Plyometrics or Jumping?

12 Apr

Introduction 

The following article will briefly discuss the history of plyometrics, outline the specific differences between what is considered true/ fast plyometrics and what is considered to be slow plyometrics/ jumping, how to prepare and programme plyometrics or jumps into a training programme and what desirable effects they have on the athlete performing them.  

Where possible I will reference studies or the experience that has been passed onto me.

Firstly I would like to address that not every athlete needs to specifically do intensive plyometrics as a method of training. It is widely reported that Clyde Hart had never prescribed plyometrics to Michael Johnson, though he still held and broke multiple WR’s. 

This is likely because the quality, intensity and contact volume in his training was sufficient for him to be incredibly reactive on ground contact.  

However, if you could improve your ground contact time, as many athletes could, it is likely you will run more with more efficiency and faster.

Finally, due to my limited memory, attention span and time, I cannot go into every method with extensive detail, but I will do my best to cover everything an athlete or coach may wish to know if they are considering the addition of jump and plyometrics to their training programme.


Brief History of Plyometrics

It’s orgin stems from the great USSR biomechanists & sports trainer Yuri Verkhoshansky, he worked with the Soviet national sports teams for the Olympic Games and is credited with developing the training methods to stimulate the stretch-shortening concept of muscular contractions. 

In 1975, USA Olympic long-distance runner Fred Wilt observed the Soviet Union perform jumps in their warm-ups prior to their events. 

To describe them, Wilt coined the phrase ‘plyometric’ and after consulting with performance coach & researcher Dr. Michael Yessis, Wilt discovered that the jumps were based on research being pursued by Verkhoshansky, called his ‘Shock Method’ of training, which I will discuss further on.

If you’re interested in learning more about Verkhoshanky’s work, the following link, covers pretty much everything in far greater detail than this article.

http://www.verkhoshansky.com/Portals/0/Presentations/Shock%20Method%20Plyometrics.pdf

 

The Stretch Shortening Cycle (SCC)

There are three phases to a plyometric movement, for this case we will be looking at jumping. 

  1. The descent, or eccentric phase
  2. The amortisation phase/ phase where the change of direction occurs and 
  3. The concentric phase, which leads to the take off. 

The faster the athletes, the faster they can push and change direction from the first phase and the quicker the second and third phases are.

 

The stretch shortening cycle (SSC) is a trainable, dynamic reflex that loads the tendons and fast twitch muscle tissues that produces a rapid eccentric contraction (the stretch, where elastic energy is stored) before the muscles/tendons stop the lengthening and changes direction to a concentric action.
The shorter this phase, the more powerful the muscular contraction will be as a result.

This is what creates the appearance of stiffness through the movement. 

The greater the athlete descends, the greater the overall GCT and the more range of motion the athletes muscles go through, which allows them to create a more muscle driven jump.
This is why athletes who are incredibly strong will often jump their highest by going deeper on a vertical jump and why high jumpers produce their best jumps through a shorter range of motion, as they are more elastic and respond very well to loading their tendons.

 

Myogenic and Neurogenic Adaptations 

Generally speaking, the majority of plyometric exercises/ jumps work by developing the tissues, muscles, tendons and fascia surrounding the lower limb and foot complex. 

The achilles and foot act very similar to a spring and as the athlete continues to develop their plyometric ability, two very important adaptations take place.
However, these adaptations do take time and plyometrics should always be performed when the athlete is relatively fresh and has the ability to react off the ground.

Myogenic adaptations occur within the structure of the soft tissue as their elastic potential energy increases through improved tissue density.

This will allow athletes to store and recoil energy more effectively and why having a powerful, thick achilles tendon is desirable for running.

Neurogenic adaptations take place through repetition of movement and as the athlete’s efficiency improves, as does the rate of firing the motor units required to perform the SSC.

To reap the greatest benefits from these two adaptations it is important to progress with a variety of exercises to learn the rhythm and timing whilst balancing intensive and extensive plyometrics for the best results.

 

The Differences Between Fast/ True Plyometrics & Slow Plyometrics/ Jumping

During 2013-14 I had the good fortune of learning the majority of what I know, practically about plyometrics from an Ex Commonwealth games High Jumper, Rob Mitchell who had a High Jump PB of 2.25.

He taught me the basics to bounding, jumping and hopping, on the flat and my personal favourites, on a hill, both up and down and to this day I still programme these exercises to my athletes.

