In Part 1, I explained the many benefits of using back-to-back training sessions of high neuromuscular demand as a model when your are planning training for your sprinters. In regular people terms this means back-to-back speed days.
If you haven’t read it, it’s worth checking out before continuing on here because it explains the underlying ‘Reason Why’ behind the activity and exercise selection discussed below.
Building on the ideas contained in that article, we’ll now move to our next preferred practice session format:
Training Shallower in the Same Pool
Training shallower in the same pool means incorporating back to back sessions of high neuromuscular demand with the first being the more difficult/challenging and the second being lighter and less challenging. (It can also be for low neuromuscular demand type sessions.)
Training shallower is my preferred format when max velocity/top end speed is on the menu, especially early in the season or with the freshmen/Year 1 kids.
In my experience, once high school kids get out into that 35m – 60m range, injury risk rises by 47.81%.
I don’t have data on this. I pulled that number from the ethers. My measuring system is the Level of Cringe I feel when watching unskilled sprinters flap their limbs around as fast as they can, then fix their mouths to say they were ‘sprinting’.
You probably know exactly what I mean:
Toe first landings. Heel first landings. Casting the lower leg. Poor recovery mechanics aka excessive backside mechanics.
If you’re in the market for a team wide shin splint, hamstring, adductor, and/or hip flexor injury epidemic, continue to allow these postural failures to repeat themselves endlessly, day in and day out, in spikes, and at velocities beyond their ability to control.
Look, I’m not advocating to *only* go shallower in your maximum velocity/top end speed themed sessions. I do both on the regular. Just be cautious. After all…
Most of your sprinters are completely vertical within 3 – 8 steps. Therefore, top end speed technique is a far more important skill to learn and apply than acceleration.
If your sprinters live vertical for 90% of their race, even in the 100m, then you should be living there in practice as well.
Just some food for thought. Do with it what you will.
Now, since we covered acceleration in Part I, our sample sessions for training shallower in the same pool will use a max velocity/top end speed theme during the “Special Preparation Phase” (if you believe in such a thing.)
RELATED PROGRAM: Keys to Program Design for High School Sprinters (100m 400m)
Actually, let’s talk about “training phases” for a second. In this case, ‘Special Prep’. Or ‘Specific Prep’. Whatever.
Traditionally, the Special Preparation Phase is the period in the yearly plan where training begins trending more aggressively toward “event specific” activities. But, here’s the thing though:
We’re always trending toward specificity. Like, from Day 1.
I don’t let the an arbitrary concept like a training phase determine the physiological demands, volume or intensity of practice activities. If anything, it helps define the energy frequency of each practice, especially on quality days or when learning specific skills.
For example, the Wicket Drill is staple tool I use to teach, develop, and reinforce top speed technique. Furthering my previous claim that *what* you do in practice is not nearly as signficant as *why* you’re doing it and *how* you’re incorporating it into practice, here is how the training phases might affect my approach to using them…
General Preparation Phase
They can’t get to wicket 1 in 6 steps, they kick over the wickets, double step, and forget to run off the wickets through the cone.
I’m not that worried about it. I just want them to get a feel for the drill and attempt to apply some things we’re doing elsewhere in practice.
An entirely heuristic approach.
Specific Preparation Phase
They’re expected to get to wicket 1 in 6, get through the spacings clean and carry through the cone without making me feel sad.
Less heuristic. If/when they don’t/can’t execute, there will be more feedback and instruction. I may ask them (the group or individual athletes) to execute a specific movment or display a particular postural position.
I show decreased patience and I’m not making jokes with repeated failure. I remind them that little things add up to big things and the inability to focus and execute comes at a steep price later in the season.
Continued lack of attention to detail gets varsity athletes demoted to a remedial spacing. That usually solves the problem real quick.
PreCompetition / Competition
I expect everyone to be focused and dialed in. I don’t want to hear talking and goofing off between efforts or while waiting in line. The only talking I should hear is athletes coaching each other and giving each other feedback.
I expect consistency of execution at the highest range of their current ability level.
They may be timed through the drill. There may be competition.
