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Tag Archive: plyometrics

  1. How to develop speed: Gary Winckler


    Tenets of speed development

    The hamstrings transfer force from the motor of the butt to the wheels of the foot.” Athletics coach  Gary Winckler  delivered an excellent overview on what he thinks is important on speed development at GAIN. A lot of the work is similar to what Frans Bosch did a couple of years ago, and he mentioned Bosch’s work a lot.

    Training muscles for speed

    Before doing speed assistance exercises in the gym or on the track, it is important to determine how the muscles work. There is no point doing lying down leg curls, or Nordic curls to “strengthen the hamstrings” if they are not used that way in running.

    The big gluteal muscles (The Big House) have a mostly parallel muscle fibre structure, and work concentrically.  They are also known as “stupid muscles” because any exercise used to work them will transfer well to use in sport.

    The hamstrings are a complicated bi-articluar muscle with a pennate structure. This means they are better suited to reactive forces; not suitable for rapid shortening.

    Reactive forces: the muscles set up a system to allow tendons to do what they are designed to do. In practice we are looking for a very rapid transition from a closed chain to an open chain at the moment of toe off.

    Posture is again important here: poor posture will result in either too much deceleration due to poor foot placement, or the hamstrings unable to utilise tendon elasticity properly due to poor pelvic placement.

    The importance of the foot / ankle.

    speed development

    Foot placement is key

    Instead of being passengers in the running cycle, the foot and ankle are key parts of the process. Winckler uses his ears to “Listen to it when they run”.  He can hear the ankle reactivity as there is less contact time.

    As an experienced track coach he uses awareness and sensory exercises to help his athletes develop the right patterns. I made the point that being less experienced, I have to use drills to analyse parts of the process. I can’t see what is happening at full speed. That will come with experience.

    It is important to keep a “neutral and active foot”. (Those athletes doing speed work with me over the last 2 years will know about this). Winckler then took some of us through a series of his basic drills to highlight the importance of foot reactivity.

    Again, I felt better by doing something and “having a go”; I am not afraid to make mistakes in the hope of learning something.

    I asked a question about arms, and Winckler expressed his thoughts that “the arms are a symptom of what is going wrong elsewhere rather than the cause“. This was a good tip for me.

     “Work on top speed, not just acceleration, otherwise what are you accelerating to?”

    Co-ordination is the ultimate goal

    When deciding how to enhance the speed of an athlete, either in the gym or on the track, it is the co-ordination of the body that is most important.

    This can be expressed as follows:

    • Strength is co-ordination training under resistance
    • Endurance is co -ordination training under prolonged or event specific time restraints
    • Speed is the expression of co -ordination.

    Strength, speed and mobility are interdependent qualities.

    Weightlifting for speed development

    In the gym we did some more exercises, but this time with external load, to enhance speed. This included hang clean variations with 1 foot behind the body, toe on the floor, then hopping up onto a step after the catch. We progressed through levels of difficulty on this drill, and this certainly challenged a few of the attendees.

    Another drill was a lateral step down and up onto a higher box with the bar on our backs. The idea was to get a reactive foot action and toe up onto the higher box. This was very tricky, and Kelvin Giles got “stuck into me” until I had some semblance of competency.

    Medicine balls 

    speed development

    Resisted speed drills

    We looked at some horizontal medicine ball work lying on your back and throwing as well as  step ups on to the step with a throw and extension at the end: this helps acceleration all the way through.

    A lot of talk about abdominal work misses the point about doing it in the same environment as the sport. Winckler uses overhead bar runs, or walking with a partner doing resistive band work behind to work the hip\ abdomen area.

    We also did a drill holding onto the band horizontally as it was attached to a pillar and our partner was moving it so we had to try and stabilise.

    The whole session emphasised the importance of co ordination (or lack of it) under load.


    Winckler was an example of a “sharp” coach. He is very softly spoken, but he was right on with his observations. It was great to hear some similar messages to Bosch, but from a different coaching aspect.   His work in the gym was excellent. I think we would have benefitted from being on the track with Gary and seeing how he coaches hurdlers, and what he sees.

