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LTPD Pathway
Functional Screening
Anatomical Adaptation
Game Demands
Conditioning for Rugby
Periodisation in Rugby

Training modes for speed

Summary guidelines for speed development

For the Rugby Strength and Conditioning coach, the following practical guidelines are proposed from our previous discussion on the different methods for improving speed elements and in particular acceleration.

Warm up thoroughly

For all speed work, players need to be well warmed up. Warm-up is covered in another part of this course and we recommend that coaches cover this aspect thoroughly.

Use short distances

Distances of up to 30 metres are appropriate for acceleration training for Rugby. These efforts can be completed from a variety of starts; from a standing start, a falling start, from a rolling-start, from a variety of ground-based positions. Later, the coach can advance the player to resisted training methods using, for example, a weighted sled. Note that the weight used should not decrease the player’s sprint time by more than 10%. Weighted vests are an alternative to the weighted sled method. The guidelines suggest a weighted vest between 10 and 20% of body weight for optimum benefits.

Work at maximum pace

Players must run or accelerate as fast and as powerfully as possible. Working at sub-max speed does not really make a player more powerful or faster. However, during resisted acceleration training, the player’s acceleration speed may be reduced. As long as his mechanics are not affected, then this reduction in speed will likely assist with unresisted acceleration power and speed.

Use few repetitions

To develop any element of speed, the player should not be asked to constantly repeat efforts or sprints with minimum recovery between efforts. The number of runs or work efforts should be low so that sufficient recovery occurs. A typical speed acceleration unit may have two sets of three acceleration sprints over a variety of distances. The quality of the effort is the important point here. Note that speed will deteriorate as fatigue builds with an increasing number of maximum effort repetitions.

Ensure good recovery

This key point follows from the previous one regarding limited repetitions. A sufficient recovery is vital between speed efforts to ensure that the following effort also occurs at maximum pace. Players may require up to 3-4 minutes between short sprint – acceleration efforts (5-20 metres) and a longer recovery of between 5 and 6 minutes between intermediate distance efforts (20-30 metres). The coach can time the player accurately if he has access to electronic timing. If not, a hand-held watch is of use. Should the player’s sprint times deteriorate from the first effort to the second effort then it is likely that the recovery duration was insufficient. Knowing your player’s recovery response is important in managing the speed-acceleration training unit.

Assisted training methods

Technical errors may be exaggerated by assisted sprint training and so a player should be technically competent before undertaking assisted sprint training. Also, when performing assisted sprint training, pay particular attention to running form. Assisted sprint training should not alter a player’s running form. If you choose to complete assisted sprint training, then perform this at the beginning of a training session, following a thorough warm-up. Assisted sprint training should not be performed while fatigued. After sprinting with assistance, try to maintain the high speed for another 10 metres without assistance. Gradually progress from 50% to 75% to 100% speed runs over a period of two or three weeks.