Your 500 lbs squat won’t help you
…if you can’t efficiently transfer that energy into a good jump, throw, or sprint. There are two common explanations as to why some of the strongest folks on the barbell can’t always bring it onto the track. We’ll explore that a bit today as we review some of my track specific work in the weight room. Let’s get after it.
Overview for Thursday, March 2nd, 2017
- 800m jog/skip + warmup (with eyelights)
- Pole Vault Drills
No ice bath or proper cool down due to a long practice and obligation in the evening and I’m pretty bummed about it. Since I switched my long warm up routine into a long cool down routine, I have been recovering much better. Hopefully this doesn’t screw me up before tomorrow’s running workout.
Return to Pole Vault
Won’t talk too much about this today, I want to get into a bit more detail about the weight room, but I’m really excited about vaulting again. Today practice was about getting comfortable with the pole, trying to nail down the good habits before I start to clear bars. The pole vault is just as much a jumping event as a gymnastic one, and today I worked on the jumping aspect. I started with some practice doing this take off drill, and then moved to the box and mat doing the same thing below. Amped to get over some bars next week.
Why your huge squat can’t save you
Two summers ago, I made the switch to the multi. Thinking I had to be much stronger and beefier to compete in the throws, I put on almost 30 more pounds of body weight and squatted 3 times a week thinking I would break out of my frail cocoon and become a huge, muscle-y butterfly.
I spent six straight months, summer through pre-season of 2015, only crushing it in the weight room. My max squat shot up a good 80 pounds, and had similar progress with my deadlift and bench press. It did help improve my shotput potential, but was I any faster? Maybe a little, but my raw strength was nowhere near as crucial as I thought it would be. I had a new awesome base of strength, but it was not like my body knew how to use it properly. I got hurt 3 weeks into that season and my shins were totally fried with multiple stress reactions. What happened?
Coach Sam was explaining today that there are two common reasons why athletes that crush it in the weight room don’t always translate into great track athletes.
They can’t move the weight quickly.
Sure, you can do a single 700 lbs deadlift, but when you deadlift you can take your sweet time moving that weight. A 16 lbs shotput might feel pretty light to you now, but if you are used to training a heavy and slow deadlift, you may not be so quick to adjust to the very technical and explosive movement that is the shotput.
They can’t absorb force as efficiently.
Same kind of principle applies here. Remember, there are three components to an athletic dynamic movement:
- eccentric phase (deceleration ➡️ slowing down, muscles lengthening),
- isometric phase (full stop)
- concentric phase (acceleration ➡️ speeding up, muscles shortening/flexing)
The powerlifts definitely hit all three, but training strictly for the big 3 of powerlifts (squat, deadlift, bench) might neglect two of the important big 3 phases of dynamic movements (eccentric and isometric). When you train strictly for pure strength you can dish it out, but can you take it?
I definitely am lacking both the quickness and absorption required to take advantage of my strength gains on the track — this is probably why I got hurt and probably wasn’t running 10.6 in the 100. I can squat almost 150 lbs more than our 200m guy Tony, but he would sweep the floor in any (non-hurdle, less than 800m) race against me 1-on-1. We can blame this problem on a couple things. Maybe it’s just my genetics, body type, or athletic history. I’d rather not worry and just try to correct it in the weight room, so would Coach Sam.
- Prehab: 1 Leg ankle squat (2 x 5)
- Prehab: Sprinter press (3 x 4 each) [example above]
- Single Leg Clean (2 x 4, 2 x 3) [example]
- Eccentric explosive squats + Squat jump super set (4 x 3+3)
- Eccentric explosive Romanian Deadlift (3 x 6)
- Pull ups (3 x 6)
All of this work is programmed to help convert our strength bases into explosive track and field movements. Eccentric explosive just means that we really focus on a slow eccentric motion, and explosive concentric motion. So doing barbell squats like this involves a very slow descent and a super quick ascent out of the bottom. This kind of adaptation is going to help me absorb more force and move weight quicker, things that will help me kill it on the track.
We kept the weight a bit light and focused on nailing the timing on these. I also had to let go of my ass to grass squatting mentality. We have to remember what the goal here is. Often you’ll see pro jumpers and sprinters quarter-squatting TONS of weight. It looks pathetic to powerlifters, but in jumping and sprinting events our hip positions never come near parallel. Depth is great for a building an awesome strength base, but we are training for specific movements here.
Like Coach Sam was telling me, there is a time and place for everything. ATG squatting is awesome, just probably more helpful to us in the off season. It has less immediate transfer to performance than we need right now.
If you are interested in this style of training, Coach Sam (writes our strength programming) highly recommends checking out Cal Dietz’s Triphasic Training.
This is part of a new project of mine to share an authentic NCAA division 3 track and field experience. After 8 years of competing at the high school and college level, this is my last season of competition before graduating. Track is a pretty widely misunderstood sport so I wanted to offer as much insight into this world before saying goodbye.
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