Updated: May 20, 2020
Rugby is a game decided by explosive movements that happen within a split second, such as breaking away from a defender, or accelerating through the gap of the defence.
A fast first-step is the ability to get off the mark quickly and explosively which will give you a head start every time over your opponents. It’s something that all rugby players need to have in their repertoire.
Understanding the keys to developing first step quickness and applying them to your speed training is what can help you fly past defenders, and keep your coach happy too!
So, let’s look at 3 ways you can improve your first step quickness. Remember to also train speed early in the week - your body needs to be fresh when it is training speed.
ARE YOU OR YOUR CHILD SERIOUS ABOUT IMPROVING YOUR FIRST STEP QUICKNESS ON THE RUGBY FIELD?
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POWER AND STRENGTH TRAINING
To develop explosive speed off the mark, you need to be able to generate a large amount of force into the ground. You can achieve this by building strength in your lower body. Utilising basic and traditional exercises like Squats and Deadlifts, is a good start. However, make sure that you are lifting heavy as this will recruit the maximum amount of fast twitch fibres.
Why fast twitch? Well, fast twitch fibres assist in the development of force, so the more fast twitch fibres you can recruit, the more force you will generate into the ground.
Additionally, if you incorporate plyometric exercises into your training, they will help boost explosiveness and speed. Plyo often refers to exercises which require you to jump, hop, bound.
Both strength training and plyometrics will also improve your agility, which can’t be a bad thing for a rugby player.
I recommend the Rugby players, that I coach in Speed, perform strength and power training 2-4 times a week.
Force will enable you to propel your body forward explosively. However, there is no use having that great potential to generate maximum force into the ground if you’re not applying that force at the right angle.
What does this mean? The angle that your foot contacts the ground makes a massive difference in your explosiveness, first step quickness and speed.
The fastest Rugby players in the world usually have a shin angle of 45 degrees during their first few strides. This angle allows your foot to push backwards, which will propel your body forward explosively.
The wall drill is a great way to train your body to be at that 45 degree angle.
Hip mobility is often overlooked when it comes to speed. The ability to move your hips through a full range of motion helps improve force application, therefore first-step quickness. Strength training can tighten the hip and reduce flexibility. So ensuring you maintain a good level of hip flexibility can make a real difference in your on-field performance.
To maintain hip flexibility incorporate the Fire Hydrant Drill as a warm up prior to each speed training session.
First-step quickness is such a potent skill to possess in Rugby. The ability to get a head start on your opponent can make a huge difference to your success in a game of Rugby.
Focus on improving your strength and getting your technique force application spot on. Improve your hip mobility as well. If you can do these three things, you’ll be on your way to racing past your opponent on field through improved first-step quickness and a more explosive type of speed.
Happy training Ruggers!