Interview with Kenta’ Bell: 5 Questions

This is Part 14 of the weekly “Friday Five” series where I ask 5 tough questions to world class elite coaches. To recap:

  1. Jumps coach Boo Schexnayder
  2. Dr. Mike Stone of the USOC and NBA
  3. Performance specialist Henk Kraaijenhof
  4. USA’s Dan Pfaff, now with UKA
  5. Pierre-Jean Vazel of the French National Team
  6. USATF Chair for Men’s & Women’s High Jump Dave Kerin
  7. Michigan State University’s Randy Gillon
  8. Harvard/UTEP/Portland State/Syracuse’s Kebba Tolbert
  9. Performance consultant and EU Basketball S&C coach Jose Fernandez
  10. KIHU Biomechanist Tapani Keränen (The Research Institute for Olympic Sports in Finland)
  11. Stockholm’s Hammarby soccer club physical preparation coach Mladen Jovanovic
  12. Syracuse University Assistant Coach Dave Hegland
  13. Mike Young from EliteTrack.com and Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Kenta’ Bell (pronounced Ken-TAY), a two time USA Olympian (2004, 2008) in the Triple Jump and the 2001 Gold medalist at the World Student Games in Beijing, China. 

His PR is an impressive 17.63m and he is also the 2003 & 2010 USA National Champion. By then, he was ranked as one of America’s top ten triple jumpers in each of the past nine years by Track & Field News.

Kenta’ Bell’s past articles include Ballistic Power for Better Athletic Performance and Advanced Plyometrics for Jump and Sprint Training, both are must reads.

Friday Five is sponsored by Freelap Track and Field, a leader in electronic timing.

Interview with Kenta Bell

Freelap Friday Five

Q1 – SpeedEndurance.com:  We’ve already spoken at lengths on Skype and you already have a few guest articles.  So let’s get specific and help these coaches and athletes with direct questions.   What are the common faults to bounding, and to the triple jump?

Kenta’ Bell: There are several common faults to the triple and bounding in specific. I find it hard to understand why coaches and athletes ignore the importance of solid foundational bounding. Bounding is the root of athletic performance in general. Most specifically the core strength and technical efficiency in jumping events. You are what you repeatedly do and repetition is a form of emphasis. If your bounding is bad your jumping will be bad. Everybody speaks on maximum stride length and frequency in sprinting, but fail to realize that sprinting is jumping from one foot to the other. Improve a person ability to generate and apply force in bounding and you increase their vertical ground force. This force thus translates to the athlete having a longer stride length at higher frequencies.

Q2 – SpeedEndurance.com:   I want to dissect this topic, and do an Anatomy course.    Can we start with the feet, or more specifically the ankle joint with respect to common faults to bounding?

Kenta’ Bell:  For the Foot/ankle joint, whether it’s walking-jogging-running-sprinting-jumping, I start by asking this question: What’s the same but different in the list of things above? The commonality is the foot contacts on the ground. If done correctly every one of them should have the same type of foot contact and usage of the ankle joint. It has always amazed me how we walk and jog rolling from heel to toe on the foot, but then think that sprinting on our toes is more efficient. The only differences are the vertical force application and the vertical rise in the center of mass. Looking deeper into this we teach all the lifts in the weight room to stand flat footed and drive up through the heels. Scientific research and data has shown us that the highest vertical forces are in the rear to mid-foot area of the arch or tendon of the heel. There is a reason we can squat and clean significantly more than we can calf raise. There is elastic tissue in the arch, heel, Achilles, and gastroc/soleus muscle groups than can produce large amounts voluntary force in very little time. By using the foot correctly the athlete can thus conserve large amounts of time and energy that have been wasted due to inefficiency and over-exertion.

Q3 – SpeedEndurance.com:  I’ve quoted on this Blog that sprinting is all in the hips (or Gluteus muscle group) and that sprinting is a “whip action with the hip”.  Can you elaborate?  How about front-side and back-side mechanics? (The favorite topic at USATF clinics)

Kenta’ Bell:  That’s a two part question!

Hip & gluteus muscle group:  when it comes to bounding and jumping coaches don’t fail to look at the hips as closely as they do in sprinting. When it comes to strength training people totally ignore the glutes. How this manages to happen when we know that this is the largest muscle group in the body boggles me. When i look at the majority of people jump and bound they are not connected. This means that they are broken at the hips or the waist. They leave their butt poked out and never engage their glutes. When you squeeze your glutes this pushes your hips forward. As your hips are pushing forward action activates the hip extensor thus driving the thigh down and back into the ground. This is not to be misunderstood with the analogy “suck and tuck.” Coaches often tell athletes to suck in their stomach and tuck the butt in order to get the hips beneath them. This is the last thing an athlete should strive to do.

Free leg swing/ backside mechanics: coaches and gurus have long talked front-side and back-side mechanics in sprinting. When you address bounding and jumping it is probably much more applicable here than anywhere. Most athletes are over aggressive attacking the ground with what we will now call the “front-side.” They are absolutely passive and non-aggressive when it comes to activating and swinging the free leg which we will now call the “back-side.” Bounding and jumping events are primarily eccentric strength driven. This sentiment has been shared by other colleagues of mine such as Boo Schexnayder. Understanding this leads us to rationalize that to much emphasis is on trying to creative negative foot strike by attacking the ground. Through proper use of the foot/ankle joint and pretension the front-side is a given. Where the athletes main focus should be is centered around early activation of the free leg swing and engagement of the glutes and hips to create horizontal lead and vertical lift.

