Over the last month or so my training group has had an additional member - Abdulrahman Sayeed who journeyed all the way from Cairo to train in sunny south London.
And sunny it was indeed, Abdulraham commented that our heat wave felt hotter than Cairo! In fact on one or two occasions we had to train indoors due to the heat!
Abdulrahman is an under 23 jumper with a best of 6.80m. He had "found me" through social media and had the wherewithal to organise himself and finance himself for a month in the UK.
I'd initially met him virtually, by way of my youtube channel and he'd sent me a video to take a look at of him jumping. It was then slightly surreal to see the person in person and actually jumping (running, doing weights etc) right in front of me. I guess it shows the power of social media and the virtual and then real ways in which people can connect through track & field.
I'd spotted many of the technical areas that Abdulrahman needed to work on in the video (and you can see more in the youtube video I've made on his time with us below) but there are other factors that you can't determine from a couple of clips of Abdulrahman - or any other jumper/athlete - in action.
What do I mean? Well, perhaps the most important area of work that I quickly saw needing attention was his reactivity. Abdulrahman was very strong concentrically but not eccentrically, nor reactively (i.e. plyometrically). He was a "heavy weights" type of athlete, who did very little plyometric and eccentric training. Pennies began to drop and it suddenly made sense why he could jump relatively further off of short approaches compared to longer ones. Basically he did not have the ability to take off at speed as his training was somewhat steered in a slower, more concentric muscular action direction, Now, the changes that he will need to make in this area will take time, and during his time with me in London, I gave him various sessions and ideas as to what to do on his return to Egypt and thereafter.
In the video you'll see some of the more technical issues that we worked on with Abdulrahman and his jumping and running. I plan to make a second video where I follow up on the change of conditioning regime needed.
The information presented in this post and in the video will be of relevance to all jumpers looking to improve and it highlights the crucial role that the "right" conditioning will have. You may have great technique but if you are unable to use if off of a full run-up at speed then you've obviously got a problem,
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This week's Athletics Weekly will carry an article of mine on organising your own - in this case - triple jump meeting.
We decided to run the meeting due to the fact there were no further competitive opportunities before the deadline for European selection for Britain's top jumpers. Jonathan Ilori, for example, in my training group had come in third in the British Trials at June end and along with a couple of other jumpers could have been considered for the Euro team had they jumped the required 16.60m by the deadline.
Our "DIY" meeting managed to attract two other of the top 5 jumpers in the UK and we had a further 4 good standard athletes take part.
The process for putting on a meeting is described in AW - and I think it's well worth other coaches across other events thinking about putting on their own focused event meeting in future.
We are talking about doing this next year and trying to be a little innovative and creative as well. I know other coaches who run such events, such as pole-vault coach Allan Williams. Allan will be running a competition at David Weir Centre, Sutton for his event soon. If you're a local vaulter and want to get in an end of season comp then contact Allan at: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have any ideas for improving the field event opportunities then why not leave a comment. And look out for some more triple and long jump competitive ideas/opps on this blog.
And you take a look at what happened at our comp here:
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As part of my editorial work, in the main for Athletics Weekly I had the chance to interview Morgan Lake - the UK's top high jumper whose Pb is 1.97m. The snippet below focuses on her training.
You'll find lots of great training and competition advice on AW's site. I've recently interviewed Troy Doris - Guyana's Commonwealth games triple jump winner, 8m jumper Dan bramble and 11.11sec 100m sprinter and Berlin-bound Imani Lansiquot. I'll be posting a few snippets from these in future too. It's great to talk to and learn from great athletes.
Morgan Lake on her training
JS: How has your training evolved since your move to Loughborough University and the UKA coaching set-up there and your new coach Fuzz Caan?
ML: It’s definitely changed... a new coach, new training group, new environment and I’m solely doing high jump this year, so it’s completely changed to be honest.
JS: So, in terms of your training load has it reduced since your multi-event days?
