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Approaching the Ultimate Point Derivation (3)

Petros Kyprianou
Sep 10, 2013

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

In every business corporation around the world the aim for every boss is to produce. A very good friend of mine and a well known decathlon coach said "I’m paid to produce, that is why I talk only business!" that is how we need to approach decathlon training. How do we produce in the decathlon? By training harder or smarter? Well some great coaches accomplished a lot by training harder and never consider training smarter.

The purpose of this paper is to examine the purpose of training smarter and aim to produce more points by working smart.

Training Theory has been a major area of argument among great coaches. The volume and Intensity, density, Biomotor abilities, energy systems, biomechanics and many other parameters of training have been crucial to our effort to touch perfection in our workouts. Well guess what? Nobody is perfect and every each one of us makes mistakes and learns from them. That is why we keep training journals to go back and fix the problem. A super fast car does not perform only from its outside look but by the horse production the engine has and the proper maintenance and care its owner does to it.

The need for Multi system training

There are five major body systems that come into play when a decathlete designs his workouts: The neuromuscular system, the musculoskeletal system, the neuroendocrine system, the proprioceptive system and the energy production systems. Each one of those systems must be trained accordingly to the "needs analysis" of the decathlete and the desire to emphasize the efficiencies and minimize the deficiencies.

All of these systems help in some way to performance so all should be trained to improve their ability to make some specific contribution to performance. These systems are also interdependent upon each other, so great development of any of these systems is impossible without parallel improvements in others.

The basic premise of a philosophy of multi system training is that we must over time address all of these body systems in some planned balance. The balance of development levels of these systems is as crucial as the absolute development level for everyone.

Typical problems in training system design include in overemphasize the energy systems at the expense of the neuromuscular system, failure to address the proprioceptive system and neuroendocrine system, and overdevelopment of the neuromuscular system with respect to the musculoskeletal system.

"Train the key Events not the ones you like"

Many coaches and athletes argue with each other on which is the best way to approach their training. Some people support the idea of emphasizing the strengths and try to minimize the deficiencies. This statement is true and ideal for a decathlete. Well, how can you do that? We have ten events to train and bunch of other parameters to work such as aerobic power training, anaerobic training, speed endurance and so many others that demand time and perfection. Unfortunately the decathlete must incorporate large volumes in his training. This volume is necessary to perform at an elite level in the combined events; so great care must be taken in structuring of his work. That is where Intensity and Volume must be handled with care and never increased at the same time (basic principles of training theory). If the decathlete is train by a committee (more than one coach) than one coach, those principles must be considered in order to avoid overtraining or overreaching.

Training the key events is very important for the decathlete to conserve energy and time so he can focus on the high point offering events than wasting time on training events that do not support this statement (e.x. 1500m). Finding the best combination events can result to better understanding of the meaning of commonality theory.

Recently I got into an argument with a distance coach about Bryan Clay’s 1500m. He stated that the reason that Clay could not run a 4’30’’ during his 8820pt decathlon is that he has gained 8lbs that year to improve other events and that his VO2max which is the highest rate of oxygen consumption attainable during maximal or exhaustive exercise (Willmore and Costill, 2005) has decreased due to excessive muscle mass (well as most of you right now are about to curse, I was in the same situation). Anyway, I maintain my composure and I brought up examples like the great Jurgen Hingsen, and many other great decathletes that were literally giants and ran some crazy 1500m!!There is nothing wrong with Bryan’s training. In elite athletes, VO2 max is not a good predictor of performance. The winner of a marathon race for example, cannot be predicted from maximal oxygen uptake.

Perhaps more significant than VO2 max is the speed at which an athlete can run, bike or swim at VO2 max. Two athletes may have the same level of aerobic power but one may reach their VO2 max at a running speed of 20 km/hr and the other at 22 km/hr.

While a high VO2 max may be a prerequisite for performance in endurance events at the highest level, other markers such as lactate threshold are more predictive of performance. Again, the speed at lactate threshold is more significant than the actual value itself.

Think of VO2 max as an athlete’s aerobic potential and the lactate threshold as the marker for how much of that potential they are tapping.

The table below shows the oxygen consumption in relation to exercise intensity:

The key for success in a decathlon is the performance development based philosophy, injury prevention and time management. If a coach can assemble those ingredients and train them smart on the proper talent, the chances to fail are minimal.

What are the key events in a decathlon and what are the perfect event combinations?

As I have mentioned in my previous paper, a commonality based philosophy must be followed in order to gather the three afore mentioned ingredients for success. Some people support the following combinations of events that have positive commonalities:

1) 110m Hurdles –Pole Vault – Javelin
2) 110m Hurdles – Pole Vault – High Jump
3) 110m Hurdles – Pole vault – Discus
4) 110m Hurdles – Pole vault – Long Jump

No matter where you from or what level you are competing at, one thing can be identified from the above: DECATHLON IS A SPEED-POWER EVENT and must be treated as a single event not ten.

There are several schools of decathlon that support the idea of doing loads of aerobic power exercise and long runs. They do that because it has been a coaching tradition or they think that running that much can prevent injury and help them run a great 1500m.

The table below shows the breakdown of the events of the top ten all time decathletes, (from Decathlon2000 website) and the percentages of the points accumulated from the 4 event categories.













