Coaching, jumps, sprints & more
Everything about jumping and sprinting and how to improve your performance
As a coach I know how important accurate timing is. In my primary event the long jump you really want to know how fast the jumper is travelling into the board over the last 10m, for example, and also importantly what their flying 20m and standing 20m sprint times are.
And for the 100m sprinter you might want to know 0-10m, 10-20m, 20-30m and 40m times. The problem is how can you do that with a stopwatch and without the type of kit that the IAAF rolls out at championships?
Enter Freelap the timing system which offers a very neat and extremely accurate (to 2-milisec) solution.
I've used the system for over a year now and have found it to be a great motivation for the athletes. As soon as those TX Junior Pro Timing pyramids are placed on the track or run-up the guys really respond and run as fast as they can.
So, not only is there the benefit of accurate timing but also of motivating higher intensity from the athletes. Win-win I guess.
The system is also easily set-up, very portable and has great consistency of operation.
If you are interested in buying a system ...
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss bespoke options and prices.
The video below will showcase more
Some further thoughts on use and my experiences ...
Like all tech the best way to learn is to play around with the kit to gain familiarity - once this is done it's important to consider and note the following.
The settings on the Tx Junior Pros (transmitter pyramids) - these need to match what you aim to time.
Here are some examples:
For a standing sprint with just end time required, the end transmitter is set to "finish" and the TX Touch Pro (start button) is used to start timing. This is a black disc with a button that is depressed with the thumb which is released when the athlete starts, thus triggering the system,
For flying times you need to set one TX Junior Pro to “start” and the end one to “finish”. The time will commence after the athlete passes the first transmitter.
For track intervals, for example, 200m reps place one Tx Touch Pro at the start set to start and one TX Junior Pro at the finish set to “finish”. Start your session.
Don't walk back past the TX Junior Pro at the finish as this will trigger the system when not needed – of which more later. You need to keep a 1.5m radius around the TX Junior Pro when wearing the FX Chip BLE (transmitter - which is the size of a small digital watch and fits on the athlete's waistband of their shorts/tights).
For improved and consistent accuracy you need to set the Tx Junior Pro receivers 80cm off the point/points you want to measure at for sprints, hurdles, intervals and long/triple jump. Why? The Tx Junior Pros pick up and store the speed of the moving athlete 80cm before them - thus, over a sprint you could have a time “inaccuracy” of 160cm with the start and finish accounted for, if you don’t position as instructed. The “add-on” 80cm also applies to split-time positioning.
Because of the Tx Junior Pros also 1.5m operating radius, freelap can time two athletes in adjacent lanes, which you can’t easily do with most accessible to athletes/coaches other timing systems (which can also take up three lanes to record an athlete in one – what with their tripods). You will need another FX Chip BLE to do this.
The app is an objective systematic coaching “diary”. It stores the times from the session of all the athletes and does this historically, so you as coach (and the athlete)s, can track their progress. You can specifically name each session and its content. (Note: all the training group can download the Myfreelap app and see their performances.)
It’s even possible for the coach to be at home, with the app open, and to be able to “virtually” see a session unfold. You give the freelap system to your athletes, they set it up as required, do the session and you’ll see how they are performing (hook this up with facetime or a wattsapp video and you’ll be even able to see the session too. - this is something I’ve yet to try!
I'm pulling an interesting article together for Athletics Weekly (aka AW) on sprint technique and in particular the height of the heel in the recovery phase for both max velocity and acceleration phases of sprinting. here's a snippet to whet your appetite for the article which will be out later this month.
Contemporary sprint coaching has been placing a greater emphasis on a lower heel recovery or at least a different inflection on how the heel is moved back to front and how this is coached. We will first consider max velocity running and then acceleration.
If the heel is cast out too far behind the body when sprinting then frequency and power transference will tend to be reduced. You'll often see this in sprinters with a pronounced forward lean with "more work being done behind the body".
