Training Shallower in the Same Pool

This article was provided by Complete Track and Field

Training shallower in the same pool means incorporating back to back sessions of high neuromuscular demand with the first being the more difficult or challenging and the second being lighter and less challenging

By Latif Thomas

In my previous article, I explained the many benefits of using back-to-back training sessions of high neuromuscular demand as a model for developing your high school sprinters.

If you haven’t read it, I recommend reading it before continuing on here in order to ensure you know the underlying ‘Reason Why’ behind the activity selection discussed below.

Click here to read Part 1: Training Deeper in the Same Pool.

Building on the ideas contained in that article, we’ll now move to our next preferred practice session format:

Training Shallower in the Same Pool

Training shallower in the same pool means incorporating back to back sessions of high neuromuscular demand with the first being the more difficult or challenging and the second being lighter and less challenging. (It can also be for low neuromuscular demand type sessions, but we already covered that.)

For all intents and purposes, the deeper/shallower formats are simply the inverse of the other. However, training shallower is my preferred format when max velocity/top end speed is on the menu, especially early in the season or with the freshmen/Year 1 kids.

In my experience, once kids get out into that 35m – 60m range, injury risk rises by 47%.

I don’t have data on this. I pulled that number from the ethers. My measuring system is the level of cringe I feel when watching unskilled sprinters flop their limbs around as fast as they can.

Toe first landings. Heel first landings. Casting the lower leg. Poor recovery mechanics/excessive backside mechanics.

If you’re looking for a surefire method for finding yourself in a team wide shin splint, hamstring, adductor, and/or hip flexor injury epidemic, continue to allow these postural failures to repeat themselves endlessly, day in and day out, in spikes, and at velocities they can’t control.

I’m not advocating to *only* go shallower in your maximum velocity/top end speed themed sessions. I do both on the regular.

Just be cautious. And remember this:

Most of your sprinters are completely vertical within 3 – 8 steps.

Therefore, top end speed technique is a far more important skill to learn and apply than acceleration.

If your sprinters live there for 90% of their race, even in the 100m, then you should be living there in practice as well.

Our sample sessions for training shallower in the same pool use a max velocity/top end speed theme during the “Special Preparation Phase” (if you believe in such a concept.)

Actually, let’s talk about “training phases” for a second. In this case, ‘Special Prep’. Or ‘Specific Prep’. Whatever.

Traditionally, the Special Preparation Phase is the part of the training year where, in practice, you are trending toward more event specific activities.

But, here’s the thing though:

We’re always trending toward specificity. But, if it looks like crap, it’s crap. Stop doing it.

Maybe we’re trending toward still not being able to put their foot down flat so top speed technique consists of having them walk/jog/run up some stairs or bleachers.

I don’t let the phase determine I have to switch to a different volume or intensity in practice. In fact, I don’t care about volume. I have no volume goals.

Instead, the training phase has more to say about the level of intensity and expectation for the practice.

Let’s use wicket drills and how this might apply in practice:

General Preparation Phase: They can’t get to wicket 1 in 6 steps, they kick over the wickets, double step, and forget to run off the wickets through the cone.

I’m not that worried about it. I just want them to get a feel for the drill and attempt to apply some things we’re doing elsewhere in practice.

An entirely heuristic approach.

Specific Preparation Phase: They’re expected to get to wicket 1 in 6, get through the spacings clean and carry through the cone without making me feel sad.

Less heuristic. If/when they don’t/can’t execute, there will be more feedback and instruction. I may ask them (the group or individual athletes) to execute a specific movent or display a particular postural position.

I show decreased patience and I’m not making jokes with repeated failure. I remind them that little things add up to big things and the inability to focus and execute comes at a steep price later in the season.

Continued lack of attention to detail gets varsity athletes demoted to a remedial spacing. That usually solves the problem real quick.

PreCompetition / Competition: I expect everyone to be focused and dialed in. I don’t want to hear talking and goofing off between efforts or while waiting in line. The only talking I should hear is athletes coaching each other and giving each other feedback.

I expect consistency of execution at the highest range of their current ability level.

They may be timed through the drill. There may be competition.

Less instruction. Instead, I explain how their particular failures/successes in executing the drill specifically impact their races.

I think the set up for Monday is pretty standard. Nothing stands out to me as trying to be too cute by half. Plus, I explained training unit construction via a commonalities based approach to training back in Part 1.

No need to be redundant.

Getting out to 22 wickets isn’t something we do right away. Generally we’ll start with 11 and I’ll have multiple spacings set up using as many lanes as possible.

Regarding the Main Session, Ins/Outs is a technically challenging activity. So, let’s be honest, for 90% of the team those are just 50m sprints because they’ll have no idea how to shift gears during the 10/10/10.

As you know, top speed sprinting is a vertical activity. So hurdle hops for our plyos and in the weight room.

About Tuesday…

Because this is the lighter/easier day, I’m treating the entire session as a culminating activity. The activities, cues, volumes, and intensities will largely depend what I saw in Monday’s practice, from the group as a whole, but primarily kids who are on the varsity relays.

In the Technical/Postural Development unit, I consider the list of activities an inventory of options. I’m not going to try and do everything on the list in the order it’s written because that is just drilling to drill.

It’s a classic example of ‘coach what you see’.

What’s more interesting to me in a session like this is:

A) Who is making the connection between yesterday and today by showing technical improvements and/or making a volitional effort to change how they move in order to match a revised understanding of how I want them to execute. B) Are they asking different questions or answering questions in a way that implies a change in experiential understanding of the skills being taught in practice?

