Coaching, jumps, sprints & more
Everything about jumping and sprinting and how to improve your performance
Over a number of years I have developed the use of low gym mats for developing the long and triple jump take-off. The mats are positioned variously, for example, on the third last step, and the take-off step, the third last step only and on the penultimate step.
The different positions can produce a different outcome and there are ways to alter the emphasis of the drill by manipulating the mat spacing.
In the first of a two-part series on my youtube channel I go into detail about the use of two mats for establishing a better take-off rhythm, take-off and take-off drive. You can watch the video below.
There have been some questions on the YouTube channel and my Instagram page on the mat spacing - this is my response to one questioner:
... try centring the first mat in the middle of the board, then the third one's centre should be circa 4.90-5.20m. Do experiment, the spacing needs to promote the speed through the last strides, the Jumper should not push from the third ... the contact is flat footed. Note this spacing is for long run-ups, mats would need to be a little closer for shorter run-ups and to manipulate speed if desired. Hope this helps, good luck,
Type of mat
I also had a question on the type of mat that I use ... they are basic judo/gym mats of 1m square that interlock together to make larger sizes. I have added an Amazon link to this page, should you be interested in getting some for yourself. The mats can take a spike and are non-slip. I also use them for triple jump and getting. for example. a longer step phase (i.e. jumper hops onto mat and then steps onto the second which is placed a suitable distance away. I will say more on the use of mat drills for the triple jump (and general jumps conditioning) in another video/blog post.
Do let me know how you get on?
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.
It's been a busy period for me despite it being the supposed "off-season". The off-season is the time when winter training begins and plans are made for the indoor season and the outdoors, As I get older the months seem to fly by and this fast forward of time is perhaps not helped by the "looking forward" to the next track season ... it's a case of wishing for it to speed forward so that the improvements in the athletes being coached can be really seen and appreciated.
Anyway, back to the present and this off-season! Recently I got to meet top jumps coach Nelio Moura, Regular readers of this blog or viewers of the YouTube channel will know that I have interviewed him in the past - for Athletics Weekly magazine.
It was great to catch up with Nelio at Loughborough University over a coaching clinic weekend organised by England Athletics. Nelio took four sessions , two practical and two more theory. These covered plyometrics, take-off drills for long and triple jump, has coaching journey and also the more technical aspects of the long and triple.
It was interesting to find out that Nelio's first successes as a coach was with a race walker! He was a triple jumper himself but soon moved into coaching and he now coaches with his wife and daughter. Nelio spends time at present between Sao Paolo, China and Madrid coaching. Why the latter two, well he has been working with Chinese jumpers for a while, so the trips to China make sense. And Madrid, well that is where the Chinese and some of his Brazilian and south American jumpers congregate from time to time in the summer to train.
I enjoyed the weekend with Nelio and was lucky enough to have a couple of chats on my own with him and pick-up a little more knowledge.
I am in the process of pulling together some videos from the weekend and the first is now live on the channel - this is on plyometrics. (You can watch it from the box below). Next up will be one on his thoughts on take-off. The two videos will cover the practical sessions taken by Nelio. I may try to pull together some comment on the more theoretical ones.
Good luck with your training and competitions,
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 get quite a few requests to comment on athlete's techniques through my various social media and obviously due to time constraints I can't respond to them all. That's why I make occasional Q&A videos on my YT channel which give general and specific answers to questions raised and also why I do technique analyses of the odd jumper from around the world. Many athletes will have similar faults and it's possible that one will see what they do and be able to learn from the suggestions that I make in the video.
I was recently contacted by a young triple jumper from Italy Pietro who has jumped over 14.50m and I wrote a response to him. So, for a change I thought that I would post the video and my response on my website for change.
My technical feedback
As you approach the board try not to dip (drop) on the second last step, keep your hips up and make only minimal adjustment... because of the dip, your take-off foot pushes out in front of you and this will slow your take-off down. It will also potentially make you hop too high. Your hop technique, having said that is pretty good, you hold the free leg and sweep it down long below the body.
Your step, though is too rushed... get your arms longer in front of you and swing the free leg out of the hop contact and up, hold it and then try to lift it up some more.
