Coaching, jumps, sprints & more
Everything about jumping and sprinting and how to improve your performance
Coaching is a very rewarding pastime, job or vocation. I use these three terms as some coaches make their living from coaching athletics, whilst others do it entirely for free. I sit somewhere in the middle here by the way and supplement my income by editorial work and my social media coaching and in particular my YouTube channel of which more later.
Coaches absorb a lot from the athletes we coach. We try to motivate, teach and often council those we work with. Athletes can tend to be all about “me” whilst us coaches need to be all about “you”. Consequentially we absorb - as noted - quite a bit and just like athletes we can get a bit tired!
In the U.K. we have a national coaching week - this commences from the 3rd to the 9th June - and it’s that which got me thinking about this post..
It’s run by U.K. Coaching and they say “Together, during Coaching Week”, we’ll send a strong message that explains why it makes sense to support and develop coaches.”
Athletes can help their coaches and support them. Give a little back to your coach every now and again (as I know many of you donalready!). Think about how your coach stands track side and shouts you on , about all the thinking and planning they do to maximise your performance ... and the life skills and work advice they may also give you. Being a coach is very much also about mentoring.
You could simply ask your coach “How are you?” - and mean it! Us coaches generally really do care about how you are doing?
Remember too that your coach will also have days when they are not so on form ... just like you athletes we are human too. Accept this but know that your coach really wants you to succeed and that’s not just on the track.
Cool looking Track Gear & Track Valley Support
Speaking of support - I was recently approached by Track Valley trackvalley.com Track Valley makes great looking street and track wear such as hoodies and T-shirts. They asked me to help promote them and I agreed - in doing so you’ll help support my coaching in real-time and on-line. My YouTube channel has just surpassed 9k subs and has had over 1 million views of 2min duration in just under 2 years! That’s reaching a lot of athletes and I hope that they are benefitting. Well, you are judging by the many comments I receive - so thanks for that! Track Valley also give 10% of profits to support grass roots track in the US through UST&F.
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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.
The more to dive into learning something academically or for fun as a hobby, the more you realise you don't know - or perhaps more importantly, the more you realise you need to know! And this has happened to me with the hang long jump technique
I have taught many long jumpers the hang but when I first began coaching I was less familiar with this mid-air action. Now I realise that - as with the hitch-kick - there are multiple versions of the technique, classic hang, hitch-kick and variations in accompanying arm actions. And it has its "issues".
The mature athletes you coach will ask questions as to the effectiveness of a technique or whether a certain arm action may be better than another one ... so, you need to find out. You'll also begin to see patterns and problems emerge with certain jumpers and their employment of "their" hang. Although the basic mechanics of the technique may be the same, each athlete may perform their hang slightly differently.
A couple of years back I made a video on the hang - you can click here to watch it, it's been successful on the YT channel with over 20k views. Over the intervening period I learnt more and began to realise that there were potential issues with, in particular the classic hang version (think Brittney Reese as a classic hang exemplar).
I had always favoured the hitch-hang and had limited classic hang coaching experience. It was only when coaching a classic hang jumper that I began to see some of the issues with the method and in particular limitations with holding the free leg after take-off and pressing the hips forward too soon at take-off. The later will create backwards rotation and a reduction in speed across the board. Coincidentally this is an issue which can occur with the hitch-hang. So, I decided to revisit the topic and produce a second video on the hang for my YouTube channel - you can see this below. In it I address some of the issues that I note in this post and also suggest why the hitch-hick may be a better option ... Of course there will be those that suit the hang (try getting Brittney Reese to change styles), and also 'power/strength' jumpers may also find this a suitable technique, but there are some argument why I believe the adding of a hitch, whether as a hitch-hang or potentially preferentially as a hitch-kick may be the preferred technical model. Again, without going into too much more detail - as I cover much in the video - I see the added benefits as: 1. creating a longer take-off drive, allowing the jumper to move forward and up from the board, thus maximising take-off velocity and angle and 2; providing better counter rotational movement. Simply put more is done in the air to combat rotation and the actions also "fill" the flight time with more movement - thus thwarting the backward rotation's efforts to pull the jumper to the sand too soon.
Take a look at the video to find out more and do let me know what you think about the hang and its variants.
