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Rugby is an intensely physical sport, the forces that act upon our bodies are stressful for joints and muscles, this stress can even put us at risk of injury. Tag rugby, despite its reduced physicality, places a huge emphasis on speed, acceleration, deceleration and changing direction. We can experience up to 7 times our bodyweight when we are sprinting and changing direction, it goes without saying that if you were to use those kinds of weights in the gym we would all struggle!
How to bulletproof your body against the risks and improve performance:
Technique – running, side stepping and stopping suddenly are all skills, that means that we can practice them. With practice comes control and also efficiency, the combination is a great weapon against injury. Control means that the right muscles and systems will kick in at the right moments and work together to manage the stresses we are under at the time, for instance, when we side step. This means that your ankles and knees are less likely to be overwhelmed by the forces and twist or sprain.
Pointers when sidestepping
– chop your stride, shorter steps decelerates and dissipates force
– lean your body in the direction you want to go, gravity will then help you accelerate
Strength – The stronger you are the more easily you will be able to move your own bodyweight around. The stronger player will generate more force, and more force means faster acceleration, deceleration and sharper sidesteps. The stronger your muscles, the easier the technique work we’ve already discussed above will feel. If you want to score lots of tries and leave people in your wake down the wing then strength and power is what you’ll need in abundance.
Pointers for strength
– lifting heavy weights will make you stronger, but be progressive and gradually increase the load over weeks, it takes time for your body to adapt – Focus on squats, deadlifts and lunges for rugby
Mobility – Mobility to prevent injury is about getting it right, the goldilocks paradigm if you will. Too much can be detrimental, too little can also increase our risk on injury. For most of us, a lifestyle spending more time sitting than perhaps we were designed for means that the risks associated with being too mobile aren’t likely to be a problem, however, not having enough flexibility makes us somewhat fragile. Muscle need to be elastic to function properly, if we lack mobility, muscle can more easily be susceptible to pulls and tears.
Pointers for mobility
– Movement beats static stretching – before exercise, move and stretch at the same time rather than sitting and stretching, this has the added benefit of increasing blood flow and muscle
– Focus on hips, ankles and the spine
Warm ups – Warm ups serve several purposes, psychologically then can focus us on what we’re doing, giving us an edge over the opposition, both from a performance perspective but also, warm ups can alter us to parts of our bodies that feel stiff and therefore can help us avoid injury too.
Pointers for warm ups
- – Make them relevant – a slow jog does very little to mimic what you’re about to do, gradually pick up the pace to match game intensity, 10 minutes should do it
- – Combine, stretches and slower movements to increase mobility, then increase the speed of movements, incorporating changes of direction and differing speeds, finish at game intensity so there is a smooth transition
Recovery – Perhaps one of the most overlooked aspects on performance and injury prevention. If sore muscles get left to ache, the repair process that causes the soreness also over time tightens muscles and inhibits mobility. Strength training can be hard work with muscle soreness and leave us vulnerable to injury risk. Plenty of water and food alongside: massages, light movement and mobility exercises will have you back on the pitch faster and more safely than a few pints and a good old whinge about the pain.
Pointers for recovery
- – movement, increases blood flow and aids muscle recovery, it should be gentle and focused on stretches and mobility
- sleep helps the bodies natural repair process
- – fuel – food provides the building block for the body to start to repair any damage done by intense exercise
Thank you Russ Harris our Rugby Fitness Instructor/Coach (MSc in fitness and conditioning)-if you would like more information on Russ and his profile you can find him on FB of TWR or email firstname.lastname@example.org