Coaching, jumps, sprints & more
Everything about jumping and sprinting and how to improve your performance
Long jump and triple jump requires reactivity i.e. the ability to transfer from a hop landing into the step as is the case for the triple jump. However, it’s more specific than that as on each contact, for example, when running there is a reaction in the muscles of the ankles legs and hips. You’ll probably know of this as the stretch-reflex which is the key driver of plyometric exercises, such as the drop jump. However, there’s a further aspect that needs to be considered and which is developed via plyometrics and weights for example and that’s leg stiffness.
Basically, the better able your legs are at being able to withstand and return force quickly the greater the leg stiffness. What’s important is that there are three sites at which this leg stiffness can be measured and developed in the legs and that at this limb’s three joints – the ankle, knee and hip.
So, I believe it’s important to develop improved stiffness and therefore reactivity at these joints. So, how do you do this? Well, you do different types of plyometric exercises, for example. You’ll see in the image one of the group members performing a drop jump from a very low height – about 6cm.
In order to get a quick reaction and gain height from the double foot contact they need to use their feet and specifically their ankles. I instruct them to “flick” their feet down on contact to create the extension needed to gain vertical velocity.
If the athlete anticipates the landing and bends their knees in an attempt to power up, the end result is visibly reduced speed and less leg stiffness. We will do 2-4 x6 reps in a session once or twice a week on average across the training year of this exercise.
So, what about stiffness at the hip? We will do straight leg hops and near straight leg bounds. With the former the objective is to propel yourself forward from basically a virtually straight leg. I’ll often say “Like a pogo stick” to the athletes – and then recall that most are too young to know what they are! It’s a case of letting the bounce “happen” on each contact rather than forcing it and using increased knee bend to produce the power.
For knee stiffness then the majority of standard bounds, hops and other plyos will be doing the job … I feel it’s the blend of plyos (and weights) and the emphasis of stiffness at all the joints which contributes to all-over leg stiffness and which will therefore bring about improvement in the jumps and sprints.
Nelio Moura from Brazil is one of the world's top jumps coaches. He coached Irving Saladino and Mauren Maggi to Olympic gold medals at the 2008 Olympics. Wow! That's an achievement. (Checkout his instagram page https://www.instagram.com/neliomoura....) Nelio has written a book about jumps conditioning called Pliometrica - Jumping Further with Plyometric TRAINING: A Practical Guide. The book is in mainly Portuguese (there are English paragraphs) so get out your google translate (unless of course you can speak Portuguese!). The book is available through Amazon Brazil. I have a copy ... I was really interested in his work with 'assisted plyometrics' as you will see in the video. Nelio told me that the he has been researching these types of jumps for many years as a way to improve take-off power. This was the main reason why I got the book myself. Now, Nelio explained, contrary to what you might think that the assistance did not actually increase the speed of ground contact, but it did develop greater power for vertical velocity. Nelio explained: "The good thing with the assisted plyos is that even with these high forces, contact times does not increase." Since making the video on Ivana Spanovic (https://youtu.be/9B4R0ceP3lk) I became more intrigued with the vertical component of the take-off - Ivana has a higher vertical velocity than most other female jumpers (so does Juan Miguel Ecchevarria - but he has a more unique take-off action). Everything being equal the athlete with the greatest vertical velocity at take-off will be the one who jumps the furthest and who has the greatest landing velocity. So, I'm thinking and working through idas on how to boost the vertical component of take-off... I have began to tweak some of our plyometric drills accordingly - this could be very interesting. I will be interviewing Nelio for the main magazine that I write for in the UK Athletics Weekly and no doubt some of what I find out will also appear on this channel. Go check Nelio out - you will also find interviews with him on the Simply Faster podcasts if I recall correctly.
A recent request from a young athlete's dad in the US to analyse his son's long and triple jump technique got me thinking in the process of pulling the video together (see below)...
