For many clubs across the country, it has been just short of six months since they last played a competitive game of rugby but Strength & Conditioning Coach at Leeds Rhinos Dan Grange has offered some innovative ways to freshen up your training sessions.
As a professional strength and conditioning coach, you see a lot of rugby players and naturally, you think about the extent of their athletic potential.
However, you also see a lot of rugby programmes that either doesn’t consider athletic qualities, or only considers strength work in the weight room or conditioning work on the field.
This leaves a big gap in the physical development puzzle and as a former professional rugby player myself, trust me when I say I have never met a player who wouldn’t benefit from an extra yard of pace! Whilst I fully understand and appreciate constraints placed upon coaches at this tough time, I intend to provide an example structure that can be easily implemented within your programme.
In rugby, never has there been a greater need for speed (excuse the pun!).
As the game is evolving, the demand to be fast in all directions has never been as high, for all positions! It is the physical quality that is the ultimate game-changer, as expressions of speed are crucial in nearly all defining moments of the game i.e. tries and big momentum shifts. These moments in the game typically make the difference between winning and losing!
Within an 80-minute game, the actual ball-in-play time is generally only 37 minutes, with typically 45-55% of that being spent in attack or defence.
Within that, the average passage of play is less than only 30 seconds long. The game is evolving to be more and more intermittent in nature, which in simple terms means shorter periods of play, longer periods of “dead-time”. In physical terms, this results in a greater ability to express very high-speed bouts, as a product of long recovery periods. Similarly, a player only has a short passage of play to be able to produce these ‘game-changing” moments, therefore the game demands speed.
Furlough hasn’t turned out the worst... Today I brought out my first ever App, and have people from all over the world already signed up and subscribed to my Speed development programme????????????????— Dan Grange (@d_grange23) September 23, 2020
Today was a good day ???? pic.twitter.com/ZfwFnKC9jy
The game is around 60% unstructured play (i.e. receiving from kicks, turnovers etc.), which means players need to have the ability to perform amongst the chaotic open play. To give our players the best opportunity to succeed, we need them not only to be able to scan, perceive and create options or solutions to whatever problem is in front of them, but also support that with action.
This is exactly what Game-Speed is, it is the ability to execute an effective solution, at the most effective speeds or changes in speed, under whatever level of duress, to solve the problem that is in front of them.
Notice how this is not just a quality for outside backs, all positions need to ability to scan, make and/or take space.
The successful players typically have superior “Game-Speed”. They are able to observe, decide and act faster and more effectively than unsuccessful players. To be able to develop this quality, players must have the physical underpinnings necessary to tolerate and perform the action. These action capabilities afford the athlete the ability to see that option as ‘available’.
“You can only see what you perceive you can do, and you can only do what you can see”
The game is naturally evolving into a repeat speed sport therefore, it demands speed to be successful. To develop Game-Speed, we need to consistently train not only the physical underpinnings to achieve high outputs but the ability to scan and select the most effective option, under pressure and duress. If you’re not trying to implement some exposure to both maximum output sprinting and decision making at maximum outputs, then you may not be giving your players the upmost opportunity to achieve their potential.
“Use it or lose it… train it and gain it”
Here I will outline a simple yet effective way you can start implementing these concepts within your squads training sessions.
The easiest method of implementation is within the warm-up of the session, as high-speed work can prime your players for superior performance within the session. You can split your focus into Linear days and Lateral (or Change of Direction) Days.
It is worth noting if you only have one session a week then you may want to combine the two focuses, but reduces your volumes (reps) of each.
You can split the Game-Speed session into three sections; Prep Drills, races & chases, and speed games of which you can allocate a given amount of time to each section depending on your scenario. I’d realistically recommend 5-8 minutes on each section to provide adequate recovery time between bouts, however I acknowledge the time constraints associated with all levels of the game.
I will outline an example of simple but effective Game-Speed session you can introduce with your team in your next session, and how you can alter the focus.
On a simple level, acceleration is largely determined by horizontal force production. This is a basic concept I term “pushing” to athletes. An easy and simple way of teaching this is through bounding, where the aim is to cover the largest distance each and every step possible.
Prep Drill – 10 Bounds for Distance
Explanation: Give each player a cone. Their task is to get as far as they can in 10 bounds. On their last bound, instruct them to stick the landing and place their cone on the floor. Furthest wins!
Races & Chases
Explanation: This is a very simple section, select a distance or target below 25-30m and race! This can be overloaded by disadvantaging a player by starting him 2-3m behind another player. In terms of pure speed development, this section is certainly the most important! This is the stimulus that will generate an adaptation and a change in their sprint ability.
Drill: 2v2 (+2)
2x Attackers on 22m line. 2x defenders on the 5m line. Optional 2x chasers on the 40m line behind the attackers.
Allocate ‘A’ & ‘B’ to attackers, defenders and chasers. Attacker ‘A’ can only be tagged by Defender ‘A’ and Chaser ‘A’, and Attacker ‘B’ can therefore only be tagged by Defender ‘B” and Chaser ‘B’.
Attackers have to therefore scan and ‘see’ space, decide and select an appropriate movement solution, then perform it. Try prevent any pre-planned routes, and promote scanning for space as it presents itself, perhaps utilising space create through the other players movements.
Throughout this section, limit any instructions and let the players play! This speed games are used far and wide as it is great for players to learn how to see and select the most appropriate option within their capabilities!
Option 1 – 2v2 Accel Speed Game
Option 2 – 2v2 (+2) Accel Speed Game
Hopefully the example session highlights how simple and easy, yet effective, it is to introduce this structure into your programme. Similarly, hopefully it sparks a few ideas in your head that best suits your environment and can develop Game-Speed in your athletes!
I would love to hear how you choose to implement it, and what games you come up with!
Any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me via email or any social media platforms listed below!
Owner of DG Performance
First Team Strength & Conditioning Coach @ Leeds Rhinos
UKSCA Accredited S&C Coach Email: Dan@DanGrangePerformance.com
Facebook: Dan Grange Performance Coach