Coaching, jumps, sprints & more
Everything about jumping and sprinting and how to improve your performance
Just a short post on end of season and planning for the new prep phase.
I have had a chat with a couple of the athletes in my group about their training for this autumn and beyond. The main cause for debate seems to be strength and conditioning and in particular weights. I'll be honest, I've not been as "hot" on weights as other coaches and athletes. I feel that there are far better S&C options - especially for non full-time athletes who have limited training time. To me plyos, speed work, technique and other jump type work (e.g. loaded squat jumps) are more important and can be integrated into out training sessions.
As you may know I follow a block preiodisation/undulating periodisation model and my training sessions include - very often - all the elements required to develop long and triple jump. What do I mean? Well, we don't just jump or sprint... we will do various units in the training sessions that work on all the required components of long and triple jump. The content of these units varies across the training period - agility, sprint technique (of which I have numerous exercises), acceleration, top-end speed, take-off work and so forth.
However, perhaps for the first time (should I say that?) I have decided to get more on top of the weight training that some of the group do. I have developed some ideas on eccentric training and through reading up and watching on youtube, for example, the work of Cal Dietz (of Tri-phasic training fame).
I recently posted some of these thoughts in one of youtube channel videos and you can hear and see more of what I intend in the video (the link to the video and a further post on the subject is here).
And here's a further video (on pre- and early season training) where some follow-up takes place on why general strength training can be a waste of time!
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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!
Those of you that follow my youtube channel will know that I have started to answer in video format questions that come into me through it and also through this website and my Instagram page. Obviously if numbers of questions begin to increase much more I will not be able to answer them all simply due to time issues.
I may consider charging a fee for those who would like certain types of questions answered, which I hope people don't consider unreasonable. I have, for example, been asked to write out a weight training programme for a specific athlete, accounting for their specific needs... that is no 5-minute task.
Where possible I'll do what I can with the answers I provide in video format - although these also take a while, at least they reach more people and may be generally more beneficial to jump athletes and coaches.
Please bear in mind that if I don't reply to a question you send in straight away (or even not at all), it's not personal (!), it's due to a lack of time.
I uploaded August's "Coaching Clinic" (Q&A) video a couple of days back, and it focusses on: the transition form the hang to the hitch-kick and also how to get length and fluidity into the triple jump hop. I've put the video in the link below which has my answers.
And, as I seem to end up saying at the end of these videos (!):
Good luck with your training and competition and do subscribe to the channel
(It's nearly up to 3000 - so thanks to all of you who have subscribed, shared and commented!)
I have been pulling together an article on what constitutes a successful transition from junior to senior as part of an assignment for Athletics Weekly. Here's a part of it that will provoke some debate and thought (I hope!). The rest of the article has research from international athlete and researcher Karla Drew (who looked at the specific stats pertaining to the transition between junior and senior GB athletes) and the IAAF who survey athletes from the first world youth champs (to see how they fared over the next 5-6 years)
I have coached a European junior champion - Elliot Safo long jump 2013. Safo, was also a finalist in the Barcelona World Juniors. The jumper along with other athletes from my group have attended World School Games and the Commonwealth Youth Games and European Youth Olympics. I say this not to brag in anyway but to highlight that for me managing the transition from promising young athlete to senior level as a coach has well and truly been experienced/is being experienced.
I think that the sport (and parents/coaches/fellow athletes) can place too much emphasis on junior success. As a coach I’m not too bothered by junior (and below) levels of success. I try to continually stress to the younger members of my group, that it’s not the u18, u20 “medal haul” that really matters, but the senior years’ one (although what you do in those transition years will of course have an effect).
The problem is that you can’t hold an athlete back in terms of the development of their talent – if they jump 7.70m at 17 (as one of my athletes did) then they’ve done it. It’s what subsequently happens that counts and in some case these great early athletic achievers can create something of an albatross around their necks. The performance becomes one they have to catch-up to and can’t readily easily replicate soon after (yet often “expect” to). In such instances that guidance that Karla Drew talks about is needed and coaches, in particular, must be able to handle the situation.
