Coaching, jumps, sprints & more
Everything about jumping and sprinting and how to improve your performance
Here's an article I wrote for Peak Performance a while back that may help endurance athletes that read this blog.
Basically it looks at whether sprint training methods, such as sprint intervals, and plyometrics can enhance the endurance principally of runners and cyclists, as measured by variables such as performance economy, maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max), and ultimately event performance. (for more from peak performance click here)
Sprinting is obviously a very high-powered activity. During a 100m race around 45-47 strides will be taken by elite males to complete the distance, and the likes of Usain Bolt will be touching nearly 29mph at max speed. Foot contacts will take place in less than 0.09 of a second. It’s therefore not surprising that the fastest men and women spend a great deal of their training time, power training. They use heavy weights, sprint drills, plyometrics and short recovery intervals to improve their velocity and speed endurance. Contrast this with the likes of marathon runners, who even at elite level, will be completing miles in 4.58min, as calculated for 2.10hr marathon, and whose foot contacts will take around 300 milliseconds. With a predominantly aerobic requirement for long endurance events (as opposed to the anaerobic sprinter) it would seem that there would be little reason for employing a sprinter’s short-lived power training techniques. However, there’s a growing body of research that indicates that actually borrowing from the sprinter’s conditioning armoury can boost endurance.
Sprint Interval Training (SIT)
Sprint athletes will, for example, perform runs over 50-500m at intensities from 70-100%. Recoveries will vary in regard to the purpose of the training session. However, 400m sprinters, in particular will often use very short recoveries, running near flat out efforts for 30-45sec in particular, across a number of repetitions and sets. These sessions boost lactate/lactic acid tolerance. It’s this type of training (or more exactly the protocol) that could benefit endurance types.
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For a recent assignment for UK athletics magazine Athletics Weekly I was sent to find out how British Rowing uses data to develop its athletes and identify talent pathways. The sport works hand in hand with SAS (the sport's official analytics partner). To promote this partnership and showcase what British Rowing is doing (and do note it is one of Britain's most successful sports) a special talent ID was put on and Morgan Lake (second on the all-time high jump rankings and none other than Olympic long jump champ Greg Rutherford went along to put themselves to the test.
In the AW article I made a comment about learning from rowing:
Definitely yes, however, our sport is a much larger and diverse one, but I’ve often thought that searching even among our own ranks for a male and female triple jumper (one of the UK’s weakest events, for example, at present) could be an interesting project. There are so many talented sprinters who won’t unfortunately make it to the very top but who might, for example, do so in the triple (it’s not as hard as rowing!). Some basic speed, strength and power tests would be easy to pull together to determine potentiality.
World Class Start Programme
You can see how Lake and Rutherford managed in this short video from the day and in Athletics Weekly (article published 6th Dec 18) https://www.athleticsweekly.com
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As we actually nearly enter December it's time to change the blocks of training that we are doing.
With the undulating periodisation model that I'm using the emphases change slightly rather than wholesale. Unlike when I was an athlete the transition is not abrupt and we suddenly don't go straight from running 200's and 300's to sprinting and jumping - rather it's been a gradual progression of layering. Layering more speed work on speed work, more technical take-off work on more technical take-off work (so that we can transition to the pit and start jumping properly and with out cognitive confusion) ...
The triphasic training that I've been following in and out of the weights room seems to be going well with the group, it is a bit of an experiment this year. We've been following some of the protocols outlined by Cal Dietz in his book Triphasic Training. Individuals will respond differently to different training stimuli, so this has to be taken into account when new training methods are implemented. It's also not a wholesale change as I'd been incorporating elements into the group's training previously - isometric squats and presses and eccentric/isometric landing jumps.
I'll be able to comment more on this training-response outcome as the weeks pass and we do more speed testing and also more pit work. Incidentally, we did our first pit jump session recently and there did seem to be a good "jump response" - but this of course could be down to a number of other factors - for example, the general progression of training toward this and subsequent jump sessions i.e. that the jumpers were well-prepared to jump and confident physically and mentally (a response to the block periodisation approach most likely).
One last point which is slightly divergent from the above (but related) is the need to look at and try to train the feet and ankle flexors and extensors so that this crucial link in the kinetic chain applies force optimally and technically proficiently and with less injury risk up (and down) the body. Some of the group have flat feet and you can see how their feet roll in on foot contact whilst sprinting. Their feet don't return energy as quickly nor as sharply as other group members with higher arches and a more neutral foot plant. It stands to reason that if this can be corrected then greater contact response will result and therefore greater speed. To this end we have been doing some barefoot drills, and runs (over short distances) and other "foot work".
