I’m in a phase of training for speed/explosiveness, as you might guess from the PAP workout I posted last week. Along with my training I’ve been reading some old literature on the subject that’s both fun and compelling. The best of these is a book called Speed Trap, by Charlie Francis. Francis was the coach of sprinter Ben Johnson (among others) who was most famous for testing positive for steroids after setting the world 100m record in the Seoul Olympics. Speed Trap is an honest account of the drug protocol used in those days but, more interestingly, he straightforwardly tells how his group of athletes got so fast. Francis, a former sprinter himself, taps the mind of the most successful coaches in the world (including many of the notorious eastern block) and uses his own experience as a runner to improve upon what they’d done. He had spectacular success and is still regarded as one of the greatest minds in the history of sport.
Along with Speed Trap Francis wrote other—more technical books—that can be found on his web site that still appears to be working even though he passed away in 2010. For anyone interested in training for speed this is required reading/viewing. Also found a cool interview over at T-Nation. It’s more fun than practical but has a few gems and worth a few minutes of your time. The first half covers drugs and hypocrisy in sport and, in my mind, is less interesting although you’ll get a good idea of Francis’ direct nature with quotes like, You wouldn’t let a plumber loose in your house without him having trained under supervision. Yet we have coaches who sent away for a mail order course or get classified as a level four or whatever just because they passed an exam. There’s a program in Canada that says, “Doesn’t your child deserve a certified coach?” Then you see the work that these idiots do! I think the word is certifiable, not “certified.” They take a good concept and turn it into crap.
The second half gets into some training protocol, from the importance of not overtraining and recovery: If an athlete hits a personal best, you usually stop the workout, regardless of what’s left on the paper. Why is that? Well, it’s dangerous. The time people get hurt is the next session after they’ve had a tremendous performance. Not just because they’re psyched up and trying to beat their PR, but because their bodies haven’t recovered from it. With very heavy weights it can take ten to twelve days to get over a maximal lift, same thing in sprinting. There’s a huge difference between 95 and 100% performance. To the dangers of single rep exercises: The reason for that is once an athlete gets to a certain level of strength, you’d almost never be working at singles because it’s too dangerous. Ben never worked with singles, certainly not in the lower body. Why take the risk? To stretching protocol: This used to be frowned on in the US, I know, but ballistic stretching has it’s place provided the athlete is loose. Static stretching and when you’re trying to increase the range should be at the end of the workout. Not only is this the safest time to do that type of stretching, but it also speeds up recovery. You can shorten your recovery by up to four hours by stretching everything out at the end of the session. That’s the time to go for increased range. To supplements: There’s a lot of things out there that are very good, the problem is in how much and when. Creatine can be very helpful and very harmful. For example, jetlag can cause an athlete to lose fluid out of the muscles and into the tissue surrounding it. By taking creatine you can bring the fluid back to its normal levels inside the muscle cells and allow the proper transfer of nutrients across the cell membranes to speed recovery. You’ll also have more fuel available for the activity. The downside is if you pump too much fluid in there you decrease the ability of the muscle to move over itself because it’s too pumped up. Then you’re at risk of injury. So there’s a very fine balance, as in all things. He even discussed PAP, though not be name, and says he didn’t use it as it was yet to be perfected so it made sense. Took Marcus and P3 to do that.