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Athletics Coach Magazine

Reviewed Research & Expert Opinion Issue 3, 2018

Athletics Coach

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Recent Professional Development Seminars

Coaching Middle & Long Distance with Craig Mottram, Tim O’Shaughnessy and Michael Hillardt Free Professional Development Seminar from the National Cross Country Championships


It was bloody hard work, but my coach had a plan...made it clear to me what that plan was and kept me motivated

Listen for free online with SoundCloud Playtime: 1 Hour and 35 Minutes

Or through the Coach Portal

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Athletics Coach Photos courtesy of Getty Images

Contents Estimated reading time: 65 minutes

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Coaching Middle & Long Distance Seminar


Recent Research for Track and Field Coaches


Strength Training for Sprinting


Marathon Training and Performance


Callling Time: Coach and Athlete Relationships


Top Five Tips for Building a New Coach-Athlete Relationship


The Prevelance of Injuries in Track and Field


Hamstring Injuries: Causes and Prevention


Mental Wellness for Sport Performance


Preventing Dropout in the Ultramarathon: Part 1


Fosbury Flop: Youth Coaching Guidelines


Issue 3 / 2018

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Athletics Coach

The Latest Research Resisted and Assisted Training, Warm Up Protocols and Strength Programming

The latest edition of the IAAF’s New Studies in Athletics technical journal has been released. Among many excellent studies included in this edition is an article written by South Australian coach, Dylan Hicks. The article explores the effectiveness of resisted sprint training and assisted sprint training and we are delighted to include a summary of his research.

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Latest Research

Resisted and Assisted Sprint Training:

Determining the Transfer to Maximal Sprinting

Abstract Resisted sprint training (RST) and assisted sprint training (AST) are methods used to overload the neuromuscular and physiological systems with the aim of causing adaptations that transfer to ‘free’ maximal sprinting (MS). This review of more than 50 publications summarises teh effects of RST and AST with the aim of assisting coaches to understand their application. RST has been shown to promote kinematic changes that emphasise propulsive force application in MS. RST using pulled sled loads of 10-30% bdoy mass also appears to be effective in improving acceleration abilities while loads greater than 30% of body mass appear to disrupt acceleration mechanics. AST using a horizontal towing mechanism over distances between 20-60m enhances acute maximal horizontal velocity. Across most reviewed studies, AST with towing or downhill

“Resisted and assisted sprint training interventions appear to have the greatest transfer to maximal sprinting when performed bi-weekly across one or more training cycles of four to eight weeks”

running increases stride length while ground contact time decreases. Stride frequency, however, decreases or remains unchanged. This suggests that AST may not provide any greater transfer than a standard maximal sprinting protocol, but due to the inconsistencies in the research it should be left to the practioner to determine whether AST is suitable. Full article available for New Studies in Athletics subscribers.

Contrast Training Hicks also suggests that the use of a combination of RST, AST and MS within the same session may be an effective strategy for enhancing motor patterrns and improving maximal speed. There is some evidence to suggest that the most effective composition of contrast training is to conduct the RST and AST first, followed by free sprinting (Wagganer, Williams &

“Assisted sprint training is a training method that should be restricted to advanced athletes who have the requisite strength to cope with higher than voluntary velocities”

Barnes, 2014).

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Athletics Coach

“This might be a reminder that static stretching isn’t the devil it’s been made out to be” Tony Blazevich

No Effect of Muscle Stretching within a Full Dynamic Warm-up on Athletic Performance Tony Blazevich from Edith Cowan University, whose research on the aerobic capacity of children was featured in Athletics Coach - 2 / 2018, has now teamed up with a range of international sports researchers to investigate the effects of static and dynamic stretching routines on flexibility, sprinting and jumping performance. Their findings have recently been published by the American College of Sports Medicine and he has very kindly shared a summary of the key findings with Accredited Athletics Coaches.

Abstract Purpose: This study aimed to examine the effects of static

Results: There were no effects of stretch condition on

and dynamic stretching routines performed as part of a

test performances. Before the study, 18/20 participants

comprehensive warm-up on flexibility and sprint running,

nominated DYN as the most likely to improve performance

jumping, and change of direction tests in team sport athletes.

and 15/20 nominated NS as least likely. Immediately before testing, NS was rated less ‘‘effective’’ (4.0 T 2.2 on a 10-point

Methods: A randomized, controlled, crossover study design

scale) than 5S, 30S, and DYN (5.3–6.4). Nonetheless, these

with experimenter blinding was conducted. On separate days,

ratings were not related to test performances. Conclusion:

20 male team sport athletes completed a comprehensive

Participants felt they were more likely to perform well when

warm-up routine. After a low-intensity warm-up, a 5-s static

stretching was performed as part of the warm-up, irrespective

stretch (5S), a 30-s static stretch (30S; 3 10-s stretches), a

of stretch type. However, no effect of muscle stretching

5-repetition (per muscle group) dynamic stretch (DYN), or

was observed on flexibility and physical function compared

a no-stretch (NS) protocol was completed; stretches were

with no stretching. On the basis of the current evidence,

done on seven lower body and two upper body regions.

the inclusion of short durations of either static or dynamic

This was followed by test-specific practice progressing to

stretching is unlikely to affect sprint running, jumping, or

maximum intensity. A comprehensive test battery assessing

change of direction performance when performed as part of a

intervention effect expectations as well as flexibility, vertical

comprehensive physical preparation routine.

jump, sprint running, and change of direction outcomes was then completed in a random order.

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Purchase the full study here.

Latest Research

“The primary finding was that 6 weeks of resistance training led to significant increases in maximal strength and fat-free mass. In addition, it seems that increased training frequency does not lead to additional strength improvements when volume and intensity are equated. High-frequency (6× per week) resistance training does not seem to offer additional strength and hypertrophy benefits over lower frequency (3× per week) when volume and intensity are equated. Coaches and practitioners can therefore expect similar increases in strength and lean body mass with both 3 and 6 weekly sessions.”

Training Volume, Not Frequency, Indicative of Maximal Strength Adaptations to Resistance Training In Athletics Coach - 2 / 2018, we shared a weekly training program used by sprints coach Glen Mills, which resulted in some coaches expressing surprise at the infrequency of his gym sessions. A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research may offer an explanation of his rationale, with higherfrequency training resulting in no signficant improvements in stregnth or hypertrophy benefits comapred with lower frequency training when intensity is equated.

Read the full study for free online

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Athletics Coach

“The manipulation of training volume and intensity must be systematic, stimulating continued physical adaptions through progressive overload whilst guarding against maladaptive training outcomes such as non-functional overreaching and overuse injury through the integration of sufficient recovery”

Understanding the Relationship Between Coach and Athlete Perceptions of Training Intensity in Youth Sport A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research has highlighted the prevelance of mismatches between the coach’s intended training session intensity and the perceived intensity by the athlete. Of the coaches and athletes studied by Scantlebury et al. (2018), coaches tended to overestimate the intensity of sessions designed to be ‘high intensity’ whereas they tended to underestimate the intensity of sessions intended to be ‘low intensity’. This mismatch between the intended intensity and actual intensity results in coaches prescribing ‘high intensity’ sessions that do not provide a sufficient training stimulus to achieve the desired adaptation and ‘low intensity’ sessions which resulted in excessive load on the athlete, hampering their recovery and predisposing the athlete to over-use injuries. The authors of the study suggest that coaches implement ongoing athlete surveys, asking the athletes to grade a sessions intensity between 1 and 5 to ensure that the coach’s intended training intensity is aligning with reality. Purchase the full study here.

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Latest Research

A Comparison of the Effects of Short-Term Plyometric and Resistance Training on LowerBody Muscular Performance The evidence examining the effectiveness of plyometric training for athletics coaches continues to build, and this latest study by Whitehead et al. (2018) helps coaches to understand the most effective training methods for a given performance parameter. The study tested 30 male athletes who were distributed to either a plyometric training program, a resistance training program or a control group who did not participate in any training. Training was twice per week over an eight week period. Pre- and post-intervention tests were performed on the participant’s 20m sprint time, standing long jump, vertical jump, 1RM back squat and agility test. After the training intervention, athletes in the plyometric training group significantly improved their vertical jump and 1RM back squat, with a “likely improvement” in their standing long jump performance. However, neither the plyometric training group nor the resistance training group improved their 20 metre sprint time, conflicting with previous studies that have shown both training interventions may improve an athlete’s speed. This may be explained by the frequency / intensity of training being inadequate or by the focus on ‘vertical plyometric’ activities, rather than activities that focus more on a horizontal generation of force. The authors conclude that “Plyometric training programs

“Like any other training component, plyometrics need to be considered within the context of the overall program.”

similar in duration and intensity to the one used in the current study should result in an improvement in body composition and vertical jump. Both plyometric and resistance training appear to result in improvements in lower-body muscular performance in untrained men. More specifically, there are equal increases in standing long jumping ability and maximal strength. What this

Read the full study for free online.

means is that decisions can be effectively made regarding time spent in an individual training mode based on the individual needs of the athlete, equipment, and facility limitations.”

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Athletics Coach

The moment you step in to the gym, you are already moving away from what you are really training for... Performance Coach, Henk Kraaijenhof

Strength for Sprinting Connecting gym gains with sprinting performance


n 2013, Athletics Australia hosted a sprinting conference with the internationally respected Dutch coach, Henk Kraaijenhof. One of the key messages taken from his presentation was the challenge of transfering strength

gained from the gym into improved performance on the track. Those back squats might be making your athlete a better lifter and it’s certainly making them look stronger, but is this extra

muscle actually transferring to improved 100m times? What can the coach do to ensure that the time the athlete

Strength is Specific

is spending in the weights room is being used most effectively for performance gains? Strength is specific in a number of different ways

The ‘Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand’ or ‘Specificity’ principle suggests that strength gains

and this should determine how and what we train. To maximise the transfer between ‘weight room strength’ and the specific strength required for sprinting, coaches need to ensure that their chosen exercises best replicate the unique conditions of sprinting. This article will examine how the velocity, muscle group, muscle action, direction of force and joint angle of the muscles trained will effect the training outcomes and how these factors can be manipulated to maximise training outcomes for sprinting performance.

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are greatest when tested using the same characteristics as the training program

Literature Review

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The Principle Training exercises that are performed at a high velocity will lead to proportionally greater gains in high velocity strength. For example, exercises that are performed at high speed such as hang snatches (click here for an example video) will theoretically lead to a proportionally

Training at 600 / S 30%

Strength Increase

How is Strength Specific?


25% 20% 15% 10% 5% 600 / S

greater improvement in an athletes ability to perform high velocity exercises than exercises performed at low velocity (Ayers et al., 2016).

Training at 3000 / S

1800 / S


3000 / S

Figure 1: Strength Increase as a Result of Training at Varying Velocity

The Evidence Coyle et al. (1981) provided the foundation of practical

Interestingly, the slow treatment group did not show any

evidence to support the relationship between velocity of

improvement of high velocity strength, whereas training at

training and specific strength outcomes. The study tested

faster speeds did also result in an improvement of low velocity

athletes who trained using knee extensions for six weeks

strength, although signficantly less than the slow treatment

using either a slow (600/s) or a fast (3000/s) technique. The

group (Figure 1).

results showed that participants from the slow treatment group had proportionally greater strength gains at low velocity and those from the fast treatment group had proprotionally greater high velocity strength gains.

The velocity-specific nature of strength has since been supported by a of studies that have demonstrated it is true for single-joint exercises (Moss et al., 1997; Ingebrigtsen et al., 2009), multi-joint exercises (Mora-Custodio et al., 2016) and in trained (Aagaard et al., 1994) and untrained athletes (Moss et al., 1997).

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Speed of Movement “It appears that the velocity of the movement...plays a key role in improving high-velocity performance capabilities and possible neural mechanisms of adaptation” E.F Coyle , 1981

The Sprinting Implication Sprinting is primarily a high velocity action, so strength training at high speeds should result in greater improvement of sprinting performance than training at lower speeds. A longitudinal study by Loturco et al. (2015) supported this hypothesis, demonstrating that a high velocity strength program resulted in proportionally a greater improvement in 5, 10 and 20 metre sprint times compared with a lower velocity training program.

Intent to produce force quickly. There is some evidence to suggest that the actual speed of the action is less important than the cognitive intention of the athlete. That is to say, there will be improvement in high velocity strength when the athlete intends to perform training at maximal velocity, regardless of the actual movement speed (Behm & Sale, 1993). See Balshaw et al. (2016) for an excellent explanation of the proposed neural factors

The Coaching Application The velocity that an execise is performed can be manipulated using the following methods: •

Reducing the weight of the training implement. There is some evidence to suggest that exercises conducted between 30 and 60 percent of the athlete’s 1RM are the most effective for improving high velocity strength and

involved in this. Young (2006) also advises that sprinters will also still benefit from a general non-specific resistance program and that a sprinter’s program should include more than exclusively high-velocity exercises. General resistance training is likely to aid injury prevention and facilitate the development of highvelocity strength.

improving sprinting performance (Young, 2006; Thomas et al., 2007; Mora-Custodio et al., 2016).

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Athletics Coach

Muscle Group The Principle It is well understood that strength gains are specific to the groups of muscle that are being stressed. Athletes must incorporate a range different exercises to develop the range of muscles that contribute to sprinting performance (Gonyea

Muscles Proportionally Largest in Elite Sprinters Handsfield et al., 2016

Semitendinosus Rectus femoris

et al., 1986; Rogers & Evans, 1993).


The Sprinting Implication

Gluteus maximus

Understanding the most important muscles for sprinting

Vastus medialis

performance will assist athletes and coaches to prioritise training of the muscle groups that are most important for sprinting success.







Percentage Greater Size in Sprinters than Non-Sprinters Figure 2: Muscles proportionally largest in sprinters compared to non-sprinters

The Evidence The current evidence suggests that the hip extensors, hip flexors and knee flexors are the most important specific strength requirement for sprinters. A comparison

The Coaching Application

between the strength of elite sprinters and the general

As strength is specific, exercises that develop the strength of

public demonstrated that sprinters tended to have overall

the hip extensors and flexors should be prioritised.

greater muscle mass than the average individual, but had proportionally even greater strength in their hip extensors, flexors and knee flexors (Handsfield et al., 2016).

The following exercises have been recommended by strength and conditioning experts for sprinters looking to build strength in these muscle groups.

Hip Extensors (esp. Semitendinosus, Gluteus maximus) Mann & Hagy (1980) demonstrated that sprinting ability

The following table provides a list of strength exercises

improved with greater hip extensor strength and this has

that may be appropriate for sprinters, the strength and

since been supported by further studies that have examined

conditioning expert advocating their use, and a video

the relationship between the two (Belli, Kyrolainen & Komi,

demonstration of how they may be performed.

2002; Young, 2006; Beardsley & Contreras, 2014). Electromyographic analysis of the sprinting action has suggested that the hamstrings may have the greatest increase


in muscle activation as running speed increases, suggesting that they may be an important driver of running velocity (Kyrolainen et al., 2005).

Hip Flexors (esp. Psoas major, Rectus femoris) The size of an athlete’s psoas major has been shown to be correlated to their sprinting ability (Copaver, Hertogh & Hue, 2013) and has been shown to be an important muscle for increase stride frequency during sprinting (Dorn et al., 2012). Evidence has shown that a hip flexion program can improve 10-yard and 40-yard sprinting times (Deane et al., 2005).

Knee Flexor (Hamstring group) The hamstrings are also an important muscle group for knee flexion, which is believed to contribute to sprinting performance (Mann & Hagy, 1980), especially during the late swing and early stance phase (Jonhagen et al., 1996).

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Muscle Group



Kettlebell Swing

Glutes and Hamstrings

Chris Beardsley


Nordic Hamstring Curl

Hamstrings Eccentric

Bret Contreras


Resisted Hip Flexion

Hip flexors

Russell Deane


Hip Thrusts

Hip extensors

Bret Contreras


Barbell Glute Bridge


Bret Contreras


Single Leg Romanian Deadlift

Hamstrings and Glutes

Bret Contreras


Trap Bar Deadlift Jump

Hip extensors

Chris Beardsley


Lying Leg Curl

Knee flexors

Chris Beardsley


Knee flexors

Literature Review

Hip Flexors

Hip Extensors What about the Quadriceps? A recent study by Miyake et al. (2017) tested the difference in the cross-sectional area of the quadriceps between sprinters and non-sprinters. The results demonstrated that there was not a significant difference in the size of the quadriceps muscles between sprinters and non-sprinters, suggesting that the muscle group is not a signficant contributor to sprinting success. The researchers also found a lack of correlation between the size of an athlete’s quadriceps and their reported personal best time over 100 metres. This finding was supported by Bex et al. (2016) who found that a greater hamstring:quadriceps ratio was correlated with faster sprinting performances. However, it should be noted that Handsfield et al.’s (2016) study found that the rectus femoris to be one of the proportionally largest muscles in elite sprinters compared with non-sprinters, suggesting that further research is required before we fully understood the importance of this muscle group for sprinters.

