Thanks to our friends on Elitetrack.com we have more Guru Gotcha moments with this Santa Claus training program. After this link was posted on the blog discussion thread I had to professionally refute this method of training. I am not sure if Coach Dos is getting ready for Reindeer Combine training after the holidays but this nonsense is an example of what I call entertrainment. Entertrainment is the combination of too much emphasis on cool and trendy and not enough on coaching and good decision making. Over the last few years sled training has become popular because of the used car salesmen trainers hocking catalog equipment and the application is poorly coached. Obviously athletes can get improvement in acceleration by nearly any means if they have a limited training background. Neophytes that are in high school and college are in growth rich years and will respond to many different programs and talent will surface anywhere. Still, we must make everyone better and max out genetic potential. Honestly I see more eye candy here and this is a recipe for disaster when kids see this on youtube.
Acceleration is applying force properly. Granted more force applied will give you a better chance to run faster but like with most things in life there is no guarantee on anything really. Athletes may respond by doing sled marches but time and energy are finite and I would rather focus on more absolute qualities like rate coding, elasticity, strength and power, and coordination. With the athlete looking like a zombie in the Dos video (closest to us) (1) , I must say that a pragmatic approach would better serve the athletes. Sprinting from a french crouch will help force application and give a time that an athlete can run all out instead of slower. With overtraining plaguing our industry (from both too much or being out of shape) why not work on sprinting fresh? Vests, tires, chutes, and sleds slow down the athlete period. I think we need less equipment and more pure speed work to get faster.
I will quote the legendary JJ Hunter, who before the legendary Waffle House secret meeting at the Level III school years ago, used the phrase teaching the athlete how to apply force with severe belief. That statement rings to me every time I step on the track as we are teachers first. I am frankly not impressed with teaching of technique I have been seeing on video lately. Teaching the athlete must be done first or the increases of strength and power may not transfer. In addition to fail to transfer or transfer as much, the athlete may strengthen or exaggerate errors, resulting in a burden of problems later with possible injuries or muscular imbalances. Building more strength is important and I will never let my long day interfere with what needs to be done at the weight room, but if you are on the track or field it’s time to coach.
Coaching acceleration is observation of lines. For me this was much easier to view after doing several anatomy illustration courses, as lines of movement are based on the skeletal motions. While many will drop shin angles and triple extension, I found that dance brought my attention to the entire run more clearly. Zooming in on shin angles is vital for force application but the entire run must be viewed as a whole to see what is the underlying issues besides foot strike. Flight times and ground contacts must be evaluated to see the strength and weaknesses of the athlete. If the speed of the runs are not fast enough to elicit the need for elastic responses the sled is just a weak strength exercise that happens to be more specific than a lunge. We must focus on central overload more with beginners and more specific with actual sprints rather than give in to what gut instincts may tell us is a good idea. What one does with sleds is beyond just this blog post but I would rather get into the coaching demands first than the training protocols.
I am fairly confident that most of us can coach the actions we need athletes to do, but some cues and concepts below have helped me get athletes to accelerate a little bit better:
(1) Lock and Load- While speed and weight of sleds are important, at the end is the look of the runs. My eyes focus on the ankle joint to make sure that excessive dorsiflexion does not occur. When viewing many videos you can see where the weight of the sleds are too much for the ankle, causing the athlete to learn slow ground contact times and kill stiffness. I say lock and load the ankle and many times do my best Pope impression by blessing the ankle with stiffness from my hands to make them appreciate the need to concentrate on removing slack in the joint.
(2) Commit to the push behind you- Athletes that rush the steps fail to get proper stride distance, causing a poor race model set up and general reduction in speed. When I use the word commit to athletes I want them to learn the paradoxical patience of applying the right temporal action. Pushing behind you allows athletes to focus on not pushing down only, a common precursor error of popping up in races. I do believe that athletes will find their natural acceleration posture and shank positions if they relax to the timing patterns stated above. Many times I cue piston action to have them remove too much rotary action from the push as recovery mechanics are more spinal.
(3) T-Pressure- Athletes need to get comfortable with the lean out of the blocks. The body will adapt and learn to be comfortable with a falling sensation only if successful steps from reflexes are matched with it. Otherwise the shin angles will get to vertical too soon as the body will focus on self preservation rather than performance. T-Pressure is something I robbed from swimming as the head may be the rudder to the body many times in sport but the center of mass is king. In between the shoulders (in the middle) is the area I like athletes to guide their posture with as it’s above their center of mass but doesn’t allow the head (vision and vestibular responses) to disrupt good acceleration mechanics and flow of the step patterns. Too many athletes tuck the chin and think they have good pelvic alignment but end up looking like Mo Greene wannabees and fail to push enough.
(4) Violent Arms- I like to see aggressive arms and often athletes overthink the arms, resulting in slow actions. When the athlete has a nice symmetry in the arms with good pulling action I then try to adjust the joint angles later unless they are truly mangled. I find that the body is more likely to find better angles at good speeds than try to speed up artificial positions later. Correcting technique at near full speed creates a higher rate of retention.
1. Robert Remedios. (2008). Sled Pull HEAVY [Video] Retrieved December 1, 2008, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbrtB-AnhLc&NR=1