French training methods
I open an other topic from the Zhanna Block training topic in order to make things clearer.
We were talking about French training methods and especially Piasenta’s training. Since mid’70s, he has coached nearly all top French hurdlers from their childhood or at one point of their career (Michelle Chardonnet, Monique, Anne Piquereau, Patricia Girard, Cécile Cinélu, Linda Ferga, Guy Drut, Stéphane Caristan, Philippe Tourret, Dan Philibert) and some sprinters (Marie-José Pérec, Christine Arron, Frédérique Bangué, Muriel Hurtis, Stéphane Cali…) who all won international laurels.
Jacques Piasenta is a famous coach in France, but doesn’t tell much about his secret methods. He has stopped coaching since 2001 by the way. He coached Marie-José Pérec for 1991, 1992 and 1993 seasons, and Christine Arron from 1993 to Sydney Olympics. Arron left him as he remained unable to improve her start, and she wanted to change her life after Sydney (she had a flue with her roommate Muriel Hurtis and both had disastrous results…). Arron had bad results with John Smith so she came back to France to work with Muriel Hurtis with Guy Ontanon (one of Piasenta’s friends).
He puts the emphasis on quality work, make biomechanical analysis from his own high speed camera films, create machines for muscles and technique development …
He didn’t gave much details about Arron’s training, but i have some training tips about Pérec for 1991 season for example, the year she ran 10.96 / 22.26 / 49.13 and World 400m title.
Pérec, 22 yo, started to work with Piasenta in November 1990, she was a 11.34 (88 ), 22.36 (89) and 50.84 (90) performer. She was known to train very sparingly (2 or 3 times a week), often injured with a difficult temper and enormous talent. During 1990 season, she was injured most of the year and still managed a bronze medal at Euro Champs in Split in a French record time. Someone from the French federation convinced Piasenta to coach her, he was cautious knowing the capricious gazelle.
Piasenta’s group was then composed of hurdlers: Monique Éwange-Épée (100mH European champion), Anne Piquereau (100mH World Champs finalist), Philippe Tourret (13.28 @ 110mH) and Dan Philibert (110mH finalist in Tokyo).
The weekly schedule for everyone was:
Monday - footing (20 min, fast cadence) + hills (10-30%) + muscles-development exercises (always specific to sprinting)
Tuesday - rest
Wednesday - technical work (gesture corrections)
Thursday - same as Monday, but different exercises.
Friday - rest
Saturday - technical work (specific to the race structure).
Sunday morning - “organic” resistance (hills and downhills on a 4-5km park at various speeds by fractions 200, to 400m).
During winter, emphasis on muscle development, cardio-vascular work and short sprints 20-40m to work speed.
Only 5 training cession of 2h30-3h each in order to let the athlete study or work and build a “life” outside track. Quality rather than quantity.
Pérec had a meniscus surgery on 19 December 1990. Then she spent 20 days in West Indies, and did jogging only. Most of the technical changes was to correct her stride, to lengthen it from 2m30 to 2m50 (see photo attachment).
Her weight was about 60 kg (132 lbs) for a 1.80m height, and had no special diet during the year, as Piasenta considered that’s not important for sprinting. He states that anyway, world-class athletes have an extraordinary metabolism (Pérec eats 2 chocolate tablets a day…). There was no medical care like blood tests or lactate or those sort of things (because published studies are for only national level athletes, who knows if world class athletes’ body react the same way…), but in case of minor injury, the athletes had the opportunity to meet Pr. Saillant, one of some important French doctors. She did some volume endurance like 3x800, 400, 600, “organic” work of about 2km at various speed in a park with hills and down hills, technique work and specific muscles development. In Piasenta’s methods, the work is essentially specific for sprinting, the cardiovascular system is worked to be able to support the training cessions, and all muscles directly linked with sprinting are developed in order to avoid over-weight (a sprinter is like a Formula 1 car, very light but high power, and every peace of the machine is designed for speed, the rest is over-weight…). Pérec had started lifting for the first time in her life during that winter, in early April she was proud to announced she was able to lift 85kg 1/4 squat (about 187 lbs…). Muscles development is work with only 2 power-lifting exercises: ¼ squat (bar on collarbone only (to prevent spine and sciatic problems) and snatch. No bench because it’s not linked with sprinting technique. Leg and feet power is worked with Polish bench, 45° leg press, and bounding exercises, if no hamstring problems. Upper body is worked with gymnastic exercises, heavy vests and climbing rope. Emphasis on abdominal and dorsal muscles in order to keep energy in the right direction while running, and not dispersion on arms and legs (all in all, Piasenta has 163 different training movements in his notebook…).
In the mean time Pérec had English lessons paid by her sponsor…; She skip indoor season because wasn’t ready to run fast yet.
On 28 April, she had her first competition: she ran 11.41 and 11.45 for 100m, with +3.6 and 3.7 m/s wind. The times are poor but it’s because she had to run it with technical orders: fast first 30m, slow 40m and fast 30m.
In May, Piasenta announced that he planned 11sec, 22.10 and 49-49.5 for Pérec in a near future.
