Track Coach

The “American Method” Triple Jump Roundtable

Coordinated By Russ Ebbets

This is Part I of a wide-ranging discussion of triple jump technique, training and related issues.


ER—Ed Roskiewicz, formerly coach at    Princeton, now Associate Director of the Brown University Sports Foundation. School triple Jump record holder at Penn State.

BS—Boo Schexnayder—Assistant Coach, Louisiana State University, U.S. Olympic coach.

NS—Nadir Simohamed—Jumps Coach, University at Albany. Former Algerian national team junior athlete.

IC—Iliyan Chamov, Jumps Coach, University of Missouri. 5-time NAIA champion.

In the beginning

What type of testing do you use to determine which leg initiates the triple jump?

BS — When teaching them from scratch I like to use the coordinated leg in the first two takeoffs and the strong leg last. I like the coordinated leg being first when things are moving faster, and using the stronger (but clumsy) leg last after velocities have decreased. Typically, the strong leg is the one they prefer to jump from when jumping for height, so a quick “go off of one leg and touch the rim” test will suffice. That being said, I seldom switch the takeoff leg of an accomplished jumper.

IC — I use single-leg bounding through the season a lot. After we go through good season of general prep we always do testing afterward. More specifically I use five hops single leg, the leg with the bigger distance is the dominant leg for the hop phase.

NS — A standing triple jump and repetitive combo jumping drills will give you an indication on what leg a novice jumper will use to hop with. Usually, the most coordinated or dominant leg will be used naturally.

ER — Generally this process is simple trial and error. I’ve used tests like asking them to jump up to try and touch a basketball net to see what leg they normally jump off. I also have them try triple jumping each way. You will quickly find the right solution.

What are the first three skills you’d want to have a novice master before you start to add more skills?

IC — I am looking at running mechanics. Proper execution of the sprint drills is a must for me. Proper high knee mechanics is one of the mandatory basics I am trying to establish. Basic skips are another fundamental skill I believe every jumper must possess. Finally proper warm-up and cool-down. The best athletes are the available athletes. The available athletes are the healthy athletes.

NS — Postural integrity and proper running mechanics first through sprint drill fundamentals. Jumping skills-wise, will start with hops and bounds at moderate intensities and with minimal displacement. Always looking for good posture and alignment before moving on to additional and more complex drills.

ER – a) Hopping off of two legs, landing on a single leg, hopping off of that leg onto the other leg and then hopping onto a two-foot landing. The athlete should stop in place after each hop.

b) The above without stopping after each hop (more dynamic).

c) Stand on one leg, hop and land on the other leg, hop and land on two feet.

BS — The basic bounding skills… ground contact patterns, swinging movements, and posture. Once competence is developed there you can start to introduce the single-leg takeoff from the board. Introducing it prematurely results in a lot of frustration for everyone.

Have you ever used screening tools like the Y-balance to identify potential leg/knee problems or for a “return to play” assessment?

ER — I use a progression of activities (easy to hard) to determine whether an athlete should return to play. I also have a series of tests (timed 30m sprint, standing long jump, three consecutive double leg hops, overhead shot put toss) to evaluate fitness and aptitude for the triple jump and other events.

IC — I am using visual analysis through the daily practices and drills. If I notice biomechanical abnormalities, I’m trying to continue that examination with various drills and exercises. I do not use specific screening tools. I believe athletes show more signs of weakness or biomechanical imbalances when they do not know what is being observed and analyzed. For return to play assessment, I am using rehab protocols that I am designing myself based on the athlete’s need and severity of injury. I am lucky I studied physical therapy and sports medicine so that is part of what I do on daily basis. My advice for most of the coaches without a medical background is very careful observation and knowing how their athletes operate on good and bad days.

BS — No, I feel that if you are introducing sound, age and level-appropriate training and technical exercises, any “corrective” stuff needed is already built into the program. In my program I assume everyone has a problem and proceed accordingly until I’m confident they are structurally sound. This doesn’t mean we don’t train hard in the early stages of training, but exercise choices are smart ones.

NS — Tests of the sort are performed by our medical staff in their assessment on whether an athlete can return to activity or not.

The “short step” may be the most common fault for the novice. How do you correct that fault from a physical and mental standpoint?