JS: Yes, definitely the training load has dropped off, but I’m still training five or six times a week. I suppose the quality is that much higher now than when I was doing heptathlon. I have more time to spend doing the gym stuff; more time to work on technique and plyometrics. Obviously, I’ve taken out the 800m training and lactate work and horrible sessions like that although strangely, I do miss that kind of winter work, but I’m still getting a lot of work in.
JS: How many technical sessions do you do a week?
JSL: We do three technical sessions a week and specifically we will jump on two days out of those three and the other session will focus on run-ups.
AW: Have you made changes to your technique since the change of coaching set-up?
JS: I have changed my run-up this year. I went from a rolling 8 stride approach to a standing 10. So, that’s quite a big change, as it means I’m getting quite a bit of speed into the bar, which is good, but it also means that I need the strength to cope with that.
(Lake went on to talk about how the new approach needs growing into and the specifics of the timing needed for the new run-up, especially in the light of having used the old run-up for so long.)
Overall, I think my technique has got gradually better over the years, I’m still trying to get the perfect arch (bar clearance – Ed), get my head back and not knock the bar off with my heels. Overall, it’s been a gradual improvement in my technique, but it’s definitely changed from when I started.
JS: What specific conditioning do you do to improve your jumping?
ML: We do a lot of work off a box (drop jumps - Ed) which is 10cm to 15cm high… jumping from it and reacting to the ground. We call these “stiffness” jumps. (Leg stiffness is developed by such box jumps, specifically these and other plyometric activities will enhance the transition from a muscle lengthening to a muscle shortening action, as occurs when jumping. This is also known as the stretch-reflex – Ed). We also do a lot of single leg hops, double leg bunny jumps, hurdle bounds and jumps where we react off the ground.
JS: What about weight training?
ML: Weights are quite new… we’ve really only started doing them properly in 2016. I was doing weights before but only a few certain exercises, like leg press or squats, but now I’m doing weights three times a week. I’m also doing more technical lifts, such as the Olympic lifts. I’m still working on those technically and need to improve before I can take the weight up considerably though.
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In a forthcoming issue of Athletics Weekly one of the UK's top physics - and one I have worked with - Stuart Butler writes about hamstrings and how to rehab them after injury, but more importantly prevent them from becoming injured in the first place. He provides 5 take home messages in this respect. Here's one - do take a look at AW for more on this subject and also check out the website for lots of great athletics content. As you may know, I pull together the Performance section.
I do include lots of hamstring pre-conditioning exercises in my training and touch-wood we've not had a hamstring strain for a long time... hope I've not jinxed it!
An exercise that Stuart recommends is the Nordic Hamstring Exercise... if you do this move, make sure you do so when you are fresh and build up the intensity and the strength required over time (don't sprint afterwards). The NHI requires load to be controlled as the hamstrings elongate eccentrically. Eccentric muscular actions have been identified as being crucial when combatting hamstring strain injuries.
Run Fast (often)
"The best training for running fast is running fast! But this also creates that tightrope which coaches and athletes must walk, and where the “art” of coaching comes into its own, together with systematic training planning. You need to listen to the athlete and consider all that is going on in their life - for example, their levels of fatigue and everyday stress, as these can all impinge on propensity for injury.
I’m a big fan of athletes reaching top speed but trying to minimise the effort required to get there; many hamstring injuries occur in the last third of the race, and maybe too much time is spent focussing on acceleration and not top speed running? There is some really interesting kinematic (forces) data showing an athlete’s top speed of 34kph and therefore being subject to 100% force and then a small drop in speed to 30kph reducing the reading to 77%. This implies that we really do need to reach top speed in training in order to best bullet-proof hamstrings. We must also consider that progression needs to be gentle and that a high-speed “spike” in training loading could be problematic." Stuart Butler
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For many domestic athletes, the British Champs (European trials) are the primary aim of their season. Although the upper echelons of UK athletes should be looking beyond the weekend and onto Berlin for the Europeans, for or many more, the “Champs” will be their major goal.
Numerous coaches and athletes from all over the country will converge on Birmingham. The heart and lungs of our sport, the clubs, will be proudly represented and their club colours will be on show - along with GB and home nation national vests - it’s a requirement to wear such vests at the Champs.
