Nowadays, excelling on the rugby field involves more than just practicing once a week and turning up on game day. Where rugby does rely on skills and technique it also requires players to be in prime physical condition, to be fit, strong, quick and agile whilst also preventing injury. This is achieved through hours of specific strength and conditioning, both on and off the pitch.
To complicate the matters even further for coaches, each on-field position has a different set of requirements, prop forwards’ training for example will be orientated towards power training, for scrummaging, whereas back 3 players (wingers and fullbacks) will focus more on explosivity and speed, for avoiding tackles and beating defenders ball in hand. Having said that one element is common across positions in a rugby team; a strong core.
Why is a strong and functional core so important for rugby players?
Core training for rugby players is crucial because it’s used and is the foundation for all movements in the game; from passing or kicking the rugby ball to jumping in lineout or scrummaging, it is the one element all rugby players should train. Not only does it allow players to gain a strength advantage over their opponents but it is also key in other aspects of a players’ fitness.
Training abdominal muscles and core in an effective way through functional exercises will allow rugby players to improve their kinetic chain. Effectively this means that you are improving your movement patterns and how you different muscle groups are able to work together to generate more power in a more economical way.
An example of this is in running or sprinting, often when training for speed many will focus on the leg movement without looking at the whole picture. Rather sprinting should be seen as a movement produced by a chain (bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons) working together as a system to create the movement. In this case, creating a stable core able to work in synchronisation with your legs and arms will drastically improve your speed. (RunBuzz)
A strong and stable core is one of the most important things you can do to improve body balance and help prevent injuries. Acting as a sort of suspension for your body, strong abdominal muscles will help you stabilise your body whilst absorbing part of the impacts that occur when running, jumping or getting tackled in rugby. As a result the pressure on knees and hips is significantly reduced whilst the amount of strain put on your lower back is also diminished. (Williamson Medical Center)
How to train core for rugby players?
Abdominal muscles and core training for rugby players can be broken down into two sections:
Core stability is the ability to resist unwanted movement at the torso, whilst high levels of force are being applied elsewhere. In other words, core stability is the process of controlling and stabilising your core musculature in order to then be able to generate force through your arms and legs.
In rugby, this happens in almost every movement. For example in a scrum, if you are unable to stabilise your core and your position you will not be able to generate power through your legs to push. Even in running it has been demonstrated that having an improved core stability has a positive effect on running economy and speed.
The best exercises for Core Training for rugby players
Core Workouts For Rugby Players
The Plank Circuit
1 min front, left and right
45s front, left and right
30s front, left and right
20s front, left and right
The Tabata Style Core Circuit
20s bowl hold
20s lateral long lever V-sit – left side
20s lateral long lever V-sit – right side
20s flutter kicks
20s toe taps
20s crunch hold and rotate