Hello Dear Reader and lover of Speed development and Sprinting;
Thank you so much for showing up to read my blog. I'm interested in questions and knowing what you think. Bug me if I'm not attending to you faster. ( faster is better right? ;)
( photo of Charlie @1972 Olympic Games in Munich 100m heats)
There does not appear to be volumes of quality information or research around the central nervous system and sprint training. Coach Charlie Francis educated himself on this topic primarily because he was forced to quit his sprinting career early due to injuries he later learned were due to chronic tightness which could be prevented. ( before signing off as a competitor, Charlie was plagued with one injury after another due to the primary focus of high intensity work with little attention to rest or recovery. "Speed Trap" the book Coach Francis cowrote in 1989 with Jeff Coplon, tells a story about his life as an athlete and coach. Francis wanted different for his athletes.
You will find the most specific information about how the CNS and sprinting in another book Francis was asked to co write with Paul Patterson. "The Charlie Francis Training System". Understanding how the CNS works in speed training has been central to how Charlie coached countless sprinters, coaches and a variety of athletes from multiple speed and power sports.
Here is a question asked by www.charliefrancis.com forum member;
Forum Member Question
What is an efficient nervous system, which if an athlete has, allows him/her to be naturally fast? I'm familiar with the telltale signs of short temper, the quickness of their feet and a bunch of other stuff.. but moving past those subjective tests, what are the true metrics of a powerful CNS? Read in my psychology textbook about the sodium/potassium ion pump, action potential, excitatory neurotransmitters.. are those phenomenon’s related to someone's inherent speed? And that leads to the question - how can I purposely affect/increase these measures? Will supplementing with electrolytes translate to increased firing of neurons?.....
I saw Andre de Grasse at Canadian Nationals... he's a standard IMO of what a person with a superior CNS is. He is twitchy. He couldn't stop moving. There was always some articulation of the limb going about even when he was drinking his water. He could not be still. I think it's that neural configuration plus zero aggression/excessive effort that lets him run very fast.( forum member from www.charliefrancis.com since 2013 and junior pan american team member)
Coach Ange’s Answer
According to 'The Charlie Francis Training System', two telltale signs of an elite sprinter are:
1- High level sprinters tend to be short tempered; explosive and intense… an explosive personality is an indication of an explosive nervous system.
2- The athlete who can move his or her feet at high frequency is a candidate for sprinting.
( taken from 'The Charlie Francis Training System' page 10. See also “Theory and Methodology of Training The key to Athletic Performance” by Tudor Bompa Chapter 13 )
As far as true metrics of a powerful CNS go?
CNS has to be fully regenerated so that the chemical environment required for optimal transmission of nervous signals is intact. (The Charlie Francis Training System page 29 to 32)Supplying excellent nutrition including electrolytes will optimize your physiology to both develop and enhance the nervous system you already have in place. Electrolytes work best during and post workout.
Motor pathways, characteristic of optimal technique and efficient routing of motor signals must be in place …. Appropriate training creates chemical changes. Notice “appropriate", not any training that some feel works for them, which advance the capacity to do both CNS work and muscular endurance work under conditions of correct technique, before fatigue is reached. (The Charlie Francis Training System pages 29 to 32)Routine regeneration is important because it will be your first line attempt to take full advantage any training you will perform. The training effect of the work you perform will be minimized unless you routinely ensure your personal chemistry is ready to respond to high quality work. Otherwise you are not optimizing your existing level of performance.
Regeneration is equally as important if not more than training. My suggestion is to apply a few routine methods of regenerating to your training week and see what you think?
This means more contrast baths for all of you.
"Sprint your own race"
Coach Angé Coon
A Sprinters Warm up. 3 Essential Rules:1. Think relaxation in all things you do. If you are not able to perform the movement in a relaxed way do something easier.
2. Take your time. Don’t rush your warm up. I learned this lesson the hard way from former World and Olympic Champion in the men’s 100 meters Ben Johnson. I asked what he had thought of my race at one of my first national championships in 1991 in Montreal. He said “ okay , but you would have done so much better if you didn’t rush your warm up.”. I never forgot what he said and it changed the way I prepared for all training.
3. An excellent guideline to know you are ready for the actual work of your training is achieving a mild sweat on your forehead. This rule does not seem overly sophisticated but it works. I am not talking about profuse sweating before you begin.
Guidelines for an extensive warm-up before Sprinting or Tempo
Note : Get in the habit of timing your warm up, pay attention to how much time various parts of your warm up and training take, and record it in your training diary.
1. Jog slowly for 10 minutes or X number of laps around the track or grass if you have it. Usually 3 to 4 laps outside on outside track.
2. We used the length of the football field (post to post) to perform a lot of the drills and runs in the warm up. It was a predictable distance and most often easy to replicate in almost any location in almost any country. Approx. 100 yds or meters depending Canada, US or Eurupe. Soccer or American Football.
