Coaching, Sports, FITNESS & More
Everything about jumping and sprinting and how to improve your performance
This is our trailer for our next Track Chat (it'll go live on Friday the 6th October. We - that's myself and Jonathan Ilori talk 400m hurdles with top UK exponent Jacob Paul. Jacoby has dipped under 50 seconds a number of times this year and went to the Euro u23s and the World Student Games. He also ran in the London Diamond League. There's a segment on the type of training you should be doing at the start of the training year and we also review Pippa Earley's late season heptathlon where she went to number 5 on the UK all-time list. Our third show will feature an interview with Janay DaLoach, bronze medallist at London 2012 and 7-metre long jumper. Stay tuned for more Track Chat.
Watch the shows and other athletic coaching content and event reviews HERE
The structures of the lower legs take a pounding in the long and triple jump and sprints, as they do in numerous other sports. These areas are prone to ankle, Achilles tendon and calf strains for example. pre-training or pre-conditioning is a way to bolster the strength of your body by performing 'protective' type exercises that are designed to strengthen areas of the body prone to injury, such as the lower legs. So what can you do to minimise risk of injury to this body region?
There are a multitude of exercises that can be used but how effective are they?
A Norwegian study looked at how ankle (and knee) injuries could be reduced in teenage handball players during the 2002 to 2003 season. 1,837 players were split into an intervention group and a control group. The intervention group performed exercises designed to improve awareness and control of the ankles and knees during standing, running, cutting, jumping, and landing. The exercises included those with a ball, the use of wobble boards and covered warm-up, sport technique, balance, and strength. The control group continued with their normal training methods.
For the group as a whole, 262 players (14%) were injured at least once during the season. However, the intervention group had lower risks than the control group when it came to sustaining acute knee or ankle injuries. The incidence of moderate and major injuries (defined as absence from play for 8 to 21 days) was also lower for the intervention group for all injury types. The researchers concluded that: "The rate of acute knee and ankle injuries and all injuries to young handball players was reduced by half by a structured program designed to improve knee and ankle control during play’"
LOWER LIMB STRENGTHENING EXERCISES
Straight leg jumps
Stand with your feet slightly beyond shoulder-width apart. Swing your arms back behind your body and very slightly bend your knees. Swing your arms down, as they pass your hips jump into the air, using your calf muscles and ankles to provide most of the power. Land without undue yielding (in order to increase joint stiffness and improve eccentric force absorption) and spring immediately back into another jump.
Suggested routine: 3x10 exercises with 1-minute recovery between sets.
Eccentric calf raises
Eccentric calf raises have been identified as being as effective as combating and treating the majority of Achilles tendon injuries as other treatments, including surgery. When performing this exercise concentrate on the lowering phase of the movement, lowering to a count of 4-5 and lifting to a 1 count. To gain familiarity, select a medium to heavy weight that creates fatigue after 8-10 repetitions, before progressing to heavier weights that create fatigue after 4-6 repetitions. Use a standard calf raise machine. After gaining familiarity and strength with this exercise, perform freestanding versions from double and then eventually from a single leg stance, using similar loads and repetitions.
NB. Standing calf raise exercises, target the gastrocnemius, whilst seated calf exercises hit the soleus. To fully strengthen the main calf muscles combine both exercises into your training programme. You can also do these exercises free-standing, single leg version being particularly tough, if you have not worked on eccentric Achilles strength.
EVEN TOES MATTER FOOT STRENGTH
Even the foot and even toes can influence running power. A team from Canada studied the energy contribution of the big toe or metatarsophalangeal (MP) joint when running and sprinting. The team wanted to discover what the contribution of the MP joint was to the total mechanical energy involved in running and sprinting. Data was collected from 10 trained male athletes (5 runners and 5 sprinters).
The team discovered that during the stance phase, the joint absorbed large amounts of energy during running and sprinting. In terms of biomechanics this led them to conclude that lack of plantar flexion (toe down position) of the MP joint resulted in a lack of energy generation during take-off; energy was absorbed at the joint and dissipated in the shoe and foot structures and was not returned to propel the athlete forward. Although it would be physically difficult to specifically train the big toe to contribute more to the sprint and running action, concentrating on a more dorsi-flexed (toe up) foot position on foot strike could allow it to generate more propulsive force.