I have a 'combined' jumper in my training group Jonathan Ilori (bests of 16.28m and 7.32m) and his long jump - although good - suffers from a too long last stride. He tends to reach into the take-off and lower and lever into the air. Strangely enough his hitch-hang technique after leaving the ground is very good! And, there were some parallels with the American young athlete, based in Iowa. However, he tended to take large steps into the take-off for both the long and the triple. It's imperative for the TJ, to run off the take-off in order to maximise speed through the remaining phases. The angle of take-off is circa 16 degrees and this contrasts with the long jump one which is around 22-degrees. The LJ take-off also requires the athlete to 'set' more on the penultimate step, which will generally be slightly longer than the preceding step and definitely longer than the last step. They'll also be more lowering of the centre of mass by a couple of cm's.
I made some suggestions as to how the US-based jumper may improve his take-offs for both horizontal jumps in the linked video (plus other areas of his technique). Perhaps the key one for all dual jumpers reading this - in addition to my previous comments about the angles of take-off etc, for both events - pertains to the length of the last step for both events. The long jump one tends to be around 2.20m and the triple 2.40m for senior men. I suggested that the US jumper work to these distances on his run-ups for the different events to improve his take-offs, Indeed this is something that we have recently been working on with Jonathan (for the TJ).
There was a comment on the video about how top US coach Jeremy Fischer perhaps eludes to the idea of using different take-off legs for the hop in the TJ and the LJ - perhaps this is designed to untangle neuromuscular confusion. In time I will look more into this.
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!
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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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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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...
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I received a question in response to one of my more recent youtube videos on drop jumps from sakarumaster. The questioner wanted to know about the degree of knee bend required and triple extension. Here's the question and my answer and do also check out the video.
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?
A: That's a good question... we tend to use drop jumps for developing leg stiffness thus keeping the knee angle minimal with slightly reduced triple extension (this does create a bit of a bounce as you note, which in many ways is the aim... i.e. so that the muscles, ligaments and tendon will react/fire powerful on, e.g. striking the board for a long jump take-off). Potentially an athlete will dwell a little more on the ground if they "set" to triple extend. Also we believe in stiff ankles at contact and then pulling the ankle up after contact too, to create greater stiffness. The other plyometrics exercise we use, bounds and hops, for example, will employ greater triple extension due to the requirements of the movement/movements. We use the stiff type drop jumps (and partial hops) in the belief that it will create that greater stiffness and reactivity for the hops, bounds, long jump take-off and sprinting. Depending on your event and your level of training I'd actually vary the emphasis of the drop jumps you perform, so some with less triple extension than other, but you must channel that plyometric ability (stiffness/power) into your other ploys as required for your event. I think I have said in another video that a mature long jumper, for example, does not need to do the same plyos as a triple jumper. Try to work against the needs of the event, the stage in your development and your needs. Hope that helps
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The IAAF carries out research at its championships, or employs sports scientists to do so on their behalf. A team analysed the male and female long jump finalists at the 2008 Indoor World Championships in Valencia, looking specifically at take-off. Analysis was made via the use of high speed cameras.
A focus, for example, was made of the time the jumpers spent on the board and the way their muscles – and more specifically – their muscular actions worked to transfer them into the jump.
When a jumper’s leg hits the board a “stretch-reflex” occurs. The muscles of the ankles, knees and hips go on stretch (eccentric muscular action), there’s then a minute time delay (amoritization phase) before the jumper’s muscles ping back from the stretch to propel the jumper into the air (concentric muscular action).
The male jumpers had an eccentric phase that lasted between 40ms and 56ms and the concentric phase 72ms to 80ms. The total take-off time for all male jumpers averaged 122ms and for women 117ms. It was discovered that the women spent more time absorbing the contact on the board compared to men (the eccentric phase).
All jumpers lose speed at take-off (the research identified a 10.3% loss for the women and 8.7% for men) – minimising loss of speed is crucial to maximising distance jumped.
The researchers write:
“The compression (eccentric) phase is decisive for achieving the required braking so that the horizontal velocity built up in the approach run can be transformed into vertical impulse. In this phase the jumper accumulates elastic energy; the fact that it is so short proves the jumpers’ extraordinary ability to complete such transformation."
Benefits to us coaches and athletes
Strangely – but is often the case with this type of research - the researchers didn’t provide any practical advice i.e. “do this or that’s”.
So here's what I recommend:
Ref: IAAF New Studies in Athletics no. 3./4.2013
See a video below from my youtube channel on developing improved long jump take-off. Please subscribe to the channel!