Coaching, jumps, sprints & more
Everything about jumping and sprinting and how to improve your performance
It’s pleasing that performances for the senior athletes in the group are coming together nicely in preparation for the World Trials. Two have qualified and hopefully another will for the event which takes place in Birmingham toward the end of the month.
I’ve found that younger athletes are able to produce good performances more randomly than senior ones. Probably because they are still learning … learning how to compete and how to use a new technique. Many are still growing and that’s going to have a big effect as well.
All the younger ones have achieved PBs this year and by younger athletes, by the way, I’m referring to those aged 12 to 17-18. The older ones have less ceiling for improvement particularly if they are training mature. I’ve also found that it takes more time for them to perhaps more mentally, rather than physically, get into peak shape. Take Paul and Sarah the two long jumpers, they’re now telling me that they are getting “on top” of their jumping. The speed and the coordination needed to take-off cannot come from training alone. Competition stress often increases speed through adrenaline and training can only take you so far. It can take time to “get your eye in” as it were. It seems that both Paul and Sarah are reaching this state of affairs. Both jumped season’s bests at the weekend gone (Sarah a brace of 6.24m’s and Paul 7.43m). Both also fouled very long no jumps, so fingers crossed there’s a longer jump to come very soon.
The central nervous system and the way it interprets signals is also key, there seems to be a fidelity to how this helps performance … it’s a bit like fine tuning. Remember those old radios which if I recall they had a button to tune into a station and then another to really get the signal crystal clear … it seems that reaching peak condition can be a little like that. There needs to be conscious and unconscious tuning in order to bring the physical and mental aspects of the athlete into a true peak. And of course there’s the effects of the competition itself and the value placed on that competition by the athlete and the way they respond to it. I’m hoping that at the trials all the fine tuning will come to a head and the guys will perform to their very best.
Two new videos up on YouTube channel last week - here they are
And, I must say a big thanks to all those of you who have watched the videos and subscribed as of last week the channel passed 10000 subscribers!
I recently interviewed Brazilian Nelio Moura for Athletics Weekly Nelio is one of the top jumps coaches around. He coached both 2008 Olympic long jump champions - Panama's Irving Saladino and his own countrywoman Maurren high Maggi.
Nelio will be coming over to the UK in October to give a presentation (should you be interested in attending then please email me your details and I will forward them on to England Athletics - who are organising the visit).
In the meantime here's a snippet of the interview I did with Nelio. I'll add some more aspects of it over the forthcoming months to my blog and do also look out for the full interview on the AW website.
Nelio talks to John
John: You are known for your use of assisted plyometrics, where did you get the idea from and how do you incorporate them into your training? Do you place more importance on plyometrics than weights, for example, and how necessary do you actually think weights are for a jumper?
Nelio: The idea came from the sprinter’s assisted running, even though we now know it works differently. I began using it at the end of the 90’s. I found some Japanese studies talking about it, and I wanted to try. The results have been good so far.
The core of my programme is the strength training. Plyometrics develop strength in a very specific way, so I consider it extremely important. However, I also use weights (mostly free weights), whenever possible combining it with plyos.
John: Please describe a couple of assisted plyo exercises?
Nelio: The most discussed and studied is the double-leg assisted vertical jump. We use elastic ropes to “reduce” the weight around 20%, and do sets of reactive vertical jumps. One obvious progression is to do single-leg vertical jumps, but this is pretty intense, only for very advanced athletes.
John: What are your key 5-6 exercises, for a long jumper? (from all potentialities)
Nelio: Running (sprinting) skills are a top priority for long jumpers (and triple jumpers as well). I like running over small hurdles to teach them form and rhythm.
Preparation for the take-off and the take-off itself are probably the two most important phases in the long jump. So, the other exercises I use the most are related to these phases: 1) combinations of three consecutive take-offs, with one step between them; 2) combinations of three consecutive take-offs, with three steps between them; 3) long jumps with medium approach, take-off from a 5 cm high box; and 4) long jumps with medium approach, step onto the 5cm box at the penultimate support and take-off from the board.
John: If you were coaching a young developing long jumper, what are the key things you would focus on?