Into the jump you begin to forward rotate - your free leg needs to go higher as the arms need to get overhead, this should get your torso up straighter. Because you don't get the free leg up into the jump with the arms high enough, your body starts to rotate forwards and your heels drop early. I'd perhaps not drop the jump take-off leg long below your body after take-off but would use a sail technique. Swing the free leg in, hold it in front with the arms over head (you'll go through the air in a sort of lunge shape).
Your movement into the jump from the step is good.
You have the basis of a good triple technique and it just needs refining, particulary the jump phase and the arm action in the step.
A recent request from a young athlete's dad in the US to analyse his son's long and triple jump technique got me thinking in the process of pulling the video together (see below)...
I have a 'combined' jumper in my training group Jonathan Ilori (bests of 16.28m and 7.32m) and his long jump - although good - suffers from a too long last stride. He tends to reach into the take-off and lower and lever into the air. Strangely enough his hitch-hang technique after leaving the ground is very good! And, there were some parallels with the American young athlete, based in Iowa. However, he tended to take large steps into the take-off for both the long and the triple. It's imperative for the TJ, to run off the take-off in order to maximise speed through the remaining phases. The angle of take-off is circa 16 degrees and this contrasts with the long jump one which is around 22-degrees. The LJ take-off also requires the athlete to 'set' more on the penultimate step, which will generally be slightly longer than the preceding step and definitely longer than the last step. They'll also be more lowering of the centre of mass by a couple of cm's.
I made some suggestions as to how the US-based jumper may improve his take-offs for both horizontal jumps in the linked video (plus other areas of his technique). Perhaps the key one for all dual jumpers reading this - in addition to my previous comments about the angles of take-off etc, for both events - pertains to the length of the last step for both events. The long jump one tends to be around 2.20m and the triple 2.40m for senior men. I suggested that the US jumper work to these distances on his run-ups for the different events to improve his take-offs, Indeed this is something that we have recently been working on with Jonathan (for the TJ).
There was a comment on the video about how top US coach Jeremy Fischer perhaps eludes to the idea of using different take-off legs for the hop in the TJ and the LJ - perhaps this is designed to untangle neuromuscular confusion. In time I will look more into this.
The season is now picking up pace in the UK and most group members have been in action. As a coach it’s always a worrying time when you hope that all that training planning you’ve done and all the work the athletes have put in comes to something.
As a largely amateur coach I am not able to coach all the athletes individually (or in very small groups). This, for the long and triple jump especially, is probably the optimum way to coach the event. Jumpers have specific needs and focusses and it can be difficult to deal with these when you have 6 or more athletes at a session. Note: some less technical focus sessions do work better in a group, such as sprints, speed endurance runs, circuits and so forth. Nevertheless, focussing on the few rather than the many is more likely to provide the athlete with very specific feedback and training solutions that have more chance of working for them.
But it is what it is! So, basically all the athletes in my group follow a broadly similar training plan. One that follows a block periodisation methodology. This training planning method never loses sight of the key elements of the jumping events, technique, speed and power. So, a measure of how well the programme has worked every year simply comes down to how the guys are jumping!
Two group members who are flying in particular at present are Jonathan Ilori, who has gone from 16.06m in the triple jump last year, to 16.13m, and then 16.28m this year and Sarah Abrahams in the long jump who has impressed with two comps over 6m already this season (mid-June at time of writing) and a Pb of 6.12m. Other group members are doing well but it’s not quite so startling as it were compared to Jonathan and Sarah.
So, as a coach I try to reflect on why some of the group are doing really well and others not quite so well. There are of course so many factors to take into account – and you have to account for factors off the track as well as on it. Exams and work commitment of course have an influence on how well athletes do.
Keeping mental and physical notes of what’s happening year in year out and from athlete to athlete is very important. I know, for example, that Paul Ogun (best of 7.79m) – 7.45m indoors and 7.21m outdoors so far this season – historically needs more time to get into the competitive groove. Although his 7.21m jump at May’s Loughborough International was his best ever jump that early in the season - why should that (his easing more into the season) be the case? This is especially so when you look at how Jonathan and Sarah are doing and note that Paul is performing well in training too.
These are the conundrums that a coach faces. Reflection is needed. I feel a responsibility to get the athletes to jump as far as they can and I always try to think what can be improved on. If we (athletes and coaches) had more time then we may have more chance to get it 100% rights, but we are not professional coaches nor professional athletes, so it’s going to be more of a challenge, but hopefully we’ll get there.