When these things begin to happen, it means we can start spending more time in practice doing things that look like Monday’s session and less time on partial movements and remedial technical and postural development activities.

Last year I took over a program that was a hot mess. I remediated everything and our ‘deeper’ workouts looked a lot more the ‘shallow’ workout. We literally walked up stairs and ran upstairs because they needed to learn to land flat with a vertical shin and recover correctly (toe up, lift the thigh) with the heel coming up underneath the hips instead of flexing at the knee with the heel going backwards.

From a coaching standpoint, it was the most bored I’ve ever been in my life. Because when they can’t walk up stairs right, where do you go from there?

But, I took the long approach within the 2017 indoor/outdoor season, as well as the 4 year plan. So even though we did infuriatingly remedial stuff instead of fly runs and ins/outs, it was the only way. And you can still get decent results without using 5 figure speed machines.

I had 9 girls in the winter and 15 or so in the spring. Here’s how they placed at the RI State Championship, even on a strict diet of ‘you’re only allowed to do what you can actually do’.

55m: 2-3-6
100m: 2-5
200m: 1-5
300m: 2-3
400m: 1
4×200: 1
4×400: 1

3. Booty Lock
That’s a scientific term. #Fact

Booty lock workouts are crucial to the success of any sprints program, especially your long sprinters.

And that goes double for your girls.

(Fine. If you want to be a nerd about it, I’m referring to Lactacid Capacity themed workouts.)

I’d also recommend being careful with the frequency and volume of these workouts because being proud of inflicting misery on kids and expecting to grow your program is literally the worst coaching idea I’ve ever heard. Literally nobody would be stupid enough to use this as a marketing tool for the team.

For example, I just finished my first year in a new program. Three of my best long sprinters didn’t do indoor because kids were not really enjoying their experience in the sprints/hurdles/jumps group under the previous administration.

(I base this on the fact I only had 3 girls on my indoor team who were not freshmen. That’s correct. Three. Two juniors, one senior, and six freshmen. Total. [No worries though, we won the State Championship in the 4×200 and of the six girls in the entire state who qualify for New Englands in the 55m, my team of nine sent …three.])

Point is, these girls weren’t in shape because they were couching it for the previous three months.

At the end of the spring season, they told me they HATED one of my staple booty lock workouts: 4×300 with 4 minutes rest.

Yes, some workouts suck. That one sure does. It’s the nature of being a 400 runner. And I know from experience how hard it is because I was a DI collegiate 400 runner.

(That’s why 94% of your sprints group swears they’re 100 runners.)

BUT, I need them to like track. Kinda important. Like remembering to bring your spikes to the meet so you don’t have to run in sneakers. (What you never had a varsity athlete forget their spikes?)

So, had I known, I could have easily changed 4×300 to 3-4 x 2 x 150 or any of countless other things.

I’d get the same physiological result, but without anybody cussing me out behind my back.

(Yo. High school girls can be mean, man.)

So the purpose of Booty Lock workouts isn’t to make them puke or have everybody laid out on the track. That is not impressive.

I’m not saying I’ve never had kids laid out after a workout. I have.

But nobody ever joined the track team after hearing from their friends that every Tuesday, Coach Thomas makes you do a puke workout.

Short story long, two of the three girls ended up being members of our State Champion 4×400 team and all three are doing indoor this year.

Hearts and minds, coach. Hearts and minds.

Once again, to nobody’s surprise, I have strayed from the original point…

Apologies.

So I’ve become a huge fan of following a speed day (not more than once per micro, though) with some type of booty lock workout, especially during the Preparation Period and especially with long sprinters.

Look, Booty Lock Tuesday is every long sprinter’s least favorite day of the week. (For the sake of simplicity, assume no dual meet during the week and also the Fact short sprinters never REALLY hurt so they are never allowed to complain.)

So Monday is technically challenging, long, and of relatively high neuromuscular demand. Tuesday is a different kind of terrible. So it’s two different, but difficult practices.

So how have I turned track into a cult at every school I’ve ever coached?

Well that’s a multifacted conversation beyond the scope of this article. So, for now, I’ll focus on how I smash kids on Monday and Tuesday and they keep coming back for more.

(Because they get fast. And winning is fun.

COACH! Stop distracting me from the point of this article!)

In practical terms, I let them know if they grind for those two back to back days, Wednesday is going to be very short and very easy. It has become known as ‘Yoga Wednesday’ (not that we necessarily do yoga) and I keep practice to 30-45 minutes, maximum.

They can talk. Goof off. Be loud. Have fun.

Much different than the demands of Monday and Tuesday.

Two hard days they can buy into. Three hard days in a row would break them down physically and mentally.

Two hard days …then a goof off/fun practice, that makes all the difference.

Now…

For purposes of running a compatible and complimentary program, as well as for my own sanity, I try to keep the Monday workout as similar as possible between the short and long sprints groups.

But, on Booty Lock Tuesday, that’s probably not going to work. Especially with the girls.

Please understand, I’m not making arbitrary and/or misogynistic distinctions between boys and girls.

From an endocrine system development standpoint, high volume/low intensity training with longer recovery times tends to benefit males. More moderate intensities combined with higher volumes tends to lead to improved endocrine system profiles in women.

Additionally, higher training volumes are associated with growth hormone increases, especially for athletes with lower training ages.

Well, that’s what my USTFCCCA Event Specialist manual says. I’m taking their word for it.

I majored in history.

At a state school.

If you are interested in learning more about how Latif Thomas build speed in his sprinters check out his Complete Speed Training  3 (CST3)

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