What would you do if <insert elite athlete name here> came to you asking for a new coach? What areas could you improve on?
First, I like to go back to basics, and ask for his prior training plans to get an idea what volumes and intensities he or she can handle.
Let’s start with Acceleration (my second favorite topic next to speed endurance).
There are only a handful of items that exists in the coaching repertoire. It’s the training volume, intensity, and recovery from the workout that is the key to a World Record (okay, a bit far fetched for most of us, so let’s make that a Personal Record or Age Group record)
In my opinion, there are only a handful of items that help with Acceleration, and others that help top-end speed. Of course, these two are connected, and a good smooth acceleration will help set you up with a good top-end speed.
So here is my checklist:
- actual sprinting workouts with various distances (0-7 seconds in duration) and improving biomechanics
- resistance running: towing a weight (using a sled)
- resistance running: uphill running
- overspeed training: downhill running or being towed
- concentric weight training (i.e. squats)
- dynamic and explosive weight training (i.e. Olympic lifts)
- plyometrics (both double leg and single leg) which can be better than Conventional Strength Training?
That’s about it on my checklist. Maybe #8 would include EMS, but I’m no expert in that area. Perhaps I can get Derek Hansen to write a guest post? He offers a great review of the Globus Premium Plus EMS here. EMS may be beneficial as it stimulates the muscles and bypasses the central nervous system and thus has no CNS effect. I personally would put my money on recovery, massage, and physiotherapy first, then consider EMS.
I’ll get to each one specifically (all this has been covered in the blog in one form over another), but what bugs the hell out of me is watching a high school workout with kids towing a weight with horrible technique. Ditto in the weight room… kids getting strong but lifting weights solely for the purpose of hitting numbers.
Sorry Coach, but the only 2 numbers that matter to me is the stopwatch and maybe the podium step number.
Christophe Lemaitre: Hip Extension and Hip Flexion
But first, let’s talk about Christophe Lemaitre. Why not? Because his sprinting style reminds me of the 2 important elements in sprinting: hip extension and hip flexion. Surely, you can’t say his success is from his massive upper body strength? On a good day, he has the same stride frequency as Usain Bolt, and he’s not as tall.
I’m making a very VAGUE statement here, but Sprinting is all about the hips. Notably, hip extension and hip flexion. Both are important. Some coaches like John Smith of HIS (and others) believe in the forward knee punch. (Football coaches will teach this) The harder you drive your knee forward creates more tension in your hamstrings when you reach out with your foot (dorsiflexed, of course!) Result: by pushing back harder, your opposite knee will whip out faster, hence the term “whip from the hip”
Some coaches like Latif Thomas of Athletes Acceleration believe in punching the thigh down and hard and forcefully. What this does is the harder you pull your leg down and back, the more tension you create with the hip flexors by the stretch reflex action. Result: greater tension means a quicker and more powerful knee drive.
So both coaches are right, in a way.
The only caveat with “high knee drive” is not to go too high or thighs beyond parallel or else the hips will drop. And that would be bad.
The best example to explain this was from a Charlie Francis seminar using a reverse example. Michael Johnson, who I like to remind to the world that he still ran 19.32 in 1996, had a very powerful strong knee drive, but instead of having his thighs go to parallel, he stops his forward drive early with a very powerful pull back with his leg on the track, hence the great forces acting on his hamstring. You can’t copy MJ’s biomechanics without the same amount of leg strength. You could copy him, but won’t run as fast. Sorry!
That being said, the best way to improve is with the human eye or high speed camera and check out biomechanics first. However, any weakness in the biomechanics can be attributed to leg and hip strength, which leads to the next series of tips and training modalities.
Okay, so now we know what to look for. That was the easy part. (well, for me it was easy). The HARD part is how do you coach this? What kind of cues do you tell your athlete? Punch the knee forward for 43 steps, or force the leg down and hard for 43 steps? How about your arms? Your hands? Not so easy, right?
To be continued…