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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!
As a coach you are always learning and trying to figure out new ways of doing... new ways of conditioning and new ways of improving technique. It's often the latter that is the most difficult of all. After all unless you have access to biomechanics experts you've got to do it all by eye and 'feel'. (Some would argue that this will get better results than those of the biomechanisist - but that's a story for another day.)
Working out technically what to change and crucially what not to is not easy, especially when you have a developed athlete. Starting with a young athlete and teaching them how to run and jump and the key positions to me at least, is a lot easier than working with a 16m triple jumper looking to technically up their game to the 16.60m level.
This is where coach and athlete have to truly work together in order to get the results they aspire to. As a coach I can suggest and sometimes 'tell' the athlete that they should do this or that - make that change to their arm positioning and so forth. This is rather like an F1 race team tweaking a car during a race, however, making much bigger changes is a bigger risk and takes time (it's like when the F1 teams develop a new car over the winter for the next season). With Jonathan Ilori last winter's F1 changes were focussed on the hop and a larger range and 'waiting' before striking into the step phase. We also removed early on his single arm swing step phase - this was because it thew him off balance and reduced power transference into the jump phase. Jonathan now does a double arm. In terms of work to be done, we need to focus on the step. he seems to 'drop' a little here and not get the contact and 'pop' that he should from the hop. Now we have been working on conditioning this aspect to create greater leg stiffness, in the hope that it will create the greater snap into and out of the contact (so a technical issue could be cured with or at least in part resolved by developed conditioning). But we need to work out what to do technically. Also - and taking pointers from Jeremy Fischer (coach to Will Claye amongst others) - we have been looking at the jump and blocking the action in the transition of the arms to try to create a greater forward push into the jump. Jeremy described the triple jump at the recent European jumps convention as a hop, step and 'hang on', such was the lack of a controlled and dynamic jump phase amongst many triple jumpers.
Take a look at the latest video on my youtube channel that analyses Jonathan's recent near 15.80m effort off 10 steps and you'll see and hear some of the things we've been working on. Hopefully this and the above will aid you in improving your own triple jump technical model. Analyse, consider, evil, improve...
I've pulled together the final part of elite coach Jeremy Fischer's practical presentation. There are two other parts on my youtube channel. Perhaps this one has the real draw for jumps coaches and athletes in that it specifically looks at take-offs. Jeremy presents a number of drills that he uses to develop take-off rhythm and take-off position. I had used variations of these previously but there were some added dimensions that I've subsequently incorporated (Click HERE). And to watch the full third part of the presentation please watch the video below.
Tony Ganio and myself hosted a long and triple jump masterclass at Sutton Arena – David Weir Leisure Centre. The two-hour event was well attended with around 24 athletes and 8 coaches from mainly Surrey and Sussex.
The session was designed to cover basic elements of long and triple jump – basic not in terms of simplicity, but in terms of cornerstones of performance and conditioning. So we looked at drills designed to improve ground contact and posture etc; the key positioning requirements of the long jump & triple jump take-off; run-up structuring/phasing drills; and covered some elements of conditioning, such as drop jumps and medicine ball exercises.
We received positive feedback and hope to repeat the format focussing on a different performance elements in future. We also have ideas for developing small group sessions and workshops, involving other event coaches and athletes. So do watch this space.
You can find out exactly what we did by clicking on this link:
You’ll be able to download a digital booklet, which includes video links from my YouTube channel which support the learning. (You can further download from the digital version a PDF format one which you can then store on your device – video and other links will still work).
If you would like to find out more about the courses and sessions we intend to organise and/or would like to know of forthcoming coaching events then please use the sign-up box on this site.
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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This is our trailer for our next Track Chat (it'll go live on Friday the 6th October. We - that's myself and Jonathan Ilori talk 400m hurdles with top UK exponent Jacob Paul. Jacoby has dipped under 50 seconds a number of times this year and went to the Euro u23s and the World Student Games. He also ran in the London Diamond League. There's a segment on the type of training you should be doing at the start of the training year and we also review Pippa Earley's late season heptathlon where she went to number 5 on the UK all-time list. Our third show will feature an interview with Janay DaLoach, bronze medallist at London 2012 and 7-metre long jumper. Stay tuned for more Track Chat.
Watch the shows and other athletic coaching content and event reviews HERE
The structures of the lower legs take a pounding in the long and triple jump and sprints, as they do in numerous other sports. These areas are prone to ankle, Achilles tendon and calf strains for example. pre-training or pre-conditioning is a way to bolster the strength of your body by performing 'protective' type exercises that are designed to strengthen areas of the body prone to injury, such as the lower legs. So what can you do to minimise risk of injury to this body region?