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Athletics Coach

Muscle Action Eccentric is more effective than concentric isokinetic training for developing strength in eccentric isokinetic muscle actions, and concentric is more effective than eccentric isokinetic training for developing strength in concentric isokinetic muscle actions. Higbie, Cureton, Warren & Prior, 1996


High Concentric Forces






High Eccentric Forces

The Principle

The Coaching Application

Strength is specific to the muscle action that is being trained.

While the advantages of including concentric and eccentric-

Eccentric training produces proportionally greater gains

specific exercises for sprinting performance and assisting

in eccentric strength and concentric training produces

injury prevention have been well documented, there is little

proportionally greater gains in concentric strength (Vike et al.,

peer-reviewed evidence to support an optimal program for



The Sprinting Implication

Mjoslnes et al. improved their participant’s eccentric knee

Biomechanical analysis of the sprinting action demonstrates that sprinting requires concentric strength in the hip flexors and hip extensors and eccentric strength in the knee flexors (Hunter et al., 2005; Chumanov et al., 2011).

flexor strength using the Nordic Hamstring Curl program detailed in Table 2. below.


Sessions per Week

Sets x Reps




training routine to ensure the athlete develops the required




eccentric strength, especially in their hamstrings. While



3 x 6-8



3 x 8-10


1 x 12, 1 x 10, 1x8

Coaches should consider implementing an eccentric-specific

many common strength exercises include both an eccentric and concentric phase, an individuals’ eccentric 1RM is usually significantly greater than their concentric 1RM (Kelly et al., 2015). The implication of this is that exercises with


both an eccentric and concentric phase are not developing the athlete’s eccentric strength to the same degree as it develops their concentric strength as the weight or number of repetitions is being limited by their concentric maximum. The Evidence


Load increased as subject withstands the forward fall longer. When managing to withstand the whole ROM for 12 reps, increase load by adding speed to the starting phase of the motion.

Strength and conditioning expert Chris Brearley recommends implementing two sessions of eccentric-specific exercises per week out of season (alternating between Nordic Hamstring Curls and Flywheel Leg Curls) and one session per week inseason.

de Hoyo et al. (2015) demonstrated that an eccentric-specific training program was an effective intervention for improving maximum running speed in junior football players in addition to assisting injury prevention. This has been supported by further studies that demonstrate that the development of eccentric strength using a plyometrics program has been effective for improving speed and acceleration (Rimmer & Sleivert 2000; Faigenbaum et al., 2007). The Nordic Hamstring Curl has been found to be a more effective exercise for developing eccentric hamstring strength than traditional hamstring curls (Mjolsnes et al., 2004).

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Bret Contreras recommends that the Nordic Hamstring Curl be conducted with a resistance band that allows the athlete to control the movement throughout the full range of motion. When the majority of athletes attempt the motion you will notice that they lose control of the descent during the second half of the motion, whereas the resistance band will provide greater support as the athlete lowers themselves closer to the ground, ensuring that their muscles are active throughout the exercise.

Eccentric “

It seems that training at the

inertia that optimizes individual

maximal power for these particular

exercises was effective for improving

sprinting and jumping ability, which are explosive strength-related tasks de Hoyo et al.


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Athletics Coach

Vertical “

Potentially beneficial effects were observed for the hip thrust compared with the front squat in 10- and 20-m sprint times. Contreras et al.

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Direction of Force The Principle Strength gains are specific to the direction of force generated in training. Exercises that generate force in a horizontal (anteroposterior) direction lead to proportionally greater gains in the abiliy to generate force in a horiztonal direction.

greater improvement in the hip thrust intervention group, supporting the theoretical evidence that horizontal force generation is the most important for sprinting performance. The Coaching Application Contreras et al. used the following progression of hip thrusts

The Sprinting Implication Morin et al. (2012) and Kawamori et al. (2013) demonstrated

to improve sprinting performance:



Sets x Reps


determinant of sprinting ability. While sprinting does require



4 x 12

4 min

both horizontal and vertical generation of force (Weyand,



4 x 10

4 min

4 -5



4 min




4 min

that the ability to generate horizontal force is a key

2010), the priority for the sprinter is likely to be training exercises which develop their ability to generate horizontal force. This is supported by Rabita et al. (2015) who found that the athlete’s ability to generate horizontal force was signficantly correlated with their sprinting performance.

There is also evidence to suggest that the inclusion of horizontal plyometrics can be effective for improving an

The Evidence

athlete’s speed (Ozbar, Ates & Agopyan, 2004).

The best evidence for the effectiveness of exercises generating a horizontal force vector for improving sprinting performance was a comparative study between the hip thrust and front squat by Contreras et al. (2017). The study found a significantly

Example Exercises Horizontal Jumps

Standing Long Jumps

Front Cone Hops

Cone Hops

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Joint Angle

The Evidence Unfortunately, there appears to be limited evidence that directly tests the relationship between training at specific joint angles and the transfer to sprinting performance. The best

The Principle

evidence to support training at shorter muscle lenghts comes

Strength gains are specific to the range of motion that is being

from Rhea et al. (2016). This study compared the effects of

used in the exercise and gains in strength are proprotionally

quarter squat, half squat and full squat training program on

greatest at the joint angle trained.

the participant’s speed and jump height. The study found that the quarter squat treatment group resulted in the greatest

Bandy & Hanten (1993) and Murphy et al. (1995) tested the effects of isometric training at a knee angle of 30, 60 and

improvement in speed and jumping height, consistent with what we know about the strength requirements of sprinting.

90 degrees. The reults demonstrated that training at at 30


resulted in the greatest increase in strength at shorter joint

There is also evidence to support the requirement for

angles but no significant improvement at 90 . Conversely,

hamstring strength at longer muscle lengths in sprinters.

while the 90 training group showed the greatest gains

Jonhagen, Nemeth & Eriksson (1994) found that joint angle

of strength at the trained joint angle, they also showed

specific strength was important in determining the likelihood

improvement in strength at all joint angles.

of injury in sprinters, with uninjured sprinters more likely to



have greater strength at longer muscle lengths. The Sprinting Implication By examining the joint angles during the sprinting motion,

The Coaching Application

we are able to gain an understanding of the sprinting-specific

Including quarter squats and other glute and quadriceps

joint angle requirements. Studies by Gittoes and Wilson

exercises conducted at shorter muscle length are likely to be

(2010) and Nagano et al. (2014) provide an understanding of

beneficial to sprinting performance. Conversely, Bloomquist

the muscle lengths and joint angles at the various stages of

et al. (2013) advocate for a diverse squatting program that

the sprinting action. Based on this data, there is a theoretical

incorporates squats at different ranges and speeds. The logic

benefit to training the gluteus maximus and rectus femoris

for this approach is that we know that exercises conducted at

at short lengths whereas the hamstrings would benefit from

longer muscle lengths do improve strength at shorter muscle

training at long and short muscle lengths.

lenghts (although proportionally less than short length exercises) but not vice versa. A sprinter may theoretically benefit more from a blended program where they develop greater general strength at all muscle lenghts. The squatting progression used in their study is included below.










3 x 10 (10RM)

3 x 8 (12RM)

4 x 5 (5RM)

3 x 10 (10RM

3 x 10 (13RM)

4 x 5 (5RM)

3 x 6 (6RM)

3 x 8 (12RM)

5 x 3 (3RM)

3 x 6 (6RM)

3 x 10 (13RM)

5 x 3 (3RM)

Full Squats


Hip: 10-30 Degrees Knee: 20-35 Degrees

Hamstring contraction: 900+

1/4 Squats

7,9,11 Full Squats

8,10,12 1/4 Squats

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Literature Review

We should train hip extension for sprinting using high-velocity exercises that load the muscles at short muscle lengths in the contracted posistion, like jump squats, hex bar jumps and heavy kettlebell swings Chris Beardsley

Conclusion By understanding the ways that strength is specific, we are able to design a strength program that results in a maximal improvement in performance. However, while this article explored some of the ways that strength is specific, it is by no means intended to be an exhaustive list of the way strength transfers to the unique requirements of sprinting. The challenge for you to take from this article is to think about the other unique strength requirements of sprinting and which exercises in the gym will transfer most effectively.

Note on Coaching Young Athletes “Even though laboratory research demonstrates that specificity training results in faster adaptation and leads to faster increments in performance, this does not mean that coaches and athletes have to incorporate specificity training from an early age. In this narrow approach to children’s sport, the only scope of training is achieving quick results irrespective of what may happen in the future of the young athlete...This is like trying to build a high-rise building on a poor foundation.” Tudor Bompa PhD

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Athletics Coach

A Coach’s Role in Anti-Doping


s a coach, you are often asked to help athletes with a range of other areas apart from the technical details relating to coaching a specific athlete event.

These may include strength and conditioning, nutrition and supplement usage, dealing with mental preparation and interpreting the rules of competition. You are the essential link in provided accurate information and to advice to your athletes around AntiDoping, by assisting your athletes with: •

Their attitudes towards doping,

Education about the benefits, risks and permissibility of supplements,

Doping control procedures and requirements,

Making your athletes aware of Anti-Doping rules that can impact on them.

There are also Anti Doping Violation Rules (ADVR) that can specially impact on you as a coach, including:

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Attempting to interfere or tamper with doping control processes

Possession of a prohibited substance or method

Administering a prohibited substance to an athlete

Complicity by assisting, conspiring or covering up involving an ADRV

Prohibited association with any person on account of an ADRV.

Issue 3 / 2018

All Accredited Coaches are encouraged to undertake the ASADA Coach Course. This will be a requirement for all coaches working with performance athletes from July 1, 2019.

Download and familiarise yourself with the ASADA Clean Sport APP Includes information on medications, TUEs, Online Education, Doping Reporting and more

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Athletics Coach

Marathon Training and Performance: Sub 3 Hours Written by Ben Green from Front Runner Level 4 Senior IAAF Coach Presenter

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ince commencing personalised training programs in 2009, the Front Runner coaching team has been primarily focused on assisting both recreational and competitive runners competing in events ranging

from 800m to the Marathon, as well as Full and Half Ironman Triathlon. Over time, the tracking of data (through GPS and online training software) and personalised exercise prescription based on the runner’s individual goals and training history, has allowed for empirical data to be compiled from our ever-

athlete on an individual exercise prescription bettered

“For runners of all levels, improving their anaerobic threshold is a significant predictor to distance running performance. For runners targeting distance events (>3000m) almost all of the gains in performance will derive from improving the capacity and/or efficiency of the aerobic system.”

the 3-hour mark for the marathon. The aggregation of this

Ben Green

growing database of motivated and goal-driven runners. As our database grows, we continue to observe certain trends in the data that help guide our coaching team towards more accurate and effective exercise prescription. As well as a strong scientific element to data tracking, working with a team of nine engaged coaches all with individual experiences and qualifications has enabled an excellent structure to develop hypotheses on further improving exercise prescription. With the popularity of the Marathon increasing in recent years, we have updated our initial data from 2016, focussing on those runners who have broken the magical 3 hour barrier. At the 2018 Melbourne Marathon, the 61st Front Runner

many athletes at a high recreational marathon standard, in combination with monitored training prescription, has allowed us to identify some strong data trends. We hope that awareness and knowledge of this data will continue to help our running community progress towards their individual goals, as well as educate fellow runners and coaches interested in enhancing performance in recreational marathon populations. Through ‘Training Peaks’ software, we analysed the data based on what we believe are two key principles for successful distance running and how they related to Marathon performance (goal time). 1. Anaerobic Threshold: Measured as their best 10k race time within 12 months of their best marathon 2. Volume: Peak 4 week mean volume within the final 3 months of their goal Marathon A 10km race is a practical estimate of the anaerobic threshold (the upper limit of how well the body can sustainably use oxygen for energy – see more here). The lower the 10km time, the higher the anaerobic threshold and the more effectively the runner can utilise oxygen for aerobic metabolism.

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Athletics Coach

The peak mean volume the runners were able to sustain for four consecutive weeks in the lead up to their Marathon is a practical indication of their muscular endurance. As running is a weight-bearing activity, covering 42.2km’s requires significant muscular endurance. Four consecutive weeks were

“To best enhance your Marathon performance, it is our belief that focussing on both volume and threshold increases is crucial to successful Marathon performance.”

chosen to ensure the volume was a sustainable peak and not a once-off. Of the 61 Front Runner athletes to have officially broken 3h for the Marathon, objective data was available and collated from 38 of these athletes.The figure below plots the runner’s marathon and 10k pace against their weekly training volume. The two variables showed a moderate correlation, with pace increasing as weekly training volume increasing.

Figure 4.1 Front Runner Sample Set - Marathon and 10km PB 4.4

Pace (min/km)

4.2 4.0

Marathon Pace


10km Pace

3.6 3.4 3.2 3.0







Weekly Volume (km)

Full Dataset Volume

10km Time

Marathon Time




Minimum: 66

Slowest: 38.10

Slowest 2:59

Maximum: 170

Fastest: 31.10

Fastest: 2:25

Mean: 116

Mean: 35.05

Mean: 2:45 n = 38

Females Volume

10km Time

Marathon Time




Minimum: 77

Slowest: 37.30

Slowest 2:57

Maximum: 135

Fastest: 35.35

Fastest: 2:43

Mean: 114

Mean: 36.49

Mean: 2:51 n=4

Males Volume

10km Time

Marathon Time




Minimum: 66

Slowest: 38.10

Slowest 2:59

Maximum: 170

Fastest: 31.10

Fastest: 2:25

Mean: 117

Mean: 34.53

Mean: 2:45 n = 34

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Breaking the Sub-3 Hour Marathon For the recreational runner looking to break the magical 3h barrier, our 11-runner data set below indicates the 10km time and peak four-week volume that facilitated the runners who were “on the brink of 3 hours” to run a Marathon time between 2h 55min and 2h 59min.

Additional Thoughts


10km Time

Marathon Time




Minimum: 75

Slowest: 38.10

Slowest 2:59

This reflects the conditioning and the fatigue resistance of the

Maximum: 140

Fastest: 35.36

Fastest: 2:55

musculoskeletal system, in addition to the fuelling changes in

Mean: 98

Mean: 36.54

Mean: 2:57 n = 11

Specificity: Sustainable volume appears to correlate more closely with predicting Marathon performance than 10k time.

the cell that may relate to low intensity running specifically. The Complete Runner: The 2nd fastest 10km runner was 8th

The clearest trend from Figure 4.1 is the reduced vertical gap

on the Marathon list and the fastest Marathoner was 6th on

between the trend lines for 10km and Marathon pace as you

the 10km list. The 10km & Marathon have similar attributes

move to the right. i.e. the greater volume you run, the less

but different limiting factors, meaning relative success in one

the difference between your 10km and Marathon pace. We

event doesn’t directly translate to the other event. To best

therefore conclude the following: for recreational runners

enhance your Marathon performance, it is our belief that

chasing a sub 3-hour Marathon, your anaerobic threshold will

focussing on both volume and threshold increases is crucial

determine the ceiling of your Marathon (i.e. the faster you can

to successful Marathon performance.

get over 10km, the faster your potential Marathon time) and your peak volume will determine how close you can get to

VO2 Max: Training repetitions at VO2 max (i.e. above

that ceiling.

threshold – see here) appear to increase the relative risk of injury in recreational to advanced Marathon runners due to

This presents a trade-off as such where runners who spend a

their fatigued training status. The perceived exception to this

lot of time increasing their 10km time at the expense of their

is if the athlete had track running experience from their youth.

weekly volume may find their Marathon may not improve. Alternatively, runners who chase the highest volume possible

Strength Training: Resistance training that is targeted to the

at the expense of specific training that will improve their 10km

individual is the best asset for Marathon runners to remain

time, may also limit their Marathon performance.

consistent with their training. This is achieved by reducing injury risk under the high training loads associated with

Each runner will be different, bringing their own strength and

the Marathon as well as increasing their running economy

weaknesses to the table. Therefore, to achieve your Marathon

(reducing energy cost @ Marathon pace). Adherence to

goals, we recommend consulting a qualified and educated

strength training programs is most common post injury,

coach who can provide you with an individualised program

however should be maintained where possible when in

that contains an optimal distribution of training load across

Marathon training (2x per week to improve strength, 1 x per

the week, that is periodised towards your end goal.

week to maintain current strength). Biomechanics: Functional running drills and strides (see our YouTube channel here) that are performed 2-3x per week (as

“For Recreational Runners...your anaerobic threshold will determine the ceiling of your marathon and your training volume will determine how close you can get to that ceiling”

a W/U pre workout OR post easy runs) appear to be effective strategies for improving running economy in Marathon runners. The Group Effect: Group runs for easy aerobic volume sessions correlated with significantly greater adherence to their training program than prescribed but self-directed easy volume sessions. This advocates the role of “jogging groups” as an integral part of a balanced training program for recreational and advanced Marathon runners and not just group training for interval sessions.

