Coaching, jumps, sprints & more
Everything about jumping and sprinting and how to improve your performance
I often get questions and queries submitted to me via my YouTube channel. There are always many when it comes to weight training’s benefits for sports performance. One in particular piqued my interest as it “suggested” that Arnold Schwarzenegger would have run 9.4 for the 100m!
Here’s a little more detail and the question and thoughts posed by Randuuum – a channel member.
“Running and jumping are nearly entirely neurological and infinitely involve more reflex and coordination than muscle. If muscle created downward force, then Arnold Schwarzenegger would be a 9.4 100m runner and 35-foot long jumper!”
So, you can begin to understand what the compromises might be with weight training for sports performance.
I had a chat back and forth in the comments section with Randuuum, and as said we agreed on quite a lot.
Weight training may not target the most powerful of fast twitch muscle fibres
Weight training due to the speed of lift in particular tends to target type 2a intermediate fast twitch fibres. These are not the most power producing of fast twitch muscle fibres – type 2bs are. Indeed, studies indicate power lifters have more of these than 2b fibre types.
Neural Adaptation – perhaps the dominant benefit
There is a secondary contribution of lifting heavy weights fast to sprint and jump performance and it indeed may well be the dominant one i.e. the more important for when considering the benefits of weight training for sprints and jumps and this is neural adaptation/stimulation.
Basically, lifting heavier weights may allow for the athlete to recruit greater numbers of fast twitch muscle fibres (paradoxically including type 2bs) and because of this create a neural system that can do so when sprinting or jumping. The larger the fast twitch motor units and fibres that are recruited by neural energy the more power potential that will be on offer to be sued by the athlete.
So, it could be argued that it’s neural transference as opposed to muscular adaptation that’s key to enhancing sprint and jump performance through the use of weights – however, as usual there’s more to it.
In the video that goes with this article I try to add clarity to this neural element by looking at modern cars and how to get the most from the engine there’s a lot of computer and electrical energy required … so, for engine read muscles and for electrical and computer energy read brain and neural system for the sprinter/jumper. So, being highly charged neurally i.e. in the zone seems to be crucial when it comes to maximising transference and adaptation from weights.
You’ve got to do the right weight training
You’ve got to select more than just concentric (muscular shortening) exercises. I utilise triphasic training – which also includes eccentric and isometric exercises (muscular lengthening and no-movement actions) and complex the weights exercises often with plyos and other jump exercises in the same workout. This is seen to further enhance fast twitch muscle fibre and motor unit recruitment.
Make sure your training programme focusses on transference…
This means that what you do in the weights room (which in itself must be specific and targeted to what will really improve jumping and sprinting) must be part of a training plan that integrates all aspects of training toward that goal of, for example, improving jump performance.
To do this I use undulating periodisation and don’t favour traditional linear periodisation means. As I say in the associated video: “You don’t want to get a mismatch between those training modalities.”
The value of eccentric and isometric “power” can be exemplified by using the long jump as a prime example of where this braking absorbent before energy return muscular power is needed in abundance. Much research indicates that for the long jump take-off that eccentric power is key.
You only need so much maximal strength
Much contemporary coaching thought has it that you only need a certain albeit high level of basic (concentric) strength. Once this level is attained then it’s argued that going beyond this will have limited if any further benefit to enhancement of performance. It’s at this stage in particular where optimising eccentric and isometric power could really pay dividends.
Eccentric muscular actions target fast twitch muscle fibre
Research indicates that eccentric actions can target greater numbers of fast twitch muscle fibres and this in itself may be another further benefit of eccentric training.
Adaptation and time spent training a particular way…
The body needs time to adapt to a training stimulus - although perhaps not as much as may have been previously suggested. Doing the same type of training constantly will at the least slow adaptation and at worse create the wrong type of adaptation. Adaptation that is actually contrary to what you may desire.
So, a long block of concentric emphasis weight training without a carefully constructed training programme nor the introduction of other muscular adaptation training and concerted speed work may result in poor/stunted training adaptation as far as a long jumper is concerned, for example.
Compromising muscular adaptation – rest and recovery
The other crucial factor when it comes to deriving positive and optimal transference from your training (whether weights or anything else) is rest and recovery. You need to ensure that you provide both mind and muscle with enough time to adapt physically and neurally to all training stimuli. There’s a growing debate in coaching and sports science circles about how the body adapts to training. The older GAS method of Hans Selye may if not discredited be seen to not apply to sports specific adaptation. More on that in another video/article.
This article accompany a video that will be on my YouTube channel shortly (13th March 2021)
Weight training seems to be one of the most popular topics on the channel. Whenever I produce a video on the subject I get lots of comments. Most - which is good - agree more or less with what I'm saying. You'll see what I mean if you look at one of the latest weight training videos - The Pros and Cons of Weight Training and its associated comments - SEE VIDEO BELOW.
However, a different type of question on weight training was asked on another video's comments section:
Q: Can weight training stunt your growth?
It's an unusual question so I thought I would provide my answer here, so more may be able to see.
A: Well, not if you train appropriately and at a mature enough age. Research indicates that weight training does not slow growth ... we also need to consider that plyometrics, sprinting and jumping are more intense exercise forms of exercise (more so than weights in terms of overload on the body), so if a young athlete can sprint they will be able to handle weight training (obviously sensibly set). Any exercise at any age will also have a hormonal effect. This can be positive and actually stimulate growth (in muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones, for example).
