This article is guest blogged by Eric Broadbent, a certified USA Track and Field Level 2 Coach, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), holds USTFCCCA Track & Field Technical Certification, and a USA Weightlifting Sport Performance Coach.
To read all his guest articles on this Blog, click here for the full list.
Multi-Events Training Part 3
We have gotten a chance to talk about training goals and setup considerations in Parts 1 and 2. These are very critical components of the whole process. We can enhance these processes if we combine certain training aspects and teach our athletes commonalities that exist within most of the events. This is a very important component especially when dealing with novice athletes, but could create a better learning effect for more experienced athletes as well.
Commonalities between different training components can vary depending on what you deem as the common theme. The components could share certain neuromuscular similarities such as vertical or horizontal firing patterns, or have similar contact times, rhythm, and ranges of motion. The duration of power output and metabolic demands between different training components could also be similar and could potentially be paired in training. With various similarities that one might see within events, the coach may have different coaching cues that could address multiple events making his job and the athletes job easier when teaching and learning new skills.
The throwing events are a great place to start when teaching similar themes. The shot put and discus share a lot of similarities from the start. While your athlete may be going from a glide or spin for the shot, the tempo still starts off slower and controlled and ends with an aggressive low to high finish just like in discus. The spin in shot and discus have definite differences such as size of the circle and where the implement is held, but talking about balance and keeping the weight revolving around your inside leg can be seen in both events.
In all three throws, having separation of the hips and shoulders is extremely important for creating more torque and maximizing throw distance. The hips initiate the delivery and are followed by the trunk. A nice chest high and forward position can be seen in all three events, as well as blocking the opposite side in order to transfer all of the energy through the body and into the implement. A stiff front leg and shortening of the free arm lever will help with this. It is also important to have a high release point so posture should be addressed.
In the power position for javelin and discus it is important to maximize the length of the lever by not pulling or bending the elbow of the throwing arm too early. The power position for shot and discus is seen by having the shoulder facing the back of the circle while the hips are separated and more towards the front of the circle. The shoulders should be level for both events and the free arm (the one not holding the implement) should be nice and long to create a stretch across the chest as the athlete moves into the release prior to blocking.
While the throwing events share certain similarities with each other, there are also similarities between them and other events in the multis. When we look at the approach and take off for high jump and compare it to the javelin we can see several common themes. The tempo and speed of each approach is very similar and most, if not all of the momentum is developed prior to the transition into crossovers or the curve. The transition into crossovers and the curve needs to be smooth and seamless as to not disrupt the rest of the approach. At takeoff and during the power position a more aggressive and quick leg action is seen and the takeoff leg needs to be nice and stiff and reactive in order to transfer energy upward and outward.
When we look at the shot put and compare it to acceleration we can see similarities in that both components require the athlete to overcome inertia and push explosively with similar contact times so coupling those two events on the same day would be a good idea.
The jumping events also share some common themes as well. When we compare the long jump and pole vault approach, we can see these similarities. Having smooth and efficient acceleration with increasingly vertical body positions and upright takeoff can be seen. The penultimate and takeoffs are not identical (pole vault takeoff is more closely related to the triple jump) but are very similar. When discussing this with your athletes you can note the similarities of moving past the hips and maintaining velocity with the takeoff underneath the athlete while jumping up and out. With proper front side running mechanics and a powerful takeoff, the free leg (the leg not jumping) should move up and forward and block (just like the free arm and opposite side block in the throwing events) as the takeoff leg extends off the ground.
When comparing the penultimate and take off of the pole vault and long jump to the high jump you can discuss with your athletes some similarities and differences. The center of mass is lowered much more in the high jump but the same action of the penultimate can be seen with a rolling or flat foot contact and then stiff takeoff. This stiff take off or leg position will be seen in almost all of the events in the decathlon since this allows for energy to be transferred to the implement or into the body and not lost into the ground. The same could also be said for the blocking action, which is seen in the throws, jumps, and also in the sprints.
The hurdles, long jump and pole vault also share some common themes in that these events don’t have the luxury of some of the running events to have a smooth and patient acceleration pattern. If an athlete who normally accelerates out for 30-40 meters were to attempt to do this in the PV or Long Jump, you can imagine that they would not be in the proper position for the final steps prior to takeoff and this would impede their performance. The same is mostly true in the hurdles as well, although some taller female hurdlers can get away with a smoother acceleration since they do not need to be as upright going in to the first hurdle. It is for this reason that extensive time must be spent developing the approach and start while stressing the importance of getting taller faster and being consistent.
