Angela Coon gave a talk at the World Speed Summit on the subject of why athletes don’t perform as well as they should based on her life as an athlete and coach. She did poorly because she ate poorly, didn’t get enough recovery, trained poorly and didn’t get enough sleep until she met Charlie Francis.
One of the big problems she discussed was not getting enough recovery. This can be because you do things that sabotage yourself or because you are not getting enough of it.
Sleep is a big deal. Some people have trouble sleeping; you need to realize that this is a skill which must be developed. You can start teaching it to young children. Even if you sleep well you must get enough of it.
Nutrition is another thing which is very big. Angela felt that most people have too much sugar and processed foods and not enough protein. Ben Johnson was born in Jamaica and had a good diet with organ meats, fats, skin, bone broth, rice and beans, coconut oil and vegetables.
Training needs to be split into high and low intensity. You can’t be in the middle all of the time. This will burn you out. Working harder is not necessarily better because it is easy to overtrain. The nervous system takes nine times longer to recover than the musculoskeletal system.
More recovery/regeneration work is better. It doesn’t need to be expensive. There are many things you can do: self massage (thumper mini pro), epsom salt bath, regular bath, contrast showers, elevate legs, hang upside down, wear comfortable clothes, get in the pool, etc.
She made a big deal out of blood sugar. Many people have blood sugar which is too high and need to get it lower.
She recommended two addition sources on nutrition. Dr. Natasha Turner on how foods effect hormones and Dr. Trudy Scott (the mood gal).
Joel Smith talked at the World Speed Summit 3 about plyometrics for speed. Jumping can be used to both increase speed and judge someone’s skill levels.
- A standing jump for height is an indicator of fast twitch muscles. It correlates well for acceleration to 30-40 yards. You can do varying amounts of squatting before the jump. The deeper you squat the higher you go, but a shallow dip correlates better with running (deeper dip correlates well with sports where crouched such as football/basketball). The shin angle should match the torso angle, if it doesn’t don’t do the drill.
- Repeated jumping (4-5 times for height as fast as possible) is an indicator of top speed. It shows an athletes reactive ability. It correlates well with upright running speed and sprinting ability in the 60 m and greater distances.
Some people are “built to jump” and those people need plyometrics less than other people.
Plyometrics are important for both injury prevention and explosiveness development. They teach you how to land safely and help with starting and stopping which is required in team sports. They compensate for a lack of all around athletic ability.
Contact time is very important. High jumpers often don’t have great speed, but they have very short contact time when jumping. Often jumping high is not as important as being able to jump quickly when needed.
Laterally jumping over a bench is a great drill. Do it for a set time 5 – 10 – 15 – 20 seconds. Try to get the max number of jumps possible in that time. You want to have your body stay relatively motionless while your feet flick back and forth over the bench with relatively little knee bend on landing.
Derek Hansen is a specialist in speed training for football. He spoke at the Third World Speed Summit about speed training and football.
A key mental framework Derek has is dividing speed training into three intensity/energy levels:
Alactic: high speed and short duration with long recovery, 95% or more of max speed
Lactic-anaerobic: medium speed and short recovery
Aerobic: low speed and continuous, 75% or less of max speed
Derek sees the key as to hit the upper and lower stages but the middle stage is not as important. However, most coaches love the middle speed because that is where you hurt the most. Coaches also don’t like to have people standing around and waiting between runs which is what is necessary for alactic training. If you ramp up the volume or cut rest you automatically move from alactic to lactic-anaerobic.
Charlie Francis recommended 35% of training be high intensity and 65% be of low intensity. For other athletes the ratio will be different.
Studies have shown that athletes spend only 2% of a game at high speed and that high speed is actually fairly slow. The fastest people run is often when they’re coming into a game from the sideline. However, race cars and sports cars rarely hit their top speed, but their top speed does help them at lower speeds. Part of it is their cutting and part is that they don’t have enough distance to get their speed up.
Kyle Uptmore gave a talk at the World Speed Summit about raising testosterone. He is 26 years old and lives in Taiwan. He found out about inexpensive testosterone testing and decided to do experimentation on himself to see what he could achieve. He started with average to low testosterone.
