Coaching, jumps, sprints & more
Everything about jumping and sprinting and how to improve your performance
How well do you know your athletes if you are a coach? And athletes what do you think of your coach? Do you like them, respect them, appreciate their knowledge?
I've just been editing an article for Athletics Weekly sort of on this very subject by former athlete and now coach and doctorate in psychology Sara Almeida. She's produced some very interesting research on this subject which uses what's known as CARI - an on-ine questionnaire. This stands for Coach Athlete Relationship Inventory. As the article comes out next week in the Nov 8th issue of the magazine. I don't want to say too much yet, but I will whet your appetite with this little snippet:
In the coach athlete relationship, the athlete needs to know that the coach is keeping up to date with the latest conditioning and technical knowledge in order that they can feel secure that they are being coached by someone who is knowledgeable, who can be trusted and relied upon.
CARI enables coaches and athletes to better perceive their relationship - in particular to understand each other’s goals, values and opinions. I believe that the research sends out a powerful message to coaches to invest in a good coach athlete relationship, and to make sure the relationship is perceived in the same way by the athlete.
The coach athlete psychological dimension is actually one that I don't give too much thought too. I tend to "just coach". However, having been selected for the Into High Performance course I blogged about last week, this article has fallen on particularly receptive ears.
I've had a look at CARI and may try implementing it with my athletes. Together with the course it's making me think about my coaching practise in a little more details and peeling off another layer of that onion that when revealed and addressed could improve my coaching. I do however, want to be true to myself and to not work from a kind of pre-selected crib sheet/sales pitch. Just because you know the right thing to say does not make it necessarily the right thing to say!
I'll leave you with an example: an athlete I coach can dwell too much on the minutiae of technique and although this may initially seem like a great thing, it's not so great when the athlete begins to question whether their perfectly adequate technique is right. So, I've gone against an athlete centred approach and adopted a coach centred slightly authoritarian one. "We'll do it this way..." (!). Why do I know (hope) this will work because I know the athlete and I want to get the best out of him or her!
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The new season for preparation comes around all too quickly. Coaches need to have a rest as do athletes, but this year I don't seem to have had much of one!
This year I've introduced some new weight training ideas into our workouts as has been indicated in recent posts and on my associated Youtube channel There's been quite a lot of discussion on 'Triphasic training" - which involves specific eccentric, isometric and concentric weights workouts. It's something that in many ways I'd been using without having specifically programmed to do so, However, reading Cal Dietz's book Triphasic Training, contextualised and added more to what I'd planned.
In the video below you'll see what we've been up to in our first week or so of training. It sets the scene for what's to follow. I always try to pare down what we need to do to the key elements - speed, power, technique. Yes, some metabolic conditioning is required, but even with young athletes the former qualities trump these. A jumper needs to be able to run near to 40m flat out and be powerful enough and coordinated enough to take-off and execute a mid-air action. They don't need to be fit enough to run 6 200's in 23-sec.
,The sentiment however is what's compelling. It's about not wasting time doing the wrong exercises, or not loading the bar correctly, and in my most recent video thinking about doing eccentric and isometric weights room exercises. All thinking is geared toward what will make you run faster or jumper further.
If you've been a regular viewer of my videos you'll know that I have long used eccentric/isometric jump exercises, where we focus on blocking the landing and working on moving down into the jump, for example, when conditioning. An eccentric muscular action is a muscle lengthening one where muscles go on stretch to decelerate movement. This happens when the foot hits the take-off board in the long jump - the muscles (ligaments and tendons) around the ankle, knee and hip will stretch to stop the jumper collapsing through their take-off leg. They then recoil very quickly (creating muscle shortening actions) to propel the jumper from the board. Sandwiched between this eccentric and concentric action is an isometric one. There will be, in the case of the long jump take-off, a minute moment when there will be no movement, when the eccentric action, stops, and then transfers direction concentrically.
It therefore makes sense to train your muscles eccentrically, isometrically and concentrically (concentrically being the most common form of muscular action - as is the case with squats and bench presses, for example). On my channel I was made aware of Triphasic Training by Cal Dietz, an S&C expert at the University of Minnesota. I got a hold of his book which is all about conditioning via blocks of eccentric, isometric and concentric emphasis weights exercises in order to find out more and better inform my training programme construction. The book has proved very useful in this respect - look out for a full review in future.
So, in pulling together my training programme for this 2018/2019 season I have really thought long and hard about the role of isometric and eccentric weights room exercises and have created a specific training programme for them that fits around the other key drivers of my training plans - plyometric, technique work, acceleration and top end speed. All hung around a block periodisation undulating periodisation methodology.
The video embeded within the post will further explain my current thoughts and I hope to expand upon these in the light of practical experience in future ones.
PS: I'm even doing some of the exercises myself and can feel - even at my old age - the transference.
