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Development and training for the decathlon (0)

Sheldon Blockburger
Apr 04, 2019

1. Overview

The multi event athlete must possess or attain the following characteristics in order to be successful:

  1. MUSCULAR STRENGTH (Power) -Work per unit time (anaerobic strength)
    EXAMPLES: Weight training (4x5 reps), Multi throws, Medicine Ball, Multi Jumps (Plyos)
  2. MUSCULAR ENDURANCE -The ability to sustain muscular contraction over a period of time (sustained aerobic work)
    EXAMPLES: Weight training (3x12 reps), Circuit training, repeat stairs, repeat hills, 10x200m
  3. CARDIOVASCULAR ENDURANCE -Efficient utilization of oxygen over a sustained period of time.
    EXAMPLES: 3 mile runs, 4x800 meters, 8x400 meters
  4. FLEXIBILITY -Enables the body's lever system to apply force over an increased range of motion. Athletic performance will be enhanced, plus the incidence of injury will be reduced.
    EXAMPLES: Proprioceptive Neurological Facilitation (PNF), Dynamic stretches, Sprint drills
  5. NEUROMUSCULAR (Technique) -The coordination of specific movements into a motor pattern to enhance the body's ability to efficiently apply force. This aspect is the most important to an athlete because without technique there is no performance. This part of the athlete takes the longest to train and should have the first priority of the beginning decathlete.
  6. PSYCHOLOGICAL -An on-going positive mental outlook, which includes discipline, determination, aggressiveness, desire, perseverance, and positive self-image. You can have all of the above listed qualities (1-5) but if you are not mentally committed you will have a short career. I have come across many better natural athletes than me over the years but I have beaten the majority (99%) of them because they have lacked the desire to be great.

2. How to train the beginning Decathlete

As I stated above, technique is the most important thing the young decathlete should concentrate on. It does no good to be strong, fast and have great jumping ability if you do not know how to use it. I would strongly suggest starting to learn the second days techniques on a 2-1 ratio with the first days techniques. The hurdles, discus and pole vault are the three events that have the most effect on the other events as explained below.

The hurdles directly help the decathlete in the 100 meters by developing a consistent stride pattern between and over each hurdle. The hurdles are essentially ten mini sprints to each hurdle. It also reinforces proper running technique by teaching the athlete to run tall with proper posture. Hurdles and hurdle drills also help develop the hip flexor muscles along with the hamstrings and glutes. These muscles are the most important in sprint development.
The hurdles help the long jump by teaching the athlete how to sprint correctly with a rhythmic stride pattern. It also helps the athlete learn how to set up for a take off with minimal deceleration. By learning how to run through a hurdle you will know how to run off the long jump board.
Hurdle endurance runs (4x12 hurdles) will help the 400 meters in the same way by developing speed endurance.
The hurdles help the pole vault in the same exact way that they helped the long jump.
The hurdles have an effect on 5 of the 10 decathlon events (l00m, LJ, 400m, 110m HH and PV), so I feel it would be a wise investment in time to master that event first off.

The discus is a difficult event because spinning is not involved in any of our childhood games. The is a technique that must be learned at a late age. The discus is the event where the most is lost in any competition. But by learning the fundamentals early, the athlete will have learned balance, coordination, patience and foot work and most importantly have confidence that he will not be the one looking stupid throwing it.

The pole vault has the same effect as the hurdles in that it helps the same 5 events and some of the discus. It involves sprinting; jumping off the ground; strength to plant the pole, hold on to it and rock back. All the while demanding that the athlete use patience, timing, coordination, body awareness. By knowing how to vault properly, the athlete will have confidence that will carry over into his other events. In short, if you can pole vault effectively you are on your way to learning the rest. The hurdles, discus and pole vault should always be the core to the multi event training schedule. Everything else should fit around it.

3. What things should a beginning decathlete do to develop?

There are many different things a decathlete needs to do.

  • 1xPER WEEK GYMNASTIC CIRCUIT (Wall rack, rings, pulley, swing rope, high bar, trampoline)
  • 2xPER WEEK WEIGHT TRAINING CIRCUIT (Inclines, cleans, lunges, step-ups, squats, etc.)
  • 1xPER WEEK SPEED ENDURANCE TRAINING (10x200m w/ 3 min. rec.)
  • 1xPER WEEK HIGH JUMP/ LONG JUMP/ PLYOS (alt. leg, double leg jumps)
  • 2xPER WEEK POLE VAULT (including competitions) Keep sessions under 15 full jumps.
  • 2xPER WEEK CARDIOVASCULAR (3 mile run one day, 5x600 meters the other)

This sounds like a lot of work and it is, but it is what it takes to get to-the top. Technique must always be the first thing done every day, since it is the most important. Conditioning is always done after technique.
For the beginning decathlete I would suggest the full load of training mentioned above every other week. I would just practice the events (technique) on the odd week in order to prevent injuries and over-training. The young athlete will also have concentration lapses when the volume is too high for too long.
Running technique should be the first thing taught because poor running technique will hamper every event. Sprint drills, hurdle drills and build-up runs need to be closely supervised.


