Developing Bulletproof Knees

Filed under: General Health, Training

As some of you may know, and some of you probably don’t, I played a ton of very competitive rugby in college. I was introduced to the sport after my hockey playing days were over and loved it immediately. It is a non-stop thrill ride of controlled aggression and actually a surprising amount of skill and strategy. At UMaine we were one of the few top DII teams that did not have a coach (though I believe they kinda have one now), so we weren’t real big on the skill and strategy part.

Rugby in a Horse Barn - Brilliant!

Rugby in a Horse Barn - Brilliant!

You may be wondering where I am going with this, but just bear with me a little while longer. We were a huge team and at 5’10″ 210 I was one of the smallest guys. Needless to say, we were known for our aggressive defense, and smashmouth offense. We were not known for impressive ball movement and fancy plays. We ran the ball right down your throat. Well, my former teammates and I are a little older now, and it seems that time, and lots of rugby, are catching up with some of them. I have at least three teammates from our glory years who have had or are having knee surgery directly related to their playing days. I am certainly not putting down this spectacular sport. It is awesome. I thankfully never suffered anything more serious than a broken nose or two myself (knock on wood). These were some of the unfortunate few.

My point of the story is that most if not all of their knee problems could have been prevented. Now some traumatic knee injuries will happen no matter how great your training and programming was and how fit you are, but the proper training can make a HUGE difference. Hands down the best resource on making and keeping your knees healthy is the Bulletproof Knees Manual by Mike Robertson. It contains tons of great info on the best ways to improve the health of your knees, and keep them that way. Check it out HERE.

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Posted on December 15th, 2008 by Brian St. Pierre


  1. Jen Sinkler Says:

    Great resource — thanks, Brian.

    I wish you’d have pointed out that knee injuries are common in *any* sport with lots of changes of direction, however, like soccer and basketball, too. And, most ACL injuries happen outside of contact situations.

    From one rugger to another, I’m asking you to be careful not to accidentally perpetuate the rumor that rugby equals sure injury. (I believe the total injury rate is slightly higher than basketball but lower than ice hockey.)

    I’ve played for 12 years and haven’t had a major injury (knock on wood) — only, as you say, the kind of knee problems that could easily have been prevented with proper training earlier on. The kind that would have come up if I’d played any number of sports, not just rugby….

    Thanks again for the great resource.

  2. Brian St. Pierre Says:


    I definitely was not trying to demonize rugby. It is an awesome sport. It is true that most ACL injuries happen outside of contact situations, and those are the ones that should be prevented with proper training. Developing a strong posterior chain and doing a lot of single leg work can go a long way.

    The injury rate for time played in rugby is actually quite low, I believe it is actually lower than soccer.

    So again, to all of you reading this, rugby is not the problem. Lack of proper training is the problem. Bulletproof Knees is just one of many products and resources that can help teach you the best methods to staying healthy.

  3. Mike Groth Says:

    Being one of Brian’s former teammates, and one of the mentioned people who is having knee troubles (complete pcl tear, sprained mcl), i cant agree more with advocating single leg work. i worked with one of brian’s first ever off season training programs, long before he was working with established strength coach eric cressey, and needless to say his program worked. and that was about 2 and a half years ago.

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  11. Mike Potter Says:

    Just wanted to say thanks for the good information, and I’m going to buy this training manual very soon.
    Also, I wanted to comment on rugby Mr. St. Pierre, Mr. Groth, and Mr. Sinkler. Having just graduated from the best rugby high school in North America (in British Columbia) I’d like to say that in America, you’re not playing rugby. And if you haven’t been injured playing in this country, Mr. Sinkler, you don’t take contact, or you’re a butterball with strong genetics. Currently I am on a gap year before going to college, but I was supposed to be playing in New Zealand right now but I stayed back due to my dad’s health looking very short. I plan to go to University of British Columbia next year to play, but I live in Albuquerque.
    Two years ago I came back to play a semi-serious alumni game verses UNM because I have strong friendships with the clubs in town and many of the alumni. First scrum I entered dislocated my shoulder (tearing the capsule) because this country doesn’t know anything about technique or rugby period. Due to having to constantly use my left shoulder in tackling I tore that capsule as well. Rugby is a game of smarts and technique, and tackling was the best part of my game, which means I know how to take contact and make a succesful tackle.
    My comment is, unless you’re huge, don’t bother learning to play in this country, and I’m 6’2″, 220 lbs, decently lean, and I rarely step in the pitch in this country. Rugby is a beautiful sport of speed and FINESSE that creates long lasting friendships all around the world, but if you learn in this country your success is limited. On the other hand, if you learn from a real coach who basically wasn’t you 20 years before rugby retirement, then you have a chance to go to the top. Berkeley, USA rugby, any of those so called “experts” don’t know anything. Which is why we blow at 15′s but are succesful in 7′s because it’s about athleticism. Rugby is a fast thinking game that uses the same technique over and over and over again, so if you master the technique and learn how to play, you master the sport, simple as that. Although, to most it isn’t so simple which why the game turns into “smashmouth” offenses whose best attempt is to slowly jam the “ball right down your throat”.
    I’m 18 and have already had two surgeries on both shoulders, and am a very succesful rugger looking to an even stronger future, advising you to learn rugby over seas. Sorry for the brutal truth boys.
    Best of luck to anyone post-surgery on their recovery routes.


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