The million-dollar question: “What is the answer to speed development?”
If I had a $1 for every time a parent or coach asked me - I’d be a millionaire! I don’t mind them asking, after all I call myself The Rugby Speed Coach.
Some think the answer is to just run sprints. Others believe the speed ladder is the key, and then you have those that say strength is the answer.
I believe it really comes down to a well-balanced, all rounded speed development program which includes all of the above, plus more.
Rugby players should be, and need to be trained in a way that enhances their strength, increases their power and fine tunes their sprint mechanics but they should also add 3 other skills.
I’m talking about mobility, movement prep and good old-fashioned posture. Sounds boring, doesn’t it? They aren’t glamorous like plyo drills making you explosive! Or Strength exercises that turn your legs into quadzilla ! But they are just as important.
Here are 3 skills to work on this week:
Mobility for Speed
Rugby players need to be flexible enough to drive their hips during acceleration and top speed. Too often I see rugby players lack the mobility in their hip flexors to be able to accelerate and run properly, and a simple glute-bridge exercise is a struggle.
This causes too much load on their knees and can cause injury. Going further down the leg, if the ankle lacks mobility and fails to move into dorsi flexion (toes pointing up), the player will not be running on the balls of their foot. If you’ve attended my Speed & Agility workshop, you will know that the ball of your foot is the accelerator and the heels are your brake. You can’t be fast if you aren’t using your foot correctly. You need mobility friends, especially if you want injury-free speed.
Here is one of my favourite hip mobility exercises.
The Fire Hydrant drill will improve the range of movement in your hip flexors.
Tight calf muscles will limit your ankle mobility and the ability to dorsiflex at the toes. Try this simple calf stretch to release tension in your calf muscles so that your ankles can do it’s thing.
Movement Prep for Speed
To sprint effectively you need to be coordinating your arms and legs. The opposite arm and opposite leg working together is paramount for speed production. After a warm up, ensure that you spend a few minutes on movement prep to get the right and left side of the body connected.
The A-Skip is my favourite movement prep drill.
1. Drive your knee to 90 degrees
2. Land on the ball of your foot then push off the ground
3. Hands move from cheek (face) to cheek (butt)
Skip for 10m, then walk back to the start. Perform 5 reps
Posture for Speed
Posture is often forgotten when it comes to rugby speed training, but it plays an important part in rugby players discovering correct sprint mechanics. When it comes to acceleration, players need to learn how to load the glutes, hamstrings and balls of their foot whilst keeping a forward posture (knee over toes, shoulders over knees) to propel their body forward explosively.
The kneeling start drill is perfect for this.
With speed playing a major part in rugby, you’d be a fool not to add these mobility, movement and posture drills into your weekly training sessions. Those that do will have the edge over their competitors and be on the path to developing breakaway speed.
Listen up, as I say it again:
Speed wins rugby games!