We know why fans love sports – they like competition. We know why certain folks like playing sports – they like competition, camaraderie, and contact - but why this game of rugby where the players contact via tackles? After all, those tackles are harder (but way less dirty) than those applied by the American Internal Revenue Service on politically conservative taxpayers and those tackles, don’t forget, are dished out by men bigger, faster, stronger, and smarter than those of yore.
Remember, too, that rugby is played without much padding. All fifteen players must wear mouth guards and some wear headgear (scrum caps), but that’s about it. Now compare that to the 20 pounds or so of pads that NFL players prance around in. One has to wonder, in which sport are the men tougher? It seems more rugby stars are willing to dip their big toe in the NFL interview, if not playing, pool, than are NFLers willing to check out Rugby, with Australian Rugby footballer Jarryd Hayne being the latest, after meeting with the NFL Detroit Lions in 2014. (The Lions needed help at running back.) Perhaps one shouldn’t wonder much: who playing American (or Canadian) football would want to go from padding to no padding?
Speaking of words ending with “ing” there are a lot of “ings” in rugby: throwing, kicking, our aforementioned tackling, pushing, jumping and they all are rooted in power – powering stemming from the legs - thighs and hamstrings...and all for a ball, a rugby ball that is about the size and shape of a brontosaurus egg, that is if a brontosaurus egg was shaped and sized like a rugby ball.
Have you seen the players’ thighs? They have more striations than does the face of Rolling Stones rocker, Keith Richards, except the players’ definitions are from healthy, muscular growth while Keith’s ditches are from wealthy, party-hearty growth.
Look. Cheer. Leer, if you must, at these chiseled chunks of beefy thigh hunks.
Can we continue?
Outside of a man who doesn’t fart when you pull his finger, who flosses at least once a month, and who holds down a part-time job - semi-occasionally, surely having heavily muscled thighs has got to be man’s sexiest feature. (This is a family blog: we’re not talking other parts.)
Now what kind of exercises for thighs, specifically, and the body, generally, can an aspiring player do now to make the big leagues later? The intent of exercises will be to defer (for it can’t be defeated) muscle fatigue and to develop dynamic acceleration - while ensuring that the hamstrings and quads are in balance - and that the left and right legs are also in balance. Don’t do too many isolation exercises. Do exercises that will replicate moves and motions on the field (pitch) such as box squats, lateral box squats, and one arm barbell push presses. Make sure you sprint and jump rope, jog backwards, run while passing the brontosaurus egg, and row. Get the heart rate to about 65 to 75% for starters, then increase intensity and heart rate to emulate game conditions.
Rugby is survival of the fittest and grittiest. Those are the game conditions. UK Fitness coach, Brian Mackenzie, knows this; for sure he knows his fitness standards for rugby. Brian cites Canadian research on rugby motion averages: standing 38%, walking or jogging 47%, running 6%, and tackling 9%. It is these last 2 parts that demand all that strength, speed, and stamina.
Rugby has been called the most dangerous outdoor sport. Fact or fiction? Played improperly, with high tackling putting heads at risk, lends credence to the assertion. (A wrap tackle, where the head is not involved and the arms embrace the ball carrier, is a proper tackle.) Concussions happen. Broken bones occur. Tiredness leads to injury and since the sport has relatively few stoppages in play, as compared to NFL football say, it’s no big shock to have players landing or falling wrongly on others, causing pain.
Rugby is thinking long and hard about concussions. The International Rugby Board (IRB) has the results from an independent study on concussions in rugby and stresses that changed protocols dealing with a competitor suspected of having been concussed are now - fortunately - ensuring that the player does not return to the game until really ready to play.
Now, let’s say you are not thinking long or hard about anything, save for thighs, or are an innocent to the game’s ingredients. An ingénue’s inkling of this venue, this push-me-pull-you, might be:
You have a hooker, “into touch”, where a ruck may form, with an open fly-half, on a fullback, availing a prop, in a scrummage. And a line-out.
You gotta think, this isn’t a sport, it’s a sordid political sex-soiree cavort with a cocaine snort - with cohorts.
But for fans that know the sport, they’ll tell you how popular it is. Only the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup draw more than does the Rugby World Cup. But coming up is the World Rugby 2015 Six Nations tournament. For the casual peeping Tom or Tommette, they’re in it for the thighs, for the hard-core sporting thighs these men sport, for the thighs’ size, their shape, their suppleness. They revel when thighs get banged – tackled – over and over and over again – harder and harder, pounding and pounding, until…
Phew. Gotta stop. Let’s just start and stop with this. The rugby thigh – it is to sigh.