(Lead photo of Eric Burns credit: UNI Athletics)
The genesis of this article comes from a presentation I was asked to do at the trackandfield.coachesclinic.com “Virtual Summit” hosted by CoachTube. That talk was aimed at providing an in-depth look at the training of our two top long jumpers at Loyola University Chicago, Eric Burns and Mackenzie Arnold. Elaborating on that talk, I’m developing a multi-part series to go into further detail on advanced development in the long jump.
The underlying theme at play in this project is the attempt to discover novel pathways to enhance dexterity along with speed/power gains through the conjunction of various training concepts1. This involves finding subtle progressions of specificity through manipulating the practice environment to not only educate and challenge each athlete, but to also get those adaptations to solidify long term. In other words, finding ways to synthesize speed/power capabilities into the skillful action of the event harmonizing speed, power, and skill into greater synchronicity.
After all, high speed/power proficiency with low long jump skill capacity is an unhealthy combo. It’s critical that coaches pay careful attention to how they are developing physical abilities along with requisite long jump skills. That compatibility is essential to advanced development in the long jump.High speed/power proficiency with low long jump skill capacity is an unhealthy combo, so it’s critical that coaches pay careful attention to how they are developing physical abilities along with requisite long jump skills. Click To Tweet
What I’m proposing is that long-term growth in the event comes from the amalgamation of these three qualities to cement skillful problem-solving execution at higher speeds, thereby nurturing greater levels of velocity into sound technical proficiency and decision-making processes. Speed is king in the long jump, but it must be transferred into the specifics of all that encompasses that movement pattern.
Schematics of Resisted Sprint Training on the 1080 Sprint
No discussion of long jump development can be divorced from speed development. Velocity is the primary driving force that provides the conditions for the possibility of longer jumps. Our uses of the 1080 Sprint center around resisted and assisted sprinting. Specifically, with resisted sprinting we’ve tried many different methods over the years. One year we attempted to figure out ideal resistances for each athlete; another year we would surf between a wide array of resistances within each session; other times we would lock into a singular resistance within a session or training cycle, and a few other variations in between.No discussion of long jump development can be divorced from speed development. Velocity is the primary driving force that provides the *conditions for the possibility* of longer jumps, says @BobThurnhoffer. Click To Tweet
The problems that arose became either having too much or too little variety. Drifting between too many resistances yielded too varied of a training stimulus, which meant inconsistencies in departure angles, ground contact times, and flight times from rep to rep. The issue with using only a singular resistance would be boredom, accommodation2, and training plateaus with diminished potentiation during each session.
Another aspect of working with the 1080 is the breadth and depth of data that can be used and analyzed both within the practice and later in post-practice debriefs. The rabbit hole of possible data analyses is virtually endless. The goal heading into this year was to find a way to narrow the variety of resisted sprint training stimuli and tighten our focus on which data we would choose to focus on, while still providing a clear and consistent training stimulus within each session and training cycle. Thus, we adopted some strength and power development concepts and applied them to our resisted sprint training program:
- Power output data
- Velocity measurements
- Power first model
We didn’t necessarily track the ideal resistances for our athletes—instead, we had target zones that we would work within for each mesocycle and track the data within those zones. Bryan Mann’s velocity-based training categories of starting-strength, speed-strength, strength-speed, accelerative-strength, and absolute-strength were influential in this framework as well3. We could favor resistances or schemes within the zone for each individual to get the best out of each session. That more precise variability of training inputs provided opportunities for consistency and clear data tracking, while still having a healthy amount of variety to provide potentiated repetitions and individualized loading.
These zones aren’t too scientific, they are quite simple. The idea was merely to purify the resisted sprint training stimulus by narrowing in on the resistances within the session and each training cycle, all the while priming future training cycles and leaving room for some variability. We used 6 zones, each consisting of 5 resistance settings:
- Zone 1: 1-5kg
- Zone 2: 6-10kg
- Zone 3: 11-15kg
- Zone 4: 16-20kg
- Zone 5: 21-25kg
- Zone 6: 26-30kg (although we never used Zone 6)
Our resisted sprint training concepts revolved around heavier early stage acceleration work and lighter late stage acceleration work. Most of our heavier reps were 10m in length, but occasionally extended to 15m later in the year; meanwhile, our lighter reps ranged from 20m-40m. Typically, Zones 3-5 were used for shorter, heavier repetitions, while Zones 1-2 were for the lighter and longer reps. When we did shorter, heavier reps, we would track peak power output (W); when we did lighter and longer reps, we would look at peak velocity achieved (m/s). I recognize that there are some flaws in looking only at those data points since they don’t tell the whole story of a sprint, but the immediate accessibility and relevance provide ample measurements to track over time and use to make in-practice decisions.
