Freelap Friday Five with Joseph Coyne
Joseph Coyne is an exercise physiologist and sport scientist from Gold Coast, Australia. He is currently the Physical Preparation Coach for the Chinese Athletics Association’s jump & sprints section, where he handles the rehabilitation and strength and power training for China’s best track and field athletes. Previously, he was the Performance Manager at the Chinese Olympic Committee’s National Sports Training Center in Beijing in the lead up to the Rio Olympics. Athletes supported by this program won 34 medals (including 19 gold medals) at the 2016 Olympics. As a speaker, Joseph has lectured at many international conferences, including in China, United Kingdom, United States, Australia, and New Zealand.
Freelap USA: You’ve talked about the idea of maximal jump displacement in light of a specific ground contact time, rather than simply going for a raw RSI score. Can you go into some specifics of how this might play out in training?
Joseph Coyne: I feel that although RSI is a great start with athletes, it can be misleading. A lot of times a really short contact time can make an RSI look great even though displacement isn’t that good. And I think you must always go back to the critical aspect or main aim for the sport, and that is displacement, both for sprinting (e.g., getting to 100m in a sprint) and jumping (e.g., long jumping as far as possible).You must always go back to the sport’s main aim, and that is displacement for sprinting and jumping. Click To Tweet
Just like RSI, the same goes for peak power or peak force. It can be a really sexy number, but it will always be secondary to displacement in my line of thinking. Anyway, this displacement is obviously constrained by an absolute contact time (e.g., ~80-90ms for elite sprinters and ~120-130ms for the last step in the long jump) and this is obviously related to RSI, but I feel that you should view it from that slightly different lens—at least in more advanced jumpers/sprinters.
Practically, if you’re doing jumps for training and you want to start tracking this, a contact mat like SmartJump is the easiest way of doing it. SmartJump is great because you can set a contact time to keep below and it’ll give real-time feedback if the athletes spend too long on the floor.
For example, two jumps I like keeping track of in my battery are a repeated 2L or 1L pogo and a 1L depth jump from 40cm in the takeoff leg. The pogo is going to relate to maximal velocity reasonably well and the 1L depth jump from 40cm is going to relate to the last step takeoff for a jumper—at least in the takeoff leg. The pogo for 2L I would normally aim for below 100ms (it’s quite hard to get lower even with 2L) and the 1L depth jump from 40cm, below 150ms.
Once you have those rough guidelines and you obviously have your particular athletes, you can decide whether you: 1) get them to those CTs first and then try to maximize displacement second or 2) keep as much displacement as possible while working on getting the CTs down gradually.
Freelap USA: What is your approach to applying special strength, and when is it appropriate to get beyond the “standard” battery of cleans, squats, and single-leg hinges in the weight room when it comes to building speed?
Joseph Coyne: Because the main aim is to get transfer with everything you do, and loaded sprinting and jumping drills can be excellent for skill acquisition, I personally would start as soon as the athlete can consistently perform the drill that you want to load. So, for example, if you want to load a high knee/front-side run, I don’t see a problem with putting some weight on it as soon as they can do it well consistently.
Staying away from this type of training because you want to hit some magical squat number in the gym beforehand is a big mistake because you won’t be influencing the F-V curve around your chosen activities (e.g., sprinting and jumping). Of course, when you start loading it, you don’t have to go crazy. Holding a 3-5kg medicine ball in various positions (e.g., on chest, outstretched arms, overhead) or wearing a 5kg weight vest are really easy ways of starting before putting a barbell on their back to do the drill.
In application, I would probably start just with a bit of it in technical or gym sessions and then, once you get to a decent barbell strength level (e.g., 1.8x BW squat, 1.3x BW clean, 1x BW snatch), you should really increase your focus on this type of training. The other consideration is the stage of the season and you can generally go less at the start of the season and more towards competition time. Obviously, the stronger, more competent athlete might do more at the start than the novice athlete would. A taller, longer-legged athlete might also do more of this compared to a shorter athlete with a longer torso.
As an example, I’ve been part of final periods before major competitions where six to eight weeks out, all we used for “strength” were weight vests, ankle weights, ball throws, etc., except for a couple of barbell lifts like a step up and clean once or twice a week.
Freelap USA: How do you approach bar speed monitoring with your track athletes throughout the weekly and monthly training cycles?
Joseph Coyne: There are heaps of strategies, but generally I guess I have three defunct approaches: 1) same speed, 2) same load, and 3) decreasing loads. The first approach would be to set the minimum speed threshold that I want an athlete to stay over and then they go as heavy as possible while maintaining that speed. For example, with a clean, if they start from a hang and there is a countermovement/SSC, then I like speeds above 2.2m/s. With no countermovement/SSC (e.g., from the floor or blocks), above 2m/s is where I would set the standard. Then from week to week you just want them to get heavier above that speed.