    Next: Power, research and planning

    Want to Run faster? See our programme here 

  2. Developing the Robust Athlete: Jim Radcliffe

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    Some people can negotiate the speed bumps of life, some end up in a ditch.”

    robust athlete

    Jim Radcliffe University of Oregon

    Jim Radcliffe talking about the Robust Athlete in his excellent presentation at GAIN this year.

    Jim has coached at The University of Oregon  since 1989 and has been a major influence on my coaching since 2011 when I first saw him present.  His philosophy as developed over his time working with his athletes and his results reflect that.

    He started off by looking at the mindset of the athletes using the analogy of the Romans at the fall of their empire forgetting what made them strong in the first place.

    Post Marcus Aurelius, their emperors became weaker and “bread and circuses” and “orgies” undermined the character of the citizens.

    resilient athlete

    Equipped for the jungle

    Meanwhile the Visigoths were waiting to cross the Rhine and take advantage of the weakened states in the empire.

    He also likened developing athletes to the brutalities of the jungle in which Tarzan grew up and became strong, compared to Jane who was ill prepared to cope.

    Musculo –skeletal 101

    Jim has previously outlined the decline in the musculo-skeletal health of the athletes entering college now compared to when he started in 1989.

    These include:

    • Higher sedentary lifestyle
    • Poor nutrition
    • Improper running techniques
    • Less physical education (less play in the backyard too)
    • A high competitive age versus an infantile training age

    The coaching programme has to adjust accordingly and hope to rectify these problems.

    jim radcliffe strength

    Physical education

    (This information and my own experiences have massively influenced what we do at Excelsior ADC and why I set the club up).

    Jim quoted from a 1971 study on the need to be physically educated stating that movement is

    The Primary vehicle by which exploration and experimentation can expand knowledge of oneself.”

    Regaining the Rhythm

    Jim stated the need for some sociological orchestration to facilitate more free play. Young people need to practice “surfing through the chaos”. How else do they find their own rhythm?

    The art of coaching is now how to make something structured (like sports club) more like play?

    (It isn’t, as one academic recently tweeted, to “conduct drills in a playful manner”).

    barefoot training

    Jamaica or Willand sprinters?

    Jim is now working with many middle distance runners and in his sessions he tries to get them to find rhythm in running and also disrupted rhythm: the race is rarely even- paced.

    He referred to the Jamaican sprinters who still want to train on a grass track: does it help them with rhythm when sprinting?

    More is Better!

    If I keep adding strength coaches, what do we do more of? Strength coaching.”

    Jim said that we are currently in an age of adding more to things. Helicopter parenting is part of the problem (refer back to Overspecialisation blog and free play).

    We tend to overdo things in an effort to get ahead of the curve.

    We OVER:

    • Coach
    • Train
    • Analyse
    • Treat
    • Nutrienting
    • Medicating
    • Restorating

    Is any of this helping our athletes become more robust? Before using any of the restoration and medical interventions we have to know WHY we are doing it.

    From (recovery) versus For (preparing)

    Each intervention is situation and athlete specific.

    Jim says that overhydration is becoming a problem. We have an “innate thirst mechanism” which we should recognise. He said that most muscular cramps are associated with neuromuscular fatigue rather than dehydration.

    He follows a 4 ‘R’s approach to recovery:

    • Replace fluids and electrolytes (includes fruit and veg)
    • Replenish glycogen
    • Rebuild muscle protein
    • Reduce oxidative stress (again with the fruit and veg!)

    (This is similar to the 3 stage approach to nutrition we use adapted from Dave Ellis which starts with fresh produce).

    Massage: what is it good for?

    does sports massage work

    overpampered athletes?

    In a study of 30 Olympians, it was found that the medallists used massage less than non-medallists. Has it become a crutch for some?

