Triple Extension – the most important thing rugby players miss out on…

What is it?

Triple extension is the simultaneous extension of the hip, knee and ankle joint… basically it’s fully straightening your leg right down to your toes.  As explained in the next section, triple extension is used in EVERY aspect of the rugby field, yet it’s nearly always overlooked in the gym.  Most athletes focus on knee and hip extension (squats and deadlifts) but forget about the ankles.  You might ask, why do the ankles matter?  To which I will ask you this question.  Who is a faster sprinter… the heavy squatter… or the higher jumper?…

Obviously the person who can jump higher will (more often than not) be faster than the person who can squat heavy.  Squatting in athletic terms is a slow movement, with the final position being standing.  Jumping is a fast, explosive, powerful movement with the final position being somewhere in the air.  I’m not saying not to do squats, just in order to develop your triple extension, you need to use powerful jumping movements.


Why is it relevant?

How often in a game do you drive full force through your legs causing triple extension?… ALL THE TIME! Here’s a few examples: jogging, running, sprinting, tackling, jumping, kicking, side stepping, accelerating, lineout lifting, rucking, scrumming… the list goes on.  Unless you’re walking (which you shouldn’t be) you’re using triple extension.  Now you see how much you use triple extension and why you should be training it in the gym.  It’s like training for a boxing match but only hitting pads, yeah you look cool, but you’re going to get smacked around when the bell rings!


How to train it

As mentioned in the first section, you need to use power movements in order to develop triple extension.  Strength exercises are essential and will create bigger stronger muscles HOWEVER you need to utilise power movements too. You don’t want to be that big oaf on the pitch who can’t actually move.

Olympic weightlifting is a great tool to build power and develop triple extension.  Olympic weightlifting exercise include cleans, snatches, jerks, and many variations.  After an initial pull from the floor, you jump with as much force as possible in order to lift the bar to either your shoulders or overhead.

Plyometrics is often performed with your bodyweight but can also be used with added resistance.  Plyometric exercises require a rapid muscular contraction in order to lift your body off the floor, examples are jump squats, box jumps, tuck jumps.

Both of these training methods develop triple extension and are essential to any rugby strength and conditioning program.


When to use them?

Your ability to train is completely individual.  It depends on the time of year, if you’re holding any injuries, how your recovery is etc.  That being said, this answer is for those with regular jobs who are playing on Saturdays, with training on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.  Most people are still recovering from their games on the Monday, so for that workout I would keep more strength and hypertrophy based, a simple and easier workout.  As power movements take a lot of concentration and energy, I would save these for your Wednesday workout.

As we’re in season YOU DO NOT NEED TO KILL YOURSELF IN THE GYM!!! Rugby training and games are your priority.   You don’t want to be so fatigued or sore that you can’t train or play effectively.  Always keep a few reps in reserve and your gym workouts shouldn’t last much longer than an hour.  Regarding the off season, this is where you can have some fun: train to failure, use high volume, test your 1 rep maxes.


How to know if you’re training properly?

If you utilise power movements in your training, you will be able to feel the difference on the pitch: you’ll move faster, more efficiently, and (as long as your fitness is on point) will be able to do this for the whole game.  If once reading this you realise that you use no power movements in your training, do not worry.  This means that it’s all plain sailing from here.  You can only get faster and more powerful if you start implementing power movements.


Thank you for reading.  If you found this article useful feel free to share it around and send it to friends and teammates.


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