Posts

Words of Wisdom

photoIn Riga last week one of the Swiss sprinters asked me when I would run out of things to write about. That will happen as soon as I stop learning. When will that be? When I keel over.

As I’ve talked about before, continuous learning is something I picked up from my two biggest mentors, Harold Connolly and Anatoliy Bondarchuk. I am reading and talking about training with others daily. And I keep a daily journal with notes on what I learned, what I’ve observed in my own training and coaching, and other commentary on life in general. Just a portion of what I note makes it online or inspires me to write a post.

As the internet track and field community has grown over the past few years, so has the amount of great training content available online. I tend to post links to the best articles I find on Twitter when I run across them, but I thought it would be good to regularly share some of the nuggets of wisdom here too. Below are some highlights from my June journal that I’ve grouped into some loose categories.

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Training Talk with Gary Winckler (Part 4)

My training talk with sprint and hurdle coach Gary Winckler seems like it is going on forever. But, after nearly 7,000 words, it finally comes to a close with today’s final installment. After a wide-ranging conversation covering, reactivity training, periodization, planning, coaching, technique and more, this final part talks a little about Bondarchuk before looking at some of the issues facing coaching today.
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Dan Pfaff on Plyometric Training

Guidelines for the Implementation of Plyometric Training

by Dan A. Pfaff, Louisiana State University

Plyometric Overviews

Box-Jumps-280x421Developmental athletes and their coaches are continually searching for new approaches in training that will help them actualize their potentials. Endless reviews of training formats used by current world class athletes reveal time tested approaches on running workouts, weight training inventories, and skill technique drills. A recent emphasis has been placed on another type of training known as “plyometrics”or jump training. This method takes advantage of deficiencies that we have in trying to develop parameters such as muscle endurance, muscle development, and neuromuscular development.
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Dan Pfaff Insight Part 2: Preventing Hamstring Injuries

fc032-danpfaffToday I will continue my second post in a series of blog posts related to Coach Dan Pfaff and his unique training methods. I have recently watched many of his presentations and clinic files and have paired that with the knowledge I gained while using Coach Pfaff’s training style in my collegiate throwing career as an All-Big 12 Hammer Thrower and Shot Putter, to write articles reflecting training tools I feel could be beneficial to the strength and conditioning community.
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The 5 S’s of Training as Defined by Dan Pfaff

I recently purchased a couple Dan Pfaff seminars online and wanted to narrate some of his training ideas into a series of blog posts. If you have read any of my prior blog posts you know Coach Pfaff had a strong influence on my training program as a thrower in college while I was training under throws coach John Dagata at Iowa State (Coach Dagata is now the Jumps coach at Oklahoma). While training under some of Coach Pfaff’s principles, I saw my speed, strength, and explosive power reach levels I would have never dreamed of achieving a few years earlier. As a drug-free collegiate athlete I possessed a 38.5? standing vertical jump, a 10’9” standing broad jump and a sub 4.7s laser 40yd dash at 255lbs and 9-11% body fat. Near the end of my senior year I could dunk a 16lb shot put from a stand still with ease. All of these feats were achieved after approximately 24 months of rigorous training following many of Coach Pfaff’s principles, as implemented by Coach John Dagata.
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October Training Update

Last year I wrote about my training only sparsely since there was not that much new or exciting going on. But this year I am barely two weeks into training and I am already eager to give a training update. As I discussed in my season review a few days ago, there were several problems that kept me from reaching my goals last season. I hope to learn from those mistakes and make some improvements to my training. This year I have kept one of my goals from last year: technique. I need to improve the start of my throw by staying a little lower and getting more “range” on the first turn. Then I need to stay relaxed throughout the final turns. In addition, I have a new second goal, which is to keep my focus on these points even as the competition season begins. Last year this went well in the off-season, but as soon as a little extra stress was added to the formula (be it an injury, more work, house guests, travel for competitions, etc.), the wheels came off. I have also developed a plan for both of these points and am already implementing it. Read more

Training Talk With Dan Pfaff (Part 3)

For the past week I’ve been posting snippets of my training talk with coach Dan Pfaff of the World Athletics Center. I’ve spent time listing Pfaff’s numerous accomplishments over the past week, so this time I will just jump back in to the discussion. If you like what you read below, also check out the first or second part.

For even more you can become a member of HMMR Media to get access to hundreds of other great articles I have posted, including more training talks with some of the top coaches in the business like Harry Marra, Derek Evely, Jean-Pierre Egger, Don Babbitt, Vern Gambetta and many others from the world of throwing and beyond.


