Jan Van Rooyen – Stretching Your Warmup


Stretching your Warmup…

It is finally that time of the season… across the country, boys are packing away their spikes and bats lacing up their boots. Rugby season starts in all earnest this month, and I thought it a great time to discuss warm-up for practices and matches. I’ll start by discussing some thoughts on Stretching, discuss the duration of my match day warmups, rearranging a traditional warmup and then end with a few ideas on how to use your practice warmup to work on conditioning aspects.

Please stop Stretching!

A very thorough study, published in 2015, had some earth-shaking results for the S&C community. The study found that static stretching (Holding a muscle in a stretched position for 10 to 50 seconds) led to an average 3.7% reduction in performance of Speed (1.7%), Strength (4.8%) and Muscle Contraction (4.3%) tasks.

Furthermore, a study in 2010 found that the positive effects on mobility of a single static stretching session lasted only 6 minutes! The opposite was true for dynamic stretching (Continually moving muscles throughout a range of motion). This led to an average 1.7% improvement in speed (1.4%) and strength (2.1%) activities. Dynamic stretching also led to an increase in core temperature which in turn increases nerve conduction, energy production and muscle activation.

Science makes it clear that warmup must move away from static stretching and promote dynamic movements. It does take some creative thought for some muscle groups, but there is a massive amount of info available online. Coaches are also more than welcome to contact me for advice.

Short and Sweet

We recently overhauled our match day warmup. We have cut our entire matchday warmup, including the split (more on that later) to 21 minutes. I have seen numerous teams out on the field more than 60 minutes before kick-off. Hookers throwing 30 times, kickers repeatedly striking from the same spot over and over whilst the sun slowly drains their energy and nerves build up in the pit of their stomachs.

Our current matchday warmup looks like this:

32 Minutes to kick-off: Hookers and Goal - Kickers (3 Minutes)
29 Minutes to kick-off: Directional drills, aerobic warmup (2 Minutes)
27 Minutes to kick-off: Dynamic Stretching, player driven (2 Minutes)
25 Minutes to kick-off: Individual Skills (2 Minutes)
Lineout Jacking, Throwing, kicking out of hand, Passing, Poaching
23 Minutes to kick-off: Sprinting and Jumping (Explosive) (1 Minute)
22 Minutes to kick-off: Ball Handling, Attack Shape (3 Minutes)
19 Minutes to kick-off: Split (7 Minutes)
12 Minutes to kick-off: Contact Prep and Explosive (2 Minutes)
Grapple, Pummel, Wrestling,
10 Minutes to kick-off: Full Contact Attack vs Defence (2 Minutes)
8 Minutes to kick-off: Changing Room, Final Words

Start with the end in mind
Traditionally, a coach will finish the entire warmup before the team then splits into units. The warmup gradually builds up intensity towards kick-off, only for the intensity to fall flat when players move off into lineouts or launch plays.

I changed this around a few years back, moving the split into the middle of the warmup, before players come back to me to complete their contact prep and high-intensity part of the warmup. We also do two minutes of full contact attack vs defence where players get stuck into each other. Hopefully, this leads to a testosterone response from players before kick-off.

Matchday warmup should always start with the end in mind, and gradually build up intensity towards kick-off.
Stealing Time

This is more aimed at the S&C Trainers out there.

Every head coach, whether at school, varsity, a club or professional level, is pressed for time. There is always more to do than time allows. Add to that the demands from the forward's coach, backline coach, scrumming coach, breakdown coach and defence coach. All this translates to the S&C trainer usually falling to the back of the line.

I have started using my 15 minutes of warmup daily to work on small conditioning aspects. 8 Minutes is more than enough to get the body moving and warm, so I have started using the remaining 7 minutes for special skills like speed work, change of direction drills, agility, plyometrics and even some small-sided conditioning games. Do not give up your time! There is always something more that can be done.

Enjoy the early season matches, may it be injury-free and full of running rugby!

*Jan van Rooyen is the Conditioning Specialist for Hoërskool Monument Rugby and the Golden Lions u18 Schoolboy teams. In his spare time, he runs StrapFIT Sports Strapping Suppliers, and if there is any time left, he goes running