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Recently the IAAF released its Consensus Statement on Nutrition for Athletes. There are 16 reports and they cover event group specific nutrition and also very focussed topics, such as travel nutrition, hydration and what supplements work. You can download all the reports by following this IAAF thread
As a coach I know how difficult athlete nutrition can be in terms of generating athlete understanding. There are those who are blissfully unaware of the consequence of good and bad eating... and then there are those who scrupulously 'eat clean'. And there are others who have a difficult relationship with food - these are the ones that may be more prone to RED-S (Relative Energy Deficit - Sports). The signs/symptoms of RED-S are disordered eating, loss of energy, reduction in bone mineral density (making stress fractures more of a likelihood), cessation of or irregular periods and loss of libido - males can and do suffer from RED-S. Body images issues too are potentially part of RED-S - and here males and females can look at their bodies through far from rose-tinted lenses. An athlete may have very low body fat and have a visible 6-pack ... this image and its subconscious manifestation can become more important than jumping far. You'll often see and hear athletes checking and talking about their abs - as if the 'reveal' is a badge of athletic honour. Having a 6-pack is not what makes a great athlete, being a great athlete is what makes a great athlete - speed, power, reactivity, technical refinement is crucial. Now, nutrition is not to be neglected and it is as central to performance as the aspects I've just mentioned - but it perhaps needs to be treated in the same way as physical training and this is what the IAAF I believe sets out to do with its reports and consensus statement. Visual manifestation in terms of body shape is what will optimally allow you to jump or throw is what matters, and that should be the focus, not how good you look in your crop top (another topic here: why does women's kit need to be so revealing?)
Returning to where I started... I have so far read through in detail the travel and eating abroad IAAF report and not unsurprisingly the Jumps, throws and multi-event one, and there are some highly illuminating and responsible details, points and considerations made. The reports are written by some of the top nutrition and sports performers world wide after all. I'm actually going to write a couple of articles for Athletics Weekly on these reports and their findings and kick-off with the Field events and multi-events ones in the May 16th issue. However, to whet your appetite and also direct you to the reports themselves here's a snippet:
Power to weight ratio is key to a jump athlete everything else being equal and the IAAF report does tackle this subject with a reasoned scientific approach...
Hyohydration is considered (the uncompensated loss of body water) and research is presented that indicates that it may actually be advantageous in that body mass is reduced resulting in an improved, albeit temporary, power to weight ratio. Note that many athletes are mildly dehydrated and that performance does not seem to be affected – hence the new advice for distance runners to drink to thirst rather than follow a prescribed drinking plan.
Following a low fibre diet in the lead-up to a competition could be worth exploring for similar reasons – although the report indicates that more specific research needs to be done. These diets do not affect energy levels and the report notes anecdotally that “… practitioners report typical weight losses of 0.5-1.5kg in elite athletes after following very low fibre diets over 48 hours.
The IAAF is to be commended on producing these reports on what can be a neglected area of athlete performance, particularly for us more everyday coaches. The guidelines, strategies and warnings make for informed reading and perhaps will enable us coaches (and athletes who read them) to become much better informed.
And returning to athlete body image ... nutrition is not about looking good but about performance and feeling energised and able to perform optimally through healthy (and sometimes not so healthy) eating ... put those 6-packs away!
This bright beautiful sunny Bank Holiday Monday, I was literally full of the joys of spring. I headed to the track with a bounce in my stride and a session planned in my head…
Then it all un ravelled … perhaps the athletes had too many Easter eggs, perhaps it was the sun and we all delirious! I had lined up low hurdles (wickets) as they are called in the US (wonder what they call cricket stumps then?). They were spaced around 9 steps apart and there was a strong following wind. They had ran across the hurdles spaced at 8 steps the previous week – but could anyone do it? Nope. I moved the hurdles in and it was still a failure. In the end maybe one of the six athletes got in a relatively smooth effort. Okay if you have males and females and different sprint speeds and only 10 hurdles, it can be difficult to achieve a one-size-fits-all distance but I usually manage it – even if for some of the group it becomes more of a cadence sessions.
Okay, I was feeling the heat metaphorically and in real terms, next up in my planned session was the use of a low step (approx. 15cm) for placement on the third step out from the board for both the long and triple jumpers – as a device to work on take-off. You’ll have seen this drill being used by squad members many times in the videos on the YouTube channel. But did this go to plan? Nope, nope, nope! Spatial awareness was not our friend on this Bank Holiday!
It took too many attempts for the guys to get the correct foot on the platform – one even tried to leap off the platform into the pit – luckily the platform was on the long jump run-up and was about 5m from the pit’s edge…
I was getting tired…
So, I suggested we do some short approach jumping to hopefully make the most of a bad job… should be okay, not too demanding on the group… well, it was, we had people asking what leg should they take-off with (OMG), forgetting penultimate step mechanics and pfaffing around trying to hit the board. Okay, it got better, but by then I was thinking of heading home to the garden, the deck-chair and a cool drink. Not everything goes to plan!
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The weather is starting to warm up and the competition season is just about to start. As I have mentioned in other posts for many of us coaches this year is a little of a conundrum with the Doha World Championships taking place much later on than world's normally do in October. Our (UK) trials are therefore scheduled for August when they normally take place late June/early July.