There is so much for a young athlete to deal with when transitioning from junior to senior. At 18-20 an athlete has to make some important decisions – they have to go into the world or work or study and try to fit in their training around this (unless their parents or any sponsors will support their training or they perhaps work part-time to support their training). Governing body funding to enable this is relatively minimal.
There are few athletics academies to my knowledge that could guide and help young athletes for a number of years like there is in football and rugby. Instead, it’s a choice of work or college or a self-funded athlete life (with no guarantees). It’s for these reasons that many UK athletes look to go to the US on scholarships. They are – dependent on the college attended - given kit, have their tuition paid, living expenses provided, food provided, physio, access to doctors and so on. It makes it quite easy to see why more and more UK athletes are going to the US or are at least seriously considering it.
Many would argue that the sport of athletics tends to be a bit of a lucky-dip contest – at least for the under 20 age group. Transition depends on what’s around that athlete and how they are guided; where they live; who coaches them; what injuries they sustain (a subject in its own right), and what the sport’s governing body can, and is able, and wants to do for them.
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Over the last month or so my training group has had an additional member - Abdulrahman Sayeed who journeyed all the way from Cairo to train in sunny south London.
And sunny it was indeed, Abdulraham commented that our heat wave felt hotter than Cairo! In fact on one or two occasions we had to train indoors due to the heat!
Abdulrahman is an under 23 jumper with a best of 6.80m. He had "found me" through social media and had the wherewithal to organise himself and finance himself for a month in the UK.
I'd initially met him virtually, by way of my youtube channel and he'd sent me a video to take a look at of him jumping. It was then slightly surreal to see the person in person and actually jumping (running, doing weights etc) right in front of me. I guess it shows the power of social media and the virtual and then real ways in which people can connect through track & field.
I'd spotted many of the technical areas that Abdulrahman needed to work on in the video (and you can see more in the youtube video I've made on his time with us below) but there are other factors that you can't determine from a couple of clips of Abdulrahman - or any other jumper/athlete - in action.
What do I mean? Well, perhaps the most important area of work that I quickly saw needing attention was his reactivity. Abdulrahman was very strong concentrically but not eccentrically, nor reactively (i.e. plyometrically). He was a "heavy weights" type of athlete, who did very little plyometric and eccentric training. Pennies began to drop and it suddenly made sense why he could jump relatively further off of short approaches compared to longer ones. Basically he did not have the ability to take off at speed as his training was somewhat steered in a slower, more concentric muscular action direction, Now, the changes that he will need to make in this area will take time, and during his time with me in London, I gave him various sessions and ideas as to what to do on his return to Egypt and thereafter.
In the video you'll see some of the more technical issues that we worked on with Abdulrahman and his jumping and running. I plan to make a second video where I follow up on the change of conditioning regime needed.
The information presented in this post and in the video will be of relevance to all jumpers looking to improve and it highlights the crucial role that the "right" conditioning will have. You may have great technique but if you are unable to use if off of a full run-up at speed then you've obviously got a problem,
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This week's Athletics Weekly will carry an article of mine on organising your own - in this case - triple jump meeting.
We decided to run the meeting due to the fact there were no further competitive opportunities before the deadline for European selection for Britain's top jumpers. Jonathan Ilori, for example, in my training group had come in third in the British Trials at June end and along with a couple of other jumpers could have been considered for the Euro team had they jumped the required 16.60m by the deadline.
Our "DIY" meeting managed to attract two other of the top 5 jumpers in the UK and we had a further 4 good standard athletes take part.
The process for putting on a meeting is described in AW - and I think it's well worth other coaches across other events thinking about putting on their own focused event meeting in future.
We are talking about doing this next year and trying to be a little innovative and creative as well. I know other coaches who run such events, such as pole-vault coach Allan Williams. Allan will be running a competition at David Weir Centre, Sutton for his event soon. If you're a local vaulter and want to get in an end of season comp then contact Allan at: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have any ideas for improving the field event opportunities then why not leave a comment. And look out for some more triple and long jump competitive ideas/opps on this blog.
And you take a look at what happened at our comp here:
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As part of my editorial work, in the main for Athletics Weekly I had the chance to interview Morgan Lake - the UK's top high jumper whose Pb is 1.97m. The snippet below focuses on her training.
