Thursday 26 July 2012

Sprint Training 2nd Ed

In 2009 I wrote some thoughts on sprinting. Here is the 2011 update…

Here are some random thoughts I had about training sprinters.

1. The law of averages beats the law of extremes.

Everyone seems to want to hit peak speed, cadences, power, weights in the gym, mileage in training and riding as big a gear as possible. Even in a 200m sprint one can't sustain peak power for the whole 200m and I believe it's preparing to sustain that power over the goal duration and finding a healthy balance in training that will make for the best sprinter.

I have the SRM data which shows that aiming to sustain an appropriate cadence average for the race duration leads to a higher average power. Now that Tissot Timing give 100m splits from the flying 200m round of the World Cup and World Championship sprint events we can see that the rider with the greater drop off in speed from the 1st 100m to the 2nd 100m ends up with the slower time. Most riders in the top half of the field have a drop off of only .1 of a second while the riders in the bottom half the results has a .2 - .3 drop off.

2. Conditioning conditioning conditioning

When I did Sport Aerobics (a strength and power sport) we went to an Evil Russian Gymnastics Coach to learn skills but when he looked at us the first thing he said was "conditioning conditioning conditioning". You can build all the power in the world but without good condition you will not be able to take advantage of this. When Sean Eadie (Aus) won the 2002 World Sprint Champs his sum of 8 skinfolds was 39mm.

3. Conditioning for sprinters

I have trialled micro intervals (ie 20-50 x 10sec on 10sec off) but people tend to go out too hard and fail to do more than 10 reps which equals a pretty poor training stimulus. My preference is for longer intervals of 3-8mins done to target maximal aerobic power. A sprinter does not need to go overboard on aerobic training and should not do road rides over 2 hours and should only road race or do criteriums of around 30-40km or around 60mins in duration.

If body fat levels are high diet is where the main focus is. Due to the intensive nature of sprint training the cyclist does not have the same energy demands as track endurance and road cycling and dietary intake should reflect this.

4. Alactic and Anaerobic are easier to develop than Aerobic

I think the Aussies had it totally wrong under Martin Barras. They obsessed over max power, max speed and peak strength. Speed endurance was tacked on at the end. This failed for them at the Beijing Olympics and they now have Gary West back in charge. In 1996 and 97 I spent a bit of time working with Gary and picked up some really good tips from him. Anna Meares credits him with her recent triple Gold Medal success at 2011 World Champs.

My thoughts are in the general conditioning phase to transition from a major event then short rest (2-3 weeks max) into 3 week conditioning block then a 1 week speed block. Too much speed work and you lose good condition (lean body and good recovery). Too much conditioning and you lose your event specific fitness. Each conditioning week will include a speed day as 1 day a week is all it takes to maintain your hard earned top end speed and power.

5. Sprints are going long.

In the past on big tracks you could hold the sprint to well past the 200m mark. Now with smaller tracks and with it now being harder to pass on the bends (and straights) riders are going early. Even makes the 200m harder to assess opponents with sprints running 300-500m long. Another reason to avoid focusing on peak power.

6. Peaking for the sprinter

My plan is to run a 4 week speed and taper block. I had worked on a 3 week block but some riders felt 4 weeks was better. Having access to SRM files from several sprinters leading into major events it is clear to see that they are better to taper long and risk going in under-done. Better to have to dig deeper than be over-trained and have nothing left to fight with. This taper also applies to any event really. It is just that the sprinter needs to be very fresh to tap into their neuromuscular peak power will take longer to recover from intense efforts and be ready to give 100% on race day.

In this period the ideal is to be on the track you intend to race on (the British Sprint Team’s biggest investment is on track time) training on race gears, race wheels and in race kit doing efforts that will draw out your peak power relative to you goal events mixed in with tactical work to sharpen you up for race day. Always notable that the best sprint teams in the World like GBR, Aussies, French and Germans are the ones where there are several good sprinters (reflected these days in the Team Sprints).

When discussing sprint training with Gary West in 1997 he said they started out with 20 drills and realising that many were ineffective (mainly through SRM testing) he whittled them down to 4 core drills. Back then when they had a programme of 4 World Class Sprinters (the 5th Peden came to NZ knowing he had no chance of making the Aussie team) they didn’t even use the motorbike for speed when training indoors on Adelaide Superdrome.

My 4 core drills for sprinters in the peaking phase include…
·         Progressive efforts over 500-1000m
·         Motor accelerations over 200-500m
·         Standing start efforts over 50-500m
·         Windouts over 2-3 laps

Based on SRM data from several riders these core efforts provide the optimal stimulus in terms of event specific power and event specific cadences.