Always include pre-training exercises in your training plans for the lower limbs and all body parts, doing so will likely reduce injury and improve performance.
If you want to watch athletics on TV you're limited by the seasonality of the sport and the sporadic coverage. Go to youtube and you'll find event coverage and some training/coaching channels, like my own. But is there a regular VLOG, where athletes and coaches talk about their sport - about training, coaching, how they got started, injury prevention, nutrition and so on???
So... I rather without much thought created Track Chat. The name sort of says what it's all about.
We, that's me and Jonathan Ilori, will be hosting a regular show (until we run out of ideas or find no one's watching it!). We aim to produce a 20-minute plus show, every week to two. We'll be aiming for a Friday evening upload.
Show one is a bit of a special and is all about how you can get a Track Scholarship in the US. We talk through the pro's and the con's.
Show 2 will be the format that we intend to follow most of the time where possible. This includes an interview with 49-second hurdler Jacob Paul. We also talk early season training and discuss the ins and outs of athletes on social media. And I produce a small segment on Pippa Earley's recent heptathlon and her rise to number 5 on the u17 all time list.
Do try to catch some of the shows and let us know what you think in the comments section below the videos.
First Track Chat TV show now live! (Fri 22nd Sep '17)
TO FIND OUT MORE CLICK HERE
Many years ago I was introduced to kettlebells when they were first being introduced to the masses in this country. Perhaps as befitting their use by the former USSR as a key training tool for both their athletes and military, I trained on the street. They seemed hardcore, they’re not… although they can be. But what they really are is a great dynamic way to train for sport (and fitness).
The ‘bell’ allows all standard weight training exercises to be completed, such as cleans, squats and shoulder presses, for example. But they also offers some more unique options, such as the ‘Turkish get-up’ (this one takes some mastery and requires you to get-up from the floor from an on-your-back-position, through a lunge, to being stood up, all the time holding the kettlebell at arm’s length).
The ‘swing’ is another key kettlebell move. The exercise is performed with one bell held at arm’s length by swinging the weight up and letting it drop back down between your legs. You ‘catch’ the momentum and by driving your hips boost it into another swing. You also need to move with the weight. It’s a very dynamic exercise and great for extension through the thighs and hips.
Many kettlebell exercises can be performed with two bells, so you could do snatches and cleans with one or two. Today you can get kettlebells in various weights but back in the day they when they were used in the USSR the key weights (called ‘poods’) were circa 16kg, 24kg and 32kg. There were competitions held called ‘kettlbell sport’ (they continue today worldwide) where for example, the total number of swings completed in a given time period – as long as 10 minutes – are counted and attempted to be beaten by the kettlbell athletes.
What’s great about kettlebells?
They have their mass below the handle and it’s this that moves about and creates instability. This results in your body’s myriad of stabilising muscles being called into action to control the movement and path of the bell. Obviously you need to use your larger power producing muscles to move the weight also.
Great exercises for athletes and sportsmen and women include...
The swing, cleans and snatches – these are great for thigh and hip power and the extension that’s required for jumping and sprinting
Jump squats – single- or double-legged, using one or two kettlebells. These add the calf extension to the movement, making for a great synergy between running and jumping.
Farmer’s walks for general leg endurance and strength. Hold the kettlebells at arms’ length and walk with them for a designated distance
Farmer’s lunges – as previous but lunge a designated distance
I have written numerous articles on kettlebells in the past and regularly include them in my own training. Indeed I have a 16kg bell at home. They’re very versatile and a bit of a one-stop-shop workout. Thus great for the time-pressed. I’ll train in the garden with mine of carefully indoors.
Take a look at this video I pulled together for Peak Performance for a special report I wrote on how kettlebells can benefit runners – Kettlebells for Faster Running - indeed with all the exercise descriptions and images of how to do the exercises it would be of great benefit to all sportsmen and woman and indeed for those looking for increased fitness and the knowledge as to how to use these great pieces of kit.
