Words by Chris Jones
To be a rugby player, you have to be strong – and they don’t come much stronger than Harlequins flanker and former England captain Chris Robshaw. Believe us when we say he’s a unit.
The October issue of Attitude - available to buy and download to any device now - sees Chris get sweaty in sportswear for our Active feature, in which he talks about his new bleach-blond look, his grueling training regime, preparing for life after rugby and being an ally to the LGBTQ community – plus what he thinks of Aussie player Israel Folau’s homophobic comments.
Chris Jones and Chris Robshaw
Rugby players come in all shapes and sizes – just watch the Rugby World Cup, which starts today in Japan, for proof – but Chris’s position requires both raw strength and the ability to suddenly engage that power at speed.
For him, this involves a six-day training regime including weights sessions in the gym, yoga, swimming, physio, tactics and, of course, rugby drills and practice.
During our photo shoot at The Cut gym in central London, he also gave writer Chris Jones a quick run through some compound exercises that are great for helping to build strength.
The work out that Chris had me follow took the format of “super sets” – the guys at Harlequins love these. It’s where you complete exercise A followed by exercise B, then take a short rest before repeating.
He put me through my paces with four super sets, with all of the exercises taken from the kind of thing he’d do in the gym himself.
SUPER SET 1 (four sets)
A: Split squat (10-12 reps per leg)
With dumbbells or a barbell across your back, place one foot on a bench behind you, with the other foot out in front. Complete the move by lowering yourself, tracking your front knee forwards over your foot.
B: Dumbbell Back Row (12-15 reps)
Start by lying face down on an incline bench, with the dumbbells on the floor as a starting point. Reach down and pull them back, almost as if you are skiing, but keeping your elbows at a right angle as they come up.
Pull up until your shoulder blades ‘pinch’, then lower slowly to a count of four.
SUPER SET 2 (four sets)
A: Dumbbell Bench Press (10-12 reps)
Lie on a bench, holding the dumbbells by your chest – try and hold them like you would a steering wheel, at the at the 10 and 2 position. Push up with power then lower slowly to a count of four.
Dead Lift (10-12 reps)
For this, I used what I call the bumper lanes bar — like when you’re bowling and they make it easier! Push your shoulders back like a soldier, then carefully lower the weight, keeping your back straight as you go.
If you have tight hamstrings like me, you will need a slight bend at the knee. Best to focus your gaze ahead, as it often helps with form.
SUPER SET 3 (four sets)
A: Single-leg deadlift (10-12 reps per leg)
Disclaimer, I cannot do this. But with practice, they’re great for balance. The aim is to hold a dumbbell in one hand, and slowly lower it down towards the ground, extending the matching leg backwards to balance yourself.
The opposite leg (to the arm you’re holding the weight in) should remain in place, and stay straight. Pretend you’re in a ballet and are theatrically picking up a penny.
Start with the weights by your side, and keep a slight bend in your arms. Then slowly raise the weights as if you have wings, hold for a couple of seconds once they’re parallel to the ground, and return to your side. Complete the whole movement slowly for maximum benefit.
SUPER SET 4 (four sets)
A: Front delt raises (12-15 reps)
With the weights in front of you, keep your body upright so the focus is on your front delts. Slowly raise the dumb bells until they are parallel with the floor, then lower down. A slight bend in your knee will take some of the pressure off your lower back.
B: Bent-over reverse fly (12-15 reps)
These are similar to the lat raises before, but you’re bent over, which keeps your core tight and engaged. Raise the dumbbells until they are straight out straight on each side then lower.
This is just one of the many work outs that a professional player might complete as part of their training, but it’s a good full-body blast, with a focus on strengthening your shoulders so you’re scrum-ready. Any hookers in here?
Location: The Cut Gym