Coaching, jumps, sprints & more
Everything about jumping and sprinting and how to improve your performance
“They suggest how practitioners could design better training tasks, based on key ecological constraints of competition, to provide athletes with opportunities to explore and exploit functional intentions and movement solutions high in contextual specificity.”
Eur J Sport Sci. 2019 Aug;19(7):913-921. doi: 10.1080/17461391.2018.1564797. Epub 2019 Jan 7
Well, what does that mean and yes, it does refer to the long jump?
I had a look at a some long jump research and there seems to have been a relatively recent small spate of research studies which look at how jumpers respond to their run-ups under competitive situations for example. This has ramifications for training - hence the above quote.
The 2019 study analysed the performance of 244 long jumpers and identified key influencing constraints/factors that affected “long jump behaviour”:
1: … (the) particularly intended performance goals of athletes and their impact on future jump performance.
2: performance environments (e.g. strength and direction of wind) and tasks (e.g. requirement for front foot to be behind foul line at take-off board to avoid a foul jump).
Nothing revelatory there then i.e. conditions external to the athlete and internal i.e. motivation affected jumping.
The researchers also noted: “Results revealed the interconnectedness of competitive performance, highlighting that each jump should not be viewed as a behaviour in isolation, but rather as part of a complex system of connected performance events which contribute to achievement of competitive outcomes.”
For me it’s the quote I started this post with that’s salient and hopefully explains the other above. And here I “translate” (hopefully) what the researchers stated to usable language:
Practitioners i.e. coaches and jumpers should make training task-specific that reflects the competition situation.
It’s obvious! No doubt there’s more to my simplified interpretation as a raft of sports scientists and performance analysts could be used to interpret and recommend on the relevant practice.
From my knowledge (backed up by research) I know that full run-ups to the pit with a take-off are key to long jump success (visual acuity and constant “reading” of the run-up make for success). Also manipulating and learning and patterning of the step rhythms into take-off is vital. That’s a contextual skill which must be worked on. The jumper will use kinaesthetic and proprioceptive mechanisms to adjust their run-ups and therefore accuracy. You can’t do this without doing it.
Motivation (aka competitive performance) will also affect the outcome.
It’s all about constructing a jumper who can control their emotions and use them to stay within the constraints of the competition i.e. hit the board at optimum speed with an optimised take-off set up.
So, we coaches need to maximise this environment and to do this means specificity and variability within training.
Let’s consider the run-up. The jumper must develop the rhythm and feel of the phases and “know” how to pattern the last steps time after time. To do this needs constant repetition and feedback on the part of the jumper (and coach). You have to make the jumper the master of their environment and not the puppet in the environment. Pun intended they pull their strings in order to jump far (without fouling)!
At meetings I see as a spectator and experience as a coach jumpers who are unable to control their environment and this has ranged from being expected with young athletes to elite ones (who should know better).
It’s up to us as coaches to produce the jumper who pulls their own strings and is in control of their environment or as those sport scientists put it and as I started (well they started):
“… provide athletes with opportunities to explore and exploit functional intentions and movement solutions high in contextual specificity.”
LET'S TALK & TRY TO UNDERSTAND MORE ABOUT THE CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM AS IT RELATES TO SPORTS PERFORMANCE
IN my latest Coach-Athlete members video on my YouTube channel on Fast Twitch Muscle Fibre I mention the CNS ... I thought it might therefore be an idea to provide a little more detail to help understanding and learning. The following is a little theoretical but understanding in overview at least of what the CNS is and out it can effect sports performance is usual. I may follow up on this post in a video or in further posts.
The central nervous system receives, interprets and relays signals from around the body, via the spinal cord and brain. It is a complex system. Perhaps it is because of this that it receives less attention as a constituent of sports training. Yet this mechanism is involved in every aspect of sports performance. Understanding its role and utilising it to its fullest extent is crucial in order to maximise training adaption.
What is the CNS?
