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Coaching Track and Field for medal winning performances

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“This is ESSENTIAL READING for every track and field coach committed to gold medal-winning performance for their athletes in 2012. Serious athletes should read it too...”

Track and field athletics is arguably the purest form of sport.

That’s because it tests the basic human physical capabilities of, speed, strength, power and endurance. What’s more, athletic competition is so obviously and easily quantifiable – after all, the tape measure and the stop-watch don’t lie.

However, to run the men’s 100m in under 10sec, or jump over 7m in the women’s long jump requires more than ‘merely’ great natural physical ability. Athletes also need a systematic, periodised (planned) and highly effective training programme carefully crafted to include the relevant training ingredients for you and your event.

Gold medal-winning performance requires that nothing be left to chance – which is where the coach plays such a crucial role.

Because it’s the responsibility of the coach to bring all this together in a training plan; they must be armed with the theory and the practice – the knowledge that underpins the plan and makes it a success, and the athletes they coach successes or failures.

And, thanks to the increasing amount of sports science research being done worldwide, there’s is more understanding than ever of what works best for athletes (and their coaches)... and what is best left to one side.

That’s what my latest Peak Performance special report is all about. It’s objective is simple: to bring to serious athletic coaches the very latest sports science thinking on what works (and what doesn’t) for peak performance.

Read Coaching Track and Field for medal winning performances and you’ll gain the training tools you need to achieve optimum performance on the track and field – all of it based on the very latest sports science research. It’s as simple as that.

This brand new 77-page report – specially constructed for track and field coaches – has been written by one of our longest-standing contributors to the Peak Performance newsletter, John Shepherd.

John is eminently qualified to write on the subject – bringing the level of personal insight and experience to the subject that only an elite athlete can. Because John is himself a former international long-jumper – as well as a coach to elite athletes in the UK.

John has written extensively on sports, health and fitness and is the author of 8 books, including 101 Athletic Drills for Young People and the Complete Guide to Sports Training. He has also been a regular contributor to Peak Performance and its associated products for over a decade.

NB: this report goes beyond the ‘usual’ topics to be found in sports training publications to tackle such critical issues as the hormonal response to weight training (chapter 7) and how to maximise the physiological development of young athlete (chapter 3).

That makes it essential information for track and field coaching success in 2012 – all of it based on the very latest sports scientific research into how best to ‘engineer’ an athlete’s body for medal-winning success.

Get your copy of Coaching Track and Field today, and you’ll find the answers to key coaching questions like these:

What’s the best way to apply the concept of periodisation to skills training in order to dramatically improve athletic performance?

What is the fundamental key to successfully training young athletes?

Why must a sprinter always get strong BEFORE he can get fast?

Why should you think twice before buying a lot of currently-available sports equipment?

Why could a lot of current thinking on core training be fundamentally misguided?

What is the secret of training sports-specific endurance?

Which three lower-body, strength-building exercises should feature in EVERY sprinter’s strength-training?

When working with young athletes, how should a coach accommodate their periodic ‘growth spurts’ in the annual training plan?

Which form of periodisation is most effective at maintaining in-season speed for speed athletes?

Why is intensity, not volume, the KEY to improved sprint performance?

Which particular form of muscle training is the KEY to peak performance?

What is the secret of building endurance strength using very high-rep sets?

How can the Central Nervous System be properly harnessed to achieve maximal training adaptions?

Why should hormonal responses to training be put at the heart of a properly-designed weight-training programme?

How can proprioception training be used in both injury prevention and rehabilitation?

Could the use of a weight-training belt in the weights room lead to injury OUTSIDE on the track and field?

How intensive should sprint speed training be – without risking overload and injury?

Periodisation Training Techniques for Peak Athletic Performance

Unlike a number of other big international sports, track and field is highly suited to periodisation. There are two principal reasons for this:

Performance outcomes in training and competition are easily measured. For example, the enhancement of cardiovascular ability can be intrinsically linked to heart rate and VO2max (the maximum oxygen processing capabilities of the individual) and the development of strength and power to percentages of 1 rep maximum and timed runs over various distances.

Track and field events have a relatively low skill component and are not really dependent on team tactics. This means that a highly quantifiable periodisation programme can be established and worked toward. This is not the same for the more ‘qualitative’ sports, such as football and rugby with their much greater and diverse skill requirements.