NM: Sprinting mechanics, approach run – take-off transition and the take-off itself. Accuracy is also a big concern since early on…
Nelio has also written a book detailing much of his conditioning methods - Pliometrica
If you are interested in a copy then please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org I have found the book to be very useful especially the chapter on assisted plyometrics. Okay it's written in Portuguese but three are English summaries - but with many photos of the drills is reasonably easy to follow - unless of course you speak Portuguese!!
Below you'll find my latest YouTube video on two specific sprint drills - these work both nearside and frontside mechanics and when put together I've found that they really can directly improve sprint technique. Please take a look and do subscribe to the channel.
We're about a third into the season in the UK and there's a bit of a divide between how the younger squad are doing and how the older ones are.
Young athletes are vessels full of PBs and technical and physical development ... give them the right training and they will improve (hey, even the wrong training may even get them results ... for a while ... ). With older athletes their PB days will be far less frequent and the sport becomes more serious and one of incremental improvement.
Two halves of the coin
The younger side
So, I have 6 athletes I coach going to this weekend's English school - some of these, as befits the standard of the "Schools" are ranked in the UK's top 10 for their various age groups. For them the "Schools" are like a mini Olympics and it's both exciting and a little intimidating for them. I have to try to manage expectation and perspective. I want them to do well and progress but still have them around in 3,4,5 years and beyond entering the senior ranks. It's at that age when we want to see them at their best and not at 13, 14, 15. It's difficult sometimes to moderate young athletes (and their parent's) desires and goals ... but hopefully I will be able to make them all be aware of the longer term picture.
The older side
Speaking of this other side, the older athletes have started well, well well enough. Managing expiation is also an issue here too. PBs, as mentioned will be harder to obtain, as will be the standards to get the Champs that are available to them - Worlds, Olympics and so on. Some athletes will realise that they'll be less likely to achieve such goals and will set their own targets and this reflects reality and maturity and love of the sport and that desire to be better, to get better as an individual, whether they be jumping 7m or 6m for that matter. For those that are in the limbo area between being a high ranking national athlete and trying to gain selection for a major champs it can be frustrating. The standards set are very high - higher than what they are in perspective for the English Schools or junior championships. There's a literal big jump between the 7.50-odd required for the World Juniors and the 8.17m I believe required for the Worlds. And it can take years to bridge the divide and progress to elite athlete. It takes more than talent, it takes perseverance and time and the falling together of the right circumstances, coach, facilities, time to train and so on.
Briding the divide
Young athletes really have less to worry about - they're not paying the mortgage, for example! It's easier to focus at school or as a student on athletics ... senior athletes go about their business often without fanfare and less "progression" championships to step to and from. That's the serious end of the sport and it's the most difficult one and much respect must go to those amateur athletes who train almost as hard as the few professionals .... hopefully some of the seniors in my group will ultimately bridge the gap and reach major games and hopefully the younger ones will see their successes at an early age as just that and as a way forward toward "bigger" success and really significant PBs.
Holiday programme scheme
This school summer holidays we will be running twice weekly coaching sessions at the David Weir centre in Sutton from Mon 22nd July for 4 weeks (Mondays and Thursdays 11-1). Email me at email@example.com for further details
It deals a little with athlete expectation as well as letting you come along with us on our recent trip to France to compete in Artois
At the recent South of England Championships the senior athletes performed well - so well in fact that we won three of the four horizontal jumps ....
Men's Long Jump
Paul jumped 7.21m for victory but had 3 no jumps which were long. Hopefully he'll get one in over the next few weeks. Paul was also operating off a shorter approach, so once he gets this longer run-up nailed down he should be able to jump that bit further also.
Triple jumper Jonathan was also long jumping - he managed 6.84m but had a no jump over 7m. Jonathan is well capable of a 7.5m jump and indeed his Pb is 7.33m. If he did more comps the chances are that he'd seriously improve on this.
Women's long jump
Sarah opened with 6.19m with a safe-is jump and then elated from this (her third best jump ever) went for it. It's often the case that trying that bit harder does not bring the results one would imagine and unfortunately rather like Paul, she fouled some rather long jumps.
Still this again showed good promise for the season ahead.