  • Monday - Hurdles, Discus, Pole Vault,
  • Tuesday - 3 miles (a.m.), Javelin, High Jump, Weight training
  • Wednesday - Shot Put, Sprint Drills, Medicine Ball, Gymnastic circuit
  • Thursday - Pole Vault, Discus, 5x600 meter repeats
  • Friday - Long Jump, Speed/Hurdles, Plyometrics
  • Saturday - Weight training, Sprint drills
  • Sunday - 10x200 meters repeats (a.m.)


(A compilation of notes prepared by Rick Sloan, Fred Samara, Mike Keller, Terry Franson and Harry Marra, October, 1992 in San Francisco, California.) The decathlon is an all-encompassing event. We expect each athlete to develop their physical, as well as mental capacities in preparation for this event. To maximize one's ability in the decathlon, a long range program recognizing strengths and weaknesses is essential. Do not sacrifice strengths to develop weaknesses. "Balance" is key for success in the decathlon. Contributing factors for success in the decathlon involve development of the following components of fitness:

  1. MUSCULAR STRENGTH (Power) -Work per unit time (speed!) (anaerobic)
    EXAMPLES: Vertical J ump, Standing Jump, One repetition max lift, Plyometrics
  2. MUSCULAR ENDURANCE -The ability to sustain muscular contraction over a period of time (sustained aerobic work)
    EXAMPLES: Circuit training, Body resistance exercises (repeat stairs, repeat hills), 10 x 200m -one minute rest)
  3. CARDIOVASCULAR/RESPIRATORY ENDURANCE -(Aerobic Fitness) -Efficient utilization of oxygen over a sustained period of time
    EXAMPLES: Steady state runs (140-160 heart rate/minute) (P/R will be lower for the older athlete), Stationary/regular bike riding activity, Pool running/swimming laps,

The goal here would be to improve your max VO2

  1. FLEXIBILITY - Enables the body's lever system to apply force over an increased range of motion. It is most important to elevate your core body temperature prior to flexibility work (jogging, weight lifting). The component of flexibility should be incorporated in all phases of your year-round training program. Initial stretching should be of a static or slow tension nature. Athletic performance will be enhanced, plus the incidence of injury will be reduced with a comprehensive flexibility program.
    EXAMPLE: Proprioceptive Neurological Facilitation (PNF), Normal stretching exercises
  2. NEUROMUSCULAR (Technique) -The coordination of specific movements into a motor pattern to enhance the body's ability to efficiently apply force.
    EXAMPLE: All technical aspects of the decathlon, such as running, jumping and throwing mechanics
  3. PSYCHOLOGICAL -An on-going positive mental outlook, which includes such factors as discipline, determination, aggressiveness, desire, perseverance, and a positive self-image. While the physical components outlined above are important to success in the decathlon, failure to adhere to the psychological aspects will greatly diminish your ability to perform. Stress is the "11th" event of the Decathlon. Dealing with it properly can ensure that you will have success.


I. General Conditioning-- October 1 through mid-November (6 weeks) Muscular endurance and Cardiovascula / respiratory endurance (CVE) 85%
Muscular Strength (MS) anaerobic 0%
Neuromuscular Conditioning (NM) (technique) 15%
ll (A) Late general conditioning Mid November through 1st wee of December (3 weeks) ME & CVE 45%
MS 30%
NM 25%
II (B) Late, late general conditioning. End of 1st week in Dec through Jan 1 (3 weeks) ME & CVE 30%
MS 45%
NM 25%
III Pre-competitive season Jan 1 through mid-March (10 weeks) ME & CVE 10%
MS 50%
NM 40%
IV (a) Competitive season Mid-March through mid-June (12 weeks) ME & CVE 5%
MS 35%
NM 60%
IV (b) Competitive season Mid-June through September 1 (12 weeks) The post championship phase of the competitive season should be a microcosm of the annual training cycle. The length of each of these phases should be determined by the length of time prior to the next Decathlon, and an evaluation of performance there.
V Post-competitive season (Month of Sept) (4 weeks) This is a period of time to both mentally and physically recover from the entire (Rest and/or active rest)


