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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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I've recently returned from the World School Games in Nancy, France. This is an u18 biennial event and unlike most track meets is based on points scoring. It's rather like a team decathlon. Each team's athletes have to do two events and their scores are added together to see which country's team is victorious - this turned out to be England in a close fought battle with France.
I was there to assist squad member Pippa Earley who was competing in the long jump and hurdles.. The track was just outside Nancy city centre and was easy to reach by public transport. We were very lucky as our hotel was centrally placed and well, virtually on top of the railway station.
Pippa's first event was the long jump. The event was held late afternoon along the back straight on a raised run-up. This was temporarily in place to facilitate getting all the events completed over a two-day period. It had disappeared on Tuesday - the second and final day of competition. Tuesday saw Pippa compete in the hurdles and a medley relay.
Pippa also competed on the Wednesday - the third day in succession. She was lucky to have her events included in the Stanislas Invitation meeting taking place at the same venue. This meet was a permit meeting where top athletes from around the world took part. These included Kim Collins and French favourite Renaud Lavillenie.
I - as I have been doing more of lately - have pulled together a couple of videos on the event, so to save me writing more about what happened, have a look at these!
I will say we had a great time in Nancy - and it's well worth a visit for a city break - due to it's World Heritage Organisation listed Stanislas Place - you'll see it at the end of the first video. The Place was also the opening ceremony venue for the World School Games.
There's a lot of research and debate in the athletics coaching world about the value of sprint (running) drills. I wrote an article on this and top coaches often dismiss them as being of little direct value to actual sprint performance. Some place them on a conditioning continum alongside circuit exercises.
Many sprinters can't jump (long and triple jump that is) but all horizontal jumpers need to sprint. Pure speed merchants often have difficulty converting their speed through the take-off into the jump. All this talk of Usain Bolt breaking the world LJ record if he dd the event is based on the premise that he could convert his great speed to distance. It's not easy!
Approaching the board faster than any recent elite long jumper (11.5m/s a second) and having milliseconds to impart enough force through the take-off to get distance and height would undoubtedly prove a challenge for the GOAT! And he'd have to avoid injury. Long and triple jumpers have more resilience than sprinters - just as rugby players get 'used' to taking the hits, so too must horizontal jumpers in terms of impacts during the event and in training.
We use sprint drills to work on the posture and reactivity needed to hit the board and more importantly transition optimally across it. I've numerous ones that I use in 'units' across the training year to bring about maximum rounded transference. More on this in future posts.
This short video looks at some of them and then briefly looks at the role of incline sprints.
I'm currently writing a couple of articles for Athletics Weekly on the role of drills and also plyometrics so do look out for them!
See what I've been up to!