Response to Greg Rutherford’s Long Jump Victory in London

In response to Greg Rutherford’s Long Jump Victory in London, here is a response from Kenta’ Bell, a two time USA Olympian (2004, 2008) in the Triple Jump and the 2001 Gold medalist at the World Student Games in Beijing, China.

Kenta’ Bell’s past guest articles include Ballistic Power for Better Athletic Performance and Advanced Plyometrics for Jump and Sprint Training, both are must reads.  He also made a VIDEO: How to Teach Bounding (in 4 Easy Steps), and you can read my Interview with Kenta’ Bell “Friday Five”.

Kenta’ Bell’s website is www.thinkingfeet.com and you can reach him at horizontalvelocity (at) hotmail.com

Response to Greg Rutherford’s LJ Victory

Hi Jimson,

Looking at the Games from the perspective of an athlete first, self coached athlete 2nd and now a coach/consultant and I have many thought and opinions on your article. You have posed many great point of interest in your observation on the men’s long jump and I have the triple jump qualification. I will waste no time diving into these topics. Keep in mind that much of what I’m expressing and sharing comes from lessons of my own trials and tribulations. Learning the hard way.

Point #1

Why are so many athletes fouling and having such poor jumps when the sprinters on the same surface are doing so well.

The first observation I would like to make is that 100% (x) 2 = INJURY, not 200. The jumps are about having maximum controlled velocity. One of the main reasons we do maximum velocity sprint training is so that when we get on the runway and drop back into our relaxed comfort zone we are where we would need to be. It’s basically like watching Bolt or Felix glide through the rounds fast but easy and controlled. Yes they could run faster but they don’t have to.

I have often said that one of the most critical portions of jumps and sprint training is acceleration development. This is because out ultimate speed is determined by our ability to accelerate. Running on a fast runway such as London for a jumper is about like running with a huge tailwind. As a jumper you don’t over work or over run a tailwind or you will get slammed every time or have lots of foul problems.

What I have found to work from personal experience and gotten great results with coaching through an athlete that I’m working with who qualified for the triple jump final there is that the getting a really good drive phase and acceleration is the key. After “the drive” the athlete should basically look to control his/her run and steer into the board. The emphasis then is not on running as hard and fast as possible to the board, but more or less floating it in on mechanics and arm rhythm. This leaves the athlete free to steer in and make any adjustments necessary to successfully execute a great take-off and jump.

If and when the athlete needs to jump further they simply push out of the back a little harder. This probably sounds totally contradictory to most, but look back at Usain Bolt in 2008 100m final. During the last 15m when he was celebrating his speed or mechanics didn’t change and he continued to distance himself to the finish.

Point #2

Looking at the injuries of many of the top jumpers and the commonality of why they are so similar is a no brainer.

It goes back to my argument on training jumpers to be great jumpers.

The majority of these coaches spend an unbalanced amount of time on speed and strength training as compared to jump training. I’m not just talking about jumping from the board into the pit. You always hear me talk about force reduction before force production, in force reduction is when the muscles elongate and elastic energy is stored. This is achieved by doing box jumps, plyos, calf negatives and etc. the majority of athletes spend all their time doing calf raises and going up. This motion in itself shortens the tendon and ligament.

Unfortunately the only time you are in this position as a jumper or sprinter is during the toe-off portion of the stance. From the time the athletes foot makes contact with the ground and until he passes over it and starts to drive off that athlete is In a eccentric/elongated contraction. This argument applies to the sprints as well.

In the past few years we have seen a significant rise in calf and Achilles Injuries in the sprints as well. The majority of the do no negative calf/Achilles work. They train in flat to neutral trainers then go to spikes that are rigid and built up in the toe-box area creating high tension and stretch in an untrained unprepared area. From there they move to the newer starting blocks that force the athlete to place the entire foot which means that athletes who in the past didn’t know how to appropriately load the Achilles in the set position are being force into that stretch. Its inevitable that over time something has to give. In most cases it’s the Achilles or the calf muscle.

Summary

In summary when you get into these situations less can definitely be more. The average athlete in this type of situation is going to do two things:

  1. attempt to be perfect in technique and execution
  2. tighten up slightly due to pressure.

