An account from Ross Watson
Ross purchased the Off-Season Sprint Manual from me in the summer and used it with his athletes. Here is is account:
Off-Season Speed with the Lugi Ladies: A Sportland Adaption
By Ross Watson
In this blog post I am going to share with you the off-season speed journey of the Lugi Ladies from Lund, Sweden. These poor ladies have been the test subjects of many speed experiments of mine as a coach, but for this particular off-season I decided to subject them to someone else’s ideas. Having tried out Sam’s program personally, I got excited about applying it in a team setting and observing the results. What follows is a short account of the why, how, what and finally the results of the team’s off-season journey.
Before reading this post it should be clear that there are specific parts of Sam’s program that I reference but the details of which would only become clear with an actual copy of the program.
Sprinting in Southern Sweden
As a small amateur team operating in the south of Sweden during the winter, you can imagine that conditions are not ideal for improving speed qualities. Regardless of that fact, one of the big plusses of the situation I find myself in with the players I take care of, is that the majority have very low training ages, meaning a lot of what I throw at them will most likely have a positive effect if well executed.
During this particular off-season I saw the team twice a week for two hours in temperatures ranging from -1 to +7 degrees, Mondays were acceleration sessions followed by rugby out on an artificial surface and Wednesdays were max velocity followed by plyometrics and strength work executed in our clubhouse and on the nearby track. With only those two sessions available to us we were unable to complete any of the capacity work contained within Sam’s program.
To track improvements a speed test was conducted with the My Sprint app exactly 6 weeks apart, in near identical weather conditions and on the same piece of track. Three sprints were recorded for each athlete during the first test whilst only two recorded for the second and all athletes were weighed immediately before the tests. Between the tests we were able to complete all six max velocity sessions and five acceleration sessions.
One of the things I really liked about Sam’s program was the natural and logical progressions throughout, the building of the plyometric work and the small but significant changes in the sprinting exercises from week to week made the program both easy to implement and follow. However, in the context of our situation I didn’t just copy and paste the program into the sessions (1) due to the limited contact time with the players, I was unwilling to take more time away from the rugby than I already was, (2) when it’s at its coldest, I find it’s not practical to go through certain aspects of the program and (3) I had developed some of my own ideas which I wanted to implement.
Here’s how an average practice was laid out;
Monday – small-sided warm up game, sprint drills, acceleration exercises, rugby.
Wednesday – breathing work, parts of the range of mobility exercises combined with RPR, hamstring warm up, sprint drills, max velocity exercises, complementary plyometrics and strength work.
(one of the sessions can be seen in the picture below)
Important to note is that the team completed all of the acceleration exercises every week because I thought the progressions were excellent and therefore never compromised. Meanwhile for the max velocity exercises I made one small adjustment in the latter weeks and that was to change the second part of the hill climbs to bleeds. Therefore the players didn’t climb down the knee, shin, ankle dribble ladder but instead transitioned into upright running at sub-maximal velocities after they reached knee dribbles.
The thought behind this was three-fold: based on observation and player feedback the leg cycling technique broke down too much during the latter stages; it was a compromise from not having any of the capacity work involved so that the players could at least experience a little upright running at sub-max velocities; finally, having recently listened to Jonas Dodoo speak about the idea of growth within running, I felt having the athletes progress from a knee dribble to sub-max running gave a natural feeling of growth. Finally due to a couple of players beginning to experience shin splints I adjusted the volume of plyometric work in the final weeks of the program.
Green = Good
Presented above are the results of the group of players who conducted both a pre & post intervention test. All times were taken from the My Sprint app output with the fastest and slowest times used for analysis. Calculated at the foot of the table is the average time ran with all subjects included as well as an average that disregarded the outliers. Mainly for the sake of my own curiosity (I wasn’t expecting to do a write up of the results) I compared the improvement in both the athlete’s slowest and fastest times and calculated the difference. Also shown is compliance to the program with the number of sessions completed, out of 11, on the far right side.
Hopefully the green for improvement colour coding speaks for itself, but for clarity, 10 of the 14 re-testers improved on their fastest time and 12 of the 14 on their slowest. Overall the group went from running a 5.14 fastest average 30m sprint to a 5.08. Ignoring the one athlete (10) who was returning from injury and made a huge leap in her times, four of the team (4, 8, 11 & 14) took over 0,1 of a second off of their fastest time.
When diving a little deeper into the data and following a little video analysis of each athlete’s runs, the most telling difference between the two tests was the improvements over the first 10 meters, both in split times and acceleration mechanics, with better projection as well as body angles conducive to sprint acceleration.
Despite the improvement in the group as a whole, I find the two cases of most interest are the athletes with the highest training ages (both gym and running technique wise) of the group, 2 & 9, who appear to have benefited very little from the intervention. Whilst I do not need to digress into why this might be the case, I instinctively feel that they perhaps need more of a stimulus to make improvements on the clock.
Whilst I have continuously tracked the team in their speed work for close to two years now and having witnessed the improvements from the methods previously employed, this is the first time we have tested and re-tested around a specific intervention. This was also the first time the team’s speed work did not include exposures to maximal effort sprinting so I was pleasantly surprised to see the significant improvements despite the omission.
I guess the ultimate question I should answer here is would I implement the program again next off-season? Based on the results achieved for the majority, yes, but I would definitely consider small adjustments for those who have higher training ages, perhaps having a maximal effort sprint or two included after the sprinting exercises.
Finally I would just like to thank Sam for an excellent program and for giving me the opportunity to share the results the team achieved.