Friday, January 25, 2013

How I Took 1.1secs Off My 40m Sprint in 2 Weeks!!

This article has been 3 - 4 weeks in the making and has taken a few twists and turns in that time.

Let's go back a few weeks.

I started block 3 of phase 2 of the Triphasic Training program where I thought it was a great time to do a little experiment.

I'm a short man, probably the shortest at my footy club at a poultry 168cms. I think Boomer Harvey is even taller then me actually.

Anyway this obviously results in pretty short legs (short everything really...) but I have always had a shortish step. I was reasonably fast when I was young. Not the quickest in my age group but in the top group anyway. I always thought I had to take too many steps to run a 100m sprint compared to everyone else, sort of like the bloke who pumps his arms and legs and never gets anywhere but I wasn't quite that bad (my mate Warbo does a great rendition of this actually).

My little experiment was to do some band hip flexion isometrics 3 x 15secs x 3 times a week for 2 weeks with a 40m sprint test before and after the 2 weeks. Here are the initial tests:

As you can see my timing device is not perfect but you can see the time for the very first movement and also the moment you cross the line, albeit with a lot of pausing!

Here are my times for the 3 x 40m Sprints with the first sprint having 10m split times:

Sprint 1 - 8.7 + 10.6 (1.9) + 11.9 (1.3) = 13 or 14.??? (can't see the finish)

Sprint 2 - 34.2 - 39.7 = 5.5secs

Sprint 3 - 48.8 - 54.4 = 5.6secs

I generally run the 40m sprint in 22, 23, 24 steps which is what is shown in sprint 1, even though you can't see the end.

I kept up my Triphasic Training training as prescribed so the only thing I was adding was the band hip flexion isometric exercise. To do wrap a band around an anchor and then around your ankle. Standing on 1 leg, flex the hip of the banded foot in front of you until your hip is at 35 - 45 degree angle or thereabouts. Also make sure your ankle is dorsi flexed. Hold this position for 15secs alternating sides for 3 sets each session. I did this Monday, Wednesday and Friday for 6 total sessions.

This exercise is designed to improve the swing phase of sprinting where the leg comes from full hip extension into hip flexion to set you up for the next step. The better set up for the next step you are, the more force you'll be able to put into the ground and the faster you'll be able to run.

2 weeks later I retested my 40m sprints and here's the videos with my fandangle timing system for them:

Here are my times, 10m split times and steps taken for each sprint;

Sprint 1 - 11.3 + 13.2 (1.9) + 14.6 (1.4) + 16.1 (1.5) = 4.8secs in 20 - 22 steps

Sprint 2 - 28.4 + 30.3 (1.9) + 31.6 (1.3) + 32.8 (1.2) = 4.4secs in 18 - 20 steps

Sprint 3 - 55.7 + 57.6 (1.9) + 59 (1.4) + 1.01 (1.1) = 4.4secs in 18 - 20 steps

That is a huge drop of 1.1secs in 2 measly weeks!!! Let's all celebrate and bow down to the world's fastest ma.........wait a minute.

Looking back at that tape and also at the split times the sprints look a bit short. So short in fact that they were only 30m!!


Not Happy. I said to the wifey who was doing my filming to go up to the next line (I did 3 x 10 and 20m prior to the 40's) where I meant the 40 line because that's what we did 2 weeks before for the initial testing. She just went to the 30m line and I didn't even notice.

Again $##%^&*@$#!!

I actually count my steps while I do the sprints and I did count 18 for at least 1 of them and thought wow, the hip flexor exercises is the biggest secret to sprinting speed, I just ran the same distance I did usually do in 24 steps in only 18. Wowee!!

Even as I converted them and times them that night I still didn't realise they were short. Not until I started to do this article of my record breaking exploits and I watched again and bang there it was - 30m.

So where to from now?

Well I was going to retest again yesterday in preparation for this post but as I went to start training my back stiffened up so I couldn't even train let alone test which threw my plan b out of whack too.

So here's what I'll do.

I have 1 week left of phase 2 for Triphasic Training and then it's into the peaking phase which is 5 weeks. I will continue with the band hip flexion isometric for this week and retest the 40m next Friday.

The peaking phase is really where the gains in speed come for the Triphasic Training program so I will test after week 2 then again at the end of week 5. I might stick with the hip flexor isometric too as they are a little weak, especially from side to side.

My aim is to break 5secs which at 34 and a half is a pretty good result. I will also practice my set up and starts as I found myself "standing up" on my first step instead of driving out horizontally. You can see it if you go frame by frame.

I hope to have one of my trainers Rob do a sprint specific contrast circuit for 4 weeks too with a pre and post test for the 40m to see how that goes.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Holy Grail Exercise for Speed?

