ACCELERATION: KINDA BIG DEAL (PART 3)

Heya everyone. I hope you are all feeling strong, powerful and super fast. This post is the continuation of the discussion on the importance of acceleration. We will looking into how we set up a session based on parameters that include the athlete (how they feel/ability), the quality we are looking to improve and the adaptations we are looking achieve. This will include the rep scheme, set scheme and recovery times that allow us to achieve these parameters. If you are reading this you have hopefully read part 1 and part 2 of this post. If not go read them. Like now. So here we go!

Jamaica's Usain Bolt at the World Athletics Championships in the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze)

Volume,Distance and Recovery :

When we are accelerating and increasing in speed (max velocity) we are using the ATP-PCr energy system. This is our 7 seconds raw speed before we begin to slow down. This can be pushed to about 9 seconds according to the great Charlie Francis who describes this window as our “free energy“. Think “I see a lion, I need to sprint away from the lion and climb that tree”, this energy system would be crucial to our survival as part of sympathetic fight or flight response.

Getting back acceleration and speed, we need to do as much work within in this “free energy window” as we possibly can. We need to work in a state of little to no fatigue, otherwise we crossover too far into the anaerobic (glycolytic) lactic energy system. This will occur if we use reps of 70-80m or any rep that takes longer than 7 seconds, we are using too much volume- think 10*200m  and/or not allowing the athlete enough recovery- 16*60m with 30 second recovery. This is the basis of why we don’t tend to go super high in the use of volume and max out mostly between 300-400m of work when it comes to acceleration and speed development. Just to add we do go lower/higher based on the type of starts we are using during the session, what part of the season we are in and what training adaptation we are looking achieve.

I would like to add, that for the purpose of weekly planning, you need to keep in mind the  highly fatiguing effect  of acceleration on the neural system. This system can be easily disrupted and can have a pretty huge affect on your hormonal state, more likely glucocorticoids (effects the immune system) and cortisol (wakes you up and also stressor). Again not evil but in largely elevated states can cause all sorts of havoc.Ben-Johnson-and-Charlie-F-006

To put this out there now. I am not against lactic acid. I really am not worried about some lactate build up when it is being developed in a event specific manner. For example competing in 4 races over 2 days is going to create lactate build up. So if we are hitting multiple accelerations and there is lactate build up…Not the end of the world.  Lactate is not the enemy.

I am a massive proponent of quality over quantity. Our sessions are planned meticulously. However, if the athlete does not look good or the quality of reps drop, then you can sure as hell bet that the session which may last 1-1.30 hours is going to be cut short- at times as short as 2-3 reps. Quality of movement and the ability to produce what we want within the session is not optional. As coaches we need to understand what quality movement is, know when we are seeing it and then adapt accordingly. We need to understand that fatigue is the enemy of motor learning – or re-learning. If we can minimize fatigue we can maximize learning and then test it in a fatigued state- if and when we need or want to.

This highlights an error that I find a lot of coaches make. They base their decisions on the session/sport/event alone. I believe this to be a mistake.

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Happy Athletes and Happy Coaches.

This feeds into my  thoughts and belief that as coaches we need to know our athletes. We need to coach the athlete and the event. We NEED to know what makes them tick. Know the machine so that we can fine tune it. Don’t use the “we have a big group and don’t have enough time“. Sorry to put it bluntly. That is bull shit and an excuse… find the time. No one said coaching was meant to be easy. We have 40+ athletes and we know each and every one of them very well and speak to every athletes pre-session gauging all the signs and signals from that moment all the way through the warm up. Make the effort. If you aren’t doing this as a coach then I feel you are missing a trick and not only letting yourself down but the athlete too.

Anyway I got slightly side tracked.

So what about recovery. Well I like to use a rule of a minimum of a 1 minute per 10m in distance covered IF NOT MORE. I do SOMETIMES  break this rule for 10m reps so that we can practice movement patterns through greater number of repetitions, the whole “Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.”-Zig Ziglar thing. I especially use higher reps when working with new/young athletes, or when we are working with very big groups which allow the recovery to take care of its self.

However distances covered over 10m get more than enough recovery to allow the athlete to sprint without being in a state of fatigue. Since reps are ranging from 10-40m in distance during our acceleration development session, the recoveries will range from 1-6 minutes.

If you were at out sessions through out the year you would very quickly realize that we always include some sort of acceleration and speed in the program. Yes, even in winter! Why do we want to get slow in winter? But hold on Nate… aren’t we more at risk of injury in winter? We have found that the answer is simply… NO! No you aren’t. In fact I have found that athletes are at higher of risk in season-Summer-due to the accumulation of high stress, training load and sheer number of races, that young athletes especially, tend to do. But I digress.

I have provided you with my thoughts on developing acceleration so its is only time that I provide an example of what an acceleration session could like look like.

Example of Session Plan:

Meet athlete- Begin assessment
Soft tissue work- Therapist or Foam Rolling
Warm Up
– Assessment continued- Raise, activate, mobilize and Potentiate athletes for the task at hand. In this case acceleration.

Drills use to potentiate athlete-Wall drills, Sled pulls, Prowler pushes, band pulls, med ball jumps etc. Get creative-Think what movement/skill improve or prepare for during the session?

  • 4-6*10m Roll ins-Emphasis on first 2-4 steps
  • 3*20m (2-3 min)-Drive phase into Transition 4-12 steps
  • 3*30m (3-4 min)-Transition Box 12-15 steps
  • 2*40m (4-5 min)-Transition Box into Max V

Total Volume:  260m

Not every acceleration development session looks like the above. There will be a lot of variation based on many different factors that need to be taken into account. However, reps will always range from 10-40m reps. We always include some form of acceleration work in speed sessions and speed endurance sessions but in a lot less volume. The above is not a must do to improve acceleration, although you would, it is just an example of what you could do. As my great mentor and GBR coach Michael Utting says “this is not what you have to do, this is what we do and what you could do“. Their is nothing wrong with having a slightly different approach as long as the fundamentals for acceleration and speed improvements are being looked after and developed. I will leave you with what a good coach, namely, Clarence Callender said to me:  “Speed is Speed”

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