Coaching, jumps, sprints & more
Everything about jumping and sprinting and how to improve your performance
It's been a busy period for me despite it being the supposed "off-season". The off-season is the time when winter training begins and plans are made for the indoor season and the outdoors, As I get older the months seem to fly by and this fast forward of time is perhaps not helped by the "looking forward" to the next track season ... it's a case of wishing for it to speed forward so that the improvements in the athletes being coached can be really seen and appreciated.
Anyway, back to the present and this off-season! Recently I got to meet top jumps coach Nelio Moura, Regular readers of this blog or viewers of the YouTube channel will know that I have interviewed him in the past - for Athletics Weekly magazine.
It was great to catch up with Nelio at Loughborough University over a coaching clinic weekend organised by England Athletics. Nelio took four sessions , two practical and two more theory. These covered plyometrics, take-off drills for long and triple jump, has coaching journey and also the more technical aspects of the long and triple.
It was interesting to find out that Nelio's first successes as a coach was with a race walker! He was a triple jumper himself but soon moved into coaching and he now coaches with his wife and daughter. Nelio spends time at present between Sao Paolo, China and Madrid coaching. Why the latter two, well he has been working with Chinese jumpers for a while, so the trips to China make sense. And Madrid, well that is where the Chinese and some of his Brazilian and south American jumpers congregate from time to time in the summer to train.
I enjoyed the weekend with Nelio and was lucky enough to have a couple of chats on my own with him and pick-up a little more knowledge.
I am in the process of pulling together some videos from the weekend and the first is now live on the channel - this is on plyometrics. (You can watch it from the box below). Next up will be one on his thoughts on take-off. The two videos will cover the practical sessions taken by Nelio. I may try to pull together some comment on the more theoretical ones.
Good luck with your training and competitions,
Is the title of this video click-bait ... ??? I don't think so.
To get the most from your long, triple and sprint conditioning what you do away from the pit or the track needs to be transferable and relevant. There are many who swear by weight training and "need" to lift weekly - however, there are many who lift much less sparingly without their performances suffering. and in fact improving.
If you are a regular reader of this blog or watcher of my YT channel videos you'll know that I don't place weights at the top of my "conditioning hierarchy". I'd rather spend time working on technique and speed and using plyometrics and sets of different sprint drills to develop what's required. I do however, see weights as having a role and that's to create robustness - that required to withstand injury (but note that this can also be achieved via many other means such as Swiss balls, and body weight exercises). I also value weights for the more conditioned athletes in the group and in particular utilise Triphasic methods - that's combining eccentric and isometric weights exercises with the much more common - and dare I say after a while, less important - concentric one.
Also, by combining weights and plyos into a workout (Contrast/Complex training) you are more likely to get a heightened fast twitch muscle fibre and motor unit response - so this is something that we do regularly.
The video below goes into more detail about my thoughts on what weight training to do to really improve your sprinting and jumping. It also looks at the limitations of a more traditional approach.
It's been a busy end to the season for me and it seems that I'll be back into coaching before I've had time to think and rest up! What with the schools national multi-events final in Exeter at the end of September training had to continue for the three athletes involved - who incidentally did really well with 4th, 5th and 9th places in three different age groups. However, it's now time to start back with the main group again and their long and triple jump preparations for 2020.
This year I did manage to have a sit down and chat with a couple of the older athletes and we discussed what we might like to change and add into training for the next training year. There will be some small changes, mainly on the conditioning front - which I'll say more about on this blog or in another video on my YouTube channel. Last year we did more eccentric work and more sprint work too and it seemed to work. Over my time coaching I have found it's very much a case of "what you do but what you don't do". There are lots of relatively superfluous exercises and drills that are really a bit of a waste of time.
The latest video on my YouTube channel is relevant in this respect and is linked below. It's all about pre-training and drills, for example, which we do do. Pre- training is all about doing exercises designed to combat and reduce injury potential.
We do these across the whole training year with the thought process being that they will continue to strengthen the body and make it more robust. Without wishing to tempt fate, it must be working, as few of the athletes in the group suffer from strains and sprains.