Unfortunately I was a bit late to the party and only really learnt plyometrics properly during my final year of athletics and wasn’t able to capitalise on what I had learnt.

Much of the work I learnt from Rob were, true plyometrics, or fast plyometrics. 

Prior to his training sessions I had only done slow plyometrics, or what I would consider now to be, just, jumps. Your typical box jumps or vertical jumps.

Which only really assists the concentric phase, or take off during the jump and that’s only ⅓ of the movement and the preceding actions lead to the take off, so as you can imagine my timing was awful.


I was able to jump fairly high but my ability to react off the floor was pretty poor, meaning I wasn’t very reactive. 


To improve reactivity, it’s important to be performing and progressing in the fast plyometric exercises, which I hadn’t been doing.

True plyometrics, or ‘fast’ plyometrics occur with ground contact times of 0.250m/secs or faster.

This means for a beginner with limited reactivity will have to limit their falling height as the higher a beginner falls the greater their contact time will be.

What I had been doing was slow plyometrics or standard jumps and these take place above 0.250m/secs and thus their ability to transfer to shorter GCT, such as sprinting which takes places around 0.8-9m/sec are less successful.
I wasn’t teaching myself to react off the floor, or to push fast enough through my jumping as I prior to the help from Rob, I was learning slow plyometrics.

 

As coaches/ athletes how do we measure these GCT’s?

Before force/timing plates came into existence coaches would clap to to monitor their GCT, the athlete would have to land, react and take off all in the time taken for the clap to complete.

This can also help the athlete keep to a rhythm which is half the battle with extended plyometrics for beginners. 

If you’re interested in readings for GCT’s over various activities see table 1 below. 

Note: Counter movement jump is a standard vertical jump, where the athlete loads the jump with their arms from the descent. 


Progressive Plyometric Development

As for developing a programme, this is very much down to the coach and individual. If you’re interested in creating your own plyometric programme, the brilliant team at Strength of Science have compiled a really useful infographic you can use, or if you would like any more information on how to structure jumping and plyometrics in your training, feel free to contact me.

Practical Application of a Plyometric Progression Plan

I would also like to note, from further research listening to some of the best jumps coaches in the world, my view on practicing landings and ‘force absorption’ has changed and I no longer see value in practicing landings to stick landings, the landing technique should be a natural reaction to applying force on contact and having an equal and opposite reaction and not by absorbing force.

 

Common mistakes and misunderstandings within Jumping/ Plyometric

Before I finish, I feel as though passing on some of my previous mistakes will help others learn faster.

It’s always important to know why and how to perform and exercise in order to reap the best results, context here, as always is everything, but I want to address three mistakes I was guilty of early on and three of the most common mistakes I see on social media.

  1. The box jump, stacking boxes higher and higher not only favours a taller athlete, but also favours those with greater hip and ankle mobility and their likely to have a better box jump in relation to their vertical jump test. 

This doesn’t mean to say that an athlete doing a really high box jump, cannot jump high, it’s likely they’re still a good jumper but mobility really helps for the landing and the most transferable athletic element of the jump is the distance travelled by the hips, not the feet. 
You are much better off using a smaller box and trying to land as high as possible on that box for the greatest hip displacement.

  1. The depth jump, again going too high and trying to react off the floor will result in less reactive contacts and a greater contact time, it is much better to progress slowly for these and aiming to react as quickly as a clap. 
  1. Treating the movement mechanically. Though there is obviously a technical element to plyometrics, setting up the jump efficiently through take off requires rhythm and the quicker an athlete learns the rhythm the faster their progression will be.

Plyometrics should be fast and dynamic and being too static and mechanical will remove the element of fluidity and affect timing.

 

Plyometrics for Distance Runners

For a period when I was helping a distance runner with their gym work I programmed in plyometrics, which is a tough sell for endurance athletes because it’s commonly assumed to be useful for sprinters and jumpers.
However one study (Paavolainen et al., 1999) on well trained endurance athletes found that replacing just one-third of their normal running with plyometrics improved their 5k race times. The 18 runners in the study underwent the same total training volume over a nine week period but 10 of them had 32% of the running replaced with plyometric training. Following the nine weeks, the 5K time of these 10 runners improved whereas no changes were observed in the other 8.

 

The Foot and Ankle Structure

Just briefly before I finish, I wanted to cover one of the more important elements for transferring force through the lower body to the floor.
The foot, toes and ankles are easily forgotten about when developing athletes but the reality is, if an athlete can get stronger toes, feet and ankles, their ability to react and transfer force into the floor will improve. 

