We're heading into the Christmas and New Year holiday period and when many are looking to unwind and put their feet up over the festive season, athletes are looking to put their feet down harder on the accelerator and pick-up their training in prep for the indoor season, which in the UK starts Jan time.
My training, as regular readers of this blog will know, trends to reflect an undulating model, rather than a linear (traditional) model. I mix up all the elements of the training mix into a bit a potpourri of workouts - so there's always speed (acceleration, top end and run-up), technical work (speed and pit work), heavy weights, low rep work) and plyos. This means that we never stray too far from what will specifically improve an athlete. We don't really go through obviously distinct phases, the transitions are more subtle and played around with to get the desired results. The desired results being; building, speed and power and technical ability concurrently. If you use traditional periodisation you run the risk of playing catch-up, particularly when it comes to speed and power transference into actual event performance - important at this time of the season. Do note that there are other coaches who like 'tradition', who like to have distinct progressive training phases and who like linearness. It's certainly easier to write out these types of training plans than be more specifically ad-hoc. Traditional periodisation can and does get results (I say this to not be married off into the corner at the next coaches get together by the traditionalists). I go with what I've found works and produces results for the jumpers and sprinters I train.
I'll go into detail about the pros and cons of differnt periodisation approaches another day. In the meantime checkout this video on my youtube channel that showcases some of the potpourri of training we are doing as the indoor season approaches.
Most of you reading this will know what plyometrics are but it's only recently that it dawned on me that I (and perhaps other coaches) are not teaching them correctly (or at least paying attention when our athletes perform them). We tend to just let athletes get on with them, thinking they will do them optimally. But turn your back and you'll find them chatting and not doing the exercises in a way that really will benefit their performance.
I recently pulled together a check-list for me to utilise when 'coaching' plyos:
Make sure the athlete knows what the exercise is (so many times I've said single leg and they do double leg!) Perhaps they don't listen
Focus on the degree of knee bend, invariably this should be minimal and there should not be undue preparation
We want the athlete to react to the contact and not pause, and then react (this way the stretch/reflex is optimised and quickened)
Invariably ankles should be stiff on contact with the ground and then pulled up to facilitate the reaction
The other limbs where possible should aid the transition/transitions in the jump
Mix up plyometrics - do single, double and multiple combinations
The athletes must be in the zone and 'want to move quickly', failure to be in this frame of mind will result in sub maximal performance and therefore transference.
Emphasise speed of movement i.e. contact (stretch/reflex) over hight or distance gained.
Don't give all the athletes the same exercises, think which may be more beneficial to some and not to others. Long jumpers for example may not benefit from multiple bounds compared to a triple jumper.
Note that take-off drills and running drills are very much plyometric exercises, so consider the above points when coaching/monitoring these drills.
Tip: use single and double foot straight leg plyometrics variants which emphasise the natural elastic 'bounce' of the legs. I've found that these exercises transfer power and leg stiffness nicely into running and jumping and other plyometrics where there is more knee bend.
As a coach you are always learning and trying to figure out new ways of doing... new ways of conditioning and new ways of improving technique. It's often the latter that is the most difficult of all. After all unless you have access to biomechanics experts you've got to do it all by eye and 'feel'. (Some would argue that this will get better results than those of the biomechanisist - but that's a story for another day.)
Working out technically what to change and crucially what not to is not easy, especially when you have a developed athlete. Starting with a young athlete and teaching them how to run and jump and the key positions to me at least, is a lot easier than working with a 16m triple jumper looking to technically up their game to the 16.60m level.
This is where coach and athlete have to truly work together in order to get the results they aspire to. As a coach I can suggest and sometimes 'tell' the athlete that they should do this or that - make that change to their arm positioning and so forth. This is rather like an F1 race team tweaking a car during a race, however, making much bigger changes is a bigger risk and takes time (it's like when the F1 teams develop a new car over the winter for the next season). With Jonathan Ilori last winter's F1 changes were focussed on the hop and a larger range and 'waiting' before striking into the step phase. We also removed early on his single arm swing step phase - this was because it thew him off balance and reduced power transference into the jump phase. Jonathan now does a double arm. In terms of work to be done, we need to focus on the step. he seems to 'drop' a little here and not get the contact and 'pop' that he should from the hop. Now we have been working on conditioning this aspect to create greater leg stiffness, in the hope that it will create the greater snap into and out of the contact (so a technical issue could be cured with or at least in part resolved by developed conditioning). But we need to work out what to do technically. Also - and taking pointers from Jeremy Fischer (coach to Will Claye amongst others) - we have been looking at the jump and blocking the action in the transition of the arms to try to create a greater forward push into the jump. Jeremy described the triple jump at the recent European jumps convention as a hop, step and 'hang on', such was the lack of a controlled and dynamic jump phase amongst many triple jumpers.
Take a look at the latest video on my youtube channel that analyses Jonathan's recent near 15.80m effort off 10 steps and you'll see and hear some of the things we've been working on. Hopefully this and the above will aid you in improving your own triple jump technical model. Analyse, consider, evil, improve...
The training you should be doing to keep you training
As sprinters and jumpers we love to move fast and to jump long. Plyometics and weight training will also be high priorities, however, all these activities place strain on our soft tissue. So how can you strengthen areas of your body to avoid injury and to actually aid performance too? The answer is to pre-train.
Pre-training should be done all year round and not just focussed on at specific times or when injured. Many pre-training exercises are similar to the ones that physios prescribe when you are injured – you know the ones you do for a few days/weeks till you get better and then forget about them!
I’ve pulled together a selection of workouts that you can do to keep you jump and sprint strong. Include these exercises in your warm-ups or even as standalone short sessions on a weekly basis and you’ll give yourself every chance of remaining injury free.
Balance, Stability and equalisation
Stand on one leg in a sprint position – hold for 15-20 seconds x 4 each leg
Stand in a sprint position and close eyes - hold for 15-20 seconds x 4 each leg
Stand in a sprint position and with a partner using a stretch band round your ankle have them apply force to pull you, so that you have to counter the pull. Pull band to apply force at various positions i.e. “3 o’clock; 6 o’clock” and so forth.
March on spot for 20 seconds
March on spot for 20 seconds with eyes closed
Run on spot for 20 seconds
Run on spot with eyes closed for 20 seconds
See where you end up with the eyes closed version.. if you veer to your left then chances are you’ll have a stronger right leg and will therefore need to work on the left in order to get greater balance. Move forwards and the chances ae that your pelvis is inclined too far forwards - so think about positioning your pelvis in a more neutral position..
Modern running shoes are usually cushioned which is good for protection but not great for feel and making your feet work and strengthening them specifically.
Remove your shoes and perform lunges, walking high knee drills and similar. Really focus on where your feet point and how they contact the ground. Do: 2-3 reps of each drill
Perform calf drills and low and high leg cycling drills without shoes over 20m (make sure the surface is safe to this is on). Do: 3-4 reps of each drill
Run without shoes over 30-40m
When starting out just move beyond a jogging pace and then increase your speed as your feet and body gets used to it.
Part 2 to follow...
I've pulled together the final part of elite coach Jeremy Fischer's practical presentation. There are two other parts on my youtube channel. Perhaps this one has the real draw for jumps coaches and athletes in that it specifically looks at take-offs. Jeremy presents a number of drills that he uses to develop take-off rhythm and take-off position. I had used variations of these previously but there were some added dimensions that I've subsequently incorporated (Click HERE). And to watch the full third part of the presentation please watch the video below.