NS — The “short step” common error is usually traced back to a faulty or high angled hop phase. One of the corrective measures that I use is to fragment the Hop-Step-Jump sequence and work in smaller units and effective transitions. In other words, I would initially isolate the hop phase and teach the athletes to run through the takeoff by simply pushing off the board while seeking a low angle entry point. I would have athletes hop into the pit and focus on distance rather than height while maintaining good posture. Then eventually progress to the hop-step transition with a short approach, by hoping onto ground and stepping into the pit. Once the results are satisfactory, I would then progress to a full triple jump.

BS — Short step always results from anterior pelvic tilt during that phase, no exceptions. However, why the anterior tilt happened could have a number of causes in the run, takeoff, and/or hop phase. Basically, this points to a backtracking philosophy using cause-effect logic. The reason it’s so hard to fix the second phase is because the actual problem is never there, where it appears. Addressing the physical problem with a logical coaching approach fixes anything mental.

ER — The “short step” is a function of strength (or lack thereof) and coordination.

I like this progression to move forward with both:

  • Hopping off two legs, landing on a single leg, hopping off that leg onto the other leg and then hopping onto a two-foot landing. Athletes should stop in place after each hop.
  • The above without stopping after each hop (more dynamic).
  • Stand on one leg, hop and land on the other leg, hop and land on two feet. (stop in place after each hop)
  • Stand on one leg, hop and land on the other leg, hop and land on two feet. (Dynamic. Don’t stop in place after each hop)
  • Triple jump with one-step approach “run”
  • Triple jump with two-step approach “run”
  • Triple jump with three-step approach “run” etc. etc.

Note: The idea would be to master the technique at very low intensity and then add intensity.

IC — Step phase mechanical errors are most of the time, if not all the time, mistakes made earlier in the jump or the approach. Backtracking is the first direction I take with correcting the step phase. I am observing how the athlete performed the hop phase or the transition between hop and step phase. Also, I go even more retrospective in the jump such as board transition and mechanics before the board. With the philosophy of the domino effect step phase is a result of what is happening earlier in the jump. From a mental standpoint, if the athlete is instructed countless times on the proper technique through the phases and is applying the effort to execute it that creates the confidence that they need to perform well.

Do you recommend teaching the “pawing action” of the landings of the hop and step?

BS — I really don’t. Even though the technique of the event gives that appearance, most of the pawing action results from continued cyclic movement and gravity acting on the leg. If you look at good triple jumpers you see the quad tensed just before ground contact, not the hamstring, indicating it is more of a “get ready for impact” strategy going on than an actual pawing action. Pawing short-circuits the isometric and eccentric phases of ground contact and moves directly into the concentric phase…not how human bodies are designed to operate. I spend far more time talking about bouncing than pawing, asking them to use the leg like a spring, not a hammer. This technique is also far more natural and less likely to produce injury.

IC — Personally, I try to stay away from that instruction or the term “pawing.” If that is instructed beginners are trying to pull the ground under themself and they don’t consider that the body is in motion, horizontal velocity. With the horizontal velocity moving forward and pawing motion definitely creates over-rotation, or even worse, an extremely dangerous position for the ankles, knees, and the heel. My instructions for proper ground connections comes with keeping the foot dorsiflexed in front of you. This way the body in motion will land on top of the foot and create the effect of “pawing” the ground. Also the dorsiflexed foot creates stretch reflexes in the Achilles, calves and even hamstrings necessary to create elastic forces from the ground without asking for pawing.

NS — Teaching the foot to actively strike the ground through various and repetitive skipping, running, and bounding exercises. Initially, this should be done at reduced speed with emphasis on a vertical impulse to promote proper posture and a good understanding of these exercises before increasing amplitude and intensity.

ER — This is a pretty advanced action/technique. I have seen world class athletes do it incorrectly. Some athletes will pick it up naturally. I would wait to talk about it until the athlete is very comfortable with basic triple jump technique. Below are some ideas:

  • Make the athlete aware of the “pawing” action and explain why it will help. Show them a film so they can see it.
  • Ask them to try it during the basic drills (hops, bounds etc.)
  • Ask them to try it while performing low intensity triple jumps.

How do you differentiate the long and triple jumps to a novice? What are the skills you see as unique to the different disciplines?

IC — I describe the long jump more as a vertical event compared to the triple jump as a horizontal event. I believe a long jumper needs to possess a sprinter’s quality. Definitely speed is a more important quality the long jumper needs to possess compared to triple jump For the triple jump, space awareness and biomechanical coordination are the biggest qualities I look for. Most of the athletes with general athletic abilities can develop enough speed and strength for triple jumping if they have enough technical biomechanical qualities. This will allow them to be a relatively successful triple jumper. Stiff, nonflexible and uncoordinated athletes will most likely never be triple jumpers, no matter how fast and strong they are.