The CNS consists of the brain and spinal cord as indicated. It’s a control system for the body (the other part of the nervous system is the peripheral nervous system - PNS which is outside the brain and spinal cord). The brain is highly complex - in terms of sports performance the cerebellum and diencephalon are important CNS constituents. Understanding their role indicates just how integral the CNS is to sports performance. The cerebellum is the second largest part of the brain. It is involved in co-ordinating muscles to allow precise movements and the control of balance and posture The diencephalon contains two important structures called the thalamus and the hypothalamus. The former acts as a relay station for incoming sensory nerve impulses, sending them onto relevant areas of the brain for processing. It is responsible for letting your brain know what's happening outside of your body. The hypothalamus plays a vital role in keeping conditions inside your body constant. It does this by regulating your body temperature, thirst and hunger, for example – and by controlling the release of hormones from the nearby pituitary gland. Receptor and effector organs Receptor organs include the ears, eyes and crucially in the context of this article muscles. These - as their name suggests - collect information, which is then relayed via the CNS. The CNS then interprets this information and sends it back to ‘effector’ organs - which carry out the body’s response to the stimuli – so with reference to the topic of this article, for example, a muscle action.
There is debate as to the extent of the automatic (unconscious) and interpreted (conscious) response of the CNS as it affects sports performance. Some actions will largely be automatic, for example, the stretch/reflex involved in the leg muscles when jumping; whilst others will be more specifically interpreted by the brain - such as the fatigue signals it receives at the end of a marathon. This is where, for the latter, will-power may become an influencing factor to cajole the body into continuing. It is the degree of conscious interpretation that will vary. Fatigue and the CNS Fatigue during training sessions/competition - or as a result of training programmes that do not account for the restoration of CNS energy - can have detrimental effects on sports performance, whether interpreted consciously or unconsciously. (This is what I often refer to in my videos when talking about workouts affects on the CNS.)
Sensory input can result in the CNS eliciting ‘programmed’ sports skill responses – this can be positive and negative Having provided a brief introduction to the functioning of the CNS we now move onto how it affects sports performance in more detail, firstly in terms of the interpretation and reaction to repeated training and sports skill learning.
Research indicates that prolonged sports involvement influences the way the CNS ‘controls’ muscular recruitment and patterning - ‘interpreting’ signals, under certain circumstances is automatic as noted. Researchers from Finland investigated the influence of sports background on leg muscle co-ordination during concentric and drop vertical jumps. Five different athlete groups were chosen as subjects: track and field jumpers, swimmers, and footballers and poor and good vertical jumpers. ‘Motor versatility’ was used as the research focus - i.e. the ability of an athlete from one sport to ‘transfer’ skill to another. The team wanted to find out about different movement models (i.e. how the sports performers recruited their muscles) and the role of the CNS:
Not surprisingly it was discovered that the jumpers performed the most powerful vertical jumps. Their legs had greater muscular stiffness compared to the swimmers - who turned out to be the poorest jumpers (their leg muscles were more attuned to kicking). Specifically, in terms of the subject matter of this post, it was discovered that the CNS influenced differently the firing and recruitment patterns of the sports participants’ muscles involved. For example: The agonist and antagonist muscles of the swimmers of both the thigh and shank showed co-contraction instead of reciprocal innervation – which was displayed by the jumpers. Basically, the swimmers were unable to create the stretch/reflex action in their leg muscles as powerfully as the jumpers’ muscles - which resulted in poorer jump performance. The football players showed an intermediate level of innervation. Basically, their muscles were able to use the stretch/reflex mechanism better than the swimmers to generate jumping power. However, their ability was mitigated by a tendency to produce a new burst of activity at the end of the contact phase. Basically, unlike the jumpers whose legs fired dynamically and rapidly to produce jumping power, the footballers jumping movement was more contrived. Rather than one ‘explosion’ into the jump, there was a more staccato muscular firing rhythm.
The researchers attributed these differences to the specifics of the individuals’ sports and crucially years of relevant training and the effects that these had on the CNS. Specifically they stated, “The results suggest that prolonged training in a specific sport will cause the central nervous system to program muscle coordination according to the demands of that sport.” Adding, “That (the) learned skill-reflex ….. of the CNS seems to interfere hierarchically in the performance program of another task.”
This is positive if you train correctly for your sport and maximise the CNS and its great potential to elicit your sports desired training effect. However, this is not so good if you change sports (and have to adopt a new movement pattern that might be compromised by your prior sport’s involvement) or if you train in a way that compromises the CNS’s contribution to your sport.
Electromyogr Clin Neurophysiol. 2003 Apr-May;43(3):141-56.
I regularly use drills and runs with the sprinters and jumpers holding a light bar overhead. In the video below I explain the purpose and protocols I use for fast running using a bar held at arms' length.