One thing that Kyle mentioned was that he was less likely to lose his temper and more in control of himself now that his testosterone was higher. He said that the Scandinavians are known for having high testosterone and they are very mellow people. It must only be synthetic testosterone that leads to people becoming aggressive and angry.
He measured testosterone and cortisol. You want to have high testosterone and low cortisol. The ratio of those two hormones is also an important variable.
When he made his big breakthrough the testosterone had a big jump (30% in two weeks) and then only a smaller rate of increase. It went from being at 5 +/- 0.1 to being at 6.3 +/- 0.3.
The cortisol made a large drop at first (20% in two weeks) but showed longer term continuous drops. The cortisol had been less steady overall starting the testing time around 14 and rising to 22 (while testosterone was remaining constant). It dropped to 19 then 18 for a month then to 14 where it gradually slid down to 12 over a couple of months.
Kyle saw very little change in testosterone while doing all of the standard changes (supplementation, stuff from the 4 hour body, talking to doctors, turning off cell phone, etc.)
The change Kyle saw was when he switched from training hard Monday through Friday to training hard Monday-Wednesday-Friday. The M-W-F days were the same as every day had been beforehand. On the off days (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday) he would do 20-30 minutes of cardio at a heart rate of around 120-130.
Steve Fudge a sprint coach in the UK talked about maximum velocity training and sprinting at the World Speed Summit. There were several very interesting points made in the talk.
You can run very fast with bad form. Steve implied that a lot of top athletes have poor form. There are consequences to poor form:
- Getting more tired from running so you do poorly in the later rounds of a competition
- A shorter career because of the pounding your body takes
- Injuries from the pounding
You need both training and teaching. Training builds strength. Teaching builds form and is done at lower speeds–you shouldn’t do it when too tired.
Running at maximum velocity is the hardest part of sprinting. You need to be able to hold this. A better athlete takes longer into the race to achieve maximum velocity.
The most important part of running is contact with the ground. Most problems stem from some problem in this area.
The top three drills for improving sprinting form:
- Hurdle Walk Overs
Sees the “pushers” and “pullers” as different types of runners:
- Those comfortable with the front end of a race. They like to generate force through longer ground contact. Tend to be more muscular guys.
- Those comfortable with the back end of a race. They are more elastic. Tend to be thinner guys.
Bret Contreras, Ph.D. spoke at the World Speed Summit on strength training for speed, particularly glutes and hamstrings. He is known as ‘The Glute Guy.’
He said that both lateral and vertical forces are important in running. The debate is ongoing and which one is more important depends on the particular athlete in discussion.
For sprinters the focus is more on power and contraction velocity while for football and rugby players it is more high power and strength.
He recommended a five exercise routine for sprint athletes that could be done with only a plyo box or bench:
- Frog pumps (glute bridges with feet flared outward)
- Single leg glute bridges
- Single leg hip thrusts
- Single leg feet-elevated hip thrusts
- Single leg feet-elevates straight leg glue bridges
He was also asked to give a top three bodyweight exercise routine for sprinters:
- Nordic hamstring curl
- Glue bridge/hip thrust
- Feet elevated straight leg bridge
Mike Boyle’s lecture was more of a free flowing conversation than a presentation. He talked a lot about training team sport athletes both professional and youth. His daughter earned a college scholarship recently in hockey which is very rare and validation for his approach of avoiding specialization while too young. In terms of specific training he thinks in terms of buckets and making sure that none of them are empty.
Mike Boyle was big on strength. Doing a lot of fine tuning work and drills is fine if you’re powerful enough, but you need to be able to put a lot of force into the ground and this must be done first. Otherwise you are souping up a lawn mower. A good way to measure strength is by vertical jump. For strength training Mike is very big on one leg exercises (such as split squats) because that is how you actually work. He said that agility IS single leg strength; also requires the ability to brake.
There was also a lot of talking about injuries. Strength is the big protector from injuries; get strong to avoid injuries. Most girls who tear ACL’s due so because their leg is not strong enough. All athletes should be able to do single leg squats. Injuries come from two sources: impacts and overuse. If there was no impact, it was an overuse. He likes Gray Cook’s Functional Movement Screen to address movement and look for areas that need to be helped.