So the first chapter of Coaching Track and Field for medal winning performances examines the pros and cons of various periodisation models, and considers their applicability to track and field athletics.

NB: our discussion includes a little-known variant on periodisation often overlooked by coaches – one that can deliver significant improvements in athletic performance.

We also apply the principles of periodisation to the training of skill, demonstrating how one can greatly improve athletic ability, then to both psychological preparation and sports nutrition – with the same effects on preparedness in athletes for top-level competition.

Track and field coaches have a variety of training planning models at their fingertips; they need to fully understand these and select the best approach that reflects the athlete’s event, age, level of training maturity and competition needs. To this must be gelled the periodisation of nutrition and psychology, and of course a sound understanding of training principles. Doing so will leave no stone unturned and peak performance will have a much greater chance of happening when it matters.

Getting Your Training Year Structured the Right Way: What the ‘father of periodisation’ has to say about planning for peak performance

In the next section of Coaching Track and Field for medal winning performances we feature the verbatim text of an interview with Tudor Bompa – widely regarded not only as the ‘father of periodisation’ but as one of the greatest athletic coaches of all time.

Read it and you’ll discover:

The secret to using VERY high reps to gain endurance strength
Why sprinters always have to get strong before they can hope to get truly fast
Why a lot of current thinking on core training may be fundamentally flawed
Why you should think twice before paying for a lot of sports equipment on the market today
The ‘secret’ of training for sport-specific endurance
How weight-lifting practice has ‘polluted’ a lot of contemporary thinking about strength training
Which are the three strength-training exercises that no serious sprinter can do without

It’s a rare opportunity to hear from ‘the horse’s mouth’, so to speak, how to prepare your athletes for medal-winning performances in the season ahead.

Coaching Young Athletes: how do you best prepare them for future success?

There are certain times when a young athlete’s neural and physiological systems will more quickly and optimally respond to certain types of training than others

These responses reflect the fact that at relevant times in their development to adulthood, the young athlete’s body is primed for optimum response because their bodies are rife with the appropriate enzymes and hormones. If speed is not trained during the appropriate windows, then the young athlete may never be able to run as fast as they should in adulthood.

Speed training at the appropriate time enables the athlete to develop a neuromuscular system that permits very fast limb movements across the athletic lifecycle.

For the serious professional coach this is an awesome responsibility: how do you properly prepare your young charges, not just for the season ahead, but for the rest of their athletic career? The possible consequences of getting it wrong hardly bear imagining.

Which is why the next section of Coaching Track and Field for medal winning performances focuses on the coaching of young track and field athletes.

We start out with an explanation of the keys to successful all-round development of young athletes. Then we drill down into the nitty-gritty: which are the different stages of neural and physiological development in boys and girls that every coach needs to be aware of? And how do you work appropriately with these developmental givens to properly structure a training plan? How, for example, should you deal with the periodic ‘growth spurts’ that all young athletes experience? When should skills training be used? And what’s the ‘golden rule’ about introducing strength training for young athletes?

Coaching young athletes must be done correctly, and they most definitely should not be treated as mini-adult athletes. The ‘correct’ activities and drills should be introduced at the right times to maximise the young athletes’ abilities and development.

With the information you gain from Coaching Track and Field for medal winning performances you’ll surely not have any worries on this score!

Sprint Training in 2012: time to turn accepted Best Practice on its head?

Until quite recently, the prevailing methodology in sprint athlete training has used a ‘long to short’ training approach.

In a nutshell, the sprinter performs slower aerobic and anaerobic work at the beginning of the training year and then progresses to faster and faster anaerobic work as the season approaches and in-season. Intensity is increased, training volume reduced, and specificity of training increasing accordingly.

However, a new approach is now finding favour. This approach emphasises speed all year round.

Sprint workouts, for example, take place in what would normally be the ‘slow, slog’ preliminary mesocycles of training, when an athlete is ‘supposedly’ building sprint condition (using slower speed conditioning methods). Under the short to long approach the athlete never moves more than a few percentage points as it were, from the ability to move their limbs at 100% effort.

