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Conditioning for Track and Field Athletes

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The Sure Way to Make 2011 Your Best Ever Year in Track & Field"

Track and field athletics is one of the purest forms of sport. That's because athletes – whatever their event – require high levels of speed, strength, power and endurance.

Of course in the 'technical' events – like the long jump, pole vault, hurdles, shot and javelin – skill is also a key determinant of success. However, once this is mastered, then the athlete's conditioning becomes the key determinant of top performance.

That's why my Peak Performance special report, Conditioning for Track and Field Athletes, considers the key ingredients needed to optimise track and field performance.

NB: this brand new report goes way beyond the traditional building blocks of athletic fitness to examine training techniques that can REALLY make a difference to your performance in 2011...

Chapters cover the development of speed and endurance, specifically addressing the role of muscle fibre conditioning. Others take a look at a more 'hidden' ingredient, the role of the central nervous system. Because it's crucial that coach and athlete alike know precisely just what a particular 'type' of training is 'doing' to the athlete's physiology and – in the case of the CNS – their neural system. Failure to fully understand this will result in a less-than-optimised training programme design and, ultimately, substandard athletic performance.

Strength is another key component of athletic performance regardless of the event – even for middle and long distance runners, whose performance benefits considerably from an increase in endurance while enjoying a lower incidence of injury in both training and competition.

However, optimised resistance based conditioning results will only derive from a resistance training programme that utilises weights (and the myriad of other resistance training options, including vibration training) in the appropriate manner to successfully deliver improved track and field performance. There is little point in perfecting the Olympic lifts and lifting prodigious loads if there is no direct benefit to performance on the track and field.

The later chapters of Conditioning for Track and Field Athletes pay particularly close attention to these, and other fundamental sports conditioning issues.

Whether you're an athlete or a coach, you'll find Conditioning for Track and Field Athletes maximises your understanding of a range of advanced conditioning methods so you can boost your results on the track or field – whatever your particular event.

John Shepherd

You can be sure every page of this brand new report is packed with high-level, practical information you can put to use right away because it's written by John Shepherd – a former international long jumper who competed for Great Britain. John speaks from personal experience of elite level sports training and competition.

Today, John coaches elite athletes across the UK. He is also a long-standing contributor to Peak Performance and the author of 8 books, including '101 Athletic Drills for Young People' and 'The Complete Guide to Sports Training'.

Order your copy of Conditioning for Track and Field Athletes today, and you'll find out:

  • Why is the Central Nervous System essential to peak performance – and how can you 'fine tune' it to work to best effect?  (pp. 4-5)
  • Under what circumstances might a Personal Best in competition or training be a warning sign you can't afford to ignore?  (p. 8)
  • What are the three telltale signs of Central Nervous System fatigue that you need to watch out for – or risk a poor performance on the track or field?  (p. 7)
  • When training for explosive athletic power, what recovery intervals between sets are recommended for maximum training effect?  (p. 44)
  • Why do advocates of vibration training believe it is such a useful method for athletes?  (pp. 48-49)
  • Do you know the 'secret' of accelerating an athlete's endurance gains?  (p. 29)
  • What are the key determinants of sprint acceleration – and how do you train for them?  (pp. 12-14)
  • How do you determine which weight training exercises are best for your particular situation – and which are likely to be a waste of time?  (p. 44)
  • What's the single biggest determinant of effective weight training for power – without adding unnecessary muscle and weight?  (p. 45)
  • Is over-speed training as useful as it's often claimed to be?  (pp 56-58)
  • What are the best ways to successfully train and develop fast twitch motor units and fibre?  (pp. 22-25)

It's all essential information for athletes and their, coaches – and anyone else with a serious interest in top-level performance on the track and field.

So here's a tip from me: get your copy TODAY, before anyone else does and in convenient ebook format!

What's more, because you're signed up on our Peak Performance web site to receive our weekly email newsletter, I'll make sure you get Conditioning for Track and Field Athletes at a greatly reduced price.

What if the report doesn't meet your needs and expectations? No problem, you can receive a full refund within 30 days. No quibbles, no questions asked.

Yours sincerely

Jonathan Pye

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Why Top Class Performance Depends on Training the Central Nervous System

When it comes to providing energy for track and field events, the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems would probably be at the top of most coaches and athletes' lists. However, there is another less well known 'source' that is critically important – namely, the central nervous system (CNS).

