Jonas Dodoo in­ter­view, part two


Athletics Weekly - - Contents -

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.”

Re­sisted sprint­ing

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

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