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Question
I have been training at a local Athletics club for about 7/8 months. My PB's are 100m: 12.8, 200m: 26.2, Shot Put (6KG, as i'm 17 now): 7.08.
As you can see, my records aren't anything to be proud of. I would really like to know what I can do to improve my technique, strength, and speed endurance. My favorite event is the 200, so I would really appreciate advice on this, but my 100 needs a lot of work and my avg lately has been 13+ seconds, its so frustrating seeing kids younger than me and even women (not being sexist) who can beat me at meets. My shot put technique could use a lot of help too, and since I have fairly small hands, I struggle with the large 6KG shot.
Thanks very much, Matt.

Answer
Dear Matthew:

You do have some interesting interests, (sorry) and I must remind that I am an official and not a coach so I approach my advice a little differently.  Based upon research and experience (never adequate but my best to offer).

So, I resort to collections of what I have been told are very accessible materials.  The best I know of for your question are "Sports Coach" with its index at

         http://www.brianmac.co.uk/siteindx.htm.

The materials are from an English Track and Field site which is well-regarded and is in a format which instructs its material in an easy and understandable way.

Another avenue to explore: local running and track clubs are in many areas where experienced and older still competitive athletes maintain their skills and can advise and help new members with technique and can watch your form. This also is true for your running.  The articles on sprinting reads in part:


Included is an article entitled "Shot Put Technique" and "Shot Put Training Program"

Shot Putt

The throw is made from a 2.135 metre circle with a 1.22 metre wooden stop board (10cms high) at the front. The thrower must commence the throw from a stationary position and leave the circle under control from the rear half after completing the throw. The shot must fall within a 40 degree sector at the front of the circle. The shot must be put from the shoulder with one hand only and be kept in close proximity to the chin during any preceding movements.

The Grip

The shot should be placed at the base of the first three fingers, which should be evenly spread but not stretched, with the little finger and thumb supporting the shot. The shot is then placed under the chin with the elbow held high.

To test the grip and give the athlete confidence - stand with feet shoulder width apart, facing the direction of the throw. Using the arm only, push the shot out, ensuring that the elbow is kept high. The next step is for the athlete to twist his/her upper body to give further force to the shot and then move onto flexing the legs as well.
The Stance

Standing Throw
Figure 1
  

Feet position
Figure 2

The Athlete should take up the position as in Figure 1A with the weight over the right foot and should be encouraged to think of "chin-knee-toe" being vertically in line. The feet and hips should be facing the side (at right angles to the shoulders) and the shoulder "cocked" to the rear. The width of the stance will vary according to the height of the athlete but the feet should be aligned as in figure 2. Note the position of the left hand and arm in Figure 1 A.
The Putt

From this standing position (Figure 1A) the movement should be initiated by the right leg driving the right hip to the front (Figure 1B & C), transferring the bodyweight from the right leg to the left leg (Figure 1C). At the same time, the left arm comes forward and up pointing along the trajectory line the shot will take (approx 45 to the horizontal). During this action, the emphasis should be on a fast right hip, keeping the elbow up behind the shot.

As the hips face the front and forward, then the right shoulder is driven to the front and the left arm swings to the left side to balance the movement. When the chest is facing forward then the right arm punches the shot out, keeping the elbow high (Figure 1D). The left shoulder must not be allowed to drop during any part of this movement and the athlete should think of keeping the left side braced.

Movement into the basic putt

The problem here is not simply to achieve movement across the circle to arrive in the basic putting position (Figure 1A) but how to ensure that the movement adds to the efficiency of the put. There are two accepted techniques - the shift and the rotation.

The shift - Stand at the back of the circle facing away from the throwing area with the hips and shoulders parallel. The weight is paced on the right foot with the trunk low. The athlete then hops backwards on the right foot towards the stop board and in the process rotates the hips so that they are right angles to the shoulders. The right foot lands with the trunk low and the weight over the right foot. The left foot lands close to the stop board with the body in the initial put position (Figure 1A) and the feet position as in Figure 2.