Strong feet have strong arches and strong toes.

But it is important to understand that this does not mean an athlete with flat feet has weak arches, they can have incredibly strong feet but genetically have a low arch height.
The strength of the arch comes from the development of the muscles and tendons surrounding the toes and ankle and each foot has more than 100 muscles.

Strengthening the foot and ankle complex should also be done through reflexive/stabilising exercises. 

Stabilising exercises help the intrinsic, smaller muscles support the arches and ankles to create balance and the more stable a joint is the greater the efficiency of transferring force due to less energy leakage and the less likely an injury will occur due to compensation, especially through fatigue.


Exercise to strengthen the feet and toes 

– Walking barefoot and being conscious of the big toe and the glute (hip) working together.

– Performing barefoot calf raises, either slowly, or with a hold at various heights and ensuring to push though the big toe and pulling the smaller toes up.

– Barefoot low intensity bounces on the toes

– Toe curling/ gripping exercises 

– Single leg balancing exercises to failure

If you’re interested in learning more about developing the feet, toes and arches, I highly recommend learning more from Chong Xie at https://www.secret-of-athleticism.com/
I’ve been using his exercises now for several months and my feet and contacts feel as reactive as when I used to jump four days a week, where I was weighing 15kg less.

Summary 

If an athlete has slower than desirable GCT and they regularly work on developing the strength of their toes, feet and ankle stability, alongside regular, progressive and varied plyometric exercises with sufficient recovery and rest, they will develop greater reactivity off the floor and produce larger forces through faster GCTs, leading to higher jump heights and faster sprinting speeds.

If you feel more fatigued from doing the plyometrics than when you started, it’s likely that you have done too many contacts.

The SSC is the most specific transferrable element to athleticism, there are multiple ways to train the SSC, whether it’s through running or weight training, athletes can still progress and develop without one and nothing is more specific or transferrable than the event itself.

I believe every coach should be addressing the SSC outside of running/ sprinting and most research now suggests complimenting plyometrics with strength training, either through French Contrast Training or similar methods working through the Force Velocity Curve with Velocity Based Training.

If you have any questions on training and performance, feel free to email me on connell.coach@gmail.com

Connell Macquisten

Performance Advisor

Statement RE: Membership subs and the COVID-19 closure

07 Apr

[To all club members]

The Club’s Management Committee is very aware that only a few months after our membership renewal date COVID-19 unfortunately required us to shut all training facilities, training sessions and competitions, none of us knows how soon these restrictions may be lifted.   It is one of the roles of the committee to ensure that the club remains healthy financially and this year will have a significant impact on our finances, it is also our duty to do what is in the best interests of all members and we recognise that the current situation and any future effects are very worrying for some members.
To keep you informed on how we are working to manage the financial situation, here is a summary of how things stand at the moment and what we are doing:
  1. EA registration for 2020-2021 has been paid for all competing members.
  2. We are in discussion with our landlord at Whitehall over our rent and electricity bills during the lockdown period.
  3. Competition and transport costs for the summer season are significantly reduced due to the cancellation of most events.
  4. We are actively investigating some form of financial compensation to all members due to the lack of facilities, etc.  It is likely this will take the form of a reduction in renewal fee for 2021 for members who renewed by 31-MAR-2020, the amount of which will depend on the length of closure and our ability to minimise costs during this time.
  5. The club employs a small number of individuals, we are working with them to ensure we do the right thing for them and the club during this period.
The 2020 AGM will be convened as soon as possible after the lockdown when all members should be able to attend, proposals including some for item 4 above will be presented for your consideration at that meeting.  Details will be circulated in advance of the meeting.
Best wishes,
Owain Jones,
Club Secretary, Bristol and West AC.

Strength & Conditioning part 4 – What is strong enough?

06 Apr

Introduction

The following blog post will outline key performance indicators (KPI’s) in both Senior athletes and Junior/ Youth athletes.
Where possible I will reference sources and provide evidence on claims.

Strength, in many sports, is the foundation for athletic development. Whether it be general, for injury prevention, or specific for athletic performance, any good training programme should address the athletes weaknesses and develop their strengths.

On my previous blog post, I referenced what it takes to be strong enough in order to develop towards more specific methods of training for explosive, power/ speed events.
The demands of velocity based training require a sufficient level of strength to minimise injury risk and maximise the improvements available to the athlete.

