Coaching, jumps, sprints & more
Everything about jumping and sprinting and how to improve your performance
Research is not that substantive when it comes to young athletes and injury rates. Some from Sweden indicates that 60% of young elite athletes sustain an injury of sufficient magnitude to require training to be modified across the season.
A fews back year when I attended the European Jumps and Sprints Symposium in Sweden, renowned US coach Dan Pfaff said: “All athletes are injured from birth.” What he meant is that childhood accidents (small or large) can affect athletic development thereafter. To this I would add that play and the development of physical literacy is equally important as soon as a child learns how to crawl, walk and run.
Play becomes crucial in terms of developing balance and body awareness, for example. These are vital attributes for latter life sporting ability. Our teenagers nowadays are potentially less physically skilled than previous generations. Sedentary lifestyles and the rise of the "health and safety culture" have all been determinant factors. If you can’t move well then injury is more likely.
Young athletes’ growth and maturation
Coaches will be aware of growth spurts and maturation rates among the young athletes they coach. We will have had young athletes who suddenly grow a lot in a relatively short time span (or suddenly spurt a beard!) and this can lead to difficulties. Coordination may become one of these as the young athlete struggles to perform movements they previously may have had no problems with months before.
The skeleton of a growing young person does not develop uniformly – the largest increases tend to begin from the bottom up. Thus, a developing young athlete’s skeleton can be out of synch as it were – and because of this coordination can become difficult for a while and injury risk potentially magnified at certain sites.
It’s often during adolescence and these growth spurts when athlete, coach and parent can push for more training. This is potentially counter-productive injurious and could lead to increased frustration on the part of the athlete. All involved need to nurture very carefully the athlete at this time and probably the best strategy is to dial back training and “wait” for the growth spurt to end or at least slow.
To determine growth spurts coaches can simply measure athletes of appropriate age (with parental/guardian) permission every couple of months. Growth spurts generally occur between 8-10 in girls and 10-12 in boys. However, my experience indicates later periods of significant growth well into the teens.
And then there’s maturation which is another form of growth which in my experience is the more significant one and with it hormonal change and the development of, for example, in males in particular and for example, significant muscle mass.
Again, experience tells me that some young boys circa 14-17 can develop muscle that outstrips their skeletal frame to a point where there’s increased injury risk. Adolescent boys can also think they are "invincible" - and with the cocktail of hormones floating around their bodies they can recover from injury quickly on the positive side or try to run through them (without telling coach) on the negative.
When as athlete is going through a period of Peak Height Velocity (see below) then the tensile forces placed on the joints can be potentially injurious. If as a coach you have a “more developed” athlete (usually males but also potentially female, for their age), then care needs to be paramount in terms of training prescription. The athlete may “look” strong but may actually be weaker than their appearance. Very interestingly maturation (see below also) is not uniform even within an individual young athlete – it varies between tissue and organ systems. And as has been pointed out the development of the skeletal system is not uniform either. Some bones may be “weaker” than others at different times of development as an example.
Hopefully this mix of personal experience and sports science will help fellow coaches understand a little better about what happens in those crucial periods of young athlete physical and athletic development.
Young athlete physical development and useful information
Peak Height Velocity refers to the period of maximum growth. It happens in boys from 13-14 and girls from 11-12. This can amount to an increase in height of 7-9cm for girls and 8-10cm in boys per year.
Peak Weight Velocity refers to weight gain. This according to research lags behind PHV by 0.3-0.9 years in girls and 0.2-0.4 years in boys. The gains can be as much as 6-10kg per year.
Maturity Status refers to the timing of maturation – that’s to say it’s within the transition from child to adult. Secondary sex characteristics and skeletal growth are the two key identifying factors.
Chronological age and maturation stage do not display synergy.
LATEST YOUTUBE VIDEO
We continue to look at the type of training I recommend for this time of the training year
I recently had a short break in the Lake District of the north of England. It was a time to recharge the batteries and I didn’t see a track for 8 days! Well, I saw train tracks as you can see in the photo. (This was for a very scenic journey from Settle to Carlisle in case anyone’s interests😂). Taking time off is crucial at the end of the season for athletes and coaches - we all need to recharge.
Some of my athletes are coming back to training after a couple of weeks off whilst mainly the older ones won’t be starting back until October. I’ve actually one more competition to go to - this weekend is the English Schools Multi-Events. Two athletes will be competing. However, I’ll still be taking it a bit easier for a couple of weeks after this comp.