The pendulum swings both ways and you want be in the middle. This is when the coach and athlete need to have a good relationship and have an understanding of how he or she competes and what that athletes tendencies and mechanical faults are. In the triple your best bet is always on being big and open, let it all hang out.

Trying to perfectly execute will truncate mechanics and create the opposite of the desired result. In the long jump its always best to relax, be patient in your run and let your speed come to you. Unlike in the sprints at our finish line we have to summate forces upwards 7-10X our body weight and be patient enough to let things happen and flow from there.

Regards,

Kenta’ Bell

His website is www.thinkingfeet.com and you can reach him at horizontalvelocity (at) hotmail.com

  • Coach Bell’s articles and his website supply an immeasurable amount of useful ideas and content…

    However, and with the utmost respect, I feel I need to ask how adding [b]more[/b] “sub-optimal” (sub-optimal in terms of loading, at least relative to jumps) eccentric work could not simply either 1) be sub-optimal and too “non-specific” (unless we are dealing with rehab situations) or 2), and maybe more importantly, if indeed deemed [i]useful[/i], why might they not be considered as adding unecessary volume/stress to already overloaded tissues?

    • Jumping is an art and a skill. I f you don’t train jumping you will not be successful. One of the largest stressors and overloads on tissue, ligaments, and joints are lifting weights. Eccentric strength work is viable option that produces huge vertical force loads and the ability to perform very high quantity repetitions at rate of force comparable to task pace. You have to look at eccentric strength training as elastic strength and not so much as muscle tissue. Their is tons of data and research that show that jumping or the concentric contraction is voluntary if previously loaded correctly in the eccentric phase. look at eccentric work like pushing down a spring and letting go, when you release the spring uncoils. trying to involuntary jump using brute strength, poor technique, or negative foot strike can do significantly more damage than eccentric strength work. I like to say lengthen to strengthen. The pendulum swings both ways and you have to strengthen both sides equally. In terms of injury prevention this type of work is vital there as well. Just think about the many benefits of the stiff leg deadliest and how it lengthens-strenghtens- and tones. The achillies tendon, arch, and patella tendon works just the same. Most injuries in muscles, and joint connectors occur during the braking phase or the eccentric phase, this tells me that insufficient detail has been placed eccentric (negative) stretch of the stretch reflex.

  • Thank you coach Bell…

    My initial concerns were not meant to have me sound like some armchair S&C/coach but, simply stemmed from my studies in physical therapy and my being married to a physical therapist :)

    I simply cannot help but wonder if, in reality, the notion that most injuries occur during the braking/eccentric phase would not potentially imply an even “more simple” issue, entailing that we haven’t paid enough attention to recovery and/or overall volume…

    I suspect it’s a valid concern, especially given the loads experienced in tissues with jumps and other ballistic activies (upwards of 10 times bodyweight) compared to even the heaviest possible eccentric strength training modalities…

    But, the concern would still lie in figuring out how to progressively overload tissues appropriately, practice the skill of jumping and yet, still allow for sufficient recovery (and optimal mechanics, potentially using different preventative approaches, among many other things).

    Rob Panariello (whom Jimson and others here will be familiar with) just recently on another blog wrote an article detailing some of the many factors we must take in consideration in the prevention of injuries. And, I think that, as he suspects, we need to look at a multitude of factors before determining what exactly are the causes of injury…

    Again, I wish to thank you for your time in providing us with more things to think about…

    • I definitely agree with you on maintaining and preserving tissue degradation. if you look at my bench drill under the videos section you will see me doing bounding drills over and through those benches. that activity is designed for the purposes you are discussing. The activity entails depth, depth reactive, speed and technical specific heights and angles. The primary basis is that if you don’t land heel first and if your posture is bad you don’t make it through. One series through the overs of these benches has the same amount of ground contacts and phase positions as 4 short run triple jumps. Complete 3-4 repetitions and you’ve combined a ton of things.

      • I’m sorry for my late answer Kenta (and out of the subject intervention) . I’ve sent you an email at yourthinkingfeet@gmail.com with professor Constantin’s answers and a “video salute” from his behalf…

        Back to the topic of this article. Actually the discussion in comments between Eric and You came to some interesting points. This would be matter for an “integrated” biomechanic class or at least a fully documented didactic article.