Techniques Spring 2021

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Contents Volume 14 Number 3 / February 2021

PUBLISHER Sam Seemes EXECUTIVE EDITOR Mike Corn

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DIRECTOR OF MEDIA, BROADCASTING AND ANALYTICS Tom Lewis

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MEMBERSHIP SERVICES Kristina Taylor COMMUNICATIONS Lauren Ellsworth, Tyler Mayforth PHOTOGRAPHER Kirby Lee EDITORIAL BOARD Tommy Badon, Scott Christensen, Todd Lane, Derek Yush ART DIRECTOR Tiffani Reding Amedeo

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PUBLISHED BY Renaissance Publishing LLC 110 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA 70005 (504) 828-1380 myneworleans.com

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USTFCCCA National Office 1100 Poydras Street, Suite 1750 New Orleans, LA 70163 Phone: 504-599-8900

FEATURES

Fax: 504-599-8909

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The Path of the Pole

BY DAVID BUTLER

Website: ustfccca.org

The Carry, Plant and Flight

14 The DXA Method Techniques (ISSN 1939-3849) is published quarterly in February, May, August and November by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. Copyright 2021. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any manner, in whole or in part, without the permission of the publisher. techniques is not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts, photos and artwork even if accompanied by a self-addressed stamped envelope. The opinions expressed in techniques are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the magazines’ managers or owners. Periodical Postage Paid at New Orleans La and Additional Entry Offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: USTFCCCA, PO Box 55969, Metairie, LA 70055-5969. If you would like to advertise your business in techniques, please contact Mike Corn at (504) 599-8900 or mike@ustfccca.org.

Body Composition and Bone Mineral Density

BY DONALD R. DENGEL, PH.D.

22 Skillful Integration

Coaching the Sprint Hurdles

BY JASON KILGORE

ON THE COVER: LISA GUNNARSSON OF LSU WINS THE ELITE WOMEN’S COMPETITION AT 14-9 (4.50M)DURING THE NATIONAL POLE VAULT SUMMIT, FRIDAY, JAN. 17, 2020 PHOTOGRAPH BY KIRBY LEE IMAGE OF SPORT

30 Establishing an Orbital Pathway

Understanding the Connective Chain Relationship

BY TODD LINDER

39 Maximum Strength, Maximum Force

Strength Training for Athletics

BY STEVE THOMAS

FEBRUARY 2021 techniques

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The Path of the Pole The Carry and Plant Will Make or Break a Flight DAVID BUTLER

ENTERING THE POLE ENTERING THE POLE IS ESSENTIALLY “THE VAULTER’S BODY BECOMING PART OF THE POLE.” ENTERING THE BEND OF THE POLE MEANS THAT THE “VAULTER BENDS WITH THE BEND.” Back in the day, when vaulters first used wood, then bamboo, then steel and alu6

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minum, they had to figure out the ways to get the pole to accelerate toward the pit. This was very important, because these pathfinders of the pole vault had to land on upturned earth, sand or sawdust (or a combination of all three) and they did not want to come up short. Landing was hard enough without falling back onto hard ground. Rough landings did not feel

good. Another reason these forerunners developed the techniques they practiced in the vault was to clear a higher bar. They wanted medals, records and PRs. So, the straight pole or steel vault was created and progressed right up to the invention of fiberglass. As the early fiberglass vaulters learned the mechanics of a bending pole, they KIRBY LEE IMAGE OF SPORT


BUBKA: NOTICE THE VERTICAL LINE FROM THE ELASTIC BOTTOM HAND THROUGH THE HIPS AT TAKEOFF, VERY SIMILAR TO WARMERDAM’S HANDSHIFTING ELASTIC POSITION.

utilized their longstanding, proven straight pole techniques and applied them to moving a fiberglass pole. Techniques they practiced that strongly apply to rotating fiberglass. 1.Jump off the ground through the center of the pole. 2.Both hands move up, shoulders elastically expand, bottom elbow bends. 3.Swing long and fast. I know this seems simplistic, but that’s the beauty of it. Jump like Warmerdam, Gutowski, Richards, Meadows or Smith, and your straight pole work will morph into a beautiful, accelerating vault. To be able to enter, the vaulter must allow his/her body to elastically expand into and toward the pole. The old straightpolers did this by shifting the bottom hand up to the top hand, creating an open, stretching and casting of the hips up toward the pole. Both hands together and stretching up and back accelerated the body into a powerful giant swing to vertical. In fiberglass vaulting, the bottom arm bends at the elbow, and the hand expands to a vertical line from the hand and through the hips. This is entering the pole and accelerating the pole. The sequence of learning to get this “elastic plant” extended above the head? 1. Fibernose, where the left hand/arm breaks into the face and then the vaulter swings. Note: Try blocking with a straight, stiff bottom arm and see if the swing accelerates as fast and the pole moves to vertical. 2. Fiberhead, as the vaulter begins to make more space off the ground and pushes the pole a little higher, the bottom

BUBKA: NOTICE THE VERTICAL LINE FROM THE ELASTIC BOTTOM HAND THROUGH THE HIPS AT TAKEOFF, VERY SIMILAR TO WARMERDAM’S HANDSHIFTING ELASTIC POSITION.

hand bends into and just above the forehead of the vaulter. This extension mirrors the vaulters of the 1960s and 1970s. This is how these early pathfinders found the way to make that bending pole move, not just bend. 3. Entering the pole as the vaulter jumps through his/her left elbow, the bent arm creating a “window” for the vaulter to jump through. Note: Look at any photo from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, shot from behind the pit, and you will see this window. In the late 1980s and early ’90s, a few vaulters began a new technique. The blocking of the arms/shoulders became the big left arm and forcebending the pole became all the rage. To this day, many vaulters block off the ground, then break the pressure to swing past the pole. Yes, this blocking, breaking or rowing to attempt to get upsidedown IS a way to pole vault, but I believe the natural, historical method moves the pole in a better air pathway. Entering the pole in what is called elastic can really create a high invert on top of the bend of the pole. I suppose Sergey Bubka is the one to study, but most of our youth do not study the vaulters of the past. I truly believe that we all must know who came before to know where we are going. The gradual raising of the bottom arm from a flexed, frozen position to a full extension is a natural progression of pushing the pole higher and higher toward the vertical. It is a great way for the vaulter to learn to pole vault. It is a technique born in sawdust and sand. GETTING TRAPPED AT TAKEOFF Under is never a positive thing. Under at takeoff is when the vaulter jumps too close


PATH OF THE POLE

ON - ARMS EXTENDED AND ELASTIC - HIPS SWING POWERFUL, LONG - TAKEOFF ANGLE UP AND DYNAMIC - VAULTER PUSHES POLE UP TOWARDS VERTICAL - VAULTER SWINGS TO VERTICAL INVERT

UNDER - TENSE - LOW ANGLE TAKEOFF - POLE VAULTER CAUGHT ON THE GROUND AT BOXSTRIKE - POLE ROTATION DECELERATES - SWING SLOWS, BREAKS AND PEELS OUT - BODY FALLS OFF LIKE A ROCK

to the box in relationship to their top-hand grip. The takeoff placement should be directly under a vertical line from the top hand. Anything ahead of that vertical line is under. Under means that the vaulter gets “trapped” and it becomes a struggle to get out. Trapped can be a cause of injury because the body is not postural, not centered, not in a strong pushing position. It’s like lifting a weight with the feet in the wrong place or gripping the bar too far to one side and not centered. Trapped results usually in a unsuccessful vault. The pole’s rotation decelerates, and the body will fall off the pole. The vault will seem to be in parts, with hesitations and freezes in the movement. Trapped makes it difficult for the vault to be accelerated and fluid.

How to stop being trapped? Check to see if the tip of the pole is falling actively or held statically. A low pole or a late drop of the pole can cause the vaulter to be under and get trapped. Taking off ON keeps the vaulter from getting trapped. 1. During approach, watch the pole drop and carry. 2. Are the feet turning over with acceleration or deceleration? 3. Is the plant accelerating toward vertical or is it hesitant? If the vaulter is overstepping or striding into takeoff, they are too far OUT and will overcompensate by reaching and will become trapped. A pole dropped too early or late can be the cause of the overstriding. When the vaulter learns to stop getting trapped, they will push the pole higher, takeoff higher and move the pole. The vault will look fluid and be a dynamic

accelerating fly away over the bar.

Getting Trapped 1. Trapped stops the poles upward rotation. 2. Trapped closes the shoulders, tenses the arms and inhibits elasticity. 3. Trapped breaks the swing and decelerates the swing, making it difficult for the vaulter to get inverted on top of the bend of the pole.

Open Up, Bend into the Bend Being elastic and allowing arms to move up at takeoff, creates the acceleration of the hips up and forward. With the hips engaged, the swing can now accelerate. As the vaulter makes the “inverted C,” the body bends into and with the bend of the pole. This bending makes the vaulter’s body become the pole. An elastic opening is a very powerful movement that accelerates the pole toward vertical, creating great pole speed.

Even today, handshifting or narrow-grip straight pole vaulting is a fantastic way to teach vaulters to move the pole, rotate the pole, accelerate the pole and therefore, accelerate the swinging body of the vaulter. Bend with the bend of the pole. Enter the pole and feel the power of the vaulters of history. Vault in their spike steps of the greats of the past. Vault like a sawdust vet.

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TRAPPED TAKING OFF UNDER IS “GETTING TRAPPED OR STUCK” UNDER THE POLE. THE BODY IS COMPRESSED, BROKEN, OFF BALANCE, A WEAK POSITION TO ATTEMPT TO PUSH THE POLE TOWARD VERTICAL. THE POLE PICKS

THE VARIOUS DYSFUNCTIONAL PLANTS & CARRIES OF THE POLE VAULT HOW NOT TO MOVE THE POLE TO VERTICAL As many families have dysfunctional family members, so does the plant of the pole vault. The action of the plant must be done so that the vaulter can obtain full extension to “push the pole” to vertical. Unfortunately, many vaulters have a “dysfunctional” movement of the pole that can impede the vaulter’s progress to higher heights. Planting the pole incorrectly can create imbalance, tension, decelerations and a breakdown of an upright posture of the vaulter. Take off angle and pole angle can be compromised. Before the plant presentation, carrying the pole incorrectly or in a weak position can negatively affect the plant movement.