The CNS interprets and relays signals from around the body, via the spinal chord and brain. It's a complex system, a sort of 'control system' for the body, one that is involved in and inextricably linked to athletic performance. Its behavior has traditionally been thought of as conscious, involving interpretation through the senses. However, it is highly plausible that much of its activity functions at an unconscious level.

If coach and athlete can understand its operation and relevance to athletic training, and optimally tap into its potential, then maximising training adaption, avoiding burn out and achieving personal best performances will result.

Why is the CNS important for athletic performance? Research indicates that playing a sport for a long time influences the way the CNS 'controls' the way muscles are utilised for any given task, i.e. the way we move our muscles when running, jumping and throwing.

Here's some research:

Five different athlete groups were chosen as subjects for research from Finland - track and field jumpers, swimmers, footballers and poor and good vertical jumpers.  The Finns wanted to find out how the varied sports performers recruited their muscles and the role of the CNS.  Not surprisingly it was discovered that the track and field jumpers performed the most powerful vertical jumps, whilst the swimmers were the poorest jumpers.

Specifically, in regard to the CNS it was discovered that the system influenced the way the different sports performers recruited their muscles. For example, the swimmers were unable to create the stretch/reflex* action in their leg muscles as powerfully as the jumpers. This was attributed to a different muscle 'firing pattern' - which resulted in poorer jump performance. The footballers' jumping movement was more contrived and displayed a more staccato muscular firing rhythm, unlike the jumpers whose muscles fired dynamically, rapidly and sequentially to produce jumping power.

The researchers attributed these differences to the specifics of the individuals' sports and crucially years of relevant training, together with the effects these had on the CNS. Specifically they stated, "The results suggest that prolonged training in a specific sport will cause the central nervous system to program muscle coordination according to the demands of that sport." Adding "That (the) learned skill-reflex…. of the CNS seems to interfere hierarchically in the performance program of another task."

In slightly plainer English the researchers were saying that if you train correctly for your sport/track and field event and maximise the CNS system and its great potentiality to enhance performance this is good. However, if you change sport/event, for example - and have to adopt new movement patterns that might be compromised by your prior sport/event - then less than optimum performance might result.

That's why very few horizontal jumpers, for example, can be top class at long and triple jump, despite the events' apparent similarities. The CNS becomes 'used' to firing the muscles and crucially reacting to the forces involved in a very specific way for each event (remember it's not all about conscious effort).

For the coach of mature athletes thinking of advising an change of event, this is an important consideration – the CNS gets used to producing energy and movements through repetition and taking these in a new direction can be very challenging… though not impossible, if you know what you're doing.

So in Conditioning for Track and Field Athletes we describe how the CNS works in respect of athletic performance, and explain how to train athletes for a greater CNS contribution to performance. For example, you'll learn how to construct and periodise (plan, over time) a weight training program that will most effectively contribute toward improved sports performance while maintaining the integrity of the CNS. All too often, strength training programs unwittingly undermine the CNS.

To this end we identify the three tell-tale symptoms of CNS fatigue that coaches and athletes should be on the lookout for, and list the eight high intensity training activities that need to be 'controlled' in terms of their inclusion in an athlete's training program to reduce potential CNS fatigue.

The discussion includes details of how to train for explosive sprinting power – and an intriguing explanation of why a Personal Best in training or competition can sometimes be a warning to moderate your training in the days that follow.

Frankly, this chapter alone is worth more than the price of the whole report. Because for many athletes, tweaking the CNS could be the diagnostic that releases their ultimate potential.

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Getting A Quick Getaway: What's the Best Way To Build Explosive Acceleration?

Acceleration is vital for the sprinter and sprint hurdler. However the specific training methods used to improve this athletic quality can be used by other athletes, particularly those in the other 'power' events.

But conditioning acceleration requires a specific approach and the use of potential training methodologies as is explained in the next section of Conditioning for Track and Field Athletes.

Because training fast twitch motor units and fibre in a way that will boost performance is a highly skilled business. The right training methods must be utilised and they must be positioned within a training programme that maintains the optimal functioning of the CNS and allows for the optimum 'conversion' of fat twitch muscle fibre for enhanced speed and power.