    (I personally have found that it is overused, and that is linked to funding streams with equal amounts being allocated to training and “medical”. The athletes then use it or lose it, meaning they are spending as much time on the massage table as they are doing fitness training).

    Jim was also critical of cold water immersion: he has found his athletes adapt to it quickly and it restricts blood flow. Jim quoted from Bill Knowles that “movement is medicine” and said that active recovery methods have worked better for his athletes.

    jim radcliffe plyometrics

    definitely not Jamaican

    Jim finished with a thought that athletes have to be given the opportunity to “figure it out”. He creates some “agility through adversity” sessions.

    This seminar was an excellent example of a coach using the scientific method to establish what works best for his athletes. It is experience based practice and has been refined over 28 years in one environment (not many “scientific” studies last for 28 weeks!)

    My only gripe is that we had limited practical time with Jim at this GAIN, we did plyometric progressions one morning with him, but I always want to learn more!

    Further reading:

  3. Plyometrics and Agility: Jim Radcliffe


     “Try to be more like a super ball not a tomato”

    plyometrics radcliffe

    Coach Radcliffe and me 2014

    Jim Radcliffe’s advice on plyometric training rang true as he went through a series of progressions for plyometrics at GAIN 2016.

    I have read his book on the subject, and seen him at 4 previous GAIN seminars. This is an updated post reflecting his latest cues, and my ability to coach these exercises better having been working with our athletes weekly on them.

    Jumping in place

    Coach Radcliffe looked at starting from the basics and working on the correct mechanics from the start. The key is to work on vertical displacement of the hip. He used these cues to help:

    • Thumbs up with 2 hands- links to sprinting
    • Toes up: ankles locked and loaded
    • Head to ceiling: just do it and land quietly.
    • Land ready to take off again.

    We did these barefoot on grass to start with: it helps correct faulty foot mechanics and get a better “feel” for what is needed.

    Jump Progressions


    Plyometric training

    Once the players can do this he uses multiple responses with a pause, so 3 jumps with 2 seconds rest in between. Landing ready to go again. Then do 4-6 in a row.

    Then squat jumps with hands behind the head, with a pause, and bending the knees to get more of a positive shin angle. Repeating these  in a pogo fashion with the thumbs up again.

    Rocket jump– reach up and down, could reach side to side too.

    Tuck jumps-like slide kicks in sprint drills where the heel strikes the butt like sliding up a wall. Or knee tuck with heels in front of the body, hands by chest, knees to hands. Then multiple responses with hands moving up and down.

    Spatial jumps– use split jumps, then split jumps switching legs.

    Depth jumps– makes sure you land in position correctly. Use “shock” to react and spring back up by not looking at the landing.

    Travelling Forward

    We then looked at linear progressions of bounding with horizontal displacement of the hips.

    Prance: both feet land and take off at the same time: not skipping. You should hear 1 sound at a time (note to coaches who have music blasting out: you are eliminating one of your key senses).

    Gallop: 1 foot forward, keeping the front foot under the body though. The cue “driving like a piston” helped me more this time round.

    Skipping: extended skips forward with a step high, projecting the hips forward.

    Bounding: 1 leg to the other like a prancing activity “Load and fire”, “Load and fire”.

    Bounding with more knees drive, working on distance. Bounding with zig zags concentrate on landing.

    Hopping: more like top speed work. Over small hurdles “cycling the legs” landing with a pause, then multiple responses. Multiple double leg hops, then with single legs. Then start from a sprinters position and do diagonal hops, again cycling the legs.

    Advanced plyometric drills

    These drills are getting quite advanced now. He then worked up to what he did on the 2nd year of training with the guys. Posture is the determining factor for progression. Can you do a single leg squat with the rear knee touching the floor? if not, then “err on the side of doing too little.”

    Hopping over obstacles and immediately changing direction on one foot, with gradually more acute angles of turning was the start place. When landing, make sure you avoid doing a split step to move. Just push from the hips.

