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
Overspeed. Decide for yourself.
Does overspeed make sense? ( refer to "Running into the trouble" diagram)
Is there a need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to safe, proven methods that can be repeated with grand successes?
Is the risk worth an alleged return?
Why didn't Charlie use overspeed to develop some of the most most repeatable methods for speed training to date?
( because he didn't need to..., an idea the may be too simple for most?)
Keep in mind this. If you get injured, you may never be capable of returning to the same abilities as before. You would not be the first to have this happen or the last. ( this idea was a main idea Coon/Francis used to navigate daily training for a combined time of over 50 years)
My mission after losing Charlie to a 5 year fight with Stage 4 NHL was to maintain the content he spent his life creating and experimenting with in order to achieve significant and repeatable results in sprinting.
More often than not I see examples in the gyms and training environments where someone feels the need to reinvent speed training. Why?
I encourage you to study some or all of the massive archive of content at charliefrancis.com. The forum review of 2002 as well as 2009 offers some of the best content from the website’s world class forum to which Charlie contributed over 10,000 posts himself from 2000 to 2010.
Take a look at our Weights for Speed bundle here to learn why lifting weights and building strength are critical but study why Coach Francis and Coach Ange Coon prioritized speed training followed by lifting weights.
This is a list of lifts Francis and Coon used and Coon continues to use while coaching sprinting at the highest developmental levels.
Lastly, the best context for a full understanding of why Francis became a world class sprint coach is inside his book "Speed Trap". The story revolves around the events of 1988, but for me the most interesting part is how Francis discusses many of his ideas and how he came to them and why. For passionate athletes looking for more in their training this book might help you find it.
Sprinting your own race requires a recipe only you the reader can decide and experiment with. I trust this information will become content you find useful and enjoyable for your speed, sprinting and power sport pursuits.
"Sprint your own life"
This coming week I will release "Race Dynamics" a new book in the series of highly specialized "Key Concept" books.
After participating in a few discussions on LinkedIn group talks this week I thought the following quote from the forums at charliefrancis.com would be helpful to many coaches and athletes reading.
Forum Member Question
Is there a Silver Bullet for teaching Biomechanics & Technique?Coach Ange's Answer
Form follows function. When asked about the ideal leg length, Abraham Lincoln said: "One that reaches from the hip to the ground!"
- Sprinting is an automatic action, controlled by the primitive hind brain, where almost any voluntary (forebrain) input is NEGATIVE.
- Ground support forces cannot be increased by any voluntary action DURING GROUND SUPPORT. They can be increased by corrective measures taken in advance of the ground support phase (if, in fact any are necessary). Such corrective measures must be MINIMAL, rehearsed well in advance, and made automatic to keep the action in the hind brain during competition.
Implication for coaches:
- Think twice and speak once. Never attempt to correct a technical issue that you think will correct itself through the development of greater strength.
- Train technical aspects indirectly, if possible (i.e. med ball work for start development). This helps prevent "Paralysis by Analysis" Never over-explain in order to show how smart you are. You are a coach- leave that to the "Gurus"!
- Practice makes permanent- not perfect. Make sure your athletes are physically prepared for any work that requires technical execution. This means make sure the most demanding parts of the workout occur right after the warm-up, and make sure you prescribe only the number of reps they can handle perfectly.
- At the first hint of any mechanical breakdown, stop the session and move on to less demanding training.
Speed Trap "5 Rules"
- Let my runners run
- Hands-on observation
- Reinforcing the positives
- Low-density coaching
The oldest rule in the sprint book is to run with optimal form, no matter what happens! If you get a great start, terrific. If you get a bad one, too bad but you must run with the same optimal form all the same! There's a big difference between fighting and aggressive good form.
Send me a note. I'd love to add you to my LinkedIn or Facebook page.
CharlieFrancis.com page coming soon.
I wanted to share this chart ( Copyright 2015 www.charliefrancis.com ) with a wider audience outside of some of the information dense lectures Coach Charlie Francis presented.
This chart is interesting because in one glance you can learn a great deal regarding the volume and intensity guidelines for the development cycle of any person wanting to experience or prepare for sport or specifically, track and field. Track is said to be one of the development sports for acquiring the skills of speed and strength. Swimming is another development sport facilitating the skill of endurance. Gymnastics is the third sport used to develop a persons speed, strength and flexibility. ( See " Theory and Methodology of Training " by Tudor Bompa 1983, ISBN number 0-8403-6015-0 / as well as " From Childhood to Champion Athlete " Bompa 1995, ISBN number 0-9697557-1-6)
I started this blog wanting to write about coaching young children. I get many questions from parents asking about how to make their child and or athlete faster. It would be an incomplete discussion unless I was able to share this information rich, chart. I have found parents and coaches commonly over prescribe work volume, intensity and have limited understanding on what exercises are best for which ages.
It has been my understanding that Charlie spoke to Tudor and was consulting him when he was creating this chart. Not only has Tudor been one of the best coaches in the world and he has also been our friend for several years.
As a side note = My first complete weight training program was penned by Tudor. Charlie was always modifying the paper copy according to my routine speed improvements. Having both Charlie and Tudor in the weight room for my training was not so bad for my confidence starting out.
I hope you find some interesting content here.
Take care of yourself ,