You may think that tries and penalty kicks are the most exciting parts of watching the games at the Rugby World Cup (www.rugbyworldcup.com) but a match can be won or lost on a scrum.
A scrum offers the teams the chance to gain control of the game. From the outside it may look like a game of push and shove but there’s a lot more to it. The right training – ideally with a sports professional such as a personal trainer – coupled with the right technique, helps players win the ball and gives them a better chance of avoiding injury.
Whether you play rugby at school, at local club level or internationally, you’ll need to work on exercises to improve your skills at the following five scrum techniques.
Pushing strength is key for scrummaging, which is why rugby players carry out resistance training to develop their chest and shoulders for effective and explosive power movements.
Exercises: Overhead press, bench press, plyometric press-up – add a clap to this for additional strength training.
A scrum requires players to remain in position with their legs bent as they push. Squatting exercises (see our blogs on The back squat and Overhead squat analysis) will help build strength in the legs and hips, which allows players to remain in position and keeps the lower part of the body in alignment.
Exercises: Vary your squats by using a back squat and a front squat. A front squat can help you prepare for more advanced exercises like the Olympic Clean. You can also perform Asymetrical exercises– ideal for developing balance and preventing injury.
3. ‘HIP HINGE’
Incorrect posture / bending in a scrummage can lead to injuries and back pain (see our blog on Lower back pain), especially if it causes the scrum to collapse. It is important to master the use of the ‘hip hinge’ allowing you to be flexible and strong in the hips without risking damage to your vertebrae.
Excercises: Good morning – using a bar or with a band under the feet and across the back of the shoulders; Romanian deadlift or stiff-legged deadlift.
4. DEVELOPING CORE STRENGTH
Core strength is essential for every sport and imperative for rugby players entering a scrum as it will allow them to remain in position and, again, help them avoid injury. Good core strength can allow a smaller player to triumph over those with a weight advantage.
Exercises: Crunch, vertical leg crunch, side balance crunch; plank, side plank; bicycle kicks (plus see our blog on Personal Training: Exercises for the core).
5. HAND/WRIST STRENGTH FOR BINDING
Binding holds a scrum together. It requires a firm grip to take hold of a shirt, twist it and hold on, so exercises to develop hand and wrist strength are important for rugby players.
Excercises: Grip hangs – sling a towel over a bar and hang on with both hands. Fingertip push ups. Portable hand grips.
As well as building strength, rugby players should work hard on their technique to ensure that when they are in the scrum, their hips and shoulders are square with the shoulders above the hips at all times, backs are straight, knees and hips bent, weight on the balls of the feet and heads up.
For the psychological side of winning at rugby, take a look at our blog: How tactics can help win the Rugby World Cup.