Jumps Expert Boo Schexnayder answers 13 popular questions from Complete Track and Field readers.
Question #1: How do you increase the distance of the second phase of the triple jump?
Coach Schexnayder: The second phase of the triple jump seems difficult to fix because it is a collection point for all triple jump errors. Any mistake made at any point prior to the second phase can destroy the second phase. The most common causes are high takeoffs from the board, failing to move forward enough while the foot is on the board, or cycling the hop leg through too soon and too aggressively. For this reason the takeoff from the board and the hop (1st) phase are by far the most important phases of the event, in spite of the frequency of second phase problems.
Question #2: What criteria do you use for determining the optimal approach distance for the long jump and/or triple jump?
Coach Schexnayder: Generally for long jump I place beginners at 14 steps, most high schoolers at 16 steps, and very high level high schoolers or collegiates at 18 steps. If your jumper has an odd number of steps you can subtract one. (I count every step, I realize some coaches count every other step). I generally subtract 1 or 2 steps to get the triple jump approach length. These guidelines are pretty well fixed and you should be more concerned with the number of steps than the distance. As they get faster normally the approach will lengthen by a few feet, but the number of steps should remain the same. To get the initial approach distance, place a tape measure on the track (away from the distraction of the board and pit) and have them run backwards beside it, counting steps and noting the location of the takeoff step as consistency is developed. This distance is then transferred to the runway. If you run back on the runway to establish an approach, then place the toe a few inches from the front of the board as a starting point. At meets, this approach distance should be measured (not run backwards), and final adjustments made during warmups.
Question #3: For long jump, is cycling after the take off (the hitchkick) the best technique to use or does it depend on the type of athlete or their level of experience?
Coach Schexnayder: The hitchkick (cycling) technique in the long jump is very difficult to teach and actually highly overrated as a way to position the body for landing. The free (drive) leg should straighten after the jumper leaves the ground, but after that don’t spend a tremendous amount of coaching time on flight. Coaching time is much better spent on the things that happen on the ground, the approach and takeoff.
Question #4: How do you teach the penultimate stride or set up for the take off for long jumpers of high school age?
Coach Schexnayder: The penultimate step is best taught as a rolling, heel to toe type of contact against the surface. Advanced athletes can then be taught lowering techniques once they become stronger, but the heel to toe rolling action is a great place to start for all. This is true for males and females.
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Question #5: The landing is killing my athletes. I can’t seem to get it right. Can you help me out?
Coach Schexnayder: There is a simple way to find the cause of landing problems. Have the jumper do a few standing long jump and check out the landing. If the landing in the standing long jump is better than the landing used in the meet, then you know the problem is actually forward rotation produced at takeoff that is preventing the jumper from landing correctly. The answer is to improve posture and mechanics at takeoff so that the jumper can land effectively. If the standing long jump landing is poor, stress an upright torso during flight and absorption at impact (flexing the knees and hips, and moving the butt to the heels after impact)
Question #6: Is there something during the winter months which might help prevent Jumper’s Knee during the actual spring competition season.
Coach Schexnayder: Jumper’s knee is a common problem. It results because the quadriceps muscle is not properly activated prior to the jump takeoff. This absence of stiffening in the quadriceps makes it incapable of protecting the knee, so all of the forces are transmitted to the patellar tendon, producing this injury. Poor weight room technique can also be a cause. When battling this ailment it is very helpful for the jumper to switch from horizontal hops and bounds to vertical hops and bounds in the plyometric program. Outside of the actual long and triple jump practices, keeping the majority of your plyometric work vertical is also a good way to help prevent this ailment. The vertical jumps give more time for the quadriceps to activate.
Question #7: If you had only one drill or exercise to use with your jumpers during the pre-season or general prep phase what would it be?
Coach Schexnayder: The most important drill for any event is the event itself. While drills have a place, the coach must eventually become good at coaching the event within the context of the event. Even the best drills have relatively low rates of transfer into the events, so actually practicing the event is critical, and it’s a common error to spend too much time on drills. Research shows time and time again that whole learning is more effective than part learning, so fight the temptation to break the event into small parts. That makes it difficult for the athlete to learn and feel the correct rhythms and flow.
Question #8: How should one approach training volume periodization (volume and different modalities) for the high school jumper?
