James Haskell HIIT training session
James Haskell rugby HIIT session

You don’t have to be a rugby player to set your fitness goals as gargantuan as James Haskell’s. To navigate a rugby game successfully a player needs stamina, strength and dynamic physical ability – transferable skills for anyone who wants to make the most of their physical prowess. We asked Haskell for the perfect high-intensity interval training session to boost performance, and get us rugby-pitch ready

Here’s his HIIT workout, plus advice from the man himself: ‘HIIT is great for a short, sharp, full-body conditioning blast. It also burns fat. I’d do this type of session once a week in my training as a general fitness top-up. To make it more suitable for in-season, I would bolt it on after a weights workout at the start of my week, to give me the necessary cardio fitness top-up, which I will have missed out on from not playing. This session, along with power endurance [training], would form a key foundation of the conditioning block of my pre-season programme.’ On all these exercises, work for 30 secs, then rest for 90 secs. Each one of these exercises is stand-alone. Do 5 sets of an exercise before you move onto the next.

Dumbbell thrusters Select two suitably weighted dumbbells. I suggest you don’t start too heavy. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and the dumbbells at shoulder level. From a standing position, squat with your weight through your heels and your chest and head up. Then power back up, using your glutes and hamstrings, with a good hip drive. When nearly upright, press the dumbbells above your head. Do this within the movement, which takes you to stand fully upright. Bring the dumbbells level with shoulders. Repeat. Do 5 sets of 30 secs, with 90 secs rest between sets. MUSCLE GROUPS Quads, glutes, hamstring, shoulders, lats, traps.

Wattbike/spin bike When preparing to do this bike sprint, make sure that your seat position is correct to avoid causing yourself all sorts of problems. You need to set the seat high enough to ensure you get full leg extension. Also make sure you get the right level of resistance as you work. Your legs should never just free spin on the bike once you stop pedalling, you should always have some tension. Be in control. Set this to medium resistance. Sprint while staying seated for 30 secs. Perform 5 sets of 30 seconds of this before you move on, with 90 secs rest between sets. MUSCLE GROUPS Legs, lungs, hamstrings, calves.

Rugby HIIT session

Mountain climbers Start in a press-up position but with feet wider apart than normal. Bring your left leg up to the outside of your left arm. You should feel a stretch in your groin and hamstring. Keep the right leg straight. Then dynamically swap legs, so your right leg comes up towards your right hand, and the left leg goes back to where it came from; and the first leg repeats the drill. Alternate for 30 secs. Or, instead of bringing feet to the outside of your hands, bring them up under your body, as far as your flexibility allows. Move legs back and forward in a straight line. Do 5 sets of 30 secs with 90 secs rest between sets. MUSCLE GROUPS Hip flexors, hamstrings, glutes, shoulders, triceps, forearms.

Rugby HIIT session with James Haskell

Rowing machine Set the rower to medium resistance. Row for 30 seconds as hard as you can, but making sure you are using the full range of movement. Be sure to use your legs as well as your upper body when rowing. Perform 5 sets of 30 seconds of this before you move on, with 90 seconds rest between sets. MUSCLE GROUPS Back, lats, arms quads, shoulders, traps. HFM

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