I want the athletes to be ready for fall training … they need therefore to keep themselves in shape during the off-season. I ask them to do a drills and a fast-ish running session a week to keep things in place. They can also play tennis, basketball etc. The main thing is that they get away from track for a bit but still keep in shape.
I don’t want to “waste” time with general fitness when we return to winter training. Nor really should you if you’re on a break - so much will have been gained over the last 10 months of training and competing that you want to start back close to that stepping off point.
On my YouTube channel I’ve started to post a series of videos on early season training and what you can include. You'll see the first in the series below.
In this video I answer three questions which have come in from my Instagram account - https://instagram.com/johnshepherdwritertrackcoach? The Q&As are all about jumping. Two are on the long jump and both query the run-up, specifically how to get a good start phase and how long the last step should be? Whilst the other question from a 17 year-old Stateside jumper is all about the triple jump and what you can do to extend your phases, get the range and not rush through the contacts.
Hopefully my answers will help you solve these problems if you have them or will serve as very useful knowledge which will help your understanding of the events.
Do let me know what you think and ask any questions if you have them. Also do sign up to my Instagram if you want! You’ll find similar but shorter form content to the YouTube channel there and a little more “social” content.
You'll have heard me talk about about eccentric training on this blog or on my YouTube Channel. This is the type of specific work which will improve your reactivity, your sprint speed and your jump power.
Think of an eccentric muscular action as like stretching out a spring - if you did this the spring would store a huge amount of energy. Energy which will be released when the spring is let go and it recoils at super-fast speed.
In our events the stretch of the spring as noted reflects the eccentric muscular lengthening action and the release the muscular shortening concentric muscular action one.
There's much research that indicates that improving eccentric capacity will improve concentric capacity - hence it's crucial to train this muscular action.
There are lots of ways to this, for example, you can do specific drills, some being more jump orientated and some more sprint orientated.
You can also train eccentrically with weights. If you did this the focus would be on the lowering phase of the movement. For example, when performing a squat you could slowly lower for a 4-5sec count before (or not and leaving the bar in the racks and having helpers lift the bar back to the starting position) extending the thighs to return the weight.
It's actually possible to handle more weight eccentrically then concentrically - up to 25% plus more in fact.
We regularly include eccentric training in our workouts - you'll see two members of the u20 squad doing what I call "Jump forward, block and jump" jumps in the image.
The athlete performs a medium length low height forward jump and then explodes vertically upward. The girl is performing the first part and the boy the second part in the image.
Checkout the latest video on my YouTube channel to find out more and to see this drill and more - all designed to improve eccentric capacity.
And if you needed a reason to eccentrically train: when triple jumping out of the hop the hop leg has to withstand and return up to 20 times body weight in milliseconds. Eccentric capacity is therefore vital.
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At Coach-Athlete level there are 10 videos on various subjects that will be particularly useful to coaches.
There are videos on Training Planning, Training Transfer, Speed Phase Development, Overcoming Common Coaching issues with young sprinters and jumpers ....
I've been living in workout gear since my mid-teens as an athlete, as a sports science student, then international athlete, then coach, then fitness magazine editor, then coach (one constant), then master athlete ... you get the message!
I've therefore tried out quite a lot of workout gear over the years and as a sports, fitness and health writer have reviewed quite a few items.
You'll have seen on my YouTube channel various product tests of massage guns and Bioelectrical devices for example.
Well, I'll soon be checking out some workout gear from Born Tough from the US. They have a large range of products that look suitable for tough workouts (well, it's in their name isn't it!) and also more of, what do they call it these days, active leisure?
It'll be great to see what this relatively new brand has got to say.