The rotation - The approach is similar to the discus turn. Balance is important and again the rotation process must bring the athlete to the basic put starting position (Figure 1A)
Optimum Release Angle

With ballistics, the same initial speed is applied to the projectile regardless of the angle of projection. Research (Bartonietz 1995)[1] has shown that the athlete cannot throw at the same speed for all angles of projection, as the angle increase so the speed decreases. This decrease in speed is a result of two factors:

   As the angle increases the athlete must expend more energy in overcoming the weight of the shot and so less effort is available to develop the release speed of the shot
   The structure of the body favours a throw in the horizontal direction

Each athlete has a unique combination of release velocity and release angle that depends on their size, strength, and throwing technique which means that each athlete has their own specific optimum release angle. Bartonietz (1995)[1] identifies that the optimum release angle for a world-class shot-putter may be 33.5 7.5.
Specifications

The weight specification for the shot depends on gender and age.
Gender\Age    11-12    13-14    15-16    17-19    20-34
Male    3.25 kg    4 kg    5 kg    6 kg    7.26 kg
Female    2.72 kg    3.25kg    4kg    4kg    4kg

Gender\Age    35-49    50-59    60-69    70-79    80+
Male    7.26 kg    6 kg    5kg    4kg    4kg
Female    4kg    3kg    3kg    3kg    3kg

Training Programs

A training program has to be developed to meet the individual needs of the athlete and take into consideration many factors: gender, age, strengths, weaknesses, objectives, training facilities etc. As all athletes have different needs a single program suitable for all athletes is not possible.
Training Pathway

Pryamid
Athletes in the Event Group stage

The following is a basic annual training program suitable for athletes in the Event Group development stage:

   General Throws Training Program

Athletes in the Event stage

The following is an example of a specific annual training program suitable for athletes in the Event development stage:

   Shot Putt Training Program

Rules of Competition

The competition rules for this event can be obtained from:

   International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF)
   UK Athletics (UKA)

References

   BARTONIETZ, K. & BARTONIETZ, A. (1995) The throwing events at the World Championships in Athletics 1995, Goteborg - Technique of the world's best athletes, Part 1:shot pit and hammer throw. New Studies in Athletics, 10 (4), pp. 43-63

Page Reference

The reference for this page is:

   MACKENZIE, B. (2001) Shot Putt [WWW] Available from: http://www.brianmac.co.uk/shot/index.htm [Accessed 9/6/2013]

Associated Pages

The following Sports Coach pages should be read in conjunction with this page:

   Find a Coach
   Planning the Training - 6 stages of development
   Shot Putt Technique
   Shot Putt Training Program
   Sport/Event Articles
   Tips to Increase upper body throwing power

Associated Books

The following books provide more information related to this topic:

   JONES, M. (1986) How to Teach the Throws. England, British Amateur Athletic Board


and

Shot Putt Training Program

The following is an overview of a weeks training for each of the three phases of an annual training program for the Shot Putt.

Day    Preparation Phase    Pre-competition phase    Competition phase
Monday    Shot Drills
Weight Training
Core Stability work
Hill runs    Full Shot Throws
Shot Drills
Complex Training
Core Stability work    Full Shot Throws
Complex Training
Core Stability work
Tuesday    Plyometrics - Bounding
Medicine ball work
Core Stability work    Medicine ball work
Core Stability work
8 x 30m sprints    Medicine ball work
Core Stability work
8 x 20m sprints
Wednesday    Shot Drills
Weight Training
Core Stability work
8 x 100m strides    Full Shot Throws
Shot Drills
Complex Training
Core Stability work    Full Shot Throws
Complex Training
Core Stability work
Thursday    Rest    Medicine ball work
Core Stability work
8 x 50m sprints    Medicine ball work
Core Stability work
6 x 80m sprints
Friday    Plyometrics - Bounding
Medicine ball work
Core Stability work    Full Shot Throws
Shot Drills
Complex Training
Core Stability work    Rest
Saturday    Shot Drills
Weight Training
Core Stability work
8 x 100m strides    Competition or Rest    Competition
Sunday    Rest    Rest    Rest
Rules of Competition

The competition rules for this event can be obtained from:

   International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF)
   UK Athletics (UKA)

