Speed is one of the most intimidating factors in any sport. The faster you can sprint, the better you can intercept and evade the opposition, and be in the right place at the right time to attack, score, or defend.

Check out this video to see how speed kills the opposition:

All rugby players need at least a decent level of speed, even props. But as the outside men in the back line, wingers need it in spades, and are usually the fastest men on the pitch.

While speed is a natural attribute, it can also be trained. By increasing power, strength, leg speed, and improving technique, you can develop your sprinting speed. If course, it’s not enough to be able to sprint fast in a straight line; wingers need to be elusive too, and that means agility training.

This basic weekly training program is designed to address all of these needs.

Workout 1

Strength and power complexes (e.g. Monday)

Strength and power complexes prime your nervous system for maximal speed and force development. Because of a phenomenon called PAP, short for post-activation potential, your muscles generate can more force more quickly after they’ve been exposed to a very heavy load. It’s a bit like when you wear a heavy rucksack and then, after taking it off, feel very light on your feet.

Do this workout once a week, after a warm up consisting of a few minutes light cardio, dynamic stretching, and foam rolling. Only work sets are listed; do a few warm up sets with a light weight to ease yourself into the main session.

 

Exercise

Reps

Sets

Recovery

1aBack squats

3

4

2 minutes

1bSquat jumps

10

2 minutes

2aDeadlifts

3

4

2 minutes

2bPower clean from hang

6

2 minutes

3aBench press

3

4

2 minutes

3bPlyo push-ups

8

2 minutes

4aChin/pull-ups – weighted

3

4

2 minutes

4bMedicine ball slams

10

2 minutes

For the strength exercises, designated a) in the above chart, do three reps with your five-rep maximum, or around 85% of your 1RM. This should feel heavy, but not ridiculously so. Lower the weight under control, but then try to lift it as fast as you can. This will fire up your nervous system to maximize the performance of the power exercise that follows.

With the power exercises, which are designated b), stop your set as soon as you are unable to move at maximal speed. Your focus should be maximal velocity and movement quality, and not quantity. If in doubt, stop your set sooner and not later. If you start to slow down and are grinding out the reps, you are training yourself to go slower, and not faster.

Workout 2

Acceleration and agility (e.g. Wednesday)

Your top speed is almost immaterial if you can’t reach it quickly, or avoid running straight into the opposition. Track sprinters have the luxury of starting from blocks, and running in a straight line; ruggers do not. For this reason, at least some of your sprint training needs to replicate these demands, and not just focus in straight lie speed.

Sprint training will definitely increase your speed, but you’ll get a whole lot faster if you also improve your sprint technique. For this reason, warming up for sprint workouts should always include drills to develop and reinforce proper technique.

After a general warm up consisting of light cardio, and dynamic stretching, do the following drills:

1. Kneeling arm action

Kneel down so your legs are bent to 90-degrees, thighs vertical. This eliminates your legs so you are free to concentrate on your upper body. Staying tall, pump your arms to simulate your normal arm action. Keep your shoulders down, arms and hands relaxed, driving your arms forward and back. Do 15 seconds on, 30 seconds off, repeated four times.

2. Knee-ups and butt kickers

These two drills will increase range of motion and leg speed. Over ten meters, take small, fast, high steps. Pump your arms and legs as fast as you can, bringing your knees up to hip-height each strep. Turn around and run back but, this time, bring your heels up to your butt. Rest 30-60 seconds and repeat for three more sets.

3. High knee power skips

This exercise develops leg drive and knee lift. Over 20-30 meters, skip both high and far, concentrating on driving both back and up with your legs, and a powerful arm action. Do four sets. See this exercise in action here:

On completion of your extended warm up, do the following exercises.

1. Push-up sprints

This drill replicates recovering after a tackle, regaining your feet, and getting back into the game.

Adopt the push-up position and do three quick reps. On completion, jump to your feet and sprint 15 meters. Focus on staying low over the first 7-10 meters, before coming more upright. Walk back to the start and repeat four more times to make five reps. After your fifth rep, rest three minutes, and then do two more sets or five sprints.

Make this drill more rugby specific by adding a turn i.e. after your push-ups, turn and sprint to the left, right, and behind you.

2. Flying zigzag sprints

This drill increases both acceleration and your ability to swerve.

Place ten cones two meters apart and then move back ten meters. Jog forward and then on reaching the cones, sprint through them. After the last cone, sprint forward five meters. Walk back to the start and repeat twice more to make three reps. Rest three minutes and then do two more sets. Carry a rugby ball to increase specificity.

flying zigzag spring for rugby speed

3. Pick-ups

The aim of this drill is to develop your ability to accelerate and decelerate at will. Place three markers ten meters apart. Sprint out to the first maker, decelerate slightly to the next marker, and then accelerate to the final marker. Walk back to recover and repeat twice more. Rest 2-3 minutes, and then do two more sets.

4. T sprints – your final exercise will improve forward, sideways and backwards sprinting speed.

Mark out a T shape using cones – each line should be 10 meters in length.

Stand at the base of the T in a “ready to go” position (aka athletic stance). On the command “go” sprint forwards as fast as possible to the top of the T.

Side step to your right until you reach the right–hand marker cone.

Immediately side step to your left until you reach the furthest left-hand marker cone.

Side step to the right to return to the middle.

Run backwards to the start point.

Rest 1-2 minutes and repeat four more times.

Workout 3

Sprint endurance and conditioning (e.g. Friday)

This workout is designed to increase not just speed, but your ability to maintain that speed over longer distances. It’s also an effective rugby-specific conditioning workout. Maximize your performance by also focusing on your technique.

After a general warm up consisting of light cardio, and dynamic stretching, do the following drills:

1. Kneeling arm action

Kneel down so your legs are bent to 90-degrees, thighs vertical. This eliminates your legs so you are free to concentrate on your upper body. Staying tall, pump your arms to simulate your normal arm action. Keep your shoulders down, arms and hands relaxed, while driving your elbows back. Do 15 seconds on, 30 seconds off, repeated four times.

2. Knee-ups and butt kickers

These two drills will increase range of motion and leg speed. Over ten meters, take small, fast, high steps. Pump your arms and legs as fast as you can, bringing your knees up to hip-height each strep. Turn around and run back but this time, bring your heels up to your butt. Rest 30-60 seconds and repeat for four sets.

3. High knee power skips

This exercise develops leg drive and knee lift. Over 20-30 meters, skip both high and far, concentrating on driving both back and up with your legs, and a powerful arm action. Do four sets.

On completion of your extended warm up, do the following:

  • 5 x 30 meters
  • 5 x 60 meters
  • 5 x 80 meters

Walk for around one minute to recover between reps, and 3-5 minutes before moving onto the next distance. For variety, perform these sprints on a slight incline to make them harder, or a slight decline to increase stride length and leg speed. Also practice speed changes by alternating between 80-100% speed for 1-2 reps per set.

Speed workouts are better with Twitch Faster. Designed to maximize the effect of your workout, Twitch Faster may increase mental and physical performance so you can give your training your all. After your workout, boost recovery with Post Rugby, specially formulated for the demands of playing and training for rugby.

Photo Credit: @marfotos

AUTHOR

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We are building the most comprehensive library of training materials for amateur and pro rugby players. With protocols for hitting training goals including power, agility and strength. Our team consists of elite-level trainers from rugby, S&C, powerlifting and performance nutrition backgrounds.