Often, our resisted efforts were complexed with unresisted acceleration sprints through Brower timing gates of whichever segment of the sprint we were working on for that session. Typically, we used tape drill measurements to develop skills of rhythm and projection4. Sets consisted of a single resisted rep, followed by a single unresisted rep. This was partially to keep the divide in volume of resisted vs. unresisted acceleration work around 50-50; from a practical standpoint, it helped with practice flow when we had groups of 8 or more. There were times when we did isolated sessions instead, meaning we did only resisted or unresisted sprinting on a given day. In particular, when we had a focused assisted sprint training day within a microcycle, we would have a dedicated isolated, heavy resisted sprint training day on a separate neural session within the week. This clear division of weekly neural 5 themes allowed us to cultivate adaptations at opposing ends of the force-velocity curve.
The most important speed development work for a jumper is pure unresisted/unassisted sprinting—however, through a regimented resisted and/or assisted program program, those unresisted/unassisted reps can have greater significance. Click To Tweet
It’s worth noting here that the most important speed development work for a jumper is pure unresisted/unassisted sprinting—however, through a regimented resisted and/or assisted program, those unresisted/unassisted reps can have greater significance. Later in this series I’ll mention some potential future adjustments to our implementation of resisted sprinting, but for the purposes of this article I want to narrow in on our heavy resisted sprint training program to exemplify our methodology.
Referring back to the six zones mentioned above, Mackenzie almost exclusively used Zone 3 for her heavy resisted work, while Eric used Zones 4 and 5. By locking into these zones for mesocycles at a time, we could use the data to adjust the session while keeping the cleanliness of stimuli within the zone. We could also favor heavier or lesser resistances within the zone based on individual needs week-to-week, and continually prep future training weeks and cycles. When we did complexes of heavy resisted followed by unresisted work, we found that drop-in accelerations worked best. The extreme difference moving from heavy resisted to bodyweight makes it difficult to execute sound static starts. However, as mentioned above, we did have many sessions where we only did heavy resisted work. There were also a few occasions where we did segmented acceleration sessions: meaning, we did all our resisted work followed by all unresisted work, not complexed.
Complexes, segmented, and isolated sessions work well and it’s worth doing all three throughout the macrocycle, but typically the isolated sessions produced the better power outputs. Also, I’ve found that jumpers get more out of consistent heavy sled exposures compared to pure short sprinters. The magnitude of push involved in that kind of activity compliments approach dynamics and impulse at takeoff quite well. Short sprinters, on the other hand, benefit more from lighter resisted work to feel the congruency and rhythm of acceleration with subsequent transition into upright mechanics. Both long jumpers and short sprinters benefit from both heavy resisted and light resisted work—my point, though, is that the division of labor may skew slightly one way or the other based on the nature of their primary event.
Reorganizing Peak Power Towards Greater Velocity
Throughout each session, we would pay attention to postures, shin angles, and ankle function while analyzing peak power outputs achieved on each heavy resisted sprint. The guiding methodology was the idea of hitting big peak power outputs at higher resistances within the zone, then attempting to sustain those peaks at lower resistances. By doing so, the peak power output (W) evolves from higher force (N) to greater velocity (m/s). The thinking was to constantly attempt to transfer big power peaks down to lighter resistances, making it at least one small step closer in specificity. The term specificity here has a twofold meaning:
- The simple idea of a training exercise looking more like the event itself.
- The notion of targeting a very specific form of adaptation.
Both definitions are at work here. Furthermore, we could consistently track peaks achieved at each resistance for each athlete and compare week to week. Success was measured mostly by bridging the gap of peak power output from higher resistances down to lower resistances within the zone; however, we also looked at consistency of high peak exposures, and personal bests at each resistance. Thankfully, one of our assistant coaches, Anthony Sierra, knew exactly what we were looking for so he mostly worked the 1080 and gave me the results while I monitored and watched the practice. Decisions to stay, move up, or shift down in resistance throughout the session were made in practice based on the data in order to maximize the quality of each session.
