Rugby Proof Your Shoulders Part 1 (Strength)

In the game of rugby, you use your shoulders a lot.  Whether it be tackling, rucking, lifting, or trying to run over people.  Your shoulders take a beating every match. This is why the shoulders are a common injury in the game of rugby.  

Strength training and mobility work will help prevent injuries in the shoulder and increase your longevity in the game of rugby.  Although when it comes to strength training this is where most of us mess up training the shoulders. The shoulders are one of the most complex joints in the body.  Go ahead and move your arm around in every direction. The shoulder can press, pull, make circles, and throw. All in all, there are about 10 different ranges of motion the shoulder can do.

As you can see the shoulder is very complex and that is why it is easy for athletes to mess it up when it comes to training it properly.  They only train one or two movements instead of all of them. It’s, not anyone’s fault they just don’t know any better. I myself use to only train one or two movements of the shoulder which ended up leading to a lot of stingers.  As I learned how to properly train the stingers went away along with the aches and pains in the shoulder.

The most common thing most athletes get wrong when it comes to strengthening the shoulder is just doing bench press and nothing else.  The bench press is a great exercise, but if that is all you do you will be destroying the range of motion in the shoulder. By benching all the time the pectoral muscles tighten and bring the shoulder and scapula forward into a rounded position.  When you tackle or ruck someone with this bad posture you are setting yourself up for injuries.  

You don’t want to engage in a scrum with a rounded back. The same goes for your shoulder as you don’t want to go into contact with a rounded shoulder.  Other problems that can come from having rounded shoulders are when it comes to throwing a ball or reaching out to make a tackle. When the shoulder does not have its free range of motion and is forced to stretch beyond what it can’t do, it will more than likely lead to some type of tear or other injuries. 

The way you prevent rounded shoulders is by training the shoulders in all ranges of motion.  If you are benching then you need to add pressing overhead as well. Also, don’t forget about the posterior which is actually more important than the pressing.  You need to add pulling movements such as pull ups and rows to keep the shoulder blade pulled back and down in its natural position. The posterior is more important to train because of our lifestyle in general.  Computers, phones, sitting, and driving all have a tendency to pull you forward into a rounded bad posture. By adding more posterior work with pulling in both vertical and horizontal you will combat the stresses and strains that bad posture puts on your body.  

Alright, so which strength movements should you be doing to strengthen and protect your shoulder?  The four main movements would be vertical pressing, horizontal pressing, vertical pulling, and horizontal pulling.  There are other movements you can train the shoulder with, but these are the 4 basic movements that will give you the biggest reward.  

Here are the movements you should be doing for vertical pressing:  press with the barbell, handstand push ups or jackknife push ups, kettlebell presses and bottoms up kettlebell presses.  As athletes, it is always important to train unilaterally as that is the way you move naturally on the rugby pitch. What I like about the kettlebell press is that it puts the shoulder in a safe position and will help increase your mobility in the shoulder as well.  The bottoms press is great because it teaches your body correct alignment for the press. If you are not pressing correctly then the kettlebell will fall and not go up.

Jacknife Push Up

Bottoms Up Press

Here are the movements you should be doing for horizontal pressing:  bench press, floor press, push ups and all the hundreds of variations there are for them.  If you are already have jacked up shoulders then floor press is going to be a great alternative to bench press.  The floor press is another movement that puts your shoulders in a safe position and teaches you how to properly press horizontally.  Push ups are great because they can be done anywhere and can be made as intense as you want. There is always some sort of progression or modification you can make with push ups.

Here are the movements you should be doing for vertical pulling:  pull ups and lat pulldowns. Pull ups are by far one of the best movements you can do as they involve more muscles than just your lats.  The pull up teaches your body how to depress your shoulder blade into its natural position. Which helps fight the rounded shoulder that we want to avoid.  Lat pulldowns are a great alternative if you are not able to do pull ups.

Here are the movements you should be doing for horizontal pulling:  bodyweight rows and bent over rows. Bodyweight rows are like push ups there are many different ways to them and they can be easily progressed or modified.  This is the movement that should have more volume than any other in your training. The reason is that it not only strengthens the posterior, but it is the number one movement to fight the rounded shoulders.  Bent over rows are great as they teach you how to keep a straight back. If your back is not properly aligned while doing a bent over row it will let you know. Plus bent over rows can be done with a barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell.  

Most people think pressing is the only to train the shoulders and that pulling is just for training the back.  Well, they are wrong. You need to include both pressing and pulling movements so that your shoulders are well balanced.  If you want a long career playing rugby then you want to train shoulders in this manner. Remember that you need to do pulling movements more than pressing to help fight against the daily stresses your body goes through.  

