When you build a great familiarity with someone’s work over a long period, you are eager to see them finally put together a concise manual that compiles their up-to-that-point sampling of articles and Q&A repertoire, but additionally you wonder if the offering might be redundant in information; have you essentially just bought a souvenir?
Considering what James ‘The Thinker’ Smith, has provided free of charge via his articles and commentary through Q&A over the years, even if this manual were merely a sounvenir, its worth the money.
Smith breaks his manual down into 19 chapters and the justification for the depth and breadth of the manual, and indeed the existence of it at all, can be found in his summary at the end.
‘Sprinting is one of the basal constituents, arguably the most important, in the preparation of most T&F, team based field and court sport athletes. Any coach of speed/power athletes is assured to enhance their competition outcomes via the study and practice of applied sprint training.’
The manual begins with a description of Sprint Speed and the difference between acceleration and max velocity. Smith uses and contrasts the 10m segment sprint times of Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell from the World Record setting race in Berlin in 2009. The Track and Field data in the manual by itself is a great resource and may be unfamiliar to those who have not analyzed it themselves before.
The manual reflects on and gives credit to the work of Charlie Francis. Francis is the late Canadian athlete turned sprint coach who most famously coached Ben Johnson. For that reason, amongst the general public and media at large his enormous efforts to the preparation of sprinters in particular is over-looked. Amongst serious coaches, his work is well respected.
Chapter 2 describes Francis’ ‘Speed Zone’ categorizations and descriptions. These are revisited several times throughout the manual and are a necessary fundamental understanding for athletes beyond just those in T&F. Francis’ model on intensity limits is provided and then Chapter 3 explains the proper coupling.
You’re not buying this manual because of its presentation. A few more edited washes might have ended up combining Chapters 4 and 6. Chapters 5 and 7 might also have been combined, but no matter. Smith explains the considerations for Long to Short and Short to Long methodologies in programming as a part of ‘Speed Development Strategies’. His development exercises and warm ups are spread across 2 chapters.
‘Tempo Training’ , or percentage-based running efforts, is a simple enough concept in T&F but Smith urges us to consider the programming implications with field sport athletes. In Chapter 5 he also takes aim at the aerobic and lactic testing models that are traditionally used in organized sport and explains Maximal Aerobic Speed (MAS), contrasting examples of a middle distance runner and sprinter; the training that mimics those athletes, what does it mean for the training of the field sport athlete?
The meat of the manual for me comes in ‘Implications for Sport Training Load’ in chapter 8. We look at the training calendar and consider Long/Short and Short/Long block options as well as Francis’ Vertical Integration model. Throughout, Smith gives personal testimony of athletes he has trained and it adds very positively to the manual as a whole.
When it comes to having total program control, (matching the general preparedness with the technical-tactic demands) we must consider the expense of each training session and how they impact on subsequent ones. Smith introduced your author to the ‘High/Low’ method. This method considers the intensity of training sessions, its position in the week, and the corresponding Central Nervous System loading. As he goes into this, Smith isn’t just name dropping when he acknowledges the work of other well known T&F coaches and their methodological training systems. Smith gives examples of how the High/Low model works in both a General and Specific Physical Preparation stage and all the time you are reading this you start to understand the historical development of what has gone on over the last few decades of athletic preparation.
Smith has put great research into this history; this manual is the result.
The ‘Applied Physics‘ chapter, to be honest, was the component of this manual I was most eager to read. Efficient barbell mechanics has been an enormous part of my coaching in the last 3 years in particular and it has unearthed a demand for deep knowledge and understanding, so-much-so that I have returned with new eyes to T&F and Gymnastics; how I coach it, what I emphasize and what I work towards.
Start and acceleration mechanics has been a huge curious endeavour that I have revisited in 2014, asking myself why I coach what I coach and drawing on new resources; this manual has largely confirmed a lot of the new information I have been gathering from the likes of Dan Pfaff, Adarian Barr and Latif Thomas. Chapter 14 deals with both the understanding of the physics involved in linear speed, jumping and change of direction and then addresses considerations of external forces.
Further along into chapter 14, a more in-depth look at the Applied Physiology of the concepts already laid out from earlier chapters. Time motion analysis data is used to explain and prescribe volume and intensity that is coherent with the bioenergetic realities of sport and its training. It dove tails nicely into a more complete understanding of what Francis is talking about in his Speed Endurance categories that we first saw in Chapter 2.
The sample programming in Chapter 18, sure, some readers will no doubt go straight to it. Understanding the justifications for the lay out however are key to properly managing the variables that will occur from athlete to athlete, team to team, and responsibility to responsibility. You cannot understand the programming unless you understand the components.
A good manual can be revisited again and again and this one will be well thumbed over time. It has a simple presentation, and it shouldn’t be needed to be said that you are buying it for the content. The lay out is consistent with Smith’s sober practical observations and analysis. It does assume a certain amount of back ground knowledge so it is not a text for the fledgling reader.
Recommended wholeheartedly to any serious coach or athlete.