    Coach Radcliffe emphasised the need for minimal ground contact time. What are labelled “plyometric” on the Internet are often just slow jump drills. I discussed with Jim the fact that I find working more on lower level jumps with our athletes and trying to improve the timing and co-ordination seems to be effective. He said “me too“.

    Agility work

    As if the above plyometric drills weren’t going to help your agility! We have previously looked at on the field type work.

    • Turn and Run Mechanics (simple)
    • Speed cuts: moving off the inside foot, like a pivot action. (Temporal)
    • Power cuts: moving off the outside foot. “Sit , dip and drive.” (Temporal)
    • Reactionary movement skills.(spatial)
    • Games and skills drills (open)

    Much discussion has taken place on the “false step” what is known in the USA as a “plio step”. (Radcliffe and Gambetta were quite vehement in coaching this out of players who are doing it. This year, Ken Clark brought another perspective on this, so this discussion will continue).

    Instead, work on the plant foot under the hip, then power the hips away. Not plant the foot outside of the body and push.  The idea was to eliminate lots of foot movements that may look fancy, but don’t actually get you moving anywhere.

    (All the time Radcliffe was demonstrating drills he talked about hips, but it was actually his head that lead every action he was doing. That is something I learnt from Steve Morris and I incorporate into the agility work I do with every athlete).

    The Sway Drill

    A sort of trademark feature from Radcliffe is his Oregon Sway drill and it is a great idea for lateral agility. Using 2 small cones or plastic cups, the athlete works on a series of movements that start small and then work up bigger. It requires the ability to squat properly, and to turn, pivot, sway and push hips laterally.

    Next up was working on lateral starts, using a cross over step, or the same side leg, but opening up the hips. Then backward turns. Radcliffe also recommended working in sandpit sometimes to create an external load and level of difficulty.



    Coach Radcliffe and me

    Great presentations and demonstrations, with ample time this year to practice. I like “having a go” and feeling it.  Radcliffe is superb, and there was more time to open things up for discussion: like the “false step” or “hip projection”.

    I have revisited what I do, and taken away the sway drill and Gambetta’s foot dot drill as simple closed drills that athletes can do away from me with easy progressions. We use these on a weekly basis.

    Sport requires speed and power, the training should reflect that. It is easy to get caught on what you can do on a platform or lying down on a bench. At no point did we use an agility ladder!

    Next: How to develop speed

    We use these principles in our Jump Higher programme and at our weekly speed sessions in Willand.

  4. Principles of Training: Overload variations


    “If your only tool is a hammer, then everything becomes a nail”

    If your only way of overloading an athlete to cause adaptation is adding weight, then you are limiting what they can achieve. The overload principle is often defined by external load only.

    Not every sport, or every athlete needs to be loaded in the same way. One way of defining overload (as I learnt from Jim Radcliffe on GAIN 2011) is shown here:

    overload variations

    Power= Force x distance/ time.

    You can get more powerful by increasing force, or distance, or reducing the time to apply force or to cover distance.

     The 3 overload variations being:

    • Resistive: using gravity or external resistance.
    • Temporal: do the same work but faster, with less rest, or less contact time.
    • Spatial: train outside of the platform, small variations leading to big ones.

    When planning training programmes, it is best to focus on one aspect at a time, whilst maintaining the others.

    For example:

    A fencer needs to be able to cover big distances, fast, with little or no external resistance, except gravity and air. It makes sense to work on spatial and temporal overload, rather than resistive.

    Conversely, a tight head prop has to overcome massive external resistance in both the scrum and in the contact areas. It makes sense to concentrate on resistive overload, rather than spatial overload (although the latter is always amusing).

    The relationship between the three

    training overloadWhilst there needs to be a different emphasis at any one time, all 3 are inter related. It is diffcult to cover more distance (spatial) without the ability to produce force. That can be aided by resistive training. Similarly, having great strength, without the ability to move fast, or cover distance is useless in the sporting environment.

