I got a chance to take a look at the latest video from Charlie - Inside the SPP. Here’s a summary and review:
Finally, what we have all been waiting for: detailed information direct from Charlie on planning your SPP! As you probably know, typical periodization for a sprinter involves moving from a General Preparation Period (GPP) to Special Preparation Period (SPP) and then into competition. High level athletes may use triple periodization which involves up to three SPP periods: one before indoor season, one prior to the early outdoor season and then a final SPP before the most important competitions of the yearly plan. The GPP essentials DVD provides a great resource for planning your GPP, but since SPP is the link between the general fitness you developed during GPP and performing at you best in competition, it is important to understand how to plan your activities for this time.
The SPP video is a much more intimate video than GPP Essentials. It does not include any fancy production. There are no exercise demonstrations or biomechanics analyses. Instead it is just Charlie with a whiteboard. However, the value of this video is the information that Charlie covers in a clear and concise manner. He starts by discussing where to place SPP in the overall training cycle and the importance of working backwards. Then he maps out a long to short SPP program with a major focus on the special endurance work required in this phase. He provides details on the typical volumes of special endurance work as we move from the start of the program through the end which is typically 8 or 10 weeks. From there, he provides the same information for a short to long SPP program. Again details are provided on the typical volumes and progression of the activities over the course of the 8 week SPP. He also touches on the “fill-in” work such as accelerations and fast-easy-fast/easy-fast-easy work that will be quite familiar to anyone who has gone through the GPP Essentials DVD. I found it quite interesting to compare and contrast the differences between the long-to-short and short-to-long approaches.
Once we have an idea of how the SPP is arranged, Charlie walks us through how the SPP planning plays out in the real world. He looks at how to fit SPP into a typical triple periodization scheme. He then discusses setting realistic target times and how to adjust the plans if an athlete fails to hit their target times in competitions. I found the discussion about meet selection for athletes quite interesting in this context. For an athlete that has not met their target goals, it is important to pick their meets carefully and try to find them wind aided/ altitude opportunities to try to take advantage of neural patterning. This is not as critical for an athlete that is meeting their targets. Instead it is better to find them important meets that will give them the adrenaline kick to get to their best times.
The next part of the video walks us through Ben’s SPP for 1985, 1986, 1987, and 1988. It is enlightening to see the progression here and gives us some insight into how SPP will evolve as an athlete matures and has higher levels of performance. In general, we see that the volume decreases because the speed levels keep increasing and this has implications on when to start SPP as well.
After this discussion, we then get into the details of SPP. The first part of the discussion is about the actual special endurance runs with recommendations on the volume, volume progression, and rest intervals between sets and reps. Charlie discusses the need to limit acceleration distances in the short to long approach and how to move those out as SPP progresses. He also talks about why limiting acceleration is not necessary for special endurance runs in a long-to-short approach, but it may be necessary to limit accelerations for the other work in a long-to-short approach. He then covers how to design the stresses of the work in SPP. In general, you will use 3+1: three weeks of intensification followed by one week of consolidation, but this may change based on the athlete. He also goes over how the 3+1 intensification cycle fits into your SPP plan. The key to all of this work is to make sure that the stress and recovery are properly building to provide the athlete with the opportunity to demonstrate the best performances when it counts. Along these lines, there is also a detailed discussion of how the speed demonstrated by an athlete on the track is related to where they are in the intensification cycle. I found this highly instructive. One of the key takeaways is that intensification does not necessarily mean that speed will increase in a linear fashion. It is important for a coach to understand this and know when to put away the stopwatch so that the athlete is not discouraged by what is actually a normal part of the training process. Charlie then ends the video with a quick summary.
Overall, I found this video fills a significant need for planning your sprint training. Up until now, there has been precious little detailed information on how to put together a SPP to bridge the gap between GPP and competition. This video fills that gap and should give coaches and athletes the information they need to move confidently through this critical period of the track season.