7. Tactics

The most important tactic is to be in control. In the individual events it is controlling your ride, your line, your pace, your position. In matched rides it is controlling your opponents. This applies if behind or leading out. In the lead judging your speed so you don't get jumped but not carting your opponent to the line. From behind forcing the opponent to use more energy to try and keep them guessing when you will strike.

8. Planning

I think we still need better race plans. I learnt this from 7 time NZ Sprint Champs Jon Andrews who was meticulous in his preparation for any event. Also from Aussie World Kilo Champ Martin Vinnicombe who after finishing 2nd at Seoul Olympics in 1988 sat down and mapped out the next four years to the day on winning Gold. These are the plans that get you to the line.

On the line the work should be done. Physical and mental. If you have to think in a sprint event your opponent could be 50 metres down the track before you know it. This is why experience is so crucial for a sprinter. From 2008 the NZ sprint team have made a steady ascent up the World Rankings because they have made a commitment to chasing more quality racing and perform at their best coming off good racing leading into goal events.

9. Diet

I have really been focusing on getting my weight down and fully paying attention to what I eat. Amazing how calories creep up on you and how I am eating more and but taking in less calories. And also eating a far more nutritious diet. Had a Meatball Subway and realised it had 4000 kilojoules whereas the same size (volume of food) chicken breast Sub was only 2000 kilojoules. Less body fat = higher power to weight, less to accelerate, lower frontal surface area and increased ability to maintain an aerodynamic riding position.

Recent research indicates what you eat before exercise has little bearing on performance. In many cases eating too much can have a worse effect than eating too little. If lowering skinfold levels is a priority one should aim to eat less before exercise when excess calories are stored in the fats cells and commence during exercise and especially after exercise for up to 2 hours when the working muscle will take up any carbohydrate taken in.

10. Equipment.

On the track Double Discs for all individual events on indoor tracks and Discs and Five Spoke Carbon Front Combination for Sprint and Keirin. FMB are the tyre of choice. 20mm for TTs and 22mm for everything else.

11. Warm Ups

No 6 hour warm ups like the French or Aussies. 5-15min is heaps so your muscles are ready and you are not worn out by the time you hit the line!

-8min progressive then 2 x 10sec sprints

We use the ergs as they provide the best resistance especially for high power efforts. The Revbox Drivechainer will soon be on the market. I have had significant input into its design to ensure it offers way more resistance and is quitter than the LeMond Revolution and is lighter and more cost effective than the BT-ATS erg.

Post racing cool down should be done till heart rate drops below 120 bpm or profuse sweating ceases.

12. Gearing

Cadence, cadence, cadence. While it is true that the gearing riders are using has gone up this is a reflection on the higher speeds we are seeing in racing these days. The important thing is that the cadence riders are using has not changed in the last 20-30 years. This also reflect better frames, wheels (5 spoke carbon is stiffer than a 3 spoke carbon or deep section carbon) and better designed tracks.

When my good friend Gordon Singleton set a World Record of 10.58 back in 1980 it was at a cadence of around 155rpm and in 2008 when Chris Hoy qualified first in the Olympics flying 200m in 9.8 it was at around 155rpm. The advantage of the smaller gear or higher cadence is less chance of going out too hard. Many sprinters run too big and while their jump and wind up may be impressive it is poor management of energy and they run short over the event distance. This applies in any event from the flying 200m or standing lap to the 21 day Tour de France.

13. Racing

Need quality racing. Especially leading into events. Even if you have to travel. Even if the legs are not there need to go through the motions to get big race day perfectly dialled in. In 1996 this was the difference between Gary Neiwand and Darryn Hill (top 2 qualifiers in 200m at Atlanta) and Jens Fiedler. Jens had been racing all year long while the Aussies had been training all the way. He was able to stay focused on the task at hand as he had been doing it all year long.

If any event in cycling is governed by experience it is the Sprint events. Every year you spend working on refining your sprint skills, developing your anaerobic power and capacity and practicing race tactics will make for a constant improvement in performance and results. This process takes years.

In Canterbury we will be running a Sprinter’s League. At present it may take the form of a Monthly (ie 4 a season) day long meeting interspersed with the Omniums where we may cover the following events…

250m Standing TT
400m Standing TT
200m Flying TT
Match Sprints
450m Scratch Race

I would also look to get on to the Invercargill track whenever possible to race and keep refining your positioning and passing skills in the final laps. Another great track to race on is Tinwald which is flat and effectively has four corners so you really have to think about positioning and power application unlike Denton Park where it is possible to win from any position and you can pass up to 4 wide.


1 comment:

  1. Good day Hamish.

    Can you please post or send me a link from the previous sprint thoughts? Would really like to read.