Rugby is a sport that requires athletes to maintain a high level of physical strength, endurance and speed. But because it is a contact sport that can take a heavy toll on muscles, bones and joints, rugby players must also be very flexible. Proper stretching habits will help players reach their potential and prevent dangerous injuries common to the sport.
Because rugby involves nearly constant jogging, running and sprinting, lower body flexibility is paramount. Stretches for the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and gluteus muscles, such as the Standing Quad Stretch, Scissor Hamstring Stretch and Lying Glute Stretch, will improve running and tackling form. Hip and groin stretches, such as the Hip Flexor Lunge and Butterfly Stretch, will improve running as well as contact plays like rucking. Also, it is a good idea to do Ankle and Knee Circles to loosen these joints, which are often strained during contact or side-to-side motion.
Although more time is spent running in a game than tackling, contact is still the source of most rugby injuries. The legs are an important source of the power needed to affect good tackles, but the brunt of the force is felt on the upper bodies of both the tackler and the person tackled. The lower back, shoulders and neck are all vulnerable during heavy contact, especially when improper form is used. Stretching these areas with, for example, Supine Lower Back Stretch, Lateral Neck Flexors and Arm Circles, will decrease the likelihood of injury during impact.
Dynamic Warm-Up Stretching
Most of the examples previously mentioned are static stretches and are good for improving a player’s range of motion over the long term, but they are less effective at preparing the body just before practice and games. For short-term preparation, do dynamic stretches as part of a warm-up routine that targets the entire body. Examples of dynamic or moving stretches include Jumping Knee Raises, Lunges, Leg Swings, Hindu Pushups and Chest Hugs. An effective shoulder warm-up involves making light contact with tackling pads, which readies the deltoids and trapezius muscles for the rigors of play.
You should do dynamic stretches as part of a thorough warm-up before vigorous training or playing a game; do static stretches immediately after training and playing. Stretching after exercise ensures that your muscles are warm and ready for flexibility training, and lengthening of the muscle after repeated contractions will aid recovery. Yoga is excellent for flexibility and mobility training, and it may provide invaluable improvements to the balance and the stabilization of vulnerable joints like the knees, ankles and wrists, which can be easily injured.
- RFU.com: Flexibility for Rugby Players
- FitDay.com: 4 Ways to Stretch Your Hip Flexor
- ExRx.net: Exercise & Muscle Directory
- NSCA’s Essentials of Personal Training, Second Edition; Jared W. Coburn and Moh H. Malek
- ParkwayPhysiotherapy.ca: Stretching Guide for Rugby