If you study speed development based resistance training, you’ve no doubt read the standard line, espoused by many, to ‘never use more than 10% of bodyweight’. The logic is that any more resistance than that will compromise acceleration mechanics making the drill not only ineffective, but counterproductive.
Well, the other day I got involved in a training discussion with a few of the lead clinicians from this summer’s Complete Track & Field Clinic. It stemmed from an article on the topic (Tomorrow I’m going to send the article to everyone registered for the clinic) forwarded to us by Harvard University’s Marc Mangiacotti.
The results of the study were (arguably) a bit surprising in that they showed that heavy sled pulls done over a short distance did not, in fact, adversely affect acceleration. In fact, the results showed the opposite. So, I want to share that discussion with you today. We’re all going to teach the specifics at the clinic this summer. But, before I do, I want you to think about a few salient points:
1. We use this type of training for our sprinters, hurdlers *and* jumpers.
2. There is a selfless exchange of information – no one is ‘hoarding’ their secret training strategies.
3. No one claims to have all the answers nor are we afraid to acknowledge areas we struggle in our coaching and implementation
One final thing to note – I did not ‘fancy up’ our conversation. I cut and pasted it as it went:
Latif Thomas: I have never been much of believer in the ’10% rule’ and use heavy sled pulls on the regular despite ‘everyone’ saying not to go more than 10% of BW. So, in short, I feel vindicated.
Then again, my sprinters can’t accelerate to save their lives. So, I should probably look into that.
Ron Grigg: I am a top notch “acceleration clinician” but we can’t accelerate either. So I’m with you. I’ve been creeping heavier and heavier. 20-30 lbs total with weight and sled on our kids that weight 115-145. I will use heavier weight for 10m sled pulls. If I have them go further, I lighten the load, as I think there is value to pulling a light sled out to 20 meters.
Reuben ‘Black Boo’ Jones: The quality of acceleration means everything to me, so I try to help my athletes feel movements, range of motion, body positions as much as possible. I use 45 lbs for men, 25 lbs for women. I’ll take them out to 15-20 meters or until I notice a fall off in running form with 3 minutes of rest in between each. I’ll tend to see solid acceleration mechanics with heavier loads (30 lbs or +), but of course, they can’t hold that for very long.
Thanks for including me in this wonderful coaches forum!
Latif Thomas: I’m definitely in agreement with the point about heavy sleds being used for very short (10m) distances and lightening the load if you’re going to go out beyond that.
When you guys do your sled tows, do you tend to contrast it with flat surface runs within the same session or separate the resistance runs and the flat surface runs into different sessions?
Ron Grigg: I contrast in 2 different ways. There are times where I go 1:1 sled:normal, and then there are times where I will do 3-5 sleds, and then 3-5 normal. Simply a matter of variation.
Also, when I have hamstring issues, I will still do heavier sleds for 5-10m, as velocity remains low, and hamstring isn’t all that involved in the initial pushes.
Marc Mangiacotti: I do the same thing Ron does. Sometimes I’ll only have them use sleds while other times they will not use any sleds or weight vests. A contrast workout Ive used is 2 x 3 x 30m with light sled and 2 x 3 x 10, 20, 30. The athletes tow for a set then execute the flat acceleration runs for a set. I probably stole this from Ron. If find that the big push from the sled pulls carries over to the flat runs. It’s kind of like an acceleration activator.
Reuben ‘Black Boo’ Jones: I like to do flat accelerations on Monday, then resisted accelerations on Friday in the general prep phase. Special prep I’ll use 1:2 sled:flat in the same session.
Monday: 3 x 15, 25, 35
Friday: 6 x 30m light-moderate sleds; 3 mins rest between each
All In One Session (usually Mondays) 3 x 10, 15, 20 a little heavier sleds; still 3 mins rest between everything. Followed by…
4-5 x 30m flat accelerations
Hope that makes sense.
Indeed it does!
So now you have a few more ways to look at and utilize sled pulls in your training. To see exactly how we teach and cue these progressions in real life, register for the 2013 Complete Track & Field Summer Clinic being held at Harvard University on Saturday/Sunday July 20-21, 2013.
- Latif Thomas
Get Your 800m Runners onto the 4x400m Relay
By Marc Mangiacotti
I always enjoy picking the brains of my colleagues and other aspiring coaches. Luckily I work with some fantastic coaches in the sport, like our middle distance coach Tim Bayley. He was an All American in the 800m at Iona College with a personal best of 1:46. Tim’s middle distance crew had an amazing indoor season in 2013. I was impressed with their range to move up and down from the 800m. Especially his ladies, who broke school records in the 500m and 1,000m this winter, one of his athletes even improved from 2:11 last indoor season to 2:05 this year.