PATH OF THE POLE PROBLEMS TO WATCH FOR DYSFUNCTIONAL CARRIES

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

The Finger Hang The Cupped Top Hand Choo-Choo Arms Texas Chicken Wing (Pump) Weak Wimpy Wrist Hip Attached Top Hand Belly Button Bottom Hand Pretzel Arm Twist Four Steps Out

DYSFUNCTIONAL PLANTS

1. The Freeze (Hesitation) before plant 2. The Freeze Flip (Hesitation at penultimate) 3. Drop Both Hands Then Plant 4. Drop Bottom Hand (Front), Push Out Then Up 5. The Roundhouse Plant 6. The Behind the Head Twist Plant (Egyptian) 7. The Elbow Lead-Curled Wrist Plant (Popeye) 8. The Penultimate Plant 9. The Freeze Bottom Hand Plant 10. Slow Hands. Fast Feet. Slow Feet (Arrhythmic) AT BOXSTRIKE

1. Fibernose (A natural progression) 2. Fiberhead (A natural progression 3. The Head Skimmer-Scraper 4. Collapsing Bottom Arm 5. The Block 6. The Tension (Hulk) 7. The Elbow In 8. The “A-OK” Loose Grip Plant THE POLE TIP

1. Static Carry 2. Late Drop 3. Drop Too Early

The plant starts from the first step out of the back. A dysfunctional carry and/or pole drop can create a dysfunctional plant. Attention must be paid to: The bottom arm’s wrist and elbow position (wrist must be cocked and elbow slightly tucked,) tip (of the pole) position and its angle and weight distribution out of the back (at least 70 degrees and most weight in the top hand), and the pole drop. (Is it carried statically and like a dead weight or actively, falling with the acceleration of the run?) If the “drop” is too early, weight of the pole is “front heavy” and the plant is negatively affected. Drop the tip “too late” and the movement of the feet will decelerate to coordinate with the hands, causing imbalances and tension. Look for the pole tip to be an active 45 degrees or higher at six steps out from takeoff. 10

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Any of these “dysfunctional plants” or “carries” will decelerate the pole’s bend and rotation toward vertical, resulting in a “breaking of the vaulter’s body” into a premature “pike or tuck” and the “flaring out” of the falling inversion. A dysfunctional plant, tense and late, lowers the angle of attack and bends the bottom half of the pole, causing a “slower, longer” length of the pole decelerating toward the crossbar. Essentially, a dysfunctional plant or carry shuts down the fluidity of the vault, making it look robotic, in broken stages of movement. These dysfunctions of the plant will cause a late tense plant, in turn creating a “fibernose or fiberhead” collapsing of the arms at takeoff or a “blocking/ closing of the shoulders.” In other words, “a snowball rolls downhill.” Coaches and vaulters must pay atten-

tion to the little things to make their movements as fluid and flowing as possible. A dysfunctional plant creates a dysfunctional vault, one that stops or appears in parts, rather than an accelerating force. The rotation of both the body and the pole should accelerate to vertical, not have breaks or delays. If the vault appears robotic, look to the carry, drop and plant of the pole to find the problem. I repeat, a dysfunctional plant creates “broken rotation” of the pole and the body. And the plant itself does not stop when the pole strikes the box. The arms and shoulders should continue to expand elastically toward the vertical, with the vaulter’s body jumping through the bent elbow of the left arm (bottom hand). This bent elbow allows the vaulter to reconnect with the pole and initiates the realignment


FEBRUARY 2021 techniques

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PATH OF THE POLE

DYSFUNCTIONAL PLANTS AND CARRY EXPLANATION

COACHES AND VAULTERS MUST “PAY ATTENTION TO THE LITTLE THINGS” TO MAKE THEIR MOVEMENTS AS FLUID AND FLOWING AS POSSIBLE!

Fibernose, Fiberhead, and Head Skimmer Are natural progressions of a vaulter gradually creating more extension at boxstrike They are “dysfunctional” if the plant does not improve, yet “functional” in that they are within the steps of planting with more extension.

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Coaches and vaulters must “pay attention to the little things” to make their movements as fluid and flowing as possible!

1. The Finger Hang Carrying the weight of the pole, hanging from three fingers in the last six steps. 2. The Cupped Top Hand The top hand’s wrist is cupped or curled as it grips the pole. 3. Choo-Choo Arms In approach, the vaulter pumps his/her arms back and forth, a wasted movement. 4. Texas Chicken Wing Pump The bottom elbow is pumped up and down during approach run. 5. Weak Wimpy Wrist The bottom arm’s wrist is broken or curled as pole is carried. 6. Hip Attached Top Hand The top hand is held against the hip as the pole is dropped into the bottom hand pushing out away from the torso. 7. Belly Button Bottom Hand The pole is pulled back against the body, with the top hand nearly fully extended. Not the worst thing to do, because this can serve as a counterbalance of the pole. 8. Pretzel Arm Twist A few steps out, the top hand’s elbow is twisted out away from the body just a moment before initiating the plant. 9. The Freeze (Hesitation) 4 Steps Out The vaulter “sets” his/her hands, hesitates just before initiating the plant presentation. 10. The Freeze Flip at Penultimate Four steps out, the vaulter flips the pole up to head level and holds the pole straight out for a step before trying to finish the plant, usually late. 11. Drop Both Hands Both hands lower the pole, creating more distance to attempt to extend to vertical. 12. Drop the Bottom Hand and Push Out Within the last six steps, the tip is dropped and bottom hand drops and pushes the plant out, then up late toward vertical. 13. The Roundhouse Plant Curling the pole out and around the body during the plant motion. 14. The Behind the Head Twist Plant The top hand is flipped behind the head, body overly twisted, resulting in arms extending late and takeoff off balance and trapped. 15. The Elbow Lead-Curled Wrist Plant The top hand’s arm is curled with the elbow leading the action. This results in the top hand reaching the vertical late. It is like Popeye making a muscle. 16. Penultimate Plant The initiation of the plant is a step late. 17. Freeze the Bottom Hand Plant The bottom arm does not reach to full extension, rather, it freezes and the arm hits the box bent and in a weak position, blocking or collapsing. 18. Slow Hands, Fast Feet, Slow Feet The plant’s movement is arrhythmic to the acceleration of the sprint, causing the feet to slow down to match the arms.


of the body with a powerful swing to invert. However, there are a few more “dysfunctions” to mention after the tip hits the box: 1. Fibernose: The collapsing of the left arm so that the fist is near the face or nose of the vaulter. 2. Fiberhead: The plant is extended just enough for the bottom arm’s fist to be forehead level. 3. Head Skimmer-Scraper: The left hand is above the head with the arm seemingly framing the head, head entering the arm. 4. Collapsing Bottom Arm: The vaulter freezes the bottom hand at boxstrike, the hand crosses the head and plants near the opposite ear. The hand and elbow seemingly pull down at takeoff. 5. Block & Break: The vaulter “force bends” the pole with static shoulders, or frozen bent bottom arm, or stiff straight arms. The only way the vaulter can get upside down is by breaking the bottom arm at the elbow, releasing the pressure and allowing the swing to pass. 6. The Tension: Like the comic book character the Hulk, if a vaulter tenses at takeoff, the pole bends lower, the vaulter’s body breaks and decelerates and pulls. This is “pull vaulting,” not “pole vaulting.” 7. The Elbow In: Many learn to flex the elbow in order to swing past the pole, especially when performing the old straight pole “pop-up.” The elbow flexing inward is a form of pulling and stops the rotation of the pole. The elbow should expand outwards, and upwards, as the vaulter jumps through its bend. 8. The A-Ok Loose Grip Plant: The bottom hand hits the box slightly open and the pole bends as the hand appears like “holding a cup of tea,” fingers open and hardly gripping the pole. Remember, the plant of the pole is strongly influenced by the pole’s falling weight, the rhythm of the movement of the arms and legs, the vaulter’s ability to bend as the pole bends, and the head position throughout the vault. THE TIP OF THE POLE (WATCH IT!) 1. A static tip (is a deadweight and not moving with the body) 2. A late drop (Falling from too high too late) 3. Drop too early ( causes many dysfunctions of the plant) RECOMMENDATIONS: 1. Always look at the position and angle of the pole tip in the last eight steps. It should be falling through the eye line three steps out to assure continuous movement of the plant. 2. Notice the rhythm of the body, a coordination of the arms and legs working together. 3. Relaxation is a key of success. Tension stops pole rotation. 4. We spend well over 90% of our time and attention to approach, pole drop, and plant/takeoff. 5. Always look at “what came before” within the technical problem; chances are, something little caused the most noticeable flaw. The flight of the vaulter is forecast by the plant and carry of the pole. An unsuccessful flight is caused by a dysfunctional plant and many times, a dysfunctional plant is caused by the incorrect carry of the pole down the runway.

DAVID BUTLER IS IN HIS 19TH YEAR AS AN ASSISTANT COACH OF BOTH THE MEN’S AND WOMEN’S POLE VAULTERS AT RICE UNIVERSITY, WHERE HE HAS PRODUCED OVER 70 CONFERENCE AND NCAA MEDAL WINNERS. FEBRUARY 2021 techniques

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The DXA Method

Body Composition and Bone Mineral Density of NCAA Division I Collegiate Male and Female Track And Field Athletes DONALD R. DENGEL, PH.D.

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ot too long ago, I wrote an article (Dengel & Dengel, 2016) for Techniques for Track & Field and Cross Country on the importance of measuring body composition in track and field athletes. In that article, I discussed the pros and cons of various methods that can be used to determine body composition. In addition, I also presented the percent body fat values from a number of papers for male and female track and field athletes by event. Most of the meth-

ods used to determine body composition fall into one of two categories (i.e., twocomponent model and three-component model methods). These categories are determined by the number of compartments the method can actually determine. The simplest (and typically the cheapest) methods to measure body composition fall into the two-component model to estimate body composition. These methods place the total body mass of an individual into two separate components: the first

component being the amount of fat mass in the body and the second component consisting of the amount of fat-free mass contained in the body. The second component (i.e., fat-free mass) combines bone and muscle into the same value. Common two-component body composition methods are hydrostatic underwater weighing, bioelectrical impedance (BIA), skinfolds, air displacement (BodPodTM), and circumference measures.

KIRBY LEE IMAGE OF SPORT


The three-component model methods of body composition are like the two-component model methods in that it measures fat mass; however, this method also measures both the bone mass and lean skeletal mass (i.e., muscle) separately. Common three-component model methods to determine body composition are dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT). Three-component methods of determining body composition are typically expensive and over the measurement of total body composition are not practical. Of the three-component model methods to determine body composition, the DXA is by far the most widely utilized method.

DXA, like other three-component model methods of measuring body composition, determines total muscle, bone and fat masses, but it can also determine regional body composition (i.e., arms, legs, trunk, etc.). By measuring regional body composition, one can determine asymmetries between legs or arms in muscle, bone and fat masses. In addition, measuring regional body composition allows one to look at upper and lower body muscle mass ratios. These ratios are can be significant factors in the performance of certain sports.

Although bone does not typically account for a great amount of the total body mass of an individual, by actually measuring bone mass, three-component model methods have greater accuracy than the two-component model methods of measuring body composition. Being able to measure bone also allows one to determine bone mineral density, which is important in individuals and athletes who may be at risk for low bone mineral density and possibly stress fractures, etc. Until recently, the DXA was mainly used in clinical settings. However, over the last few years, it has gained greater acceptance in measuring body composition outside of clinical settings. The cost of DXA scanners has decreased significantly over the years, and coupled with the accuracy and speed that it can measure body composition, DXA has started to become more widely used outside of the clinical setting. In fact, a number of professional and collegiate teams have started to utilize DXA scanners to measure body composition in athletes.