Mike also talked about how with children specialization is bad and leads to injuries. People should be playing different sports and doing different activities throughout the year. This is not the case today and it is leading many young people to have the injuries that used to only happen with older pros.
Mike Robertson is the co-owner of IFAST and runs robertsontrainingsystems.com. This at the World Speed Summit is largely about setting up training to avoid injuries. The talk focuses on field sports (football, soccer etc.) but is also applicable to track sprinters.
The most undervalued thing for preventing injuries is looking at the big picture and considering all factors.
The most overvalued thing is a general assessment because it has to be in depth to help out.
He gave three main reasons why athletes get injured:
They can’t bend: athletes lack a sufficient range of motion especially in the hips and shoulders.
Assess the spine—the lumbar spine is often locked. Check to see if the athlete can get their pelvis into a neutral position from anterior tilted which is needed for stopping.
Athletes are often locked into an extended posture which activates the sympathetic nervous system and deactivates the parasympathetic nervous system making it difficult to recover—learn to exhale.
They have no brakes: coaches focus on measurables which generally involve pushing/accelerating/creating force. To play a sport an athlete must be able to stop/decelerate/absorb force as well which isn’t covered in the measurables.
It is easier to catch braking problems and bad motion patterns at slower speeds so take videos and slow them down. Sprinters need control over their pelvis and field sport athletes need to absorb force.
Athletes need to learn how to cut in different directions; accelerate and decelerate; accelerate to a jump stop; backpedal; and snap down (drop from stand into squat).
Lack of work capacity: athletes revert to faulty motion patterns when tired at the end of the game which is why they get injured.
Endurance must develop during “training camp.” If you’re always doing anaerobic work you over-activate the sympathetic nervous system which burns you out and increases injury risk. With aerobic training you help yourself recover quickly.
Today athletes are more specialized, have a smaller “base of movement,” and a lower general fitness level than in the past.
I listened to the lecture by Henk Kraaijenhof at World Speed Summit 3. He discussed personalizing training of sprinters. There were several interesting points which I wanted to note down:
- You can determine the proportion of fast and slow twitch fibers someone has by using the “jump test.” Have someone do jumps for height for 60 seconds split into 4 continuous 15 second blocks. If the jumps decline quickly in height the person has more fast twitch fibers, if slowly they have more slow twitch fibers.
- Training is not linear. Doing more is not necessarily better (over training). One should think about how much training is necessary not how much training is possible.
- People react differently to pressure. People can be classified into those who bend, break or bloom under pressure.
- The different reactions to pressure are partially due to the stimulation levels from adrenaline. A certain amount is best; if you have less, you will under perform; if you have more, you may choke. Everyone has different optimal levels of adrenaline and the key is to be at your best level.
- Adjust your warm-up to help get you to the right adrenaline level. Warm-up is mainly mental not physical. Warming up gets your adrenaline flowing.
- Your mindset should be “loving to win” not “hating to lose.” You need to make things become “challenges” instead of “threats.”
- How you train should be based on your desired recovery. For a distance runner you want to jog between reps to clear the lactic acid from the muscles. For a sprinter you want to improve your toleration of lactic acid so you should squat down between reps instead of jogging–you want the lactic acid to stay in your muscles for adaption purposes.
- Icing is generally bad. You want the inflammation to drive adaptation. Only use ice when there is an urgent need to recover quickly for example between prelims and finals at a big meet.
- People today lose track of the forest by looking at leaves. You need to keep a big picture. The problem is caused/made worse by the internet.
I have been performing Franze Snideman’s marching and skipping drills recently. They have been helpful, but I noticed that when I bring my left knee up as high as I can with good form something feels off on the medial side. It seems like it might be an irritated tendon or ligament.
I believe this is an issue related to a lack of range of motion or flexibility. It is the high height of the knee lift which I believe is irritating a tendon. I can perform the drills with a smaller range of motion without issues. This appears to be a weak area for me that could potentially result in an injury. I am working to address this by gradually extending the comfortable range of motion. By fixing a weak spot I expect to improve my form and sprinting speed.