You'll find lots of great training and competition advice on AW's site. I've recently interviewed Troy Doris - Guyana's Commonwealth games triple jump winner, 8m jumper Dan bramble and 11.11sec 100m sprinter and Berlin-bound Imani Lansiquot. I'll be posting a few snippets from these in future too. It's great to talk to and learn from great athletes.
Morgan Lake on her training
JS: How has your training evolved since your move to Loughborough University and the UKA coaching set-up there and your new coach Fuzz Caan?
ML: It’s definitely changed... a new coach, new training group, new environment and I’m solely doing high jump this year, so it’s completely changed to be honest.
JS: So, in terms of your training load has it reduced since your multi-event days?
JS: Yes, definitely the training load has dropped off, but I’m still training five or six times a week. I suppose the quality is that much higher now than when I was doing heptathlon. I have more time to spend doing the gym stuff; more time to work on technique and plyometrics. Obviously, I’ve taken out the 800m training and lactate work and horrible sessions like that although strangely, I do miss that kind of winter work, but I’m still getting a lot of work in.
JS: How many technical sessions do you do a week?
JSL: We do three technical sessions a week and specifically we will jump on two days out of those three and the other session will focus on run-ups.
AW: Have you made changes to your technique since the change of coaching set-up?
JS: I have changed my run-up this year. I went from a rolling 8 stride approach to a standing 10. So, that’s quite a big change, as it means I’m getting quite a bit of speed into the bar, which is good, but it also means that I need the strength to cope with that.
(Lake went on to talk about how the new approach needs growing into and the specifics of the timing needed for the new run-up, especially in the light of having used the old run-up for so long.)
Overall, I think my technique has got gradually better over the years, I’m still trying to get the perfect arch (bar clearance – Ed), get my head back and not knock the bar off with my heels. Overall, it’s been a gradual improvement in my technique, but it’s definitely changed from when I started.
JS: What specific conditioning do you do to improve your jumping?
ML: We do a lot of work off a box (drop jumps - Ed) which is 10cm to 15cm high… jumping from it and reacting to the ground. We call these “stiffness” jumps. (Leg stiffness is developed by such box jumps, specifically these and other plyometric activities will enhance the transition from a muscle lengthening to a muscle shortening action, as occurs when jumping. This is also known as the stretch-reflex – Ed). We also do a lot of single leg hops, double leg bunny jumps, hurdle bounds and jumps where we react off the ground.
JS: What about weight training?
ML: Weights are quite new… we’ve really only started doing them properly in 2016. I was doing weights before but only a few certain exercises, like leg press or squats, but now I’m doing weights three times a week. I’m also doing more technical lifts, such as the Olympic lifts. I’m still working on those technically and need to improve before I can take the weight up considerably though.
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In a forthcoming issue of Athletics Weekly one of the UK's top physics - and one I have worked with - Stuart Butler writes about hamstrings and how to rehab them after injury, but more importantly prevent them from becoming injured in the first place. He provides 5 take home messages in this respect. Here's one - do take a look at AW for more on this subject and also check out the website for lots of great athletics content. As you may know, I pull together the Performance section.
I do include lots of hamstring pre-conditioning exercises in my training and touch-wood we've not had a hamstring strain for a long time... hope I've not jinxed it!
An exercise that Stuart recommends is the Nordic Hamstring Exercise... if you do this move, make sure you do so when you are fresh and build up the intensity and the strength required over time (don't sprint afterwards). The NHI requires load to be controlled as the hamstrings elongate eccentrically. Eccentric muscular actions have been identified as being crucial when combatting hamstring strain injuries.
Run Fast (often)
"The best training for running fast is running fast! But this also creates that tightrope which coaches and athletes must walk, and where the “art” of coaching comes into its own, together with systematic training planning. You need to listen to the athlete and consider all that is going on in their life - for example, their levels of fatigue and everyday stress, as these can all impinge on propensity for injury.