An athlete new to strength and conditioning, who is relatively weak, would benefit greatly from basic high volume, low intensity training, eg. 1×20 on each compound movement as a method of general physical preparation (GPP) the volume teaches the athlete the movement pattern through repetition and develops the muscle tissue to become resilient to load.
Muscles don’t understand repetition, but rather fatigue and the methods for fatiguing our muscles should vary depending on the time of year and the training age of the athlete.
Following a GPP phase, basic improvements will be made week by week, the strength improvements made within the first few months of training are by far the most significant one can expect to experience.

A good specific physical preparation (SPP) is tailored more to the qualities of their event/ sport and dictated by the athletes ability. This phase is typically more intense and the more advanced the athlete, the more advanced the training should be.
If they have good movement patterns, their repetition need not be so high and their intensity can be greater.
It’s important to note that these phases will generally last longer and the more experienced the athlete, the more variation of the Force Velocity curve can be use in order to reap greater rewards and not stagnate.

Before working towards higher velocities in the weights room, there are KPI’s in which good Strength & Conditioning coaches look to work towards, this is to minimise any injuries from weak muscles and movement patterns and to maximise the benefits and drawing on the most basic elements of strength training first for the quickest improvements possible.

If an athlete is weak, they’re more likely to get injured and they’re also not able to produce large amounts of force, therefore when they try to produce large amounts of force at speed, they also won’t be able to.

KPI’s for Strength Training
The following KPI’s are commonly used for strength coaches to assess athlete development and are relative to body weight. The charts I have used are from Elon University over in the United States. Addressing Pull Up/ Bench, Barbell Split Squat and Hex Bar Deadlift.
Once their athletes have achieved sufficient levels in each exercise they can progress to more advanced methods of training. Body weight included in Pull up. 

(Women’s first 3, Men’s last 3).
How do you or your athletes compare to Elon Universities KPI’s?

Elon Performance is a great account to follow if you have Instagram and if you’re looking to follow similar accounts to broaden your knowledge on coaching drop me a DM, I’ve found some great coaches and institutions over the past 5 years. Instagram is a really useful tool for coaches across the world.

As for how I structure KPIs for my athletes, I follow a similar principle on strength training, measuring KPIs within their gym programme and having standards and I also collect data on 9 overall key performance indicators of which have their own standards which we test and record over each training block.

This not only helps me structure a better programme for my athletes but gives them a clear visual understanding of where they are and what they need to work on outside their event to directly impact their performances.
Below is a graph the current graph on my fastest athlete who ran 10.5 as a U20 last year.
No doubt after the lock down period ends I will have to reassess and lower his score.

Eg. Explosive power I address multiple jumps and hops for height and distance as an indicator for explosive power and take the mean value to determine their overall score, this correlates better to the 100m sprint but is directly influenced by maximal strength.
Here is blog post to support jumps as a KPI in elite sprinters.
https://www.naseinc.com/blog/key-performance-indicators-in-elite-sprinters/

Speed data and acceleration data are taken from tables off the internet from athletes performances relevant to their PB’s. Standing 30m sprint, flying 30m sprint, the basics. 

Specific Mobility is one of the more questionable ones to measure, all of our stretches for improvements in range of motion are done so during the gym programme, as stretching under load creates greater improvements in flexibility and balance, which is the most important measure in my opinion, a perfect score would meet balance on both the left and right hand side of the body and pass the tests for mobility in the gym.
If you’re looking to improve on your flexibility and mobility and have reached a plateau, try 6 weeks of stretching with some light to moderate dumbbells.

When I was studying at University and training full time to be an athlete I was obsessed about developing a system that would highlight key areas of athleticism and it has taken me years to refine this process in my own training.
Before I finish writing a programme for my athletes I always think to myself, is this the best possible programme I can write with all the information available to me, which is why it is essential for collect data and information on each athlete or the coach is doing a disservice to them as I know how important it was for me to have the best possible training for me to improve.

I prefer to avoid testing 1RM and have the athletes perform 3 rep maxes to avoid any unnecessary injuries and it’s less taxing on their body. Generally I would add 5-10% depending on the exercise, a technically difficult exercise like the power clean would be 5% where as a back squat would be 10%. 

Performing 1RM on exercises such as the Power Clean are widely regarded as safe, assuming the athlete has a level of competency.