These same three events also have some common takeoff similarities. After pushing through takeoff, you can cue the athlete to think about leaving their take off leg behind them in order to create a stretch on the hip, which will help the takeoff leg swing forward. This pre-stretch could be very important for all three events and for slightly different reasons.
When looking at the high jump and comparing it to max velocity running you will see a lot of similarities in running technique and most of the force being vertical in nature. Knowing this could mean that coupling these two components on the same day might be a good idea to consider. On the flip side, if we looked at the start for the hurdles, the sprinting events, and the LJ and PV approach we see more horizontal firing (and eventually vertical). Acceleration is a common theme in these components so working on acceleration and having these events on the same day might be a good idea.
If you were to compare the curve running seen in the high jump and compare that to the curve running seen in the running events you would see some obvious similarities as well. You want to make sure you prepare your body to enter the curve without having your feet cross each other and the lean should start from the ankles and progress up the body. The lean should never be “faked” from the torso. The athlete should feel the outward foot pressure and stay on the curve and resist the centrifugal force.
Another similarity that exists within every event is having triple extension to maximize event performance. While you probably won’t need to cue your athlete to triple extend in any event, you want to be aware that a firing pattern initiated from the hips, knees, then ankle is optimal for each event. The reason why this is so important is because you want your larger force producing muscles to initiate movement as you move down the leg to weaker yet still important joints in the body. This proximal to distal firing pattern is also seen in the upper body as well.
Maintaining good posture and having good running mechanics should be addressed in all aspects of training. I cannot stress how important this is! Coaches realize the importance of good mechanics and posture but often times they don’t look to address this in events that are not running events. If an athlete has backside mechanics and poor posture in the high jump for example, then having a good penultimate and takeoff is probably not going to happen. Addressing the root of the issue, poor mechanics and posture, could help fix everything else.
Most of the time when you speak with an athlete they will talk all day long about what they should be doing over top of the hurdle and in the air for the long and high jump. While this is an important component, it is far less important than what the athlete does on the ground. In physics we learned that you can not alter the parabolic curve of a projectile once it is in the air. You can however manipulate the rotations of that projectile, but it’s still going to come down at the same angle with which it went up. Knowing this key point, it is imperative that a coach spends most of the time developing what the athlete does on the ground.
We can also look at what the athlete does for the track session and come up with some common themes and activities to perform in the weight room. The coach should not get hung up on this and think that everything has to appear the same in the weight room as it does on the track, but having general similarities and having some specificity is a good idea. If the athlete just got done with an acceleration session it might be good to do power cleans and squats since the ranges of motion and amount of time applying force is similar. If you were doing more max velocity type activities you might want to do hang cleans or lunge jumps. You could also do some unilateral exercises like step-ups or split squats since the ranges of motion, amount of time applying force, and posture is more akin to top speed running. These are just a few quick examples of similar activities in the weight room but there are many others.
We could look to other training activities such as plyometric work and explosive medicine ball throws and pair that with similar activities seen on the track and in the weight room. This could enhance performance gains even further. Doing hurdle hops, skips for height, and vertical medicine ball throws are examples of activities that you could add on your max velocity days. Doing Between the legs forward throws, Squat chest throws, and standing long jumps are examples of activities that you could add on acceleration days.
As you can see, there are tons of commonalities and similarities within the events and various training components that the coach has to choose from. Understanding these commonalities and pairing them together will make both the coaching and athletes grasping of these concepts much easier to understand. This will in turn produce a faster and more complete understanding of the technical components and will enhance adaptation.
In the final part, I will address the mindset of the multi-eventer and talk about everyone’s Olympic experience.
About the Author
Eric Broadbent is a certified USA Track and Field Level 2 Coach, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), holds USTFCCCA Track & Field Technical Certification, and a USA Weightlifting Sport Performance Coach. He also has over 6 years of coaching experience including coaching at North Carolina State and West Chester University. As an athlete, he won the USATF 2012 Indoor Heptathlon and was an Olympic Trials Qualifier. That same year he represented the US in the Pan American Cup and took 2nd place. As a national level competitor he also had top 6 finishes at the 2009 and 2010 Indoor Combined Events Championship and finished 10th at the 2011 Outdoor National Championships.