Jonas Dodoo interview, part two
IN THE LAST ISSUE OF AW, JOHN SHEPHERD BEGAN TALKING TO ELITE SPEED COACH JONAS DODOO AND THE CONVERSATION CONTINUES ON TO SPRINT TACTICS, HAMSTRINGS AND SPREADING THE SPEED MESSAGE
TACTICS is not something usually associated with sprinting – after all you go when the gun goes and run as fast as you can to the finish line, so what are these tactics that the coach to Reece Prescod, CJ Ujah and Daryll Neita refers to?
The coach explains: “Tactics for me are more about energy distribution and how you best blend, for example, your stride length and frequency … how you distribute those aspects from the beginning to the end of the race. To me that rhythmical and exponential change in stride length, reduction in ground contact time, increase in speed and velocity for acceleration and max velocity … that blend, is what I think tactics is all about. How you apply your technique.”
So, I ask, how does a sprinter adopt and importantly learn these and their specific tactics? Dodoo responds: “Dan Pfaff told me, and I believe this too, that you can work on acceleration and work on max velocity and you can start to create some stability over the athlete’s career, but the one thing that will always change and at the same time be puzzling is their transition.”
Dodoo is referring here to the change – as he puts it that “blend” from more horizontal, traditionally seen as accelerative inclined postures of the first phase of the sprint – to upright max velocity running.
He sheds more light: “That blend can either make your max velocity phase difficult and challenge and reduce the time spent at max velocity or it can make it simple and easy to carry max velocity, not just at a higher speed but for longer distances.”
The coach went on to further explain by saying that the sprint must “build to maximum velocity”. He suggested that the sprinter has to have momentum through the entire race. “You have to maintain pressure all the way.”
In doing so I begin to see the tactical aspect. The coach identified two restrictive elements which can impinge on how acceleration can hamper max velocity. For example, the acceleration phase can be too long or too short. “We talk about getting stuck in this phase or popping up into max velocity,” says the coach. What does this specifically mean? It was explained how if a sprinter holds onto their acceleration for too long then they may have to force themselves up into the right position or as Dodoo explained often the wrong position and that this will reduce the effectiveness of their sprint. Expanding he explained that they may not consequentially increase their stride length and how in this instance, the sprinter may look like they are “running on the spot”.
The two identified problems with acceleration can firstly reduce the speed that can be achieved and, secondly, make the end of the race very difficult.
I asked whether these accelerative and distributive aspects of sprint tactics are changeable and how specifically they are coached?
“You want everyone to extend their acceleration as far as possible. It’s important to recognise that acceleration does not just happen in a horizontal body position at an angle.” By this Dodoo is referencing the angled body position associated with block clearance and the acceleration phase of the sprint in the traditional sense.
“I think people assume acceleration ends when the athlete is upright, however, I think acceleration ends when you stop getting faster (this could be between 50m-70m for males – Ed).”
This made me think, as it will no doubt many other coaches, especially when Dodoo added: “For some people two-thirds of their acceleration is done in the upright phase.”
It’s often thought that when upright it’s more about speed maintenance rather than continued acceleration. Dodoo counters: “If you can keep your stride length growing but your ground contact time reducing or at least stabilising you’ll keep getting faster.”
Dodoo refers to the “redline” – the point where a sprinter transfers from a distinct accelerative phase into the upright max velocity one. He says: “The question is how brave can you be? How close to the redline can you be without getting stuck.” He notes that sprinters need to know what max velocity is and what the required postures are. He explains that this is learnt even when not operating at maximal velocity in training – where the athlete needs to be clear on the timing and rhythm.
The coach expands on how this can be developed across the training year “… the length of the acceleration phase may be shorter and not extended as far as possible during the early stages of training. However, as the competition period nears the acceleration phase will be extended. The idea is that the sprinter will be pressing and pushing their acceleration further and further down the line.”
We talk back and forth about the nuances of technique and the subject of resisted sprint training comes up. Dodoo had recently run in conjunction with JB Morin a session at Loughborough University on this very subject (and assisted training). The coach is also running a further seminar on hamstrings this December – of which more later. Dodoo explains why he favours resisted sprint training by noting how it slows down the movement and simplifies the dynamics of the acceleration phase. He – and referencing the work of fellow workshop presenter Morin – describes how peak power is generated at the 1sec-1.5sec mark in a sprint for a couple of milliseconds and how what happens after that is explosivere-active in nature. As Dodoo comments: “The point of this is that if you use resisted sprinting and you can use an optimal load for developing peak power then you can spend more time, more reps, more steps actually training around that peak power zone. The coach then explained how maximal strength and reactive strength are of course needed to assist this process: “Just training at peak power isn’t ideal year-round but what it does is allow you to get to 40%50% of your top speed within just 4-5 steps.”
It was stressed how some very vital aspects of the sprint occur in these 4-5 steps that set-up the momentum and the rhythm for the rest of the sprint. “Resisted sprints allow you to repeatedly work on those 4-5 steps again and again,” he says.
We then move on to a subject that can be the bane of sprint and power athletes – hamstring strain. Dodoo, as noted, is running a second seminar this autumn at Loughborough University with elite performance physiotherapist Jurdan Mendiguchia entitled Hamstrings
Prepare and Repair (December 1). (Mendiguchia has worked with European football clubs and elite athletes). Although there are many methodologies in use for hamstring repair and injury reduction, such as eccentric loading, Dodoo explains that much is now actually focusing on sprint technique.
Mendiguchia is known for dealing with repeat hamstring injuries and uses an atypical approach compared to many other physios. He goes beyond what would normally be prescribed and accounts for the fact that these sportsmen and women often have wellconditioned hamstrings in the first place, due to previous rehab programmes they have gone through.
“What he (Mendiguchia) always recognises is that it becomes a movement quality aspect that needs to be worked on,” explains the coach. It’s also to locate the weak link in the chain which is putting the hamstrings at risk. Dodoo refers back to his three key components of sprinting as they relate to each step – projection, reactivity and switching (see part 1 in AW, Nov 22) as a way by which the weak link can be identified: “If you cannot be reactive when running at speed and you have to have a flat-foot contact you will tend to spend more time on the ground and push longer out the back or reach further out the front … so the sprinter ends up setting up inappropriate contraction lengths and times of the hamstrings.” This critical approach is further expanded on for other cause and effects as identified from other technically inefficient aspects of sprint technique. Dodoo explains that the session will be suitable for sports science graduates, physiotherapists and coaches from all sports and not just athletics – anyone who is involved in the preparation or restoration of players.
Spreading the speed message
Dodoo notes how he plans to further expand on his knowledge and share it, it transpires that he’s planning to run some accredited speed development courses. He’s going to be working with Mark Finney, former head of performance at Northampton Saints rugby club, to put on these Speedworks courses. “What I’m essentially doing is summarising all the key bits that I’ve done with different teams and athletes into a really simple one-day course designed to make someone faster”, he says.
Making people faster is Dodoo’s modus operandi and he’s certainly had incredible success in doing so. As a coach he understands the requirements, the physiology and the biomechanics but also has the personal touch and the respect that goes with all this to make the fleet-footed and the not so fleet footed speedier.
It is plain to see that he’s on a mission to spread his message fast. For more info including the December 1 hamstrings seminar, email [email protected] speedworks.training or seespeedworks.training or @EatSleepTrain
The coach is a big fan of resisted sprinting
Both technique and tactics are key to sprinting