In a number of recent posts and videos on my youtube channel I have been mentioning the potential benefits of isometric (and eccentric and plyometric muscular actions - these two in particular). However, in the process of writing an article for Athletics Weekly on cross-country conditioning I found some interesting research on the role of isometric activity for these athletes.
The full article will be out Thursday 20th Sep, but here's a taste and some of the unused material. It will show that this often-negelacted aspect of sports conditioning - isometric training - can play an important role. As indicated I will be looking to introduce more isometric and eccentric weight training into my training group's activities this preparation period. It seems to be able to offer numerous benefits.
Sports scientists studied the incidence of injury in cross-county runners and have noted that performing specific strengthening exercises can reduce the on-set of injury across a season.
One survey looked at knee and shin muscle injury in high school athletes.
The team wanted to see specifically whether the cross-country runners’ hip and knee muscle strength influenced whether they sustained injury. They specifically measured isometric hip and knee power.
An isometric muscular action in a “non-movement” one - muscles work against each other, or a resistance, but with no actual movement takes place. Examples of isometric exercises that would strengthen the knee muscles would include 1: using a leg press machine to press the weight away and then bringing it back so that the knee angle is around 90 degrees, whilst then holding the weight in that position for a given time, for example 8 seconds and 2: a wall squat, held perhaps for 20 seconds.
Note: Isometric strength is very specific to the angle at which force is applied so in order to fully develop it different angles of application should be used.
Returning to the study sixty-eight cross-country runners (47 girls, 21 boys) were involved and they were monitored across the entire 2014 season.
It was discovered that:
During the season, three (4.4%) runners experienced knee pain and 13 (19.1%) shin injury. More specifically, it was discovered that hip strength was related to knee injury, with the isometrically weaker cross-country runners being significantly more predisposed to injury in this area.
However, when it came to shin injury the team noted that hip and knee muscle strength was not significantly associated with injury.
Perhaps this can be explained by the fact that shin injuries are less dependent on specific strength (although this can be of benefit) and are often likely the result of exposure to too high mileages or running on different surfaces too soon. Avoidance of these types of injuries is therefore very reflexive of training load, rest and recovery season demands and session planning. The requirements of a full-on cross-county programme may therefore have been the main reason for the runners sustaining shin pain.
Hopefully this info will show how training different muscular actions in this case isometric, can aid injury avoidance. Look out for more on this subject and eccentric activity in future posts and videos.
I’ve recently started to think about planning for the next training year. What do I keep the same? What do I change and what do I get rid of? These and other questions and potential answers are milling around in my head at present.
As, regular readers of this blog will know I’m very much a “less is more” type of coach when it comes to training planning (periodisation). I use a version of what’s known as “block” periodisation or undulating periodisation. This system never loses sight of speed, for example, and ensures that all the key qualities required for long and triple jump are not put on the shelf.
Classical models of periodisation, which use a pyramidal approach, with a wide general prep base, that move through cycles, to more specific and more specific training units, are now increasingly falling out of favour with coaches (particularly at the elite level). This is because, and keep that shelf comment in mind, if you put the key aspects of long and triple jump (speed, technique etc) onto that shelf at the beginning of the training year, they’ll gather metaphorical dust. A couple of months later you take them off that shelf and what do you find? They’re (metaphorically again) dusty. The result: the athlete struggles to run fast, take-off, coordinate technical movements quickly and efficiently and so on. So, you’re back behind the specific training continuum and needing to er, dust off technique and speed. The athlete then spends the next, and crucial part of the training year, attempting to get the speed and technical efficiency back, and probably to the level that they had at the end of the summer season when they started back training in the first place.
Oh, and did I mention tissue resilience – or cutting through the jargon - injury risk to muscles, ligaments and tendons? More specific to event training (and a pre-training programme), will significantly reduce the potential for injury – another benefit of block periodisation methods.
Oh, but they’ll be stronger and fitter some will shout who advocate macrocycles of general prep… stronger and fitter for what? (Stronger and fitter at being stronger and fitter probably). The jumper will not be specifically more powerful, quicker and crucially reactive enough to be able to lift out of greater speed and therefore jump further.
Now, if that same jumper trained for speed all year round, they’d get quicker and quicker - theoretically at least - there is a little bit more to it than, for example, sprinting everyday.
Many jumps coaches who follow the block periodisation method/methods will start the training year with acceleration work. It’s speed work, develops power and is more concentric in nature. The belief is that the greater starting power generated the greater the potential top-end speed – everything else being equal. This is an approach that I favour too. However, I think that I didn’t quite get the top end speed development right. There are so many factors to consider here – one being the need for a specific type of speed on the run-up. Running 40m-odd to hit a 20cm board is not the same as running 40m flat out. What’s key is the acceleration and optimum speed into and off of the board.
