Whether you are training for or playing rugby, you should never neglect your warm-up. Warming prepares your muscles and your mind for the challenges to come. A well-executed warm-up should improve your performance and may also reduce your risk of injury.
This is especially true for youth rugby players – they are the future of the sport!
Warm-ups should be dynamic in nature. That means they should involve plenty of movement and many of those movements should mimic what you are about to do. Static jogging and static stretching, two common warm-up ingredients, are not really enough.
Dynamic warm-ups, DWUs for short, are a much better way to prepare your body for rugby training. DWUs ready a player’s body for physical work by:
One way to warm-up for rugby is the RAMP method, discussed in this article. In this instance, RAMP stands for Range of motion, Activation, Movement preparation, and Potentiation. In this article, we’ll focus on A for Activation.
Most rugby training activities and the game itself are very dynamic and explosive. Movements are done quickly and with power. Maximum effort! Life is generally quite sedate, and that means your muscles are in standby mode much of the time. To get them firing with the power and purpose required for optimal performance, your muscles need waking up. This is the aim of activation.
Activation increases the speed of the nerve impulses traveling from your brain to your muscles. Improving communication between brain and muscles means you’ll be able to switch on more motor units at the same time. This takes the brakes off of your performance.
Think of activation like this: In the scrum, if only three players are pushing, your team won’t produce much of a drive. But, if you can get all eight players to push at the same time, much more force is generated.
Activation drills allow you to recruit more motor units so that you can generate more force. They don’t make you stronger; they just allow you to tap into more of your existing strength and power.
A lot of activation drills involve things like plyometrics and Olympic lifting. For most youth players, these methods are too advanced to be safe or practical. Don’t worry though, there are still plenty of youth-friendly activation drills you can use in both the gym and on the pitch. Please Note: Activation drills should be done toward the end of DWU to make sure that the joints and muscles are ready.
Long periods spend sitting mean that the muscles of the glutes and hips are in dire need of a wakeup call. These muscles are crucial not only for power production but also for joint stability. Monster walks are a practical way to fire up the hips and glutes.
Put a resistance band around your knees. Take half-a-dozen steps to your left and then to the right. Keep tension on your band throughout. Do not let your feet come too close together.
While full-on plyometrics are not advisable for youth players, there are still some useful jumping exercises you can do to activate the lower body muscles. Mini-hurdle jumps are a good option.
Place a series of five hurdles about 3-4 feet apart. Using two-footed jumps, leap over each hurdle in turn. Try to minimize ground contact and move quickly from one jump to the next. Do not squat down into each jump. Instead, keep the legs relatively stiff to maximize nervous system and motor unit activation.
Long periods of sitting don’t just affect your lower body; your upper body goes to sleep too. This is especially true of the shoulder girdle and the muscles between the shoulder blades. Activating these muscles will improve shoulder stability and function, and also improve posture.
Hold a resistance band out at shoulder-height. Open your arms and stretch the band out across your chest. Return to the start position and repeat. Keep your shoulders down and back throughout.
To get the most from these and any other muscle activation drills, you should only do enough reps to get the job done. Stop your set before there is any noticeable drop off in performance. The actual number of reps will vary from player to player and exercise to exercise.
Remember, these drills are designed to fire up the nervous system, not build muscle or strength, or improve conditioning. Do as few sets as necessary to achieve the desired result – usually 2-4 will be sufficient.
The focus should always be on the quality of movement and not quantity. Because of this, rests between sets should be long enough to allow for a full recovery. Make more efficient use of time by arranging exercises into non-competing supersets, trisets, or giant sets.
Move quickly from one exercise to another to maintain body temperature and elevated heart rate. Do not put exercises together that overlap and will affect the performance of the next drill. For example, bear crawls, and plyo push-ups would be a poor combination.
Good examples include:
Please see our FREE guide to Strength and Conditioning Training for Youth Rugby Players for more information on age-specific training.