There are a multitude of exercises that can be used but how effective are they?
A Norwegian study looked at how ankle (and knee) injuries could be reduced in teenage handball players during the 2002 to 2003 season. 1,837 players were split into an intervention group and a control group. The intervention group performed exercises designed to improve awareness and control of the ankles and knees during standing, running, cutting, jumping, and landing. The exercises included those with a ball, the use of wobble boards and covered warm-up, sport technique, balance, and strength. The control group continued with their normal training methods.
For the group as a whole, 262 players (14%) were injured at least once during the season. However, the intervention group had lower risks than the control group when it came to sustaining acute knee or ankle injuries. The incidence of moderate and major injuries (defined as absence from play for 8 to 21 days) was also lower for the intervention group for all injury types. The researchers concluded that: "The rate of acute knee and ankle injuries and all injuries to young handball players was reduced by half by a structured program designed to improve knee and ankle control during play’"
LOWER LIMB STRENGTHENING EXERCISES
Straight leg jumps
Stand with your feet slightly beyond shoulder-width apart. Swing your arms back behind your body and very slightly bend your knees. Swing your arms down, as they pass your hips jump into the air, using your calf muscles and ankles to provide most of the power. Land without undue yielding (in order to increase joint stiffness and improve eccentric force absorption) and spring immediately back into another jump.
Suggested routine: 3x10 exercises with 1-minute recovery between sets.
Eccentric calf raises
Eccentric calf raises have been identified as being as effective as combating and treating the majority of Achilles tendon injuries as other treatments, including surgery. When performing this exercise concentrate on the lowering phase of the movement, lowering to a count of 4-5 and lifting to a 1 count. To gain familiarity, select a medium to heavy weight that creates fatigue after 8-10 repetitions, before progressing to heavier weights that create fatigue after 4-6 repetitions. Use a standard calf raise machine. After gaining familiarity and strength with this exercise, perform freestanding versions from double and then eventually from a single leg stance, using similar loads and repetitions.
NB. Standing calf raise exercises, target the gastrocnemius, whilst seated calf exercises hit the soleus. To fully strengthen the main calf muscles combine both exercises into your training programme. You can also do these exercises free-standing, single leg version being particularly tough, if you have not worked on eccentric Achilles strength.
EVEN TOES MATTER FOOT STRENGTH
Even the foot and even toes can influence running power. A team from Canada studied the energy contribution of the big toe or metatarsophalangeal (MP) joint when running and sprinting. The team wanted to discover what the contribution of the MP joint was to the total mechanical energy involved in running and sprinting. Data was collected from 10 trained male athletes (5 runners and 5 sprinters).
The team discovered that during the stance phase, the joint absorbed large amounts of energy during running and sprinting. In terms of biomechanics this led them to conclude that lack of plantar flexion (toe down position) of the MP joint resulted in a lack of energy generation during take-off; energy was absorbed at the joint and dissipated in the shoe and foot structures and was not returned to propel the athlete forward. Although it would be physically difficult to specifically train the big toe to contribute more to the sprint and running action, concentrating on a more dorsi-flexed (toe up) foot position on foot strike could allow it to generate more propulsive force.
Always include pre-training exercises in your training plans for the lower limbs and all body parts, doing so will likely reduce injury and improve performance.
Late September/early October is typically the time when most athletes start to really get back into their training. You should have an active rest at the end of the summer season and be ready to prepare for 2018.
The first thing I do as a coach is run through in my mind how the group as a whole did and reflect on what we did across the year. My training plan evolves ever so slightly from year to year. I have seemingly stumbled on a methodology that works for the horizontally jumps so tweaks are usually minimal. I have a mental and recorded plan of where the training will evolve from month to month, session to session.
I adopt a mixed periodisation or undulating periodisation plan. Periodisation refers to training planning. Basically I train all aspects of what's required to improve performance at the same time, just altering the emphases of the constituent parts across the training period and in individual sessions. Speed and technique are the key drivers. I aim to improve speed of the performance of a well executed skill all the time, whether that be a long jump take-off or triple jump hop. Never in my opinion loose sight of your event and what needs to be done to get better. The odd aerobic run for example won't hurt but if you can run for 15 minutes comfortably (or even uncomfortably) you're probably fit enough to train for the long jump. I've seen so many athletes train away from the requirements of their event. This could be by “living” in the weights room for the autumn! Strength gain for the sake of strength gain is a waste of time.