My YouTube channel now has over 12k subscribers and seems to be developing nicely ... so thanks to all of you who have supported it and do check out the Jumps Squad gear that I'm now able to produce - T-shirts, hoodies and even phone cases.
As a coach I know how important accurate timing is. In my primary event the long jump you really want to know how fast the jumper is travelling into the board over the last 10m, for example, and also importantly what their flying 20m and standing 20m sprint times are.
And for the 100m sprinter you might want to know 0-10m, 10-20m, 20-30m and 40m times. The problem is how can you do that with a stopwatch and without the type of kit that the IAAF rolls out at championships?
Enter Freelap the timing system which offers a very neat and extremely accurate (to 2-milisec) solution.
I've used the system for over a year now and have found it to be a great motivation for the athletes. As soon as those TX Junior Pro Timing pyramids are placed on the track or run-up the guys really respond and run as fast as they can.
So, not only is there the benefit of accurate timing but also of motivating higher intensity from the athletes. Win-win I guess.
The system is also easily set-up, very portable and has great consistency of operation.
If you are interested in buying a system ...
Please email email@example.com to discuss bespoke options and prices.
The video below will showcase more
Some further thoughts on use and my experiences ...
Like all tech the best way to learn is to play around with the kit to gain familiarity - once this is done it's important to consider and note the following.
The settings on the Tx Junior Pros (transmitter pyramids) - these need to match what you aim to time.
Here are some examples:
For a standing sprint with just end time required, the end transmitter is set to "finish" and the TX Touch Pro (start button) is used to start timing. This is a black disc with a button that is depressed with the thumb which is released when the athlete starts, thus triggering the system,
For flying times you need to set one TX Junior Pro to “start” and the end one to “finish”. The time will commence after the athlete passes the first transmitter.
For track intervals, for example, 200m reps place one Tx Touch Pro at the start set to start and one TX Junior Pro at the finish set to “finish”. Start your session.
Don't walk back past the TX Junior Pro at the finish as this will trigger the system when not needed – of which more later. You need to keep a 1.5m radius around the TX Junior Pro when wearing the FX Chip BLE (transmitter - which is the size of a small digital watch and fits on the athlete's waistband of their shorts/tights).
For improved and consistent accuracy you need to set the Tx Junior Pro receivers 80cm off the point/points you want to measure at for sprints, hurdles, intervals and long/triple jump. Why? The Tx Junior Pros pick up and store the speed of the moving athlete 80cm before them - thus, over a sprint you could have a time “inaccuracy” of 160cm with the start and finish accounted for, if you don’t position as instructed. The “add-on” 80cm also applies to split-time positioning.
Because of the Tx Junior Pros also 1.5m operating radius, freelap can time two athletes in adjacent lanes, which you can’t easily do with most accessible to athletes/coaches other timing systems (which can also take up three lanes to record an athlete in one – what with their tripods). You will need another FX Chip BLE to do this.
The app is an objective systematic coaching “diary”. It stores the times from the session of all the athletes and does this historically, so you as coach (and the athlete)s, can track their progress. You can specifically name each session and its content. (Note: all the training group can download the Myfreelap app and see their performances.)
It’s even possible for the coach to be at home, with the app open, and to be able to “virtually” see a session unfold. You give the freelap system to your athletes, they set it up as required, do the session and you’ll see how they are performing (hook this up with facetime or a wattsapp video and you’ll be even able to see the session too. - this is something I’ve yet to try!
I'm pulling an interesting article together for Athletics Weekly (aka AW) on sprint technique and in particular the height of the heel in the recovery phase for both max velocity and acceleration phases of sprinting. here's a snippet to whet your appetite for the article which will be out later this month.
Contemporary sprint coaching has been placing a greater emphasis on a lower heel recovery or at least a different inflection on how the heel is moved back to front and how this is coached. We will first consider max velocity running and then acceleration.
If the heel is cast out too far behind the body when sprinting then frequency and power transference will tend to be reduced. You'll often see this in sprinters with a pronounced forward lean with "more work being done behind the body".
