It’s that time of year again. Every January, millions of resolutions are made and broken within days. By now you’ve probably heard multiple people say ‘I’m never drinking again’ or ‘I’m done with sugar’.
Why is that? We’d argue that most resolutions fail because they’re elimination-based. Cutting out cigarettes. Eliminating alcohol. Ignoring your worst impulses. Because you haven’t replaced these bad habits with good ones, they’ll creep back up on you.
But instead of making vapid resolutions this year, you know, the ones that get you 12 months of gym membership and 3 weeks of gym attendance, try these rugby-related resolutions in 2020.
There are a couple of ways to go about this. 1. You could start playing on the Wing, thereby cutting back on the number of tackles you need to make. The problem with that strategy is that the tackles you will be presented with will be much more difficult. Besides outside center, wingers probably have the most difficult tackling assignments in the game. You’ll be operating in open space, with fast guys/girls running at you and very little help from anyone besides the touchline.
The other option is to understand how strength and power impact tackling ability and to perform exercises to improve your tackling. Several research papers over the past few years have shown that tackling ability in rugby (and rugby league) is directly correlated with lower-body power. If your lower-body power declines during the season, your tackling ability will as well.
If your resolution is not to miss a tackle this rugby season, keeping your legs strong all year is essential. It’s not good enough to turn up at rugby training on Thursday nights. Whether you’re a Back or a Forward, this means having an in-season gym regime.
While tackling is largely (though not completely) an individual skill, scumming is all about teamwork, co-operation and co-ordination. If your 2020 resolution is not to lose a scrum, you’ll need to be on the same page as the rest of your packmates.
The best way to do this is to isolate the forward pack in a scrum-first environment. Forget handling drills, suicides or fitness testing. Before the nest rugby season starts, get the forward together and run a scrum camp. This dedicated time will allow the forwards to focus on working in unison to win set-piece ball.
Scrum camps will require a base level of physical strength and flexibility. You’re not going to get stronger at scrum camp. But you will learn essential skills like how to create leverage and use your collective finesse to overpower the opposition.
The tackle situation is what makes rugby, rugby. The game they play in heaven is a constant contest for possession that doesn’t stop because the ball carrier’s knee hit the ground. That’s just when things get good! Rucking is one of if not THE most enjoyable aspects of the sport. You can never have too much of a good thing, so we’d encourage you to do as much Rucking as you can this year.
If you’ve ever played the game with a workhorse flanker, you’ve probably seen them tally 20-30 tackles in a game. But less often counted is the staggering number of rucks that some of them will get to. While Backs score the tries, forwards do the hard yards to retain possession long enough for gaps to open in the defensive line. Want your team to score more tries? Well, if you’re a forward, your 2020 resolution needs to be hitting more rucks.
There are two ways to accomplish this. When used in combination, they’ll make you a Rucking machine. 1. improve your sprint endurance. That means being able to replicate dead-start sprints across the field. Don’t know where to start? That’s fine, we’ve got a cardio program already lined up for you.
And 2. be more efficient moving around the field. Getting fitter is a brute force method to hit more Rucks. If you’ve maxed out your cardio improvements (HINT: you probably haven’t, but let’s just say you have) then the next step is to run better support lines thereby reducing the number of meters you need to cover in order to get to the next Ruck.
This one’s going to be tricky. Avoiding injury isn’t always possible. We’re playing a contact sport after all. So you’re going to get hurt at some point in your rugby career. All you can really do is try to minimize the likelihood that this will happen. Lucky for you there are multiple injury vectors that can be reduced or eliminated with the correct approach to training and gameday preparation.
Mobility training should be the first strategy you employ. There’s significant research to suggest that it’s better for rugby players to mobilize than it is to do static stretching. If you take nothing else from this article, remember this item: hamstring injuries are the most common injuries that rugby players sustain at training.
Why is this? Probably a combination of reasons, not least of all is strength imbalances between the Quad and Hamstring. But more likely is the fact that rugby players don’t warm up as well for training as they do for games. Again, the solution is simple, 3-4 sets of Jefferson Curls before your training session can dramatically reduce your risk of hamstring injury and lower back pain. Our training team suggests making them a staple of every pre-training warmup.
But that won’t help you in contact situations will it? The 2nd most likely injury to end your rugby career (after an ACL tear) is a head or neck injury. When you read that, you probably thought of Forwards at scrum time, right? But in fact the worst head and neck injuries occur in players that are on the wing or at fullback. Here is a primer on avoiding head and neck injuries. Use it even if you won’t be scrumming this year.
The obligatory call to #growthegame. Rugby participation, despite a lot of hype about the MLR isn’t doing as well in the US as we’d all like. The governing body has its own challenges, so it’s on all of us as individuals to recruit new rugby players to our clubs. Before you commit to a rugby body as your 2020 resolution, let’s put some time towards getting more people involved in the sport.
The greatest inflow of new rugby players is currently coming through college and high-school programs. High School rugby and football coach David Weitz has a great philosophy for recruiting high-school rugby players. With his help, we put together a downloadable recruiting handbook to help you strategize and execute.
Getting players to their first rugby practice is step #1. Making sure they enjoy themselves and feel a sense of community and support is step #2. After that? The game will win them over. You can focus on getting them to training as your 2020 resolution.
This list wouldn’t be complete without a little vanity. One of the most searched terms on ruckscience.com is “rugby body”. It’s hard to know what people are looking for given how much rugby players bodies have changed since the game went professional in 1994. But we’d speculate that most people wanting a rugby body would like to be leaner, bulkier and more athletic.
So if that’s your resolution for 2020, how do you get a rugby body?
1. Know what point you’re starting from. You can figure this out by performing and tracking your baseline results from these fitness tests. Not everybody starts from the same point when climbing the mountain. Take an honest assessment of where you’re at. Our training app includes several biometric tracking features that can help you.
2. Focus equally on training, diet and sleep. All too often, players wanting to get in shape for rugby will assume they need to training more. That might be true for some, but for others the challenge for 2020 will be eating less and sleeping better.
3. Avoid training injuries. The fastest way to halt progress and reverse gains is to get injured. That’s why elite rugby programs don’t follow a 5×5 protocol. 5×5 is ‘designed’ to enhance skeletal muscle growth with minimal consideration given to the importance of connective tissues. Want a rugby body? Don’t get hurt trying to incline bench 405lbs. Instead, try a performance-focused program, better known as 20-1-20.