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How to be explosive off-the-mark on the rugby field

Being able to speed off-the-mark explosively is a coveted skill by most rugby players. As soon as you catch the footy, you are off-the-mark like a lightning bolt, or as soon as the opposition has broken through the line of defence you are on their tail immediately making that awe-inspiring try-saving tackle.

Reaching speeds of 35km per hour, watch these players and their explosive speed. It never ceases to amaze me how deadly lightning speed can be, in both attack and defence.

The ability to take off explosively can be broken down into two components:

1. The amount of force you can put into the ground with each step; and

2. How quickly you can apply that force with each step

When players ask me “how can I become explosive off the mark and leave defenders for dead?”, I simply point them to two key training techniques:

1. Strength (to improve their ability to produce force)

2. Power (to improve their ability to produce force quickly)

Yes, it is that simple.

But, why Strength?

The strength and large amount of force being produced when you explode off-the-mark comes from your posterior chain, which consists of your glutes and hamstrings. This is your powerhouse and the key to going from 0 to 100 within a split second. It’s crucial to improving your speed off-the-mark.

I love building single-leg strength, so concentrate on strength exercises like single-leg squats or lunges.

The key to building strength is to lift heavy and stick to 5 reps of an exercise. If you find that you can perform more than 5 reps, then you are not building strength.

And, why Power?

There is no use just having strength. You must have power too.


Well because you need to be able to produce that strength as fast as possible. This my friends, is called Power.

The aim of the game, or speed for this matter, is for your foot to produce maximum force as quickly as possible with each stride.

My go-to training method for power is always plyometrics. Concentrate on exercises like box jumps, broad jumps, and squat jumps. The key is to be as explosive as possible with each jump. Try incorporating 3 sets of 5.

You do need to be careful with what kind of exercises you include into your training. Pick the wrong sets or reps or perform the exercises in the wrong order and your body won’t adapt correctly, meaning…

You won’t see improvements!

And then you become frustrated. And your on-field performance does not improve. You get my drift!

That’s why I’ve designed 2 online speed programs that map out exactly what you need to do to develop explosive speed off the mark. All you need to do is stick to the program and you will be on your way to being the fastest player on the field.

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