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tackle harder

7 Best Exercises to Tackle Harder in Contact Sports, Rugby, American Football; Dominate Opponents With Massive Hits

So you want to tackle harder in your sport? You want to dominate the Gridiron, smash it up on the rugby pitch, annihilate at Aussie Rules? Well, look no further, we will cover some of the VERY BEST exercises to tackle harder at your sport.

Now, the first suggestion we will make will be to hone your craft. You can be the strongest player on the pitch, but if your timing is off and your positioning is lackluster, then you won’t be able to hit very hard at all.

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Tackle Harder, Dominate Your Opponents, Strike Fear into The Hearts of Your Foes

Tackle harder than Terry Tate

In order to tackle harder than last time, at least from a physical point of view, you need the following attributes:

However, before we get started, we will need to, a priori, address psychology, confidence, and technique as without these, your tackling ability will be lacking.

1. Psychology, Confidence, Technique

I have seen small guys pummel way bigger guys on the pitch — and it boils to three crucial things when it’s time to tackle harder.

The first one is psychology. If you’re fearful of getting hurt, no amount of strength training will help you tackle harder. You need to overcome your fear of pain.

Develop confidence by razing your psychological barriers. The more your tackle harder, the more confidence you will develop.

All three points are intertwined.

A strong technique will inform your confidence and your confidence will improve your psychology when it comes to game time.

Work on all three in practice to be fearless and tackle harder than the rest of your team mates.

Each sport may have different techniques; and, as I’m not a sports coach, it would be best to consult one before attempting to improve your tackling ability.

Watch the dimunitive Faf de Klerk obliterate much larger opponents

2. Box Front Squat

5 Reasons You Should Box Squat | Breaking Muscle

The box squat is one of the very best exercises for athletes, period.

Not only will this improve your vertical jump, but it will add mass to your legs, butt, and entire posterior chain.

Make sure you come to a dead stop before exploding off the bench/box. Use a high bar stance without making your feet width excessively wide.

A high bar stance is more knee-dominant than a low bar squat. A low bar squat recruits the hips more when knee flexion is more desirable for athletes.

Check out our article on the difference between high bar and low bar squat for more information.

Like with the weighted box jump, the box squat improves your vertical jump through the following.

It requires:

  • a high rate of force development
  • triple-joint extension
  • rapid motor unit recruitment
  • type IIb fast-twitch muscle fiber contraction
  • co-ordination
  • knee flexion

You can, of course, add bands and chains to the movement to increase the resistance as you complete the movement. This, in turn, will increase the rate of force development required — similar to a vertical jump.

The front squat variation is just as valuable, if not, more, to tackle harder, as it mimics athletic movements more closely than a back squat variation. Moreover, the risk of buttwink or your lower back rounding is lower, plus there’s reduced spinal loading if you have concerns about your spine.

Check out our article on spinal decompression to protect your back from injury and to increase athletic longevity.

The front squat version enables you to tackle harder as you are placed in a forward leaning position similar to when you bow your head to make a tackle.

This particular version carries over significantly to tackling.

3. Push Press

If you were to ask me what the very best exercise to tackle harder is, it would be the push press.

Beginning with a quarter squat, into a triple joint extension, before a violent Overhead Press, the Push Press is by far the best exercise to tackle harder as it contains the entire movement required for tackling in one fell swoop.

This one has it all.

The explosive power required to tackle and drive through your opponent along with the wrapping of the arms, the Push Press is basically tackling practice and strengthening off the pitch.

Aside from strengthening every area of a hard tackle, it will also instill correct neuromuscular coordination to making a big hit.

Catching the weight between reps will also help teach you how to absorb the blow from hard hits.

I would recommend 3-4 sets of 3-5 reps for best results. As this exercise is demanding, it is advisable to keep the rep ranges low and to avoid attempting reps in a state of fatigue to minimize the risk of injury.

Use the Push Press to tackle harder

4. Hang Power Snatch

THe Hang Power Snatch - YouTube
The Hang Power Snatch

This is probably my favorite movement to forge raw athleticism.

It’s violent, brusque, brutal, technical — it’s awesome!

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Now, this exercise might be daunting to newcomers — and that’s fine. In the meantime, you can do Banded Kettlebell Swings to build strength and get used to this intense hinge pattern movement.