At the time of the initial publication in Techniques for Track & Field and Cross Country on body composition in track and field athletes, there was very little body composition data in this population using three-component model methods of body composition. Therefore, the values presented in that article were from two-component model methods of body composition (i.e., skinfolds, hydrostatic underwater weighing). Since the publication of that article (Dengel & Dengel, 2016) a group of NCAA Division I Universities that utilize DXA to monitor body composition in their athletes pooled their data together to form the Consortium of College Athlete Research (C-CAR). Utilizing the C-CAR database, I recently wrote an article on body composition in NCAA Division I Universities track and field athletes that was published in the Journal of Clinical Densitometry (Dengel et al., 2020). At the time, the C-CAR database consisted of 590 male and female track and field athletes. Due to the large number of athletes tested, we were able to examine these athletes by sex and event. In addition, by using DXA to determine body composition, we were able to go beyond the original papers used to write the initial article that appeared in Techniques for Track & Field and Cross Country that had only used twocomponent model methods to measure body composition. We were able to separate the measure of fat-free mass into lean skeletal muscle and bone masses. Further, we were able to examine the bone mineral density of these athletes. It is important to remember that the data contained in that paper is on NCAA Division I Collegiate male and female track and field athletes, so caution should be taken when applying these values to high school athletes who are younger and less developed. There is a wealth of data in the article (Dengel et al., 2020) and I encourage you to read it if you want more detailed information. To help summarize the data contained in that article I am going to examine the data in males and female track and field athletes separately. I will present the data as mean (average value) + standard deviation as well as the range ranges (high and low) for each value. MALE COLLEGIATE TRACK AND FIELD ATHLETES Beginning with the data from male track and field athletes first. All of the male track and field athletes had their body composition measured by DXA scanning that took place between September and December. FEBRUARY 2021 techniques

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THE DXA METHOD TABLE 1. MEAN (+SD) AND RANGES OF DESCRIPTIVE MEASUREMENTS BY EVENT

Event

Throwers

Sprints

Middle Distance

Long Distance

Multi Events

Jumps

Age (y)

20.2+1.7 (18-25)

19.7+1.3 (18-23)

20.2+1.6 (18-23)

19.4+2.3 (17- 24)

20.2+1.3 (18- 22)

12.3+1.3 (17-22)

20.0+2.0a (18-27)

Height (cm)

185.0+7.5a (65.1-79.0)

180.1+6.7bc (65.0-76.5)

179.8+5.2bc (65.0-74.0)

177.5+6.1c (65.5-75.0)

183.9+5.9ab (69.0-76.5)

184.9+6.2ab (68.2-80.0)

181.5+4.8abc (68.0-74.5)

Weight (kg)

103.5+6.5a (72.6-140.9)

76.5+7.6bc (59-93.2)

70.9+6.8cd (58.2-82.4)

66.0+6.5d (52.9-87.9)

81.6+7.5b (74.3-87.9)

78.7+6.5b (68.2-91.4)

78.5+5.5b (68.3-86.5)

BMI (kg/m2)

30.1+4.0a (24.3-41.3)

23.5+1.8b (19.8-27.8)

21.8+1.6cd (18.7-24.6)

20.8+1.5d (17.8-25.3)

24.1+1.6b ( 22.8-27.4)

23.1+1.7bc (19.9-26.9)

23.8+1.3b (21.9-26.6)

a

a

a

a

a

Pole Vault a

If events do not share a letter within the same row, they are significantly different (p < 0.05 adjusted for multiple comparisons). BMI = body mass index. Throws=shot put, discus, javelin athletes; Sprints=100m, 200m, 400m, 110m hurdles, 400m hurdles athletes; Middle Distance=800m 1500m athletes; Long Distance=3000m steeplechase, 5,000m, 10,000m athletes; Multi Event=decathlon athletes; Jumps=long jump, triple jump, high jump athletes. TABLE 2. MEAN (+SD) AND RANGES OF WHOLE BODY COMPOSITION MEASURES BY EVENT

Events

Throwers

Sprints

Middle Distance

Long Distance

Multi Events

Jumps

Pole Vault

Percent Fat Mass (%)

20.8+6.7a (13-42)

11.4+2.5b (7-17)

10.8+2.3cd (7-17)

12.5+2.7d (5-19)

12.6+3.6b (8-18)

12.3+3.0bc (8-19)

13.1+3.6b (7-23)

Fat Mass (kg)

21.6+10.8a (9.5-57.0)

8.3+2.1b (5.0-13.4)

7.3+1.6b (4.9-11.1)

7.9+2.1b (2.7-15.7)

9.9+3.1b (5.6-14.0)

9.2+2.5b (5.6-16.5)

9.9+3.1b (5.6-19.4)

Lean Mass (kg)

78.0+9.2a (60.7-94.3)

65.0+6.8bc (51.9-80.5)

60.8+6.5c (48.9-73.2)

55.4+5.2d (43.0-68.9)

68.6+6.4b (58.5-80.0)

65.7+5.3b (57.1-74.0)

65.4+4.7bc (57.7-74.2)

Total BMC (kg)

4.16+0.50a (3.11-5.27)

3.49+0.39c (2.80-4.48)

3.29+0.42d (2.56-4.08)

3.02+0.26d (2.23-3.85)

3.66+0.27ab (3.30-4.28)

3.80+3.32b (3.12-4.52)

3.65+3.86bc (3.00-4.31)

Total BMD (g/ cm2)

1.55+0.11a (1.4-1.9)

1.40+0.12bc (1.2-1.8)

1.33+0.14c (1.1-1.6)

1.25+0.10d (1.0-1.5)

1.41+0.09bc (1.3-1.6)

1.44+0.09b (1.3-1.7)

1.43+0.11b (1.3-1.7)

482.6+480.2a (2-2478)

175.2+95.1b (2-441)

126.0+81.9b (2-469)

131.2+88.6b (2-399)

165.5+132.2b (2-375)

164.1+73.3b (2-435)

221.7+139.0b (2-469)

VAT (g)

BMC = bone mineral content, BMD=bone mineral density, VAT=visceral adipose tissue. Throws=shot put, discus, javelin athletes; Sprints=100m, 200m, 400m, 110m hurdles, 400m hurdles athletes; Middle Distance=800m 1500m athletes; Long Distance=3000m steeplechase, 5,000m, 10,000m athletes; Multi Event=decathlon athletes; Jumps=long jump, triple jump, high jump athletes.

These male athletes were scanned from 4 different NCAA Division I Universities and were classified into one of seven categories: Jumpers (i.e., long jump, triple jump, high jump) (n=28); Long Distance Runners (i.e., 5,000, 10,000 meters and 3,000 meter steeplechase) (n=104); Middle Distance Runners (i.e., 800 and 1500 meters) (n=27), Multi-Event Athletes (n=11); Pole-Vaulters (PV; n=21); Sprinters (i.e., 100, 200 400 meters, and 100, 110 and 400 meter hurdles) (n=54); and Throwers (i.e., shot put, discus, javelin) (n=29). Multi-event 16

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athletes were individuals who competed in the decathlon (i.e., 100 meters, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400 meters, 110 meter hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and 1500 meters). Physical characteristics of male collegiate track and field athletes (Table 1). The physical characteristics (i.e., age, height, weight and body mass index [BMI]) of the male track and field athletes by event are compared in Table 1. By design, the male collegiate track and field athletes were of similar age across events. As expected,

throwers were heavier than their counterparts. Based on standard body mass index (BMI) categories: sprinters, middle- and long- distance runners, jumpers, polevaulters and multi-event athletes would be classified as normal (BMI: 18.5-24.9 kg/ m2). Throwers on the other hand, would be classified as obese (BMI: 30.0-34.9 kg/ m2). Given the problem of using BMI to classify large athletes carrying high amounts of muscle mass seen in collegiate and professional football players (Bosch et al., 2019; Dengel et al., 2014) the classifica-


TABLE 3. MEAN (+SD) AND RANGE OF TOTAL AND REGIONAL MEASURES OF BONE MINERAL DENSITIES BY EVENT

Event

Throwers

Sprints

Middle Distance

Long Distance

Multi Events

Jumps

Pole Vault

Total BMD (g/cm2)

1.55+0.11a (1.4-1.9)

1.40+0.12bc (1.2-1.8)

1.33+0.14c (1.1-1.6)

1.25+0.10d (1.0-1.5)

1.41+0.09bc (1.3-1.6)

1.44+0.09b (1.3-1.7)

1.43+0.11b (1.3-1.4)

Spine BMD (g/cm2)

1.54+0.16a (1.2-1.9)

1.32+0.17bc (1.0-1.8)

1.23+0.15c (1.0-1.5)

1.14+0.12d (0.8-1.5)

1.36+0.10ab (1.2-1.5)

1.41+0.12b (1.2-1.7)

1.33+0.13bc (1.1-1.6)

Pelvis BMD (g/cm2)

1.55+0.11a (1.1-1.8)

1.44+0.18b (1.0-2.1)

1.30+0.13d (1.1-1.6)

1.20+0.11e (0.9-1.5)

1.39+0.08bc (1.3-1.6)

1.52+0.10a (1.2-1.7)

1.37+0.10c (1.2-1.6)

Leg BMD (g/ cm2)

1.66+0.12ab (1.5-2.0)

1.58+0.14bc (1.3-2.0)

1.52+0.15c (1.3-1.9)

1.43+0.11d (1.2-1.7)

1.59+0.15abc (1.4-1.9)

1.67+0.11a (1.5-1.9)

1.56+0.10bc (1.4-1.8)

Arm BMD (g/ cm2)

1.29+0.15a (1.0-1.6)

1.01+0.14c (0.7-1.5)

0.87+0.12d (0.7-1.2)

0.86+0.12d (0.6-1.2)

1.04+0.13c (0.9-1.3)

0.97+0.12c (0.8-1.2)

1.12+0.12d (0.9-1.5)

BMD=bone mineral density. Throws=shot put, discus, javelin athletes; Sprints=100m, 200m, 400m, 110m hurdles, 400m hurdles athletes; Middle Distance=800m 1500m athletes; Long Distance=3000m steeplechase, 5,000m, 10,000m athletes; Multi Event=decathlon athletes; Jumps=long jump, triple jump, high jump athletes. TABLE 4. MEAN (+SD) AND RANGES OF DESCRIPTIVE MEASUREMENTS BY EVENT

Event

Throws

Sprints

Middle Distance

Long Distance

Multi Events

Jumps

Pole Vault

20.3+1.6 (18-24)

19.4+1.5 (17-25)

19.5+1.5 (17-23)

19.4+1.4 (18-23)

19.4+1.2 (18-21)

19.2+1.1 (18-21)

19.4+1.5a (18-25)

Height (cm)

175.3+5.3a (66.5-72.5)

166.8+5.9b (56.0-69.7)

166.6+6.2b (59.0-70.3)

165.3+5.8b (61.0-72.0)

175.6+7.7a (65.0-75.0)

173.6+7.0a (62.0-75.0)

166.9+4.8b (62.6-70.0)

Weight (kg)

89.5+16.0a (63.0-113.2)

61.6+6.1bc (47.7-89.5)

59.0+4.9cd (43.6-65.2)

54.8+5.5d (43.7-69.5)

67.1+10.1b (55.7-83.0)

63.3+5.5bc (54.8-78.3)

60.2+4.5bc (49.5-67.0)

BMI (kg/m2)

29.1+4.8a (20.7-35.4)

22.1+2.1b (17.6-33.6)

21.2+1.3bc (18.2-23.3)

20.0+1.7c (15.5-25.4)

21.6+1.6bc (19.9-24.8)

20.9+1.7bc (17.8-25.1)

21.6+1.7b (18.6-25.6)

Age (y)

a

a

a

a

a

a

If events do not share a letter within the same row, they are significantly different (p < 0.05 adjusted for multiple comparisons). BMI = body mass index. Throws=shot put, discus, javelin athletes; Sprints=100m, 200m, 400m, 110m hurdles, 400m hurdles athletes; Middle Distance=800m 1500m athletes; Long Distance=3000m steeplechase, 5,000m, 10,000m athletes; Multi Event=heptathlon athletes; Jumps=long jump, triple jump, high jump athletes.

