Ask the coach: training times for throwers, consistent take offs, increasing speed reactions, endurance training for men v women

We've got answers to some more Ask The Coach questions from you....this month's questions we have focused on are:

How many times a week should a thrower train on technical elements e.g. in the cage; and how many times should they train in the weight room?

Nick Ridgeon, Event Group Leader for Throws: This depends on a wide range of factors (athlete age and stage, coach knowledge, skill and experience, facility access, socio-economics, other commitments to list just a few) so it’s difficult to give an exact answer. If I could give you some guidelines based on the talent pathway athletes we are currently supporting:

  • Most throws athletes on our Youth Talent Programme (YTP: aged between 16 and 18) throw 2-3 times per week and do some physical preparation work (gym/speed/jumps/med ball throws/core/circuits) 1-3 times per week.
  • Most throws athletes on our Junior Talent Programme (JTP: aged between 18 and 21) throw 3-5 times per week and do some physical preparation work 2-4 times per week.
  • Most throws athletes on our Senior Talent Programme (STP) throw 3-6 times per week and do some physical preparation work 3-6 times per week.

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What drills and practices would you use to help athletes get a consistent run up to the long / triple jump board?

Darren Ritchie, Event Group Lead for Jumps: The key word in the question is consistency. I believe it is important to start working on your runway early in the preparation period. In the early months (Oct-Nov), it is good practice to get the athletes measuring out their approach on the track, away from the runway. From there they can focus on the phases of the approach; drive, transition and upright/continuation. During this period, they can work on the technical aspects of each phase, along with establishing a rhythm and consistency to their approach. It is worth the coach using cones as markers to identify the final strides. This will help in evaluating the consistency of the approach.

As the athlete prepares for competition (Dec-Jan), they can move this established approach onto the runway, and begin to refine their approach with the implementation of the take-off board. It is important to reinforce the consistency established in the previous phase. The Coach could use a blended approach in transitioning athletes to the runway; 3 attempts on the track and 3 attempts on the runway. Coaches can then feedback any changes observed, along with asking the athlete, their reflections. Once the athlete has established a consistent and confident approach, you can add in a take-off imitation (pop-up) at the end of the approach. Similarly, you can use cones or trainers (at the side of the runway) as a reference for their final strides in assessing accuracy.

Some common faults observed by athletes

  • Fail to develop maximal speed, or slow down, before the take-off
  • Steering issues: Over-stride or chop their strides in the last part of the run-up
  • Inconsistent rhythm
  • Inconsistent run up structure

Consideration factors for accuracy and consistency

The development of a precise, stable and reliable run-up can be assisted by:

  • Using a simple, unchanged position for the start of the run-up
  • Consistency in the first two or three strides
  • A check mark can be used four strides out from the take-off board (Coach)
  • Reminder (for the athlete) to do something; maintain speed/ power
  • Paying attention to external factors to make the necessary changes according to the direction and strength of the wind and the condition of the track surface
  • Attempting to concentrate thoroughly not only in competitions but also in full length run-ups in training
  • Using mental imagery to rehearse the distribution of effort and the rhythm of the run-up before the start of a competition and before each jump
  • Consistent process in warm up and preparation between rounds
  • Steering – irregular wicket runs over 20m

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How can I improve the blocks reaction time of my athletes? Is it simply lots of starts practice?

Shani Palmer, Event Group Lead for Speed: Plyometrics can significantly improve reaction and ground contact times. Sprint starts are a combination of reaction, explosive power, and large horizontal force production. Athletes need to be strong as well as quick in order to start well. Doing lots of starts will definitely help, however there are many ways to support that skill development by doing plyometrics, circuits, gym work and speed-based training.

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How does female endurance training differ from male endurance training?

Spencer Duval, Event Group Lead for Endurance: Over recent years increasing focus has been developed on female physiology and how it differs from male physiology. The key difference for female training to male training begins around the onset of puberty. The age of onset of puberty and the physiological changes to young athletes varies considerably between males and females and this must be reflected in their training. For more information and guidance about appropriate training for young athletes from pre-puberty to adulthood and the differences between female and male training can be found in the England Athletics Youth Endurance Resource.

In many ways female training will be very similar to male training. Female athletes compete in all the same events as male athletes in endurance (with the exception of cross country distances) and the physiological requirement for these events are therefore very similar. There may be some small variations in physiological requirements due to the marginal greater time that it takes female athletes to compete in some events. For example the 800m may be a marginally greater anaerobic/lactate based event for adult men as it run in 1min 45seconds compared to 2minutes 00 seconds for adult women but differences are arguable.

However, there is growing awareness of key physiological differences between females and males over their life time and how this can affect training. Recent greater awareness and focus has been put onto the important role of the menstrual cycle in female athletes and training. It is important to note that regardless of volume and/or intensity of training, all female athletes should have a menstrual cycle as a sign of health and well being. Any athletes with an absence of menstrual cycle for more than 6 months or less than 9 periods per year should always be strongly advised to seek medical advice.

  • Many female athletes and their coaches have started to track menstrual cycles and adapt training accordingly. This is because it is now recognised that hormonal fluctuations within the menstrual cycle can affect a number of physiological systems within the body. Therefore some female athletes may respond well to variations in types, volume, intensity of training at different stages within their cycle. There may now be evidence of potential for greater adaptation to certain types of training and greater risk of injury from certain types of training at different stages in the menstrual cycle.
  • Female athletes who are pregnant or post-partum should ensure that their training is amended to recognise the impact of pregnancy on the female body. It is always advisable to seek medical advice and support before developing any training plan for a pregnant or post-partum female athlete.
  • Finally, female athletes who are peri-menopausal, menopausal or post-menopausal may also benefit from variations in training to respond to the hormonal changes within their body. The physiological changes during this stage of life can be significant and vary greatly in timescale, symptoms and severity for each individual athlete.

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