Strength and Power Training for Rugby
Rugby is a collision based sport in which strength and power levels are hugely important for performance. Improving these qualities will transfer over to increased sprint speed, jump height and tackle breaking ability to name just a few. It is a hugely in depth topic so in this blog I am going to highlight some of the basic guidelines
Why is Strength Important?
Building a good level of strength is always the first priority. Strength is the ability to produce force, and power is your ability to express that force over as short a time frame as possible. Therefore, strength is the foundational quality that affects your ability to increase other physical qualities such as power and speed. That’s why we always aim to increase strength first as doing so will indirectly increase your power levels as you will have a higher capacity to produce force.
What Exercises Should We Use?
Compound exercises will have a greater transfer over to the sport than isolation exercises as basically all movements in rugby are done using more than one joint in the body e.g sprinting, jumping, tackling, rucking, passing etc. Improving technique and gaining strength in exercises such as the squat, deadlift, RDL, hip thrust, bench press, overhead press, chin up and rowing variations will do 90% of the job. Now of course there are many specific exercises that an athlete will benefit from but their use is dependant upon an individual’s ability level, weak points, position and injury history as well as many other factors. They are out of the scope of this blog and a 300 page book may be more suitable.
Why is Power Important?
As mentioned previously, strength sets the foundation but power is what makes the real difference in terms of on-field performance. If two athletes have the same level of strength but one is able to express that force over a shorter period of time, he will be the one who runs faster and jumps higher. Once an adequate level of strength has been built, it is crucial that we enhance an athlete’s ability to utilise that increased force producing capability.
What Exercises Should We Use?
When starting power movements, the experience and ability level of the athlete will dictate the intensity of the movement. Vertical, horizontal and single leg power movements are particularly useful for increasing jump height and sprint speed in rugby. An example of vertical power movements are box jumps (low, medium and high intensity), squat jumps, countermovement jumps, drop jumps and olympic lift variations such as power cleans. Horizontal power movements may include standing long jumps and high velocity bridge variations to name a few. Utilising similar vertical and horizontal exercises in single leg movements will also benefit the athlete as rugby is a multidirectional sport often requiring the use of one limb at a time. The exercises named above (as well as many others) should be carefully chosen and implemented based on the athletes ability level, time of the season, phase of the program, previous training history, injury history, landing mechanics as well as many other factors. Thats where a coach who understands the complexities of training athletes makes a huge difference in optimising their physical development.