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Training with Toddlers

Do you remember a time when you had all the time in the world to train?  Then, you started out in your career which demanded more of time. Maybe you began a serious relationship which took more time away from your training.  Some couples enjoy training together, while others prefer training alone. Some of you have even come home from the hospital one day with a new addition to your family and all of that free time you use to have to train quickly vanished… or at least you think it did.

You love your kids more than anything else in the world.  However, there are times you wish they could just go 5 minutes without needing something.  Toddlers are very demanding and can suck the life out of you if you let them. Their moods constantly change in a matter of seconds and if you turn your head on them too long you will find that your living room just got redecorated by Crayola.  

Having kids doesn’t mean it’s time to give up on you.  You still need to train if you want to live a healthy life.  Your kids should be your driving motivation to keep training as you want to be able to play and be active with them forever.  You should be able to move, bend, twist, and run without any pain or limitations just like your kids.

The number one reason why you should keep training is to be a role model for your kids later in life.  You are your kids’ biggest role model and they want to be just like you when they grow up. If they see you constantly training and eating healthy then they will do the same when they get older.  Otherwise, if all you do is watch tv and order out all the time then that is what they will do when they grow up. Every action you do now is what your kids will do when they become older. That is why your training is so important if you want your kids to live a long healthy life.  Be a leader and set the example.

Alright, that sounds good and all, but between getting the kids ready for preschool, driving them around, naps, making meals, getting them ready for bed, where do I find the time?  The simple answer is to train with your kids. Now you have the option of getting up at 5 am to train or waiting until 9 pm to train. Most don’t like getting up before the sun to train and at the same time by the end of the day, most are too tired to train.  You can change your mindset and make that 5 am or 9 pm a reality or just train with them.

Now when you train with your kids, it is not going to be the same as was when you were training prior to having children.  The rest breaks are going to be longer because you will need those to entertain or break up a fight. The equipment that you are using at home will determine what exercises you can do around your kids.  I have just basic stuff like rings, sandbags, kettlebells, and the barbell. Although you really don’t need equipment at all other than yourself. Calisthenics is and will always be a superior method for becoming incredibly fit.  

Timed sets are not usually a good choice as well.  Something usually comes up taking you away from the time format.  I have tried it a few times and you basically play a game seeing how long you can go on the timed sets before you have to intervene.  I used to get frustrated and panic trying to quickly get caught back up, but now I just don’t worry about it and either pick back up where I left off or avoid timed sets altogether.

The training sessions will not be that long as well, because little minds can only last so long before they see the next shiny object.  I keep my training sessions to a one-hour maximum. Most sessions are around 30-45 minutes. When I train with my kids sometimes they are only 15 minutes.  Don’t think you can not get a training session done in 15 minutes? Just pick one exercise and go at it hard for 15 minutes.

Safety is a big thing especially with heavy weights and your daughter wants to ride circles around you on her bike.  Before I pick up the weights I always tell them to stay back and play over in an area away from me. If they get too close I put weights the down or just hold on to them until they have left the area which I am in.  Toddlers still don’t know what can hurt them yet so I constantly have to remind of the dangers of any situation. Doing handstands with your kids is fun as they will get right up close to you as you are trying to hold or bang out some push-ups.  Every now and then I will have to tell them to move so I can lower my legs.

The fun thing about doing handstands is that they will want to do it after you.  They will attempt to mimic you for a lot of the movements that you do especially bodyweight stuff.  My kids enjoy trying different jumping and crawling movements along with deadlifting kettlebells. They also enjoy playing on the rings.  Something I recommend everyone to get they are really inexpensive and you can use them anywhere.

Like I said earlier the rest breaks will be longer because they will need you for something or one is bashing the other over the head with a monster truck.  During that, you may need to cut your reps a little short to take care of that incident. Even if you take a lot more breaks it’s fine you still can get a good training session.  Just go hard during your sets and play hard with the kids during your rest. It is normal for me to do clean and press for 5 reps and then go play hide and seek real quick and then go back to clean and press.  The reps are usually on the shorter side than the longer side, although sometimes I am able to get 20 or more reps in if that is what I have planned for the day. Like anything, every day is different especially with toddlers.

Here is an example of what a typical training session looks like with my kids:

  • Start off joint mobility work with stuff like push-ups, squats, bridges, lunge twists, down dog, up dog, bear crawling, etc.  I would do this for like 10-15 min and the kids join in sometimes.
  • Set 1 – Double clean and press for 5 reps followed by Swings for 20 reps.  Before I pick up the kettlebells I always say to my kids go play over there because dad is lifting now.
  • Rest –  pretend to be a dog
  • Set 2 – Double clean and press 5 reps Swings 20 reps
  • Rest –  potty break or poopba (yes we call it poopba)
  • Set 3 – Double clean and press 5 reps Swings 20 reps
  • Rest –  play hide and seek
  • Set 4 – Double clean and press 5 reps Swings 20 reps
  • Rest –  clean up peas that magically end up on the floor
  • Set 5 – Double clean and press 5 reps Swings 20 reps
  • Rest –  take away toy who hit other kid with it and console both kids they as they are both crying and get them to make up (usually a long rest period)
  • Then if time remains I might try and do something like 5-10 min of plyo push-ups and side shuffle.  The kids usually want to hop in on this one. That is a typical training session for me with the kids and usually lasts between 30 – 45 mins.