In the video below you’ll see Jonathan and Sarah in action. The video focuses on developing the peak speed needed to jump really far as a season peak approaches.
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National Event Day Workshop & National Coach Athlete Workshop
I’ve just returned from two days at Loughborough University in Leicester, England. Loughborough - for those of you who don’t know - is one of the top sports science universities in the UK and also a major base for GB Athletics. Many of the country’s elite athletes and coaches work out from there.
I was asked to come along to the two-day event as a coach/observer/participant organised by England Athletics. I’m also an England talent coach mentor - which means that I act as a resource for a couple of other coaches and their athletes on an occasional basis throughout the year - and it was good to catch-up with them at the event and talk jumps.
On day 1 we started with a lecture on biomechanics theory - of jumping, sprinting and throwing, athletes and coaches from all event groups were in attendance. Activities were then put on for the specific events thereafter and on a few more occasions as one throughout the days.
There was some very useful info presented in the biomechanics session which focussed on, for example, the plyometric (stretch-reflex, eccentric-concentric) action. It was re-affirmed that eccentric capacity is particularly crucial for the sprinters and jumpers (as a side point for the heavy throwers concentric strength is of more importance). Being able to absorb force is crucial as this will affect the speed of the stretch-reflex and the subsequent concentric action. Tendon capacity is a key element too - tendons store and return immense amounts of energy, potentially more so than muscles.
A very interesting comment was made that through very recent research it was discovered that in the triple jump over 23 times body weight needs to be absorbed during the phases. This was new to many of us - as most of us coaches had put the figure at around 15 times… this amount of force to be dealt with (whatever the multiple) displays that need for eccentric capacity.
After this lecture the athletes in attendance had a testing session - this looked at technique and speed. A speed gun was used to assess the latter. All coaches were encouraged to talk about the techniques of the jumpers in small groups “live” as it were. This can be a little awkward as you are talking about another coach’s athlete and it’s often the case that the athlete and their coach, knows potentially what a problem may be and probably has plans in place on how to fix it. However, if all coaches see this feedback as a positive task, then equally positive outcomes should result. As coaches we all have slightly different thoughts on what’s-what and “comparing notes” as it were can be a very useful process. You also have the occasional “how-did-I-not-know-that-moment, of which more later.
The first day culminated with a sports psychology session and this looked, for example, at how athletes and coaches rate their performance and progression. There was some lively debate as to how we coaches should monitor our ability i.e. can a coach ever reach 100% of their ability? I ended up with 3-4 lines on my graph - having one for my knowledge, another for achievements with elite athletes and another for achievements with club athletes, for instance. None of the lines had an unaltered linear gradient - each tended to go back and forth on itself. I personally can get as much satisfaction from seeming an athlete go from 4m-5m compared to 7.30m to 7.80m in the long jump. Trouble is the sport as a whole probably tends to view the latter as being more of an achievement than the former.
Day two began with functional movement screening of the athletes in attendance. They were tested on an over head squat and lunge, for example a (O/H aspect was performed by pulling a stretch band apart). These and other exercises were selected to identify areas where an athlete may need to focus on to improve their range of motion, body control and awareness, for example. In doing this a programme of remedial (pre-hab) exercises could be implemented to improve such functional movement, reduce injury potential and to benefit performance. Dealing with the later - if a test shows up, hip or ankle instability for example, then in all likelihood this will be manifested in an aspect of event performance. In the long and triple jump you want all force to be applied linearly - any lateral movement is a wasted one. There was some interesting debate as to how to fix things!
Next up Scottish long jump record holder (8.01m) and now head of coach development for Scottish Athletics, Darren Ritchie presented on his philosophy of long jump and coaching. This was a very engrossing presentation and it was great to hear how Darren’s career progressed as both athlete and coach (I actually competed against him!). It made me reflect on my own pathway. I had a quick chat with Darren after and we talked periodisation and the difference between coaching different types of athletes and how the periodisation model has to be adapted - more on that on another day perhaps. But, for now this shows, how important it is to bounce ideas off of each other.
