To mobilise a player effectively we want to increase range of motion about a joint. This will help reduce any restrictions in our movement that could lead to faulty and inefficient athletic movement patterns. Two methods we commonly use to improve athletic performance and mobility in a warm-up are self myofascial release and dynamic stretching (Peacock et al, 2014). Self-myofascial release is the use of pressure techniques administered by the player themselves and aiming to relieve local ‘trigger points’ and increase range of motion. Trigger points are small patches of tightly contracted muscle, an isolated spasm and what we might call a knot in a muscle. Foam rolling is one of the most common methods of self-myofascial release. Foam rolling is believed to have similar effects to massage, which include relief of muscle tension, increased flexibility, and improved range of motion (Murray et al 2016). The videos below demonstrate some of the important foam rolling techniques for rugby. Following trigger point release the player can move on to performing some dynamic stretching.
Dynamic stretching will allow players to enhance their joint range of motion in the warm-up. This is important as it will allow the players to complete the athletic movement patterns within the game without restrictions. Dynamic stretching involves stretching with movements that are like the movement patterns used in the game. With dynamic stretching, the player should slowly and in a controlled manner move through the patterns getting a good stretch at the end of the range of motion. The player should gradually try and increase the range of motion achieved in the stretch every time they go through the movement. The videos below detail some common dynamic stretches for rugby.
Dynamic stretches can be done with the whole team in a line gradually moving up the pitch so the coach can monitor large numbers at one time. Dynamic stretching will also help in keeping an elevated muscle temperature as it involves movement and contraction of the muscle which creates heat.
Static stretching, or holding a stretch at the end range of motion for a period without movement is not recommended for the warm-up. This is because research seems to indicate that static stretching reduces the muscles ability to produce force (Haddad et al, 2013; Washiff et al, 2015). As rugby requires its players to produce high muscular forces when sprinting, jumping, tackling, and scrummaging it may be counterproductive to include static stretching in the warm-up. It may be more beneficial to view static stretching as an exercise and give it its own place in the training programme as while it may not be ideal for the warm-up, it is an effective method for increasing the flexibility of players.