Circuit Training: sport specific circuits for rugby, basketball, racquet sports and athletes trying to improve their speed

Sport specific circuits

In this article Peak Performance’s experts present examples of circuits for various sports that you can adapt, use and take inspiration from

Rugby – pre-season

Rugby Union and Rugby League are two of the toughest field sports played at both amateur and professional level.

The physical demands of both codes place a great emphasis on physical power and muscular strength endurance. Speed is also crucial, as is the capacity to repeat that speed many times in a game, albeit mostly over very short distances. And of course there is the physical contact, the tackles, rucks and mauls, and in this respect rugby has been called a ‘collision sport’.

The percentages of the various playing components do vary between the playing positions but every player will require all of them to some extent.

Examples: Rugby Union forwards require the ability to accelerate over very short distances – 2-10 metres, but will need to be able to repeat this many times in a match.

In the backs, a Union winger will need good acceleration, but also greater top speed over 10-50m. They must be able to repeat these efforts many times during a match, but in most cases will only be called upon to sprint flat out occasionally and as a result will have more recovery time than for example, a flanker (No 6/7), who will be involved in play much more frequently.

The rugby circuit

When working with an amateur Rugby Union team I devised a circuit that would address the physical demands of every position so that all the players could work together.

This was scheduled into pre-season and would form part of a workout that commenced with agility work using sprint ladders, mini hurdles and marker cones – this was followed by the circuit, then game play (usually touch rugby). (See rugby in-season and pre-season workouts)

The circuit is progressed by increasing the number of repetitions when players are ready and able to cope. When the season drew closer the emphasis on game play increased and this in itself became more physical as contact elements were introduced, the circuit quantity was reduced accordingly.  

Format: stage

Recovery: between exercises minimal, recovery between each circuit three minutes
Performed: outdoors on grass

Table 1

Racquet sports – pre-season

Tennis, squash and badminton require fleet of foot and great hand and eye coordination. Circuits can develop these qualities and the stamina needed to endure the stop-start action. Although the sports are of different durations, with tennis matches lasting the longest, all rely on anaerobic power – an energy system that can easily be trained with the right circuit methodology.

Format: series

Recovery: 20 secs on, 30 secs off. Three mins between each circuit

Performed: indoors or out (on court, in sportshall, or even dry flat grass)

Table 2

This circuit reflects the needs of racquet sport players and will develop relevant condition

Basketball – in-season

Basketball players have to perform explosive bursts of energy while on court and their skill levels must remain high if they are to make those ‘three-pointers’ and blocks. This circuit will maintain this fitness.

Format: series

Recovery: 20 secs on, 20 secs off. Two minutes between each circuit

Performed: indoors or out on court

Table 3

As with the previous circuit the exercises selected are game specific and will pre-condition and develop/maintain match condition.

Speed and power circuit (suitable for most athletes) in pre-season and early conditioning phases

Format: series

Recovery: 20 secs on, 20 secs off. Two minutes between each circuit

Performed: on running track or dry flat grass, or in sports hall

Table 4

Well-conditioned athletes should only complete this circuit with relevant training behind them. Although quality of exercise performance will suffer due to fatigue, this should not deteriorate so much that the athlete is not developing relevant power and movement speed that will transfer into their sport.

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