NS — Although speed is important for both I would prioritize the sense of rhythm and controlled speed needed for the TJ. Greater sense of balance and coordination.

I would emphasize the difference at takeoff point where the angle must be lower in the triple jump to have effective subsequent phases, typically 11 to 14 degrees in the TJ versus 18 to 22 in the LJ. In other words, no lowering of the center of mass in the TJ on the penultimate step as you typically would in the LJ and where “running through” the board is critical. Emphasizing the ability to hop, bound and various combinations to develop a sense of rhythm in the novice triple jumper is crucial. A long jumper would typically be much faster and would have a better ability to transfer horizontal speed into vertical while a triple jumper will show a better ability to bound, a great sense of rhythm and superior elastic strength and power.

ER — Outside of the obvious, I talk about the triple jump takeoff action as a push off the board while the long jump is more of a pulling and than pushing action.

In the triple jump initial takeoff, the athlete’s takeoff foot should be under the athlete’s center of gravity. In the long jump the takeoff foot placement is slightly in front of the COG.

BS — The biggest differences of course are the lack of significant lowering/preparation on the penultimate step and greater horizontal displacement in the triple jump. In short, the takeoffs are very different, which is why I don’t mind (and sometimes encourage with novices) that they long and triple jump off different legs. If you’re going to use the same leg you had better know what you’re doing in each event.

Jonathan Edwards (GBR), current world record holder, 2000 Olympic champion.

How do you create a group mentality for your jumpers with their own goals and objectives?

NS — I usually work on having athletes of similar skill levels train together whenever possible and push each other daily. It is important to create a competitive atmosphere during training sessions and have them challenge and support each other physically and mentally to reach higher levels of performance. Additionally, team building activities outside of the training environment would help in developing a sense of unity and togetherness needed in performing successfully as a group.

ER — I’m not sure if this answers the question but I talk about the following in our first team meeting:

Be a champion teammate — Track & field is both an individual and a team sport. When you improve as an individual, it will make our team stronger while also achieving your individual goals. I urge you to inspire your teammates through encouragement and by your own effort. You can make a positive difference on everyone’s team experience and our individual and team success!

BS — I think young people going through something tough and challenging together makes them bond. It gets them helping each other pulling through tough spots. If you are training hard that really takes care of itself.

IC — Simply lining up expectations during the recruiting process and talking about the expectations through the season(s). If expectations are clear then athletes fall in line and have goals to work for. Trying to keep team expectations the same for everyone no matter of their level of performance brings the group to the same mentality and performance desire. Personal objectives are very individually based. Some of them are trying to make a national team, some are trying to learn more about the event or others are simply how they can win a medal at the world stage. No matter what are the personal goals, our expectations as a group have to stay same through the entire process.


Regarding the TJ approach, traditionally it is taught that the more controlled approach helps make the landing of the hop more manageable, but Johnathan Edwards has been noted for his full-on attack of the board. I realize your answer would hinge on the physical qualities of the individual jumper, but is this a quality that may change over the course of a season (as the athlete gets stronger) or something that is ideally planned for as a career progresses?

ER — In short, the better the triple jump athlete, the more speed they will be able to handle. It is a function of strength and how proficient they are technically.

BS — I’m teaching “all out”, within the context of good mechanics and with an appropriate step number for an athlete’s stage of development. I think that efficiency in the hop landing is more a matter of takeoff technique than control, in fact it’s harder to triple jump well when being conservative. Good triple jumping requires a risk-taking mentality. Great jumpers seldom have six great jumps in a meet… this tells you they are taking chances, going for it, and if it doesn’t go well, forget it and go hard again next time.

IC — I agree. Approach must be individually designed for the athletes. I always ask my athletes to use the full potential of their speed qualities in the approach. The way I manage that is creating different approach lengths for different athletes. Also, if the athletes are not able to handle too much horizontal velocity through the board I keep them on shorter approaches and still ask them to run as fast as they can through the board. Length of the approach dictates the speed they can develop. This way the athlete creates the habit always to run and jump as fast as he/she can. Through the season or through the career if athletes increase horizontal velocity and strength we are most likely to increase the length of the approach.