Women's triple jump
Allison came 6th with 12.02. We were disappointed with this as she has been showing better from in training and has not had the fortune to 'hit' one in a comp. Hopefully, she'll get close to 13m before the season is out.
Men's triple jump
Potentially 'our' best performance came in the men's triple where Jonathan got legally back over 16m for the first time this year. his best of 16.28m was set in the equivalent meeting last year. It was a shame that the competition became a bit of a speed one as there were only two other jumpers in the field and it must have been one of the quickest competitions I have witnessed. I guess it was testament to Jonathan's and the other's fitness that the jumps did not deteriorate as the quick-fire competition progressed. Jonathan was consistent with a number of jumps between 15.80 and 16.03. The latter ranking him fourth at the moment in the UK. We're looking forward for challenging for a higher ranking.
Over the next few weeks he and Sarah have a meeting in France and there are also some league meetings for them and the others, so watch this space.
This Friday 7th I'll be uploading a video on my YouTube channel that goes into more detail about what happened at the Souths - it will be of relevance to those who just want to see the jumps but also to those who may wish to find out a little bit more about "how to compete".
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PS: there's also a video on Track Valley products ... scroll down!
PLEASE NOTE I changed the title of this post as I felt it was originally misconstruing the point being made - i.e. that opening a dialogue between the UK coach and the European coach re an athlete going to the states on a scholarship - is surely not a bad thing. Basically that is the thread of this post.
I often get asked questions from jumpers from around the world. Many come from the States and they'll be an array of questions on all things long jump - technique and conditioning-wise. However, every now and again I get a question on how long jump, for example, is coached in the States. Often, although not exclusively, these questions come from Europeans who have gone to study and train in the US.
Often there's going to be a sea-change in the type of training done Stateside compared to that done back at home ... this is to be expected, the new coach will want to utilise his experience and his philosophy. However, what does concern me is the reticence to utilise the experiences of the 'home' coach when an athlete travels across the pond. I'd not, for example, mind answering a few questions to set the scene about an athlete for their new US coach. However, with the five athletes I have had go the States, only on one occasion (and it was somewhat forced) has their been dialogue with me re the athlete.
It is odd that five plus years of specific history on the part of a home coach is ignored by the US coaches.
Inspiration for this blog post
This blog post was inspired in part by an athlete who contacted me re his US experiences and the differences in European US coaching philosophy.
He indicated that he did very little plyo training and he was beginning to feel heavy and less light and springy. This is from a European athlete who has jumped over the 7.70m. The jumper has had to do his own plyos. I do find it hard to see how you can coach long jump without including plyometrics in the programme.
Here's part of my response to the jumper - who is now back in Europe and hoping to get selection for the Doha World Champs in the two or so months he has available.
Okay, there are some possible answers here (and I''m going on experience as without obviously seeing you in action it's all I can go on!)... the lack of plyos could be having an effect. If you are used to this type of training then your muscles will respond to it and "need it".
What I have found happens in that the "old" way of training tends to stay with an athlete for a year or so, despite the intro of a new type of regime (in your case more weights based by the sounds of it). After that period you will start to adapt to the new way (which is good if it suits you, not if it doesn't). Jumping 7.90m (which is good!) off a shorter approach may be an indication that the new system is kicking in as it may reflect a shift toward strength rather than power (although the two are related and cross-over). It could be that by adding in some more systematic plyos with the increased strength base that you have, that this could push you on. However, I get the feeling that you require more of a plyo/eccentric base (and to be honest I can't see how you/anyone can be a long jumper without doing plyo's - as I mentioned before), so it's going to be necessary to keep doing them (in your own time in the States by the sounds of it).
If you have a couple more years to go in the US then you'll need to carefully see how you adapt to the regime, as as I say you may or may not benefit from the "US approach" - well, the one you are being subject too.
Feeling heavy could be because you are i.e have put on weight (have you?) but is probably reflexive of a change in muscle fibre type in regard to the weights where type 2x fibres (fastest) may have been dulled a bit and have lost some of their high power contractile abilities). As I say - and without trying to alarm you - it may be after a year when you adapt positively or negatively to the "new" regime. Your saving grace may well be that you are doing your own plyos - without which you may have some of your innate qualities trained away.