Key is the position of the foot and the gap between the heel and the bottom as the foot pulls through to the front. If the foot is pulled up as it should be for foot-strike (dorsi-flexed) it will come through to the front as a shorter lever and this will create greater frequency.
Doing this will also create greater power on ground contact, due to the fact that the foot (and leg) has increased velocity (angular velocity) which will in turn create a more powerful impact on the track surface and therefore greater energy return.
I found it really interesting exploring this aspect of sprinting and trying to make sense of what's more coaching inflection and thought rather than sports science based (particularly the case with max velocity phase heel recovery). I have long worked on heel recovery with the jumpers and sprinters in my group. In doing so greater hip power will be developed which is perhaps the real benefit of heel recovery work as the muscles to the front and the rear of the hips are the most important when it comes to sprint speed.
I'll be posting a video on this very shortly in the Sprint Drills series which is proving popular on my YouTube channel. In the meantime here's the latest video in the series which looks at what I call basic drills for specific conditioning purposes.
M45 British Record holder Jason Carty (11.01sec) sled pulling
Weighted sleds and acceleration
As with the theme of posts recently I'm looking at adding some different aspects to my coaching sessions this winter... evolution rather than revolution and resisted sled pulls/pushes is something that I'm keen on. I dug out some old articles I'd written and this snippet seems to have some relevance to directing my thoughts.
Athletes from numerous sports tow weighted sleds (or car tyres) loaded with weights over distances – usually 5m-40m - to improve their acceleration. Variations in standing start are used, for example, three point, standing and sprint starts. It's also possible to push using devices such as prowlers.
Achieving a low driving position is particularly important if the athlete is to get in the best position to overcome inertia. The added load will force the athlete to drive hard through their legs and pump vigorously with their arms.
A team of Greek researchers looked specifically at the validity of towing methods as a way of improving both acceleration and sprint speed *. Eleven students trained using 5kg weighted sleds (the RS group) and eleven without (the US group). Both followed sprint-training programmes, which consisted of 4x20m and 4x50m maximal effort runs. These were performed three times a week for 8 weeks. Before and after the training programs the subjects performed a 50-metre sprint test. The students’ running velocity was measured over 0-20m, 20-40m, 20-50m and 40-50m. In addition stride length and stride frequency were evaluated at the third stride in acceleration and between 42-47m during the maximum speed phase.
The researchers discovered that the RS group improved their running velocity over the 0m– 20m phase ie their acceleration improved. However, this acceleration improvement had no effect on their flat out speed. This contrasted with the US group who improved their running velocity over the 20-40 m, 40-50m, and 20-50 m run sections. This led the researchers to draw the obvious conclusions that, “Sprint training with a 5kg sled for eight weeks improved acceleration, but un-resisted sprint training improved performance in the maximum speed phase of non-elite athletes. It appears that each phase of sprint run demands a specific training approach.”
* J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2005 Sep;45(3):284-90.
However, if sleds are used as a means of improving acceleration, what is the optimum load to tow for maximum training adaptation? Australian researchers from Sydney considered just this *. Twenty male field sports players completed a series of sprints without resistance and with loads equating to 12.6 and 32.2% of body mass. The team discovered that stride length was significantly reduced by approximately 10% and 24% for each load respectively. Stride frequency also decreased, but not to the same extent as stride length. In addition sled towing increased ground contact time, trunk lean, and hip flexion. Upper body results showed an increase in shoulder range of motion with added resistance. Crucially it was discovered that the heavier load generally resulted in a greater disruption to normal sprinting technique compared with the lighter load. In short towing heavier weight sleds in unlikely to specifically benefit acceleration.
I'll add a little to this... the base level of power of the sprinter will have an effect... more powerful athletes will be able to generate greater force and this should also be factored into consideration when loading sleds. Many coaches time the acceleration too, and this will provide an objective measurement as to whether the land is too much or too little. Note: I believe that too much will be much more disruptive than too little... we are after speed, frequency, stride-length and optimum technique - factors which are less likely to be disrupted by "lighter" loads.