NS — Controlled run-ups are essential to promote good posture and proper alignment. However, to be successful in this event speed will also be a determining factor and will help reduce the hop angle at takeoff. Sprint qualities are developed throughout the year and once the athlete gets stronger and has better control then speed (or length of the approach) can gradually be increased and will become an important contributing factor to successful jumping. This is ideally planned long term as a jumper progresses through the years.

Regarding the individual phase landings – do you encourage an active, “pawing” landing for all three jumps or do you use more of a heel-ball-toe foot placement to convert horizontal forces to more vertical forces, especially for the jump phase? Or do you teach some combination?

BS — As I said earlier, I really don’t advocate overly active landings, but heel to toe, rolling contacts are a must to amortize impact forces correctly and stay injury free. You want to distribute forces over a large area, the entire sole of the foot. Contacts through all the phases are similar.

IC — As I mentioned earlier, I am not using the “pawing” motion as instruction. Dorsiflexed foot before the contacts creates enough stretch reflex force, great ground reaction, and stiffness. For the jump I always look if athletes’ center of mass, hips, are on top of the foot, or slightly behind. If hips are behind the foot for jump phase there will be limitations.

NS — A combination of the two should be considered. “Pawing” is essential but utilizing the entire surface of the foot (heel-ball-toe) would also be critical for greater power production.

ER — Active, “pawing” landing/takeoff for all three jumps with the thought that each jump should have a higher trajectory than the previous jump.

What is the arm action you recommend? Are there any teaching cues you use? What body landmarks do you use to define the range of motion for the arms as they swing through the different jump phases?

IC — For me, women absolutely must jump with single-arm motion if they want to maximize their jump. For the men I see the benefits of both. Why the difference? A women’s anatomical structure is different than a man’s. A woman’s pelvis is wider and their center of mass is lower compared to the man. In addition, a women’s knee angle is different because of the pelvis width. With (a larger) Q-angle women do not develop as strong vastus medialis (quadriceps) that can help with the support during the phases. With single-arm motion women help themselves to stay taller and more open through the phases. Single-arm technique preserves speed through the phases and doesn’t allow them to rely too much on quadriceps strength. Men can get away with double arm motion and spend a little longer time on the ground by compensating that with strength and higher anatomical center of mass through the connections.

I stay away from the specific degrees of range of motion. This is because every athlete has a different anatomical structure, flexibility, and elasticity. I look to how the arms correspond to the total biomechanical chain during the jump. More like synchronicity compared to range of motion.

NS — It depends on the athlete’s level of coordination and comfort in adopting either the Soviet (double) or Polish technique (single). I would experiment with my jumpers to see which technique suits them best and have mostly used the double-arm action for power jumpers. Female jumpers would typically benefit greatly from a single-arm action but have experimented with a couple of them to adopt the double or a hybrid form of arm action which has shown great results.

To your second question, I would look at the range of the leg swing and the thigh level of the free leg that should be kept parallel to the ground and driving forward prior to extending the foot in front of the knee before ground contact. Hip flexibility and elasticity are critical to create great separation and optimal range. So, I would pay great attention to the center of mass and how the hips swing through each phase for optimal stability and balance.

ER — I try to improve on whatever the athlete does naturally. Basically, the athlete should “drive” the arm or arms (along with the opposite knee) forward in conjunction with each takeoff.

BS — I try to perfect what I perceive to be their natural arm style and not mandate any. Single-arm styles preserve speed better and offer less discoordination. Double-arm styles produce better forces. That’s your tradeoff. Single-arm early in the event and double arm later makes sense. Single-arm, over-the-top styles are the cool thing now and there are a lot of reasons to support it, but I see a lot of kids who don’t have the flight time to finish it and get no arm action into the second phase as a result. One thing I won’t tolerate is a double-arm takeoff from the board with an early (2-3 steps out) arm prep or gathering… too much deceleration and lowering, and by action-reaction bringing the arms back places the feet in front. Regardless of what you do, big ranges of motion at the shoulder are a must, I talk about long arms and feeling stretches in the pecs a lot.

Viktor Saneyev (USSR), three-time Olympic gold medalist and former world record holder.

What landing technique do you prefer at jump conclusion?

NS — It would depend on whether the Soviet (double-arm action) or Polish technique (single-arm) is adopted. If the single-arm technique is adopted, then a simple sailing final phase can be efficient. However, for power jumpers who adopt the double-arm action, a hang technique on the jump phase would be ideal. A hitch kick on the last phase has also been successful (see Teddy Tamgho/Hugues Zango) which is worth experimenting for triple jumpers who are comfortable with the hitch.