SO LOOK OUT FOR A REVIEW OF BORN TOUGH PRODUCTS COMING SOON HERE AND ON MY SOCIAL MEDIA
IN THE MEANTIME YOU CAN CHECKOUT THEIR PRODUCT LINES AT:
Born Tough and Elite Sports
IN THE MEMBERS' AREA OF MY YOUTUBE COACHING CHANNEL THERE ARE 9 EXCLUSIVE VIDEOS WHICH DIVE INTO GREATER AND SLIGHTLY LONGER DETAIL ON VARIOUS TOPICS THAT WILL HELP SPRINT, LONG AND TRIPLE JUMP COACHES. BELOW IS THE CONTENT OVERVIEW OF THE LATEST VIDEO #9
IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN SIGNING UP TO WATCH THIS AND THE OTHER 8 VIDEOS THEN FOLLOW THIS LINK https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyVAgma7MDT1Wqzw40Mb13g/join
COACH ATHLETES MEMBERS' VIDEO 9 NOW LIVE PEAKING EARLY SEASON FOR PEAK PERFORMANCE ACROSS THE TRAINING YEAR
In this video we take a look at a 2-week training cycle leading up to the Olympic Trials, National u23s and English Schools multi-events qualification (June 21). Initially we consider how undulating periodisation can help establish the basis for such preparation compared to linear periodisation. This is a bit of a re-consideration of some of my earlier Coach-Athlete video content on periodisation. I do keep pushing this methodology as I actually think it is the best and easiest to use with jumpers. I'll produce some more content in this series of videos in future that further tries to help you plan your training this way. (See initially Coach-Athlete video 1.) We then take a specific look at the 2-week cycle of training which covers the aforementioned competitions and I take you through some of the sessions and some of the objectives for this phase. In short we are looking at further sharpening - speed and technique-wise and maintenance of strength and power. With undulating periodisation there is what I term a "line of optimum performance" (which is a notional ability to perform at around 90% of capacity of PB jumps and sprints-wise all year round) and the idea is to rise above this line, return to it and fall slightly below it at certain times of the season and training year (hence undulating periodisation). There are small steps either side of the line. This can contrast with linear periodisation where the rises and falls can be much greater and I believe the capacity to maintain and regain peaks throughout the year more limited. Within the video are two Coach Tips - the first considers nutrition and its relationship with peaking and the second Tonus and the creation of specific muscle tone to enable enhanced performance. I draw on the work of coach Goran Obradovic and his work with Ivana Spanovic here. As coaches we need to expand our understanding of what we can do to get the most from our athletes and that's why I include these sorts of tips in the videos. We are all learning and trying to wade through the information out there. I hope that my practical experience successes and failures and having got to the point where I have a large understanding of "What works" will speed up your coaching journey.
IMAGE CREDIT REDBULL CONTENT POOL
PEAKING AND WEIGHT TRAINING
HERE'S PART OF AN ARTICLE I WROTE ON HOW YOU CAN USE WEIGHT TRAINING TO PEAK AN ATHLETE.
It’s possible to peroiodise and peak for competitions not only via the mainstays of training but also via strength and conditioning.
There are a number of ways in which to achieve peak performances using S&C. The first and most well-known way is to enable your body to recover from the adaptation to a S&C regime (and other training inclusions). So, this would mean reducing the load of the weights, plyometrics and other S&C means in the period/periods of training leading up to a competition.
The second way is to actually use S&C to create a heightened response from your S&C training – this can include specific sessions in the days prior to a competition. Within this second method are the potentiating effects of specific S&C activities and tonus (muscle tone) outcomes.
Let’s take a look at these “peaking” options in turn.
Using S&C via reducing volume to achieve a peak
In order to achieve a peak the body must be in an adapted and recovered state. This does not mean that training loads need to be significantly reduced – although the prior intensity and volume of training will have a large effect on the extent of any reductions – that’s to say, the more training mature an athlete is in terms of volume and intensity the lower the percentage reduction of these variables needed to achieve a peak.
On the other hand, a young training immature athlete will not have the wiggle room to reduce training load in the same way and they may simply benefit before competitions from taking a day or two off.
Research exists which shows how manipulating S&C training variables can achieve a peak. Sports scientists in Sports Medicine who considered field eventers and sprint athletes noted:
“... findings indicate that to maximize the speed-strength in the short term (peaking), elite athletes should perform strength-power training twice per week. It is possible to perform a single strength-power session with the method of maximum explosive strength actions moving high-weight loads (90% 1 repetition maximum [RM]) at least 1-2 days.”
So, this conclusion is referencing speed/power athletes as indicated with a high level of specific training maturity. Why the emphasis on the “high weight loads”? Much further research indicates that lifting heavy and safely fast recruits the biggest and most powerful bundles of fast twitch fibres and the motor units which control them. The residual effect is the priming this can have on the central nervous system and what known as potentiation - another factor identified in the S&C peaking approach, of which more later.
In order to make sure that the heavy weight training is of the right intensity and volume, some trial and error will be required and the training maturity and “history” of peaking specific to the athlete must also be factored in.
If S&C is consistent over a number of years and the athlete/coach knows that certain S&C parameters are met (closeness to 1rep max and other rep max tests, distances achieved for specific plyo tests) then it will be easier to reduce S&C loads whilst keeping an eye on those peak S&C levels known to bring about peak performance.
