Coaching, jumps, sprints & more
Everything about jumping and sprinting and how to improve your performance
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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.
As a coach, the major meetings of the domestic calendar are the ones that matter – that’s for a group who are at a level where podium places at these events and potential selection for major championships are not too far out of reach.
Last weekend five of the group were in action at the Birmingham Indoor Championships – which were trials for the European Indoor Championships, being held in Glasgow in early March.
The two-day meeting started with Jonathan (Ilori) in the triple jump. The standard for Glasgow was 16.50m and Jonathan had a best from last year of 16.28m. He’d had a couple of outings this year and had managed 15.74m, without really hitting the big jump - timing as in all technical events, comes with competition. Looking great in warm-up, his first competitive jump resulted in him stuttering onto the board, rushing his phases and not getting the range needed – still it was 15.64m and promising given all that. Unfortunately, Jonathan experienced run-up issues – not of the same magnitude throughout the comp – but enough to put him off from obtaining the optimum take-off position (crucial for all the jumps). In the last round he managed to get closer to what was required but still didn’t as I say “connect”. Nevertheless, he went out to 15.97m and went into third place, behind Nathan Douglas (16.27m) and Nathan Fox (16.12m). Next to jump was Michael Puplampu and Jonathan’s effort must have kick-started his adrenaline as hitting the board perfectly Michael leapt 16.28m to not only surpass Jonathan but move into first place.
An hour and a half later Alison (Wilder) was up in the women’s triple jump. Alison suffered some technical issues too but managed a season’s best of 12.32m for seventh overall. The competition was won by Naomi Ogbeta who leapt a stunning 14.05m for a British under 23 record. And Naomi looks like she’s got more in the tank.
On Sunday, it was the turn of the long jumpers. Paul (Ogun) began well opening with 7.27m and was unlucky on a couple of jumps to trail into the landing losing around 15cm with jumps in the twenties… as you’ll know if you have been following the YT videos Paul is changing to a hitch-kick and tweaking his running action. Competitions are where athletes default to previous settings and this was partly the case with Paul. Nevertheless, he was running really well and managed to jump 7.37m which was a season’s best and good enough for sixth (this Wednesday he has a comp in Ireland …). Feron Sayers took the win with 7.72m, and having achieved the 7.95m qualification standard for the Euro Indoors last year, will be heading to Glasgow.
Last on the card for me was the women’s long jump with regular group member Sara (Abrahams) and temporary member Jahisha (Thomas) competing (I coached her before she went to the States and am her UK coach). In many ways this was the event many were waiting for as it featured Katrina Johnson-Thompson and Jazmin Sawyers. I also had a sneaky feeling that our girls could be among the challengers. And so it turned out. Sarah managed 6.21m and came in fifth (it was her second longest jump ever). Coaches are never really happy and nor was Sarah as we knew she could have jumped further … that’ll happen on another day. I will say I was happy with Jahisha. She had the Euro qualification distance from a jump in the US in Jan – bang on with 6.50m (although she had an outdoor mark of 6.69m).
I’ll say coaching this comp was not easy as I had not seen Jahisha jump in a comp for a while and I had to re-see and re-instruct … also as she has an American coach (she’s based much of the time in Iowa where she went to university) watching what I said was also important. Different coaches can say the same thing differently. Luckily “we” worked it out and in a tight competition Jahisha jumped 6.36m to finish second behind KJT (6.46m) and just 1cm in front of third placer Abigale Irozuru! There were some of timing issues again, similar to Jonathan, with Jahisha not getting onto the take-off properly and going “up”, rather than out. But second place is second place and she’s on the plane to Glasgow for her first major GB championships.
So, it was a satisfying day for “Team Sheps” and we look forward to more days, better days in fact in the future.
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This weekend 9th-10th of Feb the European indoor trials takes place at the NIA Birmingham. I will have four regular group members competing and a fifth who is back from the US, who has trained with us in the past. It's going to be a busy but exciting weekend. Two are in the women's long jump, and one each in the men's long jump, women's triple and men's triple.
All has been going well in training and it's now down to what happens on the day. All the athletes should be reasonably confident that everything else being equal they will do well. Believing that you can is as important as is valuing the meeting and making it a do-well event.
I will say that the tweaks we have made to the training programme this year seem to have added a little something else to preparations. The two differing inclusions being: 1: a greater emphasis on triphasic weight training and plyometrics and 2: the use of the Freelap timing system systematically throughout the training year since October.
I've written about the use of eccentric and isometric exercises (as well as concentric ones) in the past and also 'talked' about that in some of the videos on my YouTube channel, but what it does seem to have done for many of the group is up their take-off and sprint power. I think this is a consequence of greater leg stiffness and it's particularly noticeable in one of the group in particular (I won't mention any names). Being able to not absorb force (yes not) is a key to jumping, you want to 'hit' the take-off and power out of it at lightening speed - and it seems that specific isometric and eccentric means can aid that.
And the Freelap system being able to really time standing 20m runs and flying 20m runs, for example, has been a great analytial means and also a great motivator for the group. (The system is accurate to 2/1000 of a sec)/ Placing those little yellow recievers on the track and trying to run from one to the other as fast as possible does make the athletes run faster (and that in itself is crucial for improved speed). It's turning into a very useful coach's tool and it's so portable - no taking up of two lanes to record times as with gate systems.
And in 99% of cases the times have improved right up until now and this forthcoming weekend. I'm particularly interested in fly 20m speed and all the guys have moved faster than before - significantly so in cases. We did some of these runs last Saturday, so let's hope for some fast and far great performances this weekend.
Lookout for this video on using platforms to improve and pattern the long jump take-off. Its something that I have been doing for a couple of years now and teaches the penultimate step in particular. I explain how and why it works in the video.