I'll be making a video on this subject and perhaps pulling together an article for Athletics Weekly on this in future. The feet are crucial for athletic performance but are often neglected from a training and conditioning point of view.
Latest Video (below)
The latest video I've uploaded contains answers to questions that I have been sent through the YT channel. These include:
How to establish a basic run-up length
How to beat a long jump distance plateau and what could be be the causal factors
And, how to pull together training session using a unit approach
YouTube Community Addition
My channel now has the community section added - where creators can be more in-touch with their followers ... it enables posts and "exclusive content" to be seen by subscribers. I can also post more specific comment and perhaps even article or at least snippets of where I want to expand on themes that I can't cover so easily in the videos, so do check that out.
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How well do you know your athletes if you are a coach? And athletes what do you think of your coach? Do you like them, respect them, appreciate their knowledge?
I've just been editing an article for Athletics Weekly sort of on this very subject by former athlete and now coach and doctorate in psychology Sara Almeida. She's produced some very interesting research on this subject which uses what's known as CARI - an on-ine questionnaire. This stands for Coach Athlete Relationship Inventory. As the article comes out next week in the Nov 8th issue of the magazine. I don't want to say too much yet, but I will whet your appetite with this little snippet:
In the coach athlete relationship, the athlete needs to know that the coach is keeping up to date with the latest conditioning and technical knowledge in order that they can feel secure that they are being coached by someone who is knowledgeable, who can be trusted and relied upon.
CARI enables coaches and athletes to better perceive their relationship - in particular to understand each other’s goals, values and opinions. I believe that the research sends out a powerful message to coaches to invest in a good coach athlete relationship, and to make sure the relationship is perceived in the same way by the athlete.
The coach athlete psychological dimension is actually one that I don't give too much thought too. I tend to "just coach". However, having been selected for the Into High Performance course I blogged about last week, this article has fallen on particularly receptive ears.
I've had a look at CARI and may try implementing it with my athletes. Together with the course it's making me think about my coaching practise in a little more details and peeling off another layer of that onion that when revealed and addressed could improve my coaching. I do however, want to be true to myself and to not work from a kind of pre-selected crib sheet/sales pitch. Just because you know the right thing to say does not make it necessarily the right thing to say!
I'll leave you with an example: an athlete I coach can dwell too much on the minutiae of technique and although this may initially seem like a great thing, it's not so great when the athlete begins to question whether their perfectly adequate technique is right. So, I've gone against an athlete centred approach and adopted a coach centred slightly authoritarian one. "We'll do it this way..." (!). Why do I know (hope) this will work because I know the athlete and I want to get the best out of him or her!
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I've just returned from a weekend in the Midlands... Birmingham & Nottingham. In the latter I visited a nature reserve and looked at the habitat of many migratory birds... and very relaxing it was especially if you know your Mallards from your er ducks. Nope this blog has not turned into an environmental, natural history one. I only start this post like this as for some reason I've always been an inquisitive type who likes to learn and discover, hence my sojourn to the nature reserve. The real reason I was in the Midlands (sorry wildlife) was to attend two courses relevant to my development as a coach.
First up I spent a day with one of the athletes I coach (16m plus triple jumper Jonathan Ilori) on the England Athletics Jumps weekend. These events bring together some of the top jumpers and coaches in the country to share knowledge and experiences. The athletes get to be watched by different coaches and there's a healthy interchange of ideas and "what if you did that/what about changing that movement". If, as a coach or an athlete you're not prepared to listen to new thoughts then you're not going to progress. Another coach may just see how to change that "fault" you've been working on. I hope I helped some of the other coaches and I definitely got some great pointers from UKA coach Aston Moore. I tend to emphasis the forward movement of my take-off drills, for example. However, for the triple jump in particular you also need range, and a skipping drill may have its range compromised by too great an emphasis on forward momentum. So, I'll now be adding some more range developing examples into our programme as a consequence of the Birmingham session.
