Physical development through resistance training and managing body composition through calorie intake for developing athletes and considerations for managing injuries.
Recently I had an interesting conversation with a coach at the club and I would like to share my thoughts, experiences and what current research suggests on the physical development of athletes, the influence calories have on muscular development and body mass and topics surrounding this matter such as resistance training and genetic factors and what method/s and approaches are best to avoid unwanted body mass.
I would argue all specific improvements in performance, that are accompanied by muscle mass are essential.
There is a point when an athlete can get too heavy and also when they get too light.
These often occur around injuries/ inactivity which is where a caloric imbalance occurs over a period of time.
Obviously, I have to have a disclaimer for the following article as I am not a registered dietitian. I am NOT a doctor or a registered dietitian. … I do not provide medical aid or nutrition advice for the purpose of health or disease nor do I claim to be a doctor or dietitian. Any product recommendation is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
However, if you are interested in hearing from a legit doctor with a history of experience in health and nutrition, please check out this video from my good friend Dr. Jean Phillipe Wahlin on staying fit and healthy during the lockdown
Physical development through resistance training.
The conversation I had earlier this week was around how much mass would an athlete build through resistance training and should we be worried about them getting too big. This is something I’ve heard a lot over the years, clients and some athletes would tell me they avoid lifting weights because they get too big too quickly.
This is a great topic because it has affected me in many ways, personally and having had experience working with athletes in sports with weight classes and clients who have worked to cut weight for performances in bodybuilding, as everything there is an optimal weight range for performance.
Many of my clients would cut weight intentionally, either via fat trying to lose as little muscle a possible and sometimes taking even more drastic measures of cutting water which the body really doesn’t enjoy.
Even when I would pole vault, I had experimented with a long term calorie deficits to reduce my body weight so that the stiffness of the pole would give me a greater height. Needless to say I performed fairly well to begin with. Once I had passed that optimal range, I lost a lot of power and my energy levels were, like my food bill, very low. I had dropped from 84kg, to 78kg where I had jumped a PB and then ended up at 74kg about 4-5 months later where I intentionally stopped lifting weights, only did plyometrics, sprinting and fasted throughout the day.
What I have concluded before moving on, is that as long as the training is correct for the athletes goals and their workload is sufficient and they consume their calories as fuel, rather than overfeeding or fasting, I don’t believe they need to worry about their weight.
Generally top athletes in sprinting and running events are aware of their race weight and as they come into season, their programmes shift from the weight room, which causes a small suppression in their appetites and as a result consume less calories as they sharpen up.
The issue of gaining ineffective mass in sprinting, running or jumping comes in two ways. Either the resistance programme happens to have too much volume (sessions, reps, sets) happens to be too great, usually an athlete ends up indirectly bodybuilding causing sarcoplastic hypertrophy and secondly eating too much, which I mentioned before can come from an increased appetite from greater exposure to resistance training or from reduced workload, usually unintentionally via injury, where appetite levels are generally the same, often higher due to the short term stress and depression which causes a calorie surplus, which causes excessive weight gain, which I will explain later, with suggestions for athletes to keep exercises through their injury.
So with that being said if an athlete trains appropriately with evidence based resistance training methods that have rep ranges and sets to promote power and speed along side their track sessions and eats sensibly, the differences in the amount of muscle mass gained from athlete to athlete will vary based on their genetic potential and I wouldn’t attempt to control this factor but rather, control the controllable.
Some athletes are big cats and others are small cats, the big cats will find it easier to grow and be able to move effectively with that mass.
Finally, as distances progress further athletes are collectively lighter and the further or higher an athlete needs to jump, it becomes harder to achieve those distances with additional mass, which is why athlete profiling works very well.
I have known very heavy plyometric track athlete transfer from track and field to bobsleigh with great success.
Fuel/Calories, creating a surplus and deficits.
Our body composition is primarily influenced by the exercise and activity levels we are exposed to throughout our lives and our relationship with calories be it through a source of fuel or storage. Our genetics do play a factor however we can influence our genetics to a degree through these two factors but our underlying genetic code is pretty much set.
Without going into too much detail, because it gets really complicated and I’ve forgotten more than I can remember, calories act as fuel, if the fuel is not burned up by the body, it will be stored as adipose tissue or fat. These calories come in the roles of macronutrients, fats have the highest calories if 9 per gram, then carbohydrates and protein are both 4 calories per gram, but bare in mind this isn’t a reason to avoid fats all together.
So now I have defined calories and the macronutrients that provide fuel for the body, this covers, very briefly the energy intake, now I will breakdown the energy expenditure from the body, which has more categories, but still, to the core just as complex.
Though I studied a module on nutrition and it covered calorie expenditure, my experience in measuring what would be our Total Daily Energy Expenditure really came from taking part in a study that my friend, JP (referenced above) was researching, I have taken part in two of studies he has been involved with and both were feeding studies, one where I was at rest in a bed for 36 hours, having muscle biopsys taken from my quads and another which was an overfeeding study where I was to consume 50% extra calories over my TDEE, everyday for a week.
