The 3 Best Stretches for Rugby
Improve your rugby and minimize injuries with 3 of the best rugby stretches.
by Brad Walker | First Published February 24, 2009 | Updated April 8, 2019
Running with the ball was not made legal until 1841. By 1860, most schools had adopted the rules used at the Rugby school. In 1871, the Rugby Football Union was formed to standardize the rules and remove some of the violence from the game.
Muscles used in Rugby
Rugby is a game with a good deal of running, and a lot of hard hitting. The minimal protective equipment worn by players makes it a brutal sport, and because of this, players must be in good physical condition to compete. They must have good cardiovascular conditioning to run the field and must have good muscular strength to protect their bones and joints. Speed and agility are also important to outrun and out-maneuver other players.
Rugby players require a strong core, with strong legs and hips. During a rugby scrum the leg and hip drive is important. A strong neck to protect the spine during hits is also important. A strong core is essential for balance and protection of the ribs and internal organs.
Playing rugby taxes all of the muscles, but the major muscles used in play include:
- The muscles of the upper legs and hips; the quadriceps, hamstrings, and the gluteals and the calf muscles; the gastrocnemius and soleus.
- The muscles of the neck and the trapezius.
- The core muscles; the rectus abdominus, obliques, and the spinal erectors.
- The muscles of the shoulder girdle; the deltoids, latissimus dorsi, and the pectorals.
Most Common Rugby Injuries
Rugby’s hard hitting, violent nature is a setting for injury. Rugby players wear very little, if any, protective equipment and their body is exposed to all of those hard hits.
Studies have shown that injuries are the most common reason for players to quit playing rugby. Successive injuries over time can lead to long term effects. Injuries common to rugby include:
- Muscle strains;
- Bruises and contusions;
- Dislocations and fractures;
- Ankle sprain;
- Knee sprain, including Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) sprain and Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) sprain; and
Injury Prevention Strategies
A rugby player must have a lot of natural protective layering (musculature) and be strong enough to withstand the high impact of the game. The following will also help to prevent rugby injuries.
- Always warm-up properly prior to training and especially competition.
- Allow an adequate cool-down period and perform after training/competition stretching.
- Cardiovascular training is important to prevent the muscles from tiring during a game and allowing breakdown of proper form.
- Strength training to build protective muscle tissue over the bones and joints will help keep the body strong for games and speed recovery should an injury occur.
- Practicing balance, agility and proprioception drills will help improve the stability off the knee and ankle.
- Flexibility is key when the body is twisted and contorted at different angles during tackles or when avoiding a defender.
- Use of the minimal protective equipment allowed will help shield the body from some of the usual trauma encountered in a game or practice.
- Practicing the game to become proficient at avoiding the hardest hits and knowing how to position the body when delivering a blow, or taking one, will help the player avoid some of the injuries in rugby.
- Playing in official games with referees and officials, under sanctioned rules, will also help to keep the rugby player safe.
The 3 Best Rugby Stretches
Rugby stretches are one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won’t be effective.
Below are 3 of the best stretches for rugby; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions with each stretch, and if you currently have any chronic or recurring muscle or joint pain please take extra care when performing the stretches below, or consult with your physician or physical therapist before performing any of the following stretches.
Instructions: Slowly move into the stretch position until you feel a tension of about 7 out of 10. If you feel pain or discomfort you’ve pushed the stretch too far; back out of the stretch immediately. Hold the stretch position for 20 to 30 seconds while relaxing and breathing deeply. Come out of the stretch carefully and perform the stretch on the opposite side if necessary. Repeat 2 or 3 times.
Watch the Rugby Stretches video
Click on the play button below if you prefer to follow along to a 10 minute video of the best stretches for rugby.
These rugby stretches are best done after your rugby training, as part of your cool down. They can also be done as a stand-alone stretching session to improve your rugby flexibility, but make sure you’re fully warmed up before starting the stretches.
Want more Rugby Stretches?
While the recommendations on this page are a good starting point, you'll get a lot more benefit when you add the right stretches to your training program. With the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility (Handbook, DVD & CD-ROM) you'll...
You'll get 135 clear photographs and 44 video demonstrations of unique stretches for every major muscle groups in your body. Plus, the DVD includes 3 customized sets of stretches (8 minutes each) for the Upper Body; the Lower Body; and the Neck, Back & Core. And the Handbook will show you, step-by-step, how to perform each stretch correctly and safely. Plus, you'll also learn the 7 critical rules for safe stretching; the benefits of flexibility; and how to stretch properly.
If you want to improve your flexibility so you can to train harder, race faster, recover quicker and move better, check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility for yourself.
Research and References
- Walker, B. (2011). The Anatomy of Stretching, 2nd Edition (ISBN: 978-1583943717)
- Wikipedia contributors. (2019, April 25). Rugby Football, In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
- Bleakley, C. Tully, M. O’Connor, S. (2011). Epidemiology of adolescent rugby injuries: a systematic review. Journal of Athletic Training, Vol. 46, No. 5, pp. 555-565.
- Brooks, J. Fuller, C. Kemp, S. Reddin, D. (2006). Incidence, risk, and prevention of hamstring muscle injuries in professional rugby union. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 34(8), 1297-1306.
- Brooks, J. Kemp, S. (2011). Injury-prevention priorities according to playing position in professional rugby union players. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 45(10), 765-775.
- Fuller, C. Taylor, A. Raftery, M. (2016). Should player fatigue be the focus of injury prevention strategies for international rugby sevens tournaments. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 50(11), 682-687.
- Van Wyk, D. Lambert, M. (2009). Recovery strategies implemented by sport support staff of elite rugby players in South Africa. South African Journal of Physiotherapy, 65(1), 41-46.
- Kokkonen, J. Nelson, A. Eldredge, C. Winchester, J. (2007) Chronic Static Stretching Improves Exercise Performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 39(10), 1825-1831.
- Shellock, F, Prentice, W. (1985) Warming-up and stretching for improved physical performance and prevention of sports-related injuries. Sports Medicine, 2(4):267-78.
- Fradkin, A. Zazryn, T. Smoliga, J. (2010) Effects of warming-up on physical performance: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(1):140-8.
About the Author: Brad Walker is often referred to as the "Stretch Coach" and has even been called the Stretching Guru. Magazines such as Runners World, Bicycling, Triathlete, Swimming & Fitness, and Triathlon Sports have all featured his work. Amazon (author page) has listed his books on five Best-Seller lists. Google cites over 100,000 references to him and his work on the internet. And satisfied customers from 122 countries have sent 1,000's of verified customer reviews. If you want to know about stretching, flexibility or sports injury management, Brad Walker is the go-to-guy.
Disclaimer: The health and fitness information presented on this website is intended as an educational resource and is not intended as a substitute for proper medical advice. Please consult your physician or physical therapist before performing any of the exercises described on this website, particularly if you are pregnant, elderly or have any chronic or recurring muscle or joint pain.