This article is guest blogged by Lee Ness, a UKA qualified Event Group Coach for Sprints and Hurdles, the Head Coach/Sprint Coach at City of Salisbury Athletics, and Running Club and Track and Field Team Manager for Wiltshire Athletics Association.
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Kick in the Butt
Ok, I’m going to put my head on the block and show some deficiencies in the hope of helping others. I have a problem to correct with my athletes that may help others.
First though, lets sort out the technicalities of the video below. The video was recorded with a high speed camera. This has been the most useful tool I’ve ever had as a sprint coach. Most people might think that a high speed camera is expensive. Something that can record 1000 frames per second is going to hurt the average coach’s pocket right? Well I bought an imported Casio Exilim EX-FC150 for about £125. There are newer versions available for around the same price. I never use the highest speed. For this cost, the camera just can’t produce the quality but the video below was shot in 120 frames per second, which is well within it’s capability. Most often, if I have decent light I will shoot at 240. No matter how fast the sprinter is, that is slow enough to spot anything.
I usually only use the camera if I want to do some proper analysis, on and off the track. If I want to just see what’s happening, I use Coach’s Eye app. It’s quick and easy, but my phone camera just isn’t good enough for full screen viewing on the Mac. But for trackside, with the athlete, it’s great. And the mark-up tools are awesome so I’ve imported the video you see in and out of Coach’s eye to get the mark-up on there.
Well, that’s the technical stuff out of the way, so now the admission. Almost all my athletes have exaggerated backside mechanics. I know this and it was one of my targets this year, but I didn’t realise how extensive it was until we spent an excellent day with Craig Pickering and he did the video analysis on all my kids. Every one had a similar problem. The causes weren’t the same, but the effect was. I’ve only included 6 of them in the video to highlight range, but trust me when I tell you that they all exhibited the symptoms.
The important thing with this is that once the foot is off the ground, the backside mechanics need to be minimised to get the thigh through to the front, parallel with the ground so that it can drive into the ground with maximum force production. The quickest and most effective path for this is a straight line for the foot from the ground to the start position beneath the knee at the start of the drive. All the time the foot is waving around at the back reduces the time to get it in the proper position at the front, and/or lengthens the air time, both of which slows the athlete down.
I’ve shown three pairs of athletes as a specific sample. I’ve added the mark ups just to show the acuteness of the knee angle, the actual number isn’t important The first two in the video are my “elite’s.” Nearest the camera is a 17 year old 400m runner with a pb of 47.94. The furthest from camera is a 16 year old 200m runner with a 22.0 pb.
The middle two both have some specific coordination issues, but are on a par with the first two in this particular instance. The last two girls are mid range athletes and both ladies for a non-gender biased problem!
While the symptoms are the same, the causes aren’t but I think (this remains to be seen) that the training correction will be the same (some of the athletes have additional work that they are doing in terms of therapy and pilates). We are working on strengthening the hip flexors, activating the glutes and general flexibility. In drill terms, we do all the drills, every single training session. We will be introducing some new ones and paying more attention on absolute correct execution of the drills we are doing. We thought we did this but the evidence before you suggests not. The camera doesn’t lie.
Lastly, I am going to introduce a specific technique for the first time. Having listened to Kenta’a Bell’s podcast and traded a few emails, and also having done some initial trials with some athletes, I am going to introduce a program of running without arms. I will write another post specifically on this, but when I did the trial, based on Kenta’a’s advice, the effect was considerable. I used relay batons that the athletes held behind their necks to lock the arms and ran a series of running drills. I’ll be videoing this when I do it with the full team so I will share it then.
I’m also going to add in a greater amount of drills where the athletes run over cones and hurdles on Craig’s advice. By the time of the indoor season, I want all my team whipping their foot off the ground quicker, reducing the backside mechanics and improving the front side. This will be my focus and I will keep you posted with how it goes. The aim, certainly with the U17/U20 athletes will be to keep the foot no higher than the knee as it comes through.
About Lee Ness
Lee Ness is a UKA qualified Event Group Coach for Sprints and Hurdles, the Head Coach/Sprint Coach at City of Salisbury Athletics and Running Club and Track and Field Team Manager for Wiltshire Athletics Association.
The book,The Sports Motivation Masterplan, is a support guide for athletes and parents, helping them with the role of mentor through their journey from young aspiring athlete, to elite performer.