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Most people who play rugby fall into the intermediate category. Hopefully your core stability and base fitness are high and you are now ready to commence the more rugby specific training methods; weights training, sprint training, interval training and plyometrics.
Weights training for rugby can be very position specific; so here I am going to give typical training exercises that rugby players of all positions can perform. Within season weights training may be only limited to 2 days a week and therefore multiple body areas need to be targeted so that all muscles are fully trained. Dynamic, compound exercises like squats and bench press should be in every rugby players training routine. Off-season weights training can be performed more often but the dynamic exercises should always be performed.
Squats- View These are good for all rugby players especially the forwards and should be performed in a pyramid fashion with 4 sets. The final set should be 2-3 reps of maximum weight.
Side-Step Squats- View These are similar to lunges except that you lunge at a 45% angle. This strengthens the groin and the inner quads, which are crucial for a powerful, quick side step. For this exercise you should not use a heavy weight to begin with as injury is commonly associated with this exercise. Use a light weight and gradually build up. 3 working sets of 10-15 reps would be adequate with this exercise.
Deadlifts- View A classic exercise for every rugby player, which provides good back and hamstring strength as well as maintaining your core stability. Like the squats, dead lifts should be performed by a pyramids fashion with 4 sets to a 2-3 rep final set.
Power Cleans- View This is an excellent exercise for raw power. Mastering the power clean can be fairly hard and therefore light weight exercises should be performed in order to gain sound technique. 4 sets of 10-12 reps creates good power and muscular endurance.
Bench Press- View A strong upper body is paramount for every rugby player and no better exercise can give you a strong upper body than the bench press. 4 sets pyramid fashion to a 2-3 rep final set.
Seated Military Press- View Strong shoulders enable a rugby player to powerfully ruck, maul, scrummage and lift. Solid shoulders also help a rugby player to tackle harder and make contact more dynamically. The military press can be performed either dumbbell or barbell in a pyramid fashion with 4 sets to a 2-3 rep final set.
Rugby players of all positions require quicker reaction times, greater acceleration and a greater sustained top speed. Without the help of a sprint coach it is hard to decipher what specific coaching an individual player needs in order for them to improve their sprinting. Below are a few pointers that will improve overall speed without the help of a professional coach.
There are four main points to follow when sprinting:
- A Relaxed Action - Movement is flowing and easy; hands are relaxed, shoulders are low. Try not to tense up when exerting maximum effort.
- A Smooth Action - Concentration should be on a forward motion with a smooth, rhythmic leg action. A slight 5% forward lean helps create this smooth action.
- A Tall Action - Body posture should be erect with foot contact restricted to the toes and not the heel as this creates a 'sitting' body posture.
- A Drive Action - Concentrate on thrusting elbows back as opposed to forcing fists forward. Drive with opposite rear leg to high knee with extension of the driving leg as far as possible.
Each of these can be improved by
- Seated Arm Action - While seated with back supported simulate sprinting arm action concentrating on thrusting the elbows back, keeping shoulders low, keeping hands loose and upper body relaxed. 5 X 30 second sets with 30 seconds rest between sets.
- High Skipping Action - Over 30 meters skip high and far with concentration on arm action and knee height. Do not rush this exercise; the higher and farther the skips the better as well as less time spent on the ground. 5 x 30 Meter sets with 30 seconds rest between sets.
- High Knee Power Sprints - Over 15 meters take small, powerful high knee steps concentrating on a slight lean forward, and leg extension and the top of the leg exercise. Walk 10 meters after each set and repeat 5 times. Once good technique is gained try this exercise holding a rugby ball in both hands to develop fluency with running with a ball in both hands.
The phase of acceleration is from the initial response to the top speed of sprinting. Improving this aspect of your sprinting is considered to be the most important aspect in rugby. Being able to accelerate into gaps or move into cover defence positions can create/prevent many scoring opportunities. To generate faster acceleration short, powerful sprint drill work best, sometimes with added weight. Concentration on leaning forward and driving low and hard during these short drills. A 45-60% degree angle is desired with eyes focusing forward ahead of you, not at the floor!
- Press Sprints - Complete 2 full press-ups and then sprint 15 meters. This helps to simulate game play where speed off the floor is essential. Maintain the low drive for about 10 meters at which time you should then move into full sprint mode. Walk back to the start and repeat. Try to complete 3 sets with 5 sprints per set; 3 minutes rest per set.
- Flying Sprints - Walk/ jog 10 meters then sprint 20 meters. Walk back to the beginning and repeat. Complete 3 sets with 5 sprints per set; 3 minutes rest per set.
- Start Stop Sprints - Walk 5 meters then sprint 10 meters, gradually slow down to 20% and then accelerate back up to 100% for 10 meters. Walk back to the start and repeat. 5 sprint sets with 2 minutes rest per sprint.
- Side To Side Sprints - Side skip in between 5 meter cones and sprint away 15 meters. Walk back to the beginning. Complete 3 sets with 5 sprints per set; 3 minutes rest per set.
