a guideline, examples will either overshoot or undershoot most individuals' abilities to perform the programme as well as tolerate and recover from the physical stress imposed by a workout. You must assign programmes that are appropriate for the player's age and experience. Use sound judgment, and monitor the training sessions as each player progresses to more advanced training programmes. Initially, alternate the order of exercise between muscle groups. Use additional or replacement exercises to make the programme more advanced and to provide variety. back to top

Resistance training programme for 12-14 year old player

The programme outlined below is suitable for a 12-14 year old player only if the the young player has completed the general body weight and partner resistance programme as outlined above. Only then should he progress to the next level.


* The Iifter performs the exercises in the order listed.
* The warm-up: should consist of general exercise consisting of jogging or cycling or SAQ drills for 5-10 minutes followed by a general stretching routine.

Resistance Exercises

1. Bench press - using machine or light dumbells
2. Leg press or back squat - using bar only or broom handle
3. Arm curl - use barbell
4. Knee curl (using one leg at a time or both legs at once)
5. Overhead press - with split leg support using bar only or broom
6. Knee extension (using one leg at a time or both legs at once)
7. Lat pull-down - use machine
8. Calf raise - use dumbells or machine
9. Bent-leg sit up - without partner assistance

Approximate Time

* Two training sessions per week with at least 2 days separating sessions
* The total time will be between 25 and 55 minutes per session

Additional or Replacement exercises

* Dumbell exercises ( Lunge, arm curls)
* Seated Row
* Triceps pushdown or extension
* Internal and external rotator cuff exercises using rubber bands and/or small dumbells
* Core exercises using physio ball

Advanced Exercises

* Clean pull from the thigh or knee level

Programme Notes

Format: set-repetition or circuit
Number of sets or circuits: one set of each exercise for the first six to nine training sessions, two sets thereafter
Resistance: 12 to 15 RM initially
Rest periods: 2 minutes between sets; lifter progresses to 1 ½ minutes
Repetitions per set for abdominal exercises; 20-30
Other: The lifter can choose half of the listed exercises and add one exercise per training session until all the listed exercises are performed. The lifter should increase resistances slowly and in small increments.

Stress proper lifting techniques all the time. When adding or replacing exercises, be sure the lifter has learned proper exercise technique before you allow increases in resistance. If an exercise is replaced, make sure that the muscles that it trains are used in other exercises so that proper muscular development is balanced. back to top

Resistance training programme for 15-18 year old player

The following resistance training programmes are suitable for the 15-18 year old player who has completed a minimum of two years of the above programmes. There must at all times be supervision during these programmes and as the player may not be under your direct supervision (ie during the summer months) it is imperative that his programme is supervised by an experienced adult.

In addition all players need to stress the development of the core and back. Note that these exercises will be covered in another section. In addition, a general all-round development of upper and lower body should take place. The following programmes are examples of a progression of development from early pre-season through to the in-season.

Pre-season 1 Programmme

The following programme assumes that there are 10 weeks in the pre-season period. This will run from late June to the end of August. The period is divided into two sections or sub periods. The early period which introduces the player to formal resistance training and a later period which allows the player to further develop his strength by changing the loads used and the format of the programme.

The following programme is suitable for weeks 1 through to 5. Take a week off (week 6) and then move to Pre-season 2 for the remainder of the period. This will effectively mean that period 2 will be 6 weeks in duration.

The warm-up should consist of general exercise consisting of jogging or cycling or SAQ for about 5 minutes followed by a general stretching routine.

Resistance Exercises

1. Bench press - progress to barbell on bench rack and include incline press
2. Squat or leg press - vary between dumbells and barbell
3. Shoulder Press using dumbells and barbell
4. Hamstring curl using machine
5. Seated row using machine
6. Leg/Knee extension using leg weights or machine
7. Arm curl using dumbells and barbell
8. Abdominal exercise
9. Core exercise(s)

Approximate Time

Start with two sessions per week and progress to three training sessions per week with at least 1 day separating sessions. The total duration of the session will be 45-60 minutes. Period 1 will be 4-5 weeks in duration

Additional Injury-Prevention Exercises

* Shoulder rotator cuff exercises
* Calf raise
* Hip Abduction & Adduction

Additional or Replacement Exercises

* Dead lift
* Lat pull-down
* Lunge
* Front squat
* Narrow-grip bench press.

Exercise movement speed:

All exercises should be completed with a slow controlled movement. Count 1,2,3 to raise and 1,2,3 to lower.