3. Once the 10 minutes of jogging took place we usually launched immediately into side skips down one length and shaking back. Generally we would mix in one , maybe two exercises at one end of the field. Generally the end where we had all of our bags , water etc. The exercises would be a mixture of med ball throws, donkey kicks. sit ups mixed with stretches. 5 to 8 minutes
4. Side skips, grape vine, back ward arm circles and tripling were the main exercises on the way down the field and then usually we did what we called shaking back which was like a jog but shoulders are down and you are shaking your entire body. Some have commented on the silliness they feel doing this exercise but it promotes relaxation throughout the warm up.
NOTE: Shaking promotes relaxation. It’s not a jog. It’s not a skip. Your hands should fall to your side and as you are shuffling along in somewhat of a jog as you are shaking your body.
5. @ approx. 18 to 20 minutes Power Speed Drills = Power Speed was included in 99% of every warm up I ever performed in 7 years of training.
• Bum kicks
• A skip
• B skip
• Running A’s
The distances might vary. A typical progression might be =
3 sets of each drill over 10 meters , then 4 x 10 meters of each drill. As the drills improve so too does the distance maybe. Quality first , volume second.
Total time up to this point = Not more than 45 minutes but not one hour.
More is not better / Practice makes permanent
In my next blog I will discuss the things that need to be added after the power speed but often on tempo days the above warm up might be it. But maybe not.
Often we used a series of med ball throws routinely in our warm up.
After the 10 min jog and within the back and forths and before and or during the power speed.
When I first started out , I did far more little exercises in the body of the warm up before Power Speed. ( see the bike workout for this)
The reason for this was to gain FITNESS. So for all of you talking about how possibly fitness is not important for speed or the development of speed.
Pay close attention to the details within the warm up.
And I never lifted one weight for 2 full years. Instead I worked extensively with a very light med ball. I think it was 2 or 3 k. I remember complaining on deaf ears "when can I use a heavier ball". I got nothing back.
You are ready to move ahead when you are ready to move ahead. Most athletes all want to move ahead faster . No kidding.
I'd love to hear about your warm up. Thank you for all of your questions and feedback. I will do my best to respond to you.
I am sharing some of my speed and sprinting workouts with people interested in seeing methods discussed on our forums here since 2000.
I am thankful and happy I wrote so much down. I encourage anyone to keep a journal no matter what it is you do. It helps you reflect, it provides information to repeat or change and it’s a record you may want some day.
I think it might help people to see workouts performed while also learning methods of training they are able to further research through books like “ Speed Trap” and or “ The Charlie Francis Training System”
The workout below was done while Charlie was doing some work with the Detroit Lions. This video was posted by the head strength and conditioning coach who hired Charlie at the time.
Friday May 1st 1992 ( 2 workouts today one in am and one at 5:30pm – I think the workout was meant to be earlier but sometimes things don’t work out that way when your primary objective at that time was my husband’s work )
Bed 1:30am / Wake 8:15am ( we would have been in Detroit at a hotel)
- Short hot and cold
- 9am breakfast oatmeal , milk and water ( supplements multivitamin ,boron, zinc, primrose oil, ginseng, calcium)
- 10am treadmill 6 to 7 minutes
- Few sit ups and pushups
- 4 x 10 - 15meters A skip, B skip, Running A’s , Tripling
- 4 x 8 hamstring curls ( Nautilus machines 60lbs, did not like this equipment but CF hated it as well and it bothered my knees while doing it
- 2 x 45lbs bench ( I must have done 2 sets of 10 to warm up not 2 reps only).
- 1 @ 65lbs
- 1 @ 75lbs
- 11:30 am 3 egg omelette / cheese and mushroom / water
- Got back to hotel room, had a short 10 minute nap/ cleaning lady come to clean room so I went to hot tub/ then showered
- 1pm = had one hour nap
- Snack before training club house sandwich 3 pieces
( I remember always being hungry and always having trouble feeling like I was not eating enough. Looking back now I see how incomplete and unscientific my eating was. My training was 10 out of 10 and my eating was about 6 or 7 out of 10 IMO).
4pm = more supplements before training. ( I really got sick of taking supplements but they really helped me as well. It’s a game . You need to figure out what works best and figure out what does not work and this takes a lot of time and energy and we got a ton of supplements for free which was very helpful. ( supplements = *carnitine musashi, calcium, sublingual glutamine, ginseng, zinc, primrose oil, licithine, amino acids, * green musashi )
5:30 pm = Warm up = 2 laps around track
-Sit ups and medicine ball throws
-6 x 15 meter drills Askip, B skip, bumkicks, Running A’s.
- 4 x 150 meters with 6.5 to 9 minutes rest between sets
= Warm down = 8 x back and forths over 100 meters shaking very easy
Dinner = Veal marsala, soup , water, milk
Did another hot and cold, massage and slept very well.
NOTES : The worst part of my training were runs like the ones I did on this day. I never felt good or great doing them. I always felt it was a task. I loved doing speed , I loved lifting weights and I also loved training hard. It was Charlie's opinion that I lacked the time and or background doing longer work/ speed endurance because I was out of the sport for so long at the age I needed to be doing differently. Having said that you have what you have and as a coach you need to try and find ways to accomplish the different variables of your event while not forgetting the individual.