Key is the position of the foot and the gap between the heel and the bottom as the foot pulls through to the front. If the foot is pulled up as it should be for foot-strike (dorsi-flexed) it will come through to the front as a shorter lever and this will create greater frequency.
Doing this will also create greater power on ground contact, due to the fact that the foot (and leg) has increased velocity (angular velocity) which will in turn create a more powerful impact on the track surface and therefore greater energy return.
I found it really interesting exploring this aspect of sprinting and trying to make sense of what's more coaching inflection and thought rather than sports science based (particularly the case with max velocity phase heel recovery). I have long worked on heel recovery with the jumpers and sprinters in my group. In doing so greater hip power will be developed which is perhaps the real benefit of heel recovery work as the muscles to the front and the rear of the hips are the most important when it comes to sprint speed.
I'll be posting a video on this very shortly in the Sprint Drills series which is proving popular on my YouTube channel. In the meantime here's the latest video in the series which looks at what I call basic drills for specific conditioning purposes.
It’s pleasing that performances for the senior athletes in the group are coming together nicely in preparation for the World Trials. Two have qualified and hopefully another will for the event which takes place in Birmingham toward the end of the month.
I’ve found that younger athletes are able to produce good performances more randomly than senior ones. Probably because they are still learning … learning how to compete and how to use a new technique. Many are still growing and that’s going to have a big effect as well.
All the younger ones have achieved PBs this year and by younger athletes, by the way, I’m referring to those aged 12 to 17-18. The older ones have less ceiling for improvement particularly if they are training mature. I’ve also found that it takes more time for them to perhaps more mentally, rather than physically, get into peak shape. Take Paul and Sarah the two long jumpers, they’re now telling me that they are getting “on top” of their jumping. The speed and the coordination needed to take-off cannot come from training alone. Competition stress often increases speed through adrenaline and training can only take you so far. It can take time to “get your eye in” as it were. It seems that both Paul and Sarah are reaching this state of affairs. Both jumped season’s bests at the weekend gone (Sarah a brace of 6.24m’s and Paul 7.43m). Both also fouled very long no jumps, so fingers crossed there’s a longer jump to come very soon.
The central nervous system and the way it interprets signals is also key, there seems to be a fidelity to how this helps performance … it’s a bit like fine tuning. Remember those old radios which if I recall they had a button to tune into a station and then another to really get the signal crystal clear … it seems that reaching peak condition can be a little like that. There needs to be conscious and unconscious tuning in order to bring the physical and mental aspects of the athlete into a true peak. And of course there’s the effects of the competition itself and the value placed on that competition by the athlete and the way they respond to it. I’m hoping that at the trials all the fine tuning will come to a head and the guys will perform to their very best.
Two new videos up on YouTube channel last week - here they are
And, I must say a big thanks to all those of you who have watched the videos and subscribed as of last week the channel passed 10000 subscribers!
I recently interviewed Brazilian Nelio Moura for Athletics Weekly Nelio is one of the top jumps coaches around. He coached both 2008 Olympic long jump champions - Panama's Irving Saladino and his own countrywoman Maurren high Maggi.
Nelio will be coming over to the UK in October to give a presentation (should you be interested in attending then please email me your details and I will forward them on to England Athletics - who are organising the visit).
In the meantime here's a snippet of the interview I did with Nelio. I'll add some more aspects of it over the forthcoming months to my blog and do also look out for the full interview on the AW website.
Nelio talks to John
John: You are known for your use of assisted plyometrics, where did you get the idea from and how do you incorporate them into your training? Do you place more importance on plyometrics than weights, for example, and how necessary do you actually think weights are for a jumper?
Nelio: The idea came from the sprinter’s assisted running, even though we now know it works differently. I began using it at the end of the 90’s. I found some Japanese studies talking about it, and I wanted to try. The results have been good so far.
The core of my programme is the strength training. Plyometrics develop strength in a very specific way, so I consider it extremely important. However, I also use weights (mostly free weights), whenever possible combining it with plyos.
John: Please describe a couple of assisted plyo exercises?