Researchers from New Zealand studied the ground reaction forces (GRF) involved in the acceleration sprint phase. Thirty-six athletes performed maximal-effort sprints from which video and GRF data were collected after 16m. The team discovered that the faster accelerating athletes displayed less vertical impulse in their acceleration phase, i.e. more force was directed horizontally, thus pushing them forward.

The quicker accelerators also had faster ground contact times. Although acceleration requires greater foot/ground contact times when compared to maximum speed sprinting - to impart sufficient force to overcome inertia - the researchers discovered that the better accelerators also had the shortest ground contact times. Both coach and athlete need to reflect on this when selecting appropriate acceleration conditioning methods – of which more later.

So what do we learn from this about how to condition greater acceleration?

It's often argued that the most specific sports improvements are derived from training practices that closely replicate the movement patterns of the sport itself. This would indicate, for example, that plyometric exercises, such as hopping and bounding would have the greatest relevance to conditioning acceleration.

However, research indicates that it's not quite so simple when it comes to this vital part of the sprint race.

In Conditioning for Track and Field Athletes we look at a range of acceleration training techniques, and assess their efficacy. For example, we closely examine the use of weighted sleds and discover what is the best loading to use to ensure that sprint acceleration technique is not negatively affected.

Our overall conclusion: coach and athlete must carefully balance the conditioning of the sprinter to cover all aspects of the race. Certain jumping and resisted exercises and towing methods have a much greater conditioning potential than others when it comes to improving acceleration.

Some, if used, could actually be detrimental to boosting a 'quick getaway'. To find out which these are, make sure you order your copy of Conditioning for Track and Field Athletes today.

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How To Train More Fast Twitch Muscle Fibre for Superior Athletic Performance?

It's often thought that those that are blessed with great speed, or great strength are born with a higher percentage of fast twitch muscle fibres and that no amount of speed work, will turn a cart-horse into a race horse.

However, the distribution of fast twitch fibres is actually fairly evenly distributed between sedentary people's muscles. Most possess somewhere between 45-55% fast twitch and 45-55% slow twitch fibres.

So many of us without training, will be neither super-endurance, nor super-fast, strong or powerful, potential athletes. The path toward a speed or power orientated or endurance event will reflect genetics, to a certain degree, but more pertinently for the majority: 1) the way our sporting experiences are shaped at a relatively early age and 2) crucially how we train our muscle fibres throughout our sporting career.

In Conditioning for Track and Field Athletes we examine this second issue in some detail, including a discussion of various different conventional methods of training for speed by boosting the power output of fast twitch motor units and fibre.

Crucially, it needs to be noted that the 'wrong' training - and in some cases what might first appear to be the 'right' training - can actually compromise the development of fast twitch motor units.

In all, nine different training methods are identified, analysed and assessed.

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Eccentric Muscle Training: Go Slow to Go Fast

Athletic performance is all about speed. You won't win an Olympic track medal for being the 'quickest' at slowing down….or could you? Training to control landing forces and using deceleration training methods (eccentric muscle training) could actually increase speed and power.

Muscles contract in different ways to produce and control movement – they can only pull on joints. What's known as an 'eccentric' muscular contraction is key to stopping the body, when decelerating from a sprint or landing from a jump. This type of action occurs when a muscle lengthens under loads. However, as we explain in Conditioning for Track and Field Athletes it is also crucial for boosting the power output of plyometric (powerful and dynamic) contractions – hence the validity in training muscles specifically eccentrically.

A plyometric muscular action is in reality the quick-fire amalgamation of two muscular actions. Using a sprinter's foot-strike as an example: On foot-strike the muscles of the lower limbs (calfs, quads and hips) all undergo eccentric contractions - they lengthen as they control and absorb the forces of impact. In transferring power to the next stride, concentric muscular actions then follow.

Concentric muscular actions are the most common of those involved in athletic (and sports) performance - they result in a muscle shortening under load. Now, the power output of a concentric muscular action is significantly enhanced if it immediately follows an eccentric one (i.e. to form a plyometric action).

This action (or more correctly actions) is a bit like stretching an elastic band (the eccentric muscle action) then letting it recoil, (the concentric muscular action). Immense amounts of energy will be released in the split second the elastic snaps out of your hands.

