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Book Review: Periodization by Bondarchuk

Bondarchuk's new book on periodization is available from newtrainingconcepts.com

Before Dr. Anatoliy Bondarchuk moved to North America six years ago, not much was written about his research in English. But since then, many of his ideas have finally been translated. His first two major works in English discussed the concept  “transfer of training” (you can find reviews of those books here and here). In this respect, they focused on the finest details of training: the exercises performed each day. Some exercises transfer over to the competition exercise better than others, and he laid out data showing how different exercises correlate to different track and field events. Bondarchuk’s new book takes a step back and looks at the bigger concept of periodization across all sports.

Periodization, in short, is how you organize training throughout the season to help reach the athlete’s goals. In contrast to the first books, this volume does not mention one exercise and does not discuss how to build a training day or a training week. Instead it presents the methods in which training programs can be combined throughout the season for every sport.
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Vern Gambetta

Training Talk With Vern Gambetta (Part 2)

Earlier this week I posted part one of my interview with athletic development expert Vern Gambetta. Among other topics, we discussed how throws training stacks up to other events and sports. As we all start up our training for the 2012 season, this last installment discusses a timely topic: what are coach Gambetta’s views on rest periods and Fall training. We both also provide our opinion on what scientific advances we see on the horizon.

If you are interested in learning more about Vern’s ideas, pick up one of his books, read his blog, or follow him on Twitter.


Fall training

Martin: I was talking with Jean-Pierre Egger a few months ago and asked him what he would have done differently with Günthör. He’s had a similar career path as you have, working with various sports after Günthör retired. With all his experience he said we wouldn’t have changed much for the technique, but he would have spent less time building a base in fall training. I’ve heard that from quite a few athletes now.

Vern: We are operating in the wrong paradigm. When I look at an athlete’s program and it says “preparation period” or “general preparation” I see an antiquated model and the USATF and IAAF coaching programs still teach this. You should never get very far away from the competitive implement.

I heard a young American throws coach at a convention a few years ago and he said “We don’t touch an implement for the first 6-8 weeks of training, we just lift really heavy to build a better strength base.” And I’m thinking then it will take you another 6-8 weeks to get back to your technical model. You need to train all elements all the time in different proportions. That is contemporary thought and what the best coaches do in all sports. Dedicated periods of general preparation don’t work; you thread them into the rest of training.

It was interesting to hear Egger say that because it is the same conclusion I came to. Every year with my athletes we would go back in the fall to these periods and I call it dulling the knife. They started razor sharp and we just dulled it for three months. We took away the fine coordination they had.
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Training Talk With Vern Gambetta (Part 1)

Training expert Vern Gambetta

Several months ago I came across an audio interview with coach Vern Gambetta. Vern is not a throwing coach; instead is a training expert that has been called a jack of all trades. He started as a decathlete and multi-event coach, but has since coached athletes in every event group. He was a cofounder of the USATF coaching education program, has written several books, and serves on the editorial board for the IAAF technical journal. But a large chunk of his career was spent outside of track and field as a pioneer in the field of strength and conditioning with several professional teams in baseball, basketball, and other sports.

When I heard Vern talk, nearly everything he was saying rung true to what I have learned from Bondarchuk and others. But, as always, I had some additional questions and finally had the time to speak to him about training last weekend. Part one below discusses where throwers tend to be ahead of or behind other sports in terms of training. Part two will discuss the timely topic of off-season training and what scientific advances he sees on the horizon.

If you are interested in learning more about Vern’s ideas, pick up one of his books, read his blog, or follow him on Twitter.


How do throwers stack up in the training department

Martin: Throughout your career you’ve worked with essentially every major sport and every track and field event. When you look at throwers as a whole, what things do you see that we do well? Where is our training lag behind others?

Vern: The way to get maximal power in training is to release the implement and throwers do well is incorporating releases of various forms into training. Some people have taken to calling this the multi-throw, but it is just ballistic training. If you take a heavy implement like the bench press, you are only accelerating that weight for a short period of time and then you have to decelerate it to stop it even if you are moving it fast. If you don’t release the implement, you won’t achieve maximum power production.
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A Case Study in Ideal Meet Preparation

I have tried several different pre-meet training plans with Bondarchuk, but I think I finally found the right one this week:

  • T minus 4 Days – Train twice (lifting and throwing each session), work a few hours, and then spend six hours sitting on the train.
  • T minus 3 Days – Train twice (lifting and throwing each session)
  • T minus 2 Days – Train twice (lifting and throwing each session)
  • T minus 1 Day – Train twice (lifting and throwing each session), work seven hours, and get a few lingering aches and pains looked at by Mr. Fix-it.
  • Day of competition – Train in the morning at 6:30 am so that you are able to get to an 8:00 am meeting. After training, work six hours.