It will also be easier to “top up” again, if as in the research quoted, specific S&C sessions are maintained throughout the season.
It’s crucial for training mature athletes and those with known peak performance producing S&C “base-line” levels that specific S&C is continued throughout the competition periods. Failure to do so, although potentially leading to an early season peak will usually result in performances dropping off in the latter part of the season when the major competitions inevitably are. So, coach and athlete need to maintain to gain and cycle their S&C accordingly (along of course with the other training variables).
Recently, I have been doing a number of presentations on the long jump. I’ve done three for Ireland Athletics, one for Belgian Athletics and another two for England. No pressure then!
Well, at least I’m talking about and showing videos on something that I am passionate about. It is almost one of those scenarios where a hobby has morphed into a job of sorts.
Fifteen years on from when I seriously started coaching in south-west London my experiences as a coach have moved on significantly. And in a number of ways I’d not have thought would have happened.
One thing that has become apparent as my coaching career developed was how much I thought I knew and then realised I didn’t.
I was a near 26-foot long jumper in my prime … so, not unnaturally I thought I knew quite a bit. However, now, I look back and can see how much I didn’t. I’m still learning now. It really is a case of the more you think you know the more you realise you don’t know.
I’ve always possessed an enquiring mind and I like to try to find answers and do research. However, coaching the long jump is both science and art and many of the “answers” don’t actually exist in textbooks or out there on the web. You have to find your own answers and develop your own solutions. And this must be packaged within a coaching philosophy (“Your way of doing and implementing”).
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I talk about the latter on my YouTube channel in the members’ area and look, for example, at training planning methods and how once you follow your preferred model you still need to put your philosophy onto it.
When taking the presentations I mentioned at the start, I stress that a coach needs to develop their way of doing – yes, this must be based on science but it must also be based on knowing what works from your own coaching experience.
And, you have to be quite dogmatic in sticking to its key tenants (as long of course as your philosophy works!). You can’t be a philosophy or training inclusion butterfly, flitting from one idea to another, always tinkering too much and making big changes, as you won’t follow a pathway that will take your jumpers to the destination that provides the strongest of opportunities to improve and adapt. Consistency is needed. Too many diversions along the way will do just that and divert them from adapting and developing optimally.
However, having said that you still need to be reflexive and welcome to a little tweaking in particular when you have relevant experience - specific experimentation.
An example, on a recent presentation for Ireland I talked about the long jump take-off and how there are different ways to set this up. Fifteen years back I would not have known very much about this topic at all. I explained how I was experimenting with step placements into the board and also pushing from the penultimate step into the take-off step. This was done with a couple of experienced jumpers who had the technical and physical long jump literacy to do this. I’d explained to them that I didn’t know what to expect i.e. it might work or might not. We discussed what happened and there were differences that affected the jump. One jumper seemed to benefit more than the other (more on this in another post/video).
So, unless you try different things, you’ll not know what else might unlock another 15-20cm. As a coach I am in a position to be able to understand what I am trying to do (most of the time!). All coaches hopefully will get to this level where, for example, armed with a huge long jump (or other event) backstory and history they can begin to really understand how to coach their event (I’m not so far down the line on my triple jump journey). It’ll take time, effort and some tinkering. Develop your philosophy. Develop your knowledge of what does work but don’t be afraid to listen, experiment and tinker (within your parameters). In doing so you will become the coach you dreamt of becoming and just maybe your athletes will thank-you!
I often get questions and queries submitted to me via my YouTube channel. There are always many when it comes to weight training’s benefits for sports performance. One in particular piqued my interest as it “suggested” that Arnold Schwarzenegger would have run 9.4 for the 100m!
Here’s a little more detail and the question and thoughts posed by Randuuum – a channel member.
“Running and jumping are nearly entirely neurological and infinitely involve more reflex and coordination than muscle. If muscle created downward force, then Arnold Schwarzenegger would be a 9.4 100m runner and 35-foot long jumper!”
So, you can begin to understand what the compromises might be with weight training for sports performance.
I had a chat back and forth in the comments section with Randuuum, and as said we agreed on quite a lot.
Weight training may not target the most powerful of fast twitch muscle fibres
Weight training due to the speed of lift in particular tends to target type 2a intermediate fast twitch fibres. These are not the most power producing of fast twitch muscle fibres – type 2bs are. Indeed, studies indicate power lifters have more of these than 2b fibre types.
Neural Adaptation – perhaps the dominant benefit
There is a secondary contribution of lifting heavy weights fast to sprint and jump performance and it indeed may well be the dominant one i.e. the more important for when considering the benefits of weight training for sprints and jumps and this is neural adaptation/stimulation.