I had previously been in a calorie deficit so my TDEE at the time was nearly 4500kcals, I didn’t drive and I would train for 3 hours most days. This meant I had to consume an extra 2250 calories each day for that week, putting me at 6750 calories. However, I couldn’t fill this super calorie dense foods Coca-Cola or chocolate, it had to be what my normal diet was, but with 50% extra on the plate.
Our Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) is the total amount of calories we burn everyday. This is made up of Physical activity, our BMR (basal metabolic rate), measured through gas analysis, or you can use the RMR (resting metabolic rate) which uses an equation of height age, sex and weight to predict the calories you would burn if you were to lay in all day at rest to maintain basic bodily functions and finally, DIT (dietary induced thermogenisis), which is the amount of calories burned via digestion, this is not to be confused by the number of calories per gram mentioned above.
If you’re interested in calculated an estimated TDEE out of curiosity here is a pretty good source. https://goodcalculators.com/tdee-bmr-calculator/
Counteracting a calorie surplus
As I mentioned above, if an athlete cannot perform regular exercise/ training, their calorie expenditure drops significantly. Which can cause less than desirable effects for their sport when they return.If you’re interested in reading the study I was a participant in , it was a follow up study funded by a disability research group at the University of Bath, which measured the effects of inactivity in patients with spinal cord injuries to further understand the relationship to weight gain and if there were any successful methods to counteract this problem.
Calorie deficits and negative effects on performance
As for creating a calorie deficit and the negative effects on performance, I would like to invite you to the story of Mary Cain, if you’re not already familiar with her, she was one of the fastest female runners in America and when she joined Project Oregon, coached under the infamous Alberto Salazar, she was encouraged to lose more and more weight, entering a calorie deficit and as she kept losing weight, her performance significantly deteriorated.
When it comes to developing athletes and getting them stronger, I recommend benchmarks for strength to body weight ratios, which can found in previous article, Strength & Conditioning, what is strong enough? http://www.bristolandwestac.org/2020/04/06/strength-conditioning-part-4-what-is-strong-enough/
If an athletes track/running sessions are progressive and consistent and they consume their calories sensibly, I wouldn’t worry about excessive weight gain, these ‘controllable’ measures of keeping calorie expenditure high would mean that any mass built should be efficient to their event and their sport.
Restricting calories for athletes who are already performing well will very likely end badly and might perhaps give them an unhealthy relationship with food.
As for athlete who are injured, frequent, intense exercise avoiding damage to the injured site will combat the possible negative effects on body composition and will help them return to their previous state of fitness/ performance faster.
As the majority of injuries in sprinting, jumping occur within the lower extremities, could include stationary bike sessions, isometric holds, core circuits and upper body, but would need to be performed daily at high intensities to burn a decent amount of calories.
Ahead of the interview with Sports Osteopath James Miles-Christiansen, this article will cover
1. The best stretch for tight hips
2. Upper back/ thoracic spine exercises. and
3. How to not be bored during mobility work.
The best stretch for ‘tight hips’
The hip flexors are one of the most common areas of tightness and dysfunction in both high-performance athletes and the general fitness population. Comprised of both superficial and deep layers of musculature—including the rectus femoris quadriceps, the iliacus and the psoas—this group of muscles, responsible for primary hip flexion, often becomes functionally shortened in static positions such as prolonged sitting.
Rear leg lunge stretch
Hip extension, knee flexion, ankle plantar flexion, essentially the opposite angles of the joints that come from sitting in a chair/seat.
Though it may seem really easy to set this up. Which it is, there are a few tips to maximise your stretch from the spent in this position.
When you’re in the above position. The closer your knee is from the wall, the more intense you will find the stretch, to intensify the stretch, which I recommend finding a level of discomfort that isn’t pain, if you tuck your pelvis by pulling your belly button in and squeezing the glute on the back leg, you will notice the intensity increase as the antagonists of the glutes and transverse abdominis etc contract and shorten, the agonists, psoas, rectus femoris and vastus intermedius relax and lengthen further.
Additionally, your tightness may be disguised as weakness. The real problem is likely that your hip flexors are weak, which is causing them to become stiff in an effort to create tension around the hip joint. They may not be very good at it, but they’re going to do their job and support that joint by whatever means necessary.
2 Exercises for your ‘tight’hips
Plank or Single Leg Plank
Upper back / Thoracic Mobility
It’s common theme flooding social media right now, mobilise your upper back, for many slumping over the desk will take it’s toll on our postures.
Generally we collapse into flexion through our upper back, most videos I’ve seen or blogs are teaching views to extend the thoracic spine to mobilise it, though this may be true, strengthening in extension and mobilising in rotation will have much greater benefits, both immediately and long term.
Purely extension-based mobilisations don’t necessarily fit with what we know about the bony architecture of this region of spine.
