Interview with Marco Tamberi, coach of Gianmarco Tamberi, Italian high jump record holder with a mark of 2.38 meters.
And this very interesting interview comes from the world of the high jump itself, and, one might say, from the top of it. Or at least from the highest point that anyone has been able to jump: neither this year in the world, nor ever before in Italy.
Marco Tamberi is a former top high jump athlete, coach and father of Gianmarco, current Italian record holder and top athlete of the Italy men’s national team, which, according to this year results, appears to be the strongest team in the world. Marco has adopted quite special methods for his son’s training over the years. And the results to date do actually suggest that, if you want to get great achievements, it’s just a matter of applying cutting-edge workout strategies.
Marco Tamberi’s thoughts and considerations concern super-specialization for higher training and top athletes. However, in his words we’ve found very important ideas, and certainly useful hints and lessons for the day-to-day activity of athletic club coaches.
Having said this and following our congratulations on Gianmarco’s outstanding results , this is how he replies to our questions:
What methods have been applied to train Gianmarco Tamberi on strength?
It’s hard to be sufficiently concise and at the same time complete, so I prefer to present the philosophy behind my decisions rather than describing the training details.Some initial considerations: I divided the strength workouts into two broad categories which are very different from each other in terms of goals and methodology.
- I mean all those workouts that serve to protect the athlete from injury.In this case these workouts have no correlation with the development of specific qualities for a given athletic event so that, for instance, they could be used by both runners and jumpers…I mean barbells workouts and weight-free workouts simultaneously involving a large number of muscle groups: we use these workouts at very low loads only during the starting period, that is, in the first month, up to 40 days max. after resumption of training.
- The very specific training program (the one we use over 10 months a year to improve performance) has to address questions which are strictly related to the technical gesture.A coach must stand above and beyond conventions that provide predefined workouts and make a number of complex considerations arising from the analysis of the biomechanical gesture.A few examples of deductions I’ve made on this basis:
- Very high correlation between performance and lower angle of knee deformation during takeoff.
- Very high correlation in time of strength application ratio between the eccentric and concentric phase during takeoff: the shorter the eccentric phase, the greater the performance.
- Max strength peaks are all part of the eccentric phase: during the concentric one, the required strength is much lower (30/40%) compared to the eccentric phase. For a jump of 2:25 meters the max. strength peak required is 7,500 newtons (about 700 kg) in a variable angle between 170 and 160 degrees at the knee (takeoff leg).
My deductions are that I need to increase the max. strength of my athlete just along the range of use, so talking about angles between 170 and 160 degrees… Do weightlifting workouts allow me this increase? I haven’t found one yet.
And one more question: If one of the key points of performance is the ability to express most of the strength during those ranges, why I should focus on developing strength away from them, moreover, far from the racing period?
Therefore I’ve decided to use isometric workouts that are absolutely the ones with the capacity to develop strength, with the only disadvantage that you need to focus it near the exercised angle (10 degrees above or below).And this is not a problem in my case since the maximum strength required in high jump shifts within a very small number of degrees.Thanks to the enormous increase in strength we get from this kind of workout, we can dramatically reduce the time spent to promote other values which are conditional but equally important.And here’s an interesting fact: we have put together a group of 10 volunteers to measure strength improvement (using expensive machinery designed and created just for this purpose) over 3 angles:150, 160 and 170 degrees: the average increase by group, after 4 days of work, exceeded the previous max. value by 35%.Gianmarco himself, who is experienced in the use of isometry, has increased his strength values up to 51% … again with 4 days of work: assuming we can find a “traditional” workout capable of developing strength for the degrees I need … how much time should I commit to achieve the same result?I should add that such workouts are done only and exclusively during the competitive period, with repeated short cycles
Having also been the coach of your son Gianluca (national level javelin thrower), you have probably faced an even more important problem regarding the development of strength and muscular power. Do you think that working with weight overloads should be limited in other track & field events as well, or is it just a recommendation for high jump training?
The approach was the same, but the feedback obviously different: in high jump you don’t push, it’s just a matter of stiffness. On the contrary, the javelin is thrown through a stretch reflex response.
Here too, strength has very little to do with the one developed through weights, even if we must agree on a greater correlation. Gianluca threw 78.61 at the age of twenty with a bench work limit of 80 kg…
Are weight overloads mostly avoided to avert muscular hypertrophy growth and not compromise weight/power ratio, or is that mainly due to other reasons? Are power clean and snatch as well as similar workouts totally excluded from Gianmarco’s training schedule?
I think I’ve completely addressed this topic in the previous question; but yes, kicks and snatch pulls are totally excluded and frankly I find them counterproductive, except for the introductory period mentioned above and just as precaution.
I won’t just say it is counterproductive and that’s all.
For years we have tried to remove all workouts that include “voluntary” momentumOne of the key points of our system is this: remove the idea of having to “push” from your mind as much as you can, and instead use any workouts that involve a reflex to get as close as possible to the neuromuscular system that intervenes during the jump (I’m just using a kind of overstatement to explain my concept).
Give me an example.
For many years we’ve totally excluded both horizontal leaps and takeoff drills from the training program. To follow the logical process mentioned above, I need to explain the reasons for this choice: in all muscle contractions, fibers are always recruited in the same order: first the slow then the intermediate and finally the fast ones…But there is one exception: in the case of a pronounced pre-stretch phase the contraction takes place by reversing the order of recruited fibers: immediately the fast ones and possibly the remaining ones. This absolutely involuntary but decisive factor for performance must be educated and trained!!!
What are the plyometrics workouts Gianmarco feels he gets the most benefit from?
Plyometrics is one of the foundations of our work. We use falls between 70 and 90 cm, keeping the foot at its maximum extension during the impact: I deem this the workout that correlates most with the actual state of an athlete’s form.
What’s the influence of strength exercise on technique in high jump? And how much do different techniques affect strength attributes that can be used to bear them?
I think I have already answered this question too.
Doing strength work, core, is fundamental.In particular, stiffness for jumpers during takeoff. How is Tamberi working on that?
Certainly also with specific workouts. I am a fervent supporter of both “global” and non-“analytic” work, both for motor learning and for strengthening reasons, where possible…
How many complete jump tests does Gianmarco perform during a single training session? And this including both full and shorter run-ups?
Around 20/30 jumps.It can be said we almost never jump, except in exceptional cases, taking a full run-up, too risky.
Do you do a lot of workouts to improve sensibility and accuracy on the last stride at takeoff?
As I said before when talking about motor learning we do not use analytical workouts:for instance, I think that Gianmarco has never done one single takeoff drill throughout his entire career as an athlete
How are Gianmarco’s speed sessions made up?
It depends on the period: we create resistance bases in winter in order to be able – during racing season – to focus on 60-meter and 20-meter flying sprints.
Many hurdles sessions without ever getting to 110H … too lengthy and risky for a high jumper.
What is your main work for the maintenance of a suitable centre of gravity and effective arching to avoid the hips falling on the bar?
I repeat: we do not do analytical work.I think, however, that both arching and subsequent clearing are not the result of special physical skills but the technical skill which is based on global jump performance (provided you do not have, of course, an athlete with features of congenital rigidity).
Thanks to coach Marco Tamberi for his interesting answers and to coach Matthew Horsnell for precious collaboration.
Andrea Uberti e Matteo Rozzarin