Repeated Sprint Ability for Rugby

Repeated sprint ability can be defined as short duration sprints (<10secs) interspersed with brief recovery periods (<60secs). When you consider the demands of rugby it should be no surprise that repeated sprint ability is important for successful performance. Read on to learn about repeated sprint ability for rugby.

How is Repeated Sprint Ability Measured

Generally when measuring repeated sprint ability we look at two things;

  • Mean Sprint Time (average of all sprints)
  • Fatigue Index (drop off from best to worst sprint)

Obviously you want to have a small fatigue index and your average sprint time to be as close to your best sprint. It is important to mention the best sprint time should be considered because a faster athlete will always have an advantage, speed kills!

Training to Improve Repeated Sprint Ability


But how do you train to improve repeated sprint ability? We give you 5 training approaches to improve your repeated sprint ability…

Repeated Sprint Training

Originally it was thought that specificity was the most important thing and just performing repeated sprint training sessions would improve performance. Research has shown that repeated sprint training improves best sprint time and meant sprint time but compared to interval training isn’t as effective at improving fatigue index.

The phosphate decrement test is a good example of a repeated sprint ability test. Here you perform 10x 40m sprints on a 30s turnaround. It only takes 5 minutes but is a really tough test.

High Intensity Interval Training

The aim of this sort of training is to improve the ability of your aerobic energy system to recover quickly between the short intense bouts of sprinting. Maximal Aerobic Speed training is a good example for running or if you are looking for an off feet session try 6-10 sets of 2mins hard with 1min rest periods.

Sprint Training

A good way to improve your mean sprint time is to get faster! There is no research on this at the moment but it is obviously a big part of the equation. Work on improving your speed over 10,20 and 30m ensure you get adequate rest in between reps a goo rule of them is 1min per 10m.

Small Sided Games

The small amount of research on small sided games and repeated sprint ability show a small improvement but given the other benefits of games you would be mad not to include them in your training. Games work along the same lines as interval training to improve repeated sprint ability by improving the aerobic pathways. Of course games include speed, agility, acceleration, skills, decision making, competition and dare I say it, fun!


Resistance Training

There is a lot of research showing the benefits of single sprint performance and it may help improve repeated sprint ability for rugby too. Strength and power training will improve that best sprint time and therefore have an effect on mean sprint time. It is also thought that resistance training with a high metabolic cost (much like a Rugby Renegade Metcon) may be best for improving repeated sprint ability.

Putting it all together!

So which training approach is the best? Well it should be clear that all have their benefits and that they should all be used to some degree. Repeated sprint ability relies heavily on both the ATP-CP system to perform the sprints and the Aerobic system to recover between sprints. For best results you should try to improve both.

Sprint and resistance training enhance the ATP-CP energy system pathway and high intensity interval training and small sided games enhance the aerobic system. Finally some specific preparation performing repeated sprint training will help prepare you physically and mentally for rugby.

If you want a programme that puts it all together join Team Renegade!

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