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!
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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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I recently uploaded (Feb '18) a video on plyometrics and how to get the best out of them on my youtube channel It's proving very popular in the short space of time it's been on YT so far (it's below if you want to take a look). It did get me thinking about how much athletes really understand about the training they do and in this instance plyometrics. When I was a young athlete myself (18-20) I found some books in the library (does anyone go to libraries anymore?) and leant some things about jump training and plyos. But I wouldn't of understood about how plyos can be tailored to the long & the triple jump i.e. to make them more specific to the different jumps' needs. Nor would I have been aware of tendons and their crucial role in energy return, nor indeed what leg stiffness was and how it can be trained to improve jump performance - if the term was even in use back in the three channels only on TV in the UK days!
It seems that young athletes still need to find out about this information as would appear from the popularity of this video and another on plyos, for example, on my channel. I think the key aspect might actually be, knowing what to do with the the information that is now widely available on all manner of training methods through social media and the www i.e. knowing how to make them work. In a couple of minutes you can see 50 plus jumps exercises on your mobile - but do they work for you and your needs? Jumping onto boxes from a standing start is a case in point... very impressive, but does that ability to jump translate into being able to run in over 10m/s to hit a 20cm board and impart and absorb enough force in 12-13 milliseconds to jump 7.80m plus in the long jump. Probably not. Yet, there are hundreds of thousands of similar jump videos particularly on Instagram of people piling boxes on top of each other and jumping (or not) up onto them.
If you want to be good at long jumping then you need to do exercises that are tailored toward long jump and these need to be the bread and butter of your training. Sure you can jump up on boxes if you like but just make sure you can absorb over 4 times your body weight on one leg at a touch down velocity that would equate to running 10.5sec for the 100m and then land in the pit let's sat 8m/26 feet later!
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It’s 2018 and as the months flash past, it’s time to try to slow things down a bit and really get to grips with the training that will lead to Pbs across the indoor season and into the outdoor one.
I say slow down, not in terms of sprint work or take-off speed, for example, but in terms of ‘thinking’ – thinking in terms of what will get you competition ready. For the long jump, for example, there has to be an emphasis on taking off at speed and of properly positioning into the take-off. If you attempt your first comp with only limited full run-up practise and crucially without regular jumps off a long approach (12/13 plus for an 18-20 stride approach); or without taking off from a full run-up after proper penultimate step placement, then you are more than likely going to have problems when it comes to getting off the board when it comes to competition.
I’ve pulled together a video on my YouTube channel which takes a look at the penultimate step in the main (but also deals with key elements of mid-air action) as a guide to what we emphasise at the time of the year – we have in fact been emphasising this for the last 6-8 weeks. Check it out below.
As the season progresses and competitions come and go, taking off at speed will also improve – nothing in training can really replicate the demands (physical and mental) of competition. The indoor season can always be a little hit and miss, what with the limited comp opportunities there are compared to the outdoor season. My athletes will probably only have the chance to do three comps (this is much less than those who compete in the US for example) and this is why it’s important to prepare as specifically and as technically optimally as you can.
Tip: low hurdle/wicket runs. I’ve been a little slow on the up-take and regular usage of these. We are now doing at least one session a week. The athletes have found that they are really helping with leg speed, posture and contact. I vary the spacing to emphasise cadence over ‘normal’ stride length and we are also experimenting with sprints off the end of the hurdles and also jumps (take-offs). I’ll get together a video on this sometime soon.
Good luck with your training and competition and do checkout my YouTube channel and do subscribe.
The training you should be doing to keep you training
As sprinters and jumpers we love to move fast and to jump long. Plyometics and weight training will also be high priorities, however, all these activities place strain on our soft tissue. So how can you strengthen areas of your body to avoid injury and to actually aid performance too? The answer is to pre-train.