English School Multi-events Heptathlon
It’s the end of a long season for both coach and athlete and a long drive to the east of England to the flatlands of Lincolnshire. It’s early September but the wind is cold and the clouds are dark and prone to wheeling in and dropping their rainy deposits. It’s not ideal conditions for a two-day heptathlon.
Pippa has broken the UK record for the 80m hurdles this year. She’s in heat 1 and clocks 11.17sec, with the wind slightly over the allowable limit. It’s a sore that grabs her 910 points. Great start. In heat 2 Emily Race clocks 11.23, another great time, and therefore Pippa only gains nine points as a lead at this very early stage.
It’s the high jump next and for all of you following our progress, this is the one event that can create problems. It’s not through ability but just through lack of practise and confidence. At first though we all relax as Pippa makes first time clearances all the way from 1.35m to 1.50m. She clears 1.53m on her second effort. And fingers are crossed for the next height, 1.57m, which would be a Pb. However, it’s not to be, despite a very near second attempt.
Coaching/athlete tip: The wind was blowing very strongly behind the backs of the jumpers and Pippa was blown into the bar on the third attempt at 1.57m, making it virtually impossible to take-off optimally. So, as with the horizontal jumps, it’s necessary to be aware of wind conditions even for the high jump and to make adjustments accordingly. One for the coach’s experience notebook then.
After two events Pippa is in 7th place with Emily Race still leading after a 1.74m high jump.
It’s onto the shot, with the programme over running by about 45 minutes. Pippa looks strong in warm-up with a standing throw over 12m. However, she doesn’t quite connect with her glide and reverse technique in the comp proper, but manages her second best ever put of 12.42m.
Pippa’s throw is good enough to move her up into 5th spot. Olivia Dobson threw a CBP of 14.14m and with a 1.74m high jump this now takes her into the lead.
The final event of the day is the 200m. We have been working on the technicalities of running this event. It’s not flat out and hang on; there needs to be a relaxed phase to allow for less deceleration in the home straight. The recent focus seems to have worked as Pippa wins heat two in 25.68sec, aided by a 0.8 wind. It’s virtually a one-second off Pb, but it was on the cards, given how well she has done this year over the hurdles, both 80m and 100m, and in training.
At the end of day one Pippa is in fifth overall. Emily Race, who clocked 26.35sec, and who threw the shot 11.93m, is back on the top of the leader board with 3236 points. Olivia Dobson is second with 3212 and Jessica Hopkins third with 3167. Pippa has 3088 points.
Day two starts equally cold and windy with the long jump. There are some blue skies but they are still fleeting. It’s a big field in pool A and the winds aid performance with very few sub 5m jumps. Pippa opens with a safe 5.55m from behind the board, but then can’t hit the optimum take-off despite a 5.63m in the second round. Jessica Hopkins does hit the board spot on and leaps to a Pb of 5.74m in round 2, albeit aided by a 2,5 wind. Emily Race also excels with a 5.73m effort.
We’re slightly disappointed as we had hoped to gain a little over the long jump, given that Pippa has a best of 5.88m and has fouled 6m jumps in the past. Still it was not to be.
And it was a similar scenario in the javelin, where a third round 27.92m effort was below what she had been achieving in training. Still that improvement by around two metres over her first two throws would be significant in the long term.
The 800m is an event Pippa approaches like a sprint and she attacks it, even relishes it. She set off at a fast pace and went through the first lap in around 67 seconds. The strong back straight wind makes the going even tougher.
So what was required for a medal? Well, we calculated that she would need to beat those above her by 20-22 seconds, which we thought would be a tall order, given the other contenders’ Pbs. We were therefore shocked when she actually managed this. She clocked 2:17.32 seconds, which I would say was her best 800m time ever, given the wind (even though she has a superior Pb).
It was a very uplifting end to an up and down two days, but what heptathlon isn’t like that? Pippa finished on 5123 points, just 80 behind winner Emily Race, with Olivia Dobson third with 5114 points. That 800m made all the difference.
The results dramatically changed the UK all-time lists for the u17 heptathlon with Pippa now in 6th place and Emily Race in third, behind Jade O’Dowda and Morgan Lake.
Video to follow.
Late September/early October is typically the time when most athletes start to really get back into their training. You should have an active rest at the end of the summer season and be ready to prepare for 2018.