The day also included a great talk by 17m60 man Nathan Douglas, who presented on the stress and recovery aspects of being an athlete. Great advice was given on how athletes, coaches and in fact everyone, should learn how to deal with stress and crucially take time to regenerate and recover. Some great anecdotes and visuals were used to get across the points Nathan was making. I'm sure the younger athletes in the room will have taken on board what was presented with Nathan's passion and humour. They'll definitely recall why he wanted to "Knock Walter Davies' lights out". (Walter if you're reading this, he doesn't really mean it...).
The day I attended also included a testing session where the long and triple jumpers performed various power tests - which included, for example, four hops and a jump and standing long jumps. It was good to see how well Jonathan did against norms that other UK jumpers have produced over the years of testing. Obviously you need to be mindful of the validity of the test and how it impacts on performance. I did ask how Jonathan stacked up against other jumpers - and based on his results was advised that he was capable of the distances we thought he was (everything else being equal). So, fingers-crossed, it'll be a great season for him next year.
After Birmingham I headed to Notts for a UK Coaching "Into High Performance" two-day event - where we were told we were not "lucky" but "exceptionally talented" to have been selected to attend. Us British people always tend to downplay our achievements for fear of being seen as big-headed - so I'll say it was great to be selected! The two days of seminars were all about developing as a coach and working on our own "training". We coaches spend so much time training others that we can neglect ourselves (there were parallels with Nathan's presentation). So, it was great to be involved with other coaches across a wide array of sports, such as football, to Paralympic sports, including, judo, shooting and partially sighted football. I'll say more on this experience in other future posts.
Learning has always been a part of me and it's great at the age I am that I still have the opportunities, desire and enjoyment of learning in great environments and with great people. Long may it continue.
Did you know certain N American birds can get blown so far off their migratory path that they end up in Nottingham....
See some of the action from the jumps weekend below....
The new season for preparation comes around all too quickly. Coaches need to have a rest as do athletes, but this year I don't seem to have had much of one!
This year I've introduced some new weight training ideas into our workouts as has been indicated in recent posts and on my associated Youtube channel There's been quite a lot of discussion on 'Triphasic training" - which involves specific eccentric, isometric and concentric weights workouts. It's something that in many ways I'd been using without having specifically programmed to do so, However, reading Cal Dietz's book Triphasic Training, contextualised and added more to what I'd planned.
In the video below you'll see what we've been up to in our first week or so of training. It sets the scene for what's to follow. I always try to pare down what we need to do to the key elements - speed, power, technique. Yes, some metabolic conditioning is required, but even with young athletes the former qualities trump these. A jumper needs to be able to run near to 40m flat out and be powerful enough and coordinated enough to take-off and execute a mid-air action. They don't need to be fit enough to run 6 200's in 23-sec.
,The sentiment however is what's compelling. It's about not wasting time doing the wrong exercises, or not loading the bar correctly, and in my most recent video thinking about doing eccentric and isometric weights room exercises. All thinking is geared toward what will make you run faster or jumper further.
If you've been a regular viewer of my videos you'll know that I have long used eccentric/isometric jump exercises, where we focus on blocking the landing and working on moving down into the jump, for example, when conditioning. An eccentric muscular action is a muscle lengthening one where muscles go on stretch to decelerate movement. This happens when the foot hits the take-off board in the long jump - the muscles (ligaments and tendons) around the ankle, knee and hip will stretch to stop the jumper collapsing through their take-off leg. They then recoil very quickly (creating muscle shortening actions) to propel the jumper from the board. Sandwiched between this eccentric and concentric action is an isometric one. There will be, in the case of the long jump take-off, a minute moment when there will be no movement, when the eccentric action, stops, and then transfers direction concentrically.
It therefore makes sense to train your muscles eccentrically, isometrically and concentrically (concentrically being the most common form of muscular action - as is the case with squats and bench presses, for example). On my channel I was made aware of Triphasic Training by Cal Dietz, an S&C expert at the University of Minnesota. I got a hold of his book which is all about conditioning via blocks of eccentric, isometric and concentric emphasis weights exercises in order to find out more and better inform my training programme construction. The book has proved very useful in this respect - look out for a full review in future.
So, in pulling together my training programme for this 2018/2019 season I have really thought long and hard about the role of isometric and eccentric weights room exercises and have created a specific training programme for them that fits around the other key drivers of my training plans - plyometric, technique work, acceleration and top end speed. All hung around a block periodisation undulating periodisation methodology.
The video embeded within the post will further explain my current thoughts and I hope to expand upon these in the light of practical experience in future ones.
