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Foundation Skill: Deceleration

It’s no secret that I believe speed is what will separate an average rugby player from an elite rugby player.

With speed, you don’t always run in a straight line, and when it comes to speed in rugby, nothing is truer than this – for you must be able to cut and change direction.

To cut and change direction, you need to be able to perform a few key skills that make up the process. One important part is the Deceleration process.


Put simply, it is the reduction of speed. In rugby terms, it is when you are slowing down to come to a stop. Often during a game players are traveling at high speeds but they will need to come to a sudden stop to secure the ball, to make a tackle or change direction. If you’re not on top of your Deceleration, your game will be affected.

The faster you can slow your body down, the quicker and more explosively you can re-accelerate when needed and explode past your opponent.

So it makes sense that as a Rugby Speed Coach, when I am coaching change-of-direction, I start with the foundation skill of Deceleration. If your deceleration technique is poor, your change-of-direction technique will also be weak.

I find it surprising that deceleration is often ignored at training, with many rugby players only concentrating on change-of-direction. Let me be clear here, if you aren’t focusing on all the components of a skill, it won’t work.

If you don’t have control of your body when changing direction, you won’t be able to develop power off the foot that you step off. Do you know what happens then? You’ve just made it a whole lot easier for your opponent to tackle you, or catch up to you.

I hope I’ve explained well enough that improving your deceleration technique is absolutely critical on field if you want to take your game to the next level, and be an elite player.

Add the below deceleration drills to your change-of-direction training sessions:


To improve your deceleration technique and train your body to absorb force, you need to be working on the eccentric phase of any exercise.

The ‘eccentric’ phase is the lowering phase of an exercise. Not only does it increase the time under tension in the muscle, it is also the same type of muscle contraction that occurs when you decelerate. In a squat, the eccentric phase is when you are moving downwards. It important that you go slow on this movement. I suggest to my athletes to take 5 seconds to get down to the bottom of the squat.

Reps: 2-6 | Sets: 3-5


When performing actual deceleration drills, concentrate on stabilising your body and moving with proper joint angles to improve your change-of-direction efficiency and explosiveness.

Skater jumps are a great way to train your body to absorb force, then produce force in another direction. This is exactly what happens when you change direction.

I recommend performing 3 sets of 6 reps.

If you want to be that player that produces sharp, explosive cuts and change-of-direction, start working on your deceleration skills today and you will be on your way to taking your game to the next level.

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