Thoracic vertebrae have a unique shape. They’re larger in the back than in the front. This creates a natural wedge that biases the entire region toward rounding forward and acts as a bony block to standing up straight.
Here are two brilliant exercises
The upper body windmill
The quadruped extension-rotation.
How to not be bored doing mobility.
Generally, mobility is really boring. It requires focus, attention and effort, however at low intensities, making it, for many harder to commit to.
Especially if you’re like me and enjoy hard intense exercise.
So other than building it into your day like my most recent blog.
There are two other methods, incorporating mobility into your warm up, or between exercises.
I personally prefer loaded exercises through a full range of motion.
Since starting Front Foot Elevated Split Squats and Jefferson Curls, my hip mobility and knee health have improved and are far better than they’ve been for many years.
This was after a serious damaged meniscus, where I opted out of surgery and chose to rehab myself, one point I believed I would never be able to sit in a deep squat again without discomfort.
Sure enough, the rehab worked and I would like to share with you these two exercises.
Deep front foot elevated split squat.
Mobilise during rest periods.
As I mentioned you can also perform mobility drills as active rest as they are low intensity and can fill your rest periods. I would suggest mobilising alternative joints to those you’re currently training.
Eg. if you’re doing a lower body plyometric circuit, you could mobilise your thoracic/ upper back during your rest period.
About the author
14 years experience in resistance training and programme design. Fds Sports Performance, BSc Sports Studies. Ex National Pole Vaulter (4.75m) injured frequently. Set up Sports Therapy businiss in 2013 working with Team GB Sprinters & Hurdlers. Now active as UKA sprints coach to elite athletes in Bristol U.K.
Assistant coach & S&C coach to 2016 World Championship 60m semi finalist.
2 International representations in 100m, 200m and relay in both Senior and Junior from Great Britain and the British Virgin Islands.
Additional S&C experience inc
3 years shadowing the top British Weightlifting coaches and speed coaching to premiership academy (junior) football players, (Manchester United & West Ham United and Fulham).
Injury prevention pt 4. Practical solutions for addressing the structure, imbalances and instabilities.
Posture is dynamic, being static for too long or overloading a particular movement pattern can develop structural imbalances.
Generally a good warm up or conditioning session can override these ‘imbalances’ through variation and loaded ranges of movement.
The more stable a/ the structure, the more forces it can handle before the stress becomes a strain.
Overcoming or avoiding a previous injury requires greater attention to address the imbalances.
Incorporating exercises into a daily routine is the most practical method to do this.
Eg. Single leg balance whilst the kettle boils or bread toasts.
- Structural integration
- Practical methods for restoring stability and strength
- Exercise suggestions
The following article will do its best to outline the human structure, how we interact with gravity and the ground below us. Deliver practical methods, used by myself and my clients over the past 7 years to help develop stability, strength and balance to reduce the risk of injury.
As you can imagine, pole vaulting, can develop some pretty heavy imbalances. Lumbar disc problems, hamstring tears, shoulder impingement and damaged ligaments in my ankle.
I came off pretty lightly, however I didn’t enjoy being in pain and at the time I was studying sports injury prevention and rehabilitation.
Though many exercises prescribed to me were great and the soft tissue treatment worked great, I often, like many of clients over the years, forgot to continue doing the exercises or build up with progressions to handle more load.
Essentially this had led me down a path of aiming to understand the human structure deep, quite literally.
Many times my weight had fluctuated, aiming to compete at lower body weights, though it seemed great at the time as the immediate benefits were obvious, one point I dropped too much muscle mass, from 84kg down to 74kg. Around 77-78kg was the sweet spot, where my reactivity was high, force to body weight was high and my structural stability had yet to be affected.
Losing that much muscle mass was hard work, I wouldn’t recommend it, especially for a speed/power sport, I had lost significant upper body stability and began having shoulder impingement issues, that I had never had before.
I was on a significant calorie deficit and fasting between sessions, though it seems ridiculous and it totally is, I’d like to note again, to begin with it was working well which was reinforcing the process.
Muscle mass along with strength/ the ability to neurologically stimulate the muscles and articulate the joint through an optimal range of motion are significant factors to keeping a joint healthy.
It’s very likely that if you lack in any of the above categories, the risk of an injury is significantly greater, which is why corrective exercises and soft tissue release work great for rehabilitating an injury.
Now what about prevention?
We all know prevention is better than a cure.
Prevention can and should be directly built into the warm up, it may be extensive but my athletes have 15 exercises to complete before performing their sessions.
It’s almost a session in itself but as the intensity is relatively low it doesn’t negatively impact their session quality.
Stimulating and strengthening the muscles that assist our balance can also be done outside of training to either assist the rehab process or prevent any reoccurring injuries.
Each joint has a level of balance and optimal position to maintain throughout the structure, our first line of balance with the ground is out feet and arches, should we stand and shift our weight to one leg this can cause tension further up the chain and cause instability issues at hip and knee. See figure 1 below.