The last session of the weekend was a practical long jump one, again taken by Darren. Coach Ritchie took a couple of athletes through the type of warm-up he follows, picking up on functional movement and technical issues, for example, as identified through drill/exercise performance. The warm-up followed the RAMP protocol (raise body temp; activate, mobilise, potentiate). The jumpers then did some short approach jumps and Darren provided some feedback. I picked up a few more exercises from this practical session and also some food for thought on different ways to take-off and a “why didn’t I know that?” nugget on hand position on the rearward moving arm in the hitch. I do have my own thoughts on this (take-off) and it made me think that if a particular type of jumper (strength based/type) did materialise at my coaching sessions I could potentially use a different take-off methodology to the one I tend to use now with my predominately speed-based jumpers.
All-in-all the weekend was an informative and enjoyable one, and as well as the knowledge imparted formally and informally, it was good to catch-up with coaches - who as former athletes I’d known for er… decades and also to make new friendships and connections with those known for much less time.
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I've recently been getting quite a few queries regarding technical issues via my youtube channel and requests for advise. This promoted me to produce a couple of videos attempting to answer questions and address technical issues.
My latest video (19th April) analyses the techniques of an Egyptian long jumper and an American triple jumper, for example. That's the great thing about our sport i.e. it truly is a global one... it's reach, if not popularity, is probably greater than that of football (soccer)!
The two athletes Abdelrahman and Kelechi had pretty good technical models, although I did see some things they could work on - albeit this, from my point of view, was a little difficult with just a couple of videos to anaylse. Take a look at the video below and you'll be able to see what they need to work on. Who knows their technical issues/issues could also be yours. It's great to be able to analyse the form of non-elite athletes as they strive to be the best they can... and on that subject.
Over the years it's become somewhat obvious to me that many athletes are working against themselves i.e. trying to jump, for instance, against a poor technique. As I say in the video, no matter how fast or strong you are, you will never jump as far as you could, if you have a poor technique. Yet, many seem to neglect this in their training. They will spend hours in the weights room or sprinting and neglect the cornerstone of performance - jump and run-up technique. Take, for example, the take-off for the long jump, if this is not set up optimally then the speed and power generated on the run-up will to some extent go to waste.
I base my coaching philosophy very much on trying to get everything to go straight through the take-off, for example. We don't want wasted lateral movements, for instance. Keeping the hips relatively even through the last three steps to and including take-off is part of this desire to get everything moving in the "right" direction. The content of my training sessions is designed to create a body and mind that will effectively apply force and move with as little wasted movement as possible. It will pay huge dividends in the long run if a jumper can develop an optimum technical model (working against their particular idiosyncrasies - more on this in another post).
So, my advice is to really study how you jump and to work out the best technical model for you and then, rather like the assembly line for a car, put together all the pieces. Work on foot-strike, hip swing of the free leg in isolation as drill, for example, and you'll find that when you jump you will hit the board/track with the correct foot position and your hip will "know" how to swing through into the take-off.
Good luck with your training & competition. Perfect praise makes perfect...
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I received a question in response to one of my more recent youtube videos on drop jumps from sakarumaster. The questioner wanted to know about the degree of knee bend required and triple extension. Here's the question and my answer and do also check out the video.
Q: Hi I was just wondering when we do the drop jumps, should we extend our legs fully and go into triple extension (hips ankles and knees unlocked) after we land or should be just bounce up keeping the same knee and hip angle while reacting?
A: That's a good question... we tend to use drop jumps for developing leg stiffness thus keeping the knee angle minimal with slightly reduced triple extension (this does create a bit of a bounce as you note, which in many ways is the aim... i.e. so that the muscles, ligaments and tendon will react/fire powerful on, e.g. striking the board for a long jump take-off). Potentially an athlete will dwell a little more on the ground if they "set" to triple extend. Also we believe in stiff ankles at contact and then pulling the ankle up after contact too, to create greater stiffness. The other plyometrics exercise we use, bounds and hops, for example, will employ greater triple extension due to the requirements of the movement/movements. We use the stiff type drop jumps (and partial hops) in the belief that it will create that greater stiffness and reactivity for the hops, bounds, long jump take-off and sprinting. Depending on your event and your level of training I'd actually vary the emphasis of the drop jumps you perform, so some with less triple extension than other, but you must channel that plyometric ability (stiffness/power) into your other ploys as required for your event. I think I have said in another video that a mature long jumper, for example, does not need to do the same plyos as a triple jumper. Try to work against the needs of the event, the stage in your development and your needs. Hope that helps