A Different Approach to Velocity-Based Training

A big topic in sports training over the last six months. Research is exploding in this area as technology advances. The technology to measure bar speed has been around for decades, but new advances have put that technology in the hands of more people and made it easier to work with the data. I’ve been testing out two products, from Push and GymAware, for the last few months and will write more about the technology later in the week. But I wanted to first cover look at some of the theory and research regarding velocity-based training.
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Words of Wisdom, Volume 4

Our new author Craig Pickering has brought together his background as an Olympic sprinter, coach, and sports scientist to start a series on understanding science for coaches. His latest post covers the differences between good and bad sports science articles and is well worth a read.

It has been months since my last “Words of Wisdom” post and I’ve read a lot since then. So to keep with the theme of sports science and data collection I pulled out a few quotes related to the topic from mostly non-athletic sources. Read more


All Things Strength Podcast

Podcasts are popping up all over the place and as many as desperate for content I’ve even been able to get on a few of them. Over the past year I’ve been on Wil Fleming’s Performance Podcast, Sports Coach Radio, and most recently Ultimate Athlete Concepts Podcast. And then last month I sat down with the All Things Strength and Wellness podcast which was released this week. You can listen to the entire episode below as well as some additional resources I’ve put together on the topics we discussed. Read more


Four Factors For Evaluating Drills

betty_windsWhen it comes to fixing technique, I am not a big fan of drills. Among throwers there are some parts of the throw that you can never replicate in a drill. The same is true in nearly every sport. And even those parts that can be replicated often remain far removed from the sport itself. How many times have you seen athletes able to perform a drill flawlessly and then proceed to make a myriad of mistakes during their actual throw? I’m not the only one to notice this phenomenon: Read more


On Goal Setting

With a new year upon us there has been lots of talk about goals over the past few weeks. After all, it’s about the time of year when many non-athletes have already given up on their New Year’s resolutions. In track and field our year started months ago before the first day of training, but a new calendar year still marks a good time to assess our progress and a last chance to make changes if needed.

As I transition from being an athlete to a coach I have noticed my thoughts on goals make a similar transition. I was quite apathetic towards goal setting as an athlete. I knew what I needed to do, constantly analyzed it, and then made adjustments accordingly. I found having a wish list at the start of the year distracted me from the process to achieve them and therefore focused on what I needed to do.

Now as a coach I am starting to realize the motivational value of goals for certain athletes and focus more on goal setting with my athletes than I did with myself. Yet throughout it all my focus remains on the training process and using the goals to assess whether an athlete understands what they need to do and their capability to actually do it.

A Framework for Goal Setting

Before I talk about how I use goals, it is helpful to discuss the goals themselves first. Not all goals are equal and there are ways to make them more effective. I’ve done various leadership training courses for work over the past few years and goals are one recurring topics. The popular buzzword is SMART goals. This means setting goals that are:

  • S – Specific: Simply saying you want to be good is a dream, not a goal. Get down to the details of what you want to achieve.
  • M – Measurable: Have a way to determine if you have met the goal. In sports this is quite easy since results are often measurable unless your goal is something broad and vague like “improving technique.”
  • A – Attainable: You need to reach for the stars, but at the same time goals need to be realistic. Hold the carrot too far away and it no longer acts as motivation to chase.
  • R – Relevant: Make sure your goal is actually relevant to what really matters. Do you want to be a better thrower? Then don’t bother setting goals relating to your marathon personal best.
  • T – Time-bound: Set a deadline.

A nice acronym makes for a good presentation, but this exercise also serves a purpose. If your goals meet all of these categories it is much easier to define the process and much easier to measure success after the fact.

Goals from the Coach’s Perspective

How should you then assess your athlete’s goals? As I said goals can be helpful both in defining a process and measuing success. In athletics we rarely have difficulty with the second point as we have a final judge of success in the form of a tape measure, stop watch, or win-loss record. But it is still important that the goals demonstrate whether the athletes knows the process and has self-confidence. Let me give an example.

At our club we have our athletes complete a season-end debriefing where they also give us their goals for the coming year. In reviewing my top youth thrower’s goals I saw she aimed to throw one meter farther in 2015. At age 17 she could just as easily make a 10 meter leap, but this goal didn’t bother me as I know she knows what road she needs to travel down. Last year was proof of this as she set a Swiss age group record. I just care she is doing the right thing in training since the results will come and surprise her. Whether she predicts she our training will take her 1 or 100 steps down that road doesn’t matter to me.

But a low goal still is a sign of work you need to do as a coach since the process is only part of performance. A low goal can be a sign that an athlete does not know the sport well or that they lack self-confidence, both of which are vital to success. For example, someone new to the sport might not know that it is realistic for a beginner to make a 10-meter jump in one year, as is the case here. Or even if they know this they may lack the confidence to think they can actually do it. In both cases I will measure good throws to show an athlete their potential in training and mention how easily a few meters can come. It is a hard and long process, but it is essential for the coach to help with. Athletes must believe in themselves. This can be more powerful than doping.


Technical Training is Strength Training

I wrote about complex periodization last month and the topic also came up a lot in our recent seminars. Just as a quick refresher, complex periodization works all types of exercises simultaneously throughout round. Rather than a progression from general to specific work, athletes will work on technique, strength, speed, etc. simultaneously during each phase of the year. I wrote about some of the advantages of this approach, but there is one bigger advantage I didn’t even get into: complex periodization works well because often it is not even possible to separate the different elements of training.
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Simplifying “Complex” Periodization

Perhaps it is the Swiss in me, but I love order. I look at training and I see how I can put nearly every aspect of it in its own little box. You can classify exercises, types of strength, bodily systems used, recovery methods, etc. But the point of classifying it is to see how you can put it all back together. What good is it to classify foods, after all, if you never make a meal?
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