I have used these methods for the last couple of years to great success. The drills and runs improve posture, technique and speed and can potentate performance. So it's a win, win, win and win scenario. Take a look at the video content to get more information.
The bars we use are readily available - see amazon link below too.
If you want to get away from the blocks quickly as well as a fast reaction you will need to make sure you hit the right shapes.
The key elements for successful accel from a technical (and not conditioning) response focus down on:
Use of arms
HERE ARE SOME KEY POINTS FOR YOU TO FOCUS ON
Torso and body angle - on leaving the blocks it should be around 40-degrees. Don't fold at the waist
Shin angle - this needs to be negative (knee in front of shin) & this needs to be maintained for 6-10 strides at least. Doing this will keep you low and accelerating. You don't want to "pop up" and go no where!
Use of arms - some sprinters will use a longer (front arm (more advanced). Experiment as this may help your drive and block clearance and first steps. Whatever method used the arm action needs to be explosive and deliberate
Foot position - the toes need to be down but the ankle has to be stiff. It's a right angle as you can see in the image. This will enable the piston like motion of the leg to permit the foot to really hit the track and create forward motion
Toe-drag - some sprinters scrape the track with the rear leg on block clearance as they are trying to minimise back-lift and get the foot to advance low and fast ... some coaches like others don't. If it works for you stick with it
Don't rush - workout your optimum acceleration pattern - keep focussed on that and like a long jump take-off from a run-up, keep working on it over and over again.
Low heel recovery - do not overly cycle (lift) the heels over the first 6-10 steps of accel - keep the heels low as you drive. Too much stride airtime will kill your acceleration.
Don't neglect your acceleration training start working on it now and keep working on it!
WATCH THIS VIDEO WITH TOP SPRINTS COACH JONAS DODOO TO
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT ACCELERATION AND MAX VELOCITY
Research is not that substantive when it comes to young athletes and injury rates. Some from Sweden indicates that 60% of young elite athletes sustain an injury of sufficient magnitude to require training to be modified across the season.
A fews back year when I attended the European Jumps and Sprints Symposium in Sweden, renowned US coach Dan Pfaff said: “All athletes are injured from birth.” What he meant is that childhood accidents (small or large) can affect athletic development thereafter. To this I would add that play and the development of physical literacy is equally important as soon as a child learns how to crawl, walk and run.
Play becomes crucial in terms of developing balance and body awareness, for example. These are vital attributes for latter life sporting ability. Our teenagers nowadays are potentially less physically skilled than previous generations. Sedentary lifestyles and the rise of the "health and safety culture" have all been determinant factors. If you can’t move well then injury is more likely.
Young athletes’ growth and maturation
Coaches will be aware of growth spurts and maturation rates among the young athletes they coach. We will have had young athletes who suddenly grow a lot in a relatively short time span (or suddenly spurt a beard!) and this can lead to difficulties. Coordination may become one of these as the young athlete struggles to perform movements they previously may have had no problems with months before.
The skeleton of a growing young person does not develop uniformly – the largest increases tend to begin from the bottom up. Thus, a developing young athlete’s skeleton can be out of synch as it were – and because of this coordination can become difficult for a while and injury risk potentially magnified at certain sites.
It’s often during adolescence and these growth spurts when athlete, coach and parent can push for more training. This is potentially counter-productive injurious and could lead to increased frustration on the part of the athlete. All involved need to nurture very carefully the athlete at this time and probably the best strategy is to dial back training and “wait” for the growth spurt to end or at least slow.
To determine growth spurts coaches can simply measure athletes of appropriate age (with parental/guardian) permission every couple of months. Growth spurts generally occur between 8-10 in girls and 10-12 in boys. However, my experience indicates later periods of significant growth well into the teens.
And then there’s maturation which is another form of growth which in my experience is the more significant one and with it hormonal change and the development of, for example, in males in particular and for example, significant muscle mass.
Again, experience tells me that some young boys circa 14-17 can develop muscle that outstrips their skeletal frame to a point where there’s increased injury risk. Adolescent boys can also think they are "invincible" - and with the cocktail of hormones floating around their bodies they can recover from injury quickly on the positive side or try to run through them (without telling coach) on the negative.
