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I've recently been getting quite a few queries regarding technical issues via my youtube channel and requests for advise. This promoted me to produce a couple of videos attempting to answer questions and address technical issues.
My latest video (19th April) analyses the techniques of an Egyptian long jumper and an American triple jumper, for example. That's the great thing about our sport i.e. it truly is a global one... it's reach, if not popularity, is probably greater than that of football (soccer)!
The two athletes Abdelrahman and Kelechi had pretty good technical models, although I did see some things they could work on - albeit this, from my point of view, was a little difficult with just a couple of videos to anaylse. Take a look at the video below and you'll be able to see what they need to work on. Who knows their technical issues/issues could also be yours. It's great to be able to analyse the form of non-elite athletes as they strive to be the best they can... and on that subject.
Over the years it's become somewhat obvious to me that many athletes are working against themselves i.e. trying to jump, for instance, against a poor technique. As I say in the video, no matter how fast or strong you are, you will never jump as far as you could, if you have a poor technique. Yet, many seem to neglect this in their training. They will spend hours in the weights room or sprinting and neglect the cornerstone of performance - jump and run-up technique. Take, for example, the take-off for the long jump, if this is not set up optimally then the speed and power generated on the run-up will to some extent go to waste.
I base my coaching philosophy very much on trying to get everything to go straight through the take-off, for example. We don't want wasted lateral movements, for instance. Keeping the hips relatively even through the last three steps to and including take-off is part of this desire to get everything moving in the "right" direction. The content of my training sessions is designed to create a body and mind that will effectively apply force and move with as little wasted movement as possible. It will pay huge dividends in the long run if a jumper can develop an optimum technical model (working against their particular idiosyncrasies - more on this in another post).
So, my advice is to really study how you jump and to work out the best technical model for you and then, rather like the assembly line for a car, put together all the pieces. Work on foot-strike, hip swing of the free leg in isolation as drill, for example, and you'll find that when you jump you will hit the board/track with the correct foot position and your hip will "know" how to swing through into the take-off.
Good luck with your training & competition. Perfect praise makes perfect...
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I received a question in response to one of my more recent youtube videos on drop jumps from sakarumaster. The questioner wanted to know about the degree of knee bend required and triple extension. Here's the question and my answer and do also check out the video.
Q: Hi I was just wondering when we do the drop jumps, should we extend our legs fully and go into triple extension (hips ankles and knees unlocked) after we land or should be just bounce up keeping the same knee and hip angle while reacting?
A: That's a good question... we tend to use drop jumps for developing leg stiffness thus keeping the knee angle minimal with slightly reduced triple extension (this does create a bit of a bounce as you note, which in many ways is the aim... i.e. so that the muscles, ligaments and tendon will react/fire powerful on, e.g. striking the board for a long jump take-off). Potentially an athlete will dwell a little more on the ground if they "set" to triple extend. Also we believe in stiff ankles at contact and then pulling the ankle up after contact too, to create greater stiffness. The other plyometrics exercise we use, bounds and hops, for example, will employ greater triple extension due to the requirements of the movement/movements. We use the stiff type drop jumps (and partial hops) in the belief that it will create that greater stiffness and reactivity for the hops, bounds, long jump take-off and sprinting. Depending on your event and your level of training I'd actually vary the emphasis of the drop jumps you perform, so some with less triple extension than other, but you must channel that plyometric ability (stiffness/power) into your other ploys as required for your event. I think I have said in another video that a mature long jumper, for example, does not need to do the same plyos as a triple jumper. Try to work against the needs of the event, the stage in your development and your needs. Hope that helps
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The IAAF carries out research at its championships, or employs sports scientists to do so on their behalf. A team analysed the male and female long jump finalists at the 2008 Indoor World Championships in Valencia, looking specifically at take-off. Analysis was made via the use of high speed cameras.
A focus, for example, was made of the time the jumpers spent on the board and the way their muscles – and more specifically – their muscular actions worked to transfer them into the jump.
When a jumper’s leg hits the board a “stretch-reflex” occurs. The muscles of the ankles, knees and hips go on stretch (eccentric muscular action), there’s then a minute time delay (amoritization phase) before the jumper’s muscles ping back from the stretch to propel the jumper into the air (concentric muscular action).
The male jumpers had an eccentric phase that lasted between 40ms and 56ms and the concentric phase 72ms to 80ms. The total take-off time for all male jumpers averaged 122ms and for women 117ms. It was discovered that the women spent more time absorbing the contact on the board compared to men (the eccentric phase).
All jumpers lose speed at take-off (the research identified a 10.3% loss for the women and 8.7% for men) – minimising loss of speed is crucial to maximising distance jumped.
The researchers write:
“The compression (eccentric) phase is decisive for achieving the required braking so that the horizontal velocity built up in the approach run can be transformed into vertical impulse. In this phase the jumper accumulates elastic energy; the fact that it is so short proves the jumpers’ extraordinary ability to complete such transformation."
Benefits to us coaches and athletes
Strangely – but is often the case with this type of research - the researchers didn’t provide any practical advice i.e. “do this or that’s”.
So here's what I recommend:
Ref: IAAF New Studies in Athletics no. 3./4.2013
See a video below from my youtube channel on developing improved long jump take-off. Please subscribe to the channel!
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Getting the balance between the phases in the triple jump in terms of the distances for each is crucial. Hop too far and you risk reducing the total distance achieved or collapsing and bailing out of the jump. Here's a little bit of info that I've gleaned whilst putting together an article on the phase ratio in the triple jump for an article in a future edition of Athletics Weekly.
Phase ratio refers to the percentage that each phase of the triple jump i.e. the hop, step and jump, contributes to total distance achieved. Particularly in the men’s event there are hop dominant and jump dominant exponents. It should however be noted that the percentages of the phases are not wildly different i.e. we’re talking in the low to mid 30 percents for each phase.
At the recent world indoor champs Will Claye’s winning leap of 17.43m was comprised of a 5.93m hop, a 5.65m step and a 5.94m jump (incidentally had he been up to the limit on the take-off board he would have achieved a distance of 17.51m). In contrast Claye’s opener which had a 6.15m hop only resulted in a total distance of 16.86m, the main reducing culprit being the step which was only 5.17m. (For reference the raw, but talented high jumper turned triple jumper from Brazil, Almir dos Santos, who gained the silver behind Claye in Birmingham, hopped 6.44m on his best effort of 17.41m but only had a 5.05m step and finished with a 5.93m jump.)
Most young athletes have no or a very small step phase and it’s the step which holds the key to total distance jumped. Working to balanced ratios initially when learning can teach the young triple jumper, the event's rhythm and the skill needed to create a distance from all the phases. As they mature and develop speed, and specific condition they will then be well-placed to exploit whatever talent they have.
Below Will Claye's winning jump from this year's world indoors
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I recently uploaded (Feb '18) a video on plyometrics and how to get the best out of them on my youtube channel It's proving very popular in the short space of time it's been on YT so far (it's below if you want to take a look). It did get me thinking about how much athletes really understand about the training they do and in this instance plyometrics. When I was a young athlete myself (18-20) I found some books in the library (does anyone go to libraries anymore?) and leant some things about jump training and plyos. But I wouldn't of understood about how plyos can be tailored to the long & the triple jump i.e. to make them more specific to the different jumps' needs. Nor would I have been aware of tendons and their crucial role in energy return, nor indeed what leg stiffness was and how it can be trained to improve jump performance - if the term was even in use back in the three channels only on TV in the UK days!
It seems that young athletes still need to find out about this information as would appear from the popularity of this video and another on plyos, for example, on my channel. I think the key aspect might actually be, knowing what to do with the the information that is now widely available on all manner of training methods through social media and the www i.e. knowing how to make them work. In a couple of minutes you can see 50 plus jumps exercises on your mobile - but do they work for you and your needs? Jumping onto boxes from a standing start is a case in point... very impressive, but does that ability to jump translate into being able to run in over 10m/s to hit a 20cm board and impart and absorb enough force in 12-13 milliseconds to jump 7.80m plus in the long jump. Probably not. Yet, there are hundreds of thousands of similar jump videos particularly on Instagram of people piling boxes on top of each other and jumping (or not) up onto them.
