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Developing the Decathlon Technical Model (5)

Petros Kyprianou
Oct 01, 2015

by Petros Kyprianou MA, USAT&F, USAW
Boise State University combined/jumps events coach

Decathlon is a very special event that besides technical development requires great combination of the five primary Biomotor abilities: speed, strength, flexibility, endurance and coordination.

When designing a technical model for the combined events, the coach must be able to apply, besides his coaching talent or drill inventory, basic sports science principles. Fields of science such as physics, anatomy and physiology provide a base of information from which the coach draws when developing technical models. In addition, motor learning and control contributes to the skill acquisition and best identification of skill patterns.

Point Tables and Point derivation

Point table examination is an essential part of preparing an athlete for the decathlon. It has always been an argument amongst the coaching community which event is the ‘’key event’’ or what is the best combination of events that leads to better results and conserve energy.

There is an emphasis on the speed and power events within the decathlon. The Table shows exactly the performance standards matching 800pts.

Table 1. Performances that produce 800 points

Event

100m

LJ

SP

HJ

400m

110mH

DT

PV

JT

1500m

Total

Perform.

11,27

6.95

15.16

2.00

50,30

15,41

46.64

4.64

64.16

4.21,77

Points

800

800

800

800

800

800

800

800

800

800

8000pts


Table 2. Average scores in each event among ten random Decathletes that scored 8000 points

Event

100m

LJ

SP

HJ

400m

110mH

DT

PV

JT

1500m

Total

Perform.

11,07

7.37

14.54

1.97

49,50

14,78

43.58

4.62

59.78

4.30,00

Points

845

903

762

776

838

876

738

796

735

745

8014pts

Those tables clearly show the need for establishing a speed/power training background. Point table examination further shows that sprints/hurdles/jumps appear to offer the best opportunities for point accumulation. Great performances in the 1500m offer great opportunity for point total improvement as well. However, the training for the 1500m is quite different than that required for the speed and power oriented events. Excessive 1500m training could negatively interfere on the performance in other areas.

Elite decathletes show remarkable similarities in the percentages of total points received from sprint/hurdles, jumps, throws and endurance event groups. This would lead us to believe that to prepare an athlete for elite level competition; we should attempt to design training to accomplish similar distributions.

The Commonality based philosophy

Teaching technical events it is by itself a whole multi-tasked mission. Teaching 9 different techniques in a given amount of time can be vicious. That is where the very effective philosophy of commonality in teaching these technical events. We try to identify skills and features that these events hold in common. We call these features commonalities. We then teach these commonalities and bring them to each event in an applicable form, making teaching simpler and the motor learning easy on the athlete. It is crucial to give many opportunities to the athlete to learn and rehearse these commonalities. Nonetheless, it is ineffective to separate any Biomotor development from the technical model. Everything you perform in track and field has a way to be performed. That is called technique.

Decathlon and the Theory of Specificity

It is widely accepted that every technical development or even a skill acquisition method must be based on the theory of specificity. Every planned training unit must have a precise and should explicit to the action desired. In addition to this, units must expressly aim for developing the required demands of the work about to perform or unit goals.

The aforementioned philosophy of Commonality falls into the principles of Specificity along with Compatibility, Complementary and Transference principles.

Compatibility deals with the work perform in a unit and its purpose of working together in a harmonious manner. Bonding the events it is a great way of achieving the ultimate goal in a decathlon training unit: conserve energy with the greatest effect on neuromuscular system. That is when 2 or more events or Biomotor abilities are mixed together without interfering each other.

Complimentary principle introduces to the training plan the notion of performing the events in a manner that the events act mutually to make up any deficiencies and promote performance. Therefore, units must be bond in a way that can create a sequence of work to complete a skill acquisition.

Commonality comes to play a role of being the ice on the cake! Biomechanics can be of a great use if the coach and/or the athlete can understand its basic principles. In order to train the decathlete based on biomechanical monitoring of the events, training units must share common biomechanical properties of the given activity or the event combination. It is important for the given technical training unit to connect the drill or exercises to the technique and make sure that this simulation of actions can be transferred into the technique. Consequently, commonality training supports the understanding and positive use of the energy systems. The coach must be able to distribute loads based on neuromuscular-to-metabolic combinations; units should be designed in a way that has comparatively equal demands on the system.

Neuromuscular-to-Metabolic training design

It is important to identify your athlete’s needs. Strength and conditioning specialists called that "needs analysis". It deals with the athlete’s strengths, weaknesses, injuries and generally his/her background. The coach must point out the needs of the athlete into the cycle. Practicing all ten events in one week, every week all year around, can result in a limitation of the athlete’s strong events and could possibly destroy the annual plan.

The Neuromuscular-to-Metabolic training structure slots perfectly into a cycle, if of course, are being used in a work-rest ratio type of training unit or into a 2-1-1 cycles.

The neuromuscular work refers to the speed-power events training and the metabolic to the aerobic and/or VO2max, lactate work training units. Having 2 days in a row 400m workouts will not be very effective in a program; or having a 2 day in a row pole vault workout.

The energy systems must be trained as well as the psychological parameters of a decathlete.

Biomotor development of a decathlete

A decathlete’s performance depends on the development of his Biomotor abilities. If the training is designed based on these areas (Biomotor) then these areas contribute to the overall development of the athlete. When designing the training plan, it is crucial to develop the Biomotor areas based on the theory of specificity.

Cardiovascular Endurance or aerobic power plays a very significant role in a decathlete’s plan in terms of: a) efficiency of the energy systems, b) recovery, c) injury prevention and d) overall fitness.

It is important for the coach to understand that the aerobic power for the decathlete it should be specifically related to technical training and recovery procedures. Excessive aerobic training should be avoided due to lack of influence on speed-power development (commonality philosophy).

