My Speed & Agility workshops, and online speed programs are great for Rugby and League players to develop knowledge on the technique of speed and change of direction, along with how to develop strength, power and mobility, but this is only half the process of becoming the best Rugby player you can be.
The real work begins when the participants have left the workshop, or started training with the online program. They know the drills/exercises and they have the optimum reps/sets to follow. However, they often fall short when it comes to one thing….
Practice, practice, practice !
I keep drumming it into the athletes I coach, and I know it can sometimes feel monotonous but the result of repetition is remarkable.
Repetition will ensure that the technique becomes ingrained into your muscle memory. Thus, the speed technique will become second nature to your body, and you will no longer have to “think” what you need to be doing during a game to be explosively fast.
For example, every time either Perry Baker (fastest Rugby 7’s player on the planet), or Josh Addo-Carr (fastest player in the NRL), receive the ball and put on the after-burners, the technique of speed is effortless. They simply don’t need to think about it!
So What is Muscle Memory?
Muscle memory is the ability to perform a skill without having to think about it. It’s second nature. This is achieved through repeating a skill over and over again. It is your muscles knowing what to do and when to do it, so you don't have to 'think about it'.
The way it works is that when you first learn a technique, in this case ‘acceleration’, the improvements are rapid because your body is now aware of the correct technique.
Because the improvements happen fast, it is also the most intense learning phase of muscle memory which means you are coordinating muscles in a way that you have never experienced before. You may feel uncoordinated and weird, but this is a good thing.
When this happens with my rugby speed athletes, I tell them that it means their body is doing something it’s never done before, and it can only mean one great thing…. improvement.
The good news is that as you practice week after week, the picture that you have of the technique in your brain starts to match your actions. Eventually you start to reach a level of expertise and the technique of acceleration becomes automatic. I generally find this happens around the 4-week mark with my rugby speed athletes.
Important things to think about
CORRECT FORM – It is so important that you are practising the correct technique. Any flaws in your technique will become bad habits, and believe me, it takes a long time to change a bad habit.
EXPERT ADVICE – We all know that You Tube Videos and simple Google searches will offer ways to improve your technique, but nothing beats an expert analysing your technique. Work with a qualified speed coach who can break down your technique and point out your weaknesses (you could always try The Rugby Speed Coach!!!)
PRACTICE – Practice, practice and practice some more. The more you repeat a technique, the sooner it becomes a part of your muscle memory, and becomes automatic.
The key to you making the technique of speed an automatic movement, and ingrained in your muscles, is to repeat the skill over and over again. There is no other way!
A good start is to train speed at least 2 to 3 times a week whether it be during your existing training sessions, or by doing extras down at the local park. It generally takes 4 weeks for a technique to become automatic so don’t give up early.
Persist and watch your speed training transfer to the footy field. Professional players like Josh Addo-Carr do their speed training outside of their regular team training sessions and have their own speed coach. Look where these extra speed training sessions have taken Josh – the fastest player in the NRL. You too can be the fastest player on the field.