The first thing I do as a coach is run through in my mind how the group as a whole did and reflect on what we did across the year. My training plan evolves ever so slightly from year to year. I have seemingly stumbled on a methodology that works for the horizontally jumps so tweaks are usually minimal. I have a mental and recorded plan of where the training will evolve from month to month, session to session.
I adopt a mixed periodisation or undulating periodisation plan. Periodisation refers to training planning. Basically I train all aspects of what's required to improve performance at the same time, just altering the emphases of the constituent parts across the training period and in individual sessions. Speed and technique are the key drivers. I aim to improve speed of the performance of a well executed skill all the time, whether that be a long jump take-off or triple jump hop. Never in my opinion loose sight of your event and what needs to be done to get better. The odd aerobic run for example won't hurt but if you can run for 15 minutes comfortably (or even uncomfortably) you're probably fit enough to train for the long jump. I've seen so many athletes train away from the requirements of their event. This could be by “living” in the weights room for the autumn! Strength gain for the sake of strength gain is a waste of time.
Strength & conditioning
As said I've seen athletes do too much weight training and become stiff, slow and heavy. I don’t think those attributes will lead to a faster 60m time. Strength and conditioning is an element of training in its own right but it should integrate into the speed and technique training sessions, for example, and not be a bolt on. This is in part why I try to also provide strength and conditioning training for those I coach. For one I know what they are doing first hand in their weekly workouts. Plus the sessions I construct are mixed ones and often include what others may include in specific S&C ones i.e, isometrics, concentric work, plyometrics, balance and pre-training drills and even weights and complex training.
Rest is a training variable. I'll save a detailed look at this for another post, but as an athlete you need to be aware that it's in the time when you are not training when your body adapts to the training load. Keep hitting the body with intense workouts whilst not allowing for recovery then it will not adapt optimally.. So recovery and rest are a vital part of training planning… more training is not necessarily better and doing too much is a common occurrence especially at the start if the the training year).
Group coaching issues
Coaching my main group collectively can be problematic as its members have individual needs. However, when you are working with 6-10 athletes at the same time it can be very difficult to prescribe specific workouts. In the occasional one-to-one sessions I do, this is of course much easier.
Tip: if you are aware of your weaknesses and your strengths then make a note of them and grab a minute with your coach to discuss them. This may jog the mind of a time-pressed coach to accommodate these needs in training (and agree or not on whether they are indeed a strength or a weakness).
Know where you are heading
Selecting goals for the forthcoming season is vital for coach and athlete. I'll take a look when the key meets are and plan training to accommodate them, the great thing about a mixed periodisation approach is that you are never far from being able to compete optimally or at lest near optimally. There's no significant de-training of speed or failure to do technical work. You build, for example, more speed on more speed.
Tip: help your coach out list, what you are aiming for comp and performance wise. In a group with men and women, boys and girls of different abilities your coach will not be an almanac of all competitions and dates.
Hopefully these points and overview of ideas based on how I plan my groups’ training will be of benefit to you and get you thinking specifically about just what you exactly need to do at the start of the training year.
During the recent London World Athletic Champs a coaching conference was held. This was aimed at many of the national federation coaches who were in London with their teams. I was fortunate enough to be invited along with a number of other UK coaches.
There were a number of sessions taken by elite coaches and often featured athletes too, for an end of session question and answer session. I decided to go along to two sessions; the first was on strength training, presented by Sean Pickering and the second was on speed and was presented by Loren Seagrave.
I recorded the sessions and intend to produce either some video or written analyses on both sessions. There were some very interesting points made and thoughts provided. And the great thing was that it was grounded in the actual i.e. it was practically evidenced i.e. because the presenters, although working against a background of sports science, also worked with athletes and saw what worked, and I guess what didn't, first hand.
I've pasted below one of two largely audio presentations I've made from the Loren Seagrave presentation with some comment and note overlays from myself. The presentation was focussed on the physiological aspects of sprinting i.e. energy system usage and technical considerations. The video is about 10 minutes long each and you could download it through youtube and listen in your car. On my youtube channel you'll find another segment of Loren's presentation.
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