Updated: Feb 20, 2020
When done correctly, jumping drills are amazing value for any rugby player trying to build breakaway speed. In my training sessions, they are an essential component of every program or workshop I conduct.
Jumping drills give you a great bang for your buck, and you don't need any equipment, which means every rugby player should be jumping their way to better on-field performance. How good is that?!
But you need a plan.
Too often I see players doing jumping drills without a plan. They will set out a line of mini-hurdles and jump or hop over them without much thought. They’ll consider the training session a success if they don’t knock over any mini hurdles.
There are two problems with this approach.
The first is that jumping willy-nilly over mini hurdles won’t make you faster. It’s just a fact.
Secondly, and most importantly, doing this will increase your likelihood of injury which no one wants.
Jumping is a skill and like any skill, it needs to be executed correctly to gain maximum benefit and reduce the risk of injury. Performing one little component of the jump technique incorrectly can very easily result in zero speed or power gain. So, the perfect technique is paramount.
To avoid all your hard work and dedication in improving your rugby speed and power go to waste, you need to firstly concentrate on the foundation of jumping.
Jumping involves two components:
1. Producing power (when you jump up into the air)
2. Absorbing power (when you land on the ground)
Jumping is very similar to sprinting. When you sprint, you’re producing power as soon as you drive your knee up during a stride (jump) and you are absorbing power every time your foot strikes the ground during a sprint (land).
WHY IS THE LAND SO IMPORTANT?
Everyone focuses on how high they can jump, yet don’t take landing seriously. You can jump as high as you like but if your landing skills aren’t up to scratch you won’t maximise your quickness on the field.
When you sprint, perform sharp cut or any other fast direction change on the field, poor landing or absorbing technique will result in a lack of explosive power.
On the other hand, if you can quickly absorb power and switch course in the blink of an eye, you are much more likely to create time and space for yourself.
HOW DO I JUMP CORRECTLY?
Step 1: Learn to land (absorb power)
Before you do anything, you need to learn how to land. Landing properly not only sets you up into a strong position for your next jump, but it also reduces impact and stress on your joints especially your knees. Landing is all about absorbing power.
Key points to Landing
- Land softly on the balls of your feet
- Bend your knees and hips as you land to absorb the power and maintain balance
- Look straight ahead
- Pause for 2 seconds before standing upright. This will allow the power you have just absorbed go through your body. Standing up too early will cause you to fall forward and lose balance
So how can you teach your body to withstand very high forces when landing?
Incorporate Depth Drops into your training regime to teach your body how to withstand high forces when landing. These will help your body to develop a solid foundation of effective body control and landing mechanics.
Step 2: Build explosive power (produce power)
Once you have mastered the skill of landing its time to teach your body to explode into the next jump. I understand that this step is where most people start because we've never been taught any different, right? But the reason I need you to do it in this order is this - imagine building a house with a weak foundation. It’s eventually going to fall down, isn't it? We don't want the proverbial 'house' to fall on your lower body, do we? By skipping mastering the correct landing technique you will be working with a weak foundation and not only result in potential injury, but minimal power gains achieved.
To build explosive power, we need to reduce the time your feet make contact with the ground during each jump. We do this by training your muscles to stretch, then shorten quickly which will translate to explosive speed and your ultimate goal.
Your goal is to land softly from the jump then explode up, spending as little time as possible on the ground. When you first start this process, you may feel that your feet get stuck in the ground. Don’t worry because as you practice you will find the ‘sticking’ feeling will start to go, and explosiveness will ensue.
Perform depth jumps to improve your explosiveness off the ground. Remember the key is to spend minimal time on the ground, so as soon as your feet touch the ground, explode up and land with a solid base.
Working on your jumping skill is a simple, equipment-free way to build the difference between being an average player, and an explosively fast rugby player. Don’t forget though you must nail the landing technique first, then the jump – and then as I always say Practice, Practice, Practice.