Flexibility: Flexibility is another factor that a decathlete must pay attention to. Increasing the range of motion will result in to a positive transition to any technical event. Based on basic biomechanical concepts, range of motion is a factor in accumulating elastic energy use in a throw or a jump (Achilles tendon, pole, etc). It must be developed in the early stages of training in both static and dynamic stretch exercises.

Coordination: is the concept of developing mobility complimenting flexibility, dynamic strength and balance. It is related to static or dynamic short movements within a proper spatial position. It is closely related to the biomechanical principle of summation of forces (applying forces in a restricted but effective range of motion plane)

Strength: it is scientifically known as mass times acceleration (F= m x a). Strength can be introduced to the athlete after mastering coordination and flexibility. The reason for that is that strength training can be used to develop all the aforementioned Biomotor abilities. Therefore, a good base of coordination, flexibility and aerobic power must be acquired before entering the strength techniques. There are several types of strength that a decathlete must incorporate into his plan: absolute strength, maximum strength, relative strength, power, strength endurance and special strength. Power is the best utilization of a decathlete’s time in the weight room. Learning the snatch, clean and jerk, squatting and pressing can positively affect a decathlete’s performance.

All in all, strength training as well as the whole training plan must follow the principle of complimentary overload to avoid overtraining symptoms and unwanted technical habits.

Speed: is the most important tool for a decathlete. Without speed a decathlete cannot advance to the next level of competition. Speed of movement in the proper sequence over duration of time is the ultimate part of reaching optimum performance. Speed and acceleration progressions must be developed prior to speed endurance. According to the theory of specificity speed is considered to be a skill not a training method at that point; it becomes a metabolic work when it reaches the speed endurance threshold.

Periodization

It is considered to be the ‘’meat and potatoes’’ of the training theory concepts. Periodization plan should be designed to protect the decathlete for overtraining and help him reach his potential by utilizing his strengths and minimizing deficiencies.

In a training plan the must be identified: the goals for the season, open events that a decathletes should be focusing on in order to help his transitional modalities in the decathlon. Define how many peaking seasons a decathlete has as well as number of decathlons he will be competing in.

After we designed the annual template, we just fill in with ‘’coaching art’’ the tables of each cycle and identify the goals for each season, making sure that we used at least one super compensation week per cycle and avoid any over achievers thinking when writing. Designing of the decathlon program can change any time during the season. That is something that a coach will have to monitor according to his athletes needs analysis and weekly maximum effort. For example a decathletes maximum effort will not be the same every week (especially in the weight room). That is why we try to use actual numbers instead of percentages. That’s how you will be able to argue on somebody’s program by saying: ‘’85% of what? Maximum speed or maximum strength ia a variable that changes every week’’

Sample Training cycle with a super-compensation week

Here is sample of a training cycle that we use here at Boise State University to train our decathletes. This cycle is designed specifically for my decathletes based on their needs analysis and includes percentages based on that given week.

Cycle 1 (2-1-1) - Preseason, Month of April - Weeks 1 and 2

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
am: weights
(2 exer.)
am: weights
(3 exer.)
am:
light cardio
am:
weights
(2 exerc.)
am:
weights
(3 exerc.)
off off
Pm:
1) speed work
2) LJ work
3) SP work

Pm:
1)Hurdles
2) Discus
3)PV drills

Pm:
1)acceleration
2) HJ
2) JT
3)general throws
4) 400m workout
Pm:
1) 20’ tempo run
Pm:
1)Hurdles
2)Speed
3)Bounding
Pm:
1) PV
2)metabolic work
off


Week 3 Super-compensation week

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
off am: weights
(3 exer.)
off off am:
weights
(3 exerc.)
off off
Pm:
2) LJ work
3) SP work

Pm:
1)Hurdles
2) Discus

Pm:
1)acceleration
2) HJ
2) JT
Pm:
1) 20’ recovery run
Pm:
1)Hurdles
Pm:
1) PV
2)short metabolic work
off


Week 4 Transitional week (to the next cycle)

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
am:
light cardio
am: weights
(5 exer.)
off am:
weights
(2 exerc.)
am:
weights
(3 exerc.)
off off
Pm:
1) speed work
2) LJ work
3) SP work

Pm:
1)Hurdles
2) Discus
3) PV
full

Pm:
1)acceleration
2) HJ
4) 400m workout
Pm:
1)JT
2)metabolic work
off Pm:
1) PV
2)Hurdles
3)Speed
4)Bounding
off

Comments (5)

Dennisaz wrote on Sep 21, 2007
Wow.. great article.. thanks.
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Georgios wrote on Oct 06, 2007
My friend i am late adding my comment coz i read it 3-4 times , is very good article about the training and philosophy about the decathlon . You have but all the goods in a so short article all the basic that a coach need to know . Keep the good work .
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Stavros wrote on Oct 10, 2007
Very good article from a very good coach
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george taylor wrote on Jan 26, 2010
You talk about 9 technical events, Running is a technical event. If you have a bad technique you will soon pick up an injury. You run when you warm up, you run during competition in at least 8 of the events and you run when you warm down. More consideration needs to made to running technique when coaching Combined Events.
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bouhouche wrote on Feb 28, 2010
Hello everybody.
I think the choice of the alternation of power in the morning (AM) and technical events in the afternoon (PM) during Round 1 (2-1-1) - Preseason, Month of April - Weeks 1 and 2.The somewhat exaggerated with 10 exercises in weights in a week Whatever the intensity of their execution,and following the program of the afternoon (PM) when again there are events that require more speed and explosive strength (speed work, Hurdles, LJ, PV, HJ,) Of course it is a personal opinion.
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