tion of throwers as obese using this metric is not surprising. See Table 1 Total body composition measures of male collegiate track and field athletes (Table 2). In Table 2, the total body composition averages by event for the track and field athletes are presented. When these male track and field athletes are classified by total percent body fat (%fat), throwers would be considered overweight (%fat: 21-24%) while male sprinters, middle- and long- distance runners, jump-

ers, pole vaulters and multi-event athletes would be classified as good (%fat: 11-14%) (Jeukendrup & Gleeson, 2019). None of the male track and field athletes were considered athletic (%fat: 5-10%) (Jeukendrup & Gleeson, 2019). It is important to note that these classifications were based on twocomponent body composition methods (i.e., hydrostatic weighing and skinfolds), while the current study’s values were produced from a three-component body composition method (i.e., DXA). As I previously mentioned, the two-component model

of body composition has to assume mass of the bones, while a three-component model of body composition actually measures the mass of the bones. This improves the accuracy of the three-component method body composition over the twocomponent method of body composition. Typically, athletes will have a higher percent fat when it is measured using a three-component method versus a twocomponent method and issues of comparing athletes using different methods. Table 2 also contains the bone mineral content


THE DXA METHOD TABLE 5. MEAN (+SD) AND RANGES OF WHOLE BODY COMPOSITION MEASURES BY EVENT

Events

Throws

Sprints

Middle Distance

Long Distance

Multi Events

Jumps

Pole Vault

31.2+6.8a (22-48)

18.3+4.0b (10-28)

21.6+4.3bc (15-34)

21.5+4.8c (9-34)

21.0+3.0bc (16-25)

20.7+4.4bc (13-33)

21.6+3.6b (14-30)

Fat Mass (kg)

27.5+9.9a (13.5-50.2)

10.8+2.9b (6.0-21.8)

12.2+2.7b (6.2-19.0)

11.4+3.2b (3.7-20.6)

13.7+3.4b (8.8-17.6)

12.7+3.4b (6.8-21.6)

13.0+2.4b (9.0-18.3)

Lean Mass (kg)

58.5+8.1a (47.3-73.7)

48.2+4.8b (36.5-64.5)

44.3+4.2c (35.7-51.5)

41.2+3.8d (33.6-56.3)

50.8+6.8b (43.3-61.7)

47.9+3.6bc (43.3-55.9)

44.6+3.8c (38.3-54.6)

Total BMC (kg)

3.31+0.43a (2.39-4.24)

2.80+0.39bc (2.12-3.82)

2.57+0.24d (1.97-3.03)

2.38+0.25e (1.81-3.19)

3.06+0.42bc (2.38-3.66)

2.90+2.60b2 (2.81-3.44)

2.67+2.27cd (2.12-3.14)

Total BMD (g/ cm2)

1.40+0.12a (1.1-1.6)

1.31+0.10b (1.1-1.5)

1.22+0.08c (1.1-1.4)

1.16+0.09d (1.0-1.4)

1.37+0.10ab (1.3-1.5)

1.29+0.10bc (1.1-1.5)

1.25+0.07c (1.1-1.4)

31.2+32.9b (0-242)

43.9+55.5b (0-236)

62.3+51.6b (0-187)

44.8+48.1b (0-142)

34.1+48.3b (0-242)

Percent Fat Mass (%)

VAT (g)

298.8+252.6a (0-903)

44.3+43.2b (0-213)

If events do not share a letter within the same row, they are significantly different (p < 0.05 adjusted for multiple comparisons). BMC = bone mineral content, BMD=bone mineral density, VAT=visceral adipose tissue. Throws=shot put, discus, javelin athletes; Sprints=100m, 200m, 400m, 110m hurdles, 400m hurdles athletes; Middle Distance=800m 1500m athletes; Long Distance=3000m steeplechase, 5,000m, 10,000m athletes; Multi Event=heptathlon athletes; Jumps=long jump, triple jump, high jump athletes.

(BMC) or bone mass values for male track and field athletes. Not surprising is the fact that male long-distance runners had lower total BMC in comparison to their track and field counterparts, while male throwers had significantly greater total BMC. This illustrates the problem with assuming that the bone mass for athletes or anyone is the same. There are a number of different factors that can affect the bone mass (BMC), and therefore assuming everyone has the same BMC can lead to error in accuracy. See Table 2 Total and regional measures of bone mineral density for male collegiate track and field athletes (Table 3). Mean total and regional measures of BMD for male track and field athletes are presented in Table 3. BMD is the amount of bone mineral in bone tissue. While BMC and BMD sound like the same thing, they are really two different measurements. For example, two athletes, who weigh the same but are different in regards to height, may have identical BMC values for their total body or for a particular region of the body. However, the shorter athlete may have a higher total 18

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BMD when compared to the taller athlete, who weighs the same. BMD is often used clinically to assess risk of osteoporosis. While a very low BMD doesn’t predict a fracture, it may indicate if an individual is at a greater risk for a fracture. A low BMD is often observed in athletes with a low total body mass. The data presented in Table 3 shows that the total BMD measurements for long distance runners was significantly lower than BMD values for other male track and field athletes. Throwers, on the other hand, had significantly greater total BMD values compared to their male track and field counterparts. This is not surprising given that their overall size and the amount of stress placed on the bones by the training required by their event. For most regional (i.e., spine, pelvis, leg and arm) measures of BMD, throwers had significantly greater BMD values, while long distance runners had significantly lower regional BMD values than their track and field counterparts. See Table 3

FEMALE COLLEGIATE TRACK AND FIELD ATHLETES All of the athletes had their body composition determined by DXA and were scanned from 4 different NCAA Division I Universities and were classified into one of seven categories: Jumpers (i.e., long jump, triple jump, high jump) (n=30); Long Distance Runners (i.e., 5,000, 10,000 meters and 3,000 meter steeplechase) (n=110); Middle Distance Runners (i.e., 800 and 1500 meters) (n=24); Multi-Event Athletes (n=9); Pole-Vaulters (PV; n=27); Sprinters (i.e., 100, 200 400 meters, and 100, 110 and 400 meter hurdles) (n=96); and throwers (i.e., shot put, discus, javelin) (n=20). Multi-Event Athletes were individuals who competed in the heptathlon (i.e., 100 meter hurdles, long jump, shot put, high jump, 200 meters, javelin and 800 meters). All DXA scans were done between September and December. Physical characteristics of female collegiate track and field athletes (Table 4). The physical characteristics (i.e., age, height, weight and body mass index [BMI]) of the female athletes by event are compared in


TABLE 6. MEAN (+SD) AND RANGES OF TOTAL AND REGIONAL MEASURES OF BONE MINERAL DENSITIES BY EVENT

Event

Throwers

Sprints

Middle Distance

Long Distance

Multi Events

Jumps

Pole Vault

Total BMD (g/ cm2)

1.40+0.12a (1.1-1.6)

1.31+0.10b (1.1-1.5)

1.22+0.08c (1.1-1.4)

1.16+0.09d (1.0-1.4)

1.37+0.10ab (1.3-1.5)

1.29+0.10bc (1.1-1.5)

1.25+0.07c (1.1-1.4)

Spine BMD (g/ cm2)

1.42+0.17a (1.1-1.7)

1.25+0.13b (1.0-1.8)

1.14+0.10bc (1.0-1.3)

1.06 +0.12c (0.8-1.4)

1.28 +0.11ab (1.2-1.5)

1.26 +0.15b (1.0-1.5)

1.20+0.11b (0.9-1.4)

Pelvis BMD (g/ cm2)

1.45+0.14a (1.1-1.8)

1.37+0.13b (1.0-1.7)

1.24+0.09c (0.9-1.4)

1.12+0.12d (0.9-1.5)

1.39+0.10ab (1.2-1.6)

1.37+0.13b (1.1-1.7)

1.26+0.09c (0.9-1.4)

Leg BMD (g/ cm2)

1.47+0.12a (1.2-1.7)

1.43+0.11ab (1.2-1.7)

1.35+0.10bc (1.2-1.6)

1.27+0.10d (1.0-1.5)

1.51+0.15a (1.3-1.7)

1.43+0.12ab (1.2-1.7)

1.33+0.08cd (1.1-1.5)

Arm BMD (g/ cm2)

1.04+0.14a (07-1.3)

0.85+0.11c (0.6-1.1)

0.76+0.08d (0.7-0.9)

0.76+0.11d (0.6-1.1)

0.93+0.09b (0.7-1.0)

0.84+0.09c (0.7-1.1)

0.84+0.12b (0.7-1.2)

BMD=bone mineral density. Throws=shot put, discus, javelin athletes; Sprints=100m, 200m, 400m, 110m hurdles, 400m hurdles athletes; Middle Distance=800m 1500m athletes; Long Distance=3000m steeplechase, 5,000m, 10,000m athletes; Multi Event=heptathlon athletes; Jumps=long jump, triple jump, high jump athletes.

Table 4. As with the male track and field athletes, the female athletes had a similar age across events. In looking at just total body weight, as you would expect, throwers were heavier than their counterparts. Based on standard body mass index (BMI) categories: sprinters, middle- and longdistance runners, jumpers, pole-vaulters and multi-event athletes would be classified as normal (BMI: 18.5-24.9 kg/m2). Throwers, on the other hand, would be classified as obese (BMI: 25.0-29.9 kg/m2). This is exactly what we saw in the male track and field athletes. Again, the fact that throwers were classified as obese is not too surprising and illustrates the problem with using BMI as a way to classify athletes, especially those athletes that are large and carry a lot of muscle mass. See Table 4 Total body composition measures of female collegiate track and field athletes (Table 5). In Table 5, the total body composition averages by event for the female track and field athletes are presented. When these track and field athletes are classified by total percent body fat (%fat), female throwers would be considered overweight (%fat: 31-36%), while female sprinters, middle- and long- distance runners, jumpers, pole vaulters and multi-

event athletes would be classified as normal (%fat: 16-23%) (Jeukendrup & Gleeson, 2019). None of the female track and field athletes were considered athletic (%fat: 8-15%) (Jeukendrup & Gleeson, 2019). This was exactly what we saw in the male track and field athletes when we examined their percent fat values by event. The same issue holds true for the female track and field athletes. It is important to note that these classifications were based on two-component body composition methods (i.e., hydrostatic weighing and skinfolds), while the current study’s values were produced from a three-component body composition method (i.e., DXA). Table 5 also contains the total weight of the bones (BMC: bone mineral content) for our female track and field athletes. Not surprising is the fact that female long-distance runners had a lower total BMC in comparison to their female track and field counterparts, while throwers had a significantly greater total BMC than their female counterparts. This trend is exactly what we observed for total BMC in our male track and field athletes, illustrating the problem with assuming that the mass of bones for athletes, or anyone for that matter, is the same. There are a number of different factors that can affect the mass of bones [BMC] and there-

fore assuming everyone has the same BMC can lead to error in accuracy in percent fat when using a two-component method to measure body composition. See Table 5 Total and regional measures of bone mineral density for female collegiate track and field athletes (Table 6). Mean total and regional measures of BMD for female track and field athletes are presented in Table 6. As with the male track and field athletes, the total BMD measurements for long distance runners was significantly lower than BMD values for other female track and field athletes. Again, throwers had significantly greater total BMD values compared to other female track and field athletes, except sprinters and multi-event athletes. For most regional (i.e., spine, pelvis, leg and arm) measures of BMD, throwers had significantly greater BMD values, while long distance runners had significantly lower regional BMD values than their track and field counterparts. These same trends in both total and regional BMD were observed in our male track and field athletes. For females, the concern regarding BMD is long distance runners should be of concern. As we pointed out, a low BMD does indicate who will develop a stress fracture, but it is a good indicator of FEBRUARY 2021 techniques