If left untreated for sometime and these imbalances further develop, the weak areas are under greater stress which can lead to injury.
The time where I lost too much muscle mass for the demands of my sport, had caused me greater exposure to injury due to less stability at that joint.
If you’ve read my previous injury prevention and rehabilitation articles, the latest research suggests, if a muscle is short and weak, these muscles are easier to injury.
Our structure does a great job at compensating in order to keep our eye level balanced, which is why you may notice some people with chronic imbalances, subconsciously contort their bodies to maintain this eye level.
Figure 1. Does a great job at displaying these very common imbalances.
But as I said before, you need not worry if your warm up and training programme addresses these imbalances or have a regular routine that you follow to restore balance, eg. yoga.
Although, I always suggest to my athletes to be aware of how they sit and stand, especially if they’re required to be in those positions for a long time, eg. at work or studying.
It’s only when these issues are left unaddressed and overloaded does a problem occur.
What I have also noticed is that during or post injury the muscles that are lacking strength and control to stabilise the joint/s that are weak.
Which is why regular correct exercise works really well.
Once you become stable and strong, the imbalances are less pronounced and as I mentioned before, the risk of injury is reduced and very often, in many cases such as running and sprinting, the more stable and stiff the foot, ankle, hip and knee, the more efficient the energy transfer is on ground contact.
Initially the effects are negligible however overtime, the benefits will appear, either directly or indirectly.
Depending on the region of the injury, there will be overdeveloped (tonic) muscles, that are over working to compensate for either weakness elsewhere (phasic) muscles and the lack of range of motion nearby.
To diagnose any imbalances, I highly suggest booking in with a Sports Osteopath. Ideally one with experience in your sport/event.
My recommendation is always James Miles Christiansen who works out of Oldfield Park in Bath.
Stay tuned as our interview will be out later this week.
Practical suggestions for restoring stability and strength
One of the greatest battles to the working athlete, is making the time to train.
Alongside that, it’s fighting the odds against getting injured as we age.
Which is why I have found the best and most practical method for addressing any imbalance is by incorporating them into your daily life.
Setting side extra time to perform exercises is difficult, however, there are moments in our day where we are waiting.
Since the lock down, I’ve been able to focus on own training a lot more and it’s been great and as I’ve introduced new methods and all the contact injuries I’ve sustained over the past two years are feeling great.
It may also be worth considering, is your imbalance caused by a weakness or lack of muscle mass. If so, building muscle occurs through resistance training and also a calorie surplus, specifically protein.
Once I had increased my exposure to resistance training again and increased my protein and calorie intake, the problems I had in the shoulder capsule disappeared.
Here is an example of the exercises I have introduced and when I perform them. (It has helped that I’ve been stuck inside brewing more teas and coffees than I would normally drink)
AM – I am for roughly 1.5-2 mins per exercise
- Whilst kettle is boiling – single leg balance left knee up
- Whilst coffee is cooling down/ brewing – single leg balance right knee up
- Whilst bread is toasting – Double leg calf raise
- Brushing teeth – Tibialis anterior raises against wall
Midday – aim for 2-mins
- Whilst tea or coffee is brewing – glute bridge hold
(Alternatives could be waiting for bus and performing straight leg balance hold, which I also do when queuing to enter the super market)
PM aim for 1.5-2 mins
- Whilst I’m cooking I will often balance on one leg if I’m not chopping foods etc.
- Whilst washing up, I contract my glutes as hard as I can or balance in a calf raise.
Pre bed – 2mins
- Brushing teeth – either tibialis anterior raises again or single leg balance knee lifts (1 min per leg)
There are always opportunities to build in corrective exercises, the reason I choose these exercises is that the majority of my injuries have been in the lower body and they’re fairly easy to perform.
I highly recommend trying to incorporate two or three of these exercises, the acute/ immediate benefits are really good.
Picture 2. If you are curious about which joints require either stability or mobility .
Exercises that address multiple imbalances at once are far more time efficient and likely more transferable to sport.
Before getting out of bed.
- Glute bridges
Hips, core/ lower back:
The infamous McGill Big 3
- Curl up
- Side Plank
- Bird Dog
For more questions or suggestions please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Stay tuned for the next Q&A with the elite.
Training Programmes for Junior/ Senior 100 ,200 ,400m and Jumps.
Good morning all,
(Please feel free to skip the bulk of the text and view training programmes via attachments if you wish, bulk of content is explaining how athletes can still improve/ maintain if they consistently follow a smart, hard programme, we would like to see all our athletes competing again soon, as best as they can with minimal risk of injuries). Additionally this is for athletes who may not have been given a structured programme from their coaches or are currently not training consistently.
It has come to my attention that there may be some athletes out there in our club who are more inactive than usual. Though times are hard and the promise of competitions coming this summer seem less likely the longer the lockdown continues, I cannot stress how important it is to continue training, hard and smart.