Now, you'd think that the domestic season would be adjusted to take this into account but, no the same meetings (a part from the trials) are taking place more or less at the same time, and some have actually moved forward a week or so ... so where's the sense in that?
Having said what I just have it will mean that some of the meetings that take place later in the normal season calendar will probably take on more importance now, such as the late July, England Champs. We need to ensure that the athletes in the group who have an eye on Doha maintain condition throughout the season just in case. This will mean some tweaked training planning and also some careful monitoring of mental energy expenditure created by competition.
Most athletes will only be able to perform well in a 'set' number of competitions before performance (or rather the mental driver of performance) begins to wane. I worked out as a senior athlete that I had about 13 competitions in me including indoor and outdoor ones, before I'd not 'expect' to jump better. This awareness comes with experience and careful competition planning.
Younger athletes normally have more energy and are able to compete more, and in fact in many respects they should use competition to become better athletes to gain in confidence and learn how to compete and how to win and lose. Oh, and it should also be fun - something that is often forgotten.
Lots of coaching and overseas visitors
Over the last few weeks I have had athletes and coaches come and train with the group and with me from Ireland and Singapore and as usual it has been great to share technical and training knowledge. I've also been running some Easter holiday programme sessions and they have been well attended. If you'd like to find out more about these courses and when the next ones are running then please sign-up to the newsletter feature on this website or send me a direct message - JohnShepherdFitness@gmail.com
Thanks & YouTube
It's been great to have such positive feedback on what I've been doing on YouTube! It seems that many jumpers (and other event group athletes and even athletes from other sports) from around the world are attributing their improved performances to the info on the channel. Well, I'm glad it has helped... the channel started very much as a way to fill a gap in what's on YouTube and is available athletics-wise and also as a development of my editorial background. It's quite humbling and enthusing to see how a video made in London can improve the performance of a jumper in Delhi, Cairo and Texas. New videos coming up will look at wicket work for improving run-up structure and run mechanics and also showcase a specific session I did with one of the visiting athletes I mention from Singapore.
The latests published video on the channel looks at the initial transition between the indoor and the outdoor season
Nelio Moura from Brazil is one of the world's top jumps coaches. He coached Irving Saladino and Mauren Maggi to Olympic gold medals at the 2008 Olympics. Wow! That's an achievement. (Checkout his instagram page https://www.instagram.com/neliomoura....) Nelio has written a book about jumps conditioning called Pliometrica - Jumping Further with Plyometric TRAINING: A Practical Guide. The book is in mainly Portuguese (there are English paragraphs) so get out your google translate (unless of course you can speak Portuguese!). The book is available through Amazon Brazil. I have a copy ... I was really interested in his work with 'assisted plyometrics' as you will see in the video. Nelio told me that the he has been researching these types of jumps for many years as a way to improve take-off power. This was the main reason why I got the book myself. Now, Nelio explained, contrary to what you might think that the assistance did not actually increase the speed of ground contact, but it did develop greater power for vertical velocity. Nelio explained: "The good thing with the assisted plyos is that even with these high forces, contact times does not increase." Since making the video on Ivana Spanovic (https://youtu.be/9B4R0ceP3lk) I became more intrigued with the vertical component of the take-off - Ivana has a higher vertical velocity than most other female jumpers (so does Juan Miguel Ecchevarria - but he has a more unique take-off action). Everything being equal the athlete with the greatest vertical velocity at take-off will be the one who jumps the furthest and who has the greatest landing velocity. So, I'm thinking and working through idas on how to boost the vertical component of take-off... I have began to tweak some of our plyometric drills accordingly - this could be very interesting. I will be interviewing Nelio for the main magazine that I write for in the UK Athletics Weekly and no doubt some of what I find out will also appear on this channel. Go check Nelio out - you will also find interviews with him on the Simply Faster podcasts if I recall correctly.
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.
I was recently posed a question on my YT channel about the value of concentric strength and young athletes. I think this is a topic that needs some detailed consideration, hence I have copied my response in full and the question below. I hope it puts into context the value of concentric strength and how it's important to develop it but not so at the expense of reactivity and speed.
Yes, you do need a concentric base and this needs developing as a young athlete, but it will not be the main ingredient in your ultimate jump or sprint success.