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Athletics Coach

Callling Time Written by Tim Crosbie


family, other times there is detachment and it is

“People change and forget to tell each other”

more clinical or business like. But underlying all

Lillian Hellman

oach-athlete relationships are a curious thing. Sometimes the coach is like a member of the

good coach-athlete combinations are three key elements – mutual trust, respect and communication.

Those ‘gut feel’ instincts may be the start of the coach We often hear of athletes ‘dumping’ a coach and moving on

questioning where things are headed in terms of sticking to the

to someone who they believe will better service their needs

inviolable tenets of mutual trust, respect and communication.

and aspirations. But it is less common to hear the reverse.

If the answer is NO then something has to change.

Obviously it does happen, but tends to be less prevalent and usually plays out in a more low key manner. Most coaches have great intuition. I suppose it’s part of the humanistic approach many have and their ability to read peoples thoughts and emotions. So when certain dynamics within the coach-athlete relationship start to change, intuition will then play it’s part in determining whether they may have a lasting or significant impact on the relationship. Or… might this just be a repositioning of how the relationship will continue into the future?

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The tell-tale signs things are changing •

Your goals are no longer aligned

Discussions lead to disputes more easily

Sharing of information declines or ceases

Timeliness or the level of commitment slips

Losing clarity around your role

Can I Make the Break?

It’s not you it’s me

Grappling with the big questions… ‘we’ve been through so

These situations also present a great opportunity for a coach

much together’, ‘this is just a phase, we’ll work through it’, ‘I’ve

to assess their own circumstances at the time. We all like

got them this far, but still so much to do’ will often leave you

to shift blame, but in the end are you the issue and not the

stressed, anxious and reluctant to bring things to a head.


This is the time you call on intuition. If it doesn’t feel right any

It can be hard to make a harsh assessment of oneself, but

more, chances are it isn’t and neither party will prosper in an

ask yourself the following questions and maybe ask them of

environment that no longer meets the needs of one… or both.

others to gauge their opinions.

So what are the next steps? Well given we see communication as such an important part of what we do, how about a face to face catch up to chat about ‘stuff’. The intent of this catch up however must be quite clear – to clarify the expectations of both the athlete and coach. If it’s obvious from this catch up that those expectations are no longer in synch, then the time has come to make the big call.

Navel Gazing •

Are you as committed to the athlete as you once were?

Do you have family or work priorities that are reducing your ability to coach?

Are you taking on too many athletes and are you able to service them all properly?

Is coaching becoming a chore?

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Athletics Coach

Moving On Emotions can run high in any form of relationship change. It is critical that rash decisions not be made, things said that shouldn’t be said and respect on both sides maintained. Does the athlete have a transition plan? If not then you should play a role in setting this up. Dumping and running isn’t going to help either party so assist as required or engaged to make sure as smooth a transition as possible exists. Remember – you often know more about the athlete in the sporting context than they do themselves and the information you possess is important in any transition process. So although this is a topic rarely raised publicly, don’t be afraid to tackle it head on when you believe you need to. Calling time at the right time will definitely save a lot of heartache in the long run.

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Athletics Coach

Top 5 Tips for Building a New Coach-Athlete Relationship Written by Rohan Short

Page 34/90


ooner or later as your coaching experience grows – you may be asked to take on a new athlete. But how do you go about building this new relationship and integrating the athlete into an existing squad?

It is completely normal for a new squad member to feel anxious about joining your athletics squad because they may not know exactly what to expect. Even the fear of placing your training gear in the right place or making sure you stay out of the way of other athletes is very real. As the coach you have only one first impression to make sure that you get a new squad member plugged in and excited about the decision to join your training environment. Making sure you start off on the right foot, not only ensures that your new training squad member keeps coming back – but also helps to create positive word-of-mouth advertising around your program.

Expert Opinion

To create the best possible chance for ongoing engagement

Determining how “developable” someone’s motivation or

and to ensure a personal connection is made from the outset,

commitment is to the sport is very important to establish how

there a couple of key strategies a coach can get right off the

much work will need to be invested (from both sides!) to make


this coach-athlete relationship function. Just because you and

1. Check the Dynamic

the new recruit get on like a house on fire doesn’t necessarily mean that the athlete will gel with the rest of the training squad either. To get a better idea of how they may integrate into this new environment, invite

the individual down to observe one of your training sessions Prior to entering into an agreement to welcome a new

to speak to a few other squad members and observe how

member on board it is important to assess that this new

they interact with them. Having a potential new athlete down

relationship is a good fit for the athlete, coach and training

for two or three trial sessions is a great to test the dynamic of

environment. So, what makes a good fit? A good place to start

the group, without locking all parties into a relationship that

is to clearly understand the qualities that you are looking for

may not be beneficial for everyone.

in a prospective squad athlete. It is a very real possibility that you will have potential new recruits who won’t necessarily meet all of your expectations.

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2. Don’t Keep it a Secret

Competition within your squad can always be healthy...but without open and honest can be a path to a destructive squad culture

Athletics Coach

A key consideration is how you balance the needs of your

may have (even school sport teachers) to discuss the benefits,

existing squad members when a coach considers the

impacts or demands. These may be difficult conversations

opportunity to grow their squad. Adding new members of

for some athletes to have – especially those who are looking

course means that some of the personal one on one time you

to make a switch completely away from their current coach.

could once afford with your current group of athletes – may

Encourage athletes to have the conversation with others and

now be shared with someone completely new or in fact with

reinforce the importance of honesty to build trust. Making

someone who has the potential to outperform the others!

sure the athlete has the right people around them to guide

There is no doubt that a level of competition within your

these discussions should always be considered. When the

squad can always be healthy. But equally – without the coach

conversation is aired – only then will you be able to decide

maintaining an open and honest dialogue about how their

if it is appropriate for you to connect with a current coach to

time may be shared, it can be a path to a destructive squad

assess the motivations of the athlete in making the switch to

culture longer term that can bring you unstuck.

your squad.

It is also equally important that the athlete looking to join your group has an open dialogue with other coaches they

3. Share Expectations You only get one real chance to set expectations and “walk

to answer the “why” will help you explain with purpose,

the talk”. To make expectations clear from the outset – both

confidence and clarity to the athlete what is valued most in

athlete and personal coach need to be clear exactly what

the coach-athlete relationship. To gain the commitment and

these expectations are. As a positive first step encourage a

support to effectively implement these expectations – make

new squad athlete to share their expectations of you! This

sure wherever possible you check in with the athlete to get

will be the first step in building trust and mutual respect – but

their input and feedback. Remember – this is a consultative

will only be realised if the coach is prepared to actively listen!

process and not a process of ‘management by committee’!

Very few coaches devote the time to write their expectations

Ultimately as the coach you must decide how the final set of

down together with why they are important. Being able

expectations will be applied across the entire squad.

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4. Prepare Ahead of Time To minimise any disruption when adding a new athlete into their first training session – the very least the coach can do is confirm ahead of time that the athlete knows where they need to be, by what time, what they need to bring and wear. It sounds so simple – but often these are the things that a new athlete is always the most anxious about. Ahead of time make sure your all your current athletes are aware that a new face will be joining the group. Upon arrival, introduce the new athlete to others you see around the training environment – including other training squads that may use shared spaces at the same time. It may be appropriate to give another athlete the responsibility to ‘buddy up’ with the new squad member – but certainly the need for this is all about helping to facilitate social connections. Above all the most important thing is to make sure that you keep things fun. Whilst it might be tempting to off load your years of coaching wisdom in one session to reaffirm that the athlete has made the right choice – use your first opportunity to make sure the athlete enjoys the experience and leaves feeling confident about the next planned session.

5. Check-In Building a new athlete-coach relationship is more than delivering a session, collecting fee’s and a providing free training t shirt. As the coach you always have a responsibility to recognise and reinforce the performance behaviours that

Closing Note

There is often a temptation is to highlight to your new athlete all your own perceived ‘bad habits’ they may

you value the most. Every new athlete will want to know

have collected during previous experiences. Avoid being

how they are doing and may expect to see improvements

too quick to impart your part to a problem on someone else

overnight. This is only natural whenever someone takes on a

whose background may be different. Instead of these being

new challenge or experience. The role of the coach is to revisit

framed as failures or poor choices – it is important to use

those prior conversations about what was agreed as a realistic

them as learning experiences. Never be too quick to judge

expectation. With so much new information coming at them –

the work of a former coach by blowing their candle out to

of themselves and forget about the processes that you value. In the beginning of your new coach-athlete relationship you may need to take some extra time to check in more frequently with the athlete. Provide them with some feedback (not all of the bad bits) about what you

some athletes may feel lost, whilst others may race ahead

make yours shine brighter! All this does is cast a shadow over the learning process and the relationships the athlete

You have a responsibility to to recognise and reinforce the performance behaviours that you value the most

see, but more importantly seek

may need to be successful moving forward. Rather seek further understanding by asking questions of you athlete – “why have you done it that way in the past? Do you feel it helps you? Are you open to trying it another way to see if it makes a positive

their feedback to see how the transition is working. The best

difference?”. Work out where the common ground exists.

form of this feedback is often the informal feedback almost

There are a lot of different ways to be successful in coaching

every day. Through checking in coaches play a critical role

– maybe this new athlete can help you learn something you

in the athlete’s continued success and motivation to meet

may have never ever considered?

performance expectations.

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Athletics Coach

The Prevalence of Injuries in Athletics Written by Blayne Arnold, Physiotherapist and Level 4 Senior IAAF Coach

Injuries present the significant problem for athletes and

The overwhelming majority of athletics injuries occur at

coaches. Injuries are most often the largest barrier to

training (Zemper, 2005), this makes sense because athletes

improving performance, due training time lost because of

spend the majority of their time training as opposed to

an injury. It is therefore paramount that coaches have an

competing. However, there is also an opportunity for the

understanding of the prevalence of injuries within athletics.

coach to intervene at training to modify training and to potentially avoid the injury occurring. Most athletes know

Unfortunately, injuries are extremely common within athletics

their bodies inside and out and can feel when something isn’t

with up to 76% of athletes experiencing an injury within any

quite right. Coaches need to be in constant communication

given year (D’Souza, 1994). These injuries obviously vary

with their athletes as well as observing them in order to

significantly depending on the event and the athlete, but

identify any reason why training may need to be modified to

interestingly it has been shown that up to 91% of all injuries

prevent injury.

extremities are the most commonly affected body region, accounting for approximately 80% of injuries in athletics (Edouard & Alonso, 2003). Interestingly, injuries


overuse the


occur at training (Zemper, 2005). The legs and lower

The most shocking statistic is that up to 96% of injuries in athletics are overuse (Jacobsson et al., 2013). We know

The most shocking statistic is that up to 96% of injuries in athletics are overuse

common type injuries that


overuse direct













recovery. This very simply

occur in athletics. Overuse injuries account for up to 96% of all

means that the training load is too high. It is the coach who is

injuries (Jacobsson et al., 2013). Overuse injuries occur when

responsible for programming and therefore the training load.

there is repeated action, stress or strain on a structure with

Therefore, if we are going to see a reduction in the prevalence

insufficient time for recovery, which ultimately results to an

of overuse injuries it has to be driven from the coach.

injury. These statistics provide a snap shot of the current prevalence The fact that up to 76% of athletes experience an injury in

of injuries occurring in athletics. The coach can play a

any given year (D’Souza, 1994) should be worrying to both

significant role in reducing the incidence of injuries. We know

coaches and athletes, however it should not be something

that in the long term an athlete who stays injury free will likely

that we just blindly accept as a part of the sport. Coaches

have the greatest long-term improvements in performance.

play a significant role in preparing and training athletes for

One of the hardest roles of a coach is balancing the long-term

performance. Any coach knows that performance will likely be

benefits with the immediate/short term results. Coaches need

comprised when an athlete’s health is compromised through

to ask themselves this simple question: would you prefer

illness or injury. Therefore, coaches need to be paying closer

to have athletes that are healthy and slightly under done or

attention to keeping their athletes healthy and injury free.

athlete’s that are over cooked and injured?

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Research Review

Back Thigh

Most common injuries by event group

Hamstring Foot








Ankle Page 39/90

Athletics Coach

Hamstring Injury

Proposed Causes and Prevention

acute hamstring injuries pose the greatest injury risk to elite and sub-elite sprinters (Woods et al., 2004; Edouard & Alonso; 2013; Askling et al.

2014). An examination of all injuries sustained at IAAF World Championships since 1987 suggests that acute hamstring injuries were responsible for approximately one quarter of all injuries in female sprinters and one third of all injuries for male sprinters. In addition to their prevalence, acute hamstring injuries also

Coaches need to be better educated... of the risks and causes of hamstring injuries...coaches have the potential to play an important role in the reduction [in the occurence] of hamstring injuries



pidemiological studies have demonstrated that

Jean Alonso

required one of the longest recovery times of all injuries common to sprinters, significantly affecting training availability, competition preparation and sprinting performance (Askling, Saartok & Thorstensson, 2006; Askling et al., 2007). The most likely mechanism of acute hamstring injury during the sprinting action is a source of debate amongst scholars. The most commonly cited causes of hamstring injury in sprinters are detailed below:

Excessive Muscle Strain in Eccentric Contractions The original evidence for eccentric muscle contractions being

BELOW Phases of the running gait including the phases of hamstring eccentric contraction highlighted according to Yu et al. (2008)

the primary cause of hamstring injuries was originally based on research conducted in rabbits. Lieber & Friden et al. (1993) demonstrated that the primary cause of hamstring injury was not the quantity of force per se, but the magnitude of the strain during the period of eccentric muscle contraction. To understand how the finding of Lieber & Friden may relate to sprinting in humans, we can turn to







muscle lengths, power, flexions and contractions during the running action. Wood demonstrated that the hamstring muscles contract eccentrically in the late swing phase and late stance phase of sprinting. Based on this finding, it was hypothesized that hamstring muscle strains are most likely to occur in the late swing phase prior to footstrike (Thelen et al., 2005) and in the late stance prior to takeoff. This was studied more recently by Yu et al. (2008), who concurred that the potential for hamstring injury exists during the late stance phase as well as during the late swing phase of sprinting. They added that the hamstring muscles were at a much longer length at the end of the swing phase, which may result in a higher risk of hamstring injury during this phase. Page 40/90






Swing Eccentric Contraction

Large Eccentric Contraction

Analysis of the biomechanics of running suggests that hamstring strains occur during the end of the swing phase when the hamstrings are working to decelerate the limb while also controlling extension of the knee Woods et al.

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Athletics Coach

The hamstrings are comprised of three muscles that all originate from the ischial tuberosity and are involved in hip extension and knee flexion - essential components of the walking and running action. A portion of the adductor magnus is also commonly considered as part of the hamstring muscles due to its common innervation and action. Hamstring injuries are common in Track and Field and all sports where





present, especially in sports with a

Adductor magnus Semitendinosus Semimembranosus Biceps femoris

rapid acceleration and deceleration or sudden changes in direction. When discussing hamstring strains, it is the biceps femoris that is the muscle most frequently injured during




Connell, 2003).

Click here for an interactive model of the hamstrings courtesy of

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Research Review

Excessive Muscle Strain in Concentric Contractions A recent study conducted by Liu et al. (2017) reaffirmed the risk of hamstring injury during the late swing phase, but challenged the existing wisdom by proposing that it was the early stance phase, not the late stance phase, that posed the greater risk of hamstring injury. The authors hypothesized that it was therefore the period of transition between swing and stance phases where hamstring injuries were most likely to occur. Liu et al. proposed that hamstring injuries during sprinting were most likely caused by large passive forces at the knee and hip joints, which result in the lengthening of the hamstring muscles. These forces were found to be highest during the transition between the swing and stance phases, where highforce eccentric and concentric contractions occur. In response to this paper, Yu, Liu & Garrett (2017) published a rebuttal stating that there was no theoretical or experimental evidence that supported the view that concentric contraction could contribute to hamstring injury.

Something Different? An editorial in the Journal of Sport and Health Science written by Walter Herzog (2017) challenged both proposed mechanisms and raised an important consideration regarding eccentric vs. concentric contractions. Herzog posited that it may not be the stretching of the muscle tendon unit that is important when considering hamstring injuries, but the elongation of the muscle fibres and fascicles. Previous

Maybe we have it all wrong...Maybe hamstring injuries have nothing to do with eccentric loading...Maybe hamstring injuries are not mechanically mediated, but by small changes in hamstring activation when attempting to come from behind or when tightening up in a losing position Walter Herzog

research has demonstrated that when muscle force increases, fascicle lengths tend to decrease (de Brito Fontana & Herzog, 2016). During the late swing phase of sprinting there may be both eccentric contraction (the stretching of

BELOW Phases of the running gait including the phases of hamstring eccentric contraction highlighted according to Yu et al. (2008)

the muscle tendon unit) and concentric contraction (shortening of the muscle fibres and fascicles). Herzog also proposed an alternative hypothesis, suggesting that hamstring injuries may primarily be caused by changes in hamstring activation caused by psychological factors during competition. He gives the example of sprinters rarely pulling up with an injury while leading a race - is this because of excessive strain when trying to catch up or from



the loss of focus when an athlete considers a race unwinnable?