I’m a big fan of athletes reaching top speed but trying to minimise the effort required to get there; many hamstring injuries occur in the last third of the race, and maybe too much time is spent focussing on acceleration and not top speed running? There is some really interesting kinematic (forces) data showing an athlete’s top speed of 34kph and therefore being subject to 100% force and then a small drop in speed to 30kph reducing the reading to 77%. This implies that we really do need to reach top speed in training in order to best bullet-proof hamstrings. We must also consider that progression needs to be gentle and that a high-speed “spike” in training loading could be problematic." Stuart Butler
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For many domestic athletes, the British Champs (European trials) are the primary aim of their season. Although the upper echelons of UK athletes should be looking beyond the weekend and onto Berlin for the Europeans, for or many more, the “Champs” will be their major goal.
Numerous coaches and athletes from all over the country will converge on Birmingham. The heart and lungs of our sport, the clubs, will be proudly represented and their club colours will be on show - along with GB and home nation national vests - it’s a requirement to wear such vests at the Champs.
Those athlete who have achieved UKA’s Berlin standards will be relishing the chance (albeit nervously) to rub shoulders with the likes of Laura Muir, CJ Ujah, Lorraine Ugen, Jasmin Sawyers and the rest i.e. - those who regularly make major championship teams. As a coach I had four athletes across the four horizontal jumps in Birmingham. You can see how they got on in the accompanying video. One Jonathan Ilori, in coming third in the triple, has a chance of selction for the Europeans, if he can jump 16.60 (the qualifying standard).
I like many other coaches cross all events will have been targeting this meeting from when we started training back in the autumn - and that’s important as it has to have a meaning. It has to instill in the athlete a want to do well in it. This will help them mentally “get up” for the competition.
I’ve been going through some specific mental preparation with some of the group - talking through scenarios, for example, that may arise. In the horizontal jumps, you have the small matter of hitting the board at optimum speed. A board that is only 20cm wide, less than the size of your foot. From a physical preparation point of view, I’ve hopefully planned training to get the athletes into the best possible shape. Triple jumper Jonathan had a no-jump issue at the south of England champs - he only got two of six jumps in. Had there been more than eight competitors he’d have not got through to the fourth round, as he did three no-jumps in rounds one-to-three. So, prior to the trials we more or less did nothing but run-ups, and as you’ll see in the video it seemed to work as he registered 15.98 in the first round and then 16.25 in the second which was good enough for third. We really worked on getting the foot down in the correct position, staying under control and not letting emotions and adrenaline take over too much. It’s a thin line in the horizontal jumps (literally) between trying too hard and fouling or messing up the take-off set-up to hitting that take-off sweet spot.
It was interesting to see at the trials in the women’s long jump how adrenaline certainly played a part, so much so that it looked to me as if Lorraine Ugen - who won with a world leading jump of 7.05m - changed her technique. She used a truncated hitch-kick to control a much quicker take-off and the greater push off the board that resulted. Her normal technique is a hang - and she’s been plagued with the issue of dropping a leg early on landing and losing vital distance. I’d long thought that a hitch-kick might work better for her - it will be interesting to see whether she will now make a change to this technique.
Learning to hit the board and control nerves and adrenaline can only be practiced to a certain extent in training as the demands of the competition arena are very different. And this is where some form of mental training can help. If you’ve competed in the same venue then you will have a great idea of what to expect and you can work on visualising yourself in that arena and jumping well (this can still be done if you haven’t – search for videos on-line and talk to people who have).
Dealing with different wind conditions (you should also vary the wind direction in training run-ups too); dealing with long gaps between jumps (something else that can be worked on in training); and having a game plan i.e. a strategy that you intend to follow that will enable you to get the optimum performance from you. What do I mean by the latter? Well, you can construct a script of “advice” perhaps with your coach, as to what to do and how to compete and what to really focus on for your jumps. Write and repeat. The idea being that these “aide memories” will come to mind in the heat of the moment in competition. A word of advice you need to really focus on them in training - and I say training, as the mental side of it should be approached with the same commitment as the physical.
Getting the most out of the most important competitions of the year must be a continual process and goals and preparations must be focused toward that end. Athlete and coach need to work together to be as prepared as possible - but on the day, in competition, the athlete has to feel that expectation to do well and have as much confidence in their mental and physical prostrations that they will do so.