ER — Extend legs to the point where you will dig heels into the dirt first and then either sit in the hole your feet make or fall to the side beyond the point of where you initially break ground.

BS — A standard upright torso, collapsing type landing. Turning to one side is easier on the knees, but if you do it prematurely the lower body turns in reaction and you drop a foot (a la Walter Davis’s famous probable 60-foot jump in the 2004 OT). In triple jump, frankly, there are so many things that happen that you often don’t really execute a landing, you just survive it.

IC — It’s strictly based on the type of athlete and their abilities. How flexible are they, how much speed they carry through the last phase, are they single or double-arm jumpers (women or men). Adapting the landing technique to the athlete is important compared to trying to adapt the athlete to a specific way of landing. I have a female athlete with extremely long legs compared to her torso. That shifts the center of mass tremendously. She is very strong in the core, not much we can do in that area, so I had to adapt the position in the air to work for her body type.

What do you coach your athletes to visually focus on as they go through the different phases of the triple jump? And does this focus change from the hop to the jump in that the jump dictates more elevation and a possible “head-up” position?

ER — All athletic actions should be done with a narrow — external focus. Meaning, you should not be focusing internally (thinking or feeling) while you are performing the activity. Nor should you be focusing on anything externally except the task at hand. With regards to the triple jump, I think you should be looking out to where you want to take off or land on each jump. Therefore, coaches (and parents) should not be yelling encouragement to the athlete while they are in the process of jumping. You will just be distracting them from the task. This goes for all activities.

BS — I am a big believer in visual override… if you focus too hard on seeing something, you lose the ability to feel the body and its movements. So to me, head position (posture) and what you are looking at are two different things. If they are really feeling things well, it’s just a blank stare.

IC — I am trying to teach my athletes to look at the triple jump as a single event. The three different phases and feelings are different in the three phases, but we always talk about the jump as single unit. Based on that, the goal is not to change tactics through the phases but feel as one.

In specific situations we are using small cues for technical elements, but the cues are established through the practices and the athlete’s individual needs. If an athlete has a great jump phase, we will never talk about it because no need of corrections. I simply let them do what is already working well.

NS — With the triple jump being such an intricate event, there is a need to fragment each portion of the triple and work on them independently. Have the athlete initially focus on the importance of running through the takeoff, swinging the free leg away from the center of mass with a relative negative shin angle. The focus will shift to a great range through the hop phase with a powerful and active foot action upon contact. The transition from the hop to the step becomes critical, while keeping the body aligned, as well as arm action, relaxation, and patience during this phase. Finally, stay aggressive upon ground contact and constantly focus on proper alignment throughout each phase.


How do you navigate a critique from being critical? What do you do so the athlete sees your “help” as positive feedback and avoid creating a feeling in them of, “Here comes the coach, again.”

BS — The truth is not good or evil, it’s simply the truth. Truth has no bias. Shame on the athlete who doesn’t want to hear the truth. But I do think there are many coaches who don’t get the difference between technique (the things you must do) and style (things that can be done differently and still be successful) and as a result, overcomplicate things for the athlete. Are you communicating clearly and concisely to the athlete, or talking to make yourself feel better?

IC — Positive coaching is a fundamental of our philosophy here at Mizzou. We don’t critique athletes, we simply navigate mistakes through positive language. Positive reinforcement and showing athletes it’s OK to make mistakes as a normal natural process.

NS — I have always welcomed athletes who ask questions and are students of their event. As a coach, I’ll make sure that I’m concise and clear in getting my point across and how and why a specific exercise is performed. Back it up with scientific evidence and have the athlete understand and ‘feel’ what we are trying to accomplish for optimal results.

Positive feedback along with critical analysis will eventually lead to trust which is critical for successful coaching.

ER — Find something positive to say first and then talk about something they can correct.

What are your feelings with jump boxes? Jumping on to or from? Or both? How high are the boxes, how do you quantify the efforts? With ground contacts or time of efforts?

IC — I use boxes continuously through the preparation phase. I believe boxes are a great tool to create more airtime, different angle displacements/takeoffs, or different gravitational loadings during contact phases. We use the boxes for both purposes—jumping on to and from. It depend on what is the theme of the session. Some sessions we alternate both at the same time. We use different height boxes from 2 inches to 12-inch boxes for triple jump sessions. For bounding practices, we use up to 2 feet high boxes. Once again, the heights are based on the athlete’s abilities and the desired technical goal for the session.