When as athlete is going through a period of Peak Height Velocity (see below) then the tensile forces placed on the joints can be potentially injurious. If as a coach you have a “more developed” athlete (usually males but also potentially female, for their age), then care needs to be paramount in terms of training prescription. The athlete may “look” strong but may actually be weaker than their appearance. Very interestingly maturation (see below also) is not uniform even within an individual young athlete – it varies between tissue and organ systems. And as has been pointed out the development of the skeletal system is not uniform either. Some bones may be “weaker” than others at different times of development as an example.
Hopefully this mix of personal experience and sports science will help fellow coaches understand a little better about what happens in those crucial periods of young athlete physical and athletic development.
Young athlete physical development and useful information
Peak Height Velocity refers to the period of maximum growth. It happens in boys from 13-14 and girls from 11-12. This can amount to an increase in height of 7-9cm for girls and 8-10cm in boys per year.
Peak Weight Velocity refers to weight gain. This according to research lags behind PHV by 0.3-0.9 years in girls and 0.2-0.4 years in boys. The gains can be as much as 6-10kg per year.
Maturity Status refers to the timing of maturation – that’s to say it’s within the transition from child to adult. Secondary sex characteristics and skeletal growth are the two key identifying factors.
Chronological age and maturation stage do not display synergy.
LATEST YOUTUBE VIDEO
We continue to look at the type of training I recommend for this time of the training year
I recently had a short break in the Lake District of the north of England. It was a time to recharge the batteries and I didn’t see a track for 8 days! Well, I saw train tracks as you can see in the photo. (This was for a very scenic journey from Settle to Carlisle in case anyone’s interests?). Taking time off is crucial at the end of the season for athletes and coaches - we all need to recharge.
Some of my athletes are coming back to training after a couple of weeks off whilst mainly the older ones won’t be starting back until October. I’ve actually one more competition to go to - this weekend is the English Schools Multi-Events. Two athletes will be competing. However, I’ll still be taking it a bit easier for a couple of weeks after this comp.
I want the athletes to be ready for fall training … they need therefore to keep themselves in shape during the off-season. I ask them to do a drills and a fast-ish running session a week to keep things in place. They can also play tennis, basketball etc. The main thing is that they get away from track for a bit but still keep in shape.
I don’t want to “waste” time with general fitness when we return to winter training. Nor really should you if you’re on a break - so much will have been gained over the last 10 months of training and competing that you want to start back close to that stepping off point.
On my YouTube channel I’ve started to post a series of videos on early season training and what you can include. You'll see the first in the series below.
In this video I answer three questions which have come in from my Instagram account - https://instagram.com/johnshepherdwritertrackcoach? The Q&As are all about jumping. Two are on the long jump and both query the run-up, specifically how to get a good start phase and how long the last step should be? Whilst the other question from a 17 year-old Stateside jumper is all about the triple jump and what you can do to extend your phases, get the range and not rush through the contacts.
Hopefully my answers will help you solve these problems if you have them or will serve as very useful knowledge which will help your understanding of the events.
Do let me know what you think and ask any questions if you have them. Also do sign up to my Instagram if you want! You’ll find similar but shorter form content to the YouTube channel there and a little more “social” content.
You'll have heard me talk about about eccentric training on this blog or on my YouTube Channel. This is the type of specific work which will improve your reactivity, your sprint speed and your jump power.
Think of an eccentric muscular action as like stretching out a spring - if you did this the spring would store a huge amount of energy. Energy which will be released when the spring is let go and it recoils at super-fast speed.
In our events the stretch of the spring as noted reflects the eccentric muscular lengthening action and the release the muscular shortening concentric muscular action one.
There's much research that indicates that improving eccentric capacity will improve concentric capacity - hence it's crucial to train this muscular action.
There are lots of ways to this, for example, you can do specific drills, some being more jump orientated and some more sprint orientated.
You can also train eccentrically with weights. If you did this the focus would be on the lowering phase of the movement. For example, when performing a squat you could slowly lower for a 4-5sec count before (or not and leaving the bar in the racks and having helpers lift the bar back to the starting position) extending the thighs to return the weight.
It's actually possible to handle more weight eccentrically then concentrically - up to 25% plus more in fact.
We regularly include eccentric training in our workouts - you'll see two members of the u20 squad doing what I call "Jump forward, block and jump" jumps in the image.
The athlete performs a medium length low height forward jump and then explodes vertically upward. The girl is performing the first part and the boy the second part in the image.
