Coaching, jumps, sprints & more
Everything about jumping and sprinting and how to improve your performance
I was recently posed a question on my YT channel about the value of concentric strength and young athletes. I think this is a topic that needs some detailed consideration, hence I have copied my response in full and the question below. I hope it puts into context the value of concentric strength and how it's important to develop it but not so at the expense of reactivity and speed.
Yes, you do need a concentric base and this needs developing as a young athlete, but it will not be the main ingredient in your ultimate jump or sprint success.
Here's the Question:
As you may know, most of your viewers are based in the States and have been exposed to lots of American Football and the training associated with it, where people would lift weights six times a week. Many track athletes, in fact, have a football background including Christian Coleman, Will Claye and Bryce Lamb (who was a product of our rival school!) However this type of training seems like it is off with your training philosophy where you advocate two weights sessions a week. I believe most of your videos are a result of your training with athletes who already have a strong concentric base, able to jump 3m in the standing long jump, so you put weight training as a lower priority as less returns can be made from that training. Through digging through papers and being exposed to other training philosophies, I have developed a theory that the amount of weight you can lift would determine your ceiling. For example, a person who can squat 100kg would benefit less from plyometrics and bounding, therefore have it really be unlikely to be a world class jumper than a person who could squat 200kg in a condition where the two would have similar plyometric experience. Correct me if I am wrong Since much of your viewers are young high school athletes, I want your opinion on how should teenagers ages 16-18 start to develop that concentric base you referred to in some of your videos. It seems that two sessions of weights a week is little for someone looking to develop strength as quick as possible. For example, I am 16 years old and have a 2.35 m standing long jump and can squat 95 kg. Should most of the work be done in the offseason and maybe ramp up the frequency of weight sessions? I really want to use all my three seasons left wisely. Thanks for all the support you give your viewers and with the content you produce as you may have realized by now that you are the only channel on youtube who puts such effort into making these quality LJ/TJ videos PS. When will that drop jump video come out you mentioned a while ago? Really excited for that
Here's my reply:
Many thanks for your comments and the thought you have yourself put into your training and some of the theory of training. Now, in your case with your SLJ, I would recommend that you have a bigger concentric (and other muscular action) strength base. So, squatting, lunges, deadlifts etc will develop that base. Loaded jump squats and also sled pulls will also be perhaps more dynamic ways to develop this increased concentric capability. It will take time for an athlete of your age to develop this foundation strength. And, yes, despite my (slight) downplaying of concentric weight training, it is still important. I try to make the point that there are (especially for the mature athlete and ones with a high level of concentric ability) better ways to develop 'jump power'... but you do need that base. If you want to add a third session why not make it a power combination (complex/contrast) one where you add in plyos and eccentric drops for example. Then you may also benefit from the potentiating effects of the combined training methods. One thing you need to take care over is training adaptation. I would ask the question - how can the body adapt and 'grow stronger' in response to 6 sessions of weights a week? There's the over-shoot' phenomenon and the volume of training would likely create conditions for training stagnation and also potential refiguring of muscle fibre in ways that you might not want i.e. type 2x fibres to type 2a... Now, you mention your SLJ, how's your top end speed and your reactivity. I'd rather have a young athlete come to me who's fast and reactive rather than concentrically strong... strength is relatively easier to develop compared to the other qualities. I'll even use myself as an example, although I wish I trained differently back in the day (as most of us ex athletes do!) I was not that great as SLJ, at your age I was of a similar ability and only managed 2.85m at my supposed best. Yet, I ran 21.8sec and jumped 7.89m and to this day I'm still reactive at drop jumps, for example. Yes, I probably needed more of a concentric base in my early career which may have pushed me onto faster times and longer distances but it shows how innate qualities of speed and reactivity are perhaps more important. I'd say that a squat in the range of 200kg when you are mature would be a good target. Most of my male jumpers could do that, if they had to. Even I can do 150kg and I don't really weight train that much now. A note of depth of squat, I'd keep it to the range needed for the LJ and TJ and sprints, there is research that indicates that deep squatting can stretch tendons which is many ways you don't want. Shorter Achilles tendons, for example, can produce more power that longer ones. Hope this helps and guides. Will also post on the main page, in case you miss this.