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osteoporosis and can be used to monitor an athlete’s bone health. See Table 6 What does it all mean? As this article points out, there are some significant total and regional body composition differences across events for female track and field athletes. These differences may be due to the unique demands of each event. The data provides a guide for coaches and trainers when evaluating both male and female track and field athletes. It also points out how serial measures can be used to monitor an athlete’s body compositions as well as bone health. As complete as this article is regarding body composition in track and field athletes, one should not consider this the end to the discussion on body composition in male and female track and field athletes. There is still room to expand upon this study by examining seasonal changes in body composition within this athletic population. This may prove to be very interesting, given that a lot of long distance athletes also compete in cross-country in the fall and transition into indoor track during the winter and outdoor track in the spring, while some athletes only compete in the winter indoor and spring outdoor track seasons. Following these different athletes will

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provide trainers and coaches with more information to make adaptations to training throughout the competitive season for track and field athletes by event. CONCLUSION In summary, while an athlete’s body composition may help to optimize their performance in a given sport, it is important to remember that the purpose of this article is to act as a guide concerning body composition in track and field athletes, not as a strict template for each individual athlete. It is our hope that this article will provide coaches and athletes with a reference, but in the end, it is important to remember that track and field athletes come in a variety of shapes and sizes and, ultimately, body compositions. DISCLAIMER The information provided in this article should not take the place of medical advice. Any specific questions should be directed toward appropriate health care providers (medical doctors, pharmacists, registered dieticians, etc.). REFERENCES Bosch TA, Carbuhn A, Stanforth PR, Oliver JM, Keller KA, Dengel DR: Body composi-

tion and bone mineral density of division 1 collegiate football players: a consortium of college athlete research study. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 33(5):1339-1346, 2019. Dengel, DR, Bosch TA, Burruss TP, Fielding KA, Engel BE, Weir NL, Weston TD: Body composition of National Football League players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 28(1):1-6, 2014. Dengel DR, Dengel OH: Body Composition: Methods and importance for performance and health. Techniques for Track & Field and Cross Country 9(4):30-43, 2016. Dengel DR, Keller KA, Stanforth PR, Oliver JM, Carbuhn A, Bosch TA: Body composition and bone mineral density of division 1 collegiate track and field athletes, a consortium of college athlete research (C-CAR) study. Journal of Clinical Densitometry 23(2):303-313, 2020. Jeukendrup A, Gleeson M. 2019 Sport Nutrition. 3rd ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetic; 2019.

DONALD R. DENGEL, PH.D., IS THE HENRY L. TAYLORARTHUR S. LEON PROFESSOR IN EXERCISE SCIENCE AND HEALTH ENHANCEMENT IN THE SCHOOL OF KINESIOLOGY AND THE DIRECTOR OF THE LABORATORY OF INTEGRATIVE HUMAN PHYSIOLOGY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA.



Skillful Integration A Common Sense Approach to Coaching the Sprint Hurdles JASON KILGORE

T

he sprint hurdles is a unique event, and there are many drills and training philosophies that exist. This article aims to provide a simplified approach that focuses on the most important factors needed for success in the sprint hurdles. While this article will discuss exercises, training concepts, and progressions, it is not meant to be a universal solution. Track and field enables incredible creativity in developing methods to teach skills and technique, but can sometimes cause athletes and coaches to get away from the fundamental skill of hurdling. Success in sprint hurdling requires a high rate of speed, power to be able to

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takeoff through the hurdles, and the coordination to move one’s limbs appropriately to best allow the expression of speed and power. When looking at factors for success in the sprint hurdle races, it may be beneficial to divide concepts into three areas: (1) hurdle clearance and skills, (2) the approach to the first hurdle, and (3) rhythm between the hurdles. While we will initially teach these areas individually, the ultimate goal is to integrate these skills effectively, as no hurdle skill happens in isolation. HURDLE CLEARANCE AND SKILLS The first of the three areas will be referred to as hurdle clearance skills. This will

encompass technical exercises that will help athletes feel positions, develop mobility, learn concepts and learn movements, to which we later add speed and intensity. A quick search on the internet or glance in hurdle books will yield hundreds of drills, and it can be very difficult to determine which ones to use and when it is appropriate. The exercises listed below are those I use the most frequently with the athletes that I coach. These are not comprehensive and other exercises may be used as needed on an individual basis, but these exercises provide the framework to be able teach the skills needed to move into full hurdling. It’s important to note here that the coach, not the drill or exercise, is the teacher. KIRBY LEE IMAGE OF SPORT KIRBY LEE IMAGE OF SPORT


Simplifying the movement of hurdling itself, we have the takeoff, the lead leg and the trail leg. The takeoff leg initiates movement through the hurdle for clearance. After toe off, the takeoff leg then becomes the trail leg, moving over the hurdle second to the lead leg. This leg is the driving force in hurdling as it provides the needed forces to move through the hurdle and then reaccelerates the athlete as the trail leg coming off the hurdle. The lead leg moves over the hurdle first and is the leg that is landed on after clearance before the trail leg can complete its reaccelerating action off the hurdle. It is my belief that the actions of the takeoff/ trail leg are so much more important that we spend the majority of our time with exercises that focus on that movement, while coaching the lead leg inside that framework. The first exercise we’ll look at will be the wall trail leg drill. This exercise is pretty simple and is a staple of beginning and experienced hurdlers. SETUP (SEE FIGURES 1 AND 2) Place a hurdle 2-3 shoe lengths away from a wall or fence. This needs to be high enough so athletes can lean into the hurdle at about 45 degrees from the ground and be able to support themselves with hands around shoulder level. Keep the height of the hurdle low. This is a teaching exercise, so hurdle height does not matter. Movement, speed and the momentum during actual hurdling are very different compared to stationary drills, so there is no need to have athletes do this exercise at race heights. As mentioned earlier, athletes should lean against the fence having their body make an acute angle with the ground. The side of the body closest to the hurdle will be the trail leg in this exercise. We’ll do the exercise in several different progressions. The first progression is to teach proper sequencing of trail leg movement: TRAIL LEG FOOT EXTERNALLY ROTATES With their trail leg extended slightly behind their body, athletes will raise their trail leg a few inches off the ground. Athletes will then turn their foot away from the hurdle so it is parallel to the ground. Trail Leg Knee comes straight up to armpit, Trail Leg Foot comes up close to butt It’s important that athletes keep the foot externally rotated and parallel to the ground while bringing the knee straight up and getting the heel as close to their butt as possible.

Trail Leg Rotates forward and over the hurdle, with knee in front of the body and facing straight toward the wall Athlete should try to keep their knee in a high position and their foot as tight to their body as possible. This shorter lever will rotate forward faster and allow them to get their trail leg in the front quicker. Trail Leg aggressively drives down and backwards In this stationary version, we want athletes to feel the foot drive down beside the other foot on the ground, returning to its original starting place. This allows athletes to feel the down and back action of the trail leg. The fence or wall acts a constraint, preventing athletes from opening at the knee joint and over reaching in the front. We initially implement this exercise by having athletes move to a cadence and feel individual positions. On command, athletes will: Lift their foot off the ground Turn their foot out Lift their knee up / heel to butt Rotate Trail Leg over the hurdle Drive down / back to the ground After moving through the correct sequencing and positions on our command, we will let athletes move at their own rhythm. We will give the commands to pick their foot up, turn their foot out, and then GO! On the go, we look to see that they can move through the remaining steps seamlessly. Early in development, ensuring proper movement and sequencing is much more important than the speed of each movement. I have found it is very easy to add speed of movement to this activity as you go, but emphasize teaching and executing the correct movements first. We’ll further advance the exercise by having athletes pick their foot up off the ground followed by a GO command. Just as in the commanded phases, ensure that the foot externally rotates before the knee is lifted. The external rotation of the foot helps ensure that the knee and foot are moving over the hurdle and the rotary action of the trail leg moving to the front side of the hurdles body is set up. Once athletes are moving through the trail leg action correctly, the exercise can be done fluidly without pausing. We’ll next take the movements and ideas from the stationary trail leg drill and add some movement to it. Adding movement will allow athletes to start to feel force application at both takeoff and reacceleration of the trail leg. The exercise

we first use for this is what we call the “Anderson” drill. We call it that because I first saw it used by coach Vince Anderson. This drill is essentially a moving trail leg drill. SETUP We typically use three or four hurdles spaced 5 yards apart; however, you can use as many hurdles as desired. The hurdles are typically set on the lowest settings, but can be adjusted based on the athlete. New hurdlers can use 18” hurdles, or hurdles tipped over, while more powerful and advanced athletes can raise them up slightly. Athletes will stand inside the base of the hurdle with their lead leg draped over the front of it. To perform the exercise, they will push hard on their takeoff/trail leg and jump up in the air. As they leave the ground, they will complete the same trail leg movement from the wall (foot turns out, knee up/heel to butt, rotates around to the front, reaccelerate into the ground). Since this is not a specific exercise, but teaching the trail leg, we’re not worried about excessive flight times. If it is performed correctly, the trail leg reacceleration will create a “pop” off the ground that will move them toward the next hurdle. Athletes will then stop at the next hurdle, drape their lead leg over the hurdle and repeat the exercise until the course of hurdles is completed. The next exercise we use to progress the teaching of hurdle clearance and technique is continuous take-off drill. It takes the movements of the first two exercises and adds a continuous movement to them. SETUP We will typically start with four hurdles, but have extended out to 10 with more advanced older athletes. Typical spacing is 6-7’ apart from hurdle rail to rail. Athletes will start behind the first hurdle and will take one step into the first hurdle. Upon clearing the first hurdle, the goal is to complete the trail leg positions as fast as possible and continue taking off through the entire course of hurdles. The main focus is the action of the takeoff/trail leg complex; however, this exercise allows the coach to teach other concepts such as timing and lead leg action. When evaluating this we look for the following: Complete, full takeoffs into the hurdle Correct range of motion of the trail leg Violent reacceleration of the trail leg foot back into the ground A noticeable building of rhythm and FEBRUARY 2021 techniques

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SKILLFUL INTEGRATION FIGURE 1

steps allows a much quicker rhythm at very reduced (4-6’) spacing. These exercises blend into our specific hurdle rhythm and hurdle speed work that we will address later.