    The problem occurs in training environments where one is the focus to the exclusion of all else. One current example is that British fencers are being told they have to be able to squat and deadlift twice their bodyweight! This shows a complete lack of imagination and understanding of what the sport requires.

    Yes, most fencers could be stronger, and need to be, but that has to be applicable to what their sporting requirements are.


    When setting out your plan, look at the athlete’s strengths and weaknesses, look at the sport requirements and adjust accordingly.

    The 3 types of overload may help you start to systemise what you do and why.

    “The best way to get better?…. is to get smarter!” Jim Radcliffe.

    Read about our Get Stronger programme 

  5. Strength and conditioning for basketball: some thoughts.

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    If you think that basketball conditioning should resemble a scene from Coach Carter with repeated running in straight lines, you might be mistaken.

    Basketball speedI am lucky enough to train some good young basketball players. Most of them arrive with some sort of work ethic and overall athleticism.

    More than a lot of sports, they understand the need for work capacity, speed and the ability to jump.  They come
    from (or gravitate towards) training environments that encourage repeated
    efforts and work capacity.

    But is there too much of a good thing?

    Once the basics have
    been achieved, will just doing more “stuff” help the player, or potentially hinder them? I am trying to work with the players and their coaches on looking at more efficient ways of developing fitness that more resembles the demands and needs of the game and their positions.

    What are the positions?

    A recap on positions for those unfamiliar with the game.

    • Point guard: the general / organiser
    • Shooting guard: they shoot a lot
    • Small forward: good shooters, especially at free throws as
      they draw a lot of attention
    • Power forward: very assertive player, dominant in close
    • Centre: good at jumping, high skill level

    Whilst everyone has to be able to do everything, the positions do have differing demands. When looking at the physical characteristics of the positions, the game might develop people into those athletes, or certain types of athlete gravitate to those positions.

    Physical characteristics

    Centres and power forwards are the heaviest and tallest. They need the greatest mass due to the contact at box outs, picks and rebounds. They need great lower body strength due to prolonged periods of play in the low post/ middle post position.

    Point guards have to be the fittest endurance wise due to their versatility in play. Guards and forwards are only in static positions for 27%/ 28% of the time in a match. Conversely, Centres have been shown to only move linearly for 33% of the match, the rest is more lateral shuffling movements, checking, contact and such like.

    So we can see a difference between the needs of the positions already. As the playing ability goes up, so do the demands of the game as decision making and tactics affects movement demands.

    At International level, players do a lot more high intensity work (above 90% of max Heart Rate) but also a lot more low level work such as shuffling, to recover. The high intensity work is not just running; more body contact requires more static / isometric strength work and moving from this to running is fatiguing as inertia has to be repeatedly overcome.

    The nature of the International matches has been shown to be much more intermittent in nature than National Level matches where the players did not work at such high intensities. National level players spent much more time in a “middle zone” of intensity.

    How Can I get fit for basketball?

    basketball vertical jumpThis is the bottom line question that I am often asked. As you can see, there is more to basketball than just shuttle runs.

    If your training consists of repeated bleep tests and suicides, you are getting ready to play mid-level basketball as a guard or forward.

    If you want to play at a higher level, you need to adapt your training accordingly.

    I always follow this simple hierarchy of training:

    1 the person

    2 The athlete

    3 The position.

    Trying to train position specific before addressing the individual needs of the person, then their athleticism is a short cut that will come back to haunt you.

    So the priorities are:

    1 An overall sound movement pattern with no asymmetries.
    This includes the ability to run, jump, skip, land and move sideways. Then the ability to reproduce this repeatedly must be developed.

    2 Look to load these movements and progress to acceleration drills, deceleration drills and single leg work.

    3 Look at position work: with centres needing strength training
    that includes volume to allow an increase in mass. This strength work should be combined with movement patterns that encourage a low centre of gravity and multiple changes of direction in a small area. Guards and forwards can do more repeated jump work combined with high intensity shuttle runs.

    There is a place for testing basketball fitness, I prefer one of the yo-yo tests, plus vertical jump, plus our athletic screening.