Ultimately, it appears that at this stage there is not enough evidence to definitively understand the causes of hamstring injuries during maximum-speed running. However, we do have agreement that the

High Concentric Forces

High Eccentric Forces

late swing phase is a period of high injury risk and as coaches we are able to use this information to assist in the design of prevention strategies to best support our athletes.

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Athletics Coach

Coaching Interventions

The importance of designing an effective training protocol has been severely understated... for preventing hamstring injuries in athletes

Understanding the potential mechanisms of hamstring injury during maximum speed running can assist in the development of injury prevention and rehabilitation strategies. Using the mechanisms proposed by Yu et al. and Liu et al., we will examine the coaching strategies that could be implemented and the current evidence supporting their use.

Coaching Intervention

Supporting Evidence

Planning an effective warm up

Moderate: Inconsistent results between studies, appears most effective when performed in conjunction with other interventions

Improving hamstring flexibility & strength

Strong: Replicated studies support the effectiveness of strength/flexibility interventions for hamstring injury prevention

Preventing strength imbalance

Weak/Unclear: Theoretical support, but inconsistent results between studies and an unclear cause and effect relationship

Managing fatigue & recovery

Strong: Relationship between recovery and injury is well established and studies have demonstrated true for hamstring injuries.

Improving synergist knee flexor strength

Further research needed: Theoretical support but little practical evidence on its effect for the prevention of hamstring injuries

Improving running biomechanics

Weak / Anecdotal: There is some theoretical support that poor running technique could increase likelihood of injury

Planning an Effective Warm Up Theoretically, if hamstring injuries are exclusively caused by muscle strain during eccentric contractions, a warm up that increases the hamstrings muscle length would assist the prevention of injuries. This is supported by the finding that hamstring injuries tend to occur in the early stages of a training session, competition or season, where muscle lengths are generally shorter (Ekstrand &

Warm Up Recommendations from Woods et al. (2017) for Injury Prevention •

approximately 40-60% of VO2max. •

the muscle temperature and length is an effective strategy to increase the force that the muscle can handle during eccentric

Stretches of longer duration with lower force provide the greatest benefit.

Stretches should be held for at least 3 x 30 seconds for each muscle group.

contractions (Safran et al., 1988), other studies have challenged the effectiveness of traditional dynamic warmups in increasing

Static and / or dynamic stretching should be a long term component of training.

Gillquist, 1982; Gabbe et al., 2005). However, while there is some evidence to indicate that increasing

Warm-up should induce mild sweating without fatigue -

Ideally, the steretching protocol should occur within 15

muscle temperature and length (Volkert et al., 2003; O’Sullivan,

minutes immediately prior to the activity to receive the

Murray & Sainsbury, 2009). Research indicates that hamstring-

most benefit.

specific warm ups that include static stretching held for 20 to 30 seconds are the most effective for injury prevention (Hartig & Henderson, 1999; Verall et al., 2005).

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Warm up activities should mirror the movement patterns that will be performed in the main session.

Research Review

Page 45/90

Athletics Coach

Improving Flexibility A study comparing the hamstring flexibility between injured and non-injured athletes concluded that hamstring flexibility was the strongest predictor of injury risk (Worrell et al., 1991). There is evidence for reducing the occurrence of hamstring injuries by implementing a regular static stretching program that targets the hamstrings and quadriceps. Outcomes appear to be especially strong when stretching is conducted postexercise when the muscles are fatigued. Verrall, Slavotinek & Barnes (2005) demonstrated that hamstring stretches conducted during breaks in training and after a training session resulted in a significant decrease in hamstring strain occurrence when implemented as part of a holistic approach to injury prevention. The rationale given for its effectiveness is that stretching improved force absorption, making the muscles more resistant to a stretch injury. This finding supports a study conducted by Dadebo, White & George (2004), who found that among elite British football players, the absence or presence of hamstring stretching was the most important correlate of hamstring strain rates.

Improving Strength Nelson & Bandy (2004) demonstrated that in addition to static stretching, hamstring flexibility could also be developed effectively by an eccentric strength training method using a TheraBand. This was an important finding, as we know from the mechanism for hamstring strains proposed by Yu et al. (2008) that injury appears to be caused by eccentric loading at high velocity. By improving the hamstrings eccentric strength, we may reduce the likelihood of strains occurring (Guex & Millet, 2013). Comfort et al. (2009) built on the study by Nelson & Bandy and argued that for competitive athletes eccentric-specific strength exercises should be preferred over static stretching alone, as stretching does not adequately prepare the muscles for the sport-specific movements and forces encountered in competition. Injury prevention and rehabilitation should therefore incorporate a combination of static hamstring stretches with a selection of eccentric-specific exercises conducted to build the necessary range of motion and the specific strength that is required for sprinting.

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Research Review

Potential Hamstring Flexibility and Strength Exercises Recommended by Peer-Reviewed Studies for Injury Prevention Flexibility Exercises

Time / Reps



Hip Flex

30 sec

3 per week

Static Stretch

Eccentric Hamstring Stretch Eccentric Backwards Step

30 sec 30 sec 10-15 steps

Nordic Hamstring Curl


Deadlifts (especially single-leg)

2-3 x

Eccentric Box Drop


HIP FLEX from Nelson & Bandy, 2004


2 per day 3 per week 3 per week 2 per week 2-3 per week 2 per week

Effecive for increasing hamstring resting length and flexibility (Nelson & Bandy, 2004) Improved hamstring flexibility

Static Stretch Dynamic Stretch Eccentric Strength

(Webright, Randolph & Perrin, 1997) Effective for building hamstring flexibility (Nelson & Bandy, 2004) Recommended exercise for hamstring injury prevention


Brughelli & Cronin (2008)

Eccentric Strength

Effective for reducing hamstring strain occurence in elite athletes


(Arnason et al., 2008)

Eccentric &

Conceptual framework for deadlifts for hamstring injury prevention

Concentric Strength

(Guex & Millet, 2013)

Eccentric Plyometric

Improves hamstring strength and contributes to injury prevention


(Mendiguchia et al., 2014)

Hurdler Hamstring Stretch




Athlete resists against the coach’s push from Lorenz & Reiman, 2011

from Webright, Randolph & Perrin, 1997


from Nelson & Bandy, 2004

Based on the biomechanical parameters of sprinting, it is proposed to use high-load eccentric contractions of the hamstrings for injury prevention.

DEADLIFTS from Guex & Millet, 2013

STABILITY BALL CURL from Comfrot, Green & Matthews, 2009

NORDIC HAMSTRING CURL from Comfrot, Green & Matthews, 2009



from Guex & Millet, 2013

from Guex & Millet, 2013

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Athletics Coach

Preventing Strength Imbalance Orchard et al. (1997) examined hamstring injuries in professional Australian Rules Football players and found that there was significant correlation between the occurrence of hamstring injury and two forms of strength imbalance. Injury was primarily encountered in the hamstring muscles on the player’s weaker leg and hamstring injury was significantly more likely in players with a lower hamstring to quadriceps muscle ratio. This finding was supported by Sugiura et al. (2008), who examined hamstring injuries in elite sprinters and noted that sprains always occurred on the athlete’s weaker side. The authors concluded that deficits in hamstring strength was associated with weakness during the eccentric action of sprinting and resulted in an increased likelihood of injury (Figure 3.1). The implications of these studies is that coaches are able to assist injury prevention by ensuring strength is developed on both sides of the body, using an appropriate balance of unilateral and bilateral exercises. The coach should also ensure that athletes are including an appropriate quantity of

It’s important to note that any well rounded strength and conditioning program should include both unilateral and bilateral movements. Anyone who claims that unilateral movements make you weak, or that bilateral movements are unnecessary, is missing the point. Both bilateral and unilateral exercises are associated with different applications and training adaptations, so don’t neglect one for the other Strength & Conditioning Coach, Giulio Palau

hamstring-specific exercises such as Nordic Hamstring Curls and Deadlifts, to prevent imbalance between hamstrings and quadriceps strength. However, not all evidence supports the view that strength Worrell et al. (1991) found that neither bilateral strength asymmetry nor the ratio of strength between hamstrings to quadriceps had a significant relationship with the occurrence of hamstring injury and Brockett, Morgan & Proske (2004) supported this finding in a study of athletes with a history of hamstring injury. Early clinical evidence also challenges the cause and effect relationship between strength imbalance and hamstring


Ratio (%) of Strength of Quadriceps : Hamstrings

imbalance is a risk factor or cause of hamstring strains.

144 121

125 100



75 50 25

strains. A single-case study of an elite football player with minimal bilateral asymmetry developed significant asymmetry in hamstring strength 5 days prior to suffering a hamstring strain (Schache et al., 2010). This may suggest that strength imbalance is a symptom rather than a cause of hamstring strains and more research may be required to better understand the relationship between the two. Overall, it is unclear whether strength imbalance is a significant contributor to hamstring strains, but ensuring a sprinter develops strength in their hamstrings and on both sides of their body is still important for achieving athletic success and should still be a priority for the coach.

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Left Limb

Right Limb

Uninjured Athletes

Uninjured Limb

Injured Limb

Injured Athletes F I G U R E 3 .1

From Suguiraet al. (2008), showing athletes who suffered a hamstring injury had significantly greater strength imbalance between hamstring and quadriceps and greater imbalance between limbs

Research Review

Fatigue and Low Energy There is evidence to suggest that athlete fatigue is an important contributor to the likelihood of a hamstring strain occurring. Mair et al. (1996) demonstrated that fatigued muscles are able to absorb less energy before reaching the degree of stretch that causes injury than non-fatigued muscles. This is likely to be especially important for hamstring strains caused by the running action, due to the large forces absorbed by the hamstrings during the latter part of the swing phase as the hamstrings decelerate the leg (Garrett, 1990). Fatigue may also play a role in exacerbating muscle imbalance, which as noted above, may contribute to hamstring injury. Rahnama et al. (2003) studied amateur football players and found that the ratio between hamstring and quadriceps strength became greater as the match went on and fatigue developed. The authors note that the amateur status of the participants from this study may contribute to these results, suggesting that a lack of muscular endurance may contribute to the growing imbalance with fatigue and that a potential implication for coaches is to develop the muscular endurance of endurance athletes to reduce the injury risk.

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Athletics Coach

Optimising Recovery Ensuring there is adequate recovery between


Active Recovery

sessions has been well documented to assist in injury

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence supporting active

prevention generally (Hootman, Dick & Agel, 2007; Brink et

recovery for the prevention of hamstring strains, especially

al., 2010) and prevention of hamstring injuries in particular

among the recreational running community. However, peer-

(Heiderscheit et al., 2010). Post-training recovery requires a

reviewed evidence supporting the practice is minimal. Coffey,

multifaceted approach that should take into consideration

Leveritt & Gill (2004) examined the effectiveness of active

the effectiveness of the following modalities:

recovery after running and found no significant difference

Sleep See Bird (2012) and Robson-Ansley, Gleeson & Ansley (2008) Sleep is understood to be an essential component of recovery and preparation for training and competition. Athletes sleeping less than 8 hours per night are at a higher risk of injury for amateur (Milewski et al., 2014) and elite athletes (Simpson, Gibbs & Matheson, 2016). It is recommended

between active and passive recovery. The best evidence for the use of an active recovery is to remove lactate post-exercise (Ahmaidi et al., 1996), however no peer-reviewed evidence links lactate with hamstring injuries. In fact, active recovery may be detrimental to muscle glycogen resynthesis (Choi et al., 1994) increasing the risk of injury in subsequent sessions if recovery is incomplete.

that the coach educates their athletes to the importance of sleep as a form of recovery and to maximise performance as ignorance of the importance of sleep is correlated with lower quantity and quality of sleep (Amschler & McKenzie, 2005).

Nutrition Adequate nutrition intake pre-and post-training has been shown to aid athlete recovery and assist the prevention of lower limb injuries (Meyer, O’Connor & Shirreffs, 2007; Hausswirth & Le Meur, 2011; Di Fiori et al., 2014). Athletics coaches are not expected to be nutritionists and should ensure that any advice given is in-line with the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating, unless the coach has additional sport nutrition qualifications. However, it may be

Evidence that active recovery enhances recovery between training sessions is currently lacking...Active recovery may be detrimental to rapid glycogen resynthesis Anthony Barnett

beneficial for the coach to understand the potential signs of low energy availability and refer to the athlete to a sports nutrition specialist if symptoms are recognised and can not be explained by other factors. These may include: •

Significant changes in body composition

Hormonal changes

Poor gut health (bowl irregularity etc.)

Poor immunity to illnesses and frequent infections


Changes to training quality and consistency.

To find a Sports Dietitian or to learn more, visit Sports Dietitians Australia.

Recommended Nutrition Textbook For




extending their knowledge in sports nutrition, this holistic guide, authored by Louise Burke, the Head of Sports Nutirtion at the AIS, is highly recommended.

Click here to Purchase

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Research Review

Foam rolling is becoming an increasingly popular component of a cooldown immediately prior to or after exercise. There is a growing body of evidence to support the use of foam rolling to aid recovery and improve athletes’ range of motion (Peacock et al., 2014; Cheatham et al., 2015; Pearcey et al., 2015), although its effectiveness as a pre-exercise intervention


Foam rolling and roller massage may be effective interventions for enhancing joint range of motion and pre and post exercise muscle performance

Foam Rolling

Cheatham et al.

has been questioned (Healey et al., 2014). The role of foam rolling in aiding prevention of hamstring injuries has yet to be examined directly, but it has been

Recommended Rolling Exercises for Hamstrings

hypothesized that foam rolling between sessions may be an effective tool for increasing the range of motion at the hip and the knee joints, which can contribute to prevention of hamstring strains (Heiderscheit et al., 2010). A study that examined changes to the hip and knee-joint range of motion after a foam rolling intervention supported this hypothesis, demonstrating that increased range of motion increased and mechnical efficiency increased. The results suggested that foam rolling allowed the athlete to better absorb the forces (including eccentric forces) during the lunge action. While these findings are promising, more research would be required to know if foam rolling can prepare an athlete’s hamstrings to be able to tolerate the high eccentric forces during the late-swing phase of the sprinting action. Foam rolling may also be an effective tool for aiding rehabilitation from hamstring injuries. In a literature review on the effectiveness of self myofascial release, Schroeder & Best (2015) concluded that foam rolling is likely to be an effective method of rehabilitation once strength and pain-free lengthening of the hamstring has been restored (Heiderscheit et al., 2010).

Pearcey et al. (2015) recommend a foam rolling intervention

1 3 5

that targets a broad range of lower body muscles to aid


recovery and assist injury prevention.



4 Hamstrings

Iliotibial Band Each exercise was conducted for 45 seconds on the left and right side with 15 seconds rest after every change. The authors recommend using this program post-exercise to aid recovery and reduce muscle fatigue.


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Athletics Coach

Recommended Implementations Cryotherapy (Hohenauer et al., 2015) Optimal Water Temperature: 10oC Optimal Treatment Time: 13 minutes

Contrast Water Immersion (Cochrane, 2004) Ratio Hot Water : Cold Water: 3 : 1 Optimal Water Temperature Hot: 40oC Optimal Water Temperature Cold: 13.5oC Optimal Treatment Time: 24 minutes (18 minutes hot : 6 minutes cold)

Cryotherapy Different forms of cryotherapy, most notably ice baths, have a become a popular recovery method for elite and subelite track and field athletes. In addition to aiding recovery,

Contrast Temperature Water Immersion

cryotherapy has been explicitly recommended as a method

Despite its popularity among professional sporting clubs from

for preventing hamstring injuries for elite athletes (Kujala,

a range of different sporting codes, there is little peer-reviewed

Orava & Jarvinen, 1997).

evidence that contrast temperature water immersion is more








questioned the effectiveness of cryotherapy as a tool for

beneficial for muscle recovery or hamstring injury prevention than other modalities explored in this article.

hamstring injury prevention and rehabilitation (Jarvinen et

Ingram et al. (2009) found that contrast water immersion

al., 2005; Copland, Tipton & Fields, 2009). A meta-analysis

was less effective than cryotherapy in attenuating muscle

conducted by Hohenauer et al. (2015) concluded that while

soreness and in a review on published literature, Cochrane

cryotherapy may be an effective method for assisting

(2004) concluded that there was insufficient evidence to

recovery as measured by subjective self-reporting metrics

support the use of contrast water immersion to improve

(e.g. athlete reported muscle soreness), there was no

recovery outcomes. Unfortunately, the last 14 years has not

evidence that it is effective for assisting recovery according

added a lot of research that has examined its effectiveness

to objective physiological variables. This led the authors to

in detail.

suggest that some of the benefits dervied from cryotherapy may be placebo related, exacerbated by the prevelance of ice bath usage among elite athletes in public events.