Of course a heavy training load and training when "loaded" can lead to that heavy leg feeling. Does your coach use a traditional linear periodisation approach (big base - then more specific in blocks)? Or an undulating method where the emphasis is on speed and power all the time and training elements are wave loaded? I favour the latter as you never lose sight of speed and add more speed on speed, power on power etc. The integration leads to more seamless progression.
Many US track coaches and especially S&C coaches are weight room based and come from a US football background. Hence it's easy to see how with limited specific long jump experience more generic training can take place. The US system also seems to favour a more is better approach, rather than a less is more one. "Go big or go home" - is the mentality. High volume is unlikely to do a long jumper any favours when you truly understand the needs of the event ... 4 seconds of high power alactic aerobic energy, huge eccentric loading on take-off and the need to run over 10.5m/s for a male for 2m-5m to hit a 20cm wide take-off board and take-off optimally. 10x200m, yes, that a great session for a long jumper. Yes, I'm being sarcastic but that's what one of the jumpers in my group was set to do regularly ... you can get specifically fit and do volume - but that's anther post.
So, if you are heading out to the States be aware that your training may be different. I'd advise finding a coach who is adaptable and used to training athletes specific to their needs and who does not use a cookie-cutter approach. Also, don't be afraid to challenge your coach and make suggestions - if they are a good coach they will at least listen and give you an informed response as to why they will or won't adapt their training.
Please note there are of course many great US coaches and success stories with European jumpers, these are my opinions based on actual first hand experience. Also the question that forms the meat of this post is from an actual European based out in the States.
This bright beautiful sunny Bank Holiday Monday, I was literally full of the joys of spring. I headed to the track with a bounce in my stride and a session planned in my head…
Then it all un ravelled … perhaps the athletes had too many Easter eggs, perhaps it was the sun and we all delirious! I had lined up low hurdles (wickets) as they are called in the US (wonder what they call cricket stumps then?). They were spaced around 9 steps apart and there was a strong following wind. They had ran across the hurdles spaced at 8 steps the previous week – but could anyone do it? Nope. I moved the hurdles in and it was still a failure. In the end maybe one of the six athletes got in a relatively smooth effort. Okay if you have males and females and different sprint speeds and only 10 hurdles, it can be difficult to achieve a one-size-fits-all distance but I usually manage it – even if for some of the group it becomes more of a cadence sessions.
Okay, I was feeling the heat metaphorically and in real terms, next up in my planned session was the use of a low step (approx. 15cm) for placement on the third step out from the board for both the long and triple jumpers – as a device to work on take-off. You’ll have seen this drill being used by squad members many times in the videos on the YouTube channel. But did this go to plan? Nope, nope, nope! Spatial awareness was not our friend on this Bank Holiday!
It took too many attempts for the guys to get the correct foot on the platform – one even tried to leap off the platform into the pit – luckily the platform was on the long jump run-up and was about 5m from the pit’s edge…
I was getting tired…
So, I suggested we do some short approach jumping to hopefully make the most of a bad job… should be okay, not too demanding on the group… well, it was, we had people asking what leg should they take-off with (OMG), forgetting penultimate step mechanics and pfaffing around trying to hit the board. Okay, it got better, but by then I was thinking of heading home to the garden, the deck-chair and a cool drink. Not everything goes to plan!
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The weather is starting to warm up and the competition season is just about to start. As I have mentioned in other posts for many of us coaches this year is a little of a conundrum with the Doha World Championships taking place much later on than world's normally do in October. Our (UK) trials are therefore scheduled for August when they normally take place late June/early July.
Now, you'd think that the domestic season would be adjusted to take this into account but, no the same meetings (a part from the trials) are taking place more or less at the same time, and some have actually moved forward a week or so ... so where's the sense in that?
Having said what I just have it will mean that some of the meetings that take place later in the normal season calendar will probably take on more importance now, such as the late July, England Champs. We need to ensure that the athletes in the group who have an eye on Doha maintain condition throughout the season just in case. This will mean some tweaked training planning and also some careful monitoring of mental energy expenditure created by competition.
