A year ago my coach, Dr. Anatoliy Bondarchuk, released an English book on Periodization. This was not a book about hammer throwing; it is a book about sports training in general. The core of the book laid out sixteen methods of “periods of development of sports form” which are the building blocks to periodizing a season. Depending on the athlete, the sport, and the goals, a coach can select a method to maximize the athletic potential of an athlete.
This past weekend the US indoor championships took place at in Albuquerque and weight throwers A.G. Kruger and Amber Campbell defended their titles from 2011. While Campbell threw a personal best to place second in the Visa Championship Series, very few athletes actually performed at their best. Of the 18 competitors in the men’s and women’s weight throw, just 16% threw a personal best and only 27% registered a season’s best. The throwers underperformed compared to nearly every event group in an event where altitude should be to our advantage. For comparison, nearly half of the women’s jumpers registered a season’s or personal best.
Obviously every athlete tries to throw their best at a championship meet, especially when it represents perhaps the only chance for hammer throwers to earn prize money indoors. Since the indoor world championship does not have the weight throw, there is no other meet for post-collegiate throwers to focus on unless they skip indoors entirely and aim towards the Olympic Trials. It’s also obvious that not every thrower is at their best at any championship meet. This can be due to a lack of proper physical preparation (e.g. “peaking”), mental perpetration (e.g. nervousness), injury, poor technique, difficulty in traveling, or less than ideal meet conditions (e.g. a slow ring or early start time). But I think that a lack of understanding of periodization is often a big culprit.
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.
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.
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.