Coaching, jumps, sprints & more
Everything about jumping and sprinting and how to improve your performance
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!).
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This weekend Europe's best athletes will descend on Glasgow for the Euro Indoors. An athlete in my squad will be competing Jahisha Thomas in the long jump.
Regular readers of this blog will know that Jash is based in the States for most of the year in Iowa. She has a coach there. With the athlete back in the UK I have been watching sessions and competitions... the British Champs and the recent Birmingham Grand Prix, it's therefore a shame that I won't be able to go and watch her in Glasgow. There are not enough coaches' passes for all individual coaches to gain accreditation. I've had similar experiences at the World Juniors where passes have been in short supply, but where I was able to borrow one in order to watch my athlete compete. It's odd as despite the gravity of a world juniors there are very few actual spectators, so you'd think access would be easier. Obviously with Glasgow being a major continental champs, places for coaches and spectating are going to be much more limited, hence, I guess why few UK individual coaches will be supported/able to watch and help their athletes. National coaches will be on duty as eyes.
Those of you reading this from around the world may be surprised that at this level coaches still need to fund themselves to support their athletes - it's cost me and likewise many other UK coaches thousands of pounds travelling around Europe and the UK to help athletes (that's potentially why track & field is largely a collegiate sport only in the States). Unless you have an athlete on funding and/or who has sponsorship then the coach has to be largely self-funding. Okay, many more of us are beginning to charge small amounts for our regular coaching and I'm also lucky enough to be doing more 'private' coaching work, but in reality, it's not enough for me to cover all my coaching costs and thus I have to work another job which I luckily enjoy as a writer..
So, I'll be watching Jahisha on TV this Friday at 10am when the qualifying round unfolds and then, all being well, the final 6pm on Sunday, It should be a great championships!
Here's my latest COMMUNITY section post from my YouTube Channel. It's worth subscribing so you also get access to this extra content. The video showcases some of the plyometrics we do and also some of Sarah's dancing!
Last weekend (17th Feb) I was fortunate to coach Jahisha Thomas in the long jump at the the IAAF Grand Prix. It was my first experience of coaching at such a type of meeting. The atmosphere was electric and there were some great performances.
Of course I was interested in the jumps and sprint action and the long jump enabled me to study close up Ivana Spanovic and Cuban sensation (and the man many are now betting on breaking the world record) Juan Miguel Echivarria. Spanovic jumped 6.72m to win and pulled out of her last jump, hopefully to save energy rather than trouble any injury as she gears up for the Euro indoors. Echevarria had problems finding the board in the right position, he was reaching into it quite significantly and not therefore maximising his flight. Nevertheless, he finished with a leap of 8.21m.
I pulled together a short VLOG on my experiences for the YouTube channel and you will find the link below. In time I hope to more closely look at the techniques of Spanovic and Echevarria in order to see whether there is a relevance/transferability from what they do to the jumpers in my group and of course all you other jumpers and jumps coaches. One thing I did see was that their take-off legs were very straight (very straight).
Jahisha jumped 6.36m and had a few take-off issues herself, but she has nearly two weeks before the Europeans indoors which will be a great experience for her (and me if I am able to go). It will be her senior GB debut.
As a coach, the major meetings of the domestic calendar are the ones that matter – that’s for a group who are at a level where podium places at these events and potential selection for major championships are not too far out of reach.
Last weekend five of the group were in action at the Birmingham Indoor Championships – which were trials for the European Indoor Championships, being held in Glasgow in early March.
The two-day meeting started with Jonathan (Ilori) in the triple jump. The standard for Glasgow was 16.50m and Jonathan had a best from last year of 16.28m. He’d had a couple of outings this year and had managed 15.74m, without really hitting the big jump - timing as in all technical events, comes with competition. Looking great in warm-up, his first competitive jump resulted in him stuttering onto the board, rushing his phases and not getting the range needed – still it was 15.64m and promising given all that. Unfortunately, Jonathan experienced run-up issues – not of the same magnitude throughout the comp – but enough to put him off from obtaining the optimum take-off position (crucial for all the jumps). In the last round he managed to get closer to what was required but still didn’t as I say “connect”. Nevertheless, he went out to 15.97m and went into third place, behind Nathan Douglas (16.27m) and Nathan Fox (16.12m). Next to jump was Michael Puplampu and Jonathan’s effort must have kick-started his adrenaline as hitting the board perfectly Michael leapt 16.28m to not only surpass Jonathan but move into first place.
An hour and a half later Alison (Wilder) was up in the women’s triple jump. Alison suffered some technical issues too but managed a season’s best of 12.32m for seventh overall. The competition was won by Naomi Ogbeta who leapt a stunning 14.05m for a British under 23 record. And Naomi looks like she’s got more in the tank.
On Sunday, it was the turn of the long jumpers. Paul (Ogun) began well opening with 7.27m and was unlucky on a couple of jumps to trail into the landing losing around 15cm with jumps in the twenties… as you’ll know if you have been following the YT videos Paul is changing to a hitch-kick and tweaking his running action. Competitions are where athletes default to previous settings and this was partly the case with Paul. Nevertheless, he was running really well and managed to jump 7.37m which was a season’s best and good enough for sixth (this Wednesday he has a comp in Ireland …). Feron Sayers took the win with 7.72m, and having achieved the 7.95m qualification standard for the Euro Indoors last year, will be heading to Glasgow.
Last on the card for me was the women’s long jump with regular group member Sara (Abrahams) and temporary member Jahisha (Thomas) competing (I coached her before she went to the States and am her UK coach). In many ways this was the event many were waiting for as it featured Katrina Johnson-Thompson and Jazmin Sawyers. I also had a sneaky feeling that our girls could be among the challengers. And so it turned out. Sarah managed 6.21m and came in fifth (it was her second longest jump ever). Coaches are never really happy and nor was Sarah as we knew she could have jumped further … that’ll happen on another day. I will say I was happy with Jahisha. She had the Euro qualification distance from a jump in the US in Jan – bang on with 6.50m (although she had an outdoor mark of 6.69m).
I’ll say coaching this comp was not easy as I had not seen Jahisha jump in a comp for a while and I had to re-see and re-instruct … also as she has an American coach (she’s based much of the time in Iowa where she went to university) watching what I said was also important. Different coaches can say the same thing differently. Luckily “we” worked it out and in a tight competition Jahisha jumped 6.36m to finish second behind KJT (6.46m) and just 1cm in front of third placer Abigale Irozuru! There were some of timing issues again, similar to Jonathan, with Jahisha not getting onto the take-off properly and going “up”, rather than out. But second place is second place and she’s on the plane to Glasgow for her first major GB championships.
So, it was a satisfying day for “Team Sheps” and we look forward to more days, better days in fact in the future.
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