FIGURE 2

speed through the hurdles as the drill progresses Throughout the Anderson Drill and the Continuous Takeoff drill, the aim is for the sequencing from the wall drill to transfer to these more complex tasks. Athletes MUST move the knee up first to create space over the hurdle and allow for the proper timing of trail leg rotation to the front of the athlete. As we use and continue to implement moving exercises, we are also looking for proper timing of the legs as athletes land off the hurdle. A common cue and concept is for the trail leg to “race” the lead leg down and we want to see athletes have a fast, powerful trail leg moving off of the hurdle, but it is important to note there must be a distinct end of the lead leg and start of the trail leg touchdown. Proper timing of this rhythm allows the trail leg action coming off the hurdle to better reaccelerate the athlete into the next hurdle or finish line. If the trail leg lands too soon, the movement from the hurdle will cause a loss of momentum and speed and if the trail leg is too late it will cause the trail leg to “open” and reach, also causing a loss of momentum and speed. Our initial hurdle training consists primarily of these exercises. As the season progresses, the exercises will be used as an extended, specific warm up and eventually cycled out. Our athletes use lead leg and trail leg marches, as well as skips on the outside of the hurdles as mobility exer26

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cises. These can be opportunities for some teaching, but are mobility exercises for the entire team and not specific to hurdling. The final series of exercises that we do for hurdle clearance skills will get athletes progressing closer to full hurdling. We start off with one hurdle. It doesn’t matter where you set it up, but we place it on the first hurdle mark. The hurdle is set at the lowest setting for women and the intermediate height for men. We have athletes start around 6m back from the hurdle and take four steps into the hurdle. This allows athletes to takeoff and move through the hurdle while adding some speed to the movements of the exercises introduced earlier. We progress this exercise by adding two more steps (six steps) to the first hurdle and adding additional hurdles to the course. When we first add additional hurdles, we will place them at normal hurdle marks, but have athletes run five steps between the hurdles. Our goal is to observe athletes quicken through the last two steps going into the hurdle and quicken the two steps coming off the hurdle. The rationale for doing this is to get athletes to be very active, getting their feet down directly under their hips. A common flaw in younger hurdles is “landing” at takeoff, which tends to happen when athletes are not as active putting their feet down. We then progress to three step rhythms off of four or six steps to the first hurdle, three

APPROACH TO THE FIRST HURDLE The second of the three focus areas with athletes is the approach to the first hurdle. We feel that responsible sprint training and hurdle training will begin with teaching proper acceleration technique, building strength and power, and developing absolute acceleration ability from the onset of the training. The ability to understand pure acceleration, not nuanced for a specific event, is critical for developing the approach to first hurdle, but also in extending the acceleration through hurdles two and three. This also includes block clearance and setup; a complete explanation of this goes beyond the scope of this article, but we will discuss briefly. We use a block set up based on what was taught in the USTFCCCA Short Sprints Masters Course. Athlete’s blocks settings will be determined off their greater trochanter length and established angles to allow them the best opportunity to apply force, displace and create momentum. As video analysis from the most recent United States Championships demonstrates, comparison of the sprint hurdle finals and 100 meter finals showed the hurdlers were only slightly slower than the sprinters at the 10m, stressing the importance of acceleration and speed into the first hurdle. The difference in how athletes execute in the hurdles versus the sprint lies in how quickly athletes rise through their body angles. Hurdlers need to ensure they are upright and ready to take off into the first hurdle at step 8. When applying acceleration patterns to the sprint hurdles, we will use two different charts to pull information from. Both charts can be found through a search on Google, but I received the first chart, step patterns to the first hurdle, from Coach Ron Grigg during my USTFCCCA mentorship. The second chart is from a presentation from Coach Curtis Frye with the approximate take off distances based on the hurdler’s height. The taller the hurdler, the closer they can take off from the hurdle because they don’t need to raise their center of mass as much as a shorter hurdler needs to. As we begin to develop the approach for


the first hurdle, we will place chalk lines on the track based off Coach Grigg’s chart and a cone down at the approximate take off distance. Depending on the skill level, height and ability of the hurdler, there will be some variance in these marks. Caution should be used in having athletes worry about the marks instead of using them as a tool to help guide the coach’s assessment of their first 8 steps. For complete novices, we will either tip the hurdle over, use wickets or just remove the hurdle completely for the first couple trial runs on their approach. Special care is placed on watching how body angles rise and getting into a good upright position for takeoff into the first hurdle, while being aware of where athlete’s steps land. The athlete’s ability to accelerate will determine how many steps they are “pushing” for from blocks. We will initially ask everyone to accelerate hard for the first for 4 steps and then “pedal” the next 4 steps into takeoff. The term pedaling is a cue used by Dan Pfaff (among others) to encourage athletes to quicken the rhythm of their steps as they get closer to successfully navigate the spacing between the remaining 9 hurdles. Older, more experienced athletes, will either go over a tipped hurdle or over a hurdle with the height lowered. Depending on past performances and ability level, we will typically have them start off with three hard pushes and five pedals, quickened steps into the first hurdle. It’s important to note that the approach and how long your hurdlers push can change throughout the course of a career and even a season, which is why care must be taken to note takeoff marks. As new hurdlers get more comfortable applying their absolute acceleration ability and skills to the approach to the first hurdle, they will continue to bring more momentum and speed as well as cover more ground during the initial steps. For veterans and experienced hurdlers, sharpness throughout the season may require adjustments to be made. A common issue that arises with hurdlers in their approach to the first hurdle is using seven versus eight steps. While the world record performance and many world class male hurdlers use a sevenstep approach to the first hurdle, I do not recommend teaching it initially or if a hurdler is performing at a high level. In the women’s high hurdle race, seven step approaches aren’t as common, but the same recommendation applies. The biggest aversion to this is the huge shift in

rhythm that it creates for the majority of hurdlers. Many athletes could potentially hit the approach steps to the first hurdle and get their takeoff foot down at the mark, but most often this is accomplished through a reaching action as opposed to good acceleration mechanics; or athletes pushed for too long, and now the rhythm they will need upon landing off the hurdle will be much faster than what they have developed going into the first hurdle. As discussed above with technical drills, we are looking for the takeoff step into the hurdle to be quick and as close to underneath the hurdler’s center of gravity to allow the hurdler to move through the hurdle. RHYTHM AND HURDLE SPEED The final area that will be addressed is the most important and critical for hurdling success: developing speed and rhythm between the hurdles. In the words of Coach Vince Anderson, “You get ready to race by hurdling, full blow!” As we get into fast hurdling, it is important that our athletes are still moving their takeoff/trail leg in the sequence that was described and taught in our stationary and basic hurdling exercises. When working on rhythm and hurdle speed, it is important that we know what splits our hurdlers are running between hurdles. The splits we predominantly use are from touchdown off a hurdle to touchdown off the subsequent hurdle. I will try to record all hurdle splits but also may have to us total splits. For example, if we are going over 4 hurdles, I will time touchdown after hurdle 1 and then after hurdle 4 and divide that number by three to get average rhythms. Filming hurdle sessions and using a program like dartfish and its timer function is something we use to get more accurate splits from both practices and meets. Getting our hurdlers to achieve meetlike rhythms in practice can be a challenge, and therefore reducing the spacing between hurdles and lowering hurdle height is critical. We want the hurdlers to get used to feeling FAST hurdle rhythms and moving THROUGH the hurdles. By manipulating these variables, we can put our hurdlers in position to run fast and technically sound without the added adrenaline that is associated with competition. There are a few ways that spacings can be manipulated to achieve the desired split times. Before broaching this topic, it is important that we know what we are trying to run. A very general rule of thumb/

estimate of what splits equate to over the race distance are: 1.0 = 13.0 1.1 = 14.0 1.2 = 15.0 1.3 = 16.0 In presentations by Coaches Gary Winckler and Dennis Shaver, a split chart created further breaks down race times into the first hurdle, each hurdle split, as well as the run in after the 10th. This chart allows you to get a more detailed break down and guide of how to structure rhythm training and can be found in higher level coaches education courses or a quick search on Google. Careful monitoring of split times can allow the coach to adjust hurdle spacings to ensure the hurdlers are running faster than their current time or in line with what their goal times are. So how do we adjust spacings? If you’re pressed for time, coaching a large group of athletes or multiple events at once, you can set up multiple lanes with hurdles discounted at different distances (1’,2’,3’ etc.) and adjust the lane or spacings the hurdler is running on based on their splits. You can set the spacings based off their current level with the intent of running 1.0 between the hurdles. For example, if based off the charts you determine your hurdlers average rhythm unit (split) is 1.15s, if you take the distance run (9.14m for men and 8.5m for women) and divide it by the rhythm unit, it will give you the distance to set the hurdles at to run 1.0 (7.94m for men and 7.40m for women). From here, once they have run 1.0s rhythms consistently and technically sound, you can add 10cm per hurdle (8.04m and 7.50m). Throughout the course of the season and career, these marks will change. Careful attention to rhythm units will dictate when adjustments to spacings need to be made. As we pay attention to the times that are being run, it’s still very important to be aware of what the takeoff and trail leg are doing. As mentioned earlier, marking takeoff and touchdown on each hurdle is very important to ensure athletes are getting takeoff feet down, being active, as well as racing the trail leg forward off the hurdle. To quote Dan Pfaff; “If you don’t respect takeoff spacing, bad stuff happens”. We will place a cone 6’6” away from each hurdle and 5’ past each hurdle to evaluate the takeoff movement. As we mentioned earlier, we measure all of our athletes’ greater trochanter length. From that data, previously collected data, and data from “The Mechanics FEBRUARY 2021 techniques

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SKILLFUL INTEGRATION FIGURE 3

reacceleration off of the hurdle. Snapping the lead leg down will create timing issues with the trail leg moving forward and cause casting of the trail leg off the hurdle instead of the good down and back driving action that we are after. As you can see, so much of what we are looking for in the pursuit of success and excellence in the sprint hurdles is based on simple movements and concepts. Teaching our athletes the proper sequencing of the movement of the trail leg, how takeoff and trail leg work together to move through the hurdles, correctly approaching the first hurdle and being patient when adding more complexity and movement, as well as developing power and speed simultaneously will result in increased performances and higher levels of performance. While this article is not meant to be a comprehensive look at the sprint hurdles or exercises used to develop athletes in the event, it sets the framework to create proper movement patterns and understanding of the event to allow your athletes to progress to higher levels of success.

of Sprinting and Hurdling” by Dr. Ralph Mann and Amber Murphy, we know that once takeoff is factored out of the spacing of hurdles (approximately 3 meters, leaving 5.5m and 6.14m to run) that normal stride lengths will have to be compromised. As mentioned above, when teaching the takeoff and cut step, we are teaching our hurdlers to be active and trying to get their foot as close to under the hips as possible. With this shortened step, it is very important that the trail leg steps off of the hurdle and the second step between the hurdles continues to build or maintain speed as the race goes on. Mann’s data shows us that the trail leg step (1st step) is the shortest. This makes sense as we’re trying to “reaccelerate” off the hurdle, the 2nd step is the longest and the cut step/ 28

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takeoff step is the quickened or shortened compared to the 2nd step. Much of what we do revolves around the takeoff/trail leg movement. While the lead leg is important, I feel that it can be taught within the framework and context of the exercises and programming specific to hurdles described above. A well-rounded sprint, power and strength program will address takeoff ability, speed, and you can program exercises to teach the switching action of the thighs. All of these things can be referenced when hurdling. A proper and complete takeoff, including foot placement, will set up a longer ground contact which will allow the lead leg to raise. While the racing action of the trail leg to the front will allow the lead leg to ground in proper timing with the trail leg to execute the

REFERENCES Vince Anderson, Texas A&M Track and Field Series – Drills and Progressions for Championship Sprint Hurdles (DVD). Vince Anderson, Kebba Tolbert, Tommy Badon USTFCCCA Sprints and Hurdles Specialist Course. Karim Abdel Wahab A Methodical Approach for Developing High Hurdlers Dennis Shaver, Kebba Tolbert, Tommy Badon USTFCCCA Hurdles Master Course Ron Grigg USTFCCCA Masters endorsement mentorship Curtis Frye The High Hurdles: How to achieve fast times. 2008 USATF National Podium Project Presentation. Tom Tellez, Mike Takaha The Hurdles from Start to Finish Boo Schexnayder Simplified Coaching in the Spring Hurdles Gary Winckler Practical Biomechanics For the 100m Hurdles. USA Track & Field Heptathlon Summit- November 1994.

JASON KILGORE IS THE DIRECTOR OF TRACK & FIELD AND CROSS COUNTRY WEST CHESTER UNIVERSITY IN PENNSYLVANIA.


