Review: Inside the SPP with Charlie Francis

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.

Inside the SPP

Runtime 47 minutes

The first thing I’ll mention is I had no problems with the download, this may seem an odd thing to start with but I admit to being a bit concerned given NZ’s poor Broadband speed (my test was 2862 kb/s versus global average of 4933 kb/s

The whole video is a whiteboard planning session. While Charlie explains things clearly it would certainly help to have at least a basic understanding of Long to Short and Short to Long, this can be obtained through his other products. Using both L-S & S-L examples Charlie explains why SPP has to have a finite period and why the length of the SPP needs to change as performance improves.

Goal setting for season is explored including what is realistic then using indoor times how to check whether you are on target and if not why and how you could/should possibly alter in SPP2, Comp 2 and SPP3 to ensure you meet the goals. There then follows a short discussion on neural patterning including the example of Maurice Greene running 9.79 with a huge tailwind before he even went to John Smith and subsequently ran it again, coincidence? :confused: Not to Charlie.

A specific example is looked at being Ben’s 1985 & 86, 87, 88 SPP1’s why they varied and how he was able to run indoor WR in 86, 87 & 88 very early in his competition phase.
Charlie then discusses actual sessions including why it is important to have an even pace of runs throughout the sessions how that is achieved and why acceleration limits are in place.

There is discussion on the reasoning for different length of progressions in GPP & SPP for different levels of athlete (11.5 v 10.2) including why and when you may use 3+1 week model versus a 2 + 1 plan.

One of the big questions is how do we really know how well SPP is going? :confused:Charlie explains when and when not to measure performance so you ensure you are best able to deliver good news rather than a situation where it is impossible for the athlete to perform optimally due to the timing in the plan.

In summary this is an excellent addition to the planning toolkit and I found myself thinking that makes so much sense, why haven’t I comprehended that before :rolleyes: I will no doubt watch it many times again and will certainly amend my plans as a result.

Thanks to Rupert and Charlie for the opportunity to have an early copy and review it.

This is perhaps the most significant piece of coaching footage ever filmed. Having watched this you will understand how to write a full SPP.

Just watching it now and Charlie’s explanations are simple yet fantastic.

Coming late but…here is my review of the last product by Charlie Francis; Inside the SPP.
After downloading I was eager to find out how this new and long awaited video was set up; seminar or “a la GPP”?
Charlie opted for the first option, but more than a seminar is a thoughtful lesson.
In something more than 47 minutes, the SPP is analyzed starting from its place in a training cycle.
It is stressed the importance to plan, starting backward from the date of the most important competition (s).
Then, the most simple scenario is presented, a L to S in which Charlie explains how to regulate volume and intensity in the SPP, reaching the optimum before Comp. Phase starts.
First thing I found very informative and quite " new", is the concept of filling the volume with other means, Acc and speed, while reducing SE volumes and increasing its intensity.
S to L is introduced as well, and those who have Vancouver graphs will find a place to start.
SPP lenghts and starting SE volumes are then adressed, while presenting 1985-1988 Ben’s SPP I; Being Italian I also liked the reference to “our” repeated 60 work:).
The reduced volumes during each following year is explained also by the shorter lenght of SPP I each year, due tue comp.schedule.
Much more to come.
Different SPP II and eventually III scenarios are then presented, and this is what I liked the most.
We are given 3 different examples, based on achieving or not a target time during Indoors, and how to adjust the follwing SPPs to the actual results, and how an athlete who not achieved planned speed during SPP I needs a longer SPP II, and in general slower athletes need longer SPPs.
For the neural pattern, Charlie explains how it is important to find conditions to run fast, being it wind or altitude or both, and how a fast time in easier conditions means that one athlete HAS the time also in regular condition, provided enough strenght, like Mo Greene who run 9"79 before joining Smith Camp.
SPP I for a S to L is then explained in depth, with discussion on speed limit ( and that is not an issue with L to S), recovery and so on.
Last but not least, intensification and consolidation during SPP, how to count backwards also for 3+1 and 2+1.
Considering the increasing load on the body, there are moments during SPP when you do not want to clock your athletes, and the coach should know when!
BTW, this is what I alredy did, but having it explained so well is definitely useful.
Concluding, great product very helpful in understanding" SPP concepts, and how to set it up.
The lesson ( because it is a lesson on how to coach) helps filling the gaps in annual planning in a clear and complete way, more in depth regarding SPP I, but gives a solid understanding of the whole process
Charlie and Rupert, don’t let us wait for 5 years for other SPP films, maybe more geared towards SPP II!
Thank you for the opportunity the review the film, it was a honour and a pleasure as well.

So when is it going to be available for download?

Inside the Spp is now available for purchase at the introduction price of $24.99!

We hope you enjoy this new series.

Buy it here.

Just placed my order and waiting for the DL! Will post a review soon.

I received my order quickly after my order. Downloading speed was great, but MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A STABLE CONNECTION. The file is about 86mb, so you will need a fast connection and make sure it will be up for 15-20 minutes or so.

Onto the video:

This is a very well organized video with it being broken into segments where Charlie covers his general principals about approaching the SPP and issues to cover. He gives examples of S->L and L->S and how they will affect both the length of the SPP, as well as what it contains (amounts of speed work, at what intensities, relative peaking times, etc.).

He makes a great point of how volume must be managed (won’t give out the specifics) to make sure you can have a competition period and peak that is not too short.

Everyone else has covered the rest of the details fairly well (3+1 versus 2+1), but one point not mentioned is how Charlie addresses when the athlete will be ready to run fast and when to time them. This is extremely important as I have caught myself worrying about times at… inopportune times.

I appreciate the video and my only wish was that it was a bit longer! I will be posting questions I am left with shortly.

This film is a bit different in that CF gives you what appears to be a one-on-one lecture, rather than a practical film such as the GPP Essentials showing exercises, drills, etc.

It is an excellent film that details how to properly structure an SPP to an athlete given experience, speed levels, etc. Lots of good topics covered including Ben’s SPPs from '85-'88, the 3+1 vs. 2+1 programming, and the little but very important things such as when to stop timing your athletes during an SPP.

All in all, a highly recommended addition to your training/coaching libraries guys and gals! :cool:

Thanks to Rupert and Charlie for allowing me to review the film. Keep up the great work!