Coaching, jumps, sprints & more
Everything about jumping and sprinting and how to improve your performance
,The sentiment however is what's compelling. It's about not wasting time doing the wrong exercises, or not loading the bar correctly, and in my most recent video thinking about doing eccentric and isometric weights room exercises. All thinking is geared toward what will make you run faster or jumper further.
If you've been a regular viewer of my videos you'll know that I have long used eccentric/isometric jump exercises, where we focus on blocking the landing and working on moving down into the jump, for example, when conditioning. An eccentric muscular action is a muscle lengthening one where muscles go on stretch to decelerate movement. This happens when the foot hits the take-off board in the long jump - the muscles (ligaments and tendons) around the ankle, knee and hip will stretch to stop the jumper collapsing through their take-off leg. They then recoil very quickly (creating muscle shortening actions) to propel the jumper from the board. Sandwiched between this eccentric and concentric action is an isometric one. There will be, in the case of the long jump take-off, a minute moment when there will be no movement, when the eccentric action, stops, and then transfers direction concentrically.
It therefore makes sense to train your muscles eccentrically, isometrically and concentrically (concentrically being the most common form of muscular action - as is the case with squats and bench presses, for example). On my channel I was made aware of Triphasic Training by Cal Dietz, an S&C expert at the University of Minnesota. I got a hold of his book which is all about conditioning via blocks of eccentric, isometric and concentric emphasis weights exercises in order to find out more and better inform my training programme construction. The book has proved very useful in this respect - look out for a full review in future.
So, in pulling together my training programme for this 2018/2019 season I have really thought long and hard about the role of isometric and eccentric weights room exercises and have created a specific training programme for them that fits around the other key drivers of my training plans - plyometric, technique work, acceleration and top end speed. All hung around a block periodisation undulating periodisation methodology.
The video embeded within the post will further explain my current thoughts and I hope to expand upon these in the light of practical experience in future ones.
PS: I'm even doing some of the exercises myself and can feel - even at my old age - the transference.
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.
In a number of recent posts and videos on my youtube channel I have been mentioning the potential benefits of isometric (and eccentric and plyometric muscular actions - these two in particular). However, in the process of writing an article for Athletics Weekly on cross-country conditioning I found some interesting research on the role of isometric activity for these athletes.
The full article will be out Thursday 20th Sep, but here's a taste and some of the unused material. It will show that this often-negelacted aspect of sports conditioning - isometric training - can play an important role. As indicated I will be looking to introduce more isometric and eccentric weight training into my training group's activities this preparation period. It seems to be able to offer numerous benefits.
Sports scientists studied the incidence of injury in cross-county runners and have noted that performing specific strengthening exercises can reduce the on-set of injury across a season.
One survey looked at knee and shin muscle injury in high school athletes.
The team wanted to see specifically whether the cross-country runners’ hip and knee muscle strength influenced whether they sustained injury. They specifically measured isometric hip and knee power.
An isometric muscular action in a “non-movement” one - muscles work against each other, or a resistance, but with no actual movement takes place. Examples of isometric exercises that would strengthen the knee muscles would include 1: using a leg press machine to press the weight away and then bringing it back so that the knee angle is around 90 degrees, whilst then holding the weight in that position for a given time, for example 8 seconds and 2: a wall squat, held perhaps for 20 seconds.
Note: Isometric strength is very specific to the angle at which force is applied so in order to fully develop it different angles of application should be used.
Returning to the study sixty-eight cross-country runners (47 girls, 21 boys) were involved and they were monitored across the entire 2014 season.
It was discovered that:
During the season, three (4.4%) runners experienced knee pain and 13 (19.1%) shin injury. More specifically, it was discovered that hip strength was related to knee injury, with the isometrically weaker cross-country runners being significantly more predisposed to injury in this area.
However, when it came to shin injury the team noted that hip and knee muscle strength was not significantly associated with injury.
Perhaps this can be explained by the fact that shin injuries are less dependent on specific strength (although this can be of benefit) and are often likely the result of exposure to too high mileages or running on different surfaces too soon. Avoidance of these types of injuries is therefore very reflexive of training load, rest and recovery season demands and session planning. The requirements of a full-on cross-county programme may therefore have been the main reason for the runners sustaining shin pain.
Hopefully this info will show how training different muscular actions in this case isometric, can aid injury avoidance. Look out for more on this subject and eccentric activity in future posts and videos.
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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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.
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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