Fitness Requirements for Rugby

Cardio-respiratory endurance is the heart’s ability to deliver blood to working muscles and their ability to use it. It is related to the VO2 Max, this is the volume of oxygen you can consume while exercising at your maximum capacity, and the strength of your heart. It is very important for back-row players in rugby, because they and the scrum half probably work the hardest during the game. If their cardio-respiratory endurance were low, they would not be able to sustain a high enough level of work to be effective throughout the game.

Muscular Endurance Muscular endurance is defined as the ability to exert a force many times over; it is strongly linked to cardio-respiratory endurance because even if the muscle is strong enough to continue, it cannot work if it hasn’t enough oxygen or glucose. It is particularly important in rugby especially during long periods of play when there is no break between rucks and mauls. My leg muscles are almost constantly working, moving me from ruck to ruck and helping me to clear out the opposition with my shoulders and upper body muscles.

Muscular Strength Muscular strength is the ability to exert a force against a resistance. It can be numerically defined as the maximum force that can be exerted in a single contraction. Strength is proportional to power and muscular endurance; one cannot be high without the others also being high. It is a vital attribute in rugby, and players in all positions should have all-round body strength, especially in the legs and shoulders. Strength is important in almost every aspect of rugby; from a fly half making a long pass to a prop being able to drive his opposition off the ball. It is important in my position, particularly during rucks and mauls. I need strength to be able to rip the ball out or drive other forwards off the ball.

Flexibility is the ability to achieve an extended range of motion around a joint, without being impeded by excess tissue. This is not a vital aspect of fitness for rugby; it can even be a drawback. Indeed, a prop with flexible shoulders is not an asset to his team. However a basic flexibility of joints, ligaments and tendons all over the body is useful as it can help prevent injury. Body composition refers to the athlete’s level of body fat. Although the extra weight from body fat would be an advantage when using static strength, it is very much a disadvantage because of the amount of work a flanker has to do. The distance over the ground a flanker has to run during a game is very large and the extra weight would slow me down and increase the amount of energy I would have to use. Therefore it is important for a flanker to have as low a body fat percentage as possible.

Skill Related Agility

Agility is the ability to change the direction of the body in an efficient and effective manner. This is especially important for backs in rugby whilst running with the ball, but is less important for my position. However it can be important when making tackles. If the opponent is trying to side step before I make a tackle, I will have to quickly move my body in order to tackle him as he changes direction.

Balance is the ability to maintain equilibrium when stationary of moving (i.e. not to fall over) through the co-ordinated actions of our sensory functions (eyes, ears and the proprioceptive organs in our joints). It is important for forwards to keep their balance in rucks or scrums, whilst putting all their strength into pushing. If they lose balance in one of these situations, they could give away a penalty. Also when being tackled it is important for all players to be able to keep their balance for as long as possible and to be able to fall to the ground safely and in strong positions so that the ball can be recycled.

Co-ordination is the ability to control the movement of the body in co-operation with the body’s sensory functions. Co-ordination is important in all sports, as it is in rugby. The best player in the world would be useless to a team if he could not catch or pass the ball accurately. The player with kicking responsibilities needs good co-ordination in order to kick the ball accurately. Co-ordination is important in other areas too and it helps with balance, however highly tuned co-ordination is not vital for a flanker.

Power is the amount of weight that you can move in a certain period of time. It is related to strength and speed. It is very important for all positions in rugby; as a flanker it is important in the tackle to effectively knock the attacker back to create potential turnovers, the ruck so that opposition can be pushed off the ball very quickly and while ball carrying to break tackles. Forwards with power are an essential part of a strong team. The forwards with most power can drive the opposition over the gain-line, winning lots of ball, for the hopefully powerful backs to use.

My reaction speed is the time in which it takes me to react to changing situations around me. It can be improved with general fitness. It is important in rugby because of the speed at which the game is played. The ball can move halfway across the pitch in a split-second, so to act towards these changing situations efficiently I have to react to them instantly. It is particularly important to flankers, as most of their work is at the breakdown where the ball is most unpredictable. If the ball is lost and is rolling on the floor in one of these situations, it is the flanker’s job to dive on the ball and protect it from the opposition.

Speed is the ability to move all or part of the body quickly. It can be over a very short distance: this is important for the wingers and other running backs when sprinting past or round defenders or running back to cover. This kind of speed is related to the ATP-PC system. Speed over a longer distance is more important for flankers and other back-row players, to follow the ball all over the pitch so they can be at every breakdown as quickly as possible. It works hand in hand with cardio-respiratory endurance. Speed is also be a combination of them both. Both of these parts are integral parts of fitness for any standard of rugby.

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