England U18's in training

It was stated in Part I Emphasis on Technique, when working with youth rugby players there should be a real focus on developing multiple fitness components and athletic abilities. Training should not be narrow-minded but instead should be broad in its content. Development of balance, stability, posture, and movement mechanics should be apparent in all training sessions. However, the time constraints many youth coaches face may lead to all good intentions being lost to the requirement for technical rugby training content.

One way to combat this is to make warm-ups more productive by giving greater thought to their structure and content. The completion of a warm-up before commencing higher intensity exercise is generally an understood requirement that prepares the body both physiologically and psychologically for the training session. Although, warm-ups can end up seeming like a burden for both players and coaches and as such are often given little thought in their planning.  Actually, they are a great opportunity to work on a multitude of important areas that will benefit the all round athleticism of the team. Running mechanics, mobility exercises, low intensity plyometrics, and bodyweight strengthening work can be integrated into the warm-up making giving it far more purpose. In addition, players will be far better prepared both physically and mentally for the rugby content of the session adding to the productivity of this aspect.

Example Warm-up:

1. 4 x Half paced linear acceleration over 20 metres focussing on good running mechanics (Running on balls of the feet, forward lean – driving the ground away, arm drive)

2. Glute Activation Work – Lying leg abductions x 15 each leg

3. Scapula Retraction – Lying angel wings x 15

4. Hip Mobility – Hip Circles x 10 forwards, 10 backwards on each leg – Mountain Climbers x 5 each leg

5. Low Intensity Plyometric – Micro hurdle ankle jumps – 5 sets x 5 hurdles – stick land the last landing

6. High Intensity rugby related aspect e.g. Handling exercise

The example warm-up contains lots of variation and so becomes more enjoyable, but greater than that, each component also has its own purpose and benefit. Move away from the half lap of the pitch and a quick stretch in the corner before training commences. Be imaginative but have a direction and a desired outcome. For example, the half paced linear accelerations can be substituted for a lateral type movement pattern. By directing warm-ups in this way, the athleticism of the squad can be enhanced without encroaching too much on time for the main rugby content. Develop the players’ movement literacy through effective warm-up structures as well as their rugby specific skills and a more athletic team capable of playing exciting rugby.

Mark Williams

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.