With regard to added weight/ resistance; sprint training equipment is expensive for just one individual but worth grouping up together and purchasing. Resistance bands, power sleds, parachutes are all excellent for enhanced acceleration but should only be used once all of the above drills are mastered. No weight above 10% body weight should be used as this will cause injury and not actually generate any enhanced acceleration.
In order to improve on your top speed, longer sprints where over all focus on technique is concentrated on.
- 5 x 30 meter
- 5 x 60 meter
- 5 x 80 meter
Walking rests of 1 minute between sprints and 3-4 minutes between sets.
To lengthen running stride try spring these distances downhill with a 1-2% decline. This stretches the hamstrings enough to create a longer running stride.
To create changes of pace at top speeds practice these sprints while alternating 80%-100% of running speed over every 10 meters.
To conclude, these sprints drills should be covered over a number of sprint training sessions. Concentrate on one aspect per session and give it 110% effort. Remember to rest properly after each session and always warm up, cool down and stretch.
The game of rugby can be broken down into many individual passages of play where both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems interchange throughout these intense scenarios. During the intense periods of play lactic acid builds up and an oxygen debt is created. Both of these factors greatly reduce performance. Therefore these waste products need to be oxidized and the oxygen debt needs to be restored.
During a game of rugby periods of total inactivity are few and far between, therefore the oxidation and oxygen restoration needs to be carried out during the aerobic parts of play e.g. jogging to a line-out or re-aligning for a scrum. The faster your body can manage these tasks the higher your physical performance will be. Improving on this oxidation/restoration can be carried out by regular interval training; whereby long periods of intense exercise are followed by small amounts of recovery jogging. After each session the recovery jogs are smaller causing your body to adapt with the increasing work demands. All interval training session should begin with an adequate warm up and end with an adequate cool down/stretch.
Using a rugby field run the try line at 75% and jog up the touchline. Then repeat once you reach the other try line. This will complete one lap of the field. Try to complete 3 continuous laps.
2nd Session/3rd Session
Repeat the 1st session whist adding 1 extra lap each time.
Still using the rugby field, run up the touchline at 75% and jog the try line. Try to complete 3 laps.
5th Session/6th Session
Repeat the 4th session whilst adding 1 extra lap each time.
Run 75% diagonally across the filed from corner flag to corner flag, then jog the try line. Then run 75% diagonally in between the other two corner flags and then jog the other try line back to the start. This is one lap. Try to complete 3 continuous laps. These are called winders.
Still Using the rugby field, run 75% every horizontal line e.g. try line, 22-meter line, and jog the touchline that connects each horizontal line. For example; run the try line at 75% and then jog the touchline until it meets the 22-meter line. Then run 75% down the 22-meter line and jog up the touchline until it meets the 10-meter line … You will see by this pattern that you are slowly making you way up the whole pitch. At the end of the pitch rest 3-5 minutes and repeat back down the field. This is probably the worst interval training drill in the coach's handbook but probably the best as it provides good long runs with a short active recovery.
Once you feel comfortable running these sessions, up the % of the running speed 5% at each session so that after a while you reach 100% sprints.
Incorporating plyometrics into your training program is one of the best ways to develop power, especially in the legs. In general plyometrics work by overloading the muscle eccentrically (lengthening) and then forcing the muscle to contact concentrically (shortening). This distinct method of training for power or explosiveness has been termed plyometrics.
With regard to rugby, plyometrics can aid players to run more powerfully, jump higher and tackle harder. Warming up is crucial. Spend 10 minutes jogging or skipping followed by 5-10 minutes of stretching the muscles involved. Don't forget to stretch your lower back.
- Bounding - Take over sized strides while running 30 meters, concentrating on spending more time in the air. 1-minute rest between runs. Try to complete 5 runs.
- Box Jumps - Over a set of ten hurdles; jump two footed over each hurdle aiming on height and distance. 1-minute rest between jumps. Try to complete 5 sets.
- Depth Jumps - Standing on a box with another box 2-feet away. Step off the box and quickly jump over the opposite box. Over time increase box height and do not jump off the box. Try 3 sets of 10 depth jumps. 3 Minutes rest between sets.
- Hops - The same as box jumps except one legged. Box jumps and hops can also be done using stairs, which are of adequate height.
- Lateral Step Ups - Stand to the side of a box and step up onto it using the leg closest to the box making sure that this is the leg that does all of the work. Step back down once the working leg is fully extended while standing on the box.
- Tuck Jumps - Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Jump up and bring your knees to your chest. As you land repeat immediately keeping ground contact time to a minimum. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions e.g. 10-15.
- Press Ups and Hand Clap - Perform the lowering phase of the press up as normal. Hold for one second at the bottom of the press up and powerfully and quickly press up so that you can perform a clap before landing back for the next nest press up. Try to perform 3 sets of 5 press-ups with 3 minutes between each set.
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