Just like anything in life, there are rules to follow to ensure that you’re heading in the right direction and setting yourself up for success and training speed is no exception.
Over many years of coaching I’ve narrowed down the art of speed for rugby down to 5 simple rules, that if followed, you will become the fastest version of yourself.
Although simple, it is essential that you follow these if you want to improve your speed on the field.
RULE 1 – MAX EFFORT
To be fast, you must train fast, and that means putting in 100% effort every time you sprint whether it be during rugby training, a game or even on the school oval. Muscles have memory, and if you are always sprinting at max effort, your body will automatically go fast on the field. There are so many things to think about during a game, and if your muscles remember how to sprint fast, you’ve just lightened the load a little. This is especially helpful when a bulky forward is heading in your direction!
RULE 2 – MAX RECOVERY
Speed training is a different beast to fitness training, and this is where a lot of players come unstuck. To follow rule 1, you must be fully recovered and back to your normal breathing rate before performing your next sprint. There is no set recovery time for everyone, as all bodies recover at different rates. Just ensure that you are back to your normal breathing rate before performing your next sprint.
RULE 3- 100% ACCURACY
Speed is a skill, and like any skill, you must master the technique to see improvements and get maximum reward for effort from your training.
When sprinting it is essential that you are using the correct technique, as even a slight lean too far forward or your arms swinging slightly across your body, can be the difference to getting away from a defender or catching a defender.
The fastest rugby players work on their technique every day, so spend time mastering the technique of speed so that the correct technique becomes ingrained into your muscle memory.
RULE 4 – SPRINT WHEN FRESH
When speed training always ensure that it's the first thing you do (obviously after a warm-up). This will help in following rules 1, 2 & 3 above. I see too many players programming strength or power exercises before working on their speed, and this is a recipe for disaster. Doing this will mean your body is fatigued when you eventually get to speed training and result in a sub-par effort with your technique being inaccurate.
Your body must be fresh to reach your maximum speed, so make sure you train speed after a warm-up, then you can work on things like strength, power and endurance afterwards.
RULE 5– RUGBY SPECIFIC
I see too many players training speed as if they are a 100m sprinter. When was the last time you ran from one goal post to the other during a game?
Rugby players generally sprint 10, 20 and maybe 30m at a time during a game. 90% of the time you are in the acceleration phase during a game, so it makes sense to program your speed training over 10, 20 or 30m and not 100m. Of course, you are going to have to train top speed which means you will need to increase the distance but if you are training specific to rugby you need to be in the 10 to 30m range.
As always reach out to me if you have any questions.