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How to increase shoulder force production in rugby

Dynamic Shoulders Plyometric Push Ups

We were recently asked a question about how to increase shoulder force production in rugby, so we thought we’d share it here on our blog for others with an interest in rugby to benefit from our point of view too.

If you know anyone who should read this, please share it.

The discussion around Rate of Force Production (RFD) for the shoulder will naturally lead us to thinking about more explosive exercises towards the speed-strength end of the continuum. These will therefore be lower intensity from a % repetition max perspective, maybe 8 - 10% bodyweight or 40 - 60% 1RM.


However, for rugby, considering Rate of Force Production in isolation only provides part of the solution. Players are going to need the shoulder to manage high forces, at speed in sometimes compromising positions.

Whilst a standard medicine ball or band exercise could be part of the solution, it doesn’t challenge the player in the positions they are perhaps likely to feel vulnerable in a game environment at a comparable intensity.

So, in a discussion around RFD, we would table a reminder of Charles Poliquin’s adage that ‘you can’t fire a cannon from a canoe’.

We have seen application of this idea work so many times. By increasing dynamic stability at the shoulder, we can increase RFD without training it specifically. Something we have seen evidenced more recently in the ASH test data we’re collecting with our personal coaching clients.


In contact sport, we know up to 55% of rugby players are competing with some kind of shoulder issue. This is all despite the best efforts of current rehabilitation and strength and conditioning programmes being designed to improve upper body performance.

If a shoulder has had a history of traumatic instability, we’d include explosive movements in the periodised return to play plan, however we would be building those on a base of strength work on the gymnastics rings. This allows us to train higher intensity dynamic stability and strength in a wide variety of positions where the hand is away from the body and importantly, allows the athlete to build greater confidence in those shapes which we think is a big part of enabling the brain to express force rapidly.

Ring Sweep

One of the major benefits of the rings is that we get to explore and play in different ranges we don't often find ourselves in and, from a shoulder perspective, we get to link that shoulder stability in with core stability through to the pelvis. Give the ring sweep a go to build strength and stability in outer positions.


As we know, much of the physical preparation for rugby can take place in the gym and focussed on strength-based exercises such as the bench press, bent over rows and overhead presses. They’re good to help build the fundamental characteristics required to play well, however, they are one-dimensional, and rugby is a chaotic sport.

Try adding these exercises to your rugby gym-based training programme and let us know how you get on.

Reactive Y position with the band

For a shoulder to function well in high intensity environments like in rugby, it needs to be able to reactively stabilise both for protection and performance. Use this band exercise to increase dynamic stability and improve confidence in positions that relate to contact scenarios in rugby.

Y-Push Ups for Rugby Players

Including exercises that hep you build more athleticism around the shoulder into your programme will be a game changer in terms of getting you ready to make contact and effective hits on the pitch. Try the plyometric push up in a position where you’re likely to encounter contact and you can progressively move the plates further away to make it more difficult.


If you're struggling with shoulder pain, instability or a lack of confidence that's keeping you from reaching your training or sporting goals. Book a FREE consultation call.

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