Roman Šebrle 10,64 8.11 15.33 2.12 47,70


47.92 4.80 70.16 4.21,98 9026
Tomaš Dvorak 10,54 7.90 16.78 2.04 48,08


48.33 4.90 72.32 4.37,20 8994
Dan O'Brien 10,43 8.08 16.69 2.07 48,51


48.56 5.00 62.58 4.42,10 8891
Daley Thompson 10,44 8.01 15.72 2.03 46,97


46.56 5.00 65.24 4.35,00 8847
Jürgen Hingsen 10,70 7.76 16.42 2.07 48,05


49.36 4.90 59.86 4.19,75 8832
Bryan Clay 10,44 7.96 15.23 2.06 49,19


50.11 4.90 69.71 4.41,65 8820
Erki Nool 10,60 7.63 14.90 2.03 46,23


43.40 5.40 67.01 4.29,58 8815
Uwe Freimuth 11,06 7.79 16.30 2.03 48,43


46.58 5.15 72.42 4.25,19 8792
Tom Pappas 10,78 7.96 16.28 2.17 48,22


45.84 5.20 60.77 4.48,12 8784
Siegfried Wentz 10,89 7.49 15.35 2.09 47,38


46.90 4.80 70.68 4.24,90 8762

% of points accumulated from Sprints, Jumps, Throws and Endurance






Roman Šebrle





Tomaš Dvorak





Dan O'Brien





Daley Thompson





Jürgen Hingsen





Bryan Clay





Erki Nool





Uwe Freimuth





Tom Pappas





Siegfried Wentz





It is obvious that the major event contributors are the sprints and jumps. That is why a coach must concentrate on developing the jumps and sprints and emphasizes the commonalities within the techniques and other modalities in his/her annual plan.

The next question is the following: "ok coach, now we determined that hurdles and two jumps must be trained in order to identify the 3 key events". Well yes and no! The hurdles and pole vault can be the first two since they fall into the most technical events in the event of decathlon. The commonalities that hurdles and pole vault have can be identified in the take off position, hip mobility, penultimate step and linear acceleration. Someone can refer to long jump or high jump as the third key event due to jumping orientation and the high point derivation these events have. Keeping the balance I our training plan we should incorporate a throw since there are 3 throws in a decathlon. The throw that has the most positive commonalities with hurdles and pole vault is with no doubt the Javelin due to its linear acceleration and impulse oriented approach. Again, all this information should be perceived with positively and must be identified as part of your "needs analysis". Some biomechanists support discus as the third key event due to its angular acceleration and non-compatibility with the other nine events of the decathlon. It will be wise to use discus instead of the javelin since the transition from the hurdles to discus is considered to be the hardest amongst the decathletes. There is an interesting article written by Mike Maynard on the orbit of the discus technique that discusses the foot work and axes involved in the separation during a throw. Coach Maynard very clearly identifies the beginning of the "South African" technique section of the throw as similar to the take off preparation during the hurdles. We can actually correlate this statement with the loading phase of the final step in long jump.

Either one of the throws can be utilized as key event and should be trained more frequently than other events. It is important for the coach and the athlete to design a needs analysis during their annual planning. Designing an annual plan based on point production than minimizing the deficiencies can be ideal for the ambitious decathlete.

Quality decathletes or right training?

There is a tendency that some elite decathletes that achieve personal bests in the decathlon have a better score than decathletes with amazing personal bests in open events. Many great decathletes have achieved extraordinary great personal best in open events like Dan O’ Brien, and Mike Smith. These decathletes have amazing individual personal bests but they never managed to get close to them in a decathlon.

The following table shows the top ten decathlon scores based on personal bests. In contrast we subtracted their decathlon personal best from the sum of personal bests score:


Sum of individual personal bests

personal best

Dan O'Brien



Michael Smith



736 highest
Roman Šebrle



300 lowest
Jürgen Hingsen



Bryan Clay



Daley Thompson



Tomaš Dvorak



Eduard Hämäläinen



Siegfried Wentz



Chris Huffins




These numbers clearly show the quality of these decathletes. The top ten bests are over 9,000 points but only one has actually pulled that score in a decathlon; and he is the one with the smallest difference between his decathlon personal best and the sum of his individual personal bests (300pts – Roman Sebrle). Interestingly, the second best difference belongs to the former world record holder Thomas Dvorak (302pts); ironically from the same country! The Czechs must be doing something right!

Motor Control Considerations

If we further examined those decathletes, we will see that their highest scores come from speed-power oriented events such as the sprints and the jumps. That is why we need to focus on these events and their commonalities. Biomotor abilities such as strength, power and coordination/flexibility should be emphasized in a decathlon training plan. Motor control and learning should be the primary knowledge tool for the coach so he/she can teach the proper technical model to his athletes. Two great theories are well accepted among decathlon coaches or any other technical coaches: the theory of Generalized motor program (already motor pattern exists, and the program can be adapted to various situations and environments) and the Dynamic systems theory (the ability to replicate skills results from repeatedly organizing movement in similar environmental conditions).

In addition to those theories a coach must take in consideration prior to designing his athletes’ needs analysis or implementing any motor patterns the following factors:

1) Cognitive decision 2) Perception of the task 3) Reflexive action 4) Nature of the task 5) Perception of the task 6) Reflexive action 7) Injury prevention mechanisms 8) Environmental factor 9) Mechanical/Anatomical concerns 10) Proprioceptive concerns and 11) Biomotor concerns

Comments (3)

pauldeca wrote on Sep 26, 2007
Solid work my Friend...
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Efthymios Kyprianou wrote on Sep 26, 2007
Congradulations to Petros for this work. It is a very interesting approach to this difficult event. That I liked is that he says his opinion without suspensions and also with argued examples. I agree about the VO2 because it is not the mainly indicator for the sports evaluation and especially for Decathlon, is how the athlete can manage to succeed the better. The same happens with lactate acid. I also like the periodization that he gave and I definetely agree with the cycle 2-1-1. Anyway, keep going Petros and we wait for something new....
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Georgios wrote on Oct 06, 2007
Is a very nice work you did here saying all these etc but can any one develop and do this multi system training ? Can this program develop and in Cyprus knowing the system how is working here yes ?
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