Page Reference

The reference for this page is:

   MACKENZIE, B. (2006) Shot Putt Training Program [WWW] Available from: http://www.brianmac.co.uk/shot/shotplan.htm [Accessed 9/6/2013]

Associated Pages

The following Sports Coach pages should be read in conjunction with this page:

   Shot Putt Technique
   Shot Putt Training Program
   Planning the Training - 6 stages of development
   Find a Coach
   Sport/Event specific articles

Associated Books

The following books provide more information related to this topic:

   How to Teach the Throws, M. Jones

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         Sprinting

The sprints include the following track events: 100 metres, 200 metres, 400 metres, 4 x 100 metre relay and the 4 x 400 metre relay. Although the sprints are events in themselves, the ability to sprint is an important weapon in an athlete's armoury for many track and field events and many sports.
Sprint Technique

Guidance on the sprint technique takes the form of a checklist, for each phase of the sprint, of points for the coach to monitor. The information provided here is for athletes using starting blocks. For details of standing or crouch starts see the sprints start page.

Pre race start

   Blocks correctly positioned in the lane (200 metres/400 metres at a tangent to the curve)
   Correct distances from the start line to the front and rear blocks
   Foot blocks at the correct angles
   Blocks firmly located in the track
   Athlete relaxed and focused on the race

On your marks

   On Your MarksFeet correctly located in the blocks
   Fingers behind the line
   Fingers form a high bridge
   Hands evenly positioned slightly wider than shoulder width
   Shoulders back and vertically above or slightly forward of the hands
   Arms straight but not locked at the elbows
   Head and neck in line with the spine
   Eyes focused on the track (1 to 2 metres ahead)
   Gentle breathing
   Face and neck muscles relaxed

Set

   SetHold the breath
   Hips rise slowly to a position above the shoulders
   Head and neck in line with the spine
   Eyes focused on the track one or two metres ahead
   Shoulders vertically above or slightly forward of the hands
   Front leg knee angle approx. 90 degrees
   Rear leg knee angle approx. 120 degrees
   Feet pushed hard back into the blocks

B of the Bang

   Exhale
   Drive the arms hard
   Extend the whole body so there is a straight line through the head, spine and extended rear leg - body approx. 45 degree angle to the ground
   Eyes Focused on the track 2 to 3 metres
   Run out of the blocks - do not step or jump out of the blocks

Drive Phase (0-30m)

   BangDrive the back leg forward keeping the heel low until the shin is approx 45 to the ground and then drive the foot down (see picture to the right) hitting the ground just behind the body's centre of mass
   Over the next 7-8 strides (approx. 10 metres) the angle of shin of the front leg, before it is driven down, will increase by 6-7/stride so that by the 7-8 stride the shin is vertical
   Over the first 7-8 strides the whole body angle will increase from 45 to approx. 30 degrees - approx. 2/step
   After the first 7-8 strides you will be at approx.70% of your max velocity
   Eyes focused on the track to keep low to allow the build up of speed
   Forward lean of the whole body with a straight line through the head, spine and extended rear leg
   Face and neck muscles relaxed (no tension)
   Shoulders held back and relaxed, square in the lane at all times
   Arms move with a smooth forward backward action - not across the body - drive back with elbows - hands move from approx. shoulder height to hips
   Elbows maintained at 90 degrees (angle between upper and lower arm)
   Hands Relaxed - fingers loosely curled - thumb uppermost
   Legs - fully extended rear leg pushing off the track with the toes - drive the leg forward with a high knee action with the knee pointing forward and with the heel striking under the backside (not the back of the backside as the knee is low and pointing down to the ground) - extend lower leg forward of knee (rear leg drive will propel the foot forward of the knee) with toes turned up - drive the foot down in a claw action with a ball of foot/toe strike on the track vertically below the knee - pull the ground under you into a full rear leg extension - (elbow drive assisting the whole action)
   On the ball of foot/toes at all times - feet pointing forward straight down the lane
   Elbow drive commences just before rear leg drive
   Fast leg action, good stride length allowing continual acceleration
   Appearance of being smooth and relaxed but driving hard with elbows and legs
   The drive is maintained for first 20-30 metres (approx.16-17 strides) at the end of which the body is tall with a slight forward lean
   At the end of this phase you will be at approx. 90% of your max velocity