Also if you haven't please do sign up to the Chanel - as a subscriber you will have greater access to the community section where I have been posting some exclusive content, such as short run-downs on what we did in a specific training session and also an overview of a particular exercise.
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This Thursday sees an article in Athletics Weekly penned by yours truly. I follow-up on a previous article which was written by Dr Josephine Perry on the same subject (Choosing a coach). Josephine talks about coaching and ego and makes suggestions as to how athletes should find a coach that has an ego that's kept in check! In my follow-up I agree, but also note that coaches (like athletes) do need an ego. And I also provide a number of reasons as to what athletes should look for in a coach. My comments are written, in a way, from the coach's perspective too. They take into account what I, as a coach, may also expect. Here's a snippet and do check out the magazine.
1. Look for coaches who have had success with numerous athletes over a period of time
It’s easy for a coach to become ‘well-known’ if they coach a top athlete – but talent may be just as responsible for that athlete’s success as the coach’s ability. A coach who year in year out delivers will have the greater consistency and accrued learning
2. Following on, don’t think that not coaching an elite athlete makes a coach of lesser importance. Many argue that the best coaches should in fact be working with the youngest of athletes, teaching them the best habits and optimising their technical ability. So, look for a coach who has improved young athletes consistently.
3. Try to find a coach who has a consistency – a methodology. And ask them what that is. Obviously, more mature athletes will be in a better position to reflect on and question that methodology. On that note, be prepared to suggest to the coach ideas that you think will work for you. Build up trust overtime.
4. Beware of a 'one-size fits all' coaching philosophy. It can be difficult for a coach to not give all athletes the same session (trust me I know), but not everyone will respond the same.
5. Choose a coach that is confident and has a personality (it does not need to be loud or overly charismatic) but one that you think you can get along with. However, make sure that your coach will listen as well as make decisions.
There are more pointers in the article....
I've now started to post some exclusive content in the community section. This is for subscribers, so far I've posted an overview of an actual workout we did (at the time of writing, two Saturdays back) and also an 'exercise of the session'. These are just short videos that contain the the type of content just mentioned and similar. So, do sign-up to the channel to get these and other exclusive content.
Here's an example:
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Last weekend (Jan 20th) the older group members had their first competition. Did it go well?
Well, not as well as we probably hoped for, but nevertheless the performances were still encouraging. The comp was the south of England's at the Lee Vally Centre, London. Jonathan jumped 15.60m in the triple jump and second place. Allison managed 12.29 in the women's event for 5th. These were not bad performances and ones which going on past years would still rank them around 10-15 in the country at the end of the season. But they will do better. Earlier Paul jumped 7.13m in the long jump for fourth,
There's always going to be some timing issues and confidence issues brought on by nerves and the 'pressure' of a comp especially in the horizontal jumps. From my coach's perspective, I could see timing issues and run-up issues. The later are minimal but enough to disrupt those crucial steps into the take-off, where the jump, whether triple or long, is set up. Jonathan, for example, was shortening too much to get onto the board and this will diminish the potential range of movement he can get from the hop - the phase that sets the jump up.
I'll not go into great detail here as partly in response to this completion and the teething problems, I'm working on a 'triple jump faults and fixes' video that should be up on the YT channel pretty soon. Making the videos 'forces' me to really analyse what the jumpers are doing and it hopefully will help others who have similar faults. So, do look out for it.
However your season started don't fuss, invariably if you have trained specifically enough to get you in competition shape, it will take one or two comps to get you fully into the grove. Think about the process rather than the outcome and the distances (and times) will come.
In the video below you'll see some of the action from the group's jumpers in the SEAA champs.
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As some of you will know part of my working life (perhaps I could say vocational life) involves writing. I'm the Performance section editor for Athletics Weekly, for example, This magazine has been in existence since the second world war! I remember reading it when I was at school!
A recent article I had to edit triggered some thoughts - these related to choosing a good coach. In the article the author pointed to a number of factors that an athlete should take into account when making their choice. One was avoiding coaches who don't listen and have a too big ego! Very fair points indeed. This then got me thinking about coaches and ego - so much so that I have penned a follow-on piece, where I address coach selection as it were from the position of the coach.
In pulling the article together it did seem to me that coaches need to have an ego, as athletes do. They need to be motivated and energised. They also need to believe in their coaching philosophy. And this is where some ego is important. However, they must not become intransigent and so ego led that, the coach's ears and mind are closed to new ideas and ways of training and athlete in-put.
I also reflected on my own coaching practise and realised that when I began coaching my ego was probably more over-sized that it is now. "I thought I knew everything there was to know about long jump!". However, I soon realised that I didn't and that I actually had to learn more and keep learning at that to be a better coach. I also had to be willing to ask for help and advice. I think many coaches are afraid to be found out. Found out that they don't know as much as their athletes and peers think they know. Nobody can know everything. Coaches need to be able to develop themselves and they need to be open and not so ego-led (or scared to ask) that they stunt their own development.
Here's a sign of a willingness to share the bad (well, not so good) as well as the good... last Sat I went along to the first meeting of the indoor season for the group, Jonathan was competing in the triple. It was a low key meet, but he was motivated to perform. He looked brilliant in warm-up, but on his second run through he struck the board really hard and tweaked a hamstring. It's not serious as he was able to run and do drills yesterday but nevertheless it's disappointing. Although this was probably one of those things, I have started to reflect as to whether there was anything that we did (or didn't do) in training that could have created this situation.
The first comp of the season all be filled by more adrenaline that usual - you'll move faster and may lose some technical focus. Make sure you are in control of what you are doing and focus on the process of your event (technique) rather than the outcome (distance). Get the process right and the distances will come.
Good luck this season and do let me know how you get on!
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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