Following the feedback from the videos/ articles over the past month, I’ve had a request to structure a programme for athletes to follow each week to follow.
Rather than develop any specific programmes, I am willing to share what I have provided for my athletes, from 100-400m.
For some, this lockdown period might actually be the best thing for their athletic development, I do genuinely believe you can get faster and fitter without an athletics track or gym, it just requires discipline and consistency, which hopefully these programmes will assist with.
However for a lot of athletes, their calorie expenditure/ activity levels will drop, they will spend more time on their games consoles and their food intake will either stay the same, or increase and as a recipe for athleticism, it’s disastrous.
It’s looking like there may still be competitions towards the end of the outdoor season, which means once the lockdown has been lifted, returning athletes who haven’t trained, will not be in good shape.
Meaning, the risk of injury will increase, especially if they jump back in doing fast work ahead of racing, and the odds are that with all the de-training over these months, they will run slower times which will only impact their motivation going forward.
To try and combat all these potential threats to performance, Paul Weston and I think it would be a great idea to provide training programmes to any athletes who may not have the structure provided to them.
As I mentioned earlier, I do believe, if done correctly, athletes can still progress and get faster without training on a track, I will briefly explain how and what each element will contribute to.
The act of sprinting is a skill and though there isn’t a track to run on, the ability to exert large amounts of force at speed, can still be performed on different surfaces and on different gradients.
As long as an athlete is following a well structured programme, with intensity over a variety of distances, they can still improve their acceleration ability, maximal speed, speed endurance and aerobic fitness.
My job as a coach is pretty simple, besides writing programmes, which is the hardest part, I aim to deliver basic cues and time and record reps and recoveries, this is where the athlete will have to be self aware and accountable.
I will provide technical cues in the programme for each session but it is down to the athlete to time and record their reps to see their progression and stick to intensities and recoveries.
Hill sprints are great for developing both acceleration mechanics, power and for recreating tempo runs at lower intensities.
Tempo runs are great for improving contacts, reactivity and running economy and fitness due to the greater range and loading of the ankle from the gradient of the hill.
Steep slopes are brilliant for developing acceleration power, acceleration occurs until deceleration so the steeper the hill, the shorter it will take before the athlete can no longer decelerate.
I recommend slopes/hills in trainers on a path or empty residential road working from a 3 point stance up to 20-40m depending how steep the gradient is.
Gradual slopes are great for recreating tempo runs, aim to work around 70% of your maximal speed, record the first rep and try to maintain that time off a 3:1 or 2:1 ratio.
Eg. 30 sec run, take between 60-90secs recovery.
Longer, consistent hills are much better as the focus is to build and maintain a rhythm throughout the session.
Plyometrics up and down hill
Generally I suggest two footed jumps up and down unless the athlete is very proficient and reactive.
Start with ankle bounces for minimal knee bend and short contact times up the hill and repeated jumps down the hill for height.
If you haven’t access to grass, that’s okay, it’s just more forgiving on ground contact especially for longer sprints.
In an ideal world you would have a flat open surface with short grass.
Home strength & conditioning
The hardest thing about working out at home is commitment so if the athlete commits to doing their session at the same time every day this will help them work around that and give them structure to their days.
They are more than welcome to follow any of the videos I have provided on the Bristol & West AC chat if they would rather copy from the screen.
Though methods of training are limited to isometrics or varying tempos with gravity and ranges of motion, athletes can still get great results from manipulating these variables.
Isometrics are where athletes perform a holds and these can be categorised into either overcoming or yielding.
Overcoming isometrics are to be performed with a towel to exert maximal effort – up to 10secs of intensity and help develop maximal force through intense neuromuscular contractions.
Yielding isometrics are performed for longer durations and fatigue the body differently and are great for injury prevention.
Plyometrics and Jumping are also specific methods of training that transfer very well to speed and power events and are brilliant when paired with isometrics.
These are usually performed at high intensities but can vary, athletes looking to develop reactivity must start with low intensities and progress as they improve.
General development I would categorise everything that is not the above as general development, this could be simple bodyweight exercises performed at a regular tempo, generally slow and controlled to help develop the tissue and create a stronger foundation for athleticism and specificity in the future.
Eg. press ups, split squats or squats.
A big part of becoming an elite athlete is gaining a better understanding and awareness of their body and knowing what works for them, either to stay injury free or the sessions that make the biggest differences.
The above headings are to help the athlete learn more about their training should they wish to know.
Now without further ado, the training programmes.
Temporary track programme 100-200m
Aim to complete 2 home gym sessions per week and 2 running sessions per week.
U17 – Seniors:
Aim to complete at least 3 home gym sessions and 3 running sessions each week and look to progress from there.
If you are lucky to have the free time.
2 sessions can be done within 1 day with 4-6 hours apart.