You can train with toddlers and still make progress.  15 minutes a day times 365 days adds up to be a lot more hours than just training one or two times a week.  Consistency is the greatest component of becoming better at something and getting results. The training will not be that intense training with toddlers, but you will still be exercising and improving your health.  What’s most important is that you are going to have lot’s fun training with your kids. A smile is one of the most contagious things there is and that is what your kids will remember training with mommy and daddy.

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3 Ways to Improve Lateral Explosiveness for Rugby

A ball carrier is running down the pitch towards an oncoming opponent.  It looks like he will be tackled for sure as the opponent lowers his body into position, but then, the ball carrier plants his foot and explodes in the other direction evading the tackle.  This is the highlight reel stuff everyone oohs and ahhs about and players dream about.

Being able to move quickly laterally on the pitch will greatly improve an athlete’s performance.  If you want to be able to make those kinds of cuts on the pitch without rolling an ankle or blowing a knee, then you have to train for it.  Here are 3 ways you can improve your lateral explosiveness on the pitch.

Deceleration – before you can go fast you must go slow.  There is a great amount of force going through the joints when planting the foot and making a cut.  The muscles, tendons, and ligaments must be strong and able to stabilize the joint during that movement.  The body needs to gain muscle memory and mechanics through the full range of motion. This will make the joints stronger and able to handle the required force.  

The way you train for deceleration is with resistance.  One of the best resistance movements for training lateral explosiveness is the side lunge.  You can use a barbell, kettlebells, dumbbells, sandbags, etc. The key with the side lunge is to make that step and then slowly lower down under control.  By going slow, you are teaching the muscles in your leg and joints how to properly control the body and stabilize the joint during a lateral movement. If you are using a challenging weight it will force you to go slow.  Other things to remember in the side lunge are pushing your hips back as you go into the lunge and make sure your back is straight. As you come up make sure to push your entire foot through the ground. Below is an example of the side lunge:

Power – once the body is strong then it can become explosive.  In deceleration, we teach the body how to control the movement. Now, we are teaching the body how to be explosive in movement.  In order to move fast, you have to train the body how to become powerful. Power training does this. In order to make that cut on the pitch, you need to be able to forcibly push your whole body in the opposite direction.  

Power is a combination of strength and speed, in regards to lateral movements the body controls the movement as the foot makes the plant into the ground with the knee bending as a result of the hips going back and then it quickly explodes out of that position making the elusive cut.  

One of the best power movements for training lateral explosiveness is ice skaters.  Ice skaters are a combination of balance, strength, and power. While balancing on one leg you control your body by descending into a squat, you pause and then explode out of that position landing laterally on your foot.  Some key points are not to rush the movement. Come to a dead stop, hold and then explode out of that position. Make sure the whole foot is making contact with the ground and forcibly drive your foot into the ground. The more contact area your foot makes with the ground the more force it can create.  Below is an example of the side lunge:

Match Simulation –  the only way to master a sport specific movement is by doing it at full speed.  If you want to get better at being more explosive laterally on the pitch then you must train for it at full pace.  Although, before you do that you have to make sure you have established a good base. The base you create with the strength and power movements.  We have taught the body how to decelerate and control itself in a lateral movement. We have taught the body how to be explosive in a lateral movement.  Now we are teaching the body how to do both of those movements quickly in a match situation.

There are a couple of variations you can do to become explosive.  However, the best match simulation movements for training lateral explosiveness is the side shuffle or lateral shuffle.  The side shuffle teaches you how to quickly move from one direction to the next. Just like you would do in a rugby match.  Here are some of the key points for the side shuffle:

  • use a short distance (3-5 meters)
  • constantly change direction
  • move as fast as possible

Use a timer instead of focusing on the number of times going back and forth.  Anywhere from 10-30 sec is good. Just remember the longer the time period the more your power will deplete.  If you notice that you are slowing down in the drill, stop. Use a shorter time period with longer rest. Once again, the goal is full speed. We want to be moving at that speed the whole time.   Below is an example of the side shuffle:

There you go, 3 ways to make you more explosive on the rugby pitch.  When training a new movement or trying to master a movement it is always best to train for it 3 days a week.  You can easily incorporate all 3 of these movements in your weekly training. I hope you found this information helpful and turns you into a more explosive rugby athlete.  