Stride Phase (30-60m)

   Smooth transitions from drive phase to stride phase
   Eyes focused at the end of the lane - tunnel vision
   Head in line with the spine - held high and square
   Face relaxed - jelly jaw - no tension - mouth relaxed
   Chin down, not out
   Shoulders held down (long neck), back (not hunched), relaxed and square in the lane at all times
   Smooth forward backward action of the arms- not across the body - drive back with elbows - brush vest with elbows - hands move from shoulder height to hips for men and from bust height to hips for the ladies
   Elbows held at 90 degrees at all times (angle between upper arm and lower arm)
   Hands relaxed - fingers loosely curled - thumb uppermost
   Hips tucked under - slight forward rotation of the hip with forward leg drive to help extend the stride
   Legs - fully extended rear leg pushing off the track with the toes - drive the leg forward with a high knee action with the knee pointing forward and with the heel striking under the backside (not the back of the backside as the knee is low and pointing down to the ground) - extend lower leg forward of knee (rear leg drive will propel the foot forward of the knee) with toes turned up, stepping over the knee of the lead leg - drive the foot down in a claw action with a ball of foot/toe strike on the track just behind the body's centre of mass - pull the ground under you into a full rear leg extension - (elbow drive assisting the whole action)
   On the ball of foot/toes with the feet pointing forward straight down the lane
   No signs of straining or tension in the face, neck and shoulders
   Appearance of being Tall, Relaxed and Smooth with maximum Drive
   See the sprint technique photo sequence
   At or close to the end of this phase you will have reached your max velocity

Lift Phase (60m+)

Around 50-60 metres we will have reached max velocity and now we start to slow down. Technique as the Stride Phase but with emphasis on:

   High knee action (prancing)
   Leg action fast and light as if running on hot surface
   Fast arms - more urgency
   Hands slightly higher at the front

Coaching Notes

As you monitor the athlete's technique look for:

   a Tall action
       This means erect, running on the ball of foot/toes (not heels) with full extension of the back, hips and legs as opposed to 'sitting down' when running
   a Relaxed action
       This means move easily, as opposed to tensing and 'working hard' to move. Let the movements of running flow. Keep the hands relaxed, the shoulders low and the arm swing rhythmically by the sides.
   a Smooth action
       This means float across the top of the ground. All motion should be forward, not up and down. Leg action should be efficient and rhythmic. The legs should move easily under the body like a wheel rolling smoothly along.
   Drive
       This means push from an extended rear leg, rear elbow drive with a high forward knee drive followed by a strike and claw foot action just behind the body's centre of gravity.

Sprint Starts

Canadian researchers, Sleivert and Taingahue (2004)[1], investigated the relationship between sprint start performance and selected conditioning training. When a sprinter leaves the blocks, the drive against the blocks and the first few steps rely on concentric muscular strength. A concentric muscle contraction occurs when a muscle shortens as it contracts.

A squat jump is an example of concentric muscle contraction which simulates the sprint start. 4 sets of 3 repetitions with a loading of 30-70% of 1RM can be used to develop maximal concentric force.

Lower into the squat position, hold for 1 to 2 seconds so as switch off the stretch/reflex, stretch/shortening cycle and to allow for a more powerful contraction. Developing concentric muscle contraction will help the athlete's sprint start and acceleration over the first 4 or 5 strides.
Right foot forward or left?

A question often asked with regards starting blocks is "which foot should be in the rear block?" A team of researchers, Eikenberry et al. (2008)[2], discovered that when the:

   left foot was in the rear block, reaction time was better
   right foot was in the rear block movement and total response time was better - time from stimulus (gun) until the end of the movement

The results suggest that the right foot in the rear block will produce a more powerful drive from the blocks.

Perhaps a way forward would be to evaluate the athlete's times over the first ten metres, for both start positions, to determine which produces the best acceleration phase for the athlete.
Stride Length

The initial foot strike out of the blocks should be around 50-60cm from the start line. The stride length should then progressively increase on each stride by 10-15cm until they reach their optimal stride length of around 2.30 metres.