Those athlete who have achieved UKA’s Berlin standards will be relishing the chance (albeit nervously) to rub shoulders with the likes of Laura Muir, CJ Ujah, Lorraine Ugen, Jasmin Sawyers and the rest i.e. - those who regularly make major championship teams. As a coach I had four athletes across the four horizontal jumps in Birmingham. You can see how they got on in the accompanying video. One Jonathan Ilori, in coming third in the triple, has a chance of selction for the Europeans, if he can jump 16.60 (the qualifying standard).
I like many other coaches cross all events will have been targeting this meeting from when we started training back in the autumn - and that’s important as it has to have a meaning. It has to instill in the athlete a want to do well in it. This will help them mentally “get up” for the competition.
I’ve been going through some specific mental preparation with some of the group - talking through scenarios, for example, that may arise. In the horizontal jumps, you have the small matter of hitting the board at optimum speed. A board that is only 20cm wide, less than the size of your foot. From a physical preparation point of view, I’ve hopefully planned training to get the athletes into the best possible shape. Triple jumper Jonathan had a no-jump issue at the south of England champs - he only got two of six jumps in. Had there been more than eight competitors he’d have not got through to the fourth round, as he did three no-jumps in rounds one-to-three. So, prior to the trials we more or less did nothing but run-ups, and as you’ll see in the video it seemed to work as he registered 15.98 in the first round and then 16.25 in the second which was good enough for third. We really worked on getting the foot down in the correct position, staying under control and not letting emotions and adrenaline take over too much. It’s a thin line in the horizontal jumps (literally) between trying too hard and fouling or messing up the take-off set-up to hitting that take-off sweet spot.
It was interesting to see at the trials in the women’s long jump how adrenaline certainly played a part, so much so that it looked to me as if Lorraine Ugen - who won with a world leading jump of 7.05m - changed her technique. She used a truncated hitch-kick to control a much quicker take-off and the greater push off the board that resulted. Her normal technique is a hang - and she’s been plagued with the issue of dropping a leg early on landing and losing vital distance. I’d long thought that a hitch-kick might work better for her - it will be interesting to see whether she will now make a change to this technique.
Learning to hit the board and control nerves and adrenaline can only be practiced to a certain extent in training as the demands of the competition arena are very different. And this is where some form of mental training can help. If you’ve competed in the same venue then you will have a great idea of what to expect and you can work on visualising yourself in that arena and jumping well (this can still be done if you haven’t – search for videos on-line and talk to people who have).
Dealing with different wind conditions (you should also vary the wind direction in training run-ups too); dealing with long gaps between jumps (something else that can be worked on in training); and having a game plan i.e. a strategy that you intend to follow that will enable you to get the optimum performance from you. What do I mean by the latter? Well, you can construct a script of “advice” perhaps with your coach, as to what to do and how to compete and what to really focus on for your jumps. Write and repeat. The idea being that these “aide memories” will come to mind in the heat of the moment in competition. A word of advice you need to really focus on them in training - and I say training, as the mental side of it should be approached with the same commitment as the physical.
Getting the most out of the most important competitions of the year must be a continual process and goals and preparations must be focused toward that end. Athlete and coach need to work together to be as prepared as possible - but on the day, in competition, the athlete has to feel that expectation to do well and have as much confidence in their mental and physical prostrations that they will do so.
The season is now picking up pace in the UK and most group members have been in action. As a coach it’s always a worrying time when you hope that all that training planning you’ve done and all the work the athletes have put in comes to something.
As a largely amateur coach I am not able to coach all the athletes individually (or in very small groups). This, for the long and triple jump especially, is probably the optimum way to coach the event. Jumpers have specific needs and focusses and it can be difficult to deal with these when you have 6 or more athletes at a session. Note: some less technical focus sessions do work better in a group, such as sprints, speed endurance runs, circuits and so forth. Nevertheless, focussing on the few rather than the many is more likely to provide the athlete with very specific feedback and training solutions that have more chance of working for them.