This was my preparation for Tuesday night’s competition in Olten. If you can’t sense my sarcasm, it was far from the ideal meet preparation. Read more

Interview with CriticalBench.com

When I was asked to do an interview with CriticalBench.com last month, I was a bit surprised. The site’s other interviews are with bodybuilders, powerlifters, and strongmen. I didn’t see where I fit in, not just because I can’t lift has as much as they can (I currently can bench only around 110kg), but also because my approach to training is very different. However the interview was quite good and they asked several new and interesting questions about training, about Bondarchuk, and about more interesting topics like the interplay between academics and athletics, transitioning from college to international competitions, and what the hammer feels like. Read more

Training Talk with Derek Evely (Part 3)

Over the past week, I’ve posted the first two parts of my interview with Derek Evely, the director of the Loughborough (UK) University High Performance Centre. Both of those posts focused on how to apply Bondarchuk’s theories to the throwing events. But while Bondarchuk’s has focused on coaching the throwing events, his theories and research extend to all of track and field. In addition to coaching the throwing events, Derek also has had international success coaching sprinters. The final part of our interview focuses on how Bondarchuk’s theories apply to other events like the sprints and javelin.

He had the opportunity to learn from Bondarchuk first hand when they worked together in Kamloops, and has been fine tuning his approach ever since. You can learn more about those through this link, or by reading Part I. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below.


Part 1: Turning Theories Into Practice (17 May 2011)

Part 2: More About Hammer Throw Training (27 May 2011)

Part 3: Applying Bondarchuk’s Methods to Other Events

The sprinting events

Martin: When you were coaching the sprints, were you still following Bondarchuk’s methods?

Derek coached a young Shane Niemi to the Canadian Junior Record

Derek: Well, to begin with, the way Kevin Tyler and I were already setting up our sprint periodization and sprint methodology is very similar to how a sprint program would work under Bondarchuk’s methodology anyways. I just sort of formalized it in terms of looking at the athlete’s reaction and particularly the number of sessions it would take for an athlete to reach peak form. That is one of the keys elements of his whole methodology: that you understand that what amount specific training or more specifically exposures to specific training it takes for an athlete to reach peak condition. We found that with a lot of our sprinters they were coming into form after about 36-45 sessions with a mixture of various types of speed training. And that is what we were doing already.
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Training Talk with Derek Evely (Part 2)

Last week I posted a discussion I had with Derek Evely regarding training theory. Despite it’s length, that was just part one. Part two is below and part three is on the way soon. All of these touch on a common theme: discussing how to implement Bondarchuk’s methods. For those of you unfamiliar with Coach Evely’s background, he is currently the director of the Loughborough (UK) University High Performance Centre. He had the opportunity to learn from Bondarchuk first hand when they worked together in Kamloops, and has been fine tuning his approach ever since. As I mentioned in the last post, to get the most out of this interview it helps to have a little understanding of Bondarchuk’s approach to training. You can learn more about that through this link, or by reading Part I. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below.


Part 1: Turning Theories Into Practice (17 May 2011)

Part 2: More About Hammer Throw Training

Maximum Strength Training

Coach Evely with Sophi Hitchon, the UK record holder at just 19 years old. Photo used with permission from Jonathan Mulkeen.

Martin: As I was saying, it might seem strange to some people but I’ve been able to make strength gains despite never lifting at a higher intensity.

Derek: I think that the single most difficult hurdle in describing Dr. B’s methodology is interpretation. I’ve done a number of presentations both with Dr. B. and without him, and I’ve talked to a lot of throws coaches about this because they hear the stories; they hear it about Dylan most of all, how he doesn’t really lift heavy, he doesn’t lift anything over a certain amount of weight, and it really messes with a lot of people’s heads and they really battle with that kind of concept. And I see why, but the biggest problem with it is that people look at it in such black and white terms, and they struggle with getting what the real message is.

And the real message is not that you don’t do maximal strength, or even that maximal strength doesn’t transfer, the real message is how much do you need and once you’re there then what are you going to do? People think that Bondarchuk’s message is “don’t do any maximal strength”. That is not it at all. You absolutely need a certain level of it, and you need a fairly high level relative to most athletes. Let’s face it; you’re not going to throw 20m in the shot with only a 100 kilo bench. Maybe someone’s done it, but it is going to be the exception not the rule. So absolutely you need it. The problem is we love the weight room, especially in North America and here in Britain. At the point where the pursuit of absolute strength starts taking away from the throwing, and it can take away from it really easily and really quickly, then you have to ask yourself is this all worth it and is there something else I could be doing or implementing, perhaps another direction, that may pay bigger dividends. In order to get very strong in a short period of time you have to lift a lot and it will really affect your throwing. If this is your plan, then fine, but as we know block periodization schemes (by Verkhoshanki’s definition, not the misleading title given to Dr. B’s work) are difficult to implement and can wreak havoc on event-specific abilities. You have to look at it over the long term.
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Training Talk with Derek Evely (Part 1)

One of the most overlooked names in coaching circles is that of Derek Evely. His coaching career has been going strong for more than fifteen years. After successful stops in Kamloops and Edmonton, he is now the director of the Loughborough (UK) University High Performance Centre, one of the country’s two national training centers as the UK prepares to host the 2012 Olympics.