Nelio: The most discussed and studied is the double-leg assisted vertical jump. We use elastic ropes to “reduce” the weight around 20%, and do sets of reactive vertical jumps. One obvious progression is to do single-leg vertical jumps, but this is pretty intense, only for very advanced athletes.
John: What are your key 5-6 exercises, for a long jumper? (from all potentialities)
Nelio: Running (sprinting) skills are a top priority for long jumpers (and triple jumpers as well). I like running over small hurdles to teach them form and rhythm.
Preparation for the take-off and the take-off itself are probably the two most important phases in the long jump. So, the other exercises I use the most are related to these phases: 1) combinations of three consecutive take-offs, with one step between them; 2) combinations of three consecutive take-offs, with three steps between them; 3) long jumps with medium approach, take-off from a 5 cm high box; and 4) long jumps with medium approach, step onto the 5cm box at the penultimate support and take-off from the board.
John: If you were coaching a young developing long jumper, what are the key things you would focus on?
NM: Sprinting mechanics, approach run – take-off transition and the take-off itself. Accuracy is also a big concern since early on…
Nelio has also written a book detailing much of his conditioning methods - Pliometrica
If you are interested in a copy then please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org I have found the book to be very useful especially the chapter on assisted plyometrics. Okay it's written in Portuguese but three are English summaries - but with many photos of the drills is reasonably easy to follow - unless of course you speak Portuguese!!
Below you'll find my latest YouTube video on two specific sprint drills - these work both nearside and frontside mechanics and when put together I've found that they really can directly improve sprint technique. Please take a look and do subscribe to the channel.
We're about a third into the season in the UK and there's a bit of a divide between how the younger squad are doing and how the older ones are.
Young athletes are vessels full of PBs and technical and physical development ... give them the right training and they will improve (hey, even the wrong training may even get them results ... for a while ... ). With older athletes their PB days will be far less frequent and the sport becomes more serious and one of incremental improvement.
Two halves of the coin
The younger side
So, I have 6 athletes I coach going to this weekend's English school - some of these, as befits the standard of the "Schools" are ranked in the UK's top 10 for their various age groups. For them the "Schools" are like a mini Olympics and it's both exciting and a little intimidating for them. I have to try to manage expectation and perspective. I want them to do well and progress but still have them around in 3,4,5 years and beyond entering the senior ranks. It's at that age when we want to see them at their best and not at 13, 14, 15. It's difficult sometimes to moderate young athletes (and their parent's) desires and goals ... but hopefully I will be able to make them all be aware of the longer term picture.
The older side
Speaking of this other side, the older athletes have started well, well well enough. Managing expiation is also an issue here too. PBs, as mentioned will be harder to obtain, as will be the standards to get the Champs that are available to them - Worlds, Olympics and so on. Some athletes will realise that they'll be less likely to achieve such goals and will set their own targets and this reflects reality and maturity and love of the sport and that desire to be better, to get better as an individual, whether they be jumping 7m or 6m for that matter. For those that are in the limbo area between being a high ranking national athlete and trying to gain selection for a major champs it can be frustrating. The standards set are very high - higher than what they are in perspective for the English Schools or junior championships. There's a literal big jump between the 7.50-odd required for the World Juniors and the 8.17m I believe required for the Worlds. And it can take years to bridge the divide and progress to elite athlete. It takes more than talent, it takes perseverance and time and the falling together of the right circumstances, coach, facilities, time to train and so on.
Briding the divide
Young athletes really have less to worry about - they're not paying the mortgage, for example! It's easier to focus at school or as a student on athletics ... senior athletes go about their business often without fanfare and less "progression" championships to step to and from. That's the serious end of the sport and it's the most difficult one and much respect must go to those amateur athletes who train almost as hard as the few professionals .... hopefully some of the seniors in my group will ultimately bridge the gap and reach major games and hopefully the younger ones will see their successes at an early age as just that and as a way forward toward "bigger" success and really significant PBs.