But it is what it is! So, basically all the athletes in my group follow a broadly similar training plan. One that follows a block periodisation methodology. This training planning method never loses sight of the key elements of the jumping events, technique, speed and power. So, a measure of how well the programme has worked every year simply comes down to how the guys are jumping!
Two group members who are flying in particular at present are Jonathan Ilori, who has gone from 16.06m in the triple jump last year, to 16.13m, and then 16.28m this year and Sarah Abrahams in the long jump who has impressed with two comps over 6m already this season (mid-June at time of writing) and a Pb of 6.12m. Other group members are doing well but it’s not quite so startling as it were compared to Jonathan and Sarah.
So, as a coach I try to reflect on why some of the group are doing really well and others not quite so well. There are of course so many factors to take into account – and you have to account for factors off the track as well as on it. Exams and work commitment of course have an influence on how well athletes do.
Keeping mental and physical notes of what’s happening year in year out and from athlete to athlete is very important. I know, for example, that Paul Ogun (best of 7.79m) – 7.45m indoors and 7.21m outdoors so far this season – historically needs more time to get into the competitive groove. Although his 7.21m jump at May’s Loughborough International was his best ever jump that early in the season - why should that (his easing more into the season) be the case? This is especially so when you look at how Jonathan and Sarah are doing and note that Paul is performing well in training too.
These are the conundrums that a coach faces. Reflection is needed. I feel a responsibility to get the athletes to jump as far as they can and I always try to think what can be improved on. If we (athletes and coaches) had more time then we may have more chance to get it 100% rights, but we are not professional coaches nor professional athletes, so it’s going to be more of a challenge, but hopefully we’ll get there.
In the video below you’ll see Jonathan and Sarah in action. The video focuses on developing the peak speed needed to jump really far as a season peak approaches.
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We coaches will try to help athletes who don’t compete so well. We may suggest the learning of a script that they repeat over and over again in the months prior to competition. This script could focus on key technical requirements, such as positioning into the board in the long jump; front side mechanics and staying relaxed when at max velocity in the 100m and so forth. The aim being that the repeated practise of this “list” will embed it in the athlete’s mind so that in the heat of competition that voice says “stay relaxed”; “position onto the board” and so on. Then there’s a list that could be created to create greater confidence and reduce competition anxiety. Simply repeating “I am calm, confident and well-prepared” can trigger off those emotions that are being described by the words. Smiling (or trying to) can help change mood state. However, as with physical training, these technical and competition preparation readiness lists/words/gestures, need constant practise. The unconscious mind is apparently more of a nagging negative rather than a happy, uplifting positive one.
This is a paragraph from an article I'm writing for Athletics Weekly, I'll share more in time, but it's - in this stand alone format here - to act as a stimulation - a probe to make coaches think about their role in how their athletes perform. In writing the article I began to realise how crucial our leadership/personality and communicative ability is. Scary! Rather like an athlete who fails to address "how to compete" because they are fearful of addressing potentially personal issues - the same can apply to us stopwatch and tape measure holders...
Our focus needs it seems to be turned inwards as much as outwards... more to come.
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The number of questions I'm being asked through my youtube channel and Instagram page has began to increase and it's proving difficult to answer them all - particularly if people ask for me to take a look at their technique. I'll do what I can and in consequence I've started to make some videos that analyse the technique of some jumpers from around the world - so far I've looked at a long jumper from Egypt and two triple jumpers from the USA.
I also try to write responses to some of the questions posed on the YT channel in particular and also have attempted to answer some of these in a more VLOG style through specific videos on the YT channel.
Below you'll find an answer to a question about plyometric training and the degree of knee bend vis a vis triple extension;
Q: Hi I was just wondering when we do the drop jumps, should we extend our legs fully and go into triple extension (hips ankles and knees unlocked) after we land or should be just bounce up keeping the same knee and hip angle while reacting? Sakarumaster
A: I do both variants with the guys in my group to a degree... however, the key is keeping the transition from the eccentric element of the jump to the concentric one minimal i.e. you need to move as quickly as possible between the stretch and reflex. If you bend the knees too much and lower and lift, the drop jump becomes more of a counter-movement jump. For the long jump and triple jumps, for example, the time spent between the eccentric and concentric elements of the jump/jumps needs to be minimised. However, particularly for the triple there is more flexion (bend) at the knee through the take-off phases, hence there being some variation as to degree of knee bend in training with plyos. Note though that the plyometric exercise will often determine the degree of knee bend, and as long at the athlete is not "lowering to go up as it" were and is maintaining (relatively) a stiff contact, then I believe this is fine. Contact times are slower for the step-jump phases compared to the long jump take-off, for example.