Many times middle distance coaches have asked me questions about altering training for their runners so they can succeed in the shorter races and relays. Tim certainly did a great job training his middle distance group for the 800m as well as the 600m, 500m, 400m and 4x400m relay.
Below is a transcript of a brief conversation I had with Tim right after his top 800m female athlete competed in the 2013 NCAA Indoor Championship.
1) What do you attest to your athlete’s ability to drop down in race distances?
One of the biggest things that has helped the MD crew to drop down in distance is the natural speed that they possess and the work that we performed to develop it throughout the Fall. The mind-set of many of the athletes is that they want to be able to run good 4x400m relay legs and are excited at that prospect, whilst believing that they can contribute on the relay. Many of these athletes competed regularly on the 4x400m on their respective HS teams so thrive off the opportunity to run the relay. A big factor that helped to prepare them for running the shorter distance was the implementation of speed development throughout the fall.
2) What did you implement into their training to prepare them to race at higher speeds over a shorter distance without taking away from their primary event?
A) What type of workouts do you implement to get some serious turn over with your middle distance runners?
B) When do you start this process?
One of the big areas that has helped the MD runners to drop down and run the 500m and the 4x400m has been the implementation of speed development training throughout the fall. Through the months of August to December we focus on aerobic development and structural conditioning but ensure that we perform speed work to constantly develop and refine running technique and mechanics. During the calendar week, speed development was performed every Monday like clockwork right from the start of the semester. A sample speed development workout that we performed was a progressive, multi-planar warm-up lasting approximately 50min in total including a variety of sprint drills. This was followed by 3x150m broken into 50m segments cruising the first 50m, ‘hitting’ the middle 50m at around 90% max velocity and cruising the last 50m into the finish. All 150m reps were followed by a 3-minute recovery. We then completed 6x60m sprints from 2-point start at 97% max velocity working on perfect mechanics and relaxation at speed. These reps were (painstakingly!) followed by a 3-minute recovery to fully recover and allow for quality effort.
Workouts of this nature on a weekly basis throughout the fall definitely helped with the ability to drop down in distance and run competitively over the shorter distances whilst not compromising the aerobic component of training that I feel is crucial to success over the 800m.
3) What mistakes do you feel coaches may make when trying to prepare 800m runners for the 4×4?
One mistake that I feel can easily occur in the training of 800m runners is to neglect speed work during the fall base phase of training. With the emphasis on developing the facets of the athletes aerobic profile at that time of year the speed is easy to overlook. This can lead to athletes having a tough time on 4×4 relay legs early in the indoor season as they struggle to bring out their speed. I also feel that a lack of speed development in the Fall can leave the door open to injuries during the transition phase from base training into indoor competition and this could also result in a coach holding his/her athletes away from relay legs early on for fear of injury.
Our women’s 4×4 has a shot at qualifying for the NCAA Championships this spring. One of your athletes in particular will be a big factor in this equation.
1) What will you add to her daily/weekly routine to make sure she is ready to throw down in the 4×4?
To be honest I wont change anything with the plan and approach that I have been using to train her for the relay. She is very talented and possesses great speed, which we continued to develop during the fall using the weekly speed development training. As the season has progressed, her speed has continued to improve, as have her relay legs. One aspect of her training that I have held back on a lot during the indoor season is speed endurance work. We only performed one speed endurance workout this calendar year to date and this is an area that we will hone in on for training in the upcoming weeks as we progress into the outdoor season. This has always been in the plan and I am confident that it will have a big impact on both her 800m and 4×4 ability. Our 4×4 relay is in a great spot going into the outdoor season and coach Tolbert’s 400m athletes have been in tremendous form and, like our 800m runners, will only get better as the season progresses which is a very exciting prospect.
Don’t miss Coach Mangiacotti’s: How to Build the Perfect 100 Meter Sprinter
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3 Methods to Coach More Effectively
As a coach there are so many options to include in your training program that it can sometimes be overwhelming. We know that strength training is important, but if it isn’t distilled down to the essentials we can end up in a position of “paralysis by analysis.”
These questions have crossed my mind before and made writing the programs for my athletes difficult to say the least.
Is there an event for which we must “peak?”
Can athlete X do this movement?