Advocates of this approach say this will:

Maximise physical speed development

Optimally stimulate the central nervous system

Reduce injuries (athletes on the conventional approach can pick up injuries when attempting to sprint after months of much slower work);

Allow for more speed peaks

Minimise the negative (slowing) effects of de-training of fast twitch muscle fibre.

Want to know more?

In Coaching Track and Field for medal winning performances we tell you exactly how to follow this approach. How much of an aerobic base does a sprinter need? How should this be best accommodated within a periodised training schedule? How should this speed be maintained in season? What sort of speed programme should be followed?

You’ll find answers to all these sprint training questions – and much, much more – in Coaching Track and Field for medal winning performances.

What’s more, you’ll find out exactly how much tempo training one top-level international coach – Canada’s former track and field Olympic coach, Charlie Francis – recommends for both trained and untrained athletes.

And we reveal full details of a real-world (NOT a fictitious) sprint training periodisation programme drawn up for one of the world’s top 100m male sprinters.

It’s powerful stuff!

Strength Training to Maximum Effect: how to harness the ‘hidden effects’ of weight training

Weight training has both outward and inward training effects. As a track and field coach or athlete, you may tend to think only of the former, i.e. the production of greater power producing muscles.

However, a greater understanding of the underlying hormonal responses induced by weight training can be the key to success in the weights room.

Let me explain.

Great care needs to be paid to the design of a weight training programme because the hormonal effects can significantly impact on the amount of lean muscle gains. And this goes a long way to determining your exercise outcomes, affecting your power-to-weight ratio negatively or positively in terms of sport performance, depending on the specifics of the activity.

So the ramifications for athletes and coaches are immense.

That’s why we devote the next section of Coaching Track and Field for medal winning performances to an examination of the interactions between hormones, the endocrine system and weight training.

Our discussion begins with the workings of three key exercise-related hormones:

Growth hormone (GH) – GH is released from the anterior pituitary gland in the brain soon after exercise commences; however, the precise effects of this GH release seem to be a function of the age of the exerciser (of which more later). GH is often regarded as the ‘sport hormone’ because it is involved in numerous anabolic functions relating to cell proliferation and division throughout the body. Specifically, GH stimulates bone, cartilage and muscle growth and can play a very significant role in lean muscle mass and fat deterioration/ accumulation. This explains why it has been used as an illegal ergogenic aid. GH release via exercise is also augmented by a further chemical reaction. Basically, hormones that would otherwise act to blunt GH production (eg somatostatin) are suppressed by the production of other chemicals produced during exercise (endogenous opiates).

In short, GH’s ergogenic training-induced effect can contribute toward creating a leaner, stronger, more powerful athlete.

Testosterone – Testosterone is produced in men through the testes and in women (though to a much lesser extent) via the ovaries. The primary role of testosterone is to augment the release of GH and to interact with the nervous system. To clarify the latter, hormones can influence mood and behaviour. An increased level of testosterone could, for example, result in greater feelings of aggressiveness/dominance through ‘interpretation’ by the nervous system and brain. The mechanisms behind this process (and other hormonal influences on behaviour) are complex.

Cortisol – Cortisol is released from the adrenal gland and its levels are also elevated by exercise. Cortisol stimulates protein breakdown, leading to the creation of energy in the form of glucose in the liver. This is not good for those looking to build muscle, as amino acids (released via dietary protein breakdown) become preferentially used for energy production rather than muscle building.

Read Coaching Track and Field for medal winning performances and you’ll find out which forms of weight training produces the greatest acute hormonal elevations (notably testosterone and growth hormone). Different programmes encourage a different hormonal response -- with very specific outcomes in terms of both strength and muscle mass. For example, the amount of growth hormone that is produced in an athlete's body can be ‘manipulated’ by performing particular types of weight training workouts.

You'll also learn what Charles Van Commenee (the coach of Olympic heptathlon gold medalist Denise Lewis and now head of UK Athletics’ coaching team) advocates for athletes and coaches targeting peak performance.

We even share the training secrets of triple jumper Jonathan Edwards’ weight training workouts – the ones that helped him to Olympic success and to successive world records in his event.

Our analysis includes such crucial issues as the impact of age and sex on hormonal release – two crucial variables to take into consideration when putting together a weight training programme for athletes.