The best evidence to support the use of contrast water immersion found that it may allow for faster restoration of strength and power in recreational athletes, which may

This was supported by Tiidus (2015) who concluded that

contribute to prevention of injury caused by fatigue (Vaile, Gill

cryotherapy, as practiced within usual guidelines, would not

& Blazevich, 2007). However, due to the resources required, it

be sufficient to cool human muscle significantly to assist

is difficult to recommend for most athletics coaches.

recovery or prevent injury.

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Research Review

Further Reading The Effectiveness of Exercise Interventions to Prevent Sports Injuries: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials Lauersen, Bertelsen & Andersen (2014)

Synergist Knee Flexor Strength

Running Biomechanics

There appears to be a lack of research on the role of synergist

Poor running technique may also contribute to hamstring

knee flexor strength in affecting hamstring injury, there is

strains. Limited evidence supports the correlation between

a theoretical basis to hypothesize that

technique and injury, but a 2002 epidemiological review

synergist muscle

strength would contribute to hamstring injury prevention.

of injuries of professional AFL players observed that overstriding appeared to be a common mechanism of hamstring

In the late swing phase of running, where strains are most

injury (Orchard & Seward, 2002). Considering the proposed

likely to occur, the hamstrings are functioning to control the

mechanism of hamstring injuries supported by Yu et al.

knee to bring the foot back to the ground. As the forces during

(i.e. caused by high magnitude eccentric contractions), it is

this action are relatively high, improving the synergist muscles

interesting to consider what is occurring biomechanically

that contribute to knee flexion may assist injury prevention

when an athlete overstrides and how it affects the eccentric

by reducing the force required exclusively by the hamstrings.

loading of the hamstrings in the late swing phase and transition between swing and stance phases.

Despite the lack of direct evidence that synergist knee flexors influence the likelihood of hamstring injury,

we can see

There are also claims made by several popular experts that a

supporting theoretical evidence in studies by Podraza & White

runner’s foot-strike will also influence the likelihood of injuries,

(2010) and Walsh et al. (2012).

with rear-foot strikers more likely to suffer from hamstring

While we await more conclusive evidence, incorporating

strains. However, it appears that there is no peer-reviewed

strength exercises that engage the synergist muscles of the

evidence to support this view at this time and is an unlikely

lower limb is likely to be an effective strategy for the coach.

explanation for hamstring injuries suffered by sprinters.

Even if the theory that it contributes to injury prevention is flawed, there is evidence that sprinting performance is correlated with greater size of synergist muscles such as the sartorius (Handsfield et al., 2016), suggesting that specific exercises to develop these muscles is likely to be an effective coaching strategy.


Hamstring strain injury is most likely the result of a multitude of factors and requires a multifaceted approach to prevention and management Anthony Barnett

Conclusion Running-related hamstring injuries are most likely to be caused by high intensity eccentric contractions during the late-swing phase of the running action. The coach can assist their athlete to avoid hamstring strains by developing their flexibility and strength, managing load to avoid excessive fatigue, implementing effective recovery strategies, avoiding strength imbalance (bilaterally and between hamstrings and quadriceps) and planning and implementing an effective warm up that prepares the athlete for the upcoming training session or competition.

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Athletics Coach

Beginner’s Guide to Methods of Kinematic Analysis in the Long Jump Written by Julian Shelbourne


ideo analysis has become an essential tool for the modern coach to analyse the biomechanics of athletes in all events. The ability to playback

technique frame-by-frame gives coaches a greater insight into the finer details of an athlete’s performance, and allows the athlete to have a better understanding of their own technique and how to adjust their action. The importance of kinematics has been well researched in the Long Jump. Coh et al. (1997) found significant

differences in the kinematics between elite and sub-elite groups in the run up, final step and take off phases of the jump, demonstrating how the kinematics are likely to be an important determining factor of jumping success. However, many studies do not compare training



jumps, because it is difficult

A second commonly used method is 2D-Video-Analysis. This technology widely available to all coaches allows the easy capture of video within competition, since there is no need to place markers or sensors on the skin or clothing. The footage is easy to manipulate and gives coaches a reasonable frame-by-frame

Click here to see the 3D Markerless Tracking Technology in Action

However, for coaches who

and/or impractical to set-up a

are interested in obtaining

testing environment for both

more detailed biomechanical

training and competition.

information, the tools that are

The Role of Technology


an athlete’s biomechanical

3D Markerless Tracking

kinematics in training and

The German company “Simi

competition represents one the





field coaching and research. marker-based

motion capture systems have been used for 3D motion analysis using retroreflective markers attached to the athlete’s skin and clothing - known as stereophotogrammetry. While this is an effective method for monitoring in a laboratory

athlete or ensuring the markers remain attached. There are therefore questions on the validity of the data obtained from this method, as it is an environment that is quite different from the usual training or competition setting.





solution with 3D markerless high speed automatic tracking technology, a method to make movement analysis quicker and more practical. This means the the coach can access detailed video analysis while an athlete trains and competes in their familiar surroundings. Click here for more information.

environment, it is not possible to use such markers within competition without significantly impeding and hindering the


Gmbh” combines these two

considerations in track and Traditionally,


are insufficient.

The testing and analysis of



of the athlete’s technique.

The pictured example above shows a jump being filmed by multiple high-speed cameras, mounted around the jump pit, the cameras are operating at 250 frames per second. Software then extracts the body of the athlete from the video material and creates a 3D-Model in real time which automatically extracts





(horizontal and vertical), body angle, joint angles and height.

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technology is suggests it is of equal validity to marker-based systems. It is arguably the best method currently available to obtain detailed biomechanical analysis of an athlete’s technique during competition or in their usual training environment. What Should the Coach be Looking For? The run up and take off are the most critical segments of the Long Jump for determining the distance of a jump. As a result, almost all performance diagnostic analyses and biomechanical studies have been designed for these segments. For example, a novice long jump coach may wish to begin by analysing the athlete’s take-off speed or angle. Linthorne et al. (2005) analyzed the optimum take-off angle for the long jump and found it is commonly between 15 and 300. However, it is

Research on the accuracy of the data collected by 3D markerless

The more extensive experimental set-ups for whole-body 3D analysis typically necessitate controlled laboratory environments and a challenge is to then ensure ecological validity (that movements accurately represent reality) Colyer

important to note the ideal angle will be individual for each athlete depending on their height, mass and technique. For the average physique of a male long jumper (~183cm and 75kg) the optimum angle will be between 20.5 and 25.50 whereas for women, the optimum angle will generally be between 20 and 240. Using the model developed by Hay et al. (1986) below and the calculated optimal data from Linthorne et al., you are able to use your preferred method of data collection to compare your athlete’s technique to the established optimal ranges.

Key Determinants of Jumping Performance

Total Distance Takeoff Distance

Landing Distance

Air Resistance

Relative Height at Takeoff

Flight Distance Angle at Takeoff

Speed at Takeoff

Horizontal Velocity

Vertical Velocity

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Could the Future Edge in College Sports be Mental Wellness? Written by Bradley Donohue


e live in a sports-oriented culture. In the United States alone, there are about 8 million high school students participating in sports, almost a half a million students

in the National Collegiate Athletics Association, and many more play organized sports in club or intramural leagues. A small percentage of these students will go on to become elite college athletes, often revered by their universities’ fans and alumni. While often glorified, these athletes also experience unique stressors that many of us may not understand (Gulliver, Griffiths & Christensen, 2012). These include performance demands that require extensive mental precision, fatigue due to irregular and strenuous training and competitive schedules, ongoing scrutiny from others, separations from loved ones, and a culture supporting intense emotional expression. While sport activities amplify opportunities to develop character, confidence, relationships and so on, research examining the impact of sport on mental health appears to indicate athletes may have similar or higher rates of psychological disorders as their non-athlete peers, but perhaps with special considerations (Rice et al., 2016). Six years ago, my research team initiated the first clinical trial involving collegiate athletes who were formally assessed for mental health conditions. Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the study was conducted to examine the effectiveness of two very different approaches to improving mental health in collegiate athletes. Specifically, we studied traditional counseling and psychological services compared with an experimental optimization program that emphasized performance, family inclusion and sport culture (Donohue et al., 2018). We wanted to learn whether there might be more effective ways to reach college athletes and help improve all aspects of their mental health.

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In explaining the Optimization Model to athletes, we asserted that performance in sport, and life in general, is influenced by thoughts, behaviors and emotions.

Optimization Approach to Mental Health Although athletes have consistently reported the importance of coaches, family and teammates in their lives, traditional campus counseling and psychological services usually only involve the athletes in therapy sessions. Also, it has been our experience that traditional services rarely address sport culture formally, and they usually require athletes to evidence psychiatric symptoms, upset or dysfunction in some way in order to receive mental health services. We believe these practices deter athletes from pursuing counseling that may have been beneficial due to perceived stigma. In our trial, we altered a family behavior therapy that has demonstrated success in the improvement of mental health and social functioning, to address sport culture. To decrease potential for perceived stigma that sometimes occurs when pursuing psychological intervention, the University’s associate athletic director at the time named the newly developed intervention The Optimum Performance Program in Sports, or TOPPS (click here for more information). Also, we made it possible for athletes to receive intervention regardless of mental health symptom severity. This was important because it positively branded TOPPS and normalized mental health along a continuum of optimization that could be shared by all athletes. We attempted to create a culture of optimization and not of illness. The providers of TOPPS are referred to as performance coaches, treatment plans are performance plans, motivational posters and university sport paraphernalia cover walls. Freely distributed T-shirts and water bottles have pictures of the TOPPS logo with catchy phrases that appeal to college students (for example, “Wanna be on TOPP�). In explaining the Optimization Model to athletes, we asserted that performance in sport, and life in general, is influenced by thoughts, behaviors and emotions.

Athletics Coach

We helped them to understand that because emotions are

they agree or disagree, performance coaches listen and ask

particularly difficult to control, it is usually easier to focus

questions to better understand where they’re coming from

mental skills training on behaviors and thoughts, which are

prior to discussing potential commonalities between their

all somewhere on a continuum from non-optimal to optimal.

own cultural backgrounds or perhaps empathizing with

There is no assumption of mental health illness, although

concerns. We believe this individualized approach assists in

mental health conditions may exist. In this way, discussion

truly understanding the potential impact of culture in sports

of pathology and weakness or dysfunction is unnecessary,

and life, in general without judgments, generalizations, or

inspiring athletes to participate in TOPPS to get an edge in

quick to understand statements.

sport performance while concurrently optimizing mental health.

Also, performance coaches encourage goals that are specific to mental health, sport performance, doing well for others,

Not focusing on pathological content makes it easier to

and avoiding undesired behaviors such as substance misuse

implement TOPPS performance programming in non-office

and sexual risk behaviors. Significant others reward their

settings, such as sport fields, for two reasons. First, athletes

efforts with acknowledgment and rewards.

feel more comfortable involving their significant others in goal achievement exercises. Second, practicing in non-

Other components in TOPPS include performance planning,

office settings enhances generalization of skills to real-world

in which athletes prioritize available performance programs,


methods of improving motivation, communication skills training (with family, coaches and teammates), environmental-

The interventions in TOPPS were developed to be exciting,


goal-oriented and challenging. Each meeting starts with an

strategies, methods of refocusing undesired thoughts,

exercise to assist optimum mindset in an upcoming event, such

diaphragmatic breathing, problem-solving, imagery), dream

as practicing relaxation prior to an exam or improving focus

job development, job getting skills training and financial

before a free throw. To assist optimization in these exercises,







performance coaches help the athlete use brainstorming to generate optimum thoughts and emotional intensity, and performance coaches model and encourage athletes to practice the respective mindsets in simulated scenarios. Athletes are assigned to practice these skills at home. And,



studies providers

have of

consistently psychological

interventions should address ethnic and sport culture when working with athletes, TOPPS is designed to formally embrace culture using validated interviews. In doing so, athletes are prompted to indicate the extent to which they agree or disagree that their own culture is important, and similarly

While there is nothing wrong with sport psychology focusing on performance per se, the obsession with performance has lead to something of a blind spot in the field.

the extent to which they agree or disagree they’ve experienced difficulties or offensive remarks due to their culture. Whether

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Dr. Brad Donohue

Research Review Originally published by The Conversation

Optimization Approach to Mental Health In our trial, we formally assessed 74 athletes who were interested in participating in a goal-oriented program to assist their performance in sport and life, in general. They completed a battery of assessment tools that measured severity of mental health symptoms, factors interfering with sport performance, relationships with family, teammates and coaches, alcohol and non-prescribed drug use, and sexual risk behavior. Consistent with other studies, approximately half of the participants were determined to show evidence of a current mental health condition. We then randomly assigned them to traditional campus counseling or TOPPS. Prior to intervention, participants in each of the two experimental groups responded similarly to assessment measures and reported similar expectations for how well they would do in the program. Assessments occurred four and eight months after the initiation of intervention. Results indicated that participants in TOPPS and traditional counseling and psychological services were satisfied with the intervention they received. However, compared with participants in traditional services, participants in TOPPS attended more meetings, reported greater satisfaction with services, and demonstrated significantly better outcomes than traditional counseling, particularly when mental health/ substance use was more pronounced. Anonymous narrative responses were consistent with these results. For instance, one participant who received TOPPS reported: “This program did wonders for me. Before starting this program, I was depressed about (the participant’s specific sport was reported) and where my life seemed to be going. This program has rejuvenated how I view myself, others around me and the direction I know I need to go. (The sport was reported) is again a huge thing in my life, and I enjoy my friends and family more. The hardest thing that I still must improve on is my pot use. I have cut back and now am confident one day I will be completely clean when my life will depend on it most.� More research is needed to determine the effects of TOPPS, particularly in other specialized populations that require uniquely shared skill sets, such as artists, firefighters, musicians and military personnel. However, both quantitative and qualitative analyses suggest TOPPS may offer promise as an alternative to traditional intervention programs in collegiate athletes, regardless of their mental health diagnostic severity or competitive level.

The TOPPS Intervention The TOPPS Intervention conducted by Pitts et al. (2015) incorporated 12 meetings, lasting between 60 and 90 minutes held over a 3-month period.

Meeting 1: Program Orientation Information was provided about the TOPPS program and interventions. The subject was interviewed about his feelings of the program and his personal needs and objectives.

Meetings 2 to 12: Goals and Rewards In each of the subsequent meetings, dynamic goals and rewards were discussed with the athlete and his support personel. In meetings 2 and 3 the subject discussed and planned their objectives, and goal progress and strategies for achieving these goals was discussed in subsequent meetings.

Meeting 3: Performance Planning The subject was involved in setting the priority of the TOPPS intervention components. These were self-control, positive request, financial management, environmental control, career planning and reciprocity awareness. The subjects response determined the order and priority of the sessions to come.

Meetings 7 and 9: Self-Control This focused on the teaching of awareness of triggers and how to control them. Triggers such as thoughts, images, feelings and behaviours were explored based on the unique situation of the subject and strategies for managing the undesirable behaviour associated with those triggers explored.

Meetings 8, 10 and 12: Environmental Control The subject considered environmental stimuli that previously led to behaviours incompatible with their personal goals and how they can manipulate their environment to minimise these situations.

Meetings 10 and 12: Positive Request This intervention focused on teaching the subject how to communicate positively and makes requests that will motivate others to comply.

Meetings 11 and 12: Reciprocity Awareness Reciprocity awareness is geared at enhancing or maintaining positive relationships between athletes and their significant others, as well as addressing underlying issues associated with resentment and miscommunication, and building positive atmosphere in meetings.

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Athletics Coach

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Research Review

Quick Facts

Protein Intake for Track and Field Athletes Why, When and How


The US Dietary Reference recommend a daily protein intake for all individuals 19 years and


The recommended timing for protein intake for optimal adaptation and recovery is

older to be 0.8g of protein per kilogram of body weight.

after exercise (Koopman et al., 2007; Phillips, Tang & Moore,

However, athletes (including endurance athletes) have been

2009). While there is some evidence that intake pre-exercise

demonstrated to have an increased protein requirement.

of during exercise may have some beneficial effects, these

Tarnopolsky et al.,

results have not been successfully replicated (Cernak et al.,

(1992), found that for athletes, daily

protein intake of 0.86g per kilogram of body weight was


insufficient to allow maximal rates of protein synthesis, whereas a daily intake of 1.4g per kilogram of body weight allowed for maximal synthesis. This was supported by Moore (2009), who demonstrated that muscle protein synthesis may be optimally stimulated by protein intake of 15-25kg depending on the weight of the athlete. To optimize the ratio of fat-to-learn muscle loss, it is recommended that athletes lower their carbohydrate intake to approximately 40% of their total energy intake and increase

“While there is some debate about the “critical” nature of the timing of postexercise protein consumption, a simple message may be that the earlier after exercise an athlete consumes protein the better.”

their protein intake to 20-30% (Abete et al., 2010).