Pre-training should be done all year round and not just focussed on at specific times or when injured. Many pre-training exercises are similar to the ones that physios prescribe when you are injured – you know the ones you do for a few days/weeks till you get better and then forget about them!
I’ve pulled together a selection of workouts that you can do to keep you jump and sprint strong. Include these exercises in your warm-ups or even as standalone short sessions on a weekly basis and you’ll give yourself every chance of remaining injury free.
Balance, Stability and equalisation
Stand on one leg in a sprint position – hold for 15-20 seconds x 4 each leg
Stand in a sprint position and close eyes - hold for 15-20 seconds x 4 each leg
Stand in a sprint position and with a partner using a stretch band round your ankle have them apply force to pull you, so that you have to counter the pull. Pull band to apply force at various positions i.e. “3 o’clock; 6 o’clock” and so forth.
March on spot for 20 seconds
March on spot for 20 seconds with eyes closed
Run on spot for 20 seconds
Run on spot with eyes closed for 20 seconds
See where you end up with the eyes closed version.. if you veer to your left then chances are you’ll have a stronger right leg and will therefore need to work on the left in order to get greater balance. Move forwards and the chances ae that your pelvis is inclined too far forwards - so think about positioning your pelvis in a more neutral position..
Modern running shoes are usually cushioned which is good for protection but not great for feel and making your feet work and strengthening them specifically.
Remove your shoes and perform lunges, walking high knee drills and similar. Really focus on where your feet point and how they contact the ground. Do: 2-3 reps of each drill
Perform calf drills and low and high leg cycling drills without shoes over 20m (make sure the surface is safe to this is on). Do: 3-4 reps of each drill
Run without shoes over 30-40m
When starting out just move beyond a jogging pace and then increase your speed as your feet and body gets used to it.
Part 2 to follow...
European Jumps & Hurdles Convention
Falun Sweden, Nov 10th-12th 2017
Words John Shepherd (trying to be serious and a bit funny)
Thanks to England Athletics and European Athletics, and specifically the on-site management and hosting of Swedish Athletics, Falun, Sweden was the venue for the European Hurdles & Jumps Convention.
It was a very bright (not-so bright for me) and early start for the Heathrow-airport-travelling-party of coaches. I arrived in the departure lounge just in time (!) for the 7.15am flight to Stockholm. Femi Akinsanya, Jade Surman, Guy Spencer, Piotr Spas, Zac Kerin, James Hillier and Graham Pilkington made up the rest of the team (with Graham travelling if I recall from Manchester).
The two-hour flight passed quickly. Sitting with Femi and Zac conversation inevitably focussed on jumps (and social media, with one of the trio not having an Instagram account, shock-horror!). After clearing customs it was then a train journey to Falun. The boring bit… Falun is the capital of Dalarna County and has a population of around 38,000. So, yep, it’s a small city, but it’s a world heritage site, due to its copper mining history… fast forward… it’s also home to Dalarna University where we were based and a ski-slope. Inevitably some comparisons were made between ski jumping and long jumping and whether any of the England party fancied a jump! Thankfully no one decided to have a go (well, at least unbeknownst to me… ).
The ‘proper’ events of long and triple jumping and hurdle jumping (!) soon received our attention when an hour or so after landing we began the lecture and practical programme. It was to be a bit of an “endurance jumps session”, and at least one of the party did succumb to bleary-eye syndrome in some of the lectures. The one without a proper job err that might be me. This was not because the information presented was not of interest but due to the full-on nature of the weekend (and the lack of sleep due to the early flight). Zac pulled, what we used to call an all-nighter back in the day, travelling straight from Bournemouth to Heathrow after coaching on virtually no sleep. What a star! He probably wasn't the only one.