How long will it take me to teach them to do this?
How can I ensure that the athlete gets the most out of each set of work?
If we have decided that the Olympic lifts are an important part of preparing your athletes for the field, court, or track, then each of the above questions can apply even more.
Here are my 3 tips to using the Olympic lifts easier and more effectively in your programming for athletes.
1) Use the hang power clean.
Teaching the Olympic lifts from the ground up takes a lot of time, and as a coach time isn’t always what we have the most of. The ground based position of the full clean or power clean also means that your athletes must have a ton of mobility at the hip, ankle and thoracic spine to get into the right start position.
Choosing to use the hang power clean means that we can forgo much of the required mobility at the hip and ankle and still develop great power. Teaching this movement is also significantly easier than getting athletes in the appropriate start position from the floor.
In short, you will get nearly all of the benefits of the floor start position, when moving to the hang position, with not nearly the time commitment.
Bonus: Use the Power Jerk in your programming as well.
The hang power clean is a hip dominant movement that does an excellent job of developing posterior chain power. Use the power jerk to develop power in the anterior chain.
2) Use work up loading
The traditional model of programming requires you the coach to select the loads of the day based on a percentage of an athlete’s one rep max. While this has been used for years to great success, it means that you must know the one repetition maximum for every athlete in your program.
Certainly this process is time consuming, and leaves your beginning athletes out in the wild before you can test their maximal strength in the Olympic lifts. Secondly, I don’t always find it feasible or safe to test new athletes in their 1RM before a significant learning phase.
Instead I choose to use work-up loading. In this way you will tell athletes to move up to their best weight on a given day, in a given exercise, for a given rep scheme. An athlete’s best set on that day, is the 100% we will use for training on that day.
Any set that will be counted as a “work set” must fall within 10% of the best set that an athlete completes on that day.
This method will save you time on the front end, but will also allow your athletes to get in the highest quality work that they can on a year round basis.
3) Never go above 3 reps
If there is one thing that I absolutely hate it is high rep Olympic lifts. Anything nearing five repetitions is too many for me. In my gym, with my athletes, we use 5 repetitions for only 4 weeks per year in the Olympic lifts.
The Olympic lifts are designed to recruit the maximum number of muscle fibers on nearly every rep, this is similar to the output needed for most power sports. Using more than 3 reps is counter productive to this need.
Keep the reps low, use a quick teaching progression that can incorporate the most athletes at one time, and use a method of assigning weights that takes the work off of your plate. These methods will cut down on the number of decisions you need to make in the weight room and allow you to coach even more.
Specific Development Drills for the Sprint Hurdles
Since the Fall of 2011, I have presented what I believe is a comprehensive approach to developing young and experienced 100 and 110 meter sprint hurdlers. The Hurdle Master Class through CompleteTrackandField.com has given me the platform to show that any girl or boy able to run the flat 100 meters in 14 and 12 seconds, respectively, can and should be able to run 3 steps for all 10 hurdles.
Recently, Latif has encouraged me to work on a Master Class 2 for the hurdle coach who wants to put a little more “bite” in their program. This program will provide a method for coaches to take their hurdlers to a higher level of skill development. The original Master Class was designed to get “Billy Bang a Barrier” and “Hilary Hit a Hurdle” to a better acceleration to the first hurdle, hurdle take-off prep, hurdle clearance/touchdown, and run between the sticks.
Just like Kobe Bryant was often referred to as “Baby Jordan” (paying homage to the Bulls Legend), I want to help Billy and Hilary turn into “Baby Alan Johnson” and “Baby Sally Pearson” (I did not use Aires Merritt since he uses a 7 step approach to the first hurdle and a teenage boy attempting that pattern is either foolish or a genetic freak). All track and field events can start out with a general model allowing the athlete to develop their skill at a pace they can manage. But once they are as proficient as the general approach can make them, the laws of specificity now become the dominant training design.
I have repeatedly stated that your kids are plenty fast enough to run a good hurdle race, but due to technical glitches, they run slow. But the glitch itself is the problem, not how fast your athlete can run. Alan Johnson (12.93) and Sally Pearson take 8 steps to hurdle one, 3 steps between the hurdles, and 5-6 steps to the finish. Amazingly enough, Billy (16.00) and Hilary (16.55) also take the same number of steps. So what is the final arbiter in the hurdle race: Frequency! It’s not just who runs the fastest that wins the hurdle race, but it’s who runs the quickest that will run the fastest. Unlike flat races that do not have to negotiate barriers set at specific distances, the hurdler must parcel out their stride length (and energy) in a restricted environment. When that stride length slows due to poor mechanics, the energy available is wasted trying to stay fast (instead of quick) leaving little energy to manage the race.
