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The Fitness Zone

Train Like an Athlete
July 24, 2015

Find out how current Australian Institute of Fitness student and Rugby Union player, Matt Hodgson, bounced back from his injury, what his favourite pre-game fuel is and be at the top of your game with this peak performance workout. 

Matt Hodgson knows what it’s like to consistently be at the top of his game. With a constant focus on the next match and pressure to beat the opposition, Matt is used to early mornings, training hard and fuelling his body.

He has had an impressive 14 Wallabies appearances, captained the Western Force in their most successful season - the 2014 Super Rugby season - and became the first Western Force player to play 100 caps for the club.

Matt was recently hit with a huge blow, and on the eve of this year’s Super Rugby season, he was sidelined with a hamstring injury and deemed out of action for close to three months.

“It’s tough to be injured, especially for a very long time, but injuries are part of the job, so you know that going into it. I’m lucky enough to only have had a few set backs,” Matt says. Rather than wallowing, Matt was able to shift his mindset from worrying about the injury to focusing on coming back in better shape than ever.

Matt used his the time off to get stuck into the books to refresh his qualification as a Personal Trainer, studying a Master Trainer course with us at the Australian Institute of Fitness, complementing his flourishing fitness business as he adds to his collection of F45 gyms in Perth. 

“It’s been a good mix of online study and coming into class, and our Master Trainer at my F45 gym came through the Australian Institute of Fitness as well, so he has taken on a mentoring approach with me. Plus, it’s always good to hit the books when travelling so I can study without the interruptions from my family and work commitments.”

Matt has shared his favourite workout, guaranteed to have you feeling on game!

Start with light weight and high reps to get the muscle under fatigue, and then build up, by adding weight and dropping the reps. Before Matt was able to stop rehab running, he had to hit 200kg on the deadlift three times, so worked out a 10-12- week program to slowly reach that over time.


Whether you need to be rugby-fit, or just need to push your training to the next level, give Matt's peak performance workout a go and see what it's like to train like an athlete!

Reps: 6-8

Sets: 3-4

Rest: 60-240 secs



TARGET MUSCLES: Gluteal muscles, hamstrings, quadriceps (some back muscles and gastrocnemius work to assist the movement)

SET-UP: With your feet hip-width apart, stand close to the barbell, then lean forward and bend the knees, gripping the bar using a reverse power grip (one hand under, the other overhand). Ensure the spine is braced in a neutral position by engaging your core.

ACTION: Push through the heels as you pull the bar up your shins keeping the knees over the feet. As the bar passes the knees, drive the hips forward until both the hips and knees are extended and you are standing straight. To lower the bar, lean forward at the hips and bend the knees, keeping the bar close to the legs.



TARGET MUSCLES: Gluteal muscles, quadriceps, hamstrings, gastrocnemius

SET-UP: Start by facing towards the box, with your feet hip-width apart.

ACTION: Drop quickly into a squat position, bending your knees, to sit back and down, and swing your arms back, pushing through your feet to lift yourself onto the box. Land softly in a squat position and hold for 1-2 seconds to emphasise a tight technique. Carefully step down from the box, and then you’re ready to go again.

VARIATION: Dumbbell squat



TARGET MUSCLES: Hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteal muscles, gastrocnemius

SET-UP: Holding a dumbbell either side of your body, stand up straight with space to move in front of you.

ACTION: Keep the dumbbells close to your body on either side, with your shoulders square and your arms straight. Take a step forward with one foot, lifting the back heel of the other foot off the ground. Bend the hips and knees simultaneously to lower into the lunge, ending with the front knee over the front foot and the back knee bent towards the ground. Push through the front foot to return yourself back up to the standing position. Do one full set on one leg, and then swap.

VARIATIONS: Static lunge, travelling lunge



TARGET MUSCLES: Pectoralis major, triceps brachii, anterior deltoid

SET-UP: Lay down on the bench, with your feet on the floor at shoulder width. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, place your arms at a 90 degree angle, bending at the elbow.

ACTION: Lift the dumbbells straight above your shoulders in a vertical line. Slowly bring the weight down again, ensuring the elbows stay safe on extension.

VARIATION: Barbell bench press



TARGET MUSCLES: Deltoids, triceps brachii

SET-UP: Sit on the bench in an incline position, with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder level slightly forward of the body.

ACTION: Lift the dumbbells in a vertical line to finish overhead, keeping the elbows soft on extension. Slowly, bring the dumbbells back down into the starting position.

VARIATION: Barbell shoulder press




SET-UP: Place your feet hip-width apart, or with one slightly in front of the other, holding the dumbbells in front of thighs with your palms facing inwards.

ACTION: Raise your arms out to the side to shoulder height or just below, maintaining a slight bend at the elbow. Then slowly lower your arms, returning to the starting position.

Caution: It’s important to also complete upper-body pull based movements (such as variations of the seated row and lat pull down) to balance your program, along with a number of rehab/prehab exercises specific to areas of his body that may be at risk of injury.



Breakfast: Cereal, like Weet-Bix

Mid-Morning Snack: Usually a sandwich or some toast

Lunch: Carb-based, such a pasta dish or a high protein, low-fat meal

Afternoon Snack: Toast or fruit, etc

Dinner: If I have a high carb lunch, it’s usually a high protein dinner, and vice versa

Drink: 4-6 litres of water, backed up by an electrolyte drink and a couple of protein shakes


Breakfast: Cereal, like Weet-Bix or Nutri-Grain

Lunch: Pasta meal, such as spaghetti bolognese

4 hours before the game: Pancakes, because it’s high carb but feels light on the body and digests easily, with a bit of honey or maple syrup.

Article originally published in Mens Muscle and Health Magazine 

This content is not intended to be used as individual health or fitness advice divorced from that imparted by medical, health or fitness professionals. Medical clearance should always be sought before commencing an exercise regime. The Institute and the authors do no take any responsibility for accident or injury caused as a result of this information.

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