NS — Both, on and off boxes for eccentric, isometric, and concentric contractions. I use boxes quite extensively throughout the season. Volume and intensities will vary based on the athlete strength, size, and experience. Although, I quantify the efforts, I will however look at the quality of the work rather than quantity and would modify the workload when necessary.

ER — Using jump boxes is a fairly advanced form of training. The athlete must have a good level of strength to benefit from this type of training, otherwise the coach will be setting the athlete up for failure and injury. With this in mind I would start with double-leg hops on and off the box or boxes rather than single-leg hops.

The purpose of box training is to expose the body to forces that are similar to or more than the forces they will be exposed to in the event they are training for. You must jump down from a box to expose yourself to significant forces.

I don’t see much benefit to simply jumping up onto a box but if the activity can inspire the athlete to perform an intense effort, then I guess something good will come from that effort.

Start easy with maybe as few as ten total impacts or landings/takeoffs. The landing/takeoff should be performed dynamically with a heel/toe landing/takeoff.

Slowly build up and work toward single-leg jumps. Better to do too few than too many.

BS — I do just a little horizontal bounding on and off of very low (4”) boxes to sharpen timing with certain athletes. They are quantified by contact number, and are the same volumes I’d do without the boxes. I also use high boxes in depth jump workouts, typically once a week in specific prep. Falling and rebounding, again quantified by contacts…very few, with high intensities (after preparation, of course). If the box height is below an athlete’s vertical jump capability, the box height isn’t producing any special stress they couldn’t get elsewhere, but when the box height exceeds vertical jump capability, you’ve put them in an intense situation they can’t escape. My starting height for boxes is usually vertical jump height (actual, not fantasy) minus 6 inches. A big depth jump session for me is 30 contacts with only 10 being off of the highest box in the course.

Do you use eccentric squats to prep the legs at any point in the season or is your eccentric training done with depth jumps?

NS — I use eccentric squats in various ways before progressing and introducing more demanding exercises such as depth jumps. I would also vary height and load levels while considering depth jumps based on the different skill and strength levels.

BS — I do some standard squatting in the preseason with athletes I don’t feel have achieved the levels of strength needed for high level performance. Once you can do 2.1-2.2 times bodyweight on a legit, subparallel deep squat that’s enough though. I don’t do any slow eccentrics, but I do a lot of lightly loaded jumps in the weight room and a variety of plyometrics, including depth jumps.

ER — I don’t use eccentric training outside of depth jumps.

IC — I look more on the eccentric squat as a rehab tool versus a training preparation exercise. Mostly the eccentric loads we do are through depth jumps and drop jumps.

What alternate activities do you allow or encourage? In season and out of season.

ER — Any activity that helps to improve general fitness.

BS — In season, nothing really. Outside of training times, anything that isn’t aerobic based is OK. I don’t want to assassinate fast twitch fibers. I really like the mild eccentrics and acyclic movements of racquet sports. Unlike basketball, in tennis there is a net that keeps your opponent in the other side, and you can’t sprain an ankle by stepping on an opponent’s foot.

IC — We play a lot of sand volleyball in the fall. We spend the first six weeks only on sand. Another alternative I recommend often is swimming. The cardiovascular system works a little differently during swimming and the load on the joints is minimum. We use swimming as rehab as well as recovery sessions. I do not recommend contact sports such as soccer, football, even basketball.

NS — In-season, speed, speed-endurance, circuit training, light to heavy and heavy to light complex/contrast work. Cross training in the off-season.

Should the training age of an athlete be considered when recommending the use of the depth jumps, box jumping and plyometrics?

BS — I think depth jumps have gotten a bad rap. I use them with nearly everyone I work with (keep in mind I don’t coach youth). The key to keeping them safe is individualizing the height of the boxes involved, and I have formulas I use to choose box height based on an athlete’s vertical jump capabilities. Bringing out a single set of boxes for all the athletes in a group is nuts. As far as plyos in general, you see 5 year-olds jumping rope and playing hopscotch… those are plyos! It’s not about age, but choosing age-appropriate activities.

IC — Any high school athlete should be able to use box jumps plyometrics and depth jump as long as conducted properly and safely. Prior to high school age, athletes should be educated on proper technique of plyometrics and box jumps; the only consideration I recommend is the volume prior to high school. For youth, plyometrics should be more an educational tool rather than a preparation tool.