On 15 May, Pérec injured herself in an airport (a cart on a calf…). She was limping for some days, but on 18 May, she won a 200m in 22.60. Pérec wasn’t aware about the quality of this time, had no idea if it was good or not.
On 25 May, she had a test in practice: 500m 1:12.0 and 15min later 57.8. That’s a specific endurance test for 400m, which was useful through the season.
On 01 June, at the European Clubs Cup, she had to run 3 races (400, 4x100 and 4x400) between 5:40 PM and 8:50 PM, that made Piasenta furious. She ran the 400 in a French Record in 50.53 on lane 5, ahead Sally Gunnell 51.11 and Sandra Myers 51.50.
On 15 June, she had her first comps against hard opposition in Dijon: first beats Krabbe 11.28 vs 11.37 against -3.20m/s wind, with an outstanding finish (Krabbe led with some 20m to go!). Second, Pérec beats Grit Breuer 22.26 (French record) vs. 22.57.
Pérec didn’t trained at all on 19-20-21 June because of a knee problem (the one there wasn’t surgery). Few days later it was still hurting her, she did tests worth 52-52.5 at training. In late June, she had other tests worth 51-52. Without that injury, she could have been able to do 21.9-22.0 and 48.5-49.0 according to her coach. She had to reverse her feet on the starting-blocks due to her injured knee.
On 29 June, she wasn’t sure to compete at the European Cup in Franckfurt, but still started the race after nearly 15 days out of training. She ran 49.32 winning from Grit Breuer 49.87, and caused a big surprise. She missed her start on lane 8(reaction time 0.336 vs. Breuer 0.183) and ran without seeing her oponents. Her official split times were 12.43, 23.92, 35.93.
At that time, she had food problems has she was unable to eat during competition period, so it was hard for her to recover after her races (hypoglycaemia).
2 weeks later, she did a specific speed maintenance test: 16.1-16.2 for 150m and 9.1 for 80m, start position like Borzov with one hand on the soil (start give with a clap, manual time from the clap, not from the foot movement).
On 17 July, she had a competition in Nice, but nearly miss that meet as she had vomit that day. Her split times were 23.9, 36.6 for a 49.76 convincing win (next Fatima Yusuf 50.96).
On 27 July, they choose to run the 100m at the National in Dijon to work her speed, and because running 3 x 200m rounds was too much for her knee problems (bend and distance). She won very easily her heats 11.30 and 11.37, and ran in final against French record holder Laurence Bily. Bily had the best start on lane 5, but Pérec on lane 4 had a better acceleration, came at Bily’s level at half-way and won the race in 10.96 vs. 11.32 (wind +1.2), new NR…
Piasenta estimated that she was in a 21.80 200m form that day.
She had a small injury at one thigh, but it wasn’t a really problem.
Pérec did a small training, just to keep her shape. She did on 30 July 1x100m in 13sec and 3x500m in 1:20 with fast and slow rhythms.
On 04 August, she did speed tests with electric timing: 9.19 for 80m, 3.02 for 20m (personal best) and 23.02 for 200m.
She didn’t ran Monaco and Zürich meetings because of her thigh.
the following week, she did after a quite hard training cession a 600m test in 1:29. On other day, she did the specific 400m endurance test: 500m in 1:09.5 and 15 min later 400m in 54.6.
Then World Championships in Tokyo.
Sunday 18 August: travel to Tokyo.
Monday 19: nothing (shopping…)
Tuesday 20: footing, stretching
Wednesday 21: footing, stretching
Thursday 22: specific 400m cession planed for a 50.5-51.00 rhythm.
Friday 23: nothing.
Saturday 24: heats lane 5 1st in 51.00 (official splits 24.17, 36.71)
Sunday 25: quarter final lane 5 1st 50.61 (23.30, 36.02)
Monday 26: semi final lane 4 1st 49.94 (23.23, 35.46)
The night between semi and final, Pérec asked at midnight o’clock a massage to Piasenta. He went to the bathroom to clean his hands and discovered that she had vomit several chocolate tablets…; In Tokyo, Pérec had nearly stop to eat and her weight was only 54kg instead of 60.
Tuesday 27: final lane 4 WORLD CHAMPION 49.13 (22.61, 35.00), ahead Breuer 49.42, Myers 49.78 and Bryzgina 49.85… she needed a long time to recover due to hypoglycaemia.
Saturday 31: 4x100m heats 43.05 bad exchanges.
Sunday 01 September: 4x100m final 43.34, very bad exchanges, Pérec official anchor leg 10.44.
After Tokyo, she was nearly off training, she competed in Bruxelles meeting on 13 September against Ottey, Torrence and Privalova. Her mind and shape was elsewhere after her World title and stopped her effort after the bend and finished 7th in walking (23.98). Ottey won in 21.64…
Hope that helps to understand Piasenta’s coaching methods.
The picture shows the correction on Pérec’s stride from 1991 (comparison between pelvis and cycle of her foot at maximum speed during a 100m in 1988 and in 1991.), from Piasenta’s book “Apprendre à Observer” (INSEP).