A couple of weeks ago I attended an advanced speed and power symposium at LSU where I learned some incredible information from some of the heavy hitters in the world of track and field.
And I will be stealing as much of it as possible.
Back in the day, when I was an inexperienced coach attending events like this, coaches would talk about endocrine system profiles between males and females or what kind of training caused muscle spindle fatigue and my eyes would start to bleed. After all, I don’t have a degree in exercise science or kinesiology, and, especially when dealing with the elitist attitude (some….many) college coaches take toward HS coaches, it was easy to feel like I was in over my head.
When they talked about their training progressions, there were so many holes in what I was doing I wondered how I would ever bridge the gap. Despite the fact I thought spontaneous combustion was imminent, my contempt for mediocrity pushed me to keep learning and refining what I was doing.
That’s why it was a good feeling to go to this conference and see that what I’m doing now, where my program and philosophies are trending, is very much in line with what these guys are doing. They just do it much better and work with a completely different level of athlete than I do. They have girls running 11.5 in the 100. Most of my boys can’t run 11.5 in the 100.
So if I had to take that whole weekend and wrap it all into one big Takeaway that you and I can both apply immediately to our programs, it would be this:
My focus this year (in all areas of life) isn’t so much about adding layers of complexity to my programs. Instead, I need to focus on taking what already works and make it work better…in less time and with less chaos. Because a practice involving speed work, hurdles, jumps and weight room is chaos for high school coaches like me with a staff of one or two.
First and foremost, making this work requires knowing why one method works and why another doesn’t work or doesn’t work as well. So I’m not saying we don’t need to learn anything new. Quite the opposite. The more tools you have in your toolbox, the easier it is to streamline your progressions. And therefore get results.
I’m expecting my biggest group of sprinters of all time this year. And I’ve never worked consistently with any of them. So it’s going to be a hot mess. I also don’t have a track in the winter and our weight room is a crime against humanity.
But there are a lot of people paying attention to the results I get. In fact, my business depends on those results. So, pressure or no pressure, good facility or bad, no one cares about my sad story. Therefore, one way or the other, I need to make it happen.
In order to address the demands of God knows how many kids with essentially no training age and ranging from 55-400m, plus hurdles, long jump and high jump and with no track and a bootleg weight room, I need to get the most out of every drill and exercise I do.
I suggest you take the same approach when planning out your season. (Which, I hope, you’re doing by now.)
The results I expect won’t come from obsessing about how many 200s to run on our tempo day. Or whether to do 150s or 300s at 77% or 82.5% with 3 minutes rest. Or 4. Or 4.5.
So what does this ‘Efficiency Model’ mean in practical terms?
Here are 3 specific areas I’m making changes this year.
1. Thematic consistency throughout practice
If the theme of practice is ‘Acceleration’ then everything we do in practice, from start to finish, should be geared toward teaching the skills required to accelerate explosively and efficiently.
Foot prep, overcoming inertia, glute activation, low heel recovery. Not only does this aid in teaching acceleration, but it also addresses many of the general strength, mobility, coordination and endurance/work capacity qualities we need to develop. Hmm. I think the warm up just covered all 5 biomotor skills. I wonder if that’s important to running faster…
Same goes with your plyos. If the focus is on acceleration, then do exercises that develop similar qualities. Standing long jump would be an example.
Same with the weight room. If the focus is on acceleration, then do exercises that develop similar qualities. Cleans from the floor and deep squats would be examples.
2. Even more strength training
If we have practice, we’re doing strength training. I didn’t say we’d be in the weight room every day. But we will strength train. But we’ll keep things in line with the topic I just discussed. If it’s an acceleration day, we’re training power or max strength in the weight room, depending on the training phase.
Recovery day? We’re doing bodyweight work. Intensive tempo? We’re bodybuilding or doing some type of circuit. But we’re going to get stronger and more coordinated even at the expense of volume on the track.
That’s right. I said it. I will sacrifice volume on the track and still run fast because volume is highly overrated.
3. Technical/Coordination Focus vs Volume Based Approach
I’ve been saying this for a while and it was great to have it validated. Technical skill and coordination are more important to success in the sprint events than obsessing about hitting X amount of volume for the week.
Sprinters are not distance runners who just run shorter repeats.
So my focus will continue to trend toward developing the ability to coordinate increasingly powerful and efficient movement patterns and not on getting out to the track to run repeats as soon as possible. This approach will do more toward putting your sprinters in a position to develop consistent patterns and maintain posture at high intensities than following a protocol of endless submaximal running. Not only do sprinters hate doing that type of work, but you’re going to have a rash of shin splint, foot and knee problems and your kids will burn out.
Sure, they’ll get faster at the beginning because any progressive overload in a 15 year old is going to stimulate an adaptation. But long term, that approach is a little too 1970’s for my tastes. And I don’t think it works as well.
My New England Champion 4×100 team still broke the school record in the 4×4 (the only time they ran it) training like 100m runners. Because speed and strength are the key in *every* sprint event.
Follow this approach with your sprinters this season and not only will you see outstanding results, but you’ll keep your head from exploding.