And although the Hang Power Snatch is a hinge pattern movement, like the Box Squat or Box Jump, it requires:

  • a high rate of force development
  • a brusque triple-joint extension
  • rapid motor unit recruitment
  • type IIb fast-twitch muscle fiber contraction
  • co-ordination

All of which contribute towards an orbital vertical jump.

And like with the weight box jump, it can be dangerous to perform in a state of fatigue, which is why it’s advisable to keep the rep ranges low.

Anywhere between 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps with a weight 70-90% of your one rep max will suffice.

This is a better choice to its less technical cousin the Powerclean because it requires a greater rate of force development and faster motor unit recruitment, making it a better choice of exercise.

It will also hammer your forearms, traps, and posterior chain harder than anything else if done correctly.

All of the exercises listed are taxing on the Central Nervous System (CNS). Exercises from a dead stop are even more taxing. Be sure to limit heavy dead stop exercises to 2 training sessions a week to facilitate recovery.

The Hang Power Snatch somewhat imitates the initial movement required when making a tackle.

You bring your arms forward in conjunction with a triple joint extension to tackle harder.

Moreover, the Hang Power Snatch requires you to catch the bar at the end of the movement which helps you to condition the body to brace for impact.

The Powerclean is also a good choice to tackle harder as it requires more shock absorption to catch the bar at the end of the movement.

5. Incline Bench

Although the bench press is normally numero uno when it comes to upper body development for athletes, the incline bench press has a better carryover for tackling.

You need to wrap your arms when you tackle, but unless you’re tackling from a very high starting position — which is a no-no according to most coaches — the Flat Bench Press does not emulate a tackle as well as the Incline Bench Press.

It is preferable to use dumbbells for your Incline Bench Press with a view to tackle harder. Dumbbells follow a more natural range of motion over a barbell.

Dumbbells are, on the whole, more comfortable and a better choice for those who might suffer from shoulder impingements.

6. Weighted Box Jumps

Jumpsole weighted box jumps - YouTube

Nothing screams explosive power louder than a weighted jump. You need great explosive power to tackle harder than your peers.

Remember, strength is a skill as is jumping high.

A weighted box jump — preferably from a dead stop — will tick all the necessary boxes for a massive hit on the field.

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It requires:

  • a high rate of force development
  • a brusque triple-joint extension
  • rapid motor unit recruitment
  • type IIb fast-twitch muscle fiber contraction
  • co-ordination

The ideal rep ranges for this movement are between 3-5 reps for 3-5 sets.

This isn’t Crossfit and box jumps are dangerous — especially when fatigued.

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Adding an extra weight into the equation ups the risk of injury, too.

And you’re not training for endurance or hypertrophy so there is ABSOLUTELY NO NEED to take this exercise to high rep ranges.

Start with a light dumbbell or weighted vest, say, a 10-20lb total and increase the weight until you can safely land 5 box jumps.

DO NOT do this exercise with a barbell. If you butcher the execution, it’s harder to bail when you have a barbell on your back and your risk of serious injury skyrockets.

Alternatively, you can perform Quarter Squat Jumps from pins if you have safety concerns about executing weighted box squats.

On the power rack, set pins around 3/4 of the way up on your squat and jump as high as you can with the weight across your back.

This exercise can be overloaded more safely than the Weighted Box Jump and will go a long way to tackle harder.

7. Bulgarian Split Squat or Herc Squat

Why the Bulgarian Split Squat is a fairy tale – YPSI - Wolfgang Unsoeld
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This exercise has the most direct carryover to improving your first step and to tackle harder — since it literally trains that movement head on.

Keep the weight light and the intensity high. Descend slowly then explode as quickly as possible, while being cautious not to hyperextend the knee.

Knee flexion is crucially important to improve your first step and to tackle harder, and the Bulgarian Split Squat targets just that.

Finding the correct balance can be hard at first.

You can use the Smith Machine if you’re not too confident.

Or, alternatively, you can try our brutal remix of the Bulgarian Split Squat called the “Herc Squat” which is a supramaximal version that I used to great effect in the past to take my numbers into the stratosphere and build a baboonish behind.

I prefer to use dumbbells for this exercise as it follows a more natural range of motion and it is easier to remain balanced throughout the completion of the movement.

Check out our article on the “Herc Squat” to take your first step to new heights.

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