Stephen Francis in Sydney

I had the pleasure of sitting in on a 2 hour q and a with Stephen Francis last Saturday and about 20 coaches from Aus for the Sydney GP. Some very interesting stuff.

Here is my report of what was asked from the floor and answered by Stephen Francis (SF)…

Q. Do your hurdlers do sprints too?

SF. Yes, in the late part of the preparation period, as well as the early part of the competition period. They will maybe do two 400’s and two 100’s then its hurdles from then on. The women’s hurdles is such a sprint influenced event that it is very important for females to be able to sprint fast, with high frequency especially as they are all doing three strides in between so who does those fastest will do well.

Q. Why do you have your athletes running the 400m early on in their competitive program?

SF. Most of the training done in Jamaica is done on a grass track in sneakers (as he called them) on a 370m track (and because the high school season goes from Jan 1 till March late and the elite athletes want to compete in these meets to keep the sport going well) it is easiest for the sprinters to start their competitive program by running a 400m. This is less shock on the body and is not a long way away from the speed they have been running in training (38s 300m for 100m sprinters, 1min 31s for 600m for 400m athletes).

Q. When do your athletes start training on the track?

Usually about March 1 on a Mondo surface. They have to be able to start racing fast then as most of them need to compete in Penn Relays to make them some $$ or keep their sponsors happy. They don’t train all the time on Mondo though; they keep training on grass too.

Q. What does your GPP look like; take us through a weekly set up?

SF. Well, firstly, it’s a 5am start. I do this to control the night time activities of my athletes. If they have to get up early for training then they don’t want to be in bed too late…anyway, we do 7 day cycles, 3 weeks hard and 1 week easy. The 4th week is no reps but we do testing here instead.

So a typical week looks like

Hill sprints to 40m
Ab work


Long speed endurance
400’s, 350’s or 300’s
(or 800’s, 600’s, 500’s for 400m athletes). No more than 6 reps done here.
Ab work
Med Ball

Technique work (mainly drills and some form runs)

Long hills
250m, 200m or 150m
(300m for 400m athletes). No more than 8 reps done here.


Circuit training (bodyweight exercises - burpees, press ups etc)
Drills for endurance
Med Ball

Technique work (mainly drills and some form runs)

Sled work
Ab work


Slow speed endurance (is that possible??), anyway, 200’s

p.m Rest


The weights done are free weights mainly with cleans etc, very little machines.

Q. Is it a long to short program?

SF. Yes it is really. High volume, short recovery leading on to low volume, long recovery. We don’t do much low intensity work either. I read in a book a while back that to run longer than 20 mins continuous will affect your speed so the longest run we do is 20 mins.

The women tend to do 20% less volume than the men.

I believe you can work hard on successive days if you are working different energy systems, e.g sprints to 30m one day and then speed endurance the next day.

The athlete needs to do a certain amount of work and this is more important than any theory about CNS and its recovery. I think you need to do 15 distinct sessions per week and so sometimes it is not what the theories agrees with but that’s just how we do it.

Q. What is done in the 4th week or the light/rest week?

SF. Testing is done. 2 tests/day with 4 exercises/day, 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon). So, for example, we might do a 12 min run on Monday morning and SLJ or VJ in the afternoon. Or we will test the 1000m one day and then the next day we will test the 800m. Over time these distances get less and less, so we might be doing a 400m on one day and a 300m on the next.

We also test med ball throws - overhead backward and forward, or jump, jump throw etc. We believe over time we have built up some good correlations or measures for what is needed to be a world class sprinter.

The testing is normally won by the slow twitch aerobic guys, but that makes them feel good because when it gets to the important part of the season they are not winning anymore.

From Jan 1 the weekly set up changes a bit.
Mon becomes speed endurance
Tue becomes sled work
Thursday becomes sled work
Saturday is long hills if they are not competing

Q. Do you follow a single periodised year?

SF. Yes we do but it depends on where you live, what the weather is like and when you have to compete. We have 1 long peak for MVP from April to September. I don’t believe it is possible to peak for indoors then peak again for Jamaica trials in June.

Q. When you are competing in Europe, how much training are you doing?

SF. Not much, you can’t get access to all the things you want so you have to stop competing and get good 2 week training periods in to keep the competitive edge up.

