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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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Heart Rate Variability and Training

Advances in technology over the past few decades have added a new element of training athletes and coaches: biofeedback devices to gather data about the body. More data is almost always a good thing and technology now makes it easier to track several aspects of life that have an impact on the body and training such as sleep, activity level, heart rate, and heart rate variability (“HRV”). Coaches can then use this information in a variety of ways to learn about the specific athlete and customize training to them. Of these new measures, I have been interested the most in HRV due to its potential ability to track an athlete’s state of “sport form” one of the concepts central to Bondarchuk’s periodization models. HRV is hardly a new concept. As this peer-reviewed article on the origins of HRV notes, scientists have been monitoring heart rhythms for hundreds of years. However, since many of the methods are dependent on technology, it was not until the 20th century that research really took off. Only in the past few years has the technology been made easily available for athletes and researchers to work with.
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Training Talk: Recovery with Joel Jamieson (Part 2)

Strength and conditioning coach Joel Jamieson.

Strength and conditioning coach Joel Jamieson.

Over the weekend I started an interesting training talk on the topic of recover with Joel Jamieson. In part one both Joel and I commented on how recovery methods can be overused. But they are still important for training when used appropriately. This final part continues to discuss Joel’s thoughts on when and how to use different recovery methods.

Joel is best known as one of the top strength and conditioning coaches in the mixed martial arts world, although his experience is much broader. He has also developed an expertise in training recovery and he has created BioForce HRV, a portable tool to monitor an athlete’s training state through heart rate variability.
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Training Talk: Recovery with Joel Jamieson (Part 1)

Strength and conditioning coach Joel Jamieson.

Strength and conditioning coach Joel Jamieson.

Recovery is an important aspect of training that is often overlooked. But, to the surprise of many, it is also an element of training that can be overdone. For decades the theory was that all methods of recovery were good and researchers tested out new technologies to see what might give athletes an extra benefit. But in recent years the pendulum has swung in the other direction: there can be too much of a good thing.

One of the first people to explain this topic to me was Joel Jamieson. Joel is best known as one of the top strength and conditioning coaches in the mixed martial arts world. His gym in Kirkland, Washington has trained some of the top MMA fighters around, including current UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. His blog, 8WeeksOut, is one of the most popular MMA training blogs. His experience, however, is not limited to MMA. He started his career as a strength and conditioning coach at my alma matter, the University of Washington, and then for the Seattle Seahawks. He also has trained many pro athletes in a variety of sports. Joel has developed an expertise in training recovery and he has developed BioForce HRV, a portable tool to monitor an athlete’s training state through heart rate variability. His manual for the device contains what I find the best overview of the adaptation process available, as well as the impact of recovery methods on it.

When I was back in Seattle at the start of August I had the chance to sit down with Joel to discuss this topic and other topics. This is just the first in many posts I will have that resulted from my visit, but before we begin it is helpful to put this first topic into context.
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Ask Martin Vol. 25: The Tortoise and the Hare

Do you get the same benefit of exercising for 30 minutes a day if that exercise is broken down into shorter segments — for instance, three 10-minute sessions? –New York Times Reader

This question was not directed to me, but it is just as applicable to track and field athletes and throwers as it is to readers of the New York Times health blog. Volume is of the main component of any training plan. But not all volume is created equal. For example, if a thrower takes 180 throws per week, that could be divided up in a number of ways, including three sessions of 60 throws, six sessions of 30 throws, or even twelve sessions of 15 throws. Each option will have a different impact on the body and end up with different results. It is therefore important to know if one way is better than the other when putting together a training plan, even if all the options end up with the same volume in the end.
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