)Last weekend I sat enthralled by the quality of the action at the Euro Indoors in Glasgow. It was a shame that I was unable to attend to support Jahisha Thomas an athlete in my group, but based in the States, who had qualified for the long jump. There weren't enough accreditations available for all personal coaches to attend.
Jahisha acquitted herself well enough in her first major representative international meeting with a 6.34m jump. Unfortunately this was not enough for her to advance to the finals. However, at a young age valuable experience no doubt has been gained. Onwards and upwards er, further as they say.
Speaking of further Ivana Spanovic won her third Euro indoor title with 6.99m. This was an incredible achievement as at the equivalent outdoor meeting in Berlin last summer she ruptured her Achilles tendon... so to come back from that and perform so creditably was incredible.
If you have been following my youtube channel you'll know that I have posted a couple of videos on Ivana's jumping style in an attempt to see what we can learn from the Serbian's technique and the way she sets up the jump. She is actually a little atypical with her lean back take-off and incomplete hitch-kick action. You'l find the videos on Ivana below.
We now begin a process of building up for the outdoor season - it's going to be tricky with the World Champs so late in the year in October, with the trials in August, and with some group members having an eye on that and others on other targets, such as the British Universities and Colleges championships at the start of May, It's going to take some creative and divergent planning to achieve this. I'll do my best to let you know what we do (when I work out what to do!).
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This weekend Europe's best athletes will descend on Glasgow for the Euro Indoors. An athlete in my squad will be competing Jahisha Thomas in the long jump.
Regular readers of this blog will know that Jash is based in the States for most of the year in Iowa. She has a coach there. With the athlete back in the UK I have been watching sessions and competitions... the British Champs and the recent Birmingham Grand Prix, it's therefore a shame that I won't be able to go and watch her in Glasgow. There are not enough coaches' passes for all individual coaches to gain accreditation. I've had similar experiences at the World Juniors where passes have been in short supply, but where I was able to borrow one in order to watch my athlete compete. It's odd as despite the gravity of a world juniors there are very few actual spectators, so you'd think access would be easier. Obviously with Glasgow being a major continental champs, places for coaches and spectating are going to be much more limited, hence, I guess why few UK individual coaches will be supported/able to watch and help their athletes. National coaches will be on duty as eyes.
Those of you reading this from around the world may be surprised that at this level coaches still need to fund themselves to support their athletes - it's cost me and likewise many other UK coaches thousands of pounds travelling around Europe and the UK to help athletes (that's potentially why track & field is largely a collegiate sport only in the States). Unless you have an athlete on funding and/or who has sponsorship then the coach has to be largely self-funding. Okay, many more of us are beginning to charge small amounts for our regular coaching and I'm also lucky enough to be doing more 'private' coaching work, but in reality, it's not enough for me to cover all my coaching costs and thus I have to work another job which I luckily enjoy as a writer..
So, I'll be watching Jahisha on TV this Friday at 10am when the qualifying round unfolds and then, all being well, the final 6pm on Sunday, It should be a great championships!
Here's my latest COMMUNITY section post from my YouTube Channel. It's worth subscribing so you also get access to this extra content. The video showcases some of the plyometrics we do and also some of Sarah's dancing!
Last weekend (17th Feb) I was fortunate to coach Jahisha Thomas in the long jump at the the IAAF Grand Prix. It was my first experience of coaching at such a type of meeting. The atmosphere was electric and there were some great performances.
Of course I was interested in the jumps and sprint action and the long jump enabled me to study close up Ivana Spanovic and Cuban sensation (and the man many are now betting on breaking the world record) Juan Miguel Echivarria. Spanovic jumped 6.72m to win and pulled out of her last jump, hopefully to save energy rather than trouble any injury as she gears up for the Euro indoors. Echevarria had problems finding the board in the right position, he was reaching into it quite significantly and not therefore maximising his flight. Nevertheless, he finished with a leap of 8.21m.