Protein quality is most commonly evaluated using the PDCAAS. This tool measures a protein’s ability to provide adequate levels of essential amino acids for human needs and a human’s ability to digest it. Animal-source proteins

such as eggs, milk (including casein and whey) and most meats are considered the highest quality proteins and evidence supports their relationship with greater hypertrophy when consumed by athletes compared to soy-based proteins (Wilkinson, 2007). Milk proteins in particular have been suggested to be the most effective for supporting muscle protein synthesis, due to their particular richness in the essential amino acid leucine (Atherton et al., 2010). In their literature review, Phillips & Van Loon (2011) recommend milk or flavoured milk as the most effective and economical option for athletes who wish to optimise their muscle protein synthesis.

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Preventing Dropout in the Ultramarathon According to conservative estimates, there has been a growth of over 500% worldwide in the number of runners attempting an ultramarathon from 2013 to 2017. For most of these first-time runners, reaching the finish line within the time-limit is their primary objective and the priority of the coach is to best prepare the runner for the unique physical challenges of running in excess of 43 kilometres. This article will examine the stressors that runners most commonly face while attempting the ultramarathon and what strategies the coach can employ in training and on race day to assist their runners to avoid, minimise or manage them.

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Athletics Coach

Common Stressors of the Ultramarathon


unner feedback reports from the SG Ultra 2017 and Vermont 100 ultramarathons provide us with useful quantitative data on the most common

Table 1

stressors encountered by runners.

Self-reported challenges from participants of the SG Ultra Marathon 17

Gastro-intestinal problems were the most widely reported

and the Vermont 100 2019

challenge from entrants in both events, most commonly described as feelings of nausea, vomiting and difficulty eating or drinking. We will have a look at proposed mechanisms of


Vermont 100 ‘09



Feet Sores / Blisters



Muscle Pain / Cramping



Excessive Heat



Severe Exhaustion



finish rate than those who trained independently or only used

Acute Injury Obtained



a generic training program.

During Race Poor Race Pacing



The other interesting point to take from this data is that

Moderate or Severe


Not Reported

the self-reported challenges facing ultra-marathon runners


appear to be incredibly similar between the events and that the

Existing Injury




Not Reported


While it is important to acknowledge some variation will exist

Difficulty meeting

Not Reported


between races due to distances, elevation, terrain and climate

Time Cut-Offs

these symptoms and the coaching practices that can help prevent them in greater detail later in this article. For the coach, it is interesting to note that most of these issues can be avoided, reduced or managed through adequate specialised preparation. It is therefore unsurprising that runners who worked with a qualified coach for at least three months in the build up to the event had a significantly higher

coach can prioritise training methods that help their runners to prepare and cope with the most common challenges.

(note the increased reporting of heat issues in the humid Singaporean conditions), general preparation strategies can be recommended for preparing your runner for any condition.

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Nausea / Vomiting

Runners Affected SG Ultra ‘17

(Gastrointestinal Issues)


Stressors Associated with Dropout Not all of the challenges reported from the SG Ultra Marathon and Vermont 100 are going to result in runners dropping out from a race. Understanding the challenges that are most strongly correlated with drop out is useful for the coach who may wish to priortise preparing their runners for these factors.

Self-Reported Reasons for Dropping Out Hoffman & Foggard surveyed non-finishers from the ultramarathon events, questioning them about the primary

We have some limited data from Hoffman & Fogard (2011)

factor that caused runners to drop out from the event. The

comparing the reported issues of finishers and non-finishers

three most common factors were:

from the 2009 Western States Endurance Run and Vermont


Nausea / Vomiting: 23% of those surveyed

that coaches should consider.


Difficulty with Cut-off Times: 19% of those surveyed

i) Blisters, muscle pain and exhaustion were significantly


Exisiting Injury: 8% of those surveyed

100 Endurance Race. The data suggests two important factors

higher in finishers than non-finishers, suggesting that these factors are unlikely to be the sole cause of a runner dropping out from a race.

What this information does not tell us is why 23% of runners dropped out after experiencing nausea, whereas 40% of the runners who did finish the race also experienced nausea

ii) The only individual factor significantly higher in non-

without dropping out. Were the symptoms more severe or

finishers than finishers was the presence of an existing injury.

were the runners less prepared to deal with the symptoms

This was further supported by 17 out of 26 non-starters

when they presented? Was the perceived difficulty meeting

reporting the presence of an existing injury being the cause of

the cut-off times due to poor physical preparedness or poor

their withdrawal from the race, reinforcing the importance to

race strategy? How can these results determine our coaching

the coach of injury prevention.


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Athletics Coach

The Interaction Between Stressors What the studies cited in this article did not examine was how the combination of factors work together to influence drop out rates. Anecdotally, while a runner may not drop out from a race if their only difficulty is a few blisters on their feet, if combined with gastrointestinal distress and mild dehydration, it would be more likely that a runner would decide to pull out. While there is no evidence to directly support this hypothesis in ultramarathon races, we do see a significant effect of the interaction of challenges on an athlete’s likelihood of finishing other ultra-endurance events such as ironman and triathlons (Gublin & Gaffney, 1999; Baker, Cote & Deakin, 2006; Pfeifferet al., 2010). The priority for the coach should therefore be to look at the full range of common stressors that runners are likely to encounter during an ultramarathon and develop a strategy that aims to minimise all of their effects. The combination of factors may explain why pre-existing injuries are so strongly correlated with higher levels of dropout. Runners may feel capable of completing the race when only dealing with a mild ongoing injury that they have experienced throughout their training, but

The interaction between factors [a combination of stressors on the runner] was greater than any individual variable for predicting dropout

Hoffman & Foggard

when combined with other challenges that arise on race-day (e.g. gastro-intestinal distress and exhaustion) the physical distress is exacerbated and the likelihood of dropping out is increased. Ultimately, it appears that that there is not one individual stressor that is likely to cause a runner to drop out, but the effect of multiple stressors working together. The coach needs to prepare their runner in training for each of the most common stressors and develop raceday strategies that can assist management of symptoms if they occur during the race. The next section of this article will look at how the coach can assist prevention and management of these issues.

Medication Usage in the Ultramarathon One of the more striking findings from Hoffman and Foggard

However, the authors advise against the use of NSAIDs during

was the high usage of medication reported during ultra-

ultra-endurance events unless specifically recommended by

marathon events.

a medical professional. NSAID usage increases the risk of

71.3% of all finishers self-reported using medication during the race, with a significantly higher proportion of finishers

exercise-induced hyponatremia (see Athletics Coach 1 / 18 for more information) and may restrict vasodilation.

using medication than non-finishers. Of those who took

Irritation of the gastrointestinal tract has also been shown to

medication, the vast majority (over 80%) took nonsteroidal

be correlated with NSAID usage (Rainsford, 1999) and may

anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), usually for pain relief or

partly explain the high levels of nausea reported among ultra

to reduce the symptoms of mild tissue injury in the form of


aspirin or ibuprofen.

It is strongly recommended that coaches direct their runners

It would be tempting as a coach to see the data and conclude

to their primary care physicians prior to a race to discuss

that because there is a correlation between NSAID usage and

NSAID usage, and if recommended by a doctor, to trial usage

the likelihood of finishing, that runners should be encouraged

of medication during a training run.

to take NSAIDs as a means of reducing pain or discomfort.

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Training to Avoid Dropout Establishing a sufficient base of aerobic fitness is obviously essential for tackling any ultramarathon race.

However, the correlation

between a runner’s weekly training load and their likelihood of a runner finishing the race is not a simple linear relationship where the longer the distance run in training results in a greater likelihood of finishing. Instead, what we see is that the likelihood of finishing an ultramarathon increases as the runner’s weekly training load increases, but only up to a certain distance. Above that distance, there does not appear to be a significantly improved likelihood of being able to finish a race. Evidence suggests that a maximum weekly training load (prior to the taper period) ~30% greater than the distance of the race will be optimal for preparing runners to reach the finish line, but any additional training is unlikely to increase the likelihood of finishing. While this has been supported by studies examining 50km and 100km races, no research has studied the relationship for longer distance races. However, it should be noted that weekly training load has been shown to be correlated with faster race times, suggesting that runners who are targeting a specific time or finishing position would most likely benefit from a maximum weekly training load greater than 150km for a 100km race. This is why understanding the objectives of your runners is important prior the design of an effective training program.

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Athletics Coach

Coaching Interventions Gastrointestinal Issues Prevalence Gastrointestinal issues are the most widely reported stressor facing ultra-endurance runners and the limited data that exists suggests that it is a significantly greater issue for ultramarathon runners than in the marathon (Rehrer et al., 1992; Baska et al., 1990). The prevalence of symptoms experienced appears to increase in association with increases in the distance of the event, with approximately 37% of participants reporting symptoms of nausea in a 67km event and 55% of participants reporting nausea in a 161km event (Glace, Murphy & McHugh, 2002). A study by Gill et al. (2015) demonstrated that “nearly all” partcipants from a 24-hour ultra-marathon had blood markers nearly identical to patients admitted to hospital with sepsis. This occurred a result of bacterial endotoxins leaching into the blood during prolonged periods of exercise, triggering the body’s immune response. Symptoms Gastrointestinal issues mostly presented with the following symptoms: •

Nausea or vomiting

Inability to eat or drink








hyponatremia, energy depletion hypoglycemia, symptoms also included: •



Inability to concentrate

Loss of consciousness

Causes The stomach and intestines are muscular organs that require blood flow to able to perform the mechanical and chemical break down of food for digestion. Gastrointestinal distress in

Prevention / Management 1) “Slow down and cool off” Ultrarunning expert Jason Koop’s first recommendation for runners who are experiencing a quesy stomach is to slow things up and allow the body to cool down. Pace should be adjusted (to a slow walking pace if necessary) and the body cooled by removing any additional layers or by splashing a small amount of water on a towel or directly to the skin.

ultramarathon runners likely occurs as a result of restricted

This will allow for greater blood flow to be directed to the

blood flow to the digestion organs, with the body prioritising

digestive system, as slowing down reduces the oxygen and

blood flow to the skin for the cooling of the body, the delivery

nutrient demand from the skeletal muscles and cooling down

of oxygen to working muscles and the transfer of nutrients

reduces demand for blood to be sent to the skin for cooling.

(Qamar & Read, 1987). This results in a slowing or complete stop of the digestion process and the beginning of symptoms associated with gastric distress. Damage to the gut can also occur in ultra-endurance runners as a result of the prolonged physical disturbance caused by the bouncing of the running motion (Peters & de Vries, 2001).

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Koop advises his first-time ultramarathoners to drop the pace as soon as symptoms appear as the sooner you can allow sufficient blood flow to return to the digestive system, the sooner the runner will be able to recover.

2) Training History Gill et al. (2015) provided clinical data to demonstrate that training age was positively correlated with higher levels of an anti-inflammatory agent that allowed their gut to better cope with the stress brought on by exercise. It is worth nothing that it was specifically the number of years the runner had been training, rather than the distance or intensity of training that best predicted the runner’s resilience to gastrointestinal issues. The implication for the coach from this finding is that a runner should gradually progress to their first ultramarathon and ideally have at least 18 months of training prior to their first race. 3) Hydration Costa (2014) believes that the maintenance of euhydration should be the runner’s primary priority for preventing gastrointestinal






Euhydration should be rehearsed in training so the runner has a good understanding of the amount of fluid that needs to be consumed during the race and their gut is ‘trained’ for intaking the required quantity. The importance of fluid intake was demonstrated in a study by Stuempfle, Hoffman & Hew-Butler (2013), which found that lower fluid intake was associated with GI distress in ultramarathon runners. This was supported by a qualitative observation that fluid intake appeared to be correlated with how runners felt after prolonged cardio exercise, with those

Key Hydration Considerations Sodium supplmentation assists the runner to maintain their body weight throughout exercise, but there is no evidence that it supports a runner’s performance or that a loss of body weight less than 3% has a negative effect on the ultra-endurance runner (Hoffman & Stuempfle, 2014; Hoffman & Stuempfle, 2016; Valentino et al., 2016).

who took drinks more regularly feeling better than those who drank infrequently or insufficient volume. Conversely, coaches need to be aware of the risks of overhydration, with very high levels of fluid intake during an ultramarathon correlated with confusion and dizziness (Glace, Murphy & McHugh, 2002).

ultra-endurance runners and offers the following suggestions for prevention of GI distress on race day. Food consumed during the race should be composed mainly of half-fast carbohydrates (liquid or half-liquid) and slow carbohydrates (e.g. breads, cereal bars, cookies). Consume





small meals every 2 to 3 hours depending on digestive capacity. •

Consume 20-50g /hour, including a combination of salty and sweet foods.

Ensure that food is well chewed, potentially more than a runner is used to. Food particles larger than 2mm may restrict gastric emptying and add stress to the digestive system.

On the morning of the race, ensure a breakfast high in proteins and carbohydrates is consumed. Corinne recommends including whole-grain toast, eggs, ham or lean meat, a fruit puree and oats or museli.

Try and time bigger meals with uphill sections where there is less mechanical stress (bouncing around) on the digestive system.

dehydration increases throughout the race. It has been suggested that a hydration strategy a regulated intake may be effective (Krabak

Dietician Corinne Peirano has intensively studied nutrition for

the earliest phases of a race and the risks of

that transitions from “drink when thirsty” to

4) Race Day Food Intake

The risk of over-hydration is highest during

et al., 2017). It may be most effective to calculate the distance it takes for the runner to lose ~2% of body weight using a “drink when thirsty” method and then transition to regulated intake to prevent losing further body weight.

“At foot strike, the ground pushes backward on your shoe, your insole pushes backward on your sock, and your sock pushes backward on your skin. As you push off the ground, these forces between your skin and sock, sock and insole, and shoe and ground all reverse direction. The problem is that the surface of your skin is pliable (after all, it is called soft tissue). As your body applies these shear forces, your soft tissue (skin on the feet) moves more than your skeletal system (rigid bone). This out-of-sync movement between your skeleton, soft tissue, sock/ shoe, and shoe/ground is what ultimately causes the frictional force that leads to a blister. Your shoe and sock move against your outer layer of skin (epidermis) more than your outer layer of skin moves against your inner layer of skin (dermis). As the bump and grind between these two skin layers continues, the layers eventually separate. Once this separation occurs, fluid fills the void due to hydrostatic pressure. The result is a fluid sac between the newly separated layers of skin bordered by yet-to-be separated layers along the edges.� Jason Koop, Training Essentials for Ultrarunning


Hotspots / Blisters Prevalence Blisters are an almost unavoidable symptom for ultramarathon runners, especially for firsttimers who are yet to develop the callouses and find the personal measures that work for them. However, this is an issue that almost all runners will encounter at some point and the coaching focus should be on management and education. Symptoms Pain is the most obvious symptom, usually combined with irritation of the skin, including bruising and blood. What may start as an annoying but relatively harmless irritation can quickly turn into an ongoing pain that completely changes the running gait. This is where blisters are most likely to result in a DNF, where changes to the runner’s natural rhythm result a decrease in pace, stress on different parts of the body, changes to the nutritional plan and adverse psychological impacts. Causes The vast majority of blisters on the feet developed during running are friction blisters, caused by the forces generated during footstrike. The occurrence of blisters is increased with additional heat and moisture. Blisters can also be caused by the friction between clothing and the skin, making it important to test out race-day apparel repeatedly in training. Prevention 1) “Training, Training, Training” There is strong evidence to demonstrate that repeated exposure to the frictional forces encountered during running improve the body’s ability to prevent blisters from forming. It is important to remember that blisters on the feet are caused by the unique relationship between shoe, sock and foot, making it important to train in the same footwear that the runner intends to wear during the race. 2) Use the Right Equipment Finding the right pair of shoes and socks should be a runner’s priority from the very start of the training phase. Evidence suggests that friction blisters can be significantly reduced by running with shoes and socks that have been correctly fitted (Knapik et al., 1995). Experimenting with different lacing techniques may also be an effective way to reduce friction blisters - click here for a guide on different methods suited to different feet shapes. There is some evidence to demonstrate that acrylic fiber socks are more effective than natural cotton fiber socks for preventing blisters (Herring & Richie, 1990), but these socks should be constructed with dense padding to enhance the physical properties of the fibers (Herring & Richie, 1993). Wrightsock offer a range of prodcuts specifically for ultrarunners using specifcially made acrylic fiber socks - however they tend to trap moisture and become relatively heavy once wet. If you’re running a wetter course or a heavy sweater you might be better off trying a lighter sock. New Balance’s Coolmax socks have also been very well-reviewed and offer a lighter alternative. When it comes to choosing the right shoe, it will come down to trying on a few different models and finding what feels ‘right’ for the runner. If you are looking for a few models to recommend to your new runners, the following models are generally considered to be among the best models for trail and ultra runners: ASICS Men’s Alpine XT Running Shoes - Full review here Salomon XA Elavate J Trail Running Shoes - Full review here New Balance Hierro V3 Running Shoes - Full review here Brooks Caldera 2 Running Shoes - Full review here Part 2 in the next edition will look at more ways ultramarathon coaches are able to assist their runners prepare for their first race. Page 71/90

Fosbury Flop Youth Coaching Guidelines


Prepared by Gary Bourne and Peter Hannan

his document has been prepared with the assistance of

coaches, teachers, parents and administrators. There have

Gary Bourne and Peter Hannan to provide guidelines

been cases of coaches holding a firm coaching philosophy on

for Accredited Athletics Coaches on the appropriate

the best way to map an athlete’s High Jump progression, only

age to introduce the Fosbury Flop to young athletes.

to be overruled by a school or parent who have prioritised

The guidelines are designed to provide a safe training and

introducing the flop at an earlier age to prepare young athletes for a junior competition.

competition environment that best supports the athletes’ long-term development.