» Part 1: Improving Technique and Finding Commonalities Between Events

» Part 2: Training, Intensity, and Density

» Part 3: Key Performance Indicators and Hammer Throwing

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Training Talk With Dan Pfaff (Part 2)

Earlier last week I posted the first part of a training talk with the versatile coach Dan Pfaff. Pfaff has had unprecedented success across nearly every event including the sprints (1996 Olympic 100-meter gold medalist and former world-record-holder Donovan Bailey), jumps (2012 Olympic long jump champion Greg Rutherford), vaulting (2007 World Champion and US record holder Brad Walker), and throws (US discus record holder Suzy Powell). Pfaff is currently working as the lead jumps coach and Director of Education at the World Athletics Center.

We began our discussion by looking at ways to improve technique and his common approach to dissecting each event. Below we continue our discussion by talking about a few very important training concepts: intensity, density, and work capacity. Intensity is especially an interesting topic since many throwers focus exclusively on medium and high intensity exercises, while neglecting low intensity work. Like most elite coaches, Pfaff feels this is an important aspect of training and has some reasoning to back it up.


» Part 1: Improving Technique and Finding Commonalities Between Events

» Part 2: Training, Intensity, and Density

Training Intensities and the Autonomic Nervous System

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Training Talk With Dan Pfaff (Part 1)

During the first half of the 20th century is was quite common to see a distance coach working with throwers, or vice versa. Without a big staff of assistant coaches, collegiate track coaches were required to have a much broader skill set. Just look at the biography of the legendary Bill Bowerman as an example. In Seattle Ken Foreman did the same thing while across town Hec Edmundson not only coached the University of Washington track team (including several Olympic medalists in various events), but also guided the basketball team for nearly 30 years. As training has become more specialized, this legacy has been replaced with one-event specialists like myself.

Coach Dan Pfaff at his facility in Arizona with the World Athletics Center.

Coach Dan Pfaff at his facility in Arizona with the World Athletics Center. Photo by World Athletics Center.

But coach Dan Pfaff is proof that this rare breed still exists. Pfaff has had unprecedented success across nearly every event including the sprints (1996 Olympic 100-meter gold medalist and former world-record-holder Donovan Bailey), jumps (2012 Olympic long jump champion Greg Rutherford), vaulting (2007 World Champion and US record holder Brad Walker), and throws (US discus record holder Suzy Powell). Throughout his career he has coached at major universities like LSU, Texas and Florida. More recently he has spent time leading the USOC Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista and the UK Athletics High Performance Centre in London. After the London Olympics he took on a new role as coach for the World Athletics Center in Phoenix where he will work with Walker and many other world class field event athletes.

A few weeks ago I had the chance to pick Pfaff’s brain about a variety of topics including how to improve technique in older athletes, common themes in his approaches to the different events, the use of different intensities in training, and his experience and thoughts on the hammer throw. Due to the length of the talk I will be posting it in three parts. Below is the first part which covers technical learning and the common themes between all events.


Part 1: Improving Technique and Finding Commonalities Between Events

Improving Technique

Martin: I’d like to start off with a question that’s more personal in nature. I’m curious to hear your approach to fixing the technical problems of someone with very engrained bad habits. In other words, how do you teach an old dog like myself new tricks?

Dan: I think there are two directions from which you can attack problems. If you are looking at film you can look at frames that occur before the problem and frames that occur after. Sometimes working on things further down the road can go back and fix the cause. And sometimes the art is looking at how many frames earlier do you have to intervene to get an effectual change at a certain point in time.

A lot of times, especially in the throws, the resistance to change is an alarm theory. We set alarms like single support, double support, ball position, time in the air, and so on and so forth. We set up this alarm system for executing movements. These alarms are pretty dominant for elite athletes and override spatial and temporal awareness. Once you are set in a certain pattern the alarms are the central governor so to speak.

Martin: I know you generally prefer focusing on the movement in its entirety. But when trying to focus on these alarms will you break down the technique into its component parts?

Dan: I am pretty much a whole movement guy. Drills and part-whole learning have their place as you evolve as an athlete from a beginner to an elite athlete. But I haven’t had much success with drills or isolated part-whole integration with advanced athletes. We use real-time tasks.

Martin: So it sounds like to alter the alarms you simply want to make things feel different for the body so that it can relearn things. What inputs do you use to change the alarms?

Dan: We may change positioning in the circle, the weight of implement, or other entities. But we are always working in real-time with the whole movement.

If some of the alarms are stuck on the entry of a throw, you can play with shoulder axis, hip axis, deflection angles, where is the head during the wind, etc. There are certain triggers that start the alarm process. Part of the art is figuring where the triggers are that set or reset the alarms.
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