It's the combination between lower degree of knee bend jumps; low height, very stiff contact drop jumps, straight leg hops, higher more degree of flexion drop jumps and similar bounds that will condition what's required. And to this we must add the need to do eccentric work i.e. drop & block landings to really create greater leg stiffness, elasticity and reactivity. I'd always go with stiffer over more compliant though as a rule of thumb. Tendons engage over a much smaller range of movement than muscles and create the tension, elasticity in the muscle, I believe by as much as 70% in terms and the shallower knee angle engages them particularly - another reason for keeping knee bend to a minimum.
Here's a video that answers some questions posed through the channel on: eccentric training, sprint start and triple jump phase ratio
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National Event Day Workshop & National Coach Athlete Workshop
I’ve just returned from two days at Loughborough University in Leicester, England. Loughborough - for those of you who don’t know - is one of the top sports science universities in the UK and also a major base for GB Athletics. Many of the country’s elite athletes and coaches work out from there.
I was asked to come along to the two-day event as a coach/observer/participant organised by England Athletics. I’m also an England talent coach mentor - which means that I act as a resource for a couple of other coaches and their athletes on an occasional basis throughout the year - and it was good to catch-up with them at the event and talk jumps.
On day 1 we started with a lecture on biomechanics theory - of jumping, sprinting and throwing, athletes and coaches from all event groups were in attendance. Activities were then put on for the specific events thereafter and on a few more occasions as one throughout the days.
There was some very useful info presented in the biomechanics session which focussed on, for example, the plyometric (stretch-reflex, eccentric-concentric) action. It was re-affirmed that eccentric capacity is particularly crucial for the sprinters and jumpers (as a side point for the heavy throwers concentric strength is of more importance). Being able to absorb force is crucial as this will affect the speed of the stretch-reflex and the subsequent concentric action. Tendon capacity is a key element too - tendons store and return immense amounts of energy, potentially more so than muscles.
A very interesting comment was made that through very recent research it was discovered that in the triple jump over 23 times body weight needs to be absorbed during the phases. This was new to many of us - as most of us coaches had put the figure at around 15 times… this amount of force to be dealt with (whatever the multiple) displays that need for eccentric capacity.
After this lecture the athletes in attendance had a testing session - this looked at technique and speed. A speed gun was used to assess the latter. All coaches were encouraged to talk about the techniques of the jumpers in small groups “live” as it were. This can be a little awkward as you are talking about another coach’s athlete and it’s often the case that the athlete and their coach, knows potentially what a problem may be and probably has plans in place on how to fix it. However, if all coaches see this feedback as a positive task, then equally positive outcomes should result. As coaches we all have slightly different thoughts on what’s-what and “comparing notes” as it were can be a very useful process. You also have the occasional “how-did-I-not-know-that-moment, of which more later.
The first day culminated with a sports psychology session and this looked, for example, at how athletes and coaches rate their performance and progression. There was some lively debate as to how we coaches should monitor our ability i.e. can a coach ever reach 100% of their ability? I ended up with 3-4 lines on my graph - having one for my knowledge, another for achievements with elite athletes and another for achievements with club athletes, for instance. None of the lines had an unaltered linear gradient - each tended to go back and forth on itself. I personally can get as much satisfaction from seeming an athlete go from 4m-5m compared to 7.30m to 7.80m in the long jump. Trouble is the sport as a whole probably tends to view the latter as being more of an achievement than the former.