We would start at the lowest resistance of the zone and work upwards by 1-2kg until a large peak power output was achieved. Then, we would work back down and try to sustain similar peak power outputs at lesser resistances, finishing the session back at the lowest resistance. Sometimes we would stay at a higher resistance for several repetitions to accumulate more high peak exposures, particularly on week 3 of a 4-week mesocycle. At other times—mostly later in the year—we would quickly work up to a big peak at a high resistance, then work the lower resistances in greater volume.
The range of resistances within a given zone allowed for plenty of flexibility within the framework of a narrow spectrum of resistances. We would work the resistances based on the targeted demands of each training cycle while also monitoring the fatigue and technical execution of each athlete, each day. Taking those factors into account, we let the data guide us on in-practice decisions of which resistance to move up or down to within the session based on performance and/or fatigue.
For Eric, early in the fall we worked Zone 4 in preparation for Zone 5, which served as a quasi-rate of force development type of zone or max resisted effort in terms of highest resistances utilized.
Later in the year, we did extend the reps out to 15m and used that both as a further progression and as a way to maintain peak power output qualities by paying attention to density patterns and touching on it bi-weekly during the indoor season. We also minimized the zone to three resistance settings (21kg-23kg) when we extended the reps out to 15m and did not go up to 24kg-25kg.
To summarize, our methods in heavy resisted sprint training boil down to transferring big power outputs down to lower resistances. The idea was to gather up big power outputs (W) at high resistances favoring more force (N) and convert them into lower resistances favoring more speed (m/s), since by achieving equal or better peaks at even 1kg less brings one small step closer in specificity. Although force is very important, speed is more specific to success in the long jump and peak power outputs have to be gradually conditioned through faster expression capabilities. This is especially the case when considering connecting added velocity to the long jump takeoff. Maintaining or surpassing peak power outputs achieved at high resistances down at lower resistances mutates the nature of that peak power into greater specificity through higher velocity.Although force is very important, speed is more specific to success in the long jump and peak power outputs have to be gradually conditioned through faster expression capabilities, says @BobThurnhoffer. Click To Tweet
Philosophically, the idea of transfer espoused here is nothing more than taking an event or a component of an event, such as an acceleration sprint, finding a way to overload it, and then moving back to a lesser loaded version of the exercise to solidify training gains down at loads closer to the nature of the event.
In general, adaptations can be quantified—such as through the methods mentioned above—by working on the raw materials of speed/power while tracking data through various forms of training technology; or qualitative, by refining skills and mastering a technical model, which will be addressed in future articles. Transfer of training can yield both forms of adaptation, and at a preeminent level, integrates them altogether.
Overload can come through resistance, assistance/speed, volume, duration, and/or added coordinative challenge. In this case we added resistance, but by doing so the activity becomes less specific; the tradeoff, however, is that the training stimulus can become very high since large power outputs require large resistances. The methodology of gradually reducing the resistance while maintaining peak power is an attempt at taking small steps towards specificity during a session, since gradually unloading resistance equals higher specificity and therefore higher eventual transfer so long as peak power output can be sustained—and, as noted above, there’s the notion of specificity as a very specific form of adaptation, namely high peak power outputs at lighter resistances within each distinct zone.
The image of gathering training inputs through higher loads or added constraints, then carrying them closer to the event as it is in itself through reduced loads or constraints, is a motif you’ll see take various forms throughout future articles. Moving forward, I’ll cover methods to transfer velocities achieved with assisted sprints into the natural max velocity capabilities of the athlete, with an eye towards bringing those newfound velocities into the long jump approach.
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1. Bernstein, Nikolai A. Dexterity and its Development. (p. 393-398). 2016: Routledge
2. ALTIS Foundations module 4.2 on Adaptation.
3. Mann, Bryan. Developing Explosive Athletes: Use of Velocity Based Training in Training Athletes 3rd Edition. (p. 20). 2016: Ultimate Athlete Concepts.
4. Stuart McMillan. Concepts in Acceleration, ALTIS 360 presentation.
5. USTFCCCA Academy curriculum.