Derek Evely is currently the director of the Loughborough HiPAC

Evely started his career at the Kamloops track club, which has a history of success that predates Dr. Bondarchuk’s arrival. As a coach, Evely trained Shane Niemi to a national junior record of 45.83 seconds in the 400 meters. He guided a young Gary Reed, who went on to win a silver medal in the 800 meters at the 2007 World Championships. Many people also forget that Dylan Armstrong started as a successful hammer thrower. Evely coached Armstrong to the North American junior record in the hammer throw of 70.66m in the hammer throw (since broken by Conor McCullough), a second place finished at the World Junior Championships. He then began transitioning Armstrong to the shot put, where he quickly approached 20 meters. However, what he may be best known for in Kamloops is bringing in Dr. Bondarchuk to help Armstrong further progress in his new event.

Since leaving Kamloops in 2005, Evely worked for four years with the Canadian Athletics Coaching Centre in Edmonton. There he helped develop one of the world’s best online coaching resources, athleticscoaching.ca, and coach a stable of athletes including world 400 meter medalist Tyler Christopher and Canadian national 400 meter hurdle record holder Adam Kunkel.

Evely has been in the U.K. since 2009. While his new role is as an administrator, he has also found time to start coaching the throws again and apply the concepts he learned from Bondarchuk and others. In his first season working with Sophie Hitchon, Evely guided her to a World Junior Championship. Now in their second season together, Hitchon has already broken the U.K. senior record with a throw of 69.43 meters and she is still a teenager.

Since my experience with Bondarchuk has been almost exclusively from an athlete’s point of view, it was great to talk with Derek on Sunday about how he applies the methods as a coach. Below is part one in a three-part edited transcript of our conversation. Just to forewarn you, to get the most out of this interview it helps to have a little understanding of Bondarchuk’s methods, which you can learn more about here. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below.


Part 1: Turning Theories Into Practice

Finding the Right Exercises for Your Training Program

Martin: Yesterday I was listening again to some of the podcasts you put together when you were in Edmonton and it made me think once again about the putting training theory into practice. If I understand it correctly, you are basing your training methods for Sophie Hitchon and Mark Dry on the Bondarchuk methods, is that correct?

Derek: Yes, absolutely. I would say it is probably 70, 80 percent or more based on that.

Martin: My first question then is: on one of the podcasts you said that one of the more difficult things for you to learn from watching Bondarchuk was how he chose exercises for his athletes. I understand the big picture: more throwing and special strength exercises, no exercises like curls and the bench press. But at the smaller level, why does he pick a 6.3kg hammer instead of a 6kg hammer or the back squat instead of the front squat. You said they seemed kind of randomly chosen and I’ve observed the same. I am sure there is some methodology to how he chooses them, but I have no clue what it is sometimes. It seems almost more of an art form at that point than a science. As you’ve coached more and more athletes under his methods, how have you figured out what exercises to use at what time?
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How to Coach Another Coach’s Athlete

Putting on a clinic in 2009.

Since I am still training as a thrower, I have not developed my own stable of throwers to coach. Instead I help my club’s youth throwing coach, put on clinics, or respond to videos sent via email from all over the world. Coaching another coach’s athlete can be very difficult since you have limited time to make an impact and also do not want to step on the toes of the other coach.

Since starting as a coach several years ago, I’ve found that some things I’ve tried have worked well and other things have failed. Overall, the following steps have worked the best for me:
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The Beer and Chocolate Diet

I did an interview with a small local newspaper on Saturday and it ended with a question that seems to be on the minds of many non-athletes: “Do you have to follow a strict diet?” Nearly every one of my co-workers has asked me the same question as if they assume I have an Excel spreadsheet calculating my daily intake.

This is always a difficult question for me to answer. The honest answer would be no, but I don’t want people to think I don’t care about nutrition. Far from it. I was a fat shot putter in high school before dropping 70 pounds in less than a year. Back then I had a strict diet that I would follow. But that experience taught me a lot about nutrition and since then I haven’t ever needed to count calories or worry about my diet. Instead I tend to follow three simple rules now:
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