Session 1 – Home gym 1
- Single leg balance 1×1 per (accumulate 3mins in)
- Split squat hold 1×1 per (accumulate 3mins in total)
- Glute bridge hold, upper back on sofa 1x (accumulate 3mins in total)
- Side clams 1x failure both sides slowly
- Side plank hold on bottom leg 1x failure both sides
- Dish Holds (1x3mins in total)
- Laying on back windscreen wipers 3×60 secs w/ 60 sec rest
- Reverse crunches 3x 60 secs w/ 60 sec reps
- Single Leg Press Ups 1×20 per leg
- 4x 8 Sprinters Press ups
- Kneeling running arms 6 x30 secs fast w/ 3 secs recovery
- Sprinter sit ups w/ hip flexor bands 3×20 secs fast
- Single leg RDL’s, 10 slow then 10 fast x2 per leg
- Isometric Calf raise hold (accumulate 3 mins in total)
- Front foot elevated calf raises barefoot (3×20 reps w/ 3 sec hold at top)
- Toey bounces barefoot 3×60 secs
(if you have long bands)
- Band around ankle face away from attachment, high knee 4×50 reps fast
- Band around ankle, kicks,4×50 fast
- Band around ankle, face toward attachment hamstring cycles 4×50 reps
- Band around ankle, straight leg pull downs 4×50 reps
If you have pull up bar
- Pull up then isometric hold half way on the way down for 3 sec x failure for 5 sets
Session 2 – Sprints 1
Drills and warm up as much as possible
Jumps uphill and downhill
Short sleds or short hill sprints
2x30m 2x50m 4×30, 6x20m 8x10m
Session 3 – Home gym 2
- Single leg balance 1×1 per (accumulate 3mins in)
- Split squat hold 1×1 per (accumulate 3mins in total)
- Single Leg Glute bridge hold 2×1 min per side
- Jump series x 5 sets
- 10 Slow squats on balls of feet
- 10 repeated Vertical jumps for maximal height
- 10 shallow jumps for height
- Side clams 1x failure both sides slowly
- Side plank hold on bottom leg 1x failure both sides
- Dish Holds (1x3mins in total)
- Laying on back windscreen wipers 3×60 secs w/ 60 sec rest
- Reverse crunches 3x 60 secs w/ 60 sec reps
- Press ups 4x failure w/ isometric hold of 3 secs half way on way down
- Standing single leg, draw alphabet A-Z w/ the knee on free leg x 1 per
If you have pull up bar
Pull ups 4x failure
- Toey bounces barefoot 3×60 secs
- Single leg pistol squats 3×12 reps per leg
Session 4 Sprints 2
Sleds & jumps uphill
Longer sprints on
Flat, on grass w/ spikes or trainers on asphalt
Session 5 – Home gym 1
Session 6 Sprints 3
12×30 sec Tempo Runs off 90 sec recovery
Session 7 – Home gym 2
400m temporary track programme
Day 1 – Hill session short sprints
Find steep hill if grass use spikes
If road use trainers
Basic drills up the hill & progressive stride outs up to 85%
8×20-30m – 4-5min recovery
Explosive, drive hard.
2 foot bounces fast contacts up x6 sets -20m
2 footed broad jumps x5 jumps and 6 sets
1 foot Hops for distance up 20m hill x4 per side
Day 2 – Home gym 1 (and Endurance work if you would like the following day off)
Day 3 -Endurance work (or rest if two sessions yesterday)
1x 20-30m run per week
Find a route or two routes you enjoy.
Steadily increase the pace every 5mins.
Keep a weekly record of your route pb and weather and if slippy take note.
Target to run a PB by every 3rd or 4th week.
Day 4 Home gym 2
Day 5 – Long Hill Sprints
120-150m of very gradual hill
6-8 sets off 5min recovery in trainers.
Record time for reps
Repeated vertical jumps down the hill for height 5 sets of 10 jumps off 3 mins recovery
Day 6 – Flat Runs
Flat work in trainers
30 sec x 4
Stride out at 90%, hold that pace for 20secs, kick for the last 10 secs.
Jumps – Written by Paul Weston
For aspiring horizontal jumpers who might be struggling to organise their weekly training plan, this might provide an element of guidance.
It assumes the willingness to work hard on your own and make the best of what is available- Any training needs to be undertaken with a serious minded approach if it is to be of any use.
I’ve tried to keep it simple and for the outdoor units to be possible to complete within the space of about 50 mins- so ought to be within 5-10 mins of where you live-perhaps warming up at home- preferably on grass, but can be done on a stretch of tarmac. I would suggest getting out as early as possible in order to avoid any contact with the public.