    Whilst every young player asks How can I improve my vertical?” and proceeds to show me an Internet “Jump programme”, I emphasise the need for points 1 and 2 first. As they all practice lay ups and dunks at every opportunity, the priority is for teaching landing techniques and developing strength. The application of this will come through training initially, then specifics later.

    A sure way to detrain the athleticism of your basketball team is to do long slow runs, back to back bleep tests and upper body weights only.

    The players pictured are Sean Clifford (SWT and Excelsior client) who has been made Captain of the Leeds University team and Harry Turner (Millfield school) who played for England -Under 18s this summer.

  6. Is it the shoes? 3 tips to improve your vertical jump.

    vertical jump

    Is it the shoes?

    Basketball players looooove their shoes.  Even NBA players have succumbed to the allure of shiny new shoes that claim to improve your vertical jump.

    But more than shoes, there are some simple ways of improving your vertical jump (or Vertical in the basketball vernacular).

    1.  Get stronger legs. Sounds simple, but improving your overall leg strength will mean that you can develop more type IIa muscle fibres that will assist in power development. This means squatting in the range of 80-95% of your maximum, to parallel or below for 3-4 reps and up tot 5 sets.
    2. Work on tendon reactivity and co ordination. Once your legs are strong, then you have to work on the rate of force development- how quickly can you synchronise your muscle and tendon recruitment? One way to do this is ankle tapping drills which work on the foot control and minimising ground contact time.
    3. Game time situations. Your body reacts differently to pressure and the cues of other people around it. Practice jump shots and rebounding in a crowd. This will help you move faster and correspondingly higher than your opponent because you will be working subconsciously through autonomic nerve reflexes, rather than conscious thought. You will have practised in chaos, and be able to transfer that to the game more rapidly.

    Or, if that sounds like hard work, you could go out and buy some new shoes….

    Join our Jump Higher programme to really increase your vertical.

  7. Athletic Development Seminar with Vern Gambetta

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    Head Spinning

    I had the fortune to spend a weekend in Leeds with Vern Gambetta listening to him talking about athletic development with young athletes. Vern has over 40 years experience in the profession with plenty of anecdotes from these years, he is extremely enthusiastic, which enables him to inspire coaches and athletes alike.

    Functional trainingThe topics of his presentations linked with many of the chapters in his book, a must read for any aspiring coach.

    I came away from the weekend with my head spinning with information and a full notebook, which is going to take me a while to reflect on.

    Here are some stand out points from the weekend.

    Keep competence development one step ahead of skill development.

    Young athletes need to follow a physical development pathway; LTAD (long term athletic development) is being used by many governing bodies, despite some arguments against the windows of adaptation.

    No matter what pathway they take the athlete always needs to be able to perform the skills; which comes from a having a sounds competence level.

    How running affects muscles.

    When we did the practical running sessions Vern explained that running backwards with extending your legs back helps to improve calf flexibility, something most young athletes need, it does not work hamstrings though.

    He also uses curved runs to improve hamstrings. An example with groups  is snake runs where they follow the athlete in front running and changing directions like a snakes body.

    Maintenance = slow leak.

    One of the topics we talked about was in season training. He describes a common training term of maintenance as a slow leak: over this phase the athletes will slowly lose any adaptations they have made. This needs to be carefully monitored and programmed otherwise you could start every season from the same point.

    Once injured an athlete is always in rehab.

    Once an athlete has had a serious injury and been through a rehab process you must always treat them as if they are in rehab. Re-occurrence or compensatory injuries can always occur.

    Adaptation/ detraining times

    A schematic on the time it takes to adapt to training.

    de training times


    I have already started to use some of the practical exercises Vern showed with my athletes and re-read the notes once but I will need to read them again and look through the slides.

    Duncan Buckmaster

    For more reading on this see the extensive reviews of GAIN here

  8. Agility with a Purpose: Jim Radcliffe

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    Posture, Balance, Stability, Mobility

    jim radcliffeThese are the 4 key points that Jim Radcliffe keeps coming back to when he discusses his agility periodisation and planning.