Basically, lifting heavier weights may allow for the athlete to recruit greater numbers of fast twitch muscle fibres (paradoxically including type 2bs) and because of this create a neural system that can do so when sprinting or jumping. The larger the fast twitch motor units and fibres that are recruited by neural energy the more power potential that will be on offer to be sued by the athlete.
So, it could be argued that it’s neural transference as opposed to muscular adaptation that’s key to enhancing sprint and jump performance through the use of weights – however, as usual there’s more to it.
In the video that goes with this article I try to add clarity to this neural element by looking at modern cars and how to get the most from the engine there’s a lot of computer and electrical energy required … so, for engine read muscles and for electrical and computer energy read brain and neural system for the sprinter/jumper. So, being highly charged neurally i.e. in the zone seems to be crucial when it comes to maximising transference and adaptation from weights.
You’ve got to do the right weight training
You’ve got to select more than just concentric (muscular shortening) exercises. I utilise triphasic training – which also includes eccentric and isometric exercises (muscular lengthening and no-movement actions) and complex the weights exercises often with plyos and other jump exercises in the same workout. This is seen to further enhance fast twitch muscle fibre and motor unit recruitment.
Make sure your training programme focusses on transference…
This means that what you do in the weights room (which in itself must be specific and targeted to what will really improve jumping and sprinting) must be part of a training plan that integrates all aspects of training toward that goal of, for example, improving jump performance.
To do this I use undulating periodisation and don’t favour traditional linear periodisation means. As I say in the associated video: “You don’t want to get a mismatch between those training modalities.”
The value of eccentric and isometric “power” can be exemplified by using the long jump as a prime example of where this braking absorbent before energy return muscular power is needed in abundance. Much research indicates that for the long jump take-off that eccentric power is key.
You only need so much maximal strength
Much contemporary coaching thought has it that you only need a certain albeit high level of basic (concentric) strength. Once this level is attained then it’s argued that going beyond this will have limited if any further benefit to enhancement of performance. It’s at this stage in particular where optimising eccentric and isometric power could really pay dividends.
Eccentric muscular actions target fast twitch muscle fibre
Research indicates that eccentric actions can target greater numbers of fast twitch muscle fibres and this in itself may be another further benefit of eccentric training.
Adaptation and time spent training a particular way…
The body needs time to adapt to a training stimulus - although perhaps not as much as may have been previously suggested. Doing the same type of training constantly will at the least slow adaptation and at worse create the wrong type of adaptation. Adaptation that is actually contrary to what you may desire.
So, a long block of concentric emphasis weight training without a carefully constructed training programme nor the introduction of other muscular adaptation training and concerted speed work may result in poor/stunted training adaptation as far as a long jumper is concerned, for example.
Compromising muscular adaptation – rest and recovery
The other crucial factor when it comes to deriving positive and optimal transference from your training (whether weights or anything else) is rest and recovery. You need to ensure that you provide both mind and muscle with enough time to adapt physically and neurally to all training stimuli. There’s a growing debate in coaching and sports science circles about how the body adapts to training. The older GAS method of Hans Selye may if not discredited be seen to not apply to sports specific adaptation. More on that in another video/article.
This article accompany a video that will be on my YouTube channel shortly (13th March 2021)
I have been working with CoachTube to provide some coaching resources for long and triple and track coaches. My first long-form course is now available on the site (link below). It's a two video offering which goes into detail about How to plan training and How to construct a training phase (early season focus).
I explain why undulating periodisation and a specific highly focussed and detail specific approach works. Many coaches can waste time with unnecessary general volume. Why de-train your jumpers and spend months getting their sharpness back? Many of the world's top coaches employ a similar rationale as I do and what you will learn about on the course. For many it's a case of "Not what training you do but what training you don't do". The hardest part of constructing a training plan can often be about what you leave out. Hopefully, I'll simplify this process.
Specific is the way to go
Many years back I realised that specific is the way to go. Long and triple jump requires high-power outputs and copious amounts of speed. You won't get that from 300m repeats. Specific "volume" can be created by other means. For me it's all about drills and maximising their usage to develop all the required components of the long and triple jump.
You'll see first hand how I do this on in this two video 30min plus course. There are also associated notes to go with the videos which will help to further explain what you are seeing and hearing. And there are also links to other resources which will aid your learning on how to coach the long and triple jump.
Look out for more courses from me on Coach Tube.