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Rugby fitness training - The core

This can be defined as the strength of the muscles around the mid section that stabilize the hips and spine during movement. Strong core strength is essential to performance as it holds the body still which allows full force transfer. For example, when tackling a player you hit them with your shoulder.

A strong core would allow all the force in your legs to be transmitted through into your shoulder and onto the opponent.

A weak core would not transmit anywhere near the same force and you could see you body buckle and collapse under the pressure often resulting in a missed tackle.

The core muscles relate to amongst others the deep transverse abdominal (below the main abdominal's) pelvic floor muscles (muscles that stop you going to the toilet) deep spinal muscles and the gluteus muscles (buttocks). Through ensuring these muscles are correctly working then improving their strength the body builds a solid foundation upon which to increase the strength of your limbs.

Core exercises

Core training is a subdivision of resistance training. The importance to performance is significant and therefore it is separated out into it's own method. The technique for core exercises are divided into two aspects. Firstly, it is vital to learn how to correctly engage the protective muscles of the midsection. Once achieved the focus is then placed on strengthening these muscles through various exercises.

Core Recruitment

To learn how to correctly recruit the core muscles you must first learn how to hold a neutral spine. This refers to standing with correct posture and thus ensuring all the joints are optimally aligned. To find your neutral spine:

  • Stand with your heels, buttocks, shoulders and head against the wall.
  • With one hand feel how much space there is in the arch of your lower back.
  • A neutral spine should have just enough room for one hand to slide into the arch of the lower back while the heels, buttocks, shoulders and head remain touching the wall.
  • If you cannot get your hand in the arch or there is room for much more than one hand e.g. your fist. Your posture needs to be adjusted, this will come from following the set out stretches and strengthening exercises.

In the neutral spine position you can then activate the core muscles. To do this you need to consciously

  • Breathe in using your diaphragm (pushing your upper stomach outwards).
  • Contract the pelvic floor muscles, by stopping yourself going to the toilet at the back then the front.
  • Draw the stomach area below the belly button into the spine as close as possible. Imagine you are trying to pull on a really tight pair of trousers and must get them over your lower stomach.

In addition to activating the core. It is also necessary to use the larger muscles of the buttock and midsection.

Core strength exercises.

The exercises are designed to challenge the core by using a series of holds and movements which combine your body weight and ideally a Swiss ball. The exercises are each designed to challenge the body to gain core strength in each movement direction. The exercises are progressed through increasing their difficulty.

Variety in the core exercises

How to vary the core exercise by duration, difficulty and type of exercise is covered through the concepts of periodization. Without using these simple yet powerful concepts your strength will be inhibited long term. Read more on periodization.

Combining the techniques

Core training is just one of the different training areas any serious rugby player should focus upon.

The mains areas to focus upon are agility, sprint training, plyometrics, resistance training, aerobic fitness, core and flexibility. The combination of these based upon your specific needs will produce dramatic results.

To optimize the benefits from training any conditioning routine must be backed up by nutrition. The most effective sports nutrition system in the world is metabolic typing. It is used by many professional teams. It is based on discovering your unique nutritional needs.

The final aspect of performance is ensuring the mind is tuned for success. This can be done by using Emotional freedom technique (EFT). A powerful psychological method.


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