Not everyone needs to learn the Olympic lifts, a variety of weighted jumps would produce the same peak force output without the learning time.
Some elite athletes never Power Clean’ed in their life, but for those who are interested you may enjoy the next paragraph.

Elite Athletes KPI’s
By far one of my favourite websites/forums back when I was at University was EliteTrack.com athletes and coaches from across the world would share their data, experiences and perspectives and I remember this post vividly as athletes shared what they or their training partners could lift,(back squat and power clean).
As I was studying in Bath and had close links to Jason Gardener and Colin Jackson, I can confirm these numbers are true.
https://elitetrack.com/forums/topic/elite-athletes-powerclean/

Colin Jackson 12.91 74 142.5 1.93

Jason Gardener 9.98 74 140 1.89
PBs, Body weights, Power Clean PB and Ratio to body weight.

Incredible and superhuman statistics, which is why they were such exceptional athletes, They would reportedly lift twice a week for the majority of the year and achieve world class lifting numbers, their genetics/ ability to produce large amounts of force at speed are what made them so fast. 


The highest ratio is from
Jonathan Edwards 72 150 2.08

Who still holds the WR to this day. Over twice his body weight in a power clean. This requires exceptional strength to produce exceptional power.
I don’t believe enough coaches and athletes realise the importance of being able to produce incredible amounts of force.

https://elitetrack.com/forums/topic/elite-athletes-powerclean/

 

Junior athletes KPIs 

As you can imagine, studies done on junior is a lot harder to pass through ethics boards and a lot of research on junior athletes and strength training are anecdotal, which doesn’t satisfy some people. However a lot of benefits from the studies on adult athletes can still be applied from adult strength measures to juniors. 

This is coming from someone who has lived with and worked directly with the athlete on the front cover of Strength and Conditioning for Young Athletes.

Being strong, relative to body weight as a junior athlete is an incredible advantage and should be addressed, measured and trained if the athlete wishes to pursue elite sport.

I find it very common amongst coaches to hit the jackpot with a good junior athlete, which they believe will be the next big thing but the reality is they have no idea how to get them there and the odds are they’ll get injured. 

It is also address that junior athletes develop at different ages and some can elicit greater physical attributes at the same age, where one could do 10 pull ups, and a much higher vertical jump, their overall athleticism is much greater and so is there chances of success at that age, managing these differences could be essential for keeping junior athletes in the sport.
This is why I am a big advocate of junior athletes performing circuit based sessions as they don’t have the time to ask the others how many reps etc. they did, or doing what I did, as there were no Strength and Conditioning coaches back when I started lifting, perform the exercises at home.

Junior KPI Strength Suggestions

Below are my suggestions for developing Junior KPI’s and methods on which to go about training them. These are easy to perform exercises with minimal equipment that can be done at home and are very safe.

  1. Press Ups 
  2. Pull Ups

Both of which performed to failure with their scores recorded.
If pull ups are not possible, a variation of rows and hanging from the bar for as long as possible.

  1. Isometric Split Squat Hold
  2.  Isometric Single Leg Hold
  3. Straight Arm Plank Hold
    All of which performed to failure with their scores recorded.
  4. Vertical Jumps
  5. 3x Horizontal Jump 

6 attempts in total, 3 on each side for vertical jump and 4 attempts in total for the horizontal jumps.

Methods of training for juniors
As these exercises are general, developing specific training measures to improve these performance is sensible, eg. doing more of the exercise to get better at the exercise.

I would recommend performing 3-4 sets of each exercise in a circuit method for either 80% 100% of the repetitions, duration and distance, over the course of 8-12 weeks for a minimum of 2 sessions a week, up to 4 sessions a week.
The more regular the sessions, the less number of sets need to be performed.
Eg. 2 x per week, 4 sets each every session, 4 x per week, 2 sets each every session.

I would also like to state again that I pro  against children lifting weights, if done correctly. If you’re interested in learning more about this topic ,I highly recommend this post from APA.
http://athleticperformanceacademy.co.uk/2020/04/is-lifting-weights-safe-for-children/

 

Conclusion

What I hoped to have achieved from this blog post is for the reader to have a greater understanding of what is strong for explosive, power and speed based events.
What KPI’s can be used to measure an athlete’s level of strength before moving to more advanced training methods and why it is important to keep track of data for development, the more data you collect as a coach, the more informed you are on the athlete and where they can improve.