Up first after the introductions was a lecture: From talent to Elite Athlete and then another From World Class Athlete to Coach for Talented Athletes. You’ll see the full programme attached and the speakers - it’s not my intention to go into specifics about all the sessions – which would require me to author a book.
Back at the hotel after the session (and as would happen after Saturday’s programme), and with some of the group partaking in a few beers (am I allowed to say that? Perhaps it’ll be censored), discussion turned to the lecture content. You can’t hide from this – many of you reading this who will have attended similar conferences whatever the field - will voice opinion good, bad, stupid and comedic on what they sat through.
Of course there’s going to be shall we say respectful constructive criticism but there’s also going to be discussion on what was learned, gleaned or provoked and food for thought, and this was perhaps the real value of the three-day programme. None of us suddenly came away revolutionised, but we all came away with a snippet or two, an idea, a reinforcement of our learning and development, some more theory and some new drills. Evolutionised might be the best way to put it.
The difficulty with these type of conferences is appealing to all the coaches that attend. Some inevitably will know more than others about a particular topic and therefore either be more (or potentially less) interested in what the speaker has to say. That can’t be helped. But talking to other country’s coaches informally and listening to their lecturers formally does open your eyes (especially when you’re struggling to keep them open).
Here are some of the snippets that kept my eyes open…
Early Specialisation The German Federation’s move away from u18 and u20 national champs for a number of years only to return to them a good few years later, coupled with a drive for their young athletes to also achieve a ‘B’ standard in another related event before they could enter their national champs. All designed to allow for controlled, shall we say, avoidance of heavy early specialisation…
The slightly contradictory messages about early specialisation… Very briefly, 90% of a studied cohort (266 finalists) from the World Youths improved; 49% went onto the World Juniors; and 21% participated in the senior world champs and Olympic Games – over time of course). Then Jeremy Fischer (coach to e.g. Will Claye and Brittany Reese) said that none of those he has coached that have made Olympic and World teams had success as juniors… err “… there is very little correlation to senior level… you have to bridge that gap.” Confused.com… well, perhaps not really as athletic development rests on so-many factors and even periods in time and research paradigms and practical and specific experience.
Reactive strength and the role of the Achilles tendon and its length and how this could affect jumping events and performance… shorter tendons allow for greater leg stiffness and longer ones require greater amortization which results in longer ground contact times… debate about how and whether this can and should be changed through specific training…
The triple jump can be seen as the hop-jump-land – not jump due to often poor execution of the jump phase – some ideas were forwarded to work on this i.e. blocking the arms at jump phase take-off to make it more propulsive.
That the traditional model of skill acquisition and windows in young athletes is incorrect, well, at least for athletes - they can develop and respond outside of the specified years i.e. for speed, strength and aerobic development (probably common-sense when you think about it).
That 1970’s – 1980’s TV was pretty rubbish… oops that was not on the lecture schedule… Love thy Neighbour anyone….
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During the recent London World Athletic Champs a coaching conference was held. This was aimed at many of the national federation coaches who were in London with their teams. I was fortunate enough to be invited along with a number of other UK coaches.
There were a number of sessions taken by elite coaches and often featured athletes too, for an end of session question and answer session. I decided to go along to two sessions; the first was on strength training, presented by Sean Pickering and the second was on speed and was presented by Loren Seagrave.
I recorded the sessions and intend to produce either some video or written analyses on both sessions. There were some very interesting points made and thoughts provided. And the great thing was that it was grounded in the actual i.e. it was practically evidenced i.e. because the presenters, although working against a background of sports science, also worked with athletes and saw what worked, and I guess what didn't, first hand.
I've pasted below one of two largely audio presentations I've made from the Loren Seagrave presentation with some comment and note overlays from myself. The presentation was focussed on the physiological aspects of sprinting i.e. energy system usage and technical considerations. The video is about 10 minutes long each and you could download it through youtube and listen in your car. On my youtube channel you'll find another segment of Loren's presentation.
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