The hurdle race is a rhythm race and this rhythm must be developed and drilled until it is all your hurdler knows. The following drills are designed to address the specific demands of the race and will give your hurdler a better feel for the race.
Drill #1 –
Hurdles placed at 7.70 to 8.20 meters apart. Most coaches use closer than regular distance, but these distances have been proven to get the most out of developing the frequency between the hurdles. This drill improves hurdle speed up to the 6th hurdle and up to at least the 3rd hurdle for the less experienced hurdler. If you can keep the hurdles moving at your hurdler, they are more likely to maintain the quickness between the sticks. This drill should use lower hurdles at first so the hurdler can concentrate on the speed of hurdling without being worried about how fast they are moving and “jumping” over the hurdle (which is what they will do if they feel they are moving “too fast” – sick). The increased speed heightens their fear of the hurdle height, so keep the sticks 10-20% lower. Once they can overcome the threat they may hit the hurdle, the ground mechanics and the quick feet will take over.
Drill #2 – Rhythmic Unit Runs:
Former BYU head coach and head of the Olympic Training Center, Chula Vista, California, Craig Poole gave me a nice way to get your hurdlers to run like sprinters 20 years ago. Coach Poole taught me that the speed and consistency of the rhythmic unit (the time taken when the hurdler touches down off a hurdle until they touchdown off the next hurdle) can be taught artificially at practice and with regularity (over consecutive hurdles). I take the rhythmic unit from one hurdle clearance to the next (let’s say it’s 1.20 seconds) and divide it into 8.50 meters (the distance covered from one touchdown to the next).
Steps 1: 8.50/1.20 = 7.08333 meters per second
Step 2: set your hurdles at 7.10 meters apart
Step 3: set the hurdles 10%-20% lower (24”/36”)
Step 4: run your reps 7.10 meters apart and once they can run the rhythmic unit under 1.0 seconds, it’s time to increase the distance between the hurdles.
If you don’t have a rhythmic unit to work with, you can just subtract 2.7-2.8 second from the start and 1.3-1.5 from the finish. Then take the remaining time and divide by 9 and that average will give you the rhythmic unit.
16.5 – 2.7 (starts to hurdle #1) = 13.8
13.8-1.3 (touchdown to the finish) = 12.5
12.5/9 = 1.38 seconds
8.5/1.38 = hurdles are set 6.16 meters apart
When the hurdler can run the 6.16 meters in less than a second (let’s say 0.95 seconds) it changes the whole dynamic of their race.
6.16/0.95 = new rhythmic unit speed of 6.48 meters per second
8.50/6.48 = 1.31 seconds
1.31 seconds x 9 = 11.79 seconds
11.79 + 2.7+1.3 = 15.79!!! Nice Huh?
Now, they will not run 15.79 after the first time you do this, but the whole point of training is to remodel the old kid to create a new model.
Running over low hurdles set at 20”-24” for girls and 33”-36” for boys with the spacing from 7.00 to 8.50 meters apart. This type of training makes a significant improvement in average speed up to the 5th hurdle is acquired. An improvement in rhythmic ability is also developed. A twist to this workout allows you to run 5 to 6 hurdles and after each rep raise the last hurdle closer to regular competition height.
1st rep over 5 hurdles – all the hurdles are low
2nd rep over 5 hurdles – 4 hurdles are low and the 5th hurdle is regular height
3rd-4th & 5th rep over 5 hurdles – raise another hurdle each run so that on the 5th rep
the 2nd through 5th hurdles are all at regular height. You keep the first hurdle low to ensure high velocities to the second hurdle.
As you can see from these drills, the integrity of the rhythmic unit and hurdle velocity is the key to the success of your hurdler. The next edition of “Specific Hurdle Drills” will include 7 more exercises as well as a chart to organize the drills to fit the hurdle issue you are trying to develop. And as always: Good Hunting!
I spend a lot of time answering questions. In fact, I’ve been answering training questions since first going ‘online’ in 2004. I’ve noticed a pattern in the types of questions I get. So today Here are answers to a couple that I see on a regular basis…
Question #1: Latif, I could use your help on the placing of my athletes in events.
Since I have started coaching, I have always been a bit lost when it comes to insuring that I do not place an athlete in certain events that will cause them to have less success.