    His lecture and practical sessions at GAIN V expanded on the work he did last year (detail here).

    Without these 4 areas, no amount of drills will help a player become more agile. Instead, adding a ball into the routines will just lead to poor technique.

    (All week, everything came back to posture and precision, variety and progression)

    Fundies on Mondays

    Jim talked about how he plans the season and the week moving from a fundamental base (Fundies on Mondays) to more open and random games later in the week and in the season itself.

    The agility progressions are:

    • General to Specific
    • Closed/Programme to Open/Random
    • Simple to Temporal to Spatial to Universal.

    (I keep emphasising this in the work I do with athletes and coaches, copying drills from 101 agility drills books does not lead to better agility, just organised despair).

    This links in to the strength work that Radcliffe does in the gym where players learn how to Flex, Extend, and Rotate, but with resistive overload.

    Everything in his training programme is designed to eliminate bad postures and habits: or anything that stops his players from being rapid.

    Radcliffe is an excellent coach, and has spent 26 years at Oregon perfecting his craft. His demonstrations are brilliant and I really like how he can get the message across in a simple form to players.

    This time we had a greater opportunity to particpate and feel what the sessions were like (much appreciated Vern and Jim).

  9. Strength and Conditioning: Putting the Athlete first.

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    split snatch3 weeks ago I went to Houston for GAINV, a conference for Athletic Development Coaches, Strength and Conditioning coaches, Physical Education Teachers, Athletic Trainers, Physiotherapists, Track and Field Coaches and various other professions.

    Run by Vern Gambetta, it was an intensive 5 days of learning in the classroom, on the track and in the gym. The theme was “Coaching” and it was a masterclass in how to organise an event and share information and ideas.

    I shall be reflecting in more detail over the next few weeks, but some highlights included:

    • Ed Thomas, PE historian, letting us all know how it had been done better 10 years ago.
    • Bill Knowles: Rehabilitation of the knee, a systematic and dynamic approach.
    • Frans Bosch: skill acquisition and co contraction exercises.
    • Jim Radcliffe: Agility done well and with purpose.
    • Dave Ellis: Nutrition that involves food, not equations or supplements.
    • Dean Benton: Fitness testing, training management, recovery for Rugby Union

    I can’t express enough the usefulness of mingling with such a variety of people who attended the conference. All were willing to share and exchange ideas.

    There was so much information, that I have to really reflect hard and thoroughly.

    It has taken me a year to implement what I learnt on GAIN 2011

  10. How to Plan Your Training: GAIN Review 6

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    “90% of coaches’ work is grunt work”  Terry Brand

    Vern Gambetta did a few presentations on planning training, as well as a couple on coaching itself. The overall theme was “have a plan, then work the plan”.  I will cover some specifics in this blog, as well as an overall summary.

    Bullet Proof The Athlete

    It is important to start out with a goal. Rather than chasing some arbitrary stats, it is important to keep the athlete in shape to train, and of course to compete. This means building and rebuilding the athlete from the Ground Up. 

    Gambetta looks at what he calls “Foundational Legs”  to get his athletes strong first. He uses fast eccentric body weight exercises (rate of 1 rep /sec) along with mini band exercises to help cause eccentric soreness which replicates demands from change of direction on the field /court. He adds load up to 30% of body weight, before moving on to other exercises.

    This would include:

    • Single leg squat:  standing, seated
    • Squat: regular, overhead
    • Lunge: regular, with reach
    • Step up: regular, high.

    He builds up the reps from 10-12-15-18-20  or 10-15-20, depending on their development.  The goal is to get 5 sets of 20. He does this 2 x week, with 2 days rest in between. The legs require more recovery than the upper body.

    This is a snapshot of training planning in detail, and how a coach has come up with a plan that works.