I pulled together a short VLOG on my experiences for the YouTube channel and you will find the link below. In time I hope to more closely look at the techniques of Spanovic and Echevarria in order to see whether there is a relevance/transferability from what they do to the jumpers in my group and of course all you other jumpers and jumps coaches. One thing I did see was that their take-off legs were very straight (very straight).
Jahisha jumped 6.36m and had a few take-off issues herself, but she has nearly two weeks before the Europeans indoors which will be a great experience for her (and me if I am able to go). It will be her senior GB debut.
As a coach, the major meetings of the domestic calendar are the ones that matter – that’s for a group who are at a level where podium places at these events and potential selection for major championships are not too far out of reach.
Last weekend five of the group were in action at the Birmingham Indoor Championships – which were trials for the European Indoor Championships, being held in Glasgow in early March.
The two-day meeting started with Jonathan (Ilori) in the triple jump. The standard for Glasgow was 16.50m and Jonathan had a best from last year of 16.28m. He’d had a couple of outings this year and had managed 15.74m, without really hitting the big jump - timing as in all technical events, comes with competition. Looking great in warm-up, his first competitive jump resulted in him stuttering onto the board, rushing his phases and not getting the range needed – still it was 15.64m and promising given all that. Unfortunately, Jonathan experienced run-up issues – not of the same magnitude throughout the comp – but enough to put him off from obtaining the optimum take-off position (crucial for all the jumps). In the last round he managed to get closer to what was required but still didn’t as I say “connect”. Nevertheless, he went out to 15.97m and went into third place, behind Nathan Douglas (16.27m) and Nathan Fox (16.12m). Next to jump was Michael Puplampu and Jonathan’s effort must have kick-started his adrenaline as hitting the board perfectly Michael leapt 16.28m to not only surpass Jonathan but move into first place.
An hour and a half later Alison (Wilder) was up in the women’s triple jump. Alison suffered some technical issues too but managed a season’s best of 12.32m for seventh overall. The competition was won by Naomi Ogbeta who leapt a stunning 14.05m for a British under 23 record. And Naomi looks like she’s got more in the tank.
On Sunday, it was the turn of the long jumpers. Paul (Ogun) began well opening with 7.27m and was unlucky on a couple of jumps to trail into the landing losing around 15cm with jumps in the twenties… as you’ll know if you have been following the YT videos Paul is changing to a hitch-kick and tweaking his running action. Competitions are where athletes default to previous settings and this was partly the case with Paul. Nevertheless, he was running really well and managed to jump 7.37m which was a season’s best and good enough for sixth (this Wednesday he has a comp in Ireland …). Feron Sayers took the win with 7.72m, and having achieved the 7.95m qualification standard for the Euro Indoors last year, will be heading to Glasgow.
Last on the card for me was the women’s long jump with regular group member Sara (Abrahams) and temporary member Jahisha (Thomas) competing (I coached her before she went to the States and am her UK coach). In many ways this was the event many were waiting for as it featured Katrina Johnson-Thompson and Jazmin Sawyers. I also had a sneaky feeling that our girls could be among the challengers. And so it turned out. Sarah managed 6.21m and came in fifth (it was her second longest jump ever). Coaches are never really happy and nor was Sarah as we knew she could have jumped further … that’ll happen on another day. I will say I was happy with Jahisha. She had the Euro qualification distance from a jump in the US in Jan – bang on with 6.50m (although she had an outdoor mark of 6.69m).
I’ll say coaching this comp was not easy as I had not seen Jahisha jump in a comp for a while and I had to re-see and re-instruct … also as she has an American coach (she’s based much of the time in Iowa where she went to university) watching what I said was also important. Different coaches can say the same thing differently. Luckily “we” worked it out and in a tight competition Jahisha jumped 6.36m to finish second behind KJT (6.46m) and just 1cm in front of third placer Abigale Irozuru! There were some of timing issues again, similar to Jonathan, with Jahisha not getting onto the take-off properly and going “up”, rather than out. But second place is second place and she’s on the plane to Glasgow for her first major GB championships.
So, it was a satisfying day for “Team Sheps” and we look forward to more days, better days in fact in the future.
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This weekend 9th-10th of Feb the European indoor trials takes place at the NIA Birmingham. I will have four regular group members competing and a fifth who is back from the US, who has trained with us in the past. It's going to be a busy but exciting weekend. Two are in the women's long jump, and one each in the men's long jump, women's triple and men's triple.
All has been going well in training and it's now down to what happens on the day. All the athletes should be reasonably confident that everything else being equal they will do well. Believing that you can is as important as is valuing the meeting and making it a do-well event.
I will say that the tweaks we have made to the training programme this year seem to have added a little something else to preparations. The two differing inclusions being: 1: a greater emphasis on triphasic weight training and plyometrics and 2: the use of the Freelap timing system systematically throughout the training year since October.
I've written about the use of eccentric and isometric exercises (as well as concentric ones) in the past and also 'talked' about that in some of the videos on my YouTube channel, but what it does seem to have done for many of the group is up their take-off and sprint power. I think this is a consequence of greater leg stiffness and it's particularly noticeable in one of the group in particular (I won't mention any names). Being able to not absorb force (yes not) is a key to jumping, you want to 'hit' the take-off and power out of it at lightening speed - and it seems that specific isometric and eccentric means can aid that.
And the Freelap system being able to really time standing 20m runs and flying 20m runs, for example, has been a great analytial means and also a great motivator for the group. (The system is accurate to 2/1000 of a sec)/ Placing those little yellow recievers on the track and trying to run from one to the other as fast as possible does make the athletes run faster (and that in itself is crucial for improved speed). It's turning into a very useful coach's tool and it's so portable - no taking up of two lanes to record times as with gate systems.
And in 99% of cases the times have improved right up until now and this forthcoming weekend. I'm particularly interested in fly 20m speed and all the guys have moved faster than before - significantly so in cases. We did some of these runs last Saturday, so let's hope for some fast and far great performances this weekend.
Lookout for this video on using platforms to improve and pattern the long jump take-off. Its something that I have been doing for a couple of years now and teaches the penultimate step in particular. I explain how and why it works in the video.
Also if you haven't please do sign up to the Chanel - as a subscriber you will have greater access to the community section where I have been posting some exclusive content, such as short run-downs on what we did in a specific training session and also an overview of a particular exercise.
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This Thursday sees an article in Athletics Weekly penned by yours truly. I follow-up on a previous article which was written by Dr Josephine Perry on the same subject (Choosing a coach). Josephine talks about coaching and ego and makes suggestions as to how athletes should find a coach that has an ego that's kept in check! In my follow-up I agree, but also note that coaches (like athletes) do need an ego. And I also provide a number of reasons as to what athletes should look for in a coach. My comments are written, in a way, from the coach's perspective too. They take into account what I, as a coach, may also expect. Here's a snippet and do check out the magazine.
1. Look for coaches who have had success with numerous athletes over a period of time
It’s easy for a coach to become ‘well-known’ if they coach a top athlete – but talent may be just as responsible for that athlete’s success as the coach’s ability. A coach who year in year out delivers will have the greater consistency and accrued learning
2. Following on, don’t think that not coaching an elite athlete makes a coach of lesser importance. Many argue that the best coaches should in fact be working with the youngest of athletes, teaching them the best habits and optimising their technical ability. So, look for a coach who has improved young athletes consistently.
3. Try to find a coach who has a consistency – a methodology. And ask them what that is. Obviously, more mature athletes will be in a better position to reflect on and question that methodology. On that note, be prepared to suggest to the coach ideas that you think will work for you. Build up trust overtime.
4. Beware of a 'one-size fits all' coaching philosophy. It can be difficult for a coach to not give all athletes the same session (trust me I know), but not everyone will respond the same.
5. Choose a coach that is confident and has a personality (it does not need to be loud or overly charismatic) but one that you think you can get along with. However, make sure that your coach will listen as well as make decisions.
There are more pointers in the article....
I've now started to post some exclusive content in the community section. This is for subscribers, so far I've posted an overview of an actual workout we did (at the time of writing, two Saturdays back) and also an 'exercise of the session'. These are just short videos that contain the the type of content just mentioned and similar. So, do sign-up to the channel to get these and other exclusive content.
Here's an example:
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Last weekend (Jan 20th) the older group members had their first competition. Did it go well?
Well, not as well as we probably hoped for, but nevertheless the performances were still encouraging. The comp was the south of England's at the Lee Vally Centre, London. Jonathan jumped 15.60m in the triple jump and second place. Allison managed 12.29 in the women's event for 5th. These were not bad performances and ones which going on past years would still rank them around 10-15 in the country at the end of the season. But they will do better. Earlier Paul jumped 7.13m in the long jump for fourth,
There's always going to be some timing issues and confidence issues brought on by nerves and the 'pressure' of a comp especially in the horizontal jumps. From my coach's perspective, I could see timing issues and run-up issues. The later are minimal but enough to disrupt those crucial steps into the take-off, where the jump, whether triple or long, is set up. Jonathan, for example, was shortening too much to get onto the board and this will diminish the potential range of movement he can get from the hop - the phase that sets the jump up.
I'll not go into great detail here as partly in response to this completion and the teething problems, I'm working on a 'triple jump faults and fixes' video that should be up on the YT channel pretty soon. Making the videos 'forces' me to really analyse what the jumpers are doing and it hopefully will help others who have similar faults. So, do look out for it.
However your season started don't fuss, invariably if you have trained specifically enough to get you in competition shape, it will take one or two comps to get you fully into the grove. Think about the process rather than the outcome and the distances (and times) will come.
In the video below you'll see some of the action from the group's jumpers in the SEAA champs.
As I indicated in my previous post the indoor season is upon us. In this video I update on how we are preparing and getting ready to enter the indoors. We cover the type of training we do, how to maintain strength and power whilst competing and the need to still look ahead to the summer.
What training are you doing?
I was recently asked by Athletics Weekly to write an overview article on what makes for a good training regime. As the article is not out for a few weeks I can't say too much, however, I thought I would whet your appetite as to what's included with these two points.
A training regime is not just about the 'physical content' i.e. the sessions and the workout content, it's much more holistic and includes diet and nutrition, for example, as well.
Don't chop and change your regime
You need a training regime plan that’s suited to your age, level of ability and training maturity, for example. This may take some time to get right and this is where your experience, reflection and feedback and that of your coach comes into play. Once this programme is established and it’s getting results then unless there is very good reason (such as injury, change in the amount of time you have to train), then your training plan is best only tweaked, rather than revised wholescale.
Now, this does not mean that your training plan should not cycle through various phases (micro, meso and macro phases as they are called), your training has to evolve, and change to create long lasting adaptation. But that’s just it, if you are a ‘training programme butterfly’ then you’ll not derive the adaptation that adhering to a systematic, but cyclical regime will achieve.
Do plan your competitions and know your peaks
Competitions are what you train for, all those miles will be a bit of a waste, for example, if you don’t line up against your peers to test your mettle. However, competitions are stressful – they drain you not only physically but mentally. Do too many and you run the risk of burning yourself out. Conversely do too few and you may never reach peak and PB busting levels. So, plan the main competitions you will be focussing on for the winter (indoors, cross-country, for example) and then for the summer (road, track for example). It’s best to work back from the main comp and ‘fit’ your training plan into this, so that it leads and guides you to your goals. Having that focus back in January will enable you to motivate yourself to push toward that August target/target. And it will also make that target meaningful – so that when the days of the important competitions, you will be fired up and ready to put all that training into practice.
Training Group Update
It's coming into the competition period for the older athletes in my training group. Three-four at least will be aiming for good performances in the British trials which take place early Feb. There may be an outside chance of some making the team for the European Champs which are in Glasgow this year in March, So, do look out for updates on this blog and the youtube channel.