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ESTABLISHING AN ORBITAL PATHWAY FRANK POULIN PHOTO 30 techniques FEBRUARY 2021


Understanding the Connective Chain Relationship in Hammer and Weight Throws TODD LINDER

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TODD LINDER IS THE ASSOCIATE HEAD COACH AT MIT AND OVERSEES THE MEN’S AND WOMEN’S THROWS PROGRAM.

KIRBY LEE IMAGE OF SPORT

n Division III, particularly at MIT where we are not sure what admissions will give us, and because incoming throwers tend to have no experience with either the Hammer or Weight Throw, I introduce both throws to all freshman throwers. I spend a lot of time coaching these events in hopes at least a few throwers find future success as a contributing point scorer for the team. In this article I will discuss techniques I commonly employ to help accelerate the learning curve of inexperienced hammer and weight throwers. I will focus on two areas that have immediate impact on throwers’ early success: (1) the turning relationship between the ball and thrower, and (2) the orbital path of the implement and how it can affect turning, balance and foot placement. If you understand this connection or chain relationship between the athlete’s body and the implement, you will be able to make positive corrections to throwers’ performance and accelerate their development. I use the term “connection” to describe the turning relationship of the ball and thrower. To be “connected” implies that the “ball” will turn at the same speed as the thrower. More specifically, the hammer system remains relatively in-front of the thrower’s vertical centerline. (Fig. 1) For many new throwers, this concept is lost as they tend to focus on mastering turning and footwork techniques. In fact, inexperienced throwers tend to turn with the ball well behind their vertical centerline. I refer to this technical error as “dragging” the ball. (Fig. 2) The hammer system’s efficiency increases in a connected relationship between the implement and the athlete’s body; the thrower will have more control and feel for the respective positions, allowing for more balance and ball acceleration.

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ORBITAL PATHWAYS

FIGURE 1. CONNECTED FIGURE 2. DRAGGING THE OTHER FACTOR THAT USUALLY NEEDS COACHING ATTENTION IS THE ORBITAL PATH THE BALL MAKES IN EACH TURN. CONSIDER A HAMMER THROWER WINDING THE BALL OVERHEAD AND BEGINNING TO SET-UP THE STARTS OR ENTRY INTO TURN-1, WHEN THE BALL GETS TO 0 DEGREES, THE ORBITAL PATH IS PREDETERMINED OR SET. (FIG. 3) THE MOST EFFICIENT THROWERS ALLOW THE BALL TO STAY ON THIS ESTABLISHED ORBITAL PATHWAY SINCE THIS IS THE MOST EFFECTIVE WAY TO MOVE AND ACCELERATE THE HAMMER SYSTEM. INEXPERIENCED THROWERS TEND TO MUSCLE THE TURNS AND LACK CORRECT FORM, WHICH DIVERTS THEM FROM THE ESTABLISHED PATHWAY AND RESULTS IN ERRORS OF FOOT PLACEMENT, COUNTERING AND BALANCE.

FIGURE 3. MY TECHNICAL UNDERSTANDING OF THE BALL’S ORBITAL PATH AS IT MOVES AROUND A THROWER IS RELATED TO THE NOTION OF “PENDULAR MOTION.” CONSIDER A PENDULUM SWINGING BACK AND FORTH AND YOU WILL NOTICE IT HAS A HIGH POINT, A LOW POINT AND A SECOND-HIGH POINT THAT FOLLOWS A RADIUS PATHWAY. I USE THIS CONCEPT WHEN I CONSIDER THE PATH A HAMMER MAKES MOVING ABOUT A 360-DEGREE SYSTEM. ONCE THE THROWER STARTS TURNING, THE ORBITAL PATH OF THE BALL HAS AN ESTABLISHED DIRECTIONAL PATHWAY. MORE EXPERIENCED THROWERS INSTINCTIVELY FOLLOW THESE ESTABLISHED PATHWAYS AND ONLY MAKE SUBTLE CHANGES AS THEY TURN AND INCREASE THE ORBIT UNTIL RELEASE. (FIG. 4)

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FIGURE 4 BOTH CONCEPTS – CONNECTION AND ORBITAL PATHWAY – WORK HAND IN HAND IN SUCCESSFUL HAMMER COACHING. THERE IS HIGH CORRELATION BETWEEN MANY COMMON TURNING AND COUNTERING ERRORS AND PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH BOTH CONCEPTS. WHEN COACHING THIS EVENT, I TYPICALLY TALK TO MY ATHLETES ABOUT THE “STEP IN” POSITION OF THE RIGHT FOOT OF THE THROWER. I USE THE TERMS OVER-STEP AND UNDERSTEP TO DESCRIBE THE POSITION OF THE FOOT IN RELATION TO THE IDEAL POSITION OF 270 DEGREES. IF A THROWER IS STRUGGLING WITH THIS ISSUE OF STEPPING-IN CORRECTLY, CONSISTENTLY AND WITH GOOD POSTURE, I LOOK AT THE CONNECTIVE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE IMPLEMENT FOR ANSWERS. I BELIEVE WHENEVER THE BALL’S ESTABLISHED ORBITAL PATHWAY CHANGES TOO MUCH, ITS EFFECTS CAN BE SEEN THROUGHOUT THE CONNECTIVE SYSTEM. THIS MISTAKE COMMONLY RESULTS INTO PROBLEMS WITH FOOTWORK, BALANCE, POSTURE, AND THE RELEASE. (FIG. 5)

FIGURE 5. I HAVE LISTED HERE THREE COMMON TECHNICAL ERRORS REGARDING A THROWER’S TURNING AND FOOTWORK, AND PROVIDED POSSIBLE CORRECTION BY IMPROVING THE CONNECTIVE CHAIN RELATIONSHIP. (FOR A RIGHT-HANDED THROWER TURNING CCW) (SINGLE SUPPORT PHASE SSP)

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ORBITAL PATHWAYS

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ORBITAL PATHWAYS

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Maximum Strength, Maximum Force Strength Training for Athletics STEVE THOMAS

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ost Americans cannot identify our sport from this list (see facing page). It is the second one, Athletics. At one time, our national governing body was known as The Athletics Congress (TAC). The average American did not know who this was, so the named was changed to United States of America Track & Field (USATF), to clearly identify our sport to America. Our world governing has recently changed its name from International Associations of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to World Athletics. The very first governing body of our sport was the Amateur Athletics Union (AAU). There are only seven countries in the world who identify the governing bod38

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ies of our sport with the term track and field; the USA, Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, Palau, Myanmar, and the Philippines. The remainder of the world knows our sport as Athletics. Where does the term athlete come from? Athletics. An athlete is someone who competes in Athletics. Is Football, Basketball and Baseball Athletics? No. Are their participant’s athletes? No. In America, we classified anyone who competes in a game or a sport an athlete. They are not. Athletics requires the athlete to have speed, strength, stamina (endurance), coordination and flexibility. These same abilities are required in the games of football, basketball, baseball and all games involving

humans. Therefore, they are called athletes by our society. But are they really? Let’s take a closer look. What is the difference between a sport and a game? To play a game requires four things: (1) Rules, (2) Playing Area, (3) Game Pieces, and (4) Players. If you and I play a game of chess, we must know the rules, have a chessboard, have all the chess pieces (8 pawns, 1 king and queen, 2 bishops, 2 knights, and 2 castles), and you and I are the players. In a Football game, we must know the rules of Football; we must have a field 120 yards in length and 53 1/3 yards in width. We must have game pieces. Who are the game pieces in a Football game? The eleven offensive and defensive people MISSISSIPPI STATE ATHLETICS


on the field are the game pieces. Who are the players? The players are the people (we call coaches) on the sidelines maneuvering their game pieces in an effort to win the game. The difference between the chess game pieces and the football game pieces is that the chess pieces are inanimate and cannot make mistakes (only the chess players can make mistakes). The Football game pieces are animate and can make mistakes, as can the players (“coaches”). So, the objective of the players (“coaches”) of a football game is to keep their game pieces from making mistakes that lead to defeat. We have allowed games to steal our identity and use it as their own. The players (“coaches”) in a game can call time outs and make adjustments to their game pieces. In our sport, a coach cannot call a time out half way through a 110/100m hurdle race and fix the trail leg. The Player (“coaches”) can substitute their games pieces if a game piece makes a mistake. If a Long Jumper fouls their first attempt, the Coach cannot put in a substitute Long Jumper. They have to make the adjustment to get the Jumper on the board. One of the major objectives of the player (coach) in games is to have superior games pieces to the opponent. If you and I play a game of chess, and your chess pieces are 15 queens and a king, but my chess pieces are 15 pawns and a king, how can I win with inferior chess pieces? It is only an upset in a game if a team with perceived inferior game pieces wins against a team with perceived superior game pieces. In collegiate competitions in America, you see the same teams vying for championships year after year in baseball, basketball and football, etc. because of their ability to recruit more superior game pieces than their opponents. In games, recruiting is far more important than coaching. Should athletes train for strength the same way as a game piece? Are their strength needs the same? Most strength coaches have a one size fits all program that they administer to everyone. Strength training is essentially problem solving, and each athlete is a unique problem. Strength training has to be individualize to maximize the athletes talent. In Athletics, results are the combination of two factors: motor ability and technical mastery. Motor ability is strength, speed, coordination, flexibility, and stamina

(endurance). Strength greatly influences the other motor abilities. Technical mastery is the athlete’s ability to effectively display their motor ability. Strength must precede technical preparation. To improve the athlete’s performance, it is necessary to increase the force-generating capacity of the muscles involved in competition. An increase in the athlete’s motor abilities must precede the improvement of their ability to utilize it in competition. In Athletics (especially sprints, jumps and throws), technical mastery is characterized by the ability to coordinate maximal force output and is insured by the fast and full deployment of one’s motor abilities. In the jumps, sprints and throws, the purpose of technical preparation is to maximize muscle strength potential in competition. Improvement in the athlete’s technical mastery is strictly correlated to the increase in the maximal magnitude of force output in competition and to decrease time in which force is applied. One of the differences between a sport and a game is that the athlete has to train to apply maximal force in the shortest amount of time. Essentially, when an athlete goes into the weight room, they are not training muscle, they are training the Central Nervous System (CNS)/Neuromuscular System to do two things: recruit as many motor units as possible and to recruit motor units as fast as possible. The objective in Athletics is to apply maximum force in a short amount of time (Explosive Strength). The real problem for the athlete and Athletics coach to solve is one of speed. It takes approximately 0.30 of a second to achieve maximum force, but the problem in Athletics is that nothing is that slow. A sprinter gets .08-.10 seconds to apply force to the ground; the Long Jumper gets .11.13 to apply force to the board; the Shot Putter gets less than .20 to apply force to the shot. In the weight room, these athletes are teaching the Neuromuscular System to recruit motor units maximally with speed to succeed in their event. The athlete’s ability to perform with maximal force in minimal time is not a mixing of separately developed speed and strength motor abilities, but is determined by several independent characteristics of the neuromuscular system which interact in an orderly manner to achieve the competitive task.

LISTED BELOW IS AN ALPHABETICAL LIST OF THE COMPETITIVE EVENTS AT THE 2016 SUMMER OLYMPICS.

