Updated: Dec 8, 2021
Stiffness is often seen as a bad word in the sporting world.
No one wants to have stiff joints.
As a Rugby player, you need to be mobile to be able to perform on the field, right?
Yes, this is true for many joints of the body but when it comes to speed, an ankle that twists and crumbles when it strikes the ground will slow you down.
We need stiff ankles.
So, what if working on ankle stiffness will make you faster and enable you to change direction as sharp as a knife?
Now, let’s be very clear here - I’m not saying that poor ankle mobility means you have good ankle stiffness. They are two different things.
While you do need good range of motion in your ankles to get into the correct acceleration and deceleration positions, you must also learn to be able to create stiffness at a drop off a hat if you want to develop explosive rugby speed.
Here is what I mean.
Every stride during a sprint creates force.
The job of the muscles and tendons surrounding your ankle is to absorb these forces then redirect these forces back into the ground.
If your ankles aren’t up to the job, energy will be lost which means a less explosive player.
Here’s a thought for you to ponder on:
Think about trying to sprint on a floor made of pillows vs a rugby field surface.
The instability of the pillows is going to make it a lot harder to sprint fast, isn’t it?
Same goes with loose ankles that can’t absorb force
This also applies to when you change direction.
The ankle must be stiff enough to plant and redirect your body without wasting valuable time and energy.
My favourite exercise to create ankle stiffness in my players is through Pogo Jumps.
Pogo jumps are different to your standard jumps.
Pogo jumps teach you how to absorb force then quickly redirect it.
The goal is to spend as little time as possible on the ground.
Start with a slight bend in the knees and toes up.
Use the balls of your foot (not your knees) to push hard into the ground to get as high as you can.
Imagine you are flipping rocks into the air with your feet.
Here is what it looks like
So now that you know that stiffness is not always a bad word, start adding ankle stiffness to your speed training.
In fact, my 90 Days to Explosive Speed Program will help you develop ankle stiffness in 90 days.
Develop ankle stiffness to become an explosive rugby player at the link below