If you want to be good at long jumping then you need to do exercises that are tailored toward long jump and these need to be the bread and butter of your training. Sure you can jump up on boxes if you like but just make sure you can absorb over 4 times your body weight on one leg at a touch down velocity that would equate to running 10.5sec for the 100m and then land in the pit let's sat 8m/26 feet later!
There are not enough good long jumpers. We are really struggling. we have zero strength in depth", says Greg Rutherford in this week's Athletics Weekly. This is a subject very close to my might heart as a former international long jumper and now coach. Have we every had strength in depth in the long jump? Could be more of a truer comment.
When I was competing 8m jumps were very rare. I think in my six or so years in the top 10 in the UK there were maybe 5-10, 8m jumps (not jumpers). Then how long did it take for Lynn Davies' 1968 set, British record of 8.23m to be broken? Thirty-five years. That's when Nathan Morgan jumped 8.26m. And it wasn't until 2011 until a Brit got over 8.30m - Chris Tomlinson with 8.35m. The rest of the world moved on, sort of. Overall long jumping in the noughties was not that spectacular. The US has (bar Dwight Philips) really only started to get going again in the long jump after the era of Carl Lewis, Mike Powell and Larry Myricks in the eighties and nineties - with the likes of Jeff Henderson and probably the bigger talent Jarrion lawson. Indeed on the whole world long jump standards have really only just started to pick-up recently speared on by Luvo Manyonga.
I coached a European junior Champion Elliot Safo (2013) - he's an incredibly talented jumper, yet in many ways he was lost to the sport, like many other talented athletes have from many other events. We're trying to entice him back BTW. We don't seem to be able to nurture our talent like other nations. When I was at the European Jumps convention in Falun last autumn it appeared that other European nations invested more in their athletes and attempted to keep them in their systems in some ways. Now this may be a reflection of the fact that they have fewer athletes of note and therefore in whichever event they come along in and have success in these nations don't want to let them go. Our athletic system can't run to supporting hundreds of talented athletes (unlike in professional football where one academy would have a budget I'd guess many times greater than the UKA Future's programme.
What can we do to get more long jump talent?
Well, try to hold onto the ones we have. It was great to see Feron Sayers start jumping well last year in particular, he like Elliot was a great talent in his junior days (7.80m). But do these and other athletes get support? Most of the post 23-year-old athletes competing in our national champs work full-time and have all those life commitments that preclude them really focussing on their profession. If you were England's 6th choice fly-half you'd not be juggling work with playing. Yet it's probably only Greg who is a full time jumper now.
Help has to come from somewhere.
We need to think how the process of helping our jumpers develop works. We need to share knowledge and resources and work together. We need to create a situation where 8m is the starting point and not the goal for success in the event. And yes, we do need more guys with speed to try the event as Greg highlights. Brutally honestly most of our long jumpers aren't really fast enough.
Rowing, and handball was it? had talent identification days, I think before the 2012 Olympics, basically they were searching for tall people! Why can't a similar speed and jump initiative be established for the long jump (and er triple jump). Men who can run consistently 10.40-10.70 for 100m... or around 6.70 for 60m... but who can jump, may be 6.50m without knowing how to jump, if that makes sense. It has to be said there are some sprinters who you can see would probably be able to jump and others that probably couldn't. But at least if we tried to find some talent then we might be able to unearth some 8m guys. The event with the success of our women and Greg in particular has a potential to be in the spotlight, it's just that the light is not switched on nor pointed in the right direction.
Postscript: Are we that bad?
The US has won the majority of Olympic long jump titles didn't recently in 2008 and 2012 (Irving Saladino and of course Greg did). Britain has won two Olympic long jump gold medals (Lynn & Greg) which is one more than any other nation other than the US. So we do have the talent, it just comes along sporadically. Now's to try to get a conveyor belt going.
Below (R). Elliot Safo: 2013 Euro junior long jump champion (world junior finalist; Euro Youth Olympics Gold medalist, Commonwealth Games Youth Games silver medallist). (Elliot, If you're reading this, it's time to dust of those spikes!!!)
Below (L) A look inside Feb 22nd Athletics Weekly
Recently has been a very busy period for me. Like many of us, time seems to be running at warp speed and yesterday seems to have not finished before today starts.
