The Importance of Muscular Endurance in Rugby

Rugby players tackling during game

A typical rugby match is 80 minutes of intense physical demands, including running, tackling, kicking, scrimmaging and more. Players run the equivalent of more than four miles and test their strength repeatedly during lineouts, scrums and other activities. Further, only brief pauses in play separate the action of a match. To give an effective performance, rugby players must develop and maintain a combination of muscular strength and physical endurance.


Iain Fletcher, a British sports scientist and trainer, defines muscular endurance as the ability of the muscles in the body to continue contracting for an extended period of time. This is vital in rugby, where the typical match lasts a total of 80 minutes and includes intense demands on the players’ strength and endurance. Muscular endurance enables players to cover the field of play quickly and perform repeated activities that require strength, such as tackling opposing players and participating in scrums.


During a typical rugby match, players run between 2.5 and 3.5 miles, often at full-out sprints. In addition, tackles, lineouts and scrums place great demands on players’ strength. Typical matches may involve as many as 30 to 40 scrums and 60 to 70 lineouts. Proper muscular endurance leads not only to improved performance on the pitch, but also reduces player injuries.

Expert Insight

Muscular endurance for rugby players requires starting power, or the ability to cover distances in the shortest time possible; acceleration power, or the ability to achieve high sprinting speeds; and the ability to generate maximum force at the beginning of a muscular contraction. This allows players to tackle opposing teams’ ball carriers quickly.


Although most strength and endurance training occurs in a gym, Fletcher writes that weight training is not necessary to enhance muscle endurance. He recommends a circuit that includes such exercises as overhead tackle bag throws, one-on-one scrimmaging, tackles and lunges with a tackle bag, and piggy-back squats with a partner. Fletcher further recommends a 20-meter sprint, followed by a 20-meter jog, between each exercise to enhance aerobic endurance. This exercise circuit improves endurance while developing some gains in muscular strength. Muscular endurance programs can, however, involve weight training. These programs should emphasize proper exercise technique, proper spotting by partners and the performance of an appropriate number of repetitions, or reps, of each exercise.


Resistance training for rugby differs from strength training in weightlifting and body building, which emphasize the ability to lift maximum weight loads for a single repetition. Weight training for rugby should emphasize multiple repetitions of a single exercise to enhance endurance. For this reason, maximum weight loads are not appropriate, especially for young players.