Elite athletes, in one way or another are incredibly strong, some of you may be thinking well what can Usain Bolt squat or power clean?
Not many people know, they can speculate but from what I understand from when I’ve spoken to members of the Jamaican track team, Glen Mills focuses more on leg press for strength and volume within their gym programme and this can also work really well.
Other Jamaican’s like Asafa Powell has reportedly power cleaned 160kg, here he is with 140kg

View this post on Instagram

#powerclean310pounds

A post shared by Asafa Powell (@asafasub10king) on


Why don’t we train like Usain Bolt? Leg presses are expensive and awkward to load, but you could, finding KPI’s on these are more difficult.

 

As for junior athletes, if you’re a parent or a coach of a junior athlete and you’re struggling for ideas to keep them focused and training through this lockdown period, hopefully this blog and the links I’ve posted have given you a few ideas on what they could do and why it is important to start them young to give them the best chance and headstart over their competition.


Thank you for your time reading this and if you have any questions or requests on blogs, please feel free to send me a DM.
The next video I will post will be on a home core/trunk circuit that everyone can do from beginners to intermediate to elite.
All the best,
Connell 

COVID-19 update on Youth Development League

04 Apr

See below for an update from the Chair of the Youth Development League (YDL), Grace Hall. Team managers and athletes have been informed.

“In the light of the continuing uncertainty around the Coronavirus situation the YDL
management committee held a Skype meeting on 29 March to look at all the possibilities for
the 2020 season and have decided regretfully that all matches scheduled for the 2020 season
will be cancelled forthwith.

There were a number of factors influencing our decision, namely:

  • Whilst government guidelines have forbidden mass gatherings until the end of May, it’s by
    no means certain that this won’t be extended, indeed if one were to use other countries as
    a model, it’s more than likely that this will continue for at least a further month if not
    longer.
  • We have been made aware that first aid support from St John’s Ambulance at meetings is
    likely to be withheld until at least the end of June.
  • We are aware that a number of tracks intend to extend their closure until June or July at
    least.
  • We felt that it would be helpful to clubs if we were to make a definitive decision so that
    they have as much notice as possible to cancel tracks or transport arrangements to avoid
    possible charges.
  • With the limited number of weekends likely to be available for competitions, there would
    be undue pressure on those dates, and clubs and athletes may be more willing and able to
    compete at a more local level than having to travel some distance to compete. This being
    the case we have requested that any dates previously allocated for YDL, be reserved for
    clubs who wish to organise local and open competitions.
  • We wish to support the Home Countries in their endeavours to try and salvage what
    remains of the 2020 season, and hope that our decision gives a little clarity to a confusing
    situation.
  • We also considered the duty of care owed to our officials, some of whom may have to
    undertake a 12-week isolation period, which takes us well into June.

There are continuing costs involved in keeping the league working towards next year, and we
can assure clubs that individual match team fees collected for 2019-20 will be automatically
credited towards meeting the match costs of the 2020-21 season.

This decision was based on advice being communicated at the Government daily briefings
where restrictions may be turned on and off and has not been made lightly; we would like to
ask our clubs for their forbearance and thank you all for your support. It’s not a situation of our
choosing but we hope that being pro-active will help clubs with any forward planning and help
cut down any additional costs being incurred.

We also ask our clubs to please pass on our sincere apologies to all those athletes for whom
this season would be their last opportunity to compete in YDL. We are aiming to keep a
watching brief of performances of all the athletes who would have hoped to compete in the
league this year and wish them all the best in their future athletics career.
Good luck and the very best wishes to you all.”

 

Strength & Conditioning for Performance pt 3. Velocity Based Training

02 Apr


Introduction

Velocity based training or VBT is a product of measuring bar speeds at percentages of maximal loads.
From the previous post outlining the force velocity curve and as obvious as it seems, the heavier the load the longer the time taken to complete that movement.

Traditional strength training definitely has its place amongst many young athletes and to those with a young training age to resistance training, however there becomes a point in which an athlete can theoretically be strong enough (which I will discuss more in a future post) and they should be focusing on generating forces at faster speeds.

Many inexperienced S&C coaches and the majority Personal Trainers that work with athletes in sport get distracted by trying to get the athlete stronger and stronger and for the first couple years it can work really well.
Eventually this method stagnates and can even cause the athlete to go backwards from undesirable gains in muscle tissue and their relative power/ weight ratio decreases etc.