Q4 – SpeedEndurance.com:  Are there any other issues you can see with regards to common faults to bounding?

Kenta’ Bell:  Two things. 

Postural alignment (low back strength): much like the hips most athletes and coaches fail to respect the importance and relationship of low back strength in bounding, jumping, and sprinting. The muscles of the erector spinae group are hugely responsible in the activation of the glutes. Likewise, having a significant role in keeping the torso upright. I have found that most jumpers lack having a successful 2nd phases due to lack of strength in the low back. Once again I reiterate the importance of being fully engaged and connected from the ground up. As you can see that i have started from the ground and worked up.

Over aggression – lack of flow: because most athletes lack in rhythm and synchronization they typically try to overcompensate with aggression. In most cases less is more when it comes to bounding and jumping. Having well synchronized limbs and great understanding of muscle groups and muscle engagement typically yields high reward and benefits. The key is to take a common thing and do it uncommonly well.

JIMSON’S NOTE: Here is Kenta’s video teaching you the fundamentals of bounding.

Q5 – SpeedEndurance.com:  Could you share how Freelap Timing has changed how you conduct practice and develop sprinters and jumpers?  What things have you done this year differently than years past?  If you can give some live examples and mention the athlete names, if possible.

Kenta’ Bell:  Freelap has definitely been an added bonus to myself and individuals that I train with. I’m a firm believer that if you can time it or measure it you can improve it. I would say the first thing it provided me was a virtual training partner. Being that I predominately train alone it allows me to constantly push and gauge myself from rep-to-rep and day-to-day. Freelap has also helped me monitor and gauge my level of fatigue with the workout. This based on performance time and percentage drop-off. In regards to both the sprints and jumps it has beneficial in improving the acceleration development phase of running. your overall running speed is determined by you ability to accelerate and maintain that acceleration curve.

The big misconception in coaching jumpers is that as they get stronger and/or faster you should increase their approach length. I find this completely contradictory to what the numbers and proven success has shown. Stronger and more ballistic athletes need less time or distance to accelerate, so moving them backwards yields no benefits. If anything it gives them more time to make mistakes and errors in the run. Unlike the long where maximum velocity is desired at the board this is not the case in the triple. This event has the requirement of summating the forces three times versus the single impulse events like the LJ, HJ, & PV. I also found it extremely valuable at measuring velocity through the phases. This being from board to end of the runway just before the sandpit. The major nemesis to triple jump is loss of horizontal velocity.

By taking this measurement I’ve seen a huge improvements in athletes physical aggression and mental approach to taking a flatter hop with less trajectory and more speed. This has totally changed how I address the first phase in my jumping and coaching. Although I call it a first phase I now teach the event as a double jump and not a triple jump based on the findings. This can be found in my instructional video on thinkingfeet.com "1st phase of  triple jump". Likewise, I have always been an advocate of timing the last 10meters of the approach run and more specifically that 10m broken down into 5m splits. Having a negative split always shows an acceleration curve into the jump itself, not just to the board. This means that the athlete will touch down faster at the end of the 1st phase than they did at the board.

Overall this device has been wonderfully beneficial for myself and the athletes that I have introduced it. In our sport and the jumping events specifically we tend to have very keen kinasthetic awareness. Freelap is a tool for validation and correction. Many time the athletes think trying  harder or applying more aggression will yield them better results. What they find with the Freelap is that their best results often come with great ease and comfort. Once the athletes can learn to reproduce and groove in that mechanic with consistency he or she can then begin to see significant, consistent breakthrough in results.

My best example of this came in the mid-fall preparation when I was working with Olympian Pole Vaulter Jeremy Scott on his running mechanics and take-off mechanics. I was changing a ton of things and teaching him about force application as related to stride rate and frequency. His responses to me were that he felt slower. I put the Freelap system out and he was near his personal best velocities for 10m in his training flats on a gym floor. This was the turning point for him in understanding the run and the energy distribution in the run. As a result of this we saw a 6′ 9" pole vaulter make the U.S. Olympic team from a 14 step approach. Where most would assume that at that height with those levers his run would be 18-22 steps. You can also find more on his training on thinkingfeet.com. There you will be able to purchase instructional training video or a combo package with the workouts including running and plyometrics. There is so much more I could say and share, but I have to end sooner or later. For additional info, your readers can reach me at yourthinkingfeet@gmail.com for consulting, clinics, and coaching as well as program rebuilding solutions.

Comments

  1. Carlos says

    Wow!

    Bounding is the foundation of athletism ? ? ? ? ?

    We should also sprint with flat foot contacts ? ? ? ? ?

    We can all clean and squat MORE than we can calf raise? What! ? ? ?

    Are bounding contacts AT ALL similar to sprint contacts?

    Unbelievable statements in that article ….

  2. OKtav says

    Sorry guys for this late intervention…I’ve been busy few days…

    @Carlos… Well as long as it’s about “falling” and hitting the ground, subsequently about the law of the mechanics, principle stay the same… So yes bounding is the foundation of the athletics is a metaphor, but a quit true one…Actually Kenta says the the same laws are governing the interaction between ground in the athlete when this one runs, jump, etc. Actually running, sprinting is a series of successive controlled “jumps” and subsequently bounds and “rebounds”

  3. OKtav says

    What’s surprising me, in this article, is why Kent considers that people are ignoring glutes…Bret Contreras would be happy hearing that :))… As long as the basic law of the human motion – walk, run jump – is the triple extension, who would dare to ignore glutes?

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