As I've mentioned a million times since September I'm doing the Triphasic Training program. On 2 of those days I use what they call french contrast circuits of which 1 of the exercises is called accelerated plyometrics band assisted jump squat (PABAJS).

What Is It?

As you can see from the video above, it's a traditional jump squat but you set up some bands on a squat rack or a high beam and use them to pull yourself up at the same time you are jumping as high as you can.

Why Are They So Good?

Traditional plyometrics are great for starting strength or first step quickness but they don't replicate true sport specific movements - especially acceleration. During acceleration you obviously run faster and faster until you hit top speed. With this in mind you need to mimic this in the weight room but traditional plyo's stay at the same speed or level as the first jump or decreases with each successive rep - the opposite of acceleration.

With every top end sprinting step you take you absorb around 3 - 6 x your bodyweight which you need to be able to eccentrically control, isometrically absorb then concentrically use to propel you forward. Traditional plyometric exercises don't produce anywhere near the force required to improve anything past the 1st step.

We are also limited by how high we can jump in reference to how much force we can absorb through traditional plyometrics. If you can only jump 60cms, then you can only train yourself to absorb a 60cm jump squat. What the band assistance provides is the ability to jump higher and now that 60cm jump height we were absorbing becomes a 70 or 80cm jump and wholla, increased forces to absorb!!

So now we have trained the 2nd and 3rd steps in acceleration where with each step you have increased forces to absorb and now you can instead of being limited by how much force we can absorb on the first step.

How To Use Them In Your Program?

Because of the force absorption involved, it goes without saying that this is an advanced level exercise. I'll provide a plyometric exercise progression that you can use to get yourself to the level required to use this exercise.

Strength Requirement - 1.5 x bodyweight squat minimum and keep it there (actually keep going to 2 x bodyweight). Don't reach it and stop squatting!

Exercise 1 - Jump Squat (level 1 - jump, land and stick, level 2 - jump, land, jump, land stick etc until at 5 reps per set then work your way up in external loading until you reach 30% of your squat max)

When you land and stick be sure to throw the hips back so it looks like your mid way through a deadlift.

Exercise 2 - Depth Jumps (level 1 - 6" box, level 2 - 12", level 3 - 18", level 4 - 24" box)

We're looking for explosion here so once you hit the ground, you want instant force absorption so you can basically bounce off the ground. If you have to land, steady yourself and then jump then the box is too high.

Exercise 3 - APBAJS

Again quick ground contact time is what we want here.

It's a good idea to pair these with your squat sets too which are hopefully in the 2 - 5 range. It can be done for higher Reps but you risk building up too much fatigue for the APBAJS.

So this week get out on the track and time your 40m sprint, do these 2/week for the next 4 weeks and retest and let me know how you do.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

AFL / NBA Crossover

I love AFL and I love NBA.

If you're in your 30's like I am then you'd probably remember the basketball boom of the early to mid 90's. It was huge here in Australia and especially Melbourne where the national basketball league could get crowds of 15 - 20,000 for the big state vs state games which now tops out at 3 - 4,000.

With Michael Jordan winning 6 titles in 8 years and basketball cards being swapped in every playground you could find, Aussie Rules was in a similar position to the soccer boom of the mid 2000's.

There was MJ, Shaq, Alonzo Mourning, Penny Hardaway and my man Shawn Kemp:

What I will attempt to do with this post is to match up AFL and NBA players who share the same unique qualities  not necessarily on overall ability.

The Play Maker

AFL - Sam Mitchell / NBA - Chris Paul

There was a play a few years ago where Sam Mitchell received the ball on center wing with a player hot on his tail. He noticed a fellow Hawks player running off for an interchange bench rotation and kicked into his direction. His teammate had no idea this had happened and continued on with his sprint to get the new hawks player on as quick as possible. What Mitchell had actually done was kick it to the bloke who hadn't even come on yet!!! His handballs from packs under intense pressure and kicking skills on both sides of his body are probably the best in the league.

Chris Paul is the best point guard in basketball. He his probably the best dribbler in the league and is also the best leader in the NBA right now.

Mr Reliable

AFL - Jude Bolton / NBA - Tim Duncan

Just when you think these players should retire, they have a few throwback games that probably actually is the reason their teams won. In the last 10 years you probably couldn't find a player with more wins then these 2 in their respective leagues.

The Beast

AFL - Josh Kennedy / NBA - Lebron James

Lebron at 203cms and 113kgs is a point guard in a power forwards body. Josh Kennedy at 188cms and 96kgs is a midfielder in a center half forwards body. Kennedy doesn't do any upper body weights at all because the Swans think he doesn't need to get any stronger in that area. They are probably right as he can go forward and manhandle tall defenders is rarely brought to ground even though most of his possessions are clearances from stoppages. The last 15secs of this video is a prime example:

Lebron is Lebron, the greatest athlete on the earth in my opinion. He'd be good at any sport he wanted to play.