So once the athlete has a decent base level of strength for the compound lifts.
It’s important to then spend time developing force at speeds, creating a more transferable link from the gym, to the track or field.

How to measure VBT

Firstly, I would only prescribe VBT to athletes with a decent level of experience in the weights room, can display a level of competency across a variety of lifts and have reached sufficient strength but still lack the ability to apply large amounts of force at fast speeds (which is the ongoing battle).

There are three ways in which we can measure VBT, through quantitative data, with the help from tools like GymAware, which I’ve had the pleasure of using with an elite sprints group in the past, however if you don’t have almost £2000 to set this kit up.
The next best thing is to calculate which loads you or your athlete should be working at and either as a coach, use the bar speed/change of direction as a method of indication, or as the athlete, measure through feel.
I appreciate the last two will not be as accurate, but provided you calculate the correct loads you’ll be closer than you think.

What loads should I be working at?

Assuming we would be working with low rep ranges, which is ideal, as velocity decreases as the duration of exercise increases, I typically programme between 3-5 reps for one lift on VBT.

All of these %’s are based on the athletes 1 rep max. To also note, I am never in favour of testing 1 rep maxes, a coach at our club was concerned about health and safety about the recent training advice that I’ve been sharing and I just want to clarify this message. The safest way to calculate a 1 rep max is to use a calculator online or ask me in the messages below. I’ve been totally and calculating 1RM for 15 years, I’m sure I can estimate yours so you need not risk death under a barbell.

Between 90-100% of your 1RM  is regarded as Maximal Strength, training in these ranges will get you strong. 80-90% is regarded as Strength – Speed, 30-80% is regarded as Power and 30-60% as Speed -Strength and below 30% is Speed.

 

https://www.stack.com/a/heavier-isnt-always-better-how-the-force-velocity-curve-impacts-your-training

 How to programme VBT? 

There are many ways to programme VBT into your training programme, some athletes and coaches like training this all year round, as I do, and other coaches leave it to the last minute before the season starts.
The most successful way in my experience follows Triphasic principle, where block stimulates each stage and cycles it throughout the year so progression across the board is linear.t.
I can explain Triphasic Training in a later blog post, if you’re interested in the meantime, Cal Dietz is the guy to learn from. http://triphasictraining.com/

Up until recently, I’ve been delivering the cue to my athletes to ‘Stimulate, not annihilate’ and thanks to this recent study posted from Strength & Conditioning Research, this quote has substance and supports the speed strength, strength speed guidance.

During the strength trained subjects, the group that displayed a greater loss in velocity during their squats a 50% 1RM, the greater their gains in strength but they also happened to be slower over 20m.
Suggesting that staying fresher, between sets, by stopping the set earlier when bar speed begins to slow, the greater the likelihood of transfer to better performances in sprinting.

My more experienced athletes will cycle 3-4 phases (depending on the time of year) following the TT protocol of Eccentric blocks, Isometric blocks and Concentric blocks, whilst utilising the French Contrast Principles amongst their main lifts.
This variety exposes them to regular high intensity force production throughout the speed-strength continuum.

 

Summary and background
VBT is not for beginners and I highly recommend reading Triphasic Training by Cal Dietz if you’re interested in learning more about programming VBT.

If you’re already strong and you’re perhaps plateauing in your speed work, the chances are VBT will help this transfer.
All good programmes come from experimenting with various methods and recording those effects or learning from others who have done just that.
The edge I believe I have over other coaches, not all, but a fair number, is that I currently still train very hard and everything that I prescribe my athletes I test myself for a block to ensure that the training will elicit the results we desire.
In short, once you’re strong, I highly recommend all strength coaches and athletes consider bar speed/ speed of movement at some point during the training cycle.

Connell Macquisten
Performance Advisor Bristol & West A.C

Strength & Conditioning Part 2 Athletic Performance

30 Mar
The following post will very briefly address the use of strength and conditioning as a tool for athletic performance, how I design the sessions for my athletes and myself, through years of very good experience working with world class athletes, through 4 events and 2 different, speed/ power sports.
The previous post, if you have yet to read it, explains the importance of injury prevention through S&C.
I will do my best, in as little words as possible to highlight the two components that make an athlete faster and how to best utilise them.
As always, I’m happy to answer any questions.
Speed of movement
Regardless of the event in athletics, the faster the athlete can move their limbs, the greater their potential.
I would like to also point out, I am strictly speaking about sprinting speed although this can be applied to many other sports, however outside of sprinting and weightlifting, I am by no means close to being an expert.
With sprinting and running, speed is a direct result of large amounts of force, applied over very short contact times.

