Contact measures require the use of many muscles. Such compound movements require correct body position and this requires correct muscle tension combined with the correct technique.
Mental intent is also a big factor. We know that when players go in for a tackle half-heartedly, they are much more likely to get hurt.
So, muscles need to be activated in readiness and in a way that encourages the correct patterns of movement and which stimulates player controlled aggression.
The “scaps on” warm up drill
“Scaps on” involves pulling the shoulder blades back and pushing the tongue to the roof of the mouth. At the same time, the player puts tension into his core and the shoulders when making contact.
This can be done with players visualising going into a tackle or taking the ball into contact.
Tongue to the roof of the mouth
A martial arts coaching tip is to stress to the players to push the tongue into the roof of mouth. This helps produce a strong straight neck. The players should look through the eyebrows and hold the head in a natural position.
Just as a player would tense up against a punch to the stomach, the use of Ki (a martial arts term) or muscle tension and correct breathing can greatly enhance the player’s contact resilience. Acceleration into and out of contact is also enhanced.
Developing the scaps on warm-up drill
Players should step strongly into the area of contact. They must make use of a strong core muscles (stomach and lower back muscles) to transmit power and withstand impacts.
Use tackle pad drills where the tackling player holds a tennis ball in each hand and steps in, ensuring the shoulder goes in, with a strong arm action to grab the bag. It can be part of a match warm-up drill without the tennis balls.
The player drives in with:
- Strong arms – not using the hands.
- A straight back – spine in line.
- The head in a natural position while looking forward.
One-on-one scrummaging drill and body position
Players can use one-on-one scrummaging, working progressively.
Match players for size weight, strength and training status for safety. Get one player to resist and the other to push, and then change roles.
Emphasise “scaps on”, with straight backs and the bottom thrust out. These additional points normally bring quick improvements in performance of this drill.