How to spot a bad rugby speed drill

Updated: Aug 26

There are thousands of speed tips, tricks, drills, and exercises out there on the world wide web. There are also far too many unqualified coaches watching these and using them in their training sessions, in an attempt to help make their players faster or more agile. The problem with this is that being unqualified and relying on a mishmash of YouTube videos, they are not able to program correctly and are likely to either cause injury or stunt any improvements.



Look, I understand, we’ve all done it before. We see an awesome drill and go down to the local park and try to replicate it. We do this for weeks on end, and eventually see no improvement on the rugby field.


Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence.


But believe me, there are a lot of moving parts to a successful drill and it’s not as easy as replicating a drill you’ve watched on YouTube or Instagram.


So, what does a bad speed drill look like?


1. TOO MANY SETS & REPS

The first sign of a bad speed drill is performing too many reps & sets.


The way to develop speed and power is through explosive movements and this is done through low reps and sets.


Let’s use an explosive movement like a box jump as an example. Performing 3 sets of 3 reps with 90 seconds rest between sets will ensure that every jump is explosive and at 100% effort ensuring that you are achieving your goal.


But what happens if you were to perform 5 sets of 12 reps?


You can say goodbye to explosiveness. The movements now become sluggish and slow, and your technique will be affected.


Not a great recipe for developing speed.


You also need to consider the strain on your body when performing explosive and fast speed drills. Again, take box jumps as an example. High reps and sets put heaps of stress on your hips, back, knees, and ankles, which over time will lead to injuries.


If we are talking about sprints, don’t be doing 100m sprints. You’re not a 100m track sprinter. You are a rugby player, so stick to 10, 20 & 30m sprints to maintain that explosiveness and speed but most importantly to train specifically to the demands of rugby. Remember your training needs to somewhat mimick a real game of rugby so that your body goes into automatic action mode on the field.


As I have said in a past blog, less is more when it comes to explosive rugby speed training.

2. PERFORMING A DRILL WHEN FATIGUED

I see too many players performing speed drills like they are performing fitness drills.


SPEED IS NOT FITNESS.


FITNESS IS NOT SPEED.


THEY ARE A DIFFERENT BEAST.


So you need to adapt your training to suit.


It’s easy to recognise. Players training who are more puffed out than Puff the Magic Dragon, rolling on the ground exhausted because they are racing to the next set with limited recovery time.


Sorry but you aren’t going to get faster training like this.


What happens when you are fatigued, besides the obvious of feeling like you have been hit by a train?


Well, it means you won’t be able to perform at your max effort, and taking it a step further – it means you definitely won’t be building any sort of explosive speed.


I’m all for pushing the boundaries and threshold but there is a time and place for that.

Speed training needs to be performed at max effort and contain explosive movements every single time. It’s all about muscle memory and training your body to automatically be explosive and fast where it counts, on the rugby field.


Make sure you allow an ample amount of rest between sets. When you perform a sprint, walk back slowly to the start. If you are still puffing, give yourself more recovery time. The key is to be at your normal breathing rate when you perform your next sprint so that you perform each drill explosively and fast.

3. THE DRILL DOESN’T TRANSLATE ONTO THE FIELD

Your work at training is designed to improve your performance on the rugby field. That’s a no-brainer, right? Well, sometimes we can get sucked into the latest and greatest speed drill that someone has posted up on Instagram that has nothing to do with speed, or even rugby for that matter. It looks cool though?!


Unless you are performing drills that transfer onto the rugby field you won’t become a better rugby player. Far from it.


Before performing a drill, think about how the drill is going to improve your game. Is it going to make you faster, stronger, or fitter? Is it going to improve your passing, tackling, defence, or attack?


You can help make your training transfer onto the field by:


  • Adding a reaction component to the drill, so that you are reacting to the movement of someone making the drill game realistic.

  • Performing the drill with and without the footy

  • Adding a decision-making situation whilst under pressure

4. SPEED OVER TECHNIQUE

Speak to any good Coach, whether it be a Defence Coach, Attacking Coach, or Strength & Conditioning Coach. They will all tell you the same thing, your technique is king.


I need to repeat that: TECHNIQUE IS KING


You need to master the technique first before progressing, and that means adding speed but sadly not many YouTube or Instagram drills will tell you this.


So, what happens? You go outside and perform the drill as fast as you can just like you’ve seen on the screen. Two things are going to happen.


Let’s use a Broad Jump drill as an example:


Firstly, you probably haven’t mastered the technique, whether it be producing power (jumping) or absorbing power (landing) so you won’t be getting the gains you think you are


And,


Secondly, your risk of injury skyrockets because you haven’t mastered the skill of landing, therefore putting extra strain on your knees and ankles which could lead to injuries, and that means time on the sideline - not on the field.


So next time you perform a new drill, don’t dive headfirst into it. Master the technique first then add speed and explosiveness.

There you have it, how to pick a bad speed drill. Remember reps and sets should be low, allow maximum recovery time between sets, ensure that the drill transfers onto the rugby field, and master the technique first before performing the drill at speed.

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