After returning from England coaching duties in Vienna, where I was jumps team coach (a great honour), I got a phone call from Wendy Sly from the Great Run company about Athletics Weekly. Would I be interested in doing some writing for the magazine on a more permanent basis (I’d regularly contributed over many years)? This was another great opportunity and, something I’d not have foreseen, thirty-five odd years back, when my name first appeared in the UK men’s top 50 lists for the long jump. I was 17 and had managed a jump of 7.04m in that year’s English Schools.
I recalled how I flicked through the then small A5 copies of AW at my school – one of the teachers must have been a runner. I recall a copy with, I think, the East German sprinter Marlies Gohr on the cover. AW has always been around for me as a coach and an athlete and occasional master athlete and now I have the opportunity to be a regular contributor. We (us athletes) all wanted to see our name in print in the mag and wow, if we got our picture, now that would be an achievement.
I’ll be writing on the performance aspects of the sport, through my own devices/assignments and contacts and via suck knowledgably contributors as Dave Lowes, Tom McNab and others. I’ll be calling up some of my coach friends to see if you have some nuggets of information! Also, if any of you reading this have ideas for content let me know.
The first few weeks have been hectic, getting copy together and learning what I have to do. I’ve still got some other commissions for other magazines and websites to complete too and of course there’s my coaching. But it’s a fun (most of the time) and somewhat obviously writing for AW and my coaching fit very well together.
Over the past few decades of health, fitness and sports writing/editing I’ve had the privilege and the opportunity to talk to so many sportsmen and women and coaches, fitness instructors and strength & conditioning experts and even fly over the rain forests of Brazil whilst covering an ultra race (that’s a story for another day). Magazines are still an entertaining and invaluable means to kick-back, switch-off and relax, but they do need to evolve and utilise social media and in particular video to engage, further their reach and make some money! My YouTube channel was in a way a reflection of these changing media times. I should have been more proactive many years back… but better late than never. So for AW you’ll be reading more from me and maybe hearing and even seeing a bit of me in some of the videos I hope to make to go with some of the articles.
Oh, and speaking of busy weeks, here's a review of three of the group's performances at the British Trials and the British Universities and Colleges Championships last weekend.
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Coaches - trust your knowledge
As coaches we are always trying to learn how to improve our athletes but sometimes the research we refer to can leave us dangling, it can be a little obtuse and simply (well, actually not simply sometimes) difficult to understand.
It’s been part of my life for many years to read learned papers and decipher what the white-coated boffins of the sports science labs are coming up with and telling us “will” or “won’t work” (and often at the same time). Now, the problem can be that as much of the research takes places with “controlled” reference groups in lab settings (and not in real world sports environments) and over limited time periods that direct take-home relevance may be lacking. The research may at best guide us i.e. it doesn’t provide specific recommendations on how to implement the research findings practically.
As coaches we must not always defer to the sports scientists as we have the day-to-day first-hand experience of putting training methods into practice and of seeing the results. We must use the sports science to guide our coaching but it should not always lead us, and we should trust our own accumulated knowledge to interpret.
It was an honour to be called up to coach for England (long and triple jump) at the early season Vienna international meeting at the end of Jan.
This was the second time that I have coached for England, the first being on home soil at the Loughborough International, the season before last. Who'd have thought that I'd, sort-of, be an international again, twenty years after pulling on my last England vest in an international in Ukraine against the Ukraine.
Coaching athletes you are not familiar with is not an easy task and really we're only, as team coaches supposed to offer basic advice, such as position on the board. We also have to ensure that the athletes get to their events on time and have everything they need. I'll not write too much about what directly happened as I pulled together a video on my experiences - which you can see below. Also there's. full write up of all the happenings across all events on the England website - click here to read that.
It was a great experience coaching from the sidelines as ever and the athletes performed well, albeit some with some early season cobwebs.
When I was an athlete you would hardly know your teammates let alone your team coaches and this is one area where social media can be beneficial. Through Instagram in particular I was familiar with at least two of the jumpers I would be working with, so I was able to take a look at their jumping styles and even communicate with them prior to the event. And rather scarily, but in a good way (if that's possible) I was recognised from my youtube channel by two Austrian jumpers. The power of the internet eh?
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See what I've been up to!