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Developing Linear Speed For Rugby

England Under 18 players take part in training

Photo: Getty Images

Improving linear speed depends upon improving stride length and stride frequency. An increase in stride length is achieved by increasing the strength of the leg so that the body is propelled further with each stride, or by increasing the range of motion around the hip musculature. The key factor is the magnitude of the force applied to the ground with each stride, and the rate at which it is applied.

Methods of improving speed strength

  • Strength training
  • Resisted running: the use of weighted sledges, weighted vests, harnesses, parachutes and running powerfully up short hills or stadium steps
  • Plyometrics: plyometric training is used to develop explosive power. At first known simply as jump training, it is dependent upon the stretch-shortening cycle. (This is the eccentric then concentric action of a muscle during a particular action.) A progressive plyometric programme will stimulate neural changes that enable the muscle to respond more rapidly and powerfully

Methods of improving stride frequency

Stride frequency is more difficult to improve and great care must be taken to avoid injury. However, increasingly, evidence suggests that quick elite team sport athletes have greater acceleration due to higher stride frequency caused by spending less time on the ground. It was suggested that increased lower limb musculotendinous stiffness might be an advantage by which reduced contact times can be achieved during sprinting.

  • Over-speed bands (bungee cords)
  • Downhill running (the slope should be not greater than five degrees)
  • Towing – athletes have been towed behind cars and motorbikes with cords at speeds slightly greater than their maximum
  • Treadmill – a player can run for short bursts at speeds just greater than his maximum
  • Plyometrics - plyometric training will enhance stride frequency by reducing ground contact time

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