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The importance of strength and conditioning in rugby
Whether you’re playing competitively or for fun, rugby is a challenging sport. Not only is it high power, but it also demands players have high stamina. You’re expected to run and sprint for up to 80 minutes at a time, knocking over anyone who gets in your way.
To get in your best match shape, it can be useful to introduce strength and conditioning into your training schedule. Not only can it improve game performance but it can also reduce the risk of injury.
The Rugby World Cup kicks off on September 20 with a match up between Japan and Russia. So what better time to talk about how you can improve your own performance. Maybe some regular strength and conditioning sessions are all you need to go from try-ing and failing to playing like a pro.
What is it?
Strength and conditioning combines strength training with aerobic/anaerobic conditioning. It works on the essential skills you need but won’t practice or develop during actual gameplay. It’s supplementary to specific rugby training and will prepare your body for the sport’s physical demands.
Strength training should be a big focus for all rugby players. You want to maximise the amount of force you can produce and absorb during a match. Your strength will determine how well you can tackle, the power behind your movements and your ability to withstand force from others.
Resistance training is a key way to improve strength. You want to work with loads that are 60-80% of your maximum and do 3-4 sets of 6-8 repetitions. The amount of resistance is less important than your technique. You want to always have a full range of motion. So if you ever feel a higher resistance is affecting your technique, bring it down.
As well as power, improving stamina should be a focus. You need to balance aerobic and anaerobic exercise to avoid fatigue during a match. You want to be as explosive in the last 10 minutes as you were at the start.
Aerobic training involves longer periods of moderate intensity, for example, long-distance cycling and running. But because of the stop-and-start nature of rugby, it’s important you combine this with anaerobic training. This involves high-intensity interval training (HIIT) like hill sprints; short bursts of maximum intensity followed by periods of recovery.
Perform HIIT workouts with strength exercises in between and your training sessions will copy the demands of an actual match.
Even if an injury doesn’t send you to the sidelines, it can still ruin your performance. Through strength and conditioning, you prevent any niggling aches or pains from getting worse. And you prepare your body to withstand physical forces, meaning less new injuries.
You want to focus on having a full range of movement, improving your flexibility and stability. Key areas to focus on are your neck, shoulders, core, wrists, and knees. These will be the areas put under the most pressure during a match and are the most prone to injury and overuse. Yoga and Pilates can be helpful for this as well as being relaxing post-workout or match.
Strength and conditioning could take your skills from amateur to expert. Almost 240,000 people in England participated in rugby union in 2018. There’s a lot of competition out there, so it’s important to work your hardest and get in your best shape. You never know, maybe in the future, you’ll be gearing up for your first World Cup match.
Nothing should stand between you and your sporting goals. After all your training, the last thing you want is a mouth injury to stop you from taking part. At OPRO, our mouthguards offer a personalised fit with unrivalled protection and are trusted by England Rugby. You’ll be free to unleash your full power on the competition without holding back. Shop our full range here.