Not least because older track and field athletes can boost their athletic performance by adjusting their weight training activities along lines that encourage the right kind of hormonal response.

This vitally important chapter ends with a description of individual weight training workouts designed to get the best results for a variety of selected sports, age groups, and across both genders by targeting the elevation of growth hormone in athletes.

It's essential information for any coach (or athlete) wanting to target peak performance on the track or field.

Muscular Development for Peak Performance: how to give your athletes more speed or endurance

Producing more powerful and/or more enduring muscles is a fundamental tenet of athlete conditioning.

In order to do this, the most appropriate conditioning exercises must be selected by the coach. These in turn should reflect the most appropriate muscular action/actions for the athlete’s event/events. In doing this, the coach will be able to produce a conditioning programme that optimises training adaptation and is most relevant to event performance.

Of course, the varied track and field events have different muscular action requirements. Speed of contraction and the amount of power produced are the key variables. Thus a marathon runner will utilise relatively slow and sustained muscular contractions in their legs whilst they complete their 26-mile, two-hour-plus event.

This contrasts with the shot putter, whose throw lasts a matter of seconds and requires fast and incredibly powerful contractions from the lower and upper body.

Obviously the conditioning programme must target the most relevant muscle fibres – slow-twitch in the case of the marathon runner and fast-twitch in the case of the shot putter. However, as mentioned, the variations in ways muscles contract also need to be understood in order to maximise the effects of the conditioning programme.

So in the next section of Coaching Track and Field for medal winning performances we review the five different ways in muscles act – and discuss the implications of these for differing approaches to strength and endurance training.

Along the way we examine the work that the top international Olympic coach, Charles Poliquin, did with 2008 Olympic long-jump gold medallist, Dwight Phillips.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the elite-level training and conditioning insights contained in this section of the report alone make it indispensable reading for serious coaches and athletes!

Just ask yourself: how often do you get to find out how a current Olympic track and field champion prepares himself for success?

Then we examine the crucial – but often-overlooked – role played by the central nervous system in optimising athletes’ training adaption for maximum strength.

We round out the strength-training section by examining the best ways to train for maximal strength – including a fascinating explanation of how to tailor a strength-training programme to take into consideration different athletes’ somatypes. Too often, coaches fail to adapt their training advice to take into account whether a particular athlete is an ectomorph, endomorph or mesomorph.

Click here to go to our special, 42% Discount Offer. Or read on to learn more about Coaching Track and Field for medal winning performances.

Proprioception and Sports Performance: do your athletes have the balance skills they need for success?

When it comes to sport performance, power, strength and endurance can only take you so far. Whether you’re a footballer dribbling the ball, a gymnast on the bars, or a rugby player diving for the line while fending off tackles, balance is critical.

Balance in sport involves a complex interaction of numerous factors. Some of these are conscious – such as deciding to move a limb to prevent yourself falling after being tackled in football – while others are much more conscious, such as taking a kick at goal for a rugby player.

The unconscious element involves the ‘use’ of in-built sensory mechanisms and programmed responses – these fall under the realm of ‘proprioception’. Proprioception has been called the ‘sixth sense’. That’s because it is basically a mechanism (or more accurately series of mechanisms) that keeps track and control of muscle tensions and movement in the body.

When we consciously make movements or are subjected to external forces, our muscles, ligaments and joints will be making their own ‘judgments’ based on information they receive from their own sources. Sounds a bit odd, this, doesn’t it? However, think about this: if you hold your hand out to take hold of a weight placed in your hand, unless the weight is extremely heavy your body will adjust itself so that you take hold of the weight and keep your arm up. This (and other similar actions) use ‘sensorimotor’ processes. Sports scientists now believe that sensorimotor ability and proprioception can be enhanced by specific practices.

So the concluding section of Coaching Track and Field for medal winning performances tackles this exciting new ‘frontier’ of sports training and conditioning. First we explain the mechanics of proprioception – we all do it, but do we understand how and why? Then we look at the role of injury in impairing proprioception – and predisposing us, in essence, to a further recurrence of injury, if we’re not extra careful.

Happily, proprioception training can also be used – if done in the right way – to DECREASE the likelihood of injury, and even to rehabilitate athletes. So in this section we identify a series of exercises that can be used to achieve these goals.

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