Heading into the rugby off-season? Take a break from the game, however don’t stop training altogether.
You will be pleased that you maintained your exercise regimen when pre-season training rolls around and you haven’t lost all the hard earned strength and fitness that you gained during competition.
Consult with your coach or an exercise professional about ways you can maintain your fitness and strength during the break, or for any areas that you could improve upon for next season. This way you can work on your areas of weakness over the holiday period and come back into competition stronger and fitter than ever.
The off-season is the perfect time to address your areas of weakness and any existing or pre-existing injuries. Use this time to prioritise resolving any niggles or physical complaints that may be holding you back on the field or in training. If you have sustained any injuries, it is wise to consult with your physiotherapist or an exercise professional about rehabilitation exercises, protocols and phases of training.
I have handpicked five of my favourite pre-hab and mobility exercises for you to try out in your off-season. Perform a 5 – 10 minute warm-up before attempting these exercises.
This will help open up the posterior hip capsule and improve flexion, internal rotation and external rotation of the hip joint. Begin by kneeling in the position shown, with the power band around the front of the groin.
Use your hands to support your body weight and crawl out to a position where you can feel a high amount of tension on the power band. However, ensure you are still able to hold the position without being pulled back.
Continue to hold the position and move the hips and knee inwards and outwards to feel a stretch in the back of the hip, which will also help improve the range of movement in the joint capsule for squatting. Perform for 2-3 minutes each side.
This exercise improves posture and strengthens the posterior kinetic chain. Begin by lying on your stomach with your palms facing the floor; ensure to keep your feet on the floor throughout the exercise. Lift your head and shoulders up off the floor, lifting your arms at the same time. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and try to bring your arms behind you, ensuring that your hands face outwards and your thumbs point to the ceiling. This is how you are able to open up the chest and improve rounded shoulders and poor posture. Perform 3 x 8, holding for 10 seconds.
This exercise focuses on stability of the hip, knee and ankle, while also strengthening the hip adductors.
Assume a lunge position with the band wrapped around the inside of your knee and tied to an immoveable pillar.
This exercise can be performed with a Thera band rather than a power band. Ensure that your knee is positioned over the mid and the rear foot throughout the movement and that the back knee bends as you lower to the floor while the back heel points upwards. Keep the front knee in line with the second toe and keep it steady as you perform each lunge. Do 3 x 10 – 12 on each leg. This exercise can also be performed with the band on the outside of the knee to strengthen the lateral hip and knee stabilisers.
This exercise is designed to improve hip extension and stretch the hip flexors. Begin by kneeling with the power band placed around the back of the hip as shown; the band should easily sit under the butt cheek in the gluteal fold. Keep the trunk upright and maintain a straight line through the hip down to the knee. Squeeze the butt cheek on the side that the band is on, pushing the hips forward. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat four times.
Activating the glute medius can be difficult without also utilising the often dominant Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL).
In this exercise you are in a position which avoids hip flexion and TFL activation, but maximises glute medius activation. While performing this exercise, ensure that your hips are stacked on top of each other, with your hip in a neutral position that is neither flexed nor extended. Keep your knee in line with your hip in the side-lying position. Push your heel into the wall and hold your knee in a neutral position. Hold this position for 10 seconds and repeat up to 10 times. This exercise will get easier and as it does, increase the time held. To make it harder add a weight to the knee as shown, but only do so if you are able to perform a full set of 10 x 10 seconds with good form.
Kristina Jessup is a specialist in exercise rehabilitation and chronic disease management, Kristina Jessup is a sport and rehab consultant at UniRec and uses “exercise as medicine”. Trained to provide carefully tailored exercise programmes for people from all walks of life and particularly those who may have struggled with exercise in the past; have particular limitations which prevent them from exercising, or those who simply don’t know where to start, Kristina has a wealth of experience spanning eight years and provides expert advice in chronic disease management and musculoskeletal rehabilitation.