Now we’re in the middle of the rugby Six Nations championship, I wonder how many young people will be inspired to have a go after school or to go down to their local rugby club for an open day? As it’s such a physical sport where injuries are easy to pick up, I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk about the importance of warming up before play and and how to do it correctly, which is particularly relevant during the colder months.
Key benefits of warming up
Just about every muscle in the body comes into play for rugby, so it’s very important to make sure they are all properly warmed up and ready to play so that you reduce the risk of injury. This is perhaps the most obvious benefit for warming up, but here are some others in case you’re not convinced:
  • Raises body temperature which makes muscles more elastic and movement more efficient.
  • Stimulates the heart and lungs by increasing blood flow and breathing rate (which is good for you even if you don’t play rugby!)
  • Improves reaction speed by stimulating the nervous system.
  • Boosts mental preparation; people often forget the mental effects warming up has on a player. If players warm up as a team, this really helps them feel mentally prepared for a match.
A typical rugby warm up routine
Although it depends to some extent on the player, the warm up should usually last for 10-20 minutes, starting with low intensity exercises and gradually work up to more high intensity work. Light jogging around the pitch is a great way to begin a warm up routine as it gets the heart pumping and body temperature up. To follow the jogging, it’s good to practice some general basic mobility exercises which I cover below; this loosens the muscles and increases joint mobility. Shuttle runs are an effective way of warming a player up, particularly if you add throwing and catching a ball as this also warms up reaction times, which is also important for avoiding injury. Near the end of the warm up, players can practice some collision training to improve technique and help reduce the risk of injury.
Mobility exercises
Incorporated within the warm up can be a number of different movements and stretches; however it is important to avoid static stretches as they can relax a player instead of preparing them for action. General mobility exercises:
  • Squats. Keep a straight back with heels on the ground and squatting as low as possible.
  • Lunge twists. Lunge forward, then twist at the waist before recovering to a standing position and repeating with the other leg.
  • Standing lateral lunges. Step to the left and bend the left leg whilst keeping the right leg straight, then return to a standing position and repeat on the right leg.
  • Back Slaps, Start with arms fully extended to each side, then swing them forward until they cross and your hands slap your back. Repeat, crossing arms alternately.
Transit mobility exercises:
  • Walking lunges. Complete lunges but moving forward each time
  • Walking Carioca. Side stepping with your trailing foot passing alternately in front and behind your leading foot for a set distance on both sides.
  • High knees. Walking for a set distance but bringing your knees to your chest, stretching hip and buttock muscles.
  • Quad stretches. Kick one leg up in a slow and controlled manner as far as it will go before lowering it and repeating with the opposite leg.
In conclusion
Warming up together can unite a team while simultaneously boosting performance and reducing the risk of injury. Whether you’re about to play for your school rugby team or are competing in the Six Nations, warming up is an absolutely vital part of playing rugby and shouldn’t be skipped or skimped on under any circumstance. If you live in the East Hampshire area and you’d like some more advice or information about preparing for rugby, contact Petersfield Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Clinic or ring 01730 267645.