Most athletes will only be able to perform well in a 'set' number of competitions before performance (or rather the mental driver of performance) begins to wane. I worked out as a senior athlete that I had about 13 competitions in me including indoor and outdoor ones, before I'd not 'expect' to jump better. This awareness comes with experience and careful competition planning.
Younger athletes normally have more energy and are able to compete more, and in fact in many respects they should use competition to become better athletes to gain in confidence and learn how to compete and how to win and lose. Oh, and it should also be fun - something that is often forgotten.
Lots of coaching and overseas visitors
Over the last few weeks I have had athletes and coaches come and train with the group and with me from Ireland and Singapore and as usual it has been great to share technical and training knowledge. I've also been running some Easter holiday programme sessions and they have been well attended. If you'd like to find out more about these courses and when the next ones are running then please sign-up to the newsletter feature on this website or send me a direct message - JohnShepherdFitness@gmail.com
Thanks & YouTube
It's been great to have such positive feedback on what I've been doing on YouTube! It seems that many jumpers (and other event group athletes and even athletes from other sports) from around the world are attributing their improved performances to the info on the channel. Well, I'm glad it has helped... the channel started very much as a way to fill a gap in what's on YouTube and is available athletics-wise and also as a development of my editorial background. It's quite humbling and enthusing to see how a video made in London can improve the performance of a jumper in Delhi, Cairo and Texas. New videos coming up will look at wicket work for improving run-up structure and run mechanics and also showcase a specific session I did with one of the visiting athletes I mention from Singapore.
The latests published video on the channel looks at the initial transition between the indoor and the outdoor season
I was recently posed a question on my YT channel about the value of concentric strength and young athletes. I think this is a topic that needs some detailed consideration, hence I have copied my response in full and the question below. I hope it puts into context the value of concentric strength and how it's important to develop it but not so at the expense of reactivity and speed.
Yes, you do need a concentric base and this needs developing as a young athlete, but it will not be the main ingredient in your ultimate jump or sprint success.
Here's the Question:
As you may know, most of your viewers are based in the States and have been exposed to lots of American Football and the training associated with it, where people would lift weights six times a week. Many track athletes, in fact, have a football background including Christian Coleman, Will Claye and Bryce Lamb (who was a product of our rival school!) However this type of training seems like it is off with your training philosophy where you advocate two weights sessions a week. I believe most of your videos are a result of your training with athletes who already have a strong concentric base, able to jump 3m in the standing long jump, so you put weight training as a lower priority as less returns can be made from that training. Through digging through papers and being exposed to other training philosophies, I have developed a theory that the amount of weight you can lift would determine your ceiling. For example, a person who can squat 100kg would benefit less from plyometrics and bounding, therefore have it really be unlikely to be a world class jumper than a person who could squat 200kg in a condition where the two would have similar plyometric experience. Correct me if I am wrong Since much of your viewers are young high school athletes, I want your opinion on how should teenagers ages 16-18 start to develop that concentric base you referred to in some of your videos. It seems that two sessions of weights a week is little for someone looking to develop strength as quick as possible. For example, I am 16 years old and have a 2.35 m standing long jump and can squat 95 kg. Should most of the work be done in the offseason and maybe ramp up the frequency of weight sessions? I really want to use all my three seasons left wisely. Thanks for all the support you give your viewers and with the content you produce as you may have realized by now that you are the only channel on youtube who puts such effort into making these quality LJ/TJ videos PS. When will that drop jump video come out you mentioned a while ago? Really excited for that
Here's my reply:
