Coaching, jumps, sprints & more
Everything about jumping and sprinting and how to improve your performance
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.
Just a short post on end of season and planning for the new prep phase.
I have had a chat with a couple of the athletes in my group about their training for this autumn and beyond. The main cause for debate seems to be strength and conditioning and in particular weights. I'll be honest, I've not been as "hot" on weights as other coaches and athletes. I feel that there are far better S&C options - especially for non full-time athletes who have limited training time. To me plyos, speed work, technique and other jump type work (e.g. loaded squat jumps) are more important and can be integrated into out training sessions.
As you may know I follow a block preiodisation/undulating periodisation model and my training sessions include - very often - all the elements required to develop long and triple jump. What do I mean? Well, we don't just jump or sprint... we will do various units in the training sessions that work on all the required components of long and triple jump. The content of these units varies across the training period - agility, sprint technique (of which I have numerous exercises), acceleration, top-end speed, take-off work and so forth.
However, perhaps for the first time (should I say that?) I have decided to get more on top of the weight training that some of the group do. I have developed some ideas on eccentric training and through reading up and watching on youtube, for example, the work of Cal Dietz (of Tri-phasic training fame).
I recently posted some of these thoughts in one of youtube channel videos and you can hear and see more of what I intend in the video (the link to the video and a further post on the subject is here).
And here's a further video (on pre- and early season training) where some follow-up takes place on why general strength training can be a waste of time!
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In a number of recent posts and videos on my youtube channel I have been mentioning the potential benefits of isometric (and eccentric and plyometric muscular actions - these two in particular). However, in the process of writing an article for Athletics Weekly on cross-country conditioning I found some interesting research on the role of isometric activity for these athletes.
The full article will be out Thursday 20th Sep, but here's a taste and some of the unused material. It will show that this often-negelacted aspect of sports conditioning - isometric training - can play an important role. As indicated I will be looking to introduce more isometric and eccentric weight training into my training group's activities this preparation period. It seems to be able to offer numerous benefits.
Sports scientists studied the incidence of injury in cross-county runners and have noted that performing specific strengthening exercises can reduce the on-set of injury across a season.
One survey looked at knee and shin muscle injury in high school athletes.
The team wanted to see specifically whether the cross-country runners’ hip and knee muscle strength influenced whether they sustained injury. They specifically measured isometric hip and knee power.
An isometric muscular action in a “non-movement” one - muscles work against each other, or a resistance, but with no actual movement takes place. Examples of isometric exercises that would strengthen the knee muscles would include 1: using a leg press machine to press the weight away and then bringing it back so that the knee angle is around 90 degrees, whilst then holding the weight in that position for a given time, for example 8 seconds and 2: a wall squat, held perhaps for 20 seconds.
Note: Isometric strength is very specific to the angle at which force is applied so in order to fully develop it different angles of application should be used.
Returning to the study sixty-eight cross-country runners (47 girls, 21 boys) were involved and they were monitored across the entire 2014 season.
It was discovered that:
During the season, three (4.4%) runners experienced knee pain and 13 (19.1%) shin injury. More specifically, it was discovered that hip strength was related to knee injury, with the isometrically weaker cross-country runners being significantly more predisposed to injury in this area.
However, when it came to shin injury the team noted that hip and knee muscle strength was not significantly associated with injury.
Perhaps this can be explained by the fact that shin injuries are less dependent on specific strength (although this can be of benefit) and are often likely the result of exposure to too high mileages or running on different surfaces too soon. Avoidance of these types of injuries is therefore very reflexive of training load, rest and recovery season demands and session planning. The requirements of a full-on cross-county programme may therefore have been the main reason for the runners sustaining shin pain.
Hopefully this info will show how training different muscular actions in this case isometric, can aid injury avoidance. Look out for more on this subject and eccentric activity in future posts and videos.
I’ve recently started to think about planning for the next training year. What do I keep the same? What do I change and what do I get rid of? These and other questions and potential answers are milling around in my head at present.
As, regular readers of this blog will know I’m very much a “less is more” type of coach when it comes to training planning (periodisation). I use a version of what’s known as “block” periodisation or undulating periodisation. This system never loses sight of speed, for example, and ensures that all the key qualities required for long and triple jump are not put on the shelf.
Classical models of periodisation, which use a pyramidal approach, with a wide general prep base, that move through cycles, to more specific and more specific training units, are now increasingly falling out of favour with coaches (particularly at the elite level). This is because, and keep that shelf comment in mind, if you put the key aspects of long and triple jump (speed, technique etc) onto that shelf at the beginning of the training year, they’ll gather metaphorical dust. A couple of months later you take them off that shelf and what do you find? They’re (metaphorically again) dusty. The result: the athlete struggles to run fast, take-off, coordinate technical movements quickly and efficiently and so on. So, you’re back behind the specific training continuum and needing to er, dust off technique and speed. The athlete then spends the next, and crucial part of the training year, attempting to get the speed and technical efficiency back, and probably to the level that they had at the end of the summer season when they started back training in the first place.
Oh, and did I mention tissue resilience – or cutting through the jargon - injury risk to muscles, ligaments and tendons? More specific to event training (and a pre-training programme), will significantly reduce the potential for injury – another benefit of block periodisation methods.
Oh, but they’ll be stronger and fitter some will shout who advocate macrocycles of general prep… stronger and fitter for what? (Stronger and fitter at being stronger and fitter probably). The jumper will not be specifically more powerful, quicker and crucially reactive enough to be able to lift out of greater speed and therefore jump further.
Now, if that same jumper trained for speed all year round, they’d get quicker and quicker - theoretically at least - there is a little bit more to it than, for example, sprinting everyday.
Many jumps coaches who follow the block periodisation method/methods will start the training year with acceleration work. It’s speed work, develops power and is more concentric in nature. The belief is that the greater starting power generated the greater the potential top-end speed – everything else being equal. This is an approach that I favour too. However, I think that I didn’t quite get the top end speed development right. There are so many factors to consider here – one being the need for a specific type of speed on the run-up. Running 40m-odd to hit a 20cm board is not the same as running 40m flat out. What’s key is the acceleration and optimum speed into and off of the board.
This year I hope to up my coaching game with a shiny bit of kit, probably a freelap timing system. This extremely portable bit of kit should enable me to measure the run-up speed parameters I want and this will inform me objectively, if I am getting my training planning right (or as “right” as it can be… better may be the way to put it).
Another aspect of training that I want to develop more for my jumpers will be a slightly different approach to muscular action training – I’m avoiding saying weight training and even strength and conditioning, as I don’t want people to think exclusively of weight room activities. I’m looking at getting more eccentric and even isometric training into our workouts this training year and I’ll say more about that in another post.
So, when it comes to training planning for long and triple jump I advocate that you think and act specifically. Speed on the run-up and at take-off/take-offs and the technical ability and power needed are the keys to jumping far. The training mix needs to reflect this and you need to be able to, as objectively as possible, be able to measure these qualities.
Look out for progress updates as this training season progresses. And good luck with your training and competition.
PS: Latest video is now up on the YT channel and this deals with that muscular action training I mentioned above.
And thanks to all those who've passed by and had a watch... we've now reached 3k subs and close to half a million views!