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Rugby Legend Dan Carter Reveals the 5 Exercises He Uses to Build Size, Strength and Stamina

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Dan Carter is indisputably one of the greatest rugby players of all time. During his distinguished playing career, he claimed two World Cup winners medals, three International Rugby Player of the Year awards and still holds the record for the most points scored in test match rugby.

To reach those heights – where he's considered one of the best players not just of his generation but of any generation – Carter had to go just as hard in the gym as he did on the rugby field.

But, on the flip side, as an elite athlete, Carter's one and only job was to get his body ready to compete at the highest level. Post rugby career, with family, new business ventures and a role as an ambassador for community-HIIT specialists F45, he no longer has the luxury of devoting so much time to fitness. "I can't go to the gym for two hours and then do some cardio work in the afternoon, like I used to as a rugby player," he says.

Still, if Carter's career taught him anything, it's that you have to find a way. Here, he reveals the five simple exercises that have kept him in shape throughout his career and continue to do so into retirement.

Photo credit:
Photo credit:

Barbell Bench Press

How: Lie back on a flat bench holding a barbell in the rack above you with a shoulder-width, overhand grip. Lift the bar off the rack and position it above your chest with arms fully extended. From the starting position, breathe in and lower the bar slowly until it skims the middle of your chest. Push the bar back to the starting position explosively as you breathe out. That’s one rep.

Carter says: "I think this comes from being in a rugby environment for too long, but we always used to gravitate towards the bench press and get quite competitive about who could lift the most. It was never me. But it's hard to not go to the gym and get in a good bench press."


How: Assume a press-up position, but bend your elbows and rest your forearms on the floor. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your ankles. Now tighten your abs as if you were about to be punched in the gut. Maintain this contraction. Breathe deeply.

Carter says: "I love planking. I'm a huge planker, and I like to plank for up to five minutes. Planking is really good for your spine as well, and having a strong core is hugely important."

Bulgarian Split Squat

How: With a pair of dumbbells at your sides, stand with your back to a bench or box. Place the instep of one foot on the bench or box. Keeping your torso upright, lower your body as far as you can until your front thigh is parallel to the floor, and then push back up to a standing position. The higher the bench or box, the harder the exercise.

Carter says: "I love Bulgarian squats, where you've got one leg back on the bar. I really like to isolate muscles, so I found when I was doing single-leg work, I preferred that much more than just doing your standard squat. So it became a bit of a go to for me later in life."


How: Squat down and place both hands on the floor between your feet. Jump your feet back into the top of a press-up and lower your chest to the ground. Straighten your arms and hop your feet forwards, before jumping into the air with hands on head.

Carter says: "I didn't do a lot of burpees when I was playing, but [I do them a lot now] having understood how hard burpees are and how they can get your heart rate up straight away. Just go smack out 30 burpees and you know you're going to be broken at the end of it."

Photo credit: Kathryn Wirsing
Photo credit: Kathryn Wirsing

World's Greatest Stretch

How: Starting in a high-plank position, bring your right leg forward so the foot is flat on the floor and in line with your right hand. Keep you right knee bent at 90 degrees while the left leg remains extended behind, with the ball of your left foot on the floor. Rotate your torso to the right, pressing through the left palm and lifting right hand to the ceiling. Allow the head to follow the leading hand.

Carter says: "This isn't an exercise, it's a stretch: the World's Greatest Stretch. I've found that's just such a go to for me at the start of a session just to open up your hips, open up your back, so that was always a part of pre training, and then when I finished training as well. It's just such a good recovery tool, and also I can't do a kicking session until I've done that stretch both sides and it just opens everything out."

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