Many thanks for your comments and the thought you have yourself put into your training and some of the theory of training. Now, in your case with your SLJ, I would recommend that you have a bigger concentric (and other muscular action) strength base. So, squatting, lunges, deadlifts etc will develop that base. Loaded jump squats and also sled pulls will also be perhaps more dynamic ways to develop this increased concentric capability. It will take time for an athlete of your age to develop this foundation strength. And, yes, despite my (slight) downplaying of concentric weight training, it is still important. I try to make the point that there are (especially for the mature athlete and ones with a high level of concentric ability) better ways to develop 'jump power'... but you do need that base. If you want to add a third session why not make it a power combination (complex/contrast) one where you add in plyos and eccentric drops for example. Then you may also benefit from the potentiating effects of the combined training methods. One thing you need to take care over is training adaptation. I would ask the question - how can the body adapt and 'grow stronger' in response to 6 sessions of weights a week? There's the over-shoot' phenomenon and the volume of training would likely create conditions for training stagnation and also potential refiguring of muscle fibre in ways that you might not want i.e. type 2x fibres to type 2a... Now, you mention your SLJ, how's your top end speed and your reactivity. I'd rather have a young athlete come to me who's fast and reactive rather than concentrically strong... strength is relatively easier to develop compared to the other qualities. I'll even use myself as an example, although I wish I trained differently back in the day (as most of us ex athletes do!) I was not that great as SLJ, at your age I was of a similar ability and only managed 2.85m at my supposed best. Yet, I ran 21.8sec and jumped 7.89m and to this day I'm still reactive at drop jumps, for example. Yes, I probably needed more of a concentric base in my early career which may have pushed me onto faster times and longer distances but it shows how innate qualities of speed and reactivity are perhaps more important. I'd say that a squat in the range of 200kg when you are mature would be a good target. Most of my male jumpers could do that, if they had to. Even I can do 150kg and I don't really weight train that much now. A note of depth of squat, I'd keep it to the range needed for the LJ and TJ and sprints, there is research that indicates that deep squatting can stretch tendons which is many ways you don't want. Shorter Achilles tendons, for example, can produce more power that longer ones. Hope this helps and guides. Will also post on the main page, in case you miss this.
)Last weekend I sat enthralled by the quality of the action at the Euro Indoors in Glasgow. It was a shame that I was unable to attend to support Jahisha Thomas an athlete in my group, but based in the States, who had qualified for the long jump. There weren't enough accreditations available for all personal coaches to attend.
Jahisha acquitted herself well enough in her first major representative international meeting with a 6.34m jump. Unfortunately this was not enough for her to advance to the finals. However, at a young age valuable experience no doubt has been gained. Onwards and upwards er, further as they say.
Speaking of further Ivana Spanovic won her third Euro indoor title with 6.99m. This was an incredible achievement as at the equivalent outdoor meeting in Berlin last summer she ruptured her Achilles tendon... so to come back from that and perform so creditably was incredible.
If you have been following my youtube channel you'll know that I have posted a couple of videos on Ivana's jumping style in an attempt to see what we can learn from the Serbian's technique and the way she sets up the jump. She is actually a little atypical with her lean back take-off and incomplete hitch-kick action. You'l find the videos on Ivana below.
We now begin a process of building up for the outdoor season - it's going to be tricky with the World Champs so late in the year in October, with the trials in August, and with some group members having an eye on that and others on other targets, such as the British Universities and Colleges championships at the start of May, It's going to take some creative and divergent planning to achieve this. I'll do my best to let you know what we do (when I work out what to do!).
Last weekend (17th Feb) I was fortunate to coach Jahisha Thomas in the long jump at the the IAAF Grand Prix. It was my first experience of coaching at such a type of meeting. The atmosphere was electric and there were some great performances.
Of course I was interested in the jumps and sprint action and the long jump enabled me to study close up Ivana Spanovic and Cuban sensation (and the man many are now betting on breaking the world record) Juan Miguel Echivarria. Spanovic jumped 6.72m to win and pulled out of her last jump, hopefully to save energy rather than trouble any injury as she gears up for the Euro indoors. Echevarria had problems finding the board in the right position, he was reaching into it quite significantly and not therefore maximising his flight. Nevertheless, he finished with a leap of 8.21m.
I pulled together a short VLOG on my experiences for the YouTube channel and you will find the link below. In time I hope to more closely look at the techniques of Spanovic and Echevarria in order to see whether there is a relevance/transferability from what they do to the jumpers in my group and of course all you other jumpers and jumps coaches. One thing I did see was that their take-off legs were very straight (very straight).
Jahisha jumped 6.36m and had a few take-off issues herself, but she has nearly two weeks before the Europeans indoors which will be a great experience for her (and me if I am able to go). It will be her senior GB debut.