Coach Schexnayder: The high school jumper should begin the season with training volumes that are near the highest of the year. To allow these volumes to be done safely, the coach should make sure that the intensity of the work is low enough so that the high school athlete can complete the work. Once the athlete has shown the ability to complete these high work volumes, the difficulty (intensity) of the work can increase, and volumes decrease in compensation. Starting with high volumes might seem odd, but the brevity of the high school season means you don’t want to spend excessive amounts of time building training volumes when increases in the intensity of training are what cause improvements.
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Question #9: What is your view on ratio of work between general (speed, strength) and specific (actual jump mechanics) training, throughout a macrocycle? I, at some point in the season, always become concerned that my athletes are getting too much CNS stimulation, as most training elements are geared toward it. How can we add more metabolic training (and reduce CNS) that wont inhibit speed and explosiveness, but would still be worth adding to the training inventory?
Coach Schexnayder: A good way to insure balance in training between metabolic and neural training is to assign a theme for each training session. Neural days should contain acceleration and speed work, plyometrics, and all major weight training exercises. General days contain bodyweight exercises, medicine ball work, technique and drills, circuits, and submaximal (tempo) running. These general day components are important to achieving good training balance, and most good training programs alternate neural and general days. Although there may be exceptions, neural days should begin (after warmup) with acceleration and/or speed, followed by multijumps and plyometrics, followed by weight training. General days should begin (after warmup) with technique, then circuits or endurance work.
Question #10: I have a girl and boy who are state placers in the triple and long jumps. They both want to jump in college they both need about 2 feet to their long and about 5 feet to their triple jumps. In your best guess what would be the number suggestion you would make to me to help them the additional feet to their jumps?
Coach Schexnayder: Every coach wants the magic bullet that will add feet to horizontal jump performances. These types of gains are possible, but getting them never results from a single training adjustment. A certain drill or a new workout is never the answer. These big gains come about because of a diverse, well organized and periodized training plan, along with the best technical coaching and teaching, administered over long periods of time.
Question #11: When coaching young children, would you agree that it is more important to learn how to jump properly, before concentating on striking the board. For example I see kids running twice the distance they need to, only to slow down as they look for the take-off board.
Coach Schexnayder: With the exception of beginners, I advise against taking full approach long and triple jumps in training. The high speeds and intensities make it tough to teach skills. I suggest working on the approach in some sessions, while doing actual complete long and triple jumps from runs of 6-10 steps. This enables better learning and more repetitions. The first full approach jumps should come in the early season, not-so-important meets.
Question #12: I have several multi event athletes. I know that there are many similarities between sprinting and jumping but how much specific jump training do athletes need to work on specific technique?
Coach Schexnayder: Organizing the training for jumpers who sprint, hurdle, and do multievents should not be an overly difficult task. After all, speed and explosiveness are essential to all of the events. My sprint, hurdle, jump and combined event athletes all follow a training program that is very similar. I suggest setting up a base program for all these events, and then making small adjustments from it for each rather than writing an entirely different workout for each group. For example, if I have an acceleration day, the jumpers can be doing accelerations, the sprinters block starts, and the hurdlers work over 1,2 or 3 hurdles. On a speed day, the jumpers can do runway practice, the sprinters do fly work, and hurdlers might work over 4-6 hurdles. These groups might come together to do the same circuit, plyometric, and weight training
Question #13: What is the ratio of training in the pit with the technique of jump in comparison to the amount of sprint training done to perfect the run up?!? One coach where I live does 90% pit work and 10% on run up. I do about 70% on run up (sprint training) and included in this 70% is a lot of conditioning work. What is best????
Coach Schexnayder: The flight path and rotations of a jumper are predetermined at takeoff and unchangeable after, so it is best to spend the vast majority of actual coaching time addressing the elements of the jump that occur on the ground. The percentage of time spend on the runway vs. the track is not as critical as the percentage of time spent addressing the run and takeoff vs. flight and landings. It is critical though that the coach actively works on running and jumping mechanics not only during jump practice, but during all running and plyometric workouts. Cross country does not help, and can actually harm sprint and jump performance, because speeds are too low and endurance addressed too much in that type of work.
Coach Schexnayder’s new program, Complete Horizontal Jumps Training, is here! Click for more information.