Any die hard England rugby fan will remember the dramatic 2003 world cup final between England and Australia. Level on 17 points in extra time with 26 seconds remaining and then bosh; that spine tingling moment from Jonny Wilkinson that cemented his status as an English hero. That Winning Kick!
A single moment that without doubt changed English rugby forever, and attracted more fans to the game than ever before.
What went into that breath taking drop kick other than exceptional technique and the mental preparation to remain level and focused?
Kicking of any kind in rugby predominantly, but not exclusively, relies upon great balance, flexibility and transfer of power through the ball.
Flexibility is vital in the quadriceps, hips, hamstrings and glutes in order to generate the speed, strength and power to kick the ball through each phase of the movement and to prevent possible injury.
Try adding the following exercises into a gym or training warm up phase to increase flexibility around the key areas
Dynamic leg swings
These are great for increasing flexibility through the hips, glutes and hamstrings. Stand with one hand resting on a wall, facing straight forwards and with an with arm outstretched sideways. Stand on the leg closest to the wall and with the other leg swing it gradually swinging further back and higher forwards in a controlled movement.
Imagine an athletics hurdle is placed down in front of you...walk forwards and as you do lift you right knee as high as possible pointing the toes down.
Kick your leg out straight, maintaining balance on the left leg. Now stride that step forward as far as possible, planting the foot firmly onto the ground. Repeat on the left leg.
Both these exercises also develop balance and core strength.
No kick will be accurate no matter how the kicking leg performs if your balance isn’t stable and square to the target. Planting the non-kicking foot into the ground provides the foundation of your kick, with everything after relies solely on this aspect in order to perform a successful kick with optimum technique.
Try this to improve balance, core stability and transfer of power through the prime muscles and joints needed in the kicks of rugby…
Single leg squats
Begin with feet shoulder width apart, toes facing directly forwards.
Now lift up the left leg so you are stable and well balanced on the right leg. Slowly lower as far as possible, maintaining a stable base using a regular squat technique – just on one leg. Now return to the start position under control.
Complete desired reps then repeat on the left leg
Progress this exercise by using a plyometric technique and upon the slow approach in the downward phase, explode up into a jump and perform a controlled landing – a great way to develop speed, power and balance all in one!
Transfer of speed needs to come predominately through the hips, quadriceps and knees. A fantastic way to do this is with a cable machine and the small belt attachment to wrap around the ankle.
Attach the strap around the right ankle and set the weight to a comfortable resistance.
Place the left foot slightly forwards (as you would during a kick) now perform a kicking action to simulate a realistic kick technique. Complete desired reps then repeat on the left leg.
If you do not have access to a cable machine wrap a resistance band around a solid base then around the ankle.
The important aspect to keep in mind when training to kick is that kicking a ball isn’t about strength and power, but more the transfer of speed through the ball, balance and flexibility. Therefore using a high resistance is not required but prefer a more intermediate weight working to a high rep range engaging the prime muscles and movement patterns.
Why not try this workout to incorporate these key aspects into a rugby specialised session….
Begin with a suitable pulse raiser warm up followed by completing the dynamic leg swings 20x per leg with strict form followed by walking hurdles for 10 metres x 3 sets