Q. How do you measure progress?

SF. It is difficult when you have 80 (yes 80) athletes in the group. There are about 15 world class, 20 close to it and the rest are average. The training is done in groups. So, group A to E. If the training is 10x300m and the guy from group D is way out front then he can join group C who are going faster. That tells you the progress.

Also, the testing we do tells us the progress. If they can jump mover 2.90m for SLJ then they are doing well. I don’t have anyone over 3m at MVP. For females it’s about 2.50m.

Q. Tell us about your protocol for the last 10 days before a competition

SF. The athletes do 30% of the work that they have been doing. They go into a competition well rested.

Q. How do you improve the first 30m of a 100m sprinter?

SF. We do sled work for 6 months. Up to 50lbs (=22kg) for men and 25lbs (=11kg) for women. Asafa can run 2.86s for 20m in flats and 3.45s with a 50 pound sled.

Q. What is your testing protocol?

SF. We don’t do max strength testing. We learnt that in 2008 with Asafa tearing his pec so we just use what the NFL tests ideas used in the strength combine. We do as many reps as we can at a certain weight. So we see how many reps they can do at 175lbs in the bench for men and 110lbs for women.

The lowest numbers we go to in the gym are 6 sets of 4 reps.

Q. Why do you need to do 15 sessions/week in your training?

SF. I read a book by Frank Dick a while back that said you need 15 sessions/week so that is what we do.

Q. Who has influenced you?

SF. Herb McKinley is probably the biggest influence in Jamaica. We follow long to short, as most people do but it seems Glen Mills is following short to long with Usain.

Also, my ex coach Dennis Johnson, and I have seen and learnt things from John Smith and Trevor Graham.

Everyone should learn and keep learning and always ask themselves “what if I am wrong?”, or “what if there is a better way to do it?”

Q. So it seems you program is long to short with speed endurance and also short to long with speed?

SF. Yes it is in a way but the short work stay there all the time, it doesn’t get taken out to longer work. The short work to 30m is there all the time.

Q. Do you use overspeed?

SF. No, the chance of injury is too high!

Q. What age of athlete are you working with?

SF. 17 is the youngest. I don’t coach kids, they have all left school.

Q. Do you believe in a predetermined stride pattern for the 400m hurdles?

SF. No, they need to get used to space etc and judging where they are. This will happen in big races and also with winds etc.

Q. You mentioned that you think Asafa is in good shape this year, what are you basing this on?

SF. Well he had run 300m in 34 secs last year but this year he has run 32.8 secs, and this is on flats in grass so I think he is ready to run well.

Q. What exercises do you use in the gym?

SF. Most of them just no squatting. We use single leg variations like split squat, single leg squats etc. We do lots of cleans - mainly from the hang. We don’t do snatch or jerks.

Q. What support staff do you have?

SF. Well I have 4 assistant coaches and 4 people doing massage so that is a great help for me when I am away.

Q. Do you use any sports psychology?

SF. I don’t use a lot, but I am learning about this. I believe it is an area of weakness in our program and I am hoping to add mental strength to my athletes.

Great stuff! Thanks! I count 11 distinct sessions per week. Where are the other 4?

Great post. Frank Dick is the key lol

Outstanding info thanks. He certainly didn’t mind sharing.

LOTS of volume.

Was there anything he said that you may now incorporate or change?

Yeah they certainly do work hard. 11 sessions per week is way more than what we do so I think we need to crank up the work we are doing. However more work can mean more IIA conversion potentially…

I think SF counts some of the abs and med ball and flex stuff as “sessions” to make it up to 15 too…

I did roll my eyes a little when he mentioned Frank Dick…:smiley:

I like the idea of long to short, I always have but I am also very wary of spending too much time in that intermediate zone of nothingness, 75%-95%. I like the idea of time in flats on grass. We know the grass helps stiffness and I am guessing a slightly more compliant shoe may help this too.

I like the idea of short hills, and sleds. The Japanese docu observation of Asafa’s massive patella tendon could be coming from the hill runs and sled work. I think stiffness is a hugely important issue and when I watch Asafa run I see great impulse. Whether this comes from plyos or strength training or stiffness no-one can say but having done plyos and weights for a long time and not much hill accels I am keen to incorporate this into my program to potentially build greater stiffness.

Thanks for posting that up. There’s a lot of interesting information in there. The volume of hill sprints and SE is something I wasn’t fully expecting. Also:

Also, the testing we do tells us the progress. If they can jump mover 2.90m for SLJ then they are doing well. I don’t have anyone over 3m at MVP. For females it’s about 2.50m.