I would suggest arranging the week along the following lines- or something similar, according to individual circumstances:
Day 1- speed
6x40m- 3 min rest
skips- 3 for height, 3 for speed, 3 for distance- walk back recovery
At home: press ups with hold-4×15
chinnies- 25 into V sits (15)-x4
arm running action-3×40 seconds
side raises-4×25 each side
side leg raises- 4×30 each side
back leg extensions (20) into dips (20)
side leg extensions (15) into dips (15)
Day 2- jumping strength circuit ( for more senior athletes)
for youngsters- rest day
tuck jumps- 5×12
squat thrusts- 5×25
quarter squat jumps with block landing-5×20
knee-reach- 5×40 each leg
alternate split squat jumps with block landing- 5×14
double foot spring jumps-8×8
leg cadence drill (fast ankle rolls)- 10x10m (slow travel)
fast leg running cycles- 10x10m- slow travel
Day 3 – rest day
Day 4- speed endurance
4 sets of 4x35m with 30 sec recovery, 3 mins between sets
or- if on the road- 10x20m uphill with walk back recovery
skips- 6x50m uphill- walk back recovery
or for triple jumpers (grass)- 4x40m bounds and 4x40m repetition hop, step,step off a few strides
Day 5 hip circuit– can illustrate the exercises if required:- all ages
knee dips- 6×30 each leg
reach dips- 6×30 each leg
knee-reach- 6×30 each leg
side raises- 6×25 each leg
side leg raise-6×30 each leg
back leg extensions (30) into dips (30) each leg (x6)
side leg extensions (15-20) into dips (15-20) each leg (x6)
Day 6- smooth runs
2 sets of 4x80m runs with walk back recovery- 5 mins between sets.- field if possible
or- a 25 minute fartlek (mixed pace run)
Day 7- rest day
This is really just so that you can see the overall level of work you should be striving to maintain. If you are strictly housebound, replace the running with repetitions of the drills which you no doubt do in training- eg- 15 sets of 10m spring jumps, 15 sets of 10m running cycles etc.. Use your imagination and be creative within the constraints you are under.
It is important that if you choose to train, you do so with intent- so that you are not left wanting when the lockdown is lifted. It is your own responsibility to keep yourself in shape if you have the drive and interest- so try to do whatever you possibly can.
Finally, If you’ve made it this far, I have some exciting news for the coming weeks. I will be interviewing 1 of the men’s Great Britain 400m relay team, Cameron Chalmers, the very highly experienced Osteopath James Miles Christensen, who has worked in athletics for the past 5 years with international sprinters from Great Britain, New Zealand’s 400mH record holder Cameron French and maybe another special guest who has competed amongst the best in the world.
As always, if you have any questions or request, feel free to contact me via email@example.com
A virtual version of the May Pomphrey 5k has been set up with no entry fee but an option to make a charitable donation.
There will be no prizes but the results will be available in the normal age categories U17s, Seniors, W35, W45, W55, W65, M40, M50, M60, M70 as of the 25th of May.
Any 5k run between Wednesday 29th of April and 8:00 pm on Tuesday 26th of May can be submitted using either a STRAVA/GARMIN link or just typed in.
This “race” is purely for fun so no times will be scrutinised but may be removed if clearly ridiculous – as if!
Entries and results (from Wednesday 29th April) are available here:
Our landlords at Whitehall have reported people climbing the fence and using the facilities while they are shut due to COVID-19. We have no reason to believe that any club members were involved in this but to maintain good relations with our landlords and to comply with the COVID-19 restrictions, please can we remind all club members that the entire Whitehall facility is closed and not to be used until further notice.
Thank you for your understanding.
Following up on the past two articles that covered velocity based training and plyometrics, I would like to share with you, perhaps the best method of training that develops an athletes rate / speed of force production and athleticism.
French contrast training is a brilliant method that can be applied to almost every movement pattern in order to increase force out through the desired vector you wish to train.
Meaning it’s specificity can be very high, with that the transferability, especially within elite athletes.
Developed by Track & Field coach Gilles Cometti.
The concept of French Contrast training is based on a combination of complex and contrast methods. The idea is to use four exercises to induce physiological responses of the athlete and train along the force – velocity curve.
French Contrast Training (FCT) is more complex than potentiation clusters, though they can also have their place within a programme, however in my elite athletes and within my own training, I like the bulk of it to be FCT and to deload on potentiation clusters.
Potentiation Clusters (PC) are two exercises in the style of a superset, one that forces the body to producing large amounts of force, generally through the strength speed %’s on the force velocity curve, for 1-3 reps which supposedly has a potentiating effect, an effect that stimuates the neuromuscular system but doesn’t fatigue it, creating an effect of readiness to then 20-30secs later performing a high intensity, fast plyometric/ jumping activity and repeating this over with 3-4minutes in between.
However, what I had noticed in the 7-8 years of performing potentiation clusters, was that it became very difficult to overload this process effectively, meaning I was fairly athletic, getting stronger slowly but I never felt I was loading my body enough to provide a stimulus to adapt.
It was about 2-3 years ago I came across French Contrast Training (FCT) on Instagram and it made complete sense, a method of training with high intensities/ velocities and at varying %’s on the Force Velocity curve.
I do however switch back to PC during the competition season as a method to stimulate but not fatigue.