NS — Depth jumps are very demanding and highly intense, so I would not recommend them unless a proper base is established first. Athletes can start at a young age with rudimentary forms of plyometric exercises and would have to progress gradually through it (i.e.: on the ground at low, moderate, then high intensities). After periods of adaptation, elements of complexity can eventually be added with the use of various box heights reserved for stronger and more experienced athletes.

ER — Over 18 years of age except with rare athletes. I think of plyometrics as exercise with an apparatus but that thought might not align with the exact definition. Much can be accomplished with plyometric type exercises (jump rope, jumping, hopping and bounding) with no apparatus. Med ball training can be helpful.

Regarding women athletes — how much attention do you pay to a female’s Q-angle (quadriceps angle)? Does this change your approach to training (lifting and running activities)? Does the presence of a larger Q-angle alter your technique suggestions such as landing with a wider base of support?

IC — This is one of the most important factors why I differentiate the practices for the males and female triple jumpers. Q-angle difference for males and females is a result of the wider pelvic structure in females. As a result of the femur angle the vastus medialis is less developed compared to male athletes. I do not recommend wider landing or wider stand during lifts but recommend exercises that develop the vastus medialis better for females. One major difference I keep in the weight room is the front squat. With female triple jumpers we use more front squats compared to back squats for the males. Because of the Q-angle and the lower center of mass I strongly recommend a female’s technique in the triple jump to be executed with single-arm motion. This prevents a lot of additional loadings on the quadriceps and keeps center of mass higher through the ground contacts.

NS — Due to the anatomical and physiological differences between male and female triple jumpers, adjustment to their training regimen in terms of volume and intensities must be considered.

BS — I really don’t, I keep it as simple as possible and teach the same technical models to both genders in the triple jump and training exercises. Maybe I should. If I had someone with a special history, I would consider it.

In your experience is there a jump in the competition sequence you usually expect your athlete to produce their best effort? Is that something you coach for or do you encourage the athlete to find what works for them and promote that?

NS — This will vary based on the type of athlete and competitor they are. Some can produce an excellent result from the start and send an early message to their competitors while others would take a more conservative approach (safe jump first) and then progress through the rounds and rise to the challenge. Although I would like to see athletes finish their entire series, there are instances where not all six jumps are needed. I would encourage perseverance and rising to the level of the competition that they are facing but will err on the side of caution if there are apparent physical or technical issues.

BS — Jump one should never be bad; you’ve practiced for it all week, have your meet plan in mind, are excited to compete, and have no baggage or distractions yet. Often small rhythmic things smooth out after the first trial and Jump two is the best. I try to then reset and position them to hit a big one late in the competition, since everyone else is likely to come hard in Round six. But of course, things happen, and you adapt your strategies.

ER — My hope is that the athlete will be well conditioned and prepared to a point where they are just as likely to get their best effort on their last attempt as they are on their first attempt. That being said, it is always beneficial to accomplish a good attempt early in the competition.

IC — Every single jump in the competition is a 100% effort and expected to be the best jump

Classically the TJ has been taught as an even, roughly one-second beat pattern. What drills or techniques do you suggest to instill that pattern within the athlete?

BS — I know there are a lot of grid-based teaching strategies and such, but I just really look at run-takeoff-hop phase mechanical perfection as the key to the correct rhythms. The vertical qualities needed in the last two takeoffs are typically undervalued and understated. We think “out-up-up” when addressing trajectories and that’s a big part of achieving the beat pattern you want.

NS — Repetitive bounding drills, rhythm work progressions through various combination of hops and steps would help instill that pattern in them. Use of cones, hurdles, and boxes of various sizes would also help develop a sense of rhythm while adding an element of complexity.

IC — We are concentrating on the rhythm through all exercises. When we do triple jump from a short approach the proper distribution of timing is a must. Also, I require the athletes to keep a good pattern during single-leg exercises or regular bounding. In addition, when we work with boxes the distance of the boxes dictate the rhythm to some capacity.

ER — I’m not familiar with the one-second beat pattern but I understand the idea. Putting tape or small comes on the runway at specific distances and asking the athletes to perform the triple jump according to those distances might be one way to reinforce this.

Lower core stability (the pelvic area) is critical to minimize lateral movement when the athlete is posting on one leg as they transition from one phase to the next. What are three drills or exercises you recommend to prepare this area for the demands of the event?

