Do you want to know what kind of training will keep you smashing people for the entire match?

You want to get faster?

Or be  being able to sprint at your top speed for longer and repeatedly?

Or recover better and lose fat?

Of course you do hey! Everyone sportsman does right.

What we’re going to cover:
1. Key points of speed development and sprint technique
2. Speed Development methods
3. When, what and why of Tempo Runs


Speed development and sprint techniques

In the words of the late, great sprint coach Charlie Francis

“A sprinter should have full control of his body and should be able to handle his bodyweight easily”

This is something that sounds easy but many people have real problems with co-ordination. Not you for any longer though brother. By now you should know you should be resistance training (lifting weights, doing bodyweight exercises etc). This type of training builds your co-ordination in your body. You learn how to move all your body parts together and in a strong pattern.

So if you’re in control of your body you should be able to move it how you want yeah? And if you want to move fast you should be in the right sprint position, do you know what it is?

Sprint coach Percy Duncan puts it this way

“Running is done on the ground, sprinting is done over it”

What this means is that as an athlete gets faster (and this is tied into getting stronger) the amount of time the athlete spends on the ground is shorter, this amount of time that your foot’s on the floor is known as “ground contact time” makes sense right.
On a side note there is a sweet spot in the strength/running spectrum the stronger/faster you are the less ground contact time you have. So the shorter time your foot is on the floor the less opportunity you have to display your strength. By this I mean that each step is just an opportunity for you to push as hard as you can off the floor. As each action has an equal and opposite reaction the harder you push the faster you go. Hopefully you can see where I’m going here. If you can’t put your whole strength into the floor in the time it takes you to take the next step (Ben Johnson took 5 steps a second!) you’re never going to move as fast as you should. As I said just a side note that we’ll come back to later on.

So what is the right sprint technique? I’m going to throw it out there that if you really want to be a sprinter you’re going to have to find yourself a hands on sprint coach but to descibe it the best I can without being right next to you on the track.

Before we go into the actual techniques of moving as fast as possible we need to check out the qualities you should build to be the fastest rugby player you can before you start sprinting (although it’s probably a bit late for that in which case build them at the same time).

These are:
Absolute Strength – which is the total amount of weight you can move
Strength Balance – ability to display strength in an unstable position
Power – being able to show your strength quickly

This is kind of a chicken or egg situation in that these qualities are needed to sprint well but are also qualities developed by sprinting.

Once you start serious sprint training muscle size, power, flexibility and strength all need to be continually developed alongside the acceleration, speed and speed endurance from the sprinting.

Okay, we’re finally ready to learn about the “sprint position”. We’re not going to look at the start position of sprints because as rugby players we tend to have rolling starts or at least you should be (if not run from deeper!). Here’s it is:

1. Head is held high and we’re running upright
2. Hands of the driving arm should come up to face level
3. Shoulders are relaxed
4. Hips are high enough off the ground that the driving leg is has enough room to fully extend into the ground
5. The ankle of the leg (the one not on the ground) comes above the knee of the driving leg (this is dependant on how flexible your quads are if you can’t get your knee this high you need to stretch you quads more)
6. The ankle fully extends on the driving leg (triple extension!)
If you were to watch someone sprint from in front or behind there should be a couple of things to watch for.
1. Each foot lands in front of the other
2. The head stays stable and doesn’t wobble from side to side



Last thing i’m going to say about pure sprinting is that despite what you might think sprinting is hugely hamstring dominant. That means if you want to move fast you better be working on your hamstrings

I know I am not having an optimal race when I can feel my quadriceps working
During an optimal run I do not feel my quadriceps I feel only my hamstrings as
my legs are flying underneath me – Then I know I am holding the sprint

– Desai Williams (commonwealth gold and silver medallist and Olympic
bronze medallist over 100 metres)

Speed Development Methods

First things first, you need to watch out for fatigue when trying to develop speed. Any high intensity work drains your central nervous system. This won’t happen overnight but high intensity sprints can cause central nervous system fatigue. Don’t mix this up with just being tired. CNS fatigue is a build up which gets to the point where your nerves stop working properly and your muscles wont fire (even if externally stimulated!). It’s a shitty place to be. So make sure you take your deloads and leave enough time to properly recovery between sessions.

Into the main info for speed development methods:

The emphasis is quality not quantity.
True speed work shouldn’t last over about 7 to 10 seconds.
Each effort should be between 95 to 100% effort and using a flying start. You’re busting your balls here bud!
Each sprint session should be followed by complete recovery (twice a week only and never back to back days, 72 hours between max efforts remember)
When the quality drops (you slow down) the session needs to end

Sample training

Distance    Effort                             Repetitions
30 metre    Maximum (100%)         6 to 8
50 metre    Maximum (100%)         5 to 6
60 metre    Maximum (100%)         4 to 6
80 metre    Near Maximum (95%) 3 to 4

Make sure you run relaxed!



Tempo Runs

A tempo run is a technique that is used for a ton or reasons, I’m going to go ahead right now and tell you I love it. Here’s some of the reasons I use it

  • bring up aerobic endurance
  • recover from high intensity training
  • Improves work capacity
  • Feeds into speed work
  • You can do work but not tire out your central nervous system
  • Increased capillary density
  • Improves recovery

You should really be doing some kind of tempo work on all your off days but 2 to 3 times a week is ideal. Here’s what you should do.
Find a long flat area preferably soft nice grass or a good sprung track
Tempo should be at 60 to 75% of your max speed (over 80% is too high intensity)

as far as distance to go I like working to a total of about 2000 metres (+/- 10%) broken down into 100m and 200m intervals. The traditional Charles Francis Circuit looks like this

Charlie Francis Big Circuit
Set 1) 100-100-100
Set 2) 100-200-100-100
Set 3) 100-100-200-200
Set 4) 100-200-100-100
Set 5) 100-100-100
(50m walk/rep, 100walk/set)
2200m Total

But who’s to say you have to stay traditional, here’s a couple more so fill your boots.

20 – 100’s
20 – 100’s
100m walk or water
(30s rest between reps)
2000m Total

Half 1’s Half 2’s
100m walk
(50m walk/rep)
1800m Total

And last thing is be creative. Don’t feel like you have to just do running with this. Swimming is fine if you know you 50m and 100m swim times. Rugby drills are great as well just keep the tempo at the right level and don’t go full contact.


Guys if you start implementing this work into your training alongside some smart resistance training and smart food choices you’re going to see yourself get fast, stronger, more ripped and feel better. So get yourselves warmed up then get going!