It is hoped that this article will be the first step for establishing defined coaching guidelines for when and how to introduce

There is currently a lack of consistency across the country

the Fosbury Flop to young athletes and that it will support

on the ideal age to introduce athletes to the Fosbury Flop,

accredited athletics coaches to follow the most effective long-

which has resulted in some confusion and anxiety between

term strategy for high jump success.

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The Appropriate Age to Introduce the Fosbury Flop It is recommended that athletes begin to learn the Fosbury Flop technique no earlier than 13 years of age. Any decision about when to introduce the Fosbury Flop technique to a young athlete must be based on the individual athlete’s physical maturity (biological age) and coordination. It is important to remember that a difference of up to two years between a child’s chronological age and their biological age is within the normal range of variation, and differences up

to four years have been known. Therefore, some children may have the physical maturity and coordination to commence training at 13 years of age, whereas other children will not possess the same competencies and strength until 15 years or older. The decision about the appropriate age to commence learning the Fosbury Flop should be left to experienced Accredited Coaches and Physical Education Teachers and be based on the individual physical and mental characteristics of the athlete. In alignment with the Development Model of Sports Participation (Cote, Murphy-Mills & Abernathy, 2007) and the Athletics Coach Education Framework, early specialisation should be avoided. A well-rounded skills and coordination development program that incorporates running, jumping, hurdling, throwing and multi-sport experiences should be the domain of the athlete in the 10 to 15-year-old age group.

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Athletics Coach

Prior to Commencing the Fosbury Flop Prior to deciding when an athlete is ready to start learning the Flop technique, the focus should be on jumping with the Scissors technique from a straight-line approach to develop the physical attributes required to perform the Fosbury Flop effectively. This should be done in an engaging and enjoyable environment that supports the athlete’s long-term participation in the event.

technique include: Developing the athlete’s vertical take-off - especially

a strong knee drive and tall posture •

Developing the correct foot plant at take-off (a

straight foot plant in line with the run-in) •

Developing a consistent accelerating run up

where the athlete has the strength and confidence to effectively ‘attack’ the bar In




Scissors technique should not be performed from a curved approach




forces generated on the support leg knee are very high when

to commencing the Fosbury Flop in training: “Several years ago, I spoke with a highly

athletics coach. He said that many parents and coaches were concerned regarding the risk of injuries to the neck from using the Flop technique of high jump. However, he stated that in his experience, he’d seen more people with lower back injuries as a result of a poorly executed flop technique. This

The flop technique works because the athlete jumps through the vertical and the centrifugal force from the curve throws them over the bar. However, young kids who aren’t very strong and lack a sufficient vertical jump tend to ‘throw’ their

own body over the bar by throwing their lead arm and/or their head over the bar. This results in the lead leg going one way while the upper body goes another way, resulting in

The Scissors technique should not be performed from a curved approach...for young athletes....the high forces can lead to serious knee injuries.

extended position. Without the required strength, the Scissors technique from a curved approach can lead to serious knee injuries.

Attributes of an Athlete Ready to Perform the Fosbury Flop in Training Prior to attempting the Fosbury Flop in the training environment, the athlete should have developed their Scissors ability and be able to demonstrate the following qualities: • A consistent approach and take-off position • A strong knee drive at take-off • The ability to hold their posture into the flight phase • The strength to handle the higher physical loads placed on the body and lower limbs • The confidence and emotional maturity to listen and

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strength to jump through the vertical prior

respected paediatrician, who was also a well- credentialled

large stresses in the lower back. This can be avoided if the athlete has learnt to jump through the vertical




Scissors technique first.…I think everybody,




needs to develop the ability to jump through the vertical before performing the Fosbury Flop.”

the swinging leg is in a long,

respond to instructions

importance of the athlete developing the

was especially prevalent in younger athletes.

Transferable jumping skills developed by the Scissors •

Peter Hannan places high value on the

Signing Off Prior to introducing the Fosbury Flop in training, it is recommended that athletes younger than 18 years of age are signed-off by: i) An Accredited Athletics Coach AND ii) A physiotherapist or the child’s doctor.

Expert Opinion

“Everybody, weak or strong, needs to develop the ability to jump through the vertical before performing the Fosbury Flop� Peter Hannan

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Athletics Coach

The priority for the coach is to ask themselves, “Do I think that this child is going to be in danger of hurting



Attributes of an Athlete Ready to Perform the Fosbury Flop in Competition

the technique that they are using?” Remember that the pressure of competition will exacerbate technical deficiencies as the athlete strains for maximum height. Level 5 Coaches Peter Hannan and Gary Bourne recommend the following points for the coach to consider when determining whether an athlete is ready to perform the Fosbury Flop in competition: Consistency The ability to perform the run-up, take-off, flight and landing phases of the Fosbury Flop consistently in a safe manner. Foot Plant Planting the foot at approximately 20 degrees to the bar at take-off. This is essential for ensuring that the optimal takeoff position can be achieved. It also greatly reduces the risk of injury, particularly to the ankle and knee, caused by forces being wrongly directed through those joints. The final angle of approach (flight path of the final stride) of a Flop High Jumper is between 30-35 degrees to the bar. The change in direction of the Take-off foot plant is approximately 10-12 degrees to the direction of the final stride. This means that the final angle of the foot plant to the bar is around 20 degrees. This angle should point well inside the far upright provided the take-off point is not too far down the bar – a maximum of 50-70cm along from the approach side upright. Take Off Position Relative to the Bar The athlete should take off approximately 70cm along the bar. The bar is 4.0m long and the best clearance position is over the middle of the bar, 2.0m from the upright. Ideally, the take-off should be 70cm along and 70-75cm out from the bar with a horizontal velocity of 3.0 – 3.5m/s (half run-up speed), a vertical angle of take-off of 50 degrees and a final angle of flight in relation to the bar of 20 degrees. This will place them close to clearing the centre of the bar.

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Achieving the desired take-off position greatly increases the likelihood of the athlete safely clearing the bar. It allows the athlete to maintain a lean away from the bar until foot plant, which assists in generating the required rotation for a successful and safe clearance. This reduces the likelihood of athletes throwing their lead arm or head over the bar to generate unnecessary rotation. Athletes who take off further than one fifth of the length also run the risk of hitting the upright or missing the mat on landing. Take-off Posture The athlete’s body should be at right angles to the bar at takeoff, holding a tall posture with their body weight above the planted foot. Bar Clearance At the highest point of the athlete’s jump, the line of the athlete’s hips should be parallel to the crossbar, and slightly higher than their knees and shoulders. Landing The athlete should be landing at the base of their shoulder blades or at the highest, on their shoulder blades. Landing should be comfortably within the confines of the High Jump mat (to ensure the equipment being used is supporting this outcome, see recommended ‘5 – High Jump Equipment’ for recommended mat dimensions). It is recommended that the coach should observe the athlete’s ability to perform these six points with consistency before they are ready to use the Fosbury Flop in competition. Signing Off Prior to attempting the Fosbury Flop in competition, it is recommended that athletes younger than 18 years of age are signed-off by: i) Their personal Accredited Athletics Coach using the template included.

Click here for a printable .doc version


Fosbury Flop Coach Assessment Athlete’s Name: Athlete’s Age: Coach’s Name: Coach’s Accreditation Level:

Observed Not Observed Occasionally

Observed Consistently

1) The athlete’s foot plant prior to takeoff is at approximately 200 to the bar 2) The athlete takes off no further than 85cm along the length of the bar and lands safely within the dimensions of the mat 3) At take-off, the athlete’s back is at right angles to the bar and they maintain the correct posture throughout the jump 4) The athlete clears the bar in the desired position with their hips slightly higher than their knees and shoulders 5) The athlete lands safely on the base of their shoulder blades or no higher than their shoulder blades Mark the Appropriate Box

Enter any additional comments here:

After observing the athlete perform the Fosbury Flop, it is my belief as an Accredited Athletics Coach that the athlete HAS / HAS NOT displayed the physical development, technical ability and emotional maturity to perform the Fosbury Flop safely in competition.

Coach’s Signature: Date:

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Athletics Coach

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Injuries Associated with the Fosbury Flop Accredited Coaches have a responsibility to be aware of

has this part of the body leaning back at touchdown (TD) for

the risks associated with performing the Fosbury Flop and

takeoff (TO) and they brake at TD (reducing their horizontal

how they can contribute to their prevention. Pre-screening

velocity by about half), it results in very large forces being

for existing medical conditions that may affect the athlete’s

transmitted through their lumbar spine. Young jumpers,

ability to High Jump safely should be conducted prior to

especially the taller, thinner ones, generally do not have the

commencing training.

strength or stability in this part of their body to tolerate these forces (loads) on a regular basis. Consequently, they initially

Importance of Supervision by an Accredited Athletics Coach The presence and active supervision of a qualified coach during training sessions and competition has been found to play an essential role in contributing to injury avoidance for all Track and Field jumps events (D’Souza, 1994). An analysis of injuries that occurred in Track and Field demonstrated that 81.8% of athletes who did not have active coaching supervision

develop a stress reaction (indicated by a sore lower back) and

if they keep going, eventually a pars stress fracture of one or more of the lumbar vertebrae - a VERY sore lower back that will see them side-lined from any physical activity for

We should teach our young high jumpers NOT to lean back in the final stride as this leads to them placing high loads through their lumbar spine

suffered an injury over a season,

at least 3 months. To help solve this problem for future generations, we need to do two things. Firstly, we should teach



correct preparation for take-off which is to run fast on the curve to ensure the jumper is leaning

whereas only 40% of those who trained with a qualified coach

away from the bar at TD for TO. This ensures they achieve

suffered an injury in the same timeframe.

the appropriate lowering of the centre of mass (CM) prior to

It is recommended that an Accredited Athletics Coach holding a minimum of Level 2 accreditation is always present and actively supervising athletes performing the Fosbury Flop.

TD and that the take-off forces will be directed through the CM during the take-off itself. Secondly, we should teach our young high jumpers NOT to lean back in the final stride as this leads to them placing high loads through their lumbar spine during the horizontal braking period and spending too long on the ground during the take-off itself, causing them to lean into the bar at TO. The consequent over-rotation resulting

Gary Bourne on High Jump Injury Prevention

from this technique error causes them to land on the back of

“Paediatrician, the late Dr John Mc.Nee was our Jumps squad

their neck and head or high on the shoulders with significant

doctor in Brisbane from 1981-2001. In many conversations

backward somersaulting angular momentum to control at

I had with him about Flop High Jumping, his strong concern

that point.

was the risk of long-term damage to the bones and joints in the cervical spine (neck region). To this end he published

In short; fix up the curve and the run-in to achieve a good

a couple of articles expressing his professional concerns to

lean-away, get rid of the lean-back at TD and you will solve

coaches about children practicing this technique when the

the over-load issue on the lower back as well as reducing the

neck was not ready to cope with the forces involved. He had

risk to the neck on landing for young athletes. The bonus will

several examples of neck injuries sustained by jumpers using

be that they will jump higher due to creating greater impulse

this technique whilst too young and this has remained a

during take-off.”

concern of mine in teaching this event since.

Common Injuries for Young Jumpers Lower back injuries are undoubtedly a concern, but they

It is outside of the High Jump coach’s scope of practice

emanate from a misunderstanding of technique rather than

to diagnose or treat injuries. However, it is beneficial to

the Flop technique itself. Lower back injuries tend to be

understand a little about the more common injuries associated

more prevalent in teenage or young adult jumpers as poor

with High Jump to be able to contribute to the prevention of

technique becomes more of a load issue as they get bigger,

injury and to refer an athlete to a medical professional when

heavier and stronger. About two-thirds of the mass of the

they are experiencing symptoms.

body is in the region from the hips upward. When a jumper

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Athletics Coach

The information below is general in nature and is only intended to provide a broad summary of the subject matter covered. It is not a substitute for medical advice and you should always contact a qualifed medical professional.

to stretch and strengthen the leg muscles may also assist prevention and treatment. Treatment: As directed by a medical professional. Treatment usually focuses on relieving pressure on the heel bone and involves a period of rest between two weeks to two months depending on severity.

Overuse Injuries - General Information Overuse injuries are damage to the body resulting from a repeated action and can affect tendons, cartilage, soft tissue, bone, nerve tissue or muscle-tendon structures.

Check with your Primary Care

Physician to check if non-weight bearing exercises, such as swimming, are appropriate during the recovery period.

Jumper’s Knee (patellar tendonitis) Description: Jumper’s Knee is an overuse injury that results in

As you have learnt from the Principles of Training module,

damage to the patellar tendon. This results in a loss of support

training involves the adaptation of the body to stress,

or anchoring of the patella, causing pain and weakness in the

strengthening the various tissues involved in the training

knee and difficulty straightening the leg.

activity. However, when the training applied is excessive or the technique being trained is incorrect the desired

Symptoms: Knee pain below the kneecap, especially when

adaptation is unable to occur. The excessive overload may

bending the knee, commonly paired with swelling or

cause microscopic injuries, resulting in inflammation to

tenderness. Stiffness is commonly reported the morning

affected areas.

following a training session. Pain may also be experienced in the quadricep or calf muscle.

Overuse injuries develop gradually and follow a common pattern of progression.

Coaches should be aware that symptoms may initially be present as very minor, and athletes may decide to ignore the

Stage 1: Initial discomfort at the start of training that

injury and continue training and competing without seeking

disappears during the warm up.

medical assistance. However, it is important to understand

Stage 2: The pain disappears during warm up but re-appears

that jumper’s knee is considered a serious condition that

towards the end of the session.

can get worse over time and ultimately requires surgical

Stage 3: The pain does not go away after the warm up and

intervention without early medical attention and treatment.

worsens throughout the activity. Stage 4: Continuous pain that worsens during activity.

Causes: Jumper’s Knee usually occurs due to a rapid increase in the quantity or intensity of training or insufficient time for

By identifying the issue quickly and seeking appropriate

recovery between sessions. The tendon is unable to adapt to

medical attention from a trained professional before the

the training load quickly enough, resulting in greater tissue

injury reaches stage 3 or 4, the coach can help the athlete

damage than the body can repair. Dr. Kathleen O’Brien notes

avoid long-term injuries.

that High Jump athletes are at an especially high risk of developing the injury.

Sever’s Disease (Calcaneal apophysitis) Description: Inflammation of the growth plate in the heel,

Coaches should also be aware that tight quadriceps,

usually caused by repetitive stress.

hamstring muscles or poor lower limb biomechanics contribute to Jumper’s knee and should refer the athlete to a

Symptoms: Heel pain that is localised to the posterior and

physiotherapist to correct these issues.

plantar side of the heel. External appearance of the heel is usually normal.

Prevention: Avoiding sudden spikes in training load and ensuring adequate recovery between sessions is the most

Causes: Overuse of the bone and tendons in the heel that may

effective prevention tool. Gentle range-of-motion exercises

occur due to over-training or when children are commencing

and stretching to prevent stiffness may also be prescribed by

High Jump at the start of a new season or for the very first

a physiotherapist.

time. It may also occur as a result of a rapid growth spurt during adolescence.


It is important that a medical professional

evaluates the extent of the injury to prescribe the appropriate Prevention: Avoid running on hard surfaces, avoid excessive

treatment. Mild and moderate Jumper’s Knee can be treated

training load (especially at the start of a new season) and

through rest, icing, strapping, anti-inflammatory medications

ensure athletes have well-fitting shoes. As prescribed by a

and low impact exercises. Surgery is required for more

health professional, age appropriate foot and leg exercises

serious injuries.

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Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease Description: A common cause of knee pain in growing adolescents, Osgood-Schlatter’s disease is an inflammation of the growth plate where the patellar tendon attaches to the tibia, known as the tibial tubercle. Symptoms: Knee pain, swelling and tenderness at the tibial tubercle. The athlete may also experience tight hamstring or quadriceps muscles. Causes: Osgood-Shalatter’s Disease can affect anyone during growth spurts, when bones, muscles and tendons are undergoing rapid changes. However, High Jump increases the risk for this condition as a result of the additional stress on the growth plates, tibia and patellar tendon. Prevention: Avoiding sudden spikes in training load and ensuring adequate recovery between sessions is the most effective prevention tool. Gentle range-of-motion exercises and stretching to prevent stiffness may also be prescribed by a physiotherapist. Treatment: Rest, ice and protection. A doctor will usually focus on reducing pain and swelling through prescribed rest, stretching and possibly anti-inflammatory medication. As it affects the growth plate, most symptoms will disappear when a child completes the adolescent growth spurt.