I generally introduce light weights at around 14-15 years of age for a jumper. They would be used for developing injury prevention rather that directly enhancing performance. And as I say in my videos I would be making sure that speed, plyometric ability and technical ability were the prime areas of focus. Weights can specifically improve performance, however, it takes time and a specific type of weight training to achieve this. If you were to emphasise the wrong type of weight training at too early an age this could be detrimental to your jumping. There are far better ways to improve performance.
Adding a little more.
Having said that some athletes may need to develop their specific weights strength earlier than others. It will be up to the coach to identify what they think a particular athlete needs to do in order to improve their performance. I'll say more about this in a future video on the channel and will give some specific examples using some of my athletes.
I must be somehow getting better at making videos as I was asked by leading athletic equipment supplier NEUFF to produce a video on acceleration for them. In it I talk about the value of developing acceleration for all athletic events and I also take a look at some of the means used to develop it - such as hill running, harnesses and sleds.
Technique is also considered - such as body angles and heel recovery. I also consider the land, for example, which should be placed on a sled and how too great a resistance can negatively affect sprinting biomechanics.
To hopefully provide some clarity I also explain why adding a heavy weight to a sled can also act as a conditioning means for the more senior (training mature) athlete,
Let me know what you think of the video.
And if you're looking for sleds, harnesses and other items of athletic kit for all events do head over to NEUFF.
FOR ALL ATHLETIC EQUIPMENT: PLYO BOXES, MED BALLS, THROWING IMPLEMENTS, SLEDS AND STARTING BLOCKS GO TO NEUFF ATHLETIC
I regularly get questions posted on aspects of jumping, sprinting and conditioning on my various social media and in particular my YouTube channel., so I thought I would share a couple with you with my answers.
QUESTION 1 TRANSFERENCE OF TRAINING
I have been saying the same thing for years be it with runners or swimmers. It is all about thinking about transference and keeping the exercises as close to the chosen sport or activity as possible. I believe in working on challenging stability and making exercises as proprioceptively rich as possible so that the athlete figures out how to create a feeling of 'stiffness' and control is really important. So using plyometric exercises combined with landing and taking off from a slightly unstable surface or Bosu Ball can work OR stepping up onto a Bosu Ball with a weight or sandbag on the shoulders might be more rewarding. Wonder what you think?
I agree that working on unstable surfaces can be great for proprioception and injury avoidance and learning that "control" needed. One of the best ways, I believe of challenging the long jump take-off, for example, is by using a low mat for the penultimate step (as you may have seen in a video or two of mine). This should only be a couple of cms high and it overloads the take-off improves force absorption and return. We use a 6-10 step approach as it is very demanding. So this drill is very close to the requirements of the long jump take-off and has that direct transference as you indicate. I'm not one for heavy weights and Olympic Lifts in their own right, although we do do these (with the mature jumpers) following more triphasic methods. For young athletes there are far better and much more specific ways to get stronger, for jumping and sprinting from my point of view. With older athletes it's then a case of working out what they need more specifically - which could include a greater emphasis on weights and a specific muscular action.
QUESTION 2 SPRINT TECHNIQUE
My right thigh gets higher than Asafa Polwell’s one. Maybe it’s just about increasing frequency?
Your knees need to do forward and up and not just up (as may be the case by the sound of it). Think about moving your hips to generate speed and lifting the heel from the back of the body to the front and across the knee to achieve this also. If you improve your hip speed then your stride length and frequency will improve as well as your technique.
There are plenty of videos on the channel which will help you with this.
Check out this one. https://youtu.be/2hlZnNWf_wg
QUESTION TRIPLE JUMP
Double arms or single arm action which is the best,what is difference between this two types.
Double arm is probably the best throughout all the phases from a balance and power transference perspective. A single or quarter on the take-off can allow for more speed .- but due to the way the arms can recover it can lead to imbalance in the hop going into the step. Computer models for what they are worth in the real world vindicate the use of a double arm action throughout the phases and also a hop dominant phase ratio.
Women tend to use a counter movement swing more for balance than propulsion. Hope this helps Here a useful video:
AND DON"T FORGET TO TAKE A LOOK AT THE JUMPER WHERE MANY MORE QUESTIONS WILL BE ANSWERED. ONE OF THE STAND OUT ONES BEING HOW TO RETURN FROM LOCK-DOWN BY ENGLAND ATHLETICS MEDICAL LEAD, PHYSIO Stuart Butler. Click on link to view to go and watch video for more content.
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Recently I was asked to do a session for Ireland Athletics, This involved two days in Athlone working with their top long and triple jumpers. As part of my tasks - I produced some course notes - as it were - to support the athletes and coaches learning. Well, I got a little carried away - partly as I know how to use an on-line multi-media magazine creation software programme (Lucid Press). The consequence was more magazine that power-point presentation. So, I thought I would further work on The Jumper and then release it to a larger audience.
You can click on the image to view what I have created and there's also a short video of the content embedded into the page too via YouTube. As of today after not too much promotion 500 people from around the world have taken a look at The Jumper.
Should support be forthcoming (I have set up a Patreon page), then I may do a further "issue" and ask (and hopefully pay) other coaches from the jumps community to contribute.
Let me know what you think.
Within the first issue of The Jumper are:
My thoughts on how to piece training together
Long and triple jump run-up accuracy tips
Weight training for the jumps - limitations and potentialities
Plyometrics and specifically drop jumps
Links to The Triple Jumpers Podcast
The Jumper also contains links to some of the videos on my YouTube channel which further illustrate what's being talked about in some of the articles.
Again do let me know what you think.
,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!