Checkout the latest video on my YouTube channel to find out more and to see this drill and more - all designed to improve eccentric capacity.
And if you needed a reason to eccentrically train: when triple jumping out of the hop the hop leg has to withstand and return up to 20 times body weight in milliseconds. Eccentric capacity is therefore vital.
CONSIDER BECOMING A MEMBER OF MY YOUTUBE AND HELP THE CHANNEL GROW!
Many thanks to those that have become channel members at "Supporter" or Coach-Athlete" level - it's much appreciated. If you'd like to find out more about memberships and how you gain access to exclusive content then follow this link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyVAgma7MDT1Wqzw40Mb13g/join
At Coach-Athlete level there are 10 videos on various subjects that will be particularly useful to coaches.
There are videos on Training Planning, Training Transfer, Speed Phase Development, Overcoming Common Coaching issues with young sprinters and jumpers ....
I've been living in workout gear since my mid-teens as an athlete, as a sports science student, then international athlete, then coach, then fitness magazine editor, then coach (one constant), then master athlete ... you get the message!
I've therefore tried out quite a lot of workout gear over the years and as a sports, fitness and health writer have reviewed quite a few items.
You'll have seen on my YouTube channel various product tests of massage guns and Bioelectrical devices for example.
Well, I'll soon be checking out some workout gear from Born Tough from the US. They have a large range of products that look suitable for tough workouts (well, it's in their name isn't it!) and also more of, what do they call it these days, active leisure?
It'll be great to see what this relatively new brand has got to say.
SO LOOK OUT FOR A REVIEW OF BORN TOUGH PRODUCTS COMING SOON HERE AND ON MY SOCIAL MEDIA
IN THE MEANTIME YOU CAN CHECKOUT THEIR PRODUCT LINES AT:
Born Tough and Elite Sports
IN THE MEMBERS' AREA OF MY YOUTUBE COACHING CHANNEL THERE ARE 9 EXCLUSIVE VIDEOS WHICH DIVE INTO GREATER AND SLIGHTLY LONGER DETAIL ON VARIOUS TOPICS THAT WILL HELP SPRINT, LONG AND TRIPLE JUMP COACHES. BELOW IS THE CONTENT OVERVIEW OF THE LATEST VIDEO #9
IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN SIGNING UP TO WATCH THIS AND THE OTHER 8 VIDEOS THEN FOLLOW THIS LINK https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyVAgma7MDT1Wqzw40Mb13g/join
COACH ATHLETES MEMBERS' VIDEO 9 NOW LIVE PEAKING EARLY SEASON FOR PEAK PERFORMANCE ACROSS THE TRAINING YEAR
In this video we take a look at a 2-week training cycle leading up to the Olympic Trials, National u23s and English Schools multi-events qualification (June 21). Initially we consider how undulating periodisation can help establish the basis for such preparation compared to linear periodisation. This is a bit of a re-consideration of some of my earlier Coach-Athlete video content on periodisation. I do keep pushing this methodology as I actually think it is the best and easiest to use with jumpers. I'll produce some more content in this series of videos in future that further tries to help you plan your training this way. (See initially Coach-Athlete video 1.) We then take a specific look at the 2-week cycle of training which covers the aforementioned competitions and I take you through some of the sessions and some of the objectives for this phase. In short we are looking at further sharpening - speed and technique-wise and maintenance of strength and power. With undulating periodisation there is what I term a "line of optimum performance" (which is a notional ability to perform at around 90% of capacity of PB jumps and sprints-wise all year round) and the idea is to rise above this line, return to it and fall slightly below it at certain times of the season and training year (hence undulating periodisation). There are small steps either side of the line. This can contrast with linear periodisation where the rises and falls can be much greater and I believe the capacity to maintain and regain peaks throughout the year more limited. Within the video are two Coach Tips - the first considers nutrition and its relationship with peaking and the second Tonus and the creation of specific muscle tone to enable enhanced performance. I draw on the work of coach Goran Obradovic and his work with Ivana Spanovic here. As coaches we need to expand our understanding of what we can do to get the most from our athletes and that's why I include these sorts of tips in the videos. We are all learning and trying to wade through the information out there. I hope that my practical experience successes and failures and having got to the point where I have a large understanding of "What works" will speed up your coaching journey.
IMAGE CREDIT REDBULL CONTENT POOL