NS — Pelvic tilts variations, planks variations, and toe/ankle bounces (double, single, and multi-directional).

ER — Planks, leg raises, wall sits

IC — I believe in the holistic approach of development. The biomechanical chain does not work in separate compartments, but rather all together. I prefer to develop specific areas through total body exercises or movements. This way I am avoiding imbalance problems in the long term. Some of my preferred exercises are box step-ups, or hip thrusts over boxes over different heights; lunge jumps are another one we use a lot with different resistances; kangaroo jumps, holding light dumbbells or medicine ball with arms forward. Kangaroo jumps with hands forward shifts center of mass and activates pelvic area for stability. This design also can be used with skips or gentle single-leg hops.

BS — While I, like everyone, do core training, I’m not sure that there is an exercise that really subjects the lower core… or any part of the core… to the level of demand triple jumping does. This is why it’s so important to be progressive and eventually achieve competition level intensities in the plyometric and weight program (including single-leg work). Specific high level core fitness is really addressed there, not in situps and crunches. There are many exercises that address the muscles involved, but few that mimic the violence.

What are some things you discuss in the post-competition evaluation? I am thinking of technique critiques but also consistency of hitting the board, best 2-jumps or 3-jumps series. Do you have a grid or set eval you use that would be given to the athlete for their records or is your evaluation just a discussion?

ER — I typically have a quick discussion after the competition, plan activities for future training and talk in practice about my reasons for the programming I have planned for the athlete. The evaluation process is a work in progress.

IC — We do just a discussion. First thing we start is what went well. We always concentrate on the positives. After analyzing what went well through the competition, we talk about what could be better. This way of addressing is constructive without negative talk. Each detail we talk about is different based on the athlete, or how the performance was. One must remember that sometimes there are uncontrollable things like weather, an official’s delay, national anthems, award ceremonies, delay in call rooms. These are situations we must be ready for, but never use as an excuse.

BS — At the end of the competition there is often a recency bias, looking at how things ended; I try to point out how mistakes, successes, or decisions early in the competition produce trends and consequences in the competition. Other than that, the things that need review are usually obvious.

NS — My evaluation is initially a discussion on flaws in their technique with advice and corrections on how to reach a good level of consistency. I also, do have charts and data-driven evidence of their progress based on test and results throughout the seasons.

Do you recommend athletes keep a training diary? If so, what type of information do you feel they should record?

IC — Absolutely. Every athlete should have daily diary. The more information inside is better. Starting from what the plan was for the day, what exactly was conducted. Wind, rain, temperature, how does the athlete feel before, during and after the session. What rehab is conducted after the practice and what is the prehab if any. How many hours did the athlete sleep the previous night, etc. The more information that is inside the diary, the better analysis that can be done afterword, if needed.

BS — I think it’s a good idea but don’t mandate it. Some don’t want to expend the mental energy and would rather look forward than backwards. It’s critical for me though, I’m always writing notes on top of old workouts.

NS — I would encourage athletes to keep a diary especially during breaks and when the coach is absent. Recording their times during speed or speed endurance work. Distances of their jumps and various tests that may be administered throughout the season. Intensities and volumes in the weight room are also important for athletes to record so they can appreciate the progress they are making over time.

ER — If I feel that the athlete has the appetite to keep a training log I encourage them to keep one but it may take some time for the athlete to develop that level of interest/enthusiasm.

At your end-of-season exit interviews what are some things you discuss in the season’s recap? I realize any off-season recommendations would be different for each athlete but are there general areas that you focus on?

BS — For me, these are usually athlete driven and highly individualized. I just try to be sure that the athlete’s perceptions and reactions to the past year’s events are reasonable and accurate. Most athletes are prone to a recency bias, so I guard against that. I try to honestly self-evaluate in advance, that’s important. If there is a disagreement, and I feel the route the athlete wants is faulty, I do point that out and sometimes tough decisions are made.

IC — This is not much different from what we do post competition. We look what went well during the season and how we can make other areas even better. We always discuss the total progress and development in long terms.

NS — Season recaps are important to highlight their progress and what has been accomplished throughout the season. Pointing out some of the areas that can be improved and would need to be addressed during the off-season and beyond.

Continued encouragements and staying focused for the upcoming year by setting short term and long-term goals. Allowing some downtime but also stressing on the importance of continued development during the off-season as this period tends to be lengthy.

ER — I talk about improvement and accomplishments and give recommendations on how they can get better.

Part 2 continued next issue.