So continuing this analogy, if you could enhance the ability of the elastic band to stretch more then the force of the recoil would be greater. This is why training your muscles eccentrically can enhance your speed and power and boost subsequent concentric muscle action power output.

In Conditioning for Track and Field Athletes we identify and assess the various training options available to achieve these conditioning and performance goals. We also investigate how the development of concentric muscle strength helps you guard against sports injury.

Finally, we discuss deceleration agility practices that you can try out for yourself.

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Vibration Training: Does it Really Work?

Vibration training has become increasingly popular in the fitness and sports training world. Various manufacturers' machines are regular features of gyms. However, whether they work or not in terms of improving fitness – and in the case of this special report, athletic performance - is a matter of considerable conjecture.

Vibration training has been around for 40 years, although its application for sport and fitness purposes has only recently begun to be more fully examined. It was developed by the Soviets in response to their space programme, specifically to keep a cosmonaut in space, in as best physical condition as possible, for the longest period of time. The former USSR held numerous endurance records in this respect.

Vibration training involves the use of specially designed 'gym' machines that vibrate at frequencies, usually regulated to be between 30Hz and 50Hz. Most are platform-based – you stand on the plate and perform various exercises, some of these involve movement, such as single and double leg squats, whilst others utilise held positions, such as squatting and holding a half squat position.

Other items of vibration equipment also exist, such as vibration dumbbells and the concept has also been applied to breathing devices – designed to improve the power of the breathing muscles.

In Conditioning for Track and Field Athletes we examine in detail the rationale for vibration training – then discuss the findings of recent sports science research on the topic.

Specifically we address the question: can vibration training enhance sprint speed through the creation of an enhanced fast twitch muscle response.

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The Truth Behind Over-Speed Training

Downhill running is used by many sprinters and jumpers and is known as over-speed running. Bungee chords and towing devices are also used to 'allow' the athlete to achieve supra-maximal (to their on-flat sprinting) speed. But do these methods actually enhance sprinting on the flat?

Conditioning for Track and Field Athletes investigates this key training issue – over-speed training being a very popular method in some circles.

First we identify and assess the most popular over-speed training methods, drawing on the thoughts of George Dinitmen – one of the world's foremost authorities on sprint training.

Then we share with you the findings of some recent sports science research into the real efficacy of this widespread training technique. The conclusions are fascinating, especially the issue of how to integrate over-speed training into an athlete's overall programme in order to deliver the best results.

In Conditioning for Track and Field Athletes you'll find out exactly how to achieve this goal.

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Weight Training: How To Make Sure Your Strength Gains Translate into Top Performance

One of the greatest conundrums for the athletics' coach is how to develop greater power in the weights room that will actually improve athletic performance.

Many athletes spend their preparatory training phases getting stronger and developing a great physique only to be very dismayed when they compete and their performances are not an improvement on last seasons. More and more research on strength training for the enhancement of athletic (and other sports) performance centres on enhancing the neuromuscular system in a way that enables it to exert more force, more quickly and engage as many speed and power producing fast twitch fibres.

Type IIa and type IIb fast twitch muscle fibres are the real power producers for track and field performance. As has been noted these fibres (or more specific their motor units – the collection of nerves and muscle fibres) are recruited asynchronously. Basically this means that that the greater the force that has to be overcome/produced, the more the larger motor units have to be recruited – they're not all switched on at the same time. To get these 'firing' a great amount of neural (mental) energy is needed. This provides the 'spark'. Athletes will be aware of this, for example, when an attempt is made to lift a near maximum or maximum weight. If they are not in the right frame of mind or 'psyched' then the weight will stay on the racks/floor. To move it they have to provide the neural energy to get their largest fast twitch motor units engaged.

In Conditioning for Track and Field Athletes we explore the most effective ways in which to achieve these training objectives of gaining maximum strength for improving speed, power and endurance. In particular, we examine the central role played by the speed of muscle contraction, and address directly the core question: how to choose the right exercises for an athlete's chosen sport.

Adequate recovery both within and between strength training sessions is critical for optimal strength and power development. This too is addressed in Conditioning for Track and Field Athletes.

Finally we explain how one gains strength without size – thereby positively transforming an athlete's power-to-weight ratio... and their performance on track and field.

In this section endurance athletes will get a comprehensive answer to the question: how can they benefit from a properly-constructed strength training programme?

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