Plantar fascilitis Description: The inflammation or damage to the plantar fascia, the fibrous band of tissue extending from the heel bone along the sole of the foot towards the toes. Symptoms: Plantar fascilitis most commonly presents as pain

under the heel or in the arch of the foot. Depending on the stage of injury, the pain is commonly greatest with the first steps and improves as the body warms up. Pain will usually return after exercise and be especially bad the morning after training. Causes: Causes of plantar fascilitis can be divided into traction or compression injuries. Traction plantar fascilitis is the most common amongst jumpers. Traction plantar fascilitis are caused by repeated overstretching of the plantar fascilitis. This can be caused by poor foot biomechanics or weakness of the foot arch muscles and exacerbated by footwear with poor support. Tight calf muscles or a stiff ankle increase the risk factor for developing plantar fascilitis. Compression plantar fascilitis is caused by direct trauma to the plantar fascia. Prevention: As foot biomechanics are the main predisposing factor for the injury, working with a biomechanist to correct the athlete’s running and jumping biomechanics may be an effective prevention for athletes with a history of the injury. Keeping the High Jump area clear and ensuring appropriate footwear is worn can assist prevent compression plantar fascilitis. Treatment:

Rest, ice and protection. A doctor may

recommend anti-inflammatory medication. A physiotherapist may develop a strength and flexibility program to strengthen foot arch muscles and improve range of motion. With early treatment, significant recovery is usually experienced within two months.

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Prevention: Developing calf and anterior tibial strength, flexibility and endurance can assist in preventing MTSS in conjunction with wearing appropriate footwear and avoiding rapid changes in training intensity. Treatment:

Rest, ice and protection. Lower limb impact

should be reduced until inflammation has been removed. A physiotherapist may recommend light massage, myofascial release or deep tissue massage.

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome Description: The deterioration and softening of cartilage on the under surface of the knee cap. Jumpers are at significant risk of developing the injury due to the repeated stress experienced by the knee joints during the approach and takeoff action, especially if the athlete has an incorrect technique that exacerbates load on the knee. Symptoms: Pain and tenderness over the patella tendon, exacerbated during activities that apply pressure to the knee joints (e.g. jumping and landing and feet). Onset of pain is normally gradual rather than traumatic. Another common symptom is a ‘grinding’ sensation when bending or extending the knee. Causes: Runner’s knee occurs when the patella (kneecap) rubs against the femur (thigh bone), leading to deterioration of the patellofemoral joint. It commonly occurs as an overuse injury from repeated stresses to the knee but may also result

Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (Shin Splints) Description: Commonly referred to as ‘shin splints’ MTSS is an overuse injury that results in the inflammation of the muscles, tendons and bone tissue around the tibia (shinbone). Symptoms: A pain experienced anywhere along the shinbone from the knee to the ankle. Pain generally develops gradually over several weeks and may be felt throughout and after any activity. Less frequently, swelling develops in the lower leg with small bumps along either side of the shin bone. Causes: Overpronation during the High Jump runup and takeoff is believed to be a significant contributing factor to MTSS. This is where the athlete’s foot strike during the approach has an excessive flattening of the foot arch, resulting in the force not being evenly spread throughout the foot. This places increased pressure on the arch of the foot and greatly increases the stress placed on the lower leg. Weakness or tightness in the posterior muscles may place

from poor biomechanical control, weak hamstrings and quadriceps muscles or abnormal muscle imbalance between the adductors and abductors. In some cases, patellofemoral pain syndrome is caused by misalignment of the knee due to a congenital condition. As highlighted in Section 3, it is important to have an athlete signed off by their Primary Care Physician prior to commencing regular Fosbury Flop training. Prevention: Developing calf and anterior tibial strength, flexibility and endurance can assist in preventing MTSS in conjunction with wearing appropriate footwear and avoiding rapid changes in training intensity. Treatment: Rest, ice and protection. The goal of treatment is to reduce pressure on the kneecap and joints. With enough rest, cartilage damage will often repair itself. In some cases, surgery may be required to correct misalignment of the knee, to release tension and allow for a greater range of movement.

excessive strain on the on the muscles in the front part of the lower leg.

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Athletics Coach

Sprained Ankle Description: An acute injury that results in the overstretching or tearing of the ankle ligaments. Symptoms: Depending on the severity of the sprain, a sprained ankle may result in mild pain during weight bearing exercises, or ongoing severe pain. A sprained ankle can affect the athlete’s balance, movement and in moderate and severe cases, result in severe swelling and stiffness. Causes: Sprained ankles are an acute injury that result from a force being applied to the ankle joint, which causes an excessive range of movement. The biggest risk factor for a sprained ankle is having a previous ankle injury that has not fully recovered. Other causes include lack of ankle strength, lack of ankle flexibility and poor balance. Prevention: Sports Medicine Australia recommend regular agility, flexibility, balance and strengthening exercises as the most effective method for avoiding sprained ankles. Athletes who have a history of sprained ankles should avoid returning

Causes: Incorrect landing technique that results in the athlete landing on their neck places high flexion loading on the cervical spine. Prevention: Establishing correct landing technique from the athlete’s first introduction to the Fosbury Flop reduces the loading on the neck. Coaches must take action when they observe an athlete who continues to land on their neck to correct the issue. This may necessitate removing the bar until the athlete has perfected the desired landing position. Treatment: All spinal issues should immediately be referred to a medical professional for diagnosis. Generally, return to sport will not be approved by physicians until the athlete is asymptomatic and full neck strength and function is restored.

Technical Skills to be Trained

to jumping until approved by a sports medicine expert and

The following activities should not be considered as a

may benefit from ankle taping or bracing.

comprehensive description of all activities which should be undertaken to ensure that athletes are ready to perform the

When performing the scissors, the appropriateness of the

Flop high jump technique but provide a guide of the types

landing area must be considered by the coach. Surfaces that

of skills that athletes should practise to develop an efficient

are uneven (including old/damaged high jump bags) must be

Fosbury Flop technique.

avoided. These skills should be combined with an age-appropriate Treatment: Rest, ice and protection. A sports medicine

strength and conditioning program designed by an expert

professional should be seen as quickly as possible after the

Strength and Conditioning coach and tailored for the unique

injury to determine the extent and tailor an appropriate

requirements and challenges of the High Jump.

treatment plan. Most sprained ankles heal within six weeks, but severe sprains can take as long as 12 weeks to

Running on a Curve

recover. A physiotherapist can plan an effective High Jump-

The athlete should aim to run with an upright (vertical) posture

specific rehabilitation program that strengthens the ankle

while learning inwards. Gary Bourne states that running

to aid recovery and avoid reoccurrence of the injury. This is

a curve on its own (without a jump) has a technical benefit

especially important for sprained ankles, as a previous sprain

for beginner athletes and physical conditioning benefit to

is the most significant risk factor of future injury.

beginner and experienced athletes.

Chronic Repetitive Flexion Injury of the Cervical Spine

Running Technique for the High Jump Approach

Description: An overuse flexion or forward hinging injury of

The coach should observe a taller body posture and higher knee lift than during top speed sprinting.

the cervical spine, noted to occur in High Jumpers with poor landing technique. The cervical spine is the topmost part

Rhythmical Accelerated Run-up

of the spine, running alone the neck from the skull to the

The athlete should demonstrate a gradual acceleration from

thoracic spine (upper back).

the start of the run up, throughout the curve and all the way to the touch down for take-off, reaching optimal speed for

Symptoms: Athletes will experience pain in the neck,

take-off at touch down.

stiffness moving the head from side to side and occasionally neck spasms in more severe cases. Physicians will look for

Accurate J-Shaped Run-up

compression fractures or kyphotic angulation to confirm the

The athlete should develop a J-shaped run up that allows


them to arrive at the correct take-off point consistently. The coach should ensure that the athlete does not step outside of the curve on the penultimate stride or inside of the curve on

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the final four strides prior to take-off by ‘steering’ towards the takeoff point. This can be most easily achieved by marking the curve on the ground with chalk or tape during training. Required Lean-Away at Take Off Successful Flop High Jumpers exhibit very little or no leaning back through the trunk at touchdown for take-off. However, they do exhibit a significant “lean-away” position (15 degrees and often more) that is acquired as a result of running fast on a curve. This lean-away (not lean-back) is what produces the necessary lowering of the centre of mass during the preparation for take-off. The reason for the upright trunk position at touchdown is that the Flop technique capitalises on “lean-away” gained from good curve running, along with the take-off foot out and across the body in front, during the eccentric phase of the take-off. The horizontal and centrifugal braking that occurs at touchdown about the horizontal and sagittal axes of the jumper stretches the tendons and muscles involved in take-off while allowing the athlete to minimize their take-off time. This elastic energy is available immediately at the end of the eccentric phase for the rapid upward acceleration of the body. It is also supported to varying degrees by concentric contraction during the latter half of take-off time. The take-away is that it is important to develop a technical model where the jumper arrives at the take-off with minimal or no lean back but a lean away of approximately 15 degrees. Rotation Ask the athlete to run five strides in a straight line, then plant the foot straight and drive their swing leg knee forcefully upward. At the same-time they should reach vertical upward with the arm on the swing leg side. Ask them to hold their landing position. After landing ask them to note the direction of their hips and landing

All early Flop learning sessions should include the use of a flexible elastic bar held by the hands of responsible helpers or secured on stable uprights that cannot collapse inwards onto the athlete if the bar is snagged.

foot. They will have rotated in the air approximately 90 degrees. Point out to them that this rotation is a consequence of the angular momentum gained from the eccentric force generated during the take-off movements on one side of the body and then transferred to the whole body at take-off (the definition of an eccentric force is a force directed outside of the CM). The rate of rotation (in individual cases) is a matter of manipulating the angular momentum of the body in flight, thus increasing or decreasing their angular velocity of the body (how fast and how far they will rotate) by raising the arm and maintaining a vertical posture – or not. Give the rotating ice skater or gymnast examples where distributing the mass of the body further than the axis of rotation slows the rate of rotation and bringing the mass closer speeds rotation up. Get them to try this several times, emphasising that it is not necessary to drive the knee across the body during take-off. Get them to try it while extending both arms outward (less rotation) or with an extended (straight) swing leg (much more rotation).

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Athletics Coach

Raising the Centre of Mass at Take-off Look for toe up, knee up and arm up and ensure that the centre of mass is above the take-off foot. Knee Drive Speed Look for a fast knee drive through the creation of a short lever of the swinging leg and a longer penultimate stride and shorter take-off stride. Ensure that the knee of the swinging leg is not trailing the hip at touchdown for take-off. Clearance Position Ask the athlete to drive the arm up or reach vertically during the take-off movement, then guide it along the bar during the early flight before reaching under the bar toward the lead leg foot during clearance. This reduces the moment of inertia of the body about its horizontal axis during clearance, increasing

High Jump Equipment Using appropriate equipment, ensuring that it is of a suitable condition and complying with all relevant Education Department, Athletics Australia or IAAF recommendations is essential for avoiding injuries during High Jump. Recommended High Jump Mat Dimensions IAAF Guidelines: The landing mat should not measure less than 6m x 4m, with a height of no less than 70cm with a covering of a spike proof protective mat.

the rate of rotation about the bar at this point.

Athletics Australia recommends that for secondary schools,

Avoid instructing young athletes to ‘arch’ over the bar as this

3m, and where athletes are jumping 1.50m or higher the

the landing area should, where possible, be at least 6m x

will often lead to the athlete hyperextending their spine. This has the potential to cause damage to the spine over the longterm, especially when coaching young athletes.

possible, 70cm). The mats should have a protective wear pad, which covers any gaps between the units which make up the landing area.

Control of Rotation Teach the athlete how to control their trunk and limbs to slow

down rotation on the way to peak height, increase the speed of rotation during bar clearance, then decrease the speed of rotation during the fall to the mats.

minimum height of the mats should be at least 60cm (if

Avoid instruction young athletes to ‘arch’ over the bar as this will often lead to the athlete hyperextending their spine

Flexi Bar Using a Flexi Bar is an appropriate modification for developing athletes that avoids injuries that may occur when an athlete lands on a fibreglass bar. It is important that coaches ensure that when using a Flexi Bar that the uprights are secured sufficiently to ensure that they do not collapse inwards and fall on the athlete should they become entangled in the bar during their jump. High Jump Spikes Appropriate footwear contributes to avoidance of injury that may occur when an athlete slips during their approach. High Jump spikes differ from sprinting spikes in that they include spikes in the heel to offer additional grip and reduce the likelihood of loss of traction. This is especially important when planting the foot for take-off. Video Equipment The regular use of a video camera or mobile phone capable of slow-motion playback is important for providing accurate feedback on curve running, touchdown and take-off positions, and clearance position. Even the most experienced coach will be unable to see all the important information during the phases of the Fosbury Flop without the aid of video equipment, and recording is an essential tool for analysing the technique of a jumper. It also assists athletes’ own learning by giving them a visual understanding of what they did. Triangular Bars In no circumstances should triangular or square bars ever be used.

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State Education Requirements The following states have High Jump safety policies that must be followed when coaching in a school training or competition setting.

Supervisor Requirements: High jumping should only be permitted where teachers or instructors are experienced in high jump instruction or have appropriate qualifications.

New South Wales: Department of Education Supervisor

Victoria: Department of Education and Training





have appropriate expertise and or training in the teaching/ coaching in Athletics. Fosbury Flop Requirements: Specially selected students who display promise in the lead-up activities should be chosen for development in small specialised groups conducted by teachers or coaches with specific expertise in the event.

Fosbury Flop Requirements: The Fosbury Flop technique can be used if‌the students have developed the necessary preliminary skills for the run up, take off , flight and landing phases of the jump. Western Australia: Department of Education Supervisor Requirements: Supervising teachers should have had specific training in the use of the technique or should have a clear working knowledge of all aspects of the technique.

Queensland: Education Queensland Supervisor Requirements: An adult with Level 2 Intermediate Club Coach accreditation. Fosbury Flop Requirements: Fosbury flop high jump is unsuitable for class groups. Only students aged 10 and over may be engaged in Fosbury Flop High Jump. Students

Do you have any feedback or questions on the recommendations made in this article? Let us know by clicking here.

who show promise in lead up activities may be chosen for development in small, specialised groups.

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Issue 3 / 2018


Building a Coaching Philosophy The coaching philosophy you choose is central to how you

daily basis. If you try to become someone that you are not or if

define your career and how your team functions in practices

you adopt someone else's values, you will have a difficult time

and competitive situations. The coaching philosophy is the

representing foreign values in your own actions.

foundation of your program; it not only guides you and your staff, but it also sets the stage for the athletes on your team. It

Perhaps the most significant difference in the philosophy

leads them to assume responsibility for their own actions and

of a track and field coach versus that of a coach in a more

decisions, and it encourages them to meet the expectations

traditional team sport is that in track and field, an athlete can

that affect them as individual athletes and as an entire team.

have measurable, quantitative success individually. These individual successes have to be viewed in terms of how they

As a young coach, you will create a dynamic philosophy that

affect the total team performance. For example, you can

will continue to evolve throughout your career until such time

easily have three or four athletes that are outstanding in one

as you are comfortable and confident with the way you make

or two events but still have a losing team result. As a track and

decisions for your team. Your coaching philosophy inevitably

field coach, your ability to orchestrate, or blend, the egos and

is shaped by the experiences you gain working with different

accomplishments of individual athletes will be an important

athletes in various situations. Ultimately, your philosophy

ingredient of your philosophy. Coaches of traditional team

comprises the values you hold in highest regard and the

sports, on the other hand, usually base their coaching

ones you are comfortable sharing with and teaching to the

philosophies on the performance of the athletes functioning

athletes that make up your team. One such value may be that

as a unit. For example, to be successful, all 11 players in

the actions of one individual can affect the entire team. For

football must execute their portion of the play correctly. If one

example, if one relay member misses one or more practices,

of the 11 athletes fails in his performance, it could directly

the athlete's absence can not only negatively affect the

affect the success of the whole team.

remaining three athletes in practice, but it may also affect the entire team. If the absence causes the relay to drop the baton

There are some consistent principles that go into creating

during an exchange, the team may therefore lose points in a

your own coaching philosophy, whether you are coaching


track and field or another sport:

Most young people function from an individual perspective

Be yourself.

as opposed to a group perspective; this provides a teaching

Define your coaching objectives.

opportunity for the coach. The values that coaches teach may

Establish rules.

be few or numerous, but they almost always include such

Build and nurture relationships with athletes.

concepts as being on time, working as a group, accepting

Be organized.

responsibility, and being good citizens. In short, your

Involve your assistant coaches.

philosophy is composed of the same values that govern your

Help athletes manage their stress.

own life; therefore, they are easy to teach and easy to use on a

Focus on the big picture.

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Athletics Coach M a g a z i n e

Thank you to all Accredited Athletics Coaches who continue to contribute positively to the health, happiness and sportsmanship of their athletes and runners. Š Athletics Australia 2018

Profile for Athletics Coach

Athletics Coach - Issue 3, 2018