A.THROWS: "Balance" is a key word. Without proper balance at the start, and throughout delivery, all other aspects of throwing are negatively affected. Once balance is achieved, the following aspects are germane to success in the throws:

  1. Positive Acceleration -Followed by the sequential deceleration of body segments. (Blocking)
  2. Posture -The center of gravity (CG) is functionally lowered through ankle, knee and hip flexion as opposed to think flexion.
  3. Acceleration of the Implement -Through a full range of motion over the shortest time possible.
  4. Patience -There is a difference between being quick and being in a hurry! Remain rhythmical and patient at the start of each effort.
  5. Relaxation -A relaxed effort produces greater force and velocity.
  6. Starting Positions -Fundamental in all throwing events. An efficient starting position incorporates all of the previously mentioned parameters (1-5) and is essential for the correct initiation of movement patterns.

B. JUMPS: (The following similarities deal specifically with the approach and preparation for take off.)

  1. Approach -A successful jump is predicated on a consistent, uniformly accelerated approach.a. Length -the length of the-approach is determined by the acceleration pattern and where the athlete achieves maximum controllable speed.
    b. Starting Position
    -posture/CG displacement -relaxation/concentration
    c. Rhythm -Should be constant throughout the approach
    d. Rhythm/Posture/Tempo -Final 6 strides
  2. Preparation for Take Off:
    a. Penultimate Stride -The CG is lowered as a result of flexion in the ankle, knee and hip of the support leg.
    b. Pent Step -A tempo change at take off, which enables the athlete to create lift without significantly sacrificing velocity.
    c. Center of Gravity (CG) -Following the penultimate stride, the CG begins an upward trajectory through take off.



a. Posture -Erect and tall from head to toe. Must be maintained throughout the run.

b. Turnover- To minimize reduction in velocity, you should emphasize stride frequency over length during tile final stages of sprint races (key word -'active')

c. Rhythm and Relaxation -"Don't be in a hurry!" Smoothly complete all movements to generate maximum force. Special emphasis should be placed on rhythm and relaxation during the latter stages of all sprints.

d. Acceleration Patterns -(acceleration -speed -maintenance - deceleration) Each sprint encompasses the above phases (a-c) to varying degrees. To optimize performance, a smooth transition through each phase is required. Conditioning, running, mechanics and relaxation assist in minimizing tile extent of deceleration.

D. 1500 METERS:

Posture, rhythm, relaxation and tempo (turnover) are important factors for successful 1500m running. Differences such as lower knee lift, increased surface area contact with the foot, shorter stride length and more limited arm movements are necessary for efficient management of the race.

Rhythm. posture and tempo are interdependent and critical to the success of the race .

Final acceleration (finishing sprint) is addressed y first increasing tempo (stride frequency) and ultimately is combined with stride length.


In the process of changing motor patterns, one must accept the fact that there will be initial regression in performance level. You must be willing to remain motivated. focused and look at the "big picture". Each of you has the ability to improve upon your performances. Keep an open mind.


A decathlete can have all of the skills to perform well, but if he mismanaged his final weeks of preparation and the competition itself, he will experience a poor performance. Some of the concerns that need to be addressed are as follows:

  1. I need to 'test' my physical and technical skills a couple of days prior to the meet to make sure I am ready to go."
  2. Rest -What is it? How much? Active rest?
  3. Diet/Carbos/Fluid Intake
  4. Changing format of training at the last moment.
  5. Warm-up:

A. Pre 100 M

B. General to specific
1. Jog
2. Stretch
3. Sprint
4. Technique (NM)

C. "Blowout" aspect
D. During and between events
E. Cooling down after day one -extensive

6. Post-Decathlon recovery period -How To

7. Day/Morning of competition management
A. Waking up
B. Eating -when, how much, what
C. Getting to site/stadium
D. Packing bag/equipment the night prior to the competition
E. Clothing/fluids/hat, etc.

8. Developing the ability to address yourself to the problem (event) at hand. (i.e., mental focus -punch in/punch out in each event)

9. Establish Long Jump/High Jump/Pole Vault marks as soon as you arrive to the stadium each day.

10. Intentional fouls!

11. The 30 minutes between events if to be considered "preparation time" and not rest time.


Planning your competitive decathlon season needs to be done early in the year and be very carefully thought through. It is strongly recommended that you do one full decathlon prior to the Championships and then expect to do one to two decathlons post Championships. You should strongly consider using other meets to compete in to improve upon your weak events.

FROM: Proceedings of the International Track & Field Coaches Association

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