Coaching sprinters to run faster is, by no means a simple task, however it needs to be simplified in order to develop programmes to address the two most interrelated aspects.

Essentially the athlete must have a powerful engine, and a stiff chassis.
They must be able to produce large amounts of force on ground contact and be able to withstand these large forces without significant changes in joint angle stiffness, which reduces contact times.
Below is a graph showing these two factors at play.
No photo description available.
Rate of Force Development
RFD is how quickly an athlete can produce force.
Improvements in RFD come from improvements in the athletes muscle-tendon stiffness.
Exercises that address developing specific joint angles and movement patterns for the events will, overtime improve the athletes RFD.
For more information on RFD, this article from https://www.scienceforsport.com/rate-of-force-development-rfd-2/
Goes into much greater detail.
Plyometrics or Strength Training?
There are of course benefits to both, if an athlete does fairly high mileage or is returning from injury, I would limit their plyometrics to double leg or perhaps none.
Clyde Hart, who coached Michael Johnson, did little to no plyometrics, some athletes respond great to them, others really feel the fatigue.

The best adaptations for speed and RFD come from stimulating the nervous system, not annihilating.
For many of the exercises that I have prescribed to my athletes, there are targets relative to their body weight, should the athlete reach those targets, they then have world class strength to weight ratio.
Generally once they’ve achieved these targets, we no longer aim to work heavier but teach the system to produce force faster, developing RFD.

When it comes to developing strength, it’s so easy to get distracted and when I was younger, I was so focused on getting strong, thinking it would be the tool for getting faster and more powerful.
This can work, generally with athletes that are already incredibly fast but lack strength.
Athlete profiling is the quickest way to get results.
If you rush through the strength phase without teaching the athlete to transfer force quicker along the way, the programme will not be as effective as you’d like.
Below is the famous force velocity curve, progressing from exercises that are slower to faster by matching load percentages is a really useful method that, overtime works increases athletic performance.
No photo description available.
A useful tool for measuring athletic performance (alongside recording data between training blocks) is to monitor the athlete’s ability to jump, either for distance or height.

Summary

To summarise, if you can improve your RFD, overtime through specific measures, you will positively impact your joint stiffness on ground contact and be able to sprint/ run at faster speeds, be it maximal or sub maximal.
There are other methods to increase joint stiffness, alongside increasing RFD but that may be a topic for another day.

Connell

CANCELLED: WHITEHALL TRAINING

16 Mar

Update 17-MAR-2020

Further to the announcement below concerning the temporary closure of the Whitehall Track, we have now received this statement from England Athletics. This should be read by everyone in its entirety. As well as endorsing our statement of yesterday, it also advises a suspension of all face-to-face activity until at least the end of April.  The Club fully supports this statement and expects that all members will comply.

We will keep everyone informed of future developments.  Further details will follow on the Club AGM.

16-MAR-2020

It is with great regret that, following Government advice today, we feel it is our duty to suspend all our regular training sessions at Whitehall until further notice, as of midnight tonight. Training is “social contact” and we are asked to all avoid this from tomorrow onwards, not only for our own protection but also for the protection of others.

We advise you that if you wish to continue training alone, for example in parks and open spaces where you can train without coming close to others, then your coaches may be able to advise you of a plan to ‘keep you going’: their email addresses are on the club website if you don’t have them anyway.

We do not know how long this closure will last. Season Ticket holders please note that is that however many weeks we are closed for, we will extent those season tickets by that number of weeks.

Open Meetings – entries now open!

15 Mar
The on-line entries for the three Open meetings organised by Avon County, Bristol & West and Yate & District and held at Yate are now open.
You can enter on-line or on the night, but on-line is much preferred as it makes the organiser’s life far easier and it is cheaper for you.

Fast 5000s 2020 Entries Open!!

Fast 5000s 2020 Entries Open!!
12 Mar

Entries for the Fast 5000s on 25-JULY-2020 are now open, this year incorporating the South West of England championships and the Avon championships.  Places are limited so sign up now to avoid disappointment.  The event is open to athletes of all abilities and we already have a number of elite entries looking for times as low as 14:00!

Full details and entry information here: https://www.entrycentral.com/event/112035
Keep up with the latest news here: https://www.facebook.com/events/832130000571726/