One of the biggest myths that surrounds rugby training workouts is that you cannot lift heavy weights and expect to remain flexible on the field of play.
Strength and suppleness can go hand in hand; when you work your muscle groups, you are also using connective tissue such as tendons and ligaments to exert the force to overcome an external load (eg a dumbbell).
Flexibility depends on the elasticity and stretch of the connective tissue to boost the mobility of your joints. Working on your strength and flexibility therefore depends on the same thing – a full range of movement.
Full range of motion resistance training improves flexibility in the same way stretches and yoga do, but with the added benefit of increasing your strength. Keep up the static stretches after training, though, to aid your post-workout recovery programme.
Here are some workouts to improve both your strength and your flexibility:
Weightlifting at full stretch
A super-set is when you perform two exercises in a row without a rest. Start off with 1-2 supersets before graduating to 2-3 with practice; rest for a minute and a half after each super-set and try to do 12-15 reps of each exercise, keeping a full range of movement going.
The first super-set will be back squats followed by pulley lunge to row. For the squats, rest a barbell across the back of your shoulders, with your palms facing outwards just over than shoulder-width apart and your back straight, your head up and your chest out.
Lower yourself so that your thighs are parallel to the ground, all the while engaging your abs. Return to your original position gently. Then, without a break, switch into the second part of your super-set – the pulley lunge to row.
Grab the pulley handle with your left hand, lowering your left knee back towards the floor to create a lunge. Pull the handle all the way back while extending your leg. Keep your arm close to your body and your hips stable.
Your back should be straight and your head up. Now switch sides, pulling with your right hand and dragging your right leg back, so your left leg is bent at the knee and your left thigh parallel to the floor.
Good morning, bench press
Another super-set is build up your weight-training flexibility consists of bench presses followed by Good Morning reps.
The bench press is a staple of the rugby player’s weights regime – hold the barbell at chest level and keep your palms facing out and at more than shoulder-width on the bar. Plant your feet flat on the floor and keep your hips and back on the bench. Contract your scapula when the bar is down and go gently.
Then, again without a pause, snap into your Good Mornings. Resting the barbells on the back of your shoulders, keep your chest up, your back straight and your core muscles engaged. Push your hips back and bend down at the waist as much as you can, with your back remaining straight.
Concentrate on using your glutes and hamstrings, so that your lower back is relatively stress-free. Your hips should act as a hinge. Revert to your original stance. Again, rest for 90 seconds, only when each super-set has been performed.
Getting flexible through resistance
The bicep curl relies on a full range of movement for its efficacy – when the muscle is at its resting length, you will have the greatest mechanical advantage. Try a set of 12-15 reps of curls, finishing in the shoulder-press position (ie bring the barbells from your thighs to your shoulders by squeezing your biceps and bending your arms from fully extended to fully bent).
Keep your core tight as you push the barbells up from your shoulders into the air, with your elbows beside your ears and your palms facing out. Then, without a break, move into walking lunges, keeping your weight on your heels, the barbells by your side, your head up and your left thigh parallel to the floor.
Your left knee should be bent at 90 degrees and your right leg almost fully extended behind you, with the knee hovering just above the floor. Return to your standing position and then switch legs. Your back should remain straight throughout. This is your third super-set for resistance training and strength training.
Flexibility after your workout
Flexibility can be part of your work out, and should be part of your routine. Make sure a cool down is part of your training regime, and look into foam rolling as a practice to help alleviate any pains and improve blood flow post work out.