There is no better feeling as a rugby player than breaking through the line of defence with brute strength and agility, then following up with lightning speed headed straight for the try line without a player in sight.
What a feeling!!! Until this suddenly happens…
You go from hero to fool in a second.
Love them or hate them, ankle taps are part of rugby. Instead of whingeing about them, let’s find a way to reduce the embarrassment and the missed opportunities that the dreaded ankle tap provide.
Step one to defeat the dreaded ankle tap is to address what happens when you get tapped?
You lose balance leading you to trip, fall, stumble – whatever – until you lose speed and miss the try.
So, the key to beating the ankle tap is through balance and stability training.
Basically, by creating an unstable environment in training, we will improve our stability and balance. Just like when we were little kids! Remember playing hopscotch (landing on one leg from a jump) or balancing on a beam and even walking along a brick fence. Little did we know that we were actually training ourselves in balance and stability through those fun games. Additionally, we were inadvertently activating our core muscles, which we all know assists with our balance.
To put you in a stronger position when your ankle tapped, concentrate on improving these areas:
1. CORE STRENGTH
The foundation of any rugby player’s stability is core strength. That part of your body that connects your limbs should be as stable as possible.
Try the Plank Twist, performing 10 reps over 3 sets. The goal is to get your hips to touch the ground with every twist.
2. SINGLE-LEG STABILITY AND STRENGTH
It’s easy to be stable on two legs, but take one leg away, and you are genuinely testing your stability. Single leg exercises are a great way to create an unstable environment and iron out muscle imbalances.
I love the Rear Elevated Split Squat to improve single-leg strength and stability.
Perform 10 reps on each leg over 3 sets. Start with your bodyweight, then when that becomes easy, add weight.
To be stable, your joints must have good mobility. For example, if your hip has poor mobility, your knee is forced to increase its mobility to pick up the slack. This, in turn, affects its primary job, which is to stabilise the body.
Perform a Hip Flexor Stretch to improve your hip extension capacity so that you can also fire your glutes effectively – extremely important for speed! Hold the stretch for 30 seconds over 3 sets.
Be the player that delivers a successful ankle tap, rather than the one who receives one. You can limit your opponents' opportunity by improving your core strength, single-leg stability and mobility.
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