Less instruction. Instead, I explain how their particular failures/successes in executing the drill specifically impact their races based on their current model, as well as the goal model.
Take a look at what training shallower in the same pool could look like with a max velocity/top end speed workout theme:
Regarding the Main Session, Ins/Outs is a technically challenging activity. So, let's be honest, for 90% of the team those are just 50m sprints because they'll have no idea how to shift gears during the 10/10/10.
If I don't like what I see, I'll often change gears midstream and remediate the workout using this drill I stole from LSU Head Coach Dennis Shaver:
(I might also push it to Tuesday or a combination of the two depending on the group. Again, it depends.)
In this session, I chose hurdle hops (and by that I mean banana hurdles for most of the group) because they're a safe option when kids are tired. I'm afraid they'll cripple themselves if we do single leg hops or alternate leg bounds. Top end speed is a vertical activity. We're trying to teach our sprinters to 'attack the ground from above', cueing them to strike the ground with a flat/neutral foot (they're not actually going to land like that, just cue them to do it) and a vertical shin.
In terms of cueing, we're asking them to 'push UP', 'step over, drive down', 'crush the can', 'push the ground away from you', 'climb the ladder', 'run through knee high water', 'run through tall grass', etc.
In terms of training compatibility, all of the activities in this session should be vertical in nature.
In the video below, Boo Schexnayder explains the specific qualities hurdle hops develop and reinforce. Additionally, he covers specific programming considerations.
(This clip is from his *awesome* program 'Plyometric Training for Sports Performance'.
Because this is the lighter/easier day, I'm treating the entire session as a culminating activity. The activities, cues, volumes, and intensities will largely depend what I saw in Monday's practice, from the group as a whole, but primarily kids who are on the varsity relays.
In the Technical/Postural Development unit, I consider the list of activities an inventory of options. I'm not married to any of it.
As Bruce Lee said, "Be like water my friend."
Instead, what I'm most interested in:
A) Who is making the connection between yesterday and today by showing technical improvements and/or making a volitional effort to change how they move in order to match a revised understanding of how I want them to execute.
B) Are they asking different questions or answering questions in a way that implies a change in experiential understanding of the skills being taught in practice?
When these things begin to happen, practices can start looking more like Monday and less like the 'shallower' session made up of partial movements and other remedial, but necessary, activities.
Last year I took over a program that was a. hot. mess. I had to remediate everything. Frequently our 'deeper' workouts were no different than the 'shallow' workout because they couldn't handle it.
We literally walked up stairs and ran upstairs because they needed to learn to land flat with a vertical shin and recover correctly (toe up, lift the thigh), with the heel coming up underneath the hips (instead of flexing at the knee with the heel going backwards).
From a coaching standpoint, it was the most bored I've ever been in my life. Because when they can't walk up stairs right, where do you go from there?
But, I took the long approach within the 2017 indoor/outdoor season, and kept my eyes on the four year plan prize. So even though we did infuriatingly remedial stuff instead of fly runs and ins/outs, it was the optimal approach. And you can still get decent results without using 5 figure speed machines...
...even if you only have 9 girls (6 freshmen) in the winter and 15 or so in the spring.
Trained under this approach, my top 200 runner dropped her personal best from 25.61 to 24.74 en route to a State Championship. My top 400m runner dropped her personal best from 59.23 to 57.14.
Here's how they placed at the RI State Championship, even on a strict diet of 'you're only allowed to do what you can actually do'.
So those are the fundamentals of training shallower in the same pool, though, ultimately, this evolved into a discussion of teaching top speed technique and maximum velocity.
If you're not utilizing this type of practice set up in your program, consider playing with it. I have gotten great results since I began doing this 6 or 7 years ago.
If you're already doing it, the next level is to get even more specific in terms of how compatible and complimentary you are with your exercise selection, as well as the clarity in which you explain to your athletes 'why' they're doing each activity, even the most mundane.
The deeper/shallower articles skewed short (100/200) sprints heavy.
Part 3 is about getting more out of your long (200/300/400) sprinters by going beyond just doing a standard extensive tempo death march...