Holiday programme scheme
This school summer holidays we will be running twice weekly coaching sessions at the David Weir centre in Sutton from Mon 22nd July for 4 weeks (Mondays and Thursdays 11-1). Email me at email@example.com for further details
It deals a little with athlete expectation as well as letting you come along with us on our recent trip to France to compete in Artois
Long jump and triple jump requires reactivity i.e. the ability to transfer from a hop landing into the step as is the case for the triple jump. However, it’s more specific than that as on each contact, for example, when running there is a reaction in the muscles of the ankles legs and hips. You’ll probably know of this as the stretch-reflex which is the key driver of plyometric exercises, such as the drop jump. However, there’s a further aspect that needs to be considered and which is developed via plyometrics and weights for example and that’s leg stiffness.
Basically, the better able your legs are at being able to withstand and return force quickly the greater the leg stiffness. What’s important is that there are three sites at which this leg stiffness can be measured and developed in the legs and that at this limb’s three joints – the ankle, knee and hip.
So, I believe it’s important to develop improved stiffness and therefore reactivity at these joints. So, how do you do this? Well, you do different types of plyometric exercises, for example. You’ll see in the image one of the group members performing a drop jump from a very low height – about 6cm.
In order to get a quick reaction and gain height from the double foot contact they need to use their feet and specifically their ankles. I instruct them to “flick” their feet down on contact to create the extension needed to gain vertical velocity.
If the athlete anticipates the landing and bends their knees in an attempt to power up, the end result is visibly reduced speed and less leg stiffness. We will do 2-4 x6 reps in a session once or twice a week on average across the training year of this exercise.
So, what about stiffness at the hip? We will do straight leg hops and near straight leg bounds. With the former the objective is to propel yourself forward from basically a virtually straight leg. I’ll often say “Like a pogo stick” to the athletes – and then recall that most are too young to know what they are! It’s a case of letting the bounce “happen” on each contact rather than forcing it and using increased knee bend to produce the power.
For knee stiffness then the majority of standard bounds, hops and other plyos will be doing the job … I feel it’s the blend of plyos (and weights) and the emphasis of stiffness at all the joints which contributes to all-over leg stiffness and which will therefore bring about improvement in the jumps and sprints.
At the recent South of England Championships the senior athletes performed well - so well in fact that we won three of the four horizontal jumps ....
Men's Long Jump
Paul jumped 7.21m for victory but had 3 no jumps which were long. Hopefully he'll get one in over the next few weeks. Paul was also operating off a shorter approach, so once he gets this longer run-up nailed down he should be able to jump that bit further also.
Triple jumper Jonathan was also long jumping - he managed 6.84m but had a no jump over 7m. Jonathan is well capable of a 7.5m jump and indeed his Pb is 7.33m. If he did more comps the chances are that he'd seriously improve on this.
Women's long jump
Sarah opened with 6.19m with a safe-is jump and then elated from this (her third best jump ever) went for it. It's often the case that trying that bit harder does not bring the results one would imagine and unfortunately rather like Paul, she fouled some rather long jumps.
Still this again showed good promise for the season ahead.
Women's triple jump
Allison came 6th with 12.02. We were disappointed with this as she has been showing better from in training and has not had the fortune to 'hit' one in a comp. Hopefully, she'll get close to 13m before the season is out.
Men's triple jump
Potentially 'our' best performance came in the men's triple where Jonathan got legally back over 16m for the first time this year. his best of 16.28m was set in the equivalent meeting last year. It was a shame that the competition became a bit of a speed one as there were only two other jumpers in the field and it must have been one of the quickest competitions I have witnessed. I guess it was testament to Jonathan's and the other's fitness that the jumps did not deteriorate as the quick-fire competition progressed. Jonathan was consistent with a number of jumps between 15.80 and 16.03. The latter ranking him fourth at the moment in the UK. We're looking forward for challenging for a higher ranking.
Over the next few weeks he and Sarah have a meeting in France and there are also some league meetings for them and the others, so watch this space.
This Friday 7th I'll be uploading a video on my YouTube channel that goes into more detail about what happened at the Souths - it will be of relevance to those who just want to see the jumps but also to those who may wish to find out a little bit more about "how to compete".
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