Here's the Question:
As you may know, most of your viewers are based in the States and have been exposed to lots of American Football and the training associated with it, where people would lift weights six times a week. Many track athletes, in fact, have a football background including Christian Coleman, Will Claye and Bryce Lamb (who was a product of our rival school!) However this type of training seems like it is off with your training philosophy where you advocate two weights sessions a week. I believe most of your videos are a result of your training with athletes who already have a strong concentric base, able to jump 3m in the standing long jump, so you put weight training as a lower priority as less returns can be made from that training. Through digging through papers and being exposed to other training philosophies, I have developed a theory that the amount of weight you can lift would determine your ceiling. For example, a person who can squat 100kg would benefit less from plyometrics and bounding, therefore have it really be unlikely to be a world class jumper than a person who could squat 200kg in a condition where the two would have similar plyometric experience. Correct me if I am wrong Since much of your viewers are young high school athletes, I want your opinion on how should teenagers ages 16-18 start to develop that concentric base you referred to in some of your videos. It seems that two sessions of weights a week is little for someone looking to develop strength as quick as possible. For example, I am 16 years old and have a 2.35 m standing long jump and can squat 95 kg. Should most of the work be done in the offseason and maybe ramp up the frequency of weight sessions? I really want to use all my three seasons left wisely. Thanks for all the support you give your viewers and with the content you produce as you may have realized by now that you are the only channel on youtube who puts such effort into making these quality LJ/TJ videos PS. When will that drop jump video come out you mentioned a while ago? Really excited for that
Here's my reply:
Many thanks for your comments and the thought you have yourself put into your training and some of the theory of training. Now, in your case with your SLJ, I would recommend that you have a bigger concentric (and other muscular action) strength base. So, squatting, lunges, deadlifts etc will develop that base. Loaded jump squats and also sled pulls will also be perhaps more dynamic ways to develop this increased concentric capability. It will take time for an athlete of your age to develop this foundation strength. And, yes, despite my (slight) downplaying of concentric weight training, it is still important. I try to make the point that there are (especially for the mature athlete and ones with a high level of concentric ability) better ways to develop 'jump power'... but you do need that base. If you want to add a third session why not make it a power combination (complex/contrast) one where you add in plyos and eccentric drops for example. Then you may also benefit from the potentiating effects of the combined training methods. One thing you need to take care over is training adaptation. I would ask the question - how can the body adapt and 'grow stronger' in response to 6 sessions of weights a week? There's the over-shoot' phenomenon and the volume of training would likely create conditions for training stagnation and also potential refiguring of muscle fibre in ways that you might not want i.e. type 2x fibres to type 2a... Now, you mention your SLJ, how's your top end speed and your reactivity. I'd rather have a young athlete come to me who's fast and reactive rather than concentrically strong... strength is relatively easier to develop compared to the other qualities. I'll even use myself as an example, although I wish I trained differently back in the day (as most of us ex athletes do!) I was not that great as SLJ, at your age I was of a similar ability and only managed 2.85m at my supposed best. Yet, I ran 21.8sec and jumped 7.89m and to this day I'm still reactive at drop jumps, for example. Yes, I probably needed more of a concentric base in my early career which may have pushed me onto faster times and longer distances but it shows how innate qualities of speed and reactivity are perhaps more important. I'd say that a squat in the range of 200kg when you are mature would be a good target. Most of my male jumpers could do that, if they had to. Even I can do 150kg and I don't really weight train that much now. A note of depth of squat, I'd keep it to the range needed for the LJ and TJ and sprints, there is research that indicates that deep squatting can stretch tendons which is many ways you don't want. Shorter Achilles tendons, for example, can produce more power that longer ones. Hope this helps and guides. Will also post on the main page, in case you miss this.
)Last weekend I sat enthralled by the quality of the action at the Euro Indoors in Glasgow. It was a shame that I was unable to attend to support Jahisha Thomas an athlete in my group, but based in the States, who had qualified for the long jump. There weren't enough accreditations available for all personal coaches to attend.
Jahisha acquitted herself well enough in her first major representative international meeting with a 6.34m jump. Unfortunately this was not enough for her to advance to the finals. However, at a young age valuable experience no doubt has been gained. Onwards and upwards er, further as they say.
Speaking of further Ivana Spanovic won her third Euro indoor title with 6.99m. This was an incredible achievement as at the equivalent outdoor meeting in Berlin last summer she ruptured her Achilles tendon... so to come back from that and perform so creditably was incredible.
If you have been following my youtube channel you'll know that I have posted a couple of videos on Ivana's jumping style in an attempt to see what we can learn from the Serbian's technique and the way she sets up the jump. She is actually a little atypical with her lean back take-off and incomplete hitch-kick action. You'l find the videos on Ivana below.
We now begin a process of building up for the outdoor season - it's going to be tricky with the World Champs so late in the year in October, with the trials in August, and with some group members having an eye on that and others on other targets, such as the British Universities and Colleges championships at the start of May, It's going to take some creative and divergent planning to achieve this. I'll do my best to let you know what we do (when I work out what to do!).