Methods of French Contrast Training
Depending on the athlete or the element you wish to develop, you can be flexible with the exercise selection but I believe the order should remain strict.
Each set would have 4-5 mins recovery, ensuring the athlete is fresh and each exercise between 20-30 seconds.
Heavy lift 80-90% max for 1-4 reps
eg. Front Squat
Rest 20-30 secs
High Force/ Reactive Plyometric exercise 3-4 reps
eg. Depth Jumps for Height
Rest 20-30 secs
Speed- Strength oriented lift
eg. DB jumps for fast contact times and height w/ 20% of Bodyweight 3-4 reps
Rest 20-30 secs
Speed oriented plyometric jumps 4-8 jumps
eg. Band assisted plyometric jumps or repeated vertical jumps
Rest 4-5 mins and repeat 3-4 sets.
This method would focus on developing vertical force production.
Below is a video with a slightly different variation, focusing on the posterior chain.
Results of FCT in Elite Athletes
The most common question I hear amongst coaches in the sport science world is, how does *it* effect elite athletes?
Many studies, if not most, are tested on untrained subjects, which has many drawbacks and can’t easily be applied to well trained individuals.
Fortunately, along with all the anecdotal evidence from coaches on the web, Elbadry et al. 2019 studied the effect of the French Contrast Method on Explosive Strength and Kinematic Parameters of the Triple Jump Among Female College Athletes. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6815088/
The following paragraphs is cut from their abstract.
‘The primary purpose of the study was to investigate the impact of the French Contrast Method on explosive strength and kinematic parameters of the triple jump among female college athletes. Ten female college athletes from the Helwan University’s track and field team participated in this study. Participants were assessed before and after an 8-week training program for upper and lower body explosive strength. No significant differences were observed in anthropometric characteristics’.
‘Explosive strength variables (Sargent jump test, countermovement jump, and seated medicine ball throw) increased significantly and kinematic parameters of the triple jump improved’.
The results indicated that eight weeks of the French Contrast training can improve both explosive strength and kinematic parameters of the triple jump.’
French Contrast Method for Beginners and Youth Athletes
Many of you may under the impression that this method may only be used for experienced athletes and elements of it should be, but the general approach of high intensity work at contrasted speeds need not be limited to the elite.
I’ve had success with young athletes applying the same principles.
The guys at Juggernaught Training Systems summarise it nicely if you have any doubts.
While the FCM is simply one method that is utilized by Cal Dietz (1), it is also a neuromuscular driver toward improvement in qualities for any given athlete. This holds water, especially if the athlete is at a young training age. While they may not provide the intensity seen in a maximal strength deadlift, motor units will be firing, and good movement is reinforced.
For starters, the FCM can be utilized by using a loaded movement pattern, plyometric, weighted plyometric, and an assisted plyometric.
How you go about loading these movement patterns is your discretion but the safest way to use heavy loads would be using a sled or prowler.
For great detailed breakdown of FCT with Juggernaught Training Systems follow the link.
Specificity in Sprinting
As an increase in explosive strength and rate of force development can directly influence sprint speed and acceleration.
The physiological benefits are specific and movement patterns are pretty close to specific too. However if you have a sled and a variety of weights you can apply the same principles, with great results.
However with these, I would suggest doing them prior to the competition season and introduce clusters between competitions to reduce fatigue.
As the nature of accelerating requires the athlete to get faster on each step, the distance travelled with the sled, I suggest the distance of the sled to go from short to long as the weight goes from heavy to light.
- 80% of bodyweight on sled for roughly 4-6 steps.
- Block start to 20m
- 20% of bodyweight on sled for roughly 20m
- Block start to 40m.
I suggest a walk back recovery and then 5-6 minutes before starting the next set and the number of sets is usually dictated by the athletes.
There any many benefits to FCT and very little drawdowns if they’re performed correctly during the training programme.
One thing I would suggest is to monito fatigue or have the athlete understand that the exericse stops when the fatigue and performance drops.
I only suggest working up to heavier weights if the athlete feels fresh and has an easy week of training ahead.
For example, the first 2 sets, post warm up for exercise 1, using the front squat could be on 100kg for 4 reps, then for set 3 105kg and set 4 110kg.
As long as the athlete is working within the Max Strength % of the force velocity curve, they will continually develop their maximum strength.
They need not chase PB’s in training in order get stronger, very often this leads to burn out and if an athlete has lifted too heavy in their gym programme, I will be obvious during the next track session.
It’s also important to bare in mind that structurally athletes are built and develop differently, if they’re incredibly quad dominant and their top speed is their limting factor, they may benefit more from a posterior chain focused FCT programme.
If you have any questions regarding your training and athletic develop, I’m more than happy to offer advice.
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.
The Stretch Shortening Cycle (SCC)
There are three phases to a plyometric movement, for this case we will be looking at jumping.
- The descent, or eccentric phase
- The amortisation phase/ phase where the change of direction occurs and
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org