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Make Your Dreams a Reality

Remember when you were a kid?  You had big dreams and goals of what you wanted in your life.  We all wanted to be someone important and make a difference in the world.  None of us dreamed of working a dead end job with no chance for advancement or challenge.

So what happened?  At what point did the dream get moved to the back burner?  Why do we simply accept life as is? Well, there is still time to capture that dream.  I don’t care if you are 10 years old or 80 years old. There is always time to chase after your dream and accomplish your goals.  

When we were little, parents told us to shoot for the stars and we were excited as I get at an all you can eat buffet.  So, if we are told to shoot for the stars and make our dreams reality, why did we not succeed in doing so? Well, part of it is that we are afraid.  Afraid to take a risk or gamble and see what happens.

We have a fear of failure.  In high school, I was terrified of talking to girls and at the same time, I had no clue when one was hitting on me.  This fear paralyzed me from approaching and talking to girls I found attractive. In time though, thanks to alcohol, I built up the confidence to talk to girls and conquered my fear of rejection.  

I think it would benefit everyone to do a sales job just for a few months so they can get used to rejection and conquer their fear.  Being rejected sucks there is no doubt about it. How will you bounce back from that rejection? That is what separates the winners from the losers and I am not just talking about sports, but about life in general.  

What defines us as people is how we deal with rejection/failure and how we respond to that situation.  Will you accept your failure or will you continue to push on no matter how hard the obstacle or task that lies ahead to accomplish your goal?  It is very easy to give up. Many people do it every day. That is fine as long as you did everything you could and left it all on the line.

If you are going to fail, fail big time and hold nothing back.  As a very wise Jedi once said: “Do or do not, there is no try.” Think about that phrase for a second.  Either get off your ass and make your dream reality or continue to sit on your ass and just dream about a dream.  We have a short time on this planet, so you might as well make the most of it.

Ask yourself what is your dream and when are you going to make it happen.  If you fail in the process, so what? At least you made a run at it. The greatest president, in my opinion, Abraham Lincoln, failed in life and business several times before becoming president of the United States.  He worked tirelessly to unite our country and end slavery. Thousands of people every year still come to Springfield, Illinois to pay their respects to him. I think that says a lot for someone that passed away over a century ago.  

Just because you fail at one thing does not mean you will fail at another.  Keep pushing and never stop until that one day when you succeed. When that day comes, embrace it and respect the journey it took to get there.  Nothing is given to us, but at the same time, everything is there for the taking. It is just a matter of how bad we want it? You hear it many times that the team that won just wanted it more than the other.  

Your mind is an incredible and fascinating body part.  You can basically control the outcome of a situation by the way you think.  If you can visualize the outcome in your head, then you can accomplish it in life.  No matter what the dream, if you can visualize it, you can achieve it.

So back to the beginning.  What is your dream? It could be a childhood dream or a dream you have now.  What are you doing to make that dream a reality? Remember, we have but one life.  So go chase that dream. It doesn’t matter how ridiculous it may be or what people say.  Go after that dream and live life to the fullest knowing that you held nothing back and gave it everything you had.  

I think Vince Lombardi said it best “at the end of the game win or lose can you say you gave it your all and did everything you could to win and can look into your teammate’s eyes say the same thing?”  In this life, when your maker comes calling can you look them in the eyes and say “I lived a full life and did everything I could to achieve my dream.” Dreams are not meant to be just dreams. So go and live your dream and stop dreaming and start living!

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15 Golden Nuggets to Improve Your Training

Whatever your goals are in training, you want to improve and make progress towards them. When you are unsure of what to do in the gym, you get frustrated and progress comes to a halt. Attaining your goals can be easy or hard depending on the knowledge you have. Here are 15 golden nuggets to help your improve your training and crush your goals!

Kettlebell Complexes and Chains

Complexes and chains are a great way to get an effective workout in a short amount of time. Complexes and chains require doing multiple movements in a row without putting the weight down. These are great movements for building strength, size, and burning layers of fat.

When it’s Time to Change Your Training Routine

Do you have aches and pains all over? Do you feel tired all the time and have no energy once you get home from work? Do you constantly order out to eat because cooking seems like a monumental task? Do you get winded from going up a flight of stairs? Do you have weights in the garage collecting dust or better yet a membership to a gym you never go to? Do you say next week on Monday you will start fresh and make a change for the better? If you said yes to any of these then you are in need of some change in your life.

kettlebell terminology

Kettlebell Terminology

Every sport, hobby, and clubs have their own unique terminology. There are certain words that describe movements or things. These give people a common way of communicating within their group. Here are some common terms in kettlebell lifting that will help you understand what others are talking about.