The second approach is to get faster and faster using a set weight. An example here would be a non-countermovement jump and 100% BW load, and each week you ask your athlete to go a bit quicker.
The third approach is based around peak power (which is obviously related to bar speed), where you: a) find the weight the athlete produces peak power at and then b) you decrease the weight from week to week, but ask the athlete to maintain the peak power as close as possible to what they can achieve at their peak power weight.
For example, an athlete’s peak power weight in a six-rep repeated 2L jump is 50kg where they can achieve 60W/kg. From here, you would aim to decrease the weight from week to week but keep the peak power as close as possible to 60W/kg. This is a great one for getting F-V curve adaptations to start to emphasize where you actually compete in a sport—with no additional load!!
As a quick note, these approaches use mean velocity for a classic strength lift (e.g., squat, step up) and peak velocity for a ballistic lift (e.g., Olympic derivative, loaded jump). Because not many of my programs have non-ballistic lifts, I mainly deal with peak velocity.
Freelap USA: What considerations do you make in hamstring training for athletes as they become more advanced in their maximal speed?
Joseph Coyne: Ha ha… This could be a dissertation for me! I feel that once an athlete can start sprinting above 10ms, the hamstrings become a lot more fragile and you have to be pretty careful with how you train them—outside of obviously sprinting, which of course is the best hamstring training for what we want to do!!
An example of this is that I had to be really careful with doing Nordics with the sprint/jump athletes I trained in China. None of them had great knee flexion strength relative to bodyweight and they couldn’t do too much Nordic volume or they would all either: 1) not be able to run fast due to soreness or, even worse, 2) pick up posterior knee pain. So I used a really low-volume approach with them: Think 2×3 or 2×4, once a week.
After there is a basic proficiency and hamstring strength relative to bodyweight, one of the main things I then consider when I train them is I want to remodel an athlete’s hamstrings to have longer fascicle length and improved eccentric strength. This is all based on Opar & company’s hamstring “Quadrant of Doom” matrix. The important thing to consider here is that isometric and concentric actions can actually shorten fascicle lengths, whereas eccentric actions (along with sprinting, in a recent paper) lengthen the fascicle.
That means you at least have to emphasize the eccentric part of an exercise or, in some cases, only perform the eccentric contraction. Cool ways of doing this include drops to catch with a barbell or bodyweight, or using something like a flywheel. In saying that, please don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and drop all isometric and concentric training for the hamstrings!! It all depends on the context of where the athlete is at: You might concentrate on eccentrics for one portion of your training plan.Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and drop all isometric & concentric hamstring training! Click To Tweet
The type of volume I mentioned above has also been shown by the same research group to be as effective as a high volume (think 5 x 10) approach in changing fascicle length. So always do as little as possible!
Other things to consider are that you want to use knee flexion and hip extension movements. You probably have to take any ground-based exercise to standing and then to a gait cycle if you want to have a good chance of getting a protective effect in sprinting. So, for knee flexion, that could mean a continuum of something like: 1) a supine hip flexed manual eccentric knee flexion; 2) a Nordic; 3) a walking lunge into an A cycle; and 4) a band-resisted A/B drill. For hip extension, it could be something like: 1) eccentric accentuated hip extension in a GHR; 2) a kBox RDL; 3) a scissor jump; and 4) a band-resisted straight leg bound.
Other considerations include also doing specific jumps (e.g., a RDL jump) targeting the hamstrings and frequency-based hamstring exercises (e.g., speed exchanges on a Swiss ball) to try and get contraction speeds closer to what you might get in sprinting. Lastly, I also focus a lot on cleaning up femoral and sciatic nerve tension to help with the sprinting.
Freelap USA: What are some of your favorite training methods and applications using the 1080 Sprint?
Joseph Coyne: My experience with the 1080 has generally involved Randy Huntington barking orders at me to set it up at different speeds or loads (ha ha). Everything I’ve done with it has been under his guidance with his group of long jumpers in China.
In saying that, I think we did some great work with it as a contrast or potentiator between or before free sprints. For example, a resisted acceleration on the 1080 might be alternated with a free acceleration or an approach (or even a sled acceleration for a sled change in mode). Another example might be a set of resisted/assisted flys before the sets of free flys for maximal velocity.
I think the assisted work and the level of control you can have with it can really give a nice benefit; provided you make sure mechanics and the nervous system are respected and you progress to less and less load pulling you on the 1080. Things I would like to do in the future include playing further with accelerations at peak power (~50% max velocity à la Cross/Morin, etc., although you can just see it automatically on the 1080). I also would love to work with it with field and court sport athletes for change of direction speed.