Updated: Aug 26, 2020
There are many ways to improve your speed on the rugby field, but the easiest way is to correct your technique.
Is it easier said than done? Probably.
So, let me take the guesswork out of it for you and show you what to look out for.
Here are the 5 most common speed technique mistakes I see rugby players making, and I'll go one step further by explaining how you can correct them.
1. SPEEDING UP YOUR LEGS
You could be forgiven for thinking that you will go faster if you speed up your legs. After all, it makes sense, doesn’t it?
This theory is a common mistake made by a lot of rugby players.
The secret to speed is that your arms control your legs.
Let me say that again:
YOUR ARMS CONTROL YOUR LEGS
Or I can put it in another way:
If you pump your arms slow, your legs will go slow, but if you pump your arms fast, your legs will go fast!
Don’t believe me?
Okay, go outside now, sprint for 10m, and pump your arms slowly. Notice your legs and speed. Then perform another 10m sprint but this time pump your arms fast. I can almost guarantee that your legs will be faster than the previous sprint.
Tip 1 is complete. Try pumping your arms faster, speed them up, and feel your legs go!
2. LACK OF KNEE DRIVE
Without force, you have no speed. Simple as that.
Because we are not taught at a young age on how to sprint (except for those that attend my workshops or purchase my online speed programs) we drive our knee to where it goes naturally, without thinking.
Your knee drive is very important.
Let me ask you a question:
If player A drives their knee to 70 degrees when they are sprinting, and Player B drives their knee to 90 degrees - who is going to be faster?
If you said player B, top marks to you. It’s simple physics.
The higher you drive your knee, the more force you’re able to apply to the ground.
Start concisely thinking about your knee drive when sprinting. Get your knee drive to 90 degrees with each stride. Sure, it may feel funny to start with, but that is a good thing - as your body is doing something it hasn’t done before, which is exactly where the magic of improvement happens.
This is what it looks like to get your knee drive 90degrees.
3. NO FORCE APPLIED INTO THE GROUND
So you’re getting your knee drive to 90 degrees, but is good knee drive alone going to make you faster? No. Put simply, it’s not.
You also need to be applying force into the ground.
A common mistake with rugby players is that they don’t push hard into the ground when sprinting.
By pushing hard into the ground, you are applying maximum force which is going to propel your body forward fast.
You can dramatically improve your speed by simply pushing hard onto the ground with each stride
Look how high this Rugby player gets off the ground simply by pushing hard into the ground with each stride.
4. LANDING ON YOUR HEELS
Another common mistake is that rugby players land on their heels when sprinting.
I tell all my players that the ball of your foot is the accelerator, and your heel is the brake.
Sure, if you want to slow down go ahead and land on your heels but if you want to generate serious speed then start landing and pushing with the balls of your foot.
By landing on the balls of your foot, you are putting your foot in the ideal position to absorb the force you are putting into the ground. At the same time, you are also reducing the amount of time your foot is touching the ground which will allow you to sprint faster.
An easy way to train yourself to start landing on the balls of your feet is to point your toes to the sky (dorsiflexion) when you are sprinting. Believe me, this is going to feel funny to start off with but hang in there as you will start to see your speed increase.
Notice that the player is pushing the ground with the balls of his foot.
5. CLOSED FISTS
For some reason, a lot of rugby players think that to sprint fast you need to tense up. Tensing up is tough, right? Ready for battle? Help you smash your opposition? Or run really really fast?
Actually, no. Doing this will automatically make you clench your fists.
So just RELAX.
When you clench your fists tightly, that tightness spreads throughout your shoulders, arms, neck, and face. This tightness affects the range of motion in your arms when you sprint, which reduces your stride length (remember I mentioned that your arms control your legs) making you slower.
Start sprinting with your fingers spread. This will relax your shoulders, arms, neck, and face which will ensure that your arm action your maximum speed is spot on.
There you have it, 5 common mistakes that you can fix today. However, to fix these you need to practice and practice over again, and then practice some more, so that it becomes second nature and automatic whenever you sprint. It can feel easier said than done, but if you know what to look out for, you are on your way to building explosive rugby speed.