PS: I'm even doing some of the exercises myself and can feel - even at my old age - the transference.
I recently interviewed master sprinter and top sprints coach Jason Carty for Athletics Weekly. Here's a snippet of the interview which is in this week's edition of the magazine. Jason's story is a truly remarkable one.... in 2016 he was being operated on for cancer, virtually two years later he runs a lifetime 100m Pb 11.01sec!
I produced a video on my youtube channel looking at the stats produced by the IAAF from the world champs last year and the men's long jump final.
You'll hear and see some of my comment and thoughts in the video below,, but here's a little snippet of a response I gave to one of the commenters on my YT channel who had also looked at the videos.
It's "alarming" when you see so much info and then try to get your head around it and then you begin to think, is this really going to help me? I can't get an angle of take-off nor the contact times of the last three steps and if I did what would it tell me? That my jumpers are slightly slower?? I sort of know that as they don't jump 8.60m!
What's useful is the sprint time over the last 5-10m to the board (and wasn't past of this IAAF study). I have a freelap timing system that I tested for Athletics Weekly and then decided to buy one. It's easy to set up and very portable and I was able to time the 10m-5m & 5m-board segments on the run-up. I'll be making a video on this and working out what else I can do with the kit and then comparing the date that's more everyday and usable with what else I have from the IAAF and other sources vis a vis elite jumpers.
M45 British Record holder Jason Carty (11.01sec) sled pulling
Weighted sleds and acceleration
As with the theme of posts recently I'm looking at adding some different aspects to my coaching sessions this winter... evolution rather than revolution and resisted sled pulls/pushes is something that I'm keen on. I dug out some old articles I'd written and this snippet seems to have some relevance to directing my thoughts.
Athletes from numerous sports tow weighted sleds (or car tyres) loaded with weights over distances – usually 5m-40m - to improve their acceleration. Variations in standing start are used, for example, three point, standing and sprint starts. It's also possible to push using devices such as prowlers.
Achieving a low driving position is particularly important if the athlete is to get in the best position to overcome inertia. The added load will force the athlete to drive hard through their legs and pump vigorously with their arms.
A team of Greek researchers looked specifically at the validity of towing methods as a way of improving both acceleration and sprint speed *. Eleven students trained using 5kg weighted sleds (the RS group) and eleven without (the US group). Both followed sprint-training programmes, which consisted of 4x20m and 4x50m maximal effort runs. These were performed three times a week for 8 weeks. Before and after the training programs the subjects performed a 50-metre sprint test. The students’ running velocity was measured over 0-20m, 20-40m, 20-50m and 40-50m. In addition stride length and stride frequency were evaluated at the third stride in acceleration and between 42-47m during the maximum speed phase.
The researchers discovered that the RS group improved their running velocity over the 0m– 20m phase ie their acceleration improved. However, this acceleration improvement had no effect on their flat out speed. This contrasted with the US group who improved their running velocity over the 20-40 m, 40-50m, and 20-50 m run sections. This led the researchers to draw the obvious conclusions that, “Sprint training with a 5kg sled for eight weeks improved acceleration, but un-resisted sprint training improved performance in the maximum speed phase of non-elite athletes. It appears that each phase of sprint run demands a specific training approach.”
* J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2005 Sep;45(3):284-90.
However, if sleds are used as a means of improving acceleration, what is the optimum load to tow for maximum training adaptation? Australian researchers from Sydney considered just this *. Twenty male field sports players completed a series of sprints without resistance and with loads equating to 12.6 and 32.2% of body mass. The team discovered that stride length was significantly reduced by approximately 10% and 24% for each load respectively. Stride frequency also decreased, but not to the same extent as stride length. In addition sled towing increased ground contact time, trunk lean, and hip flexion. Upper body results showed an increase in shoulder range of motion with added resistance. Crucially it was discovered that the heavier load generally resulted in a greater disruption to normal sprinting technique compared with the lighter load. In short towing heavier weight sleds in unlikely to specifically benefit acceleration.
I'll add a little to this... the base level of power of the sprinter will have an effect... more powerful athletes will be able to generate greater force and this should also be factored into consideration when loading sleds. Many coaches time the acceleration too, and this will provide an objective measurement as to whether the land is too much or too little. Note: I believe that too much will be much more disruptive than too little... we are after speed, frequency, stride-length and optimum technique - factors which are less likely to be disrupted by "lighter" loads.