Space Eaters

AFL - Aaron Sandilands / NBA - Dwight Howard

Sandy is 211cms and 125kgs, Dwight is 211cms and 120kgs. In the AFL no one can get close to the reach of Sandy.

Dwight is of average height for an NBA center but his vertical leap and overall max reach is easily the highest.


AFL - Lewis Jetta / NBA - John Wall

On September 28th, 2012 the question remained who was the fastest player in the league. On September 29th, 2012 the question was answered and case closed.

John Wall, debuting today for the Wizards for season 2012/13 has speed to burn as proved here:

Physical Presence

AFL - Michael Hurley / NBA - Kevin Garnett

Jonathan Brown held this mantle for ever in the AFL but in light of his broken body (don't worry I love Browny) I think Michael Hurley has taken the mantle. With the watered down AFL game of current times, his attack on the ball on ground and in the air is reminiscent of an very young Browny.

KG has been the NBA's leading enforcer for some time now and even at age 36, he still leads the pack. There are other enforcers in the NBA but it's the sole job of those players to do nothing but scrap for rebounds for 15mins a night tops. KG is an actual focal point on offense, gets his fair share of rebounds and anchors the defense all at the same time. The ultra competitor as explained here.

Pure Athleticism

AFL - Nic Natanui / NBA - Blake Griffin

They can both jump over stuff.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Look at My Training Right Now

Since the start of September I have intermittently posted about the training program I'm following called Triphasic Training. I posted about it's principles here.

Although Triphasic Training outlines a full program for 3, 4, 5 and I think 6 day options, I am doing just the lower body portion that covers 3 days a week and filling the rest of the training for upper body and core on my own. I've actually been emailing one of the authors Ben Peterson and his sister actually plays Aussie Rules over in the states so he actually has a little experience with our local game. He suggested to put all your efforts into the lower body and keep the upper body days sub maximal so that is what I have done.

So as of right now, Wednesday, I have just completed the 2nd session in the 3rd phase of the 2nd block of which there are 10 more sessions left. Block 3 is a straight 5 week phase where the intention is to really carryover the gains made from the 1st 2 blocks into actual on-field performance.

So Monday, Wednesday and Fridays are all lower body day squatting days. Yep squats 3 times a week which sounds horrible, and at times it was (like in 41 degree heat last Friday after the busiest week I've had all year from Christmas to New Years!!) but block 1 is uses an intensity of 80% and above, block 2 uses an intensity of 55 - 80% and block 3 uses an intensity of 25 - 55%.

So you start heavy and the load actually decreases while you use the strength gains from block 1 and attempt to actually transfer them into athletic endeavors such as speed and explosiveness.

For assistance work on lower body days I'm also isolated hip flexor work to improve the swing phase of my sprinting mechanics, isolated glute work because you never do enough glute work...ever.

As part of the Triphasic Training program I am using what they term French Contrasts which incorporate various explosive exercises in case where you were wondering where my explosive work was coming from (not that everyone actually needs explosive work though.)

I have also started some stuff from my Aussie Rules Pre Season Training Manual where on 1 of the lower body days I do the sprints and the repeated agility drills and on another day I do the repeated sprints and tempo running drills.

As for upper body I've pretty much come to the conclusion that only minimal upper body work needs to be done for footy, if you're covering the basics. All that I'm doing is Jim Wendler's 531 for Bench Press and Chin Ups with some rows thrown into the mix as well. Curls? No. Triceps? No. Shoulder Raises? Definitely no. I was doing military press 531 for a bit but I had a shoulder thing happening so I took them out. I'll probably add in some single arm db military presses into the mix with the rows.

Core is trained every session with more advanced variations such as front levers, l sits and some rotational work. These variations are only to be used once you've masters basic stabilisation and motor control then anti rotation and anti extension exercises like I've displayed here.

So at the moment I'm doing 4 sessions a week as I have bit a knee thing happening which has been diagnosed as a foot issue on that side so I'm just holding out on too much of anything else to get through this last block. Footy training and basketball start back up in the last week of January too so it will be all go from then.

I've also read a lot about intermittent fasting in the last year or so. I'm not really gonna give it a run because in it's traditional sense but I might use a principle or too from it. Usually I eat about the same amount of calories each day. Actually I pretty much eat the same meals each day!! So on days I don't train I'll limit to eating only when I need to. On the weekend I pretty much only eat 3 times a day anyway but on weekday non training days I'll also try it and see if I can drop a kg or 2 before my training doubles and then I will not go near it with 2-a-days x 2 - 3 per week.

So that's my training as of right now. I hope you can take something out of it and improve your training program and let me know what you're doing and why your doing it.