For some reason this reminds me of when Tyson Gay claimed he squatted 225 lbs. It just feels misleading.

edit: That 2.90 claim is WEIRD.
Thanks for clarifying mort

You’d be surprised how poor some “elites” are in testing especially since they don’t always try that hard. It’s easier for them to not try and say they can jump 3.30 than to try and jump 3.05.

Yeah I spent some time with Dan Pfaff and I remember him saying that Obadele Thompson could only SLJ 2.86m…

Conditions here and a lot of other places though are considerably different from Jamaica so would you get the same benefit from heavy grass as they do? Or do it on track in trainers rather than spikes?

His L-S is quite different from the CF model which maintains a more consistent weekly volume throughout and utilises only 2 HI days pw in SPP. To use stuff from here as a reference his GPP looks more akin to a combo of CF and KK programs and is concurrent.

One of the things that often gets raised is how to do adapt a CF GPP model to L-S, this might assist with that.

The next thing is SPP, perhaps instead of going L-S 2 days pw as CF has, another way might
be to use the L-S and a short speed day as well. If you did that you could drop back the volume of short work on the SE days? :confused:

YES. He reportedly agreed with the suggestion his program structure/theory could best be described as “Concurrent”.

He also said when his athletes squat, they do front squats because he theorises they cannot lift so much in front so there may be less chance of injury when egos do battle in the weights room.

Thanks GoFast, that was great. I was so pissed when I read the Ad for the seminar about 7pm Sat Night.

I use both 2 and 3 sessions of speed/SE per week (more often 3), depending on the individual,not just two. Also you need to define clearly what’s going on. How do you define a sat session that is a 500 breakdown followed by Strength Endurance in the GPP. I call it a tough tempo session, Stephen calls is “slow Speed End”- same thing really.

YES. He reportedly agreed with the suggestion his program structure/theory could best be described as “Concurrent”.

Is not the more accurate way to describe the long-to-short sysytem concurrent anyway? If one considers that acceleration to the desired distance needs to be in place to perform the rep with quality (e.g. as Charlie states, the ability to accelerate to 20m allows one to to run a world class 600m; 30m to run 300m; 35m to run 400m, etc). For the longer distances to move down (and be run with quality) the shorter distances by which one accelerates to must move up. Have I described concurrent? Or is the difference that in L-TO-S one accelerates only to the distance necessary to run the SE distance in ones short speed sessions, whereas in the concurrent system one uses distances beyond what is necessary for the SE in the short speed sessions (a bit like in S-TO-L) whilst bringing the SE distances down ‘concurrently’?

Well both systems have everything in there- it’s a matter of which part is emphasized more and during which period. That’s why I argue that SF’s program is S-to-L, as I would interpret it, because the accels are there from the outset and are more intense than the longer runs.
I suppose concurrent is a more accomodating definition, as who can argue with it!

How far do you have to accelerate to run a marathon?

I don’t think you can describe any program by the distance over which an athlete is required to accelerate.

For better or worse, Concurrent was a term I coined for my own design. And by Concurrent I meant that all performance threads and all energy systems and the training required to invoke them were being developed concurrently.

This was in essence a concept explained to me by Charlie back in the early 1980s. He said all threads of performance should be enhanced simultaneously from week 1, but that in keeping with concepts even back then, the emphasis would vary over time in a sort of series of wave patterns (for each performance thread: ie: speed, strength, stamina, style, [p]sychology) brought about by the interplay of volume and intensity as we move forward along the time-line to the championships.

I’m surprised you didn’t jump on this one:

We follow long to short, as most people do but it seems Glen Mills is following short to long with Usain.

So I guess, now we know for sure.

You and I know where SF thinks the program came from.

Pretty obvious now with the prior talk about Usain becoming much more serious about weights in the offseason before his Olympic year.

What I’d love to know is if you sold any DVDs to the Jamaican AA, Mills, whoever is in charge down there.

Don’t jump to conclusions- you never know who’s reading this!
You don’t need to know who has bought what. The best policy is to get what’s available here just in case your rivals already have.
I’m just suggesting that SF feels that Bolt’s Olympic year program was moulded on his programs, while the previous programs had been more traditional and that he intends to be careful who he allows to report on the group’s training program.