    Create a Menu of Exercises

    One of the most useful insights for me was the classification of exercises, as covered by Kelvin Giles, Jack Blatherwick and again by Gambetta.

    Gambetta mentioned the Doherty Strength/ Power Index (DPI) to help decide which lift is where on a scale of strength or speed.

     S10    S9……..   S1

    V1      V2……………V10

     (See yesterday’s blog on acceleration for a similar diagram).

    Then for choosing the session itself:

    • Classify the exercises : type of body part, movement.
    • Rank the Exercises: order of complexity, or difficulty.
    • Select the Exercises: what are you going to work on
    • Combine the Exercises: what complements what, super sets and so on.

     In the session Gambetta uses this progression of exercises:

    1. Remedial: waking up the body.
    2. Ancillary: getting ready to lift.
    3. Focus: Lifting

    This was a useful way of looking at what needs to be done, providing you know what you want to achieve at the end of the session or micro cycle. Instead of “how can I fit my new exercise I learnt at the weekend into my programme?”

    How to Progress your athlete

    It is easy as a coach to get caught up in new “stuff”. Progressing your athlete can be done by getting them to solve movement puzzles.  This helps increase efficiency.

    Get a pristine movement, then create Repeatable Excellence in Movement.

    • Why progress something that is poor?
    • Why load a poor movement?
    • Why keep on loading a poor movement?

    “Circuit training to help the movement challenge is a nonsense”.

    Instead, look at increasing complexity of movements by using Puzzles that are more spcific to the sport, that involve reactions and also decision making. From working in single planes to a “neural blizzard”.

    In the big scheme of things if a new idea/ process/ prescription is recommended: what are you going to sacrifice to accommodate the new unit?

    Gambetta then went through different qualities that need to be developed and how. The message was that when trying to develop endurance, speed, strength or flexibility you have to:

    • Build the quality (efficiency of movement)
    • Build the Capacity (movement consistency, resilience)
    • Get the Improvement
    • Apply it
    • Get another Improvement

    No changes are permanent or relevant unless they are applied and practiced. 

    Summary of the GAIN 2011

    The Eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed that I said I would do 5 blogs, not 6 about GAIN. Well, there was so much information and reflection that I could write an additional 5. I haven’t mentioned:

    The early morning sessions in detail, applying theory into practice, some useful information there or

    The Athletic Trainer type seminars on “Return to play” “Functional Anatomy” and the Physical Competence Assessment in detail.

    Greg Thompson’s excellent interactive workshop on analysing and coaching throwing mechanics.

    Key lessons learnt:

    • How the key speakers had developed a system that works and how organised they were in delivering it. This included the importance of classifying exercises.
    • Using a manual as a tool for organising these thoughts into practice. But not being constrained by theory/ structures and losing adaptability.
    • The importance of staying sharp when coaching and being innovative in your practice (different from being gimmicky). This requires planning and reflection as well.
    • How important coaching is when developing the Athlete.

    Things that could have been better:

    The evening seminars were dire. Too many people in a big group, completely unworkable. After being on the go since 0630, this could have been an opportunity for reflection, discussion and action on our own development. Part of the reason for me signing up to GAIN was to get some critical advice on how I do things from World Class coaches. There just was not the opportunity to do this.

    Splitting the seminars up: The diverse backgrounds were an advantage in offering different perspectives. They were a disadvantage when trying to please everyone at the same time with the same seminars.  It would have been good to offer a choice of 2 seminars for different backgrounds.

    A major part of Coach learning is done through informal interactions. This could have been recognised and time allowed/ encouraged.

    The future

    It may still be too soon to decide whether the hefty investment of time, money and effort (from my family too) was worth it.  One of the bonuses of GAIN is the ongoing learning of an online library and discussion forum. If this works out as fruitful and avoids group think, then that will help my Coaching.

    Thanks to all the Faculty and the delegates for their input and thoughts.

     This was one part of the Excelsior audit I have conducted this year. The bottom line is will it help me Coach our Athletes better? Thoughts always welcome.

    Further reading: