Since our episode of Search4Hurt aired last week on ESPN, people have asked Dave and I some questions about the training we do, our philosophies and beliefs, and if that was a typical session, etc.
Instead of replying to everyone individually I thought it might be easier to just write on blog that answered as many questions as I could. Alternatively, you could read this as ‘5 Tips to add to your training’. Either way, would love to hear your thoughts.
First up, it was an absolute pleasure working with Matt and Stephen Mylonas (the camera man and editor). They were both enthusiastic and professional. It was great to hear the positive feedback, especially that Mylo thought it was his favourite episode (though that might have been more to do with Jonathon Thurston than the two of us : )
Someone asked when the episode was filmed and I couldn’t say exactly though I do remember it being after returning from Wimbledon… Maybe early August?
The session we ran with Matt was not a typical session. Rather, we’d introduce a similar tough session (hill sprints, prowler, stair climbs, etc) once a week for no more than 3 weeks and then continue with regular training.
These 3 week blocks were usually after a block of tournaments and at least 3 weeks of regular training.
1) How long is a point?
As mentioned on the show, unlike most sports, a tennis player walks onto the court having no idea how long a point, game, set or match is going to last. The player needs to be prepared for this. Therefore, I do not tell them how many reps we’re going to do. When they ask, my standard reply is ‘How long is a point?’. They stop asking quickly.
Of course, I have an idea on how much work I think they need and also how much I think I can get out of them.
2) Everything is Competitive
Having never been a Yell-at-them-to-train-coach I prefer setting up the environment to get the most out of the athlete.
This session was set out that everyone of us got a chance to lead the group, with the rest trying to catch the leader in front of them.
In other words, the 6th person was trying to catch the 5th, who was trying to catch the 4th and not be caught by the 6th, and so on.
After being the leader, you dropped to the 6th position and worked your way back up again.
On that day we each took a turn to lead. No one gave an inch!
3) Show No Fatigue
If your opponent knows that you are hurting it can give them a boost in performance. With this in mind, the instruction was no one was to show fatigue on the descent.
Regardless of the battery acid pumping through the legs, the sulphuric acid in the lungs, the dizziness, etc each athlete was to walk in a controlled fashion without holding onto the railings.
The mental is deeply tied into the physical.
4) The False Finish
As someone who subscribes to the Central Governor Theory, the false finish is paramount to what I refer to as ‘resetting the governor’ – learning how much you have in the tank when you feel you have nothing left.
Try this: Time athletes completing a bunch of high intensity reps of something like repeat sprints. Record their times. What you’ll probably notice is the times will get slower as the set drags on… Until the final rep. Suddenly you’ll notice times improve.
In fact, sometimes the final rep is one of the fastest times of the day. The governor is dimmed as the mind realises there is nothing more to come. It is safe to go all out. But then we add one more (hence the false finish).
We use this theory to squeeze every last drop out of the athlete (again, for short blocks of time).
In the case of this episode we had 3 false finishes. I have never used that many before or since. It was a Search4Hurt day : )
5) Compulsory is finished… Voluntary begins
Setting up an environment where the athlete makes the decision to push themselves harder and further has many benefits. In fact, some of the most rewarding coaching experiences have been when I have had to pull the athlete back such has been their desire to improve.
It is therefore important to structure your training to allow athletes to make these decisions and reward their behaviour.
Before the last false finish I usually announce something along the lines of ‘Go hard! This is the last compulsory effort.’ The implication is that from then onwards the athlete has to make the decision on how much they want to improve.
On this particular day I eventually stopped Matt & Scott Puodziunas at 11 voluntary (or 20 in total), I did 9 (18) and Gavin van Peperzeel, Isaac Frost & Kieren Thompson did 7 (16).
Post Script – Matt and I continued to stay in touch and it took us a full week before we could walk up or down stairs without limping.
Grant Jenkins is Physical Performance Coach who found a world of Hurt training with Matt Murphy. Follow him on Twitter @Grant_Jenkins