Strength & conditioning
As said I've seen athletes do too much weight training and become stiff, slow and heavy. I don’t think those attributes will lead to a faster 60m time. Strength and conditioning is an element of training in its own right but it should integrate into the speed and technique training sessions, for example, and not be a bolt on. This is in part why I try to also provide strength and conditioning training for those I coach. For one I know what they are doing first hand in their weekly workouts. Plus the sessions I construct are mixed ones and often include what others may include in specific S&C ones i.e, isometrics, concentric work, plyometrics, balance and pre-training drills and even weights and complex training.
Rest is a training variable. I'll save a detailed look at this for another post, but as an athlete you need to be aware that it's in the time when you are not training when your body adapts to the training load. Keep hitting the body with intense workouts whilst not allowing for recovery then it will not adapt optimally.. So recovery and rest are a vital part of training planning… more training is not necessarily better and doing too much is a common occurrence especially at the start if the the training year).
Group coaching issues
Coaching my main group collectively can be problematic as its members have individual needs. However, when you are working with 6-10 athletes at the same time it can be very difficult to prescribe specific workouts. In the occasional one-to-one sessions I do, this is of course much easier.
Tip: if you are aware of your weaknesses and your strengths then make a note of them and grab a minute with your coach to discuss them. This may jog the mind of a time-pressed coach to accommodate these needs in training (and agree or not on whether they are indeed a strength or a weakness).
Know where you are heading
Selecting goals for the forthcoming season is vital for coach and athlete. I'll take a look when the key meets are and plan training to accommodate them, the great thing about a mixed periodisation approach is that you are never far from being able to compete optimally or at lest near optimally. There's no significant de-training of speed or failure to do technical work. You build, for example, more speed on more speed.
Tip: help your coach out list, what you are aiming for comp and performance wise. In a group with men and women, boys and girls of different abilities your coach will not be an almanac of all competitions and dates.
Hopefully these points and overview of ideas based on how I plan my groups’ training will be of benefit to you and get you thinking specifically about just what you exactly need to do at the start of the training year.
aIt's now August and the end of the season is coming into view. But it's not over for a couple of group members in particular. Paul Ogun, for example, is still attempting to gain selection for the Scottish Commonwealth Games team. He has to jump the standard of 7.85m twice if he is to get on the plane to Australia. Under 17 Pippa Earley still has the national championships to go, where she will be competing in the 80h and long jump, together with the national schools multi-events, which are held mid September. Other members of the group are not unnaturally calling time on their season as their goals have passed and it's time to start thinking about rest and recovery and the 2018 season. We will start back in early October.
End of season break
As an aside if you are at the end of your season you just don't want to do nothing, well not after a week or so. It's important that some of your recover be active - so you you should do some physical exercise, perhaps playing another sport - preferably not rugby! I'll not be 'messing around' when we get back to training, after a week we'll be back to specific work, plyos, sprints and drills and even technique work. Why 'waste' time on superfluous exercises - for athletes with limited training time (due to work, for example) it's necessary to make every second count of training time. Also those who are training mature - and who maintain condition - at the end of the season - should very quickly get their fitness back.
Here are a couple of videos of end of season meets in August featuring four of the group. As a coach it was particularly satisfying to have three athletes in the Manchester International - one representing Wales (Sarah Abrahams), another Scotland (Paul) and the Briitish league Team (Jonathan Ilori).
It seemed like a good idea at the time to run all divisions of the BAL together in one venue. And so Bedford was chosen for the third round of the league in early July.
Athletics needs to experiment and try out new ideas. The burden on team management, officials and athletes & coaches (no one has as much time as they used to - or so it seems) has to be eased somehow, so the "5in1" idea was a good one to try.
As usual when something new comes along there will always be dissenters... and I guess the delays to the event of over an hour in cases did not help with people giving an on-the-day thumbs up. I'm sure when the dust settles and further consideration is given the concept of bringing together the divisions could be maintained next season. Perhaps they should do three leagues together and two together. Another idea which I believe was tabled initially was to run the event over a weekend - which would have reduced time table pressure. But I guess it's all about finding a suitable venue and consensus from the participating clubs. I also wonder whether athletes were considered - they may have some of their own ideas.
Any way back to the action. I made a short video featuring mainly two of my group's jumpers Paul Ogun and Jonathan Ilori - take a look and see how they got on. There's a specific analysis of Jonathan's triple jump (15.44) and also a look at what happened when the athletes rebelled (sort of) against the measuring of jumps.
See what I've been up to!