Advanced Exercises

The Iifter should perform no more than eight repetitions per set using 8- to 10-RM resistance for advanced exercises. If an advanced exercise is used, it should be performed at the beginning of the training session. Advanced exercises include:

* Power clean or clean pull from knee or thigh level
* Power snatch or snatch pull from knee or thigh level

Early Pre-Season Programme Notes

Format: set-repetition Number of sets: two
Resistance: 12-15 RM
Rest periods between sets and exercises: 2 minutes
Repetitions per set for abdominal exercises: 20 to 30

Pre-season 2 Programme

Following the pre-season 1 programme the young player should take a week break from formal training. This will allow the young player to overcome any initial effects of fatigue and it will ensure that he will not overtrain. On his return he can progress to lifting slightly heavier loads. The increase should not be so heavy that he can only complete1-7 reps. Always ensure that the player is capable of lifting the load at least 8 times. The player will require longer rests between sets. The number of sets will increase to three and so the player will spend from 60-70 minutes completing this programme. Italics indicate exercises that can be periodised for resistance within this training phase. Warm-up using general exercise consisting of jogging or cycling or SAQ drills for about 5-10 minutes followed by a general stretching routine.

Resistance Exercises

1. Bench press
2. Back squat
3. Upright Row
4. Lat pull-down
5. Hamstring curl
6. Reverse elbow curl or elbow curl
7. Abdominal exercise
8. Shoulder internal rotation and shoulder external rotation
9. Core exercise(s)

Approximate Time

Three training sessions per week with at least I day separating sessions. The total time will be 30 to 70 minutes per session.

Additional Injury-Prevention Exercises

* Calf raise
* Additional shoulder rotator cuff exercises
* Knee extension

Additional or Replacement Exercises

* Narrow grip bench press
* Seated row or bent-over rowing
* Wrist curl
* Dead lift

Exercise movement speed

The loads used during this phase will increase. The lifter should move the weight under control at all times

Advanced Exercises

The lifter should perform no less than 8 repetitions per set using 8- to 10-RM resistance for advanced exercises. If an advanced exercise is used, it should be performed at the start of the training session.

* Power clean or clean pull from knee or thigh level
* Power snatch or snatch pull from knee or thigh level

Pre-season Programme Notes

Format: set-repetition
Number of sets: three
Resistance: 8 to 10 RM
Rest periods between sets and exercises: 2-3 minutes
Repetitions per set for abdominal exercises: 20 to 30


The In-season period may be as long 30 weeks for some players. It is important to ensure that an unloading week occurs every 6th week. This means that out of 30 weeks the player will have a cumulative of 5 weeks unloading or recovery from resistance training. The player is encouraged to complete a resetting programme early in the week and then one other resistance programme later in the week. A resetting routine consists of dumbell and core stabilisation exercises and such a session is recommended on the day following a game. Remember that the demands of the game are such that the player's balances are constantly being upset during the game. This routine is appropriate for assisting the player in his recovery and focuses on restoring the balance between the different muscle groups. The smaller muscles will receive attention in this routine.

Resetting session

Warm-Up-General exercise consisting of jogging or cycling or SAQ for about 5-10 minutes followed by a general stretching routine.

1. Dumbell bench press with core control
2. Split standing alternate dumbell press
3. Core exercise - bridge - holding for 5 and repeat
4. Prone bench lateral raise - dumbells
5. Forward lunge
6. Alternate arm curl - using dumbells and ensuring good core control
7. Hip Abduction & Adduction
8. Back extension - using physio ball or resistance machine

Developmental session

The second session during the week consists of an all-round strengthening routine. The player can alternate between option 1 and 2. Option 1 can be completed during one week while option 2 can be completed the following week and so on. This will add variety to the strength programme.

Option 1

1. Back squat
2. Bench press
3. Upright Row
4. Hamstring curl
5. Arm curl
6. Knee extension
7. Shoulder internal rotation
8. Shoulder external rotation
9. Abdominal exercise

Option 2

1. Leg press
2. Dips
3. Hang pull
4. Hip extension
5. Chins ups
6. Lunges or step ups
7. Shoulder internal rotation
8. Shoulder external rotation
9. Abdominal exercise

Approximate Time:

Complete a resetting session and one of option 1 or 2 per week with at least 1 day separating the sessions. Resetting session will take 20-30 minutes while the strength session will take 30 to 50 minutes.

Additional or Replacement Exercises

* Incline bench press
* Seated row
* Lat pull-down
* Front squat
* Calf raise
* Narrow-grip bench press

Advanced Exercises

The player should perform no less than eight repetitions per set using an 8- to 10-RM resistance. If an advanced exercise is used, it should be performed at the beginning of the training session.

* Power clean or clean pull from knee or thigh level
* Power snatch or snatch pull from knee or thigh level

In-Season Programme Notes

Format: set-repetition or circuit
Number of sets or circuits: two to three, depending on the goal. Two sets will suffice for strength maintenance and three sets may be used for strength development.
Resistance: 8 to 15 RM
Rest periods between sets and exercises: 1 to 2 minutes
Repetitions per set for abdominal exercises: 20 to 30
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Resistance training or strength training is appropriate for the young player provided the guidelines recommended here are followed. It is imperative that the coach ensures that there is competent adult supervision present at all times during any resistance training session. This is essential in ensuring a safe training environment for the young player. This poses a resource management challenge to the coach. However, with thought and careful planning a safe enjoyable and productive programme can be implemented. back to top

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28 May 2022
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