How Speed Training Helps on the Pitch

by Joanne Heaton

Speed and agility is crucial for all rugby players as the quicker you are, the greater advantage you have on your opponents. Combining sheer strength with the ability to react and change direction at any moment on the pitch is essential for players, which is why speed training is a vital part of training. 

Speed training within rugby needs to be tailored to the player and their personal style, as different positions will have different demands and requirements. Depending on their position, a player could be expected to sprint from just a few yards to the full length of the pitch so it’s important that training is focused on each individual’s needs. Whatever the distance a player is expected to cover on the pitch should be what they are working towards in training. 

Sounds simple but improving speed can only be achieved through hard work, commitment and tenacious training. Tireless drills and relentless training will not only increase your speed but also perfect your technique for faster feet, better coordination and control. The three key areas to consider for rugby speed training are speed, strength and agility.


Speed:

Sounds like stating the obvious but building up your speed and distance through sprints is one of the most effective and common ways to increase foot speed. Run as fast as you can for short bursts, rest and then repeat. Gradually increase your time and distance so that your sprints mirror the distances you will have to cover in your position on the pitch. Plyometric training is also an excellent way of constantly improving your speed and will deliver explosive starts and unrivalled stamina. 

Strength:

Improving your overall muscle strength will, in turn help you to increase your speed. So ensure that you incorporate some overload strength training into your weekly workout. Exercises such as squats, lunges, planks, bench presses and deadlifts will help build muscle in the right areas. Try and do a strength training session at least once or twice a week, but never on consecutive days. Adding equipment such as evasion belts, speed sleds and speed chutes will add resistance, which improves stamina, strength and acceleration as well as speed.

Agility:

Agility is key for rugby players. They need to be able to stop, change direction and sprint at any point so adding agility drills to your training is paramount. Training with foot speed ladders, hurdles and cones all help with improving foot and hand/eye coordination, balance and coordination. Kick-start your workout with a mixture of linear and lateral drills using foot speed ladders. Push off from the balls of your feet, rather than the toes, keep you elbows at 90 degrees and keep your arms and shoulders relaxed at all times. Hurdles will improve high knee power, core strength and balance and will deliver explosive speeds.

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