It is easy to look at my best athlete and want to place them in the 4×100, 100, 200, and the 400. This athlete is our best short sprinter, but is also a top 4, 400m athlete. Should I ignore the fact that he is one of our top 4 and keep him focused on short sprints?
My girls are a smaller bunch, and I run into similar problems. My top 400m girls are needed for the 4×400, and 2 of them are the fastest in the 4x100m.
I guess my real question is, would it make more sense to use my best athletes in all the top positions, or would it be better to have them focus on particular areas, 4×400 + 400, and keep our 4×100, limited to the 100m and 200m events.
Where have you found success? How many athletes do you have competing in sprint events across the board, 100m, 200m, 400m?
Sometimes we over think the process, especially when we coach small teams or have a small number of talented kids. Historically, my best 400m runner has also been my best 100m runner. (*Cough*, speed reserve, *cough*) However, most of my sprinters run from 100-400 depending on time of year, stage of development, need, etc.
But, there are no perfect answers.
My suggestion is to decide what’s important to you and focus training on that. For example, we’re in a, um, not very competitive league, so I don’t have to worry about winning dual meets. I can use them as speed/special endurance, race modeling, development, etc. My focus is on having our best performances at our Division Championship and State Championship. So, once I identify which event/s athletes will most likely compete in at those meets, I train them primarily for those events. That said, my ‘short sprinters’ and ‘long sprinters’ do most of the same work. The main difference is that the long sprinters do more volume on tempo days and do more Special Endurance runs when we can squeeze them in around dual meets.
Last spring my best 400 runner was also my best 100 runner on both the boys and girls side. They both ran 400/4×4 at the State Meet. So I trained them all season as 400m runners.
For what it’s worth, the boy won and the girl placed 3rd. So, for that particular season at least, the strategy worked.
Question #2: I am the only coach for my small (20-25) girls team, so as you may have done in the past with your coaching experience, I am trying to be everywhere all the time.
When doing field events do you do full workouts of both every day or do you switch workouts so one day is more running than field and another day is more field than running? Is it too much of a workload to be doing a running workout and a field event workout on the same day? Many of my girls are good at a field and running event so I do not want to neglect either training. I know some of the training will overlap and I have used several ideas from Boo Schexnayder and his information on multi-event training, but I thought I would ask you also. Any information would be helpful, thank you again.
My Answer: The ‘Boo-ologist’ in me (a term I stole from LSU’s Todd Lane) filters everything through a ‘commonalities’ approach to training, so that is how I design my programming, particularly as I am in responsible for sprints, hurdles and jumps. Truth is that you can’t be everywhere at once and you just need to make peace with that. Kids are going to have to be on their own working through things and that’s just how it is.
But, with field events we do full workouts of both if that is what the energy system demands or theme of the day requires. Kids who do multiple events just have to do a little bit of several things. I often remind them that the world’s best decathlete isn’t the best in the world at any one event because they don’t focus on any one thing. They are specialists at being generalists.
At the same time, all training is interdependent so, for example, when you’re hurdling, every time you go over a hurdle that cut step that becomes the trail leg is very similar to the triple jump take off. Long jump is just 3rd phase of triple. High jump posture and TJ posture are similar. Starts are starts regardless of event.
If I have kids who triple and high jump do all triple ump today and all high jump tomorrow, the entire schedule gets thrown off, the training is no longer compatible and complimentary so they over train and they miss important work, whether it is ‘quality’ work or recovery work.
The Art of Coaching is prescribing appropriate loads of biomotor work that develops skill in all event groups and then partitioning out pieces of the event specific training for kids competing in multiple events so they don’t do too much volume. Or too little.
If you’re dealing with everything on your own, I highly recommend considering the following resources:
My list of exercises for various parts of practice come almost entirely from my CST2 program and this DVD. But, converting over much of my inventory has saved me so much planning time it’s ridiculous.
Once you look at that DVD you will never again wonder what to do for, say, multijump progressions. Because, real talk, we all question our plyos selection, don’t we?
Whenever I’m not quite sure what to do for a particular practice (or even microcycle), I use this as a guideline to keep me ‘coloring between the lines’, so to speak. It is extremely helpful. Plus you can post your questions for Boo and he will always give you a thoughtful answer.
I’m happy to answer your questions if you post them below. All I ask is that you keep them related to the topics in this particular post.
By the way – Registration is open for the 2013 Complete Track & Field Summer Clinic!