This year I hope to up my coaching game with a shiny bit of kit, probably a freelap timing system. This extremely portable bit of kit should enable me to measure the run-up speed parameters I want and this will inform me objectively, if I am getting my training planning right (or as “right” as it can be… better may be the way to put it).
Another aspect of training that I want to develop more for my jumpers will be a slightly different approach to muscular action training – I’m avoiding saying weight training and even strength and conditioning, as I don’t want people to think exclusively of weight room activities. I’m looking at getting more eccentric and even isometric training into our workouts this training year and I’ll say more about that in another post.
So, when it comes to training planning for long and triple jump I advocate that you think and act specifically. Speed on the run-up and at take-off/take-offs and the technical ability and power needed are the keys to jumping far. The training mix needs to reflect this and you need to be able to, as objectively as possible, be able to measure these qualities.
Look out for progress updates as this training season progresses. And good luck with your training and competition.
PS: Latest video is now up on the YT channel and this deals with that muscular action training I mentioned above.
And thanks to all those who've passed by and had a watch... we've now reached 3k subs and close to half a million views!
Those of you that follow my youtube channel will know that I have started to answer in video format questions that come into me through it and also through this website and my Instagram page. Obviously if numbers of questions begin to increase much more I will not be able to answer them all simply due to time issues.
I may consider charging a fee for those who would like certain types of questions answered, which I hope people don't consider unreasonable. I have, for example, been asked to write out a weight training programme for a specific athlete, accounting for their specific needs... that is no 5-minute task.
Where possible I'll do what I can with the answers I provide in video format - although these also take a while, at least they reach more people and may be generally more beneficial to jump athletes and coaches.
Please bear in mind that if I don't reply to a question you send in straight away (or even not at all), it's not personal (!), it's due to a lack of time.
I uploaded August's "Coaching Clinic" (Q&A) video a couple of days back, and it focusses on: the transition form the hang to the hitch-kick and also how to get length and fluidity into the triple jump hop. I've put the video in the link below which has my answers.
And, as I seem to end up saying at the end of these videos (!):
Good luck with your training and competition and do subscribe to the channel
(It's nearly up to 3000 - so thanks to all of you who have subscribed, shared and commented!)
I have been pulling together an article on what constitutes a successful transition from junior to senior as part of an assignment for Athletics Weekly. Here's a part of it that will provoke some debate and thought (I hope!). The rest of the article has research from international athlete and researcher Karla Drew (who looked at the specific stats pertaining to the transition between junior and senior GB athletes) and the IAAF who survey athletes from the first world youth champs (to see how they fared over the next 5-6 years)
I have coached a European junior champion - Elliot Safo long jump 2013. Safo, was also a finalist in the Barcelona World Juniors. The jumper along with other athletes from my group have attended World School Games and the Commonwealth Youth Games and European Youth Olympics. I say this not to brag in anyway but to highlight that for me managing the transition from promising young athlete to senior level as a coach has well and truly been experienced/is being experienced.
I think that the sport (and parents/coaches/fellow athletes) can place too much emphasis on junior success. As a coach I’m not too bothered by junior (and below) levels of success. I try to continually stress to the younger members of my group, that it’s not the u18, u20 “medal haul” that really matters, but the senior years’ one (although what you do in those transition years will of course have an effect).
The problem is that you can’t hold an athlete back in terms of the development of their talent – if they jump 7.70m at 17 (as one of my athletes did) then they’ve done it. It’s what subsequently happens that counts and in some case these great early athletic achievers can create something of an albatross around their necks. The performance becomes one they have to catch-up to and can’t readily easily replicate soon after (yet often “expect” to). In such instances that guidance that Karla Drew talks about is needed and coaches, in particular, must be able to handle the situation.
There is so much for a young athlete to deal with when transitioning from junior to senior. At 18-20 an athlete has to make some important decisions – they have to go into the world or work or study and try to fit in their training around this (unless their parents or any sponsors will support their training or they perhaps work part-time to support their training). Governing body funding to enable this is relatively minimal.
There are few athletics academies to my knowledge that could guide and help young athletes for a number of years like there is in football and rugby. Instead, it’s a choice of work or college or a self-funded athlete life (with no guarantees). It’s for these reasons that many UK athletes look to go to the US on scholarships. They are – dependent on the college attended - given kit, have their tuition paid, living expenses provided, food provided, physio, access to doctors and so on. It makes it quite easy to see why more and more UK athletes are going to the US or are at least seriously considering it.
Many would argue that the sport of athletics tends to be a bit of a lucky-dip contest – at least for the under 20 age group. Transition depends on what’s around that athlete and how they are guided; where they live; who coaches them; what injuries they sustain (a subject in its own right), and what the sport’s governing body can, and is able, and wants to do for them.
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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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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.