When working with young rugby players it should be the aim of the coach to develop all round movement literacy. Young players will benefit from a strength and conditioning program that is not one dimensional with trends towards putting size on but instead improves all aspects of fitness including mobility, running mechanics, speed and agility, and proficient technique of barbell training exercises. These should be the foundations of the strength and conditioning program.
The desired outcome should be the development of players with long term durability and trainability, and this will arm them with a strong basis from which they can continually progress and improve. In the weights room do not become obsessed with lifting numbers and size of the players – this should be discouraged, instead be obsessed with good technique as this will prove much more successful for the young player in the longer term. In rugby many of the body positions regarded as ‘strong’ and most effective are similar to the correct postures required in the weights room in the big exercises such as squats and deadlifts, so the emphasis on technique in the gym will have a positive effect on body positions on the paddock.
Key exercises to develop techniques in:
- Back Squats and Front Squats
- Olympic / Weightlifting exercises e.g. Power Cleans
These exercises will provide a great foundation for the young rugby player. Once proficient in technique these exercises will pay dividends long term and prove invaluable in strength and power development that will have a positive transfer in rugby performance.
Key technique considerations:
- Scapula – shoulder blade retraction
- Big chest
- Natural curvature of the spine at all times – ensure the lower back is not flexed
- Power and strength in the movements comes from the legs
Mark Williams is Head of Rugby and Strength and Conditioning at Seevic College, Essex. Mark has his CSCS accreditation as well as being a UKSCA accredited strength and conditioning coach. Mark is currently studying for his MSc in strength and conditioning at St. Mary’s College, West London. Mark is also current captain for National League 2 South, Southend RFC where he plays loose head prop.