If the athlete lands at 50cm from the start line and increases their stride length by 10cm/stride then they will reach their optimal stride length around their 19th stride - approx 26m from the start line. If they were able to maintain their 2.30m stride length then they would cross the finish line on their 51st stride.

If the athlete lands at 60cm from the start line and increases their stride length by 15cm/stride then they will reach their optimal stride length around their 13th stride - approx. 20m from the start line. If they were able to maintain their 2.30m stride length then they would cross the finish line on their 49th stride.

Rehearsal of this acceleration phase should be conducted regularly. Markers can be placed at the side of the track to assist the athlete to get the feel of the increasing stride length and acceleration. The marker settings for an athlete who lands at 60cm from the start line and then increases their stride length by 15cm/stride are as follows: 0.60m, 1.35m, 2.25m, 3.30m, 4.50m, 5.85m, 7.35m, 9.00m, 10.80m, 12.75m, 14.85m, 17.10m. (Saunders 2004)[3].
Acceleration Training

Zafeiridis et al. (2005)[4] looked at weighted sledge training and their effect on sprint acceleration and they concluded that training with a weighted sledge will help improve the athlete's acceleration phase. The session used in the research was 4 x 20m and 4 x 50m maximal effort runs.

Lockie et al. (2003)[5]> investigated the effects of various loadings and concluded that when using a sledge a light weight of approx. 10-15% of body weight should be used so that the dynamics of the acceleration technique are not negatively effected.

Starts over 10-20 metres performed on a slight incline of around five degrees have an important conditioning effect on the calf, thigh and hip muscles (they have to work harder because of the incline to produce movement) that will improve sprint acceleration.
Sprinting Speed

Downhill sprinting is a method of developing sprinting speed following the acceleration phase. A hill with a maximum of a 15 decline is most suitable. Use 40 metres to 60 metres to build up to full speed and then maintain the speed for a further 30 metres. A session could comprise of 2 to 3 sets of 3 to 6 repetitions. The difficulty with this method is to find a suitable hill with a safe surface.

Over speed work could be carried out on the track when there are prevailing strong winds - run with the wind behind you.

Research by Mero et al. (1998)[6] indicates that an elite sprint athlete's foot contact time with the track is 0.08 to 0.1 seconds so it is important with plyometric training that each ground contact (approx. 1/10 of a second) is made as dynamically as possible. Bounding, hopping and depth jumps from low heights (30cm) can play a role in speeding up ground contact times, triggering the appropriate neural pathways and recruiting fast twitch muscle fibres. Example sessions for a mature athlete are:

   4 x 10 bounds with a 20m run out
   4 x 10 speed hops
   Depth jumps off 40cm box:

       4 x 4 step off, land and jump for height
       4 x 4 step off, land and jump for distance

I hope this is helpful for you, and it is a lot to study.  I suggest that you go to the sites as set out in the index and plan a program, best with good advice from experienced athletes who usually are very happy to coach young men and women.  Good Luck.  I am sorry that I cannot give you more specific information and guidance.  

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Richard Howland

Expertise

I am a master USATF Track and Field official and can answer questions about officiating high school (NFHS), college (NCAA), National (USATF) and international in field events. I am not a coach except for other officials. My specialties are the Field events except pole vault.

Experience

I delight in meeting athletes from all backgrounds and ages. I have even officiated field events for a one hundred year old long jumper as well as many "Master" and "Senior" athletes. Special olympics is a great event for officials to volunteer and see the essence of good sport on the faces of the athletes. After thirty three years as a trial lawyer in Massachusetts with a focus on sports law, among others, I retired and devote much of my time to officiating. I referee soccer, time football, officiate swimming and diving, and officiate and start all events in track and field. My special focus in field events. In high school and college I played soccer, squash and lacrosse, but track was not available in any depth then. Since I was a lawyer I began officiating and training to officiate sports which I could fit into my schedule. I honestly do not remember when I first started track and field officiating, but estimate that I have been very active for at least fifteen years. I regularly officiate all events and levels.

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