Day two began with functional movement screening of the athletes in attendance. They were tested on an over head squat and lunge, for example a (O/H aspect was performed by pulling a stretch band apart). These and other exercises were selected to identify areas where an athlete may need to focus on to improve their range of motion, body control and awareness, for example. In doing this a programme of remedial (pre-hab) exercises could be implemented to improve such functional movement, reduce injury potential and to benefit performance. Dealing with the later - if a test shows up, hip or ankle instability for example, then in all likelihood this will be manifested in an aspect of event performance. In the long and triple jump you want all force to be applied linearly - any lateral movement is a wasted one. There was some interesting debate as to how to fix things!
Next up Scottish long jump record holder (8.01m) and now head of coach development for Scottish Athletics, Darren Ritchie presented on his philosophy of long jump and coaching. This was a very engrossing presentation and it was great to hear how Darren’s career progressed as both athlete and coach (I actually competed against him!). It made me reflect on my own pathway. I had a quick chat with Darren after and we talked periodisation and the difference between coaching different types of athletes and how the periodisation model has to be adapted - more on that on another day perhaps. But, for now this shows, how important it is to bounce ideas off of each other.
The last session of the weekend was a practical long jump one, again taken by Darren. Coach Ritchie took a couple of athletes through the type of warm-up he follows, picking up on functional movement and technical issues, for example, as identified through drill/exercise performance. The warm-up followed the RAMP protocol (raise body temp; activate, mobilise, potentiate). The jumpers then did some short approach jumps and Darren provided some feedback. I picked up a few more exercises from this practical session and also some food for thought on different ways to take-off and a “why didn’t I know that?” nugget on hand position on the rearward moving arm in the hitch. I do have my own thoughts on this (take-off) and it made me think that if a particular type of jumper (strength based/type) did materialise at my coaching sessions I could potentially use a different take-off methodology to the one I tend to use now with my predominately speed-based jumpers.
All-in-all the weekend was an informative and enjoyable one, and as well as the knowledge imparted formally and informally, it was good to catch-up with coaches - who as former athletes I’d known for er… decades and also to make new friendships and connections with those known for much less time.
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I've recently been getting quite a few queries regarding technical issues via my youtube channel and requests for advise. This promoted me to produce a couple of videos attempting to answer questions and address technical issues.
My latest video (19th April) analyses the techniques of an Egyptian long jumper and an American triple jumper, for example. That's the great thing about our sport i.e. it truly is a global one... it's reach, if not popularity, is probably greater than that of football (soccer)!
The two athletes Abdelrahman and Kelechi had pretty good technical models, although I did see some things they could work on - albeit this, from my point of view, was a little difficult with just a couple of videos to anaylse. Take a look at the video below and you'll be able to see what they need to work on. Who knows their technical issues/issues could also be yours. It's great to be able to analyse the form of non-elite athletes as they strive to be the best they can... and on that subject.
Over the years it's become somewhat obvious to me that many athletes are working against themselves i.e. trying to jump, for instance, against a poor technique. As I say in the video, no matter how fast or strong you are, you will never jump as far as you could, if you have a poor technique. Yet, many seem to neglect this in their training. They will spend hours in the weights room or sprinting and neglect the cornerstone of performance - jump and run-up technique. Take, for example, the take-off for the long jump, if this is not set up optimally then the speed and power generated on the run-up will to some extent go to waste.
I base my coaching philosophy very much on trying to get everything to go straight through the take-off, for example. We don't want wasted lateral movements, for instance. Keeping the hips relatively even through the last three steps to and including take-off is part of this desire to get everything moving in the "right" direction. The content of my training sessions is designed to create a body and mind that will effectively apply force and move with as little wasted movement as possible. It will pay huge dividends in the long run if a jumper can develop an optimum technical model (working against their particular idiosyncrasies - more on this in another post).
So, my advice is to really study how you jump and to work out the best technical model for you and then, rather like the assembly line for a car, put together all the pieces. Work on foot-strike, hip swing of the free leg in isolation as drill, for example, and you'll find that when you jump you will hit the board/track with the correct foot position and your hip will "know" how to swing through into the take-off.
Good luck with your training & competition. Perfect praise makes perfect...