Archery Athletics Badminton Basketball Beach Volleyball Boxing Canoe Slalom Canoe Sprint Cycling BMX Cycling Mountain Bike Cycling Road Cycling Track Diving Equestrian Dressage Equestrian Eventing Equestrian Jumping Fencing Football Golf Gymnastics Artistic Gymnastics Rhythmic Gymnastics Trampoline Handball Hockey Judo Marathon Swimming Modern Pentathlon Rowing Rugby Sailing Shooting Swimming Synchronized Swimming Table Tennis Taekwondo Tennis Triathlon Volleyball Water Polo Weightlifting Wrestling

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MAXIMUM STRENGTH, MAXIMUM FORCE

How do we go about teaching the athweight) can greatly improve performance lete’s neuromuscular system to recruit by training Maximal Strength. Maximal maximum motor units with speed in Strength is a prerequisite for high speed strength training? First, we must determovement. Because most incoming freshmine what level of athlete we are working man athletes lack Maximum Strength, that with. If you look at the system the Eastern has to be the first priority. It is the best European countries have been using for method for improving neuromuscular over 50 years to classify athletes, it gives coordination (motor unit recruitment, rate evidence to the fact that training must be coding, synchronization, and the entire based on the level of the athlete’s ability. coordination pattern). Their classification system is based on The goal is for female athletes to be the performance the athlete has achieved working toward squatting two times their and not on their experience. They have body weight and cleaning their body seven classifications based on perforweight, while male athletes should work mance: toward squatting 2.25-2.50 times their Class III-Athletes at the most basic level body weight and clean 1.5 times their body Class II-Athletes of intermediate stanweight. This insures that the athlete has dards the ability to apply maximum force. As the Class I-Advanced athletes athlete increases Maximum Strength, they Candidate for Master of Sport-Athletes increase the cross-sectional area of Fast who meet the “B” Standard for World & Twitch (FT) muscle fibers, and increase the Olympic Championships rate of motor units recruited by the nerMaster of Sport-Athletes who meet the vous system. “A” Standard for World & Olympic Yuri Verkhoshansky, the renown Russian Championships strength expert, wrote of three methods for Candidate for International Masterimproving Maximal Strength: (1) Maximal Athletes ranked in the Top 10 of their Event Effort Method-lifting a maximum load; Master of Sport International Class(2) Refusal Method-lifting a non-maximal World Record Holders, World and Olympic load to failure; (3) Dynamic Effort Method lifting a non-maximal load with the highest Champions attainable speed. In Athletics, there are many different The Maximal Effort Method produces strength qualities that the athlete must the greatest strength increment and is master based on their event(s) and classifisuperior to the other methods in produccation. They are: ing maximum strength by recruiting a Maximal Strength-is the greatest volmaximum number of MUs. The fastest untary force that the athlete displays isoMUs are recruited, there is a higher fremetrically when there is no time limit. quency of motoneuron discharge, MU Explosive Strength-is the athlete’s ability synchronization is enhanced, and intrato achieve maximal force in the shortest muscular and intermuscular coordination time. is improved. Because of the low repetitions Rate of Force Development (RFD)-is and high intensity, there is no muscle simply how fast an athlete can develop hypertrophy, which is ideal for events force. where Relative Strength is important Relative Strength-is strength per pound (sprints/jumps). The regime consist of 1-2 of body weight and is vital to performance repetitions at 98-100% of 1RM. Because of in the sprint and jump events. the high intensity, the recovery between Elastic Strength (Reactive Strength)-is sets is 5-6 minutes. Other muscle groups the ability to overcome resistance with can be trained between sets. high speed of contraction using the tenThe major fault of the Maximal Effort dons, muscle and ligaments to absorb, Method for the Class III, II, and I athletes store and release energy. is the risk of injury. The Refusal Method is These strength capabilities are rarely probably best for these athletes. Using a 5 displayed separately in competition. or 8 Repetition Maximum (RM) to failure allows these athletes to improve maximal For athletes in Class III, II, and I strength with less risk of injury. The 5RM Maximal Strength training will improve is going to be approximately 85-89% of the results. Athletes that are weak (Back athlete’s 1RM, while the 8RM will be about Squatting less than 1.5 times their body 78% of the athletes 1RM. In the sprint/ 40

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jumps events, one must be careful not to go higher than 8RM with the Refusal Method because of muscle hypertrophy. Adding weight to the athlete can and will affect performance. It is important that the weight allows the athlete to do only 5RM or 8RM in each set-the objective is go to failure in each set. The athlete will perform 3-4 sets at the chosen RM; the longer rest (4-5 minutes) between sets reduces muscle hypertrophy. The Dynamic Method uses Newton’s Second Law (F = M X A) in developing force via acceleration. We can produce the same amount of Force by reducing the Mass (M) and increasing the Acceleration (A). In strength training for Athletics, all weight should be moved a maximum speed. Obviously, heavy weight cannot be moved fast, but moving it as fast as the athlete possibility can creates more Force. This method is used not so much for increasing Maximum Strength, but the development of Explosive Strength and Rate of Force Development (RFD). One of the best Dynamic Method workouts for sprinter/jumpers is Louie Simmons Westside Barbell’s 12 sets of 2 reps with 45-60 seconds between sets for Back Squats. During week one, the athlete uses 50% of their 1RM Back Squat; week 2-55%; and week 3-60%. Week 4 the 1RM Back Squat is tested again and the cycle is repeated. The rest between sets is kept short to maintain an excited nervous system. This can also be done with the Bench Press. The key is to move the weight at fast as possible. Explosive Strength is Athletics-the ability to produce maximal force in minimal time is required in all jumps, sprints, and throws. The prerequisite to Explosive Strength is Maximum Strength and Relative Strength. Performance is superior with greater maximal force, and the higher the Relative Strength, the more impulse is produced. Performance is the ability of the athlete to display their Explosive Strength capacity. Explosive Strength can be enhanced in one of two ways: (1) Increase maximal force (Class III, II, and I athletes); (2) Increase Rate of Force Development (RFD) (Elite Athletes-everyone above Class I). Rate of Force Development is how fast the athlete develops force, and is a measure of Explosive Strength. RFD is the speed of the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) and improving RFD makes for a more


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MAXIMUM STRENGTH, MAXIMUM FORCE explosive athlete. Improvement in RFD is the result of increased muscle-tendon stiffness, improved muscle force production (Maximal Strength), and enhanced coordination of the neuromuscular system in the SSC. RFD training is for elite level athletes-Class I athletes are at the beginning stages of RFD training, but for athletes above Class I, it must be the primary training method. The mistake made my many athletes and coaches, is to continue to train Maximal Strength when RFD is necessary for improvement. If the time available for force development is short (less than 0.3 seconds), RFD not Maximal Strength is the deciding factor. An athlete who squats their body weight has a standing long jump of 2.50m. When they squat two times their body weight, their standing long jump improves to 2.80m. When they squatted three times their body weight, there was no improvement because of the short takeoff time. Therefore, how fast force was developed (RFD) became the limiting factor, not Maximum Strength. After Maximum Strength is achieved, how do we train RFD? There are two methods used to increase RFD: (1) Fast bursts of muscle action against heavy loads; (2) Training the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC). With the first method, the high load makes the movement velocity slow, but the muscle action velocity (RFD) is extreme. The bursts of muscle action must be performed at maximum speed with maximum effort. These exercises should be done immediately after warm-up in a rested state. Using a load of 85-90% do 3 sets of 3 repetitions, and because of the high load, 5-6 minutes between sets is required. Other muscle groups can be trained between sets. To increase RFD, these exercises are trained four times a week and twice a week to maintain RFD. The lifespan of the cross-bridges between actin and myosin strands is short (15-120 milliseconds). To utilize stored elastic energy, it is critical that the stretchshortening cycle (SSC) be short. The elastic energy of the cross-bridges is wasted with a long stretch because of the slippage between actin and myosin. The faster the SSC, the higher the force and power output, and energy expenditure decreases. The SSC is best trained with Plyometrics. We grossly misinterpreted Russian plyometric training in the 70s. We call any jumping activity plyometrics. Plyometric 42

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training focuses only on a fast SSC. Anything with force application longer than 0.15 is not plyometrics, but simply a jumping exercise. Bounding and hopping are not classical plyometric training. The original Russian plyometric training was called “Shock Method” or Drop Jumps. This method uses the body’s kinetic energy, generated from the drop to stimulate neuromuscular tension. The landing creates a quick “shock” (stretching of the muscle) creating neuromuscular tension. The neuromuscular system increases motor neuron stimulation intensity and creates elastic ability through muscle tension. The athlete stands on a box 40-110cm (depending on ability), steps off the box, and upon landing explodes vertically or horizontally off the ground as fast as possible. For first time “Shock Method” athletes, use 2 sets of 8 repetitions with 4-6 minutes easy running/skipping between sets; working toward no more than 4 sets of 10 repetitions with the same recovery between sets. The cannot be emphasized enough: “Shock Method” training is for HIGH LEVEL ATHLETES ONLY! In the sprints and jumps, Relative Strength plays a major role in performance. The formula for Relative Strength is: Relative Strength = Maximum Strength/ Body Weight. Relative Strength is improved by increasing Maximum Strength, reducing Body Weight, or doing both. In Athletics, the athlete’s Relative Strength will effect performance, particularly in the sprint and jump events. The two lifts that are most used in these events to determine Relative Strength is the Back Squat and the Clean. When adding those two maximums together and dividing the athlete’s body weight into them, minimally, female athletes should have 3lbs of strength per pound of body weight, and males should have 4lbs of strength per pound of body weight. The higher the Relative Strength, the more potential for superior performances. Jonathan Edwards, the World Record Holder in the Triple Jump, had a Relative Strength of 5.34 with a Back Squat of 515 and Clean of 330, and his Body Weight was 158lbs. Just as a comparison (Relative Strength is not important in the Shot Put), Ulf Timmerman, the former East German World Record Holder in the Shot Put, had a Back Squat Max of 805lbs and Cleaned 485lbs weighting 262lbs, putting his

Relative Strength at 4.92. Athletics coaches were strength training long before there was an NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association), CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist), and the multiple over Strength certifying bodies in America. What these certifying bodies have not recognized is the difference between a game and a sport. Unfortunately, Athletics coaches in the collegiate system in America turn their athletes over to these strength coaches (usually by force from athletic administrators), and these coaches have been certified to improve game pieces-not athletes. Most of the certifying bodies know little about what an athlete is attempting in competition and even less about the strength training objectives they require to compete. The American strength and conditioning coach is oriented towards team sports and approaches strength training with a one size fits all mentality. Strength training has to be individualized to the athlete depending on their ability. The Class III athlete will improve significantly with basic strength training. While the Class II and Class I athletes will improve by increasing the Maximum Strength. Once these athletes maximize their Maximum Strength levels, to move up to Candidate for Master of Sport and higher will require improvement in Explosive Strength and Rate of Force Development (RFD). REFERENCES Siff, Mel, Supertraining, Sixth Edition, Supertraining Institute, 2004 Simmons, Louie, Book of Methods, Westside Barbell, 2007 Verkhoshansky, Yuri, Verkhoshansky Forum, Verkhoshansky.com, 2011 Zatsiorsky, Vladimir M, Science and Practice of Strength Training, Human Kinetics, 1995

STEVE THOMAS IS AN ASSISTANT COACH AT MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY WITH OVER THREE DECADES OF COACHING EXPERIENCE. THOMAS IS KNOWN ON THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE FOR HIS INSTRUCTION SKILLS, CONDUCTING CLINICS IN AUSTRALIA, BELGIUM, ENGLAND, GERMANY, MEXICO, SWITZERLAND AND CHINA IN ADDITION TO THE U.S.



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