[edit: it seems that we sumbitted the interview at the same time!]
Together with Palm1234, we translated the interview of Philippe d'Encausse, former french Olympian and coach of the Lavillenie brothers, among other talented athletes. We think there might be information on the training program he uses that can be interesting to a broad audience.
The original interview (in french) can be found here:http://physiquesperformance.com/blog/in ... d-encausse
This website is about physical preparation, hence the last paragraph about having the help of external physical preparation specialists in the training sessions. Here is our attempt for a non-google translation, please ask if parts are not clear.
Canag & Palm1234
Interview of Philippe d’Encausse, head of Clermont-Ferrand training center for pole vault and new coach of Renaud Lavillenie- What have you done between your last Olympic Games in Barcelona 1992 and your appointment as boss of the french Pole Vault ?
I went on practicing pole vault until 1996, my goal being the Atlanta Olympic Games, but I failed to qualify. I decided so to resign as a pole vaulter, aged only 29, my body was worn out, due to recurring wound at the Achille and patullar heel.
I had to find something, so I went to INSEP (http://www.insep.fr/EN/Pages/default.aspx
) to become a coach for high-level sport, that I completed in 1998. In september 1998 I was nominated in Auvergne, being in charge of the training of a small group of athletes. Then in 2002 I had the opportunity to train the french athletes, what I have been doing with passion during the last fifteen years.- At the Olympic Games, France has got 11 gold medals in track and field, among them 3 in the pole vault. What is the secret of this success ?
Frankly this is no fluke! For more than 40 years we have had a true pole vault tradition in France, with excellent pole vaulters.
For example, my father Hervé was european recordman in 1966. I think there was a turning point at the end of the sixties/beginning of the seventies, when Maurice Houvion became national coach, him at the french Federation, and Jean-Claude Perrin at the Racing Club, preached in the whole France, especially about apprenticeship and the fundamentals of the pole vault, as they were going anywhere in France to explain to the coaches in sports clubs how to initiate young people to this sport, help them
to setup specific courses and so come with them to better understand this sport. All this has led to callings, and now we have many pole vault coaches. This is no luck if we now have many more pole vault coaches than long jump coaches. This sucess lies too in the men involved. So this is no luck if we eventually have great facilities, in particular for winter. Pole vault is expensive, so we need a group of enthusiast people. About titles and medals, we of course need athletes with strong trumps. I think that thanks to this background, this tradition and all those facts that we can fine tune the whole, and in then end get olympics titles.-What are the required qualities to excel in this event?
There are some physical criteria that determine performance level. First of them is the speed ability. For someone that does not run naturally fast, it is going to be quite difficult to go over 5.80, that really is a key point in the performance in pole vault, one must be able to run fast with a pole and to perform technical accurate movements at a maximal speed, while staying relaxed. A second criteria is what I call the specific strength: we are using a moving apparatus, we are thus going to have a strengthening program close to the one from gymnastics because once the vaulter leaves the ground he needs a good ability to "close" (press with the arms to the trunk) and a huge core strength, as he runs a weight that can go up to 20 kg when supported from one end of the pole, it is necessary to have a good core strength to be efficient. Then, a good power/weight ratio is also necessary, because the vaulter tries to take off, and the heavier he is the more difficult it is going to be. In this ratio I think that the priority must be given to the strength and not the weight. Indeed, there is no more a lot of bodybuilders in the field, most of the athletes are now slender, and the fact that they're thin does not mean they're not strong.
Another performance criteria is the psychological commitment to the jump, there is a risk-taking component in pole vault that does not exist in other track and field events. The performance is a function of both the grip, i.e. the length of the pole one uses, and of the stiffness of this pole. Roughly, the higher the grip the higher the odds to make the bar. The only problem is that with a higher grip the take off is further away from the box. This means that the necessity to arrive fast is even more demanding when the grip is higher, and a stiffer pole will give a quicker and more dynamic feedback. All this yields that the longer and stiffer the pole, the more the physical ability needs to keep up.-You are Renaud Lavillenie's new caoch, how did you feel these first weeks of working together and what are the priority work lines?
I started from the observation that Renaud is Olympic champion, that he has a PB of 6.03, and that for two years he has been the best in the world. It means a lot a things have been done very well. From this observation, my decision has been to optimise all things that are done correctly. If we succeed in making even better the things he does well, some extra centimetres will naturally come out. We did not want to go in the direction of modifying him deeply, for instance if he gets heavier I am pretty sure he will regress and jump 5.70, and we don't want that. Renaud is Olympic champion, he changes coach, there is no point of losing one year trying to adapt to new training programs. Pole vault is kinaesthetic! You need good sensations to jump high, one cannot change a lot of parameters and bring physical fatigue without taking the risk of losing the technical pattern [form]. Technical pattern is very important for confidence, one knows one can lose it quite quickly, and it is very long to get back. A stunning example is the former Olympic champion Steve Hooker, it's been a year now that he hasn't been able to jump high, a 5.70 jump requires a lot of effort to him now while he has a 6.06 PB.- Renaud is only 25 years old, do you think he has the potential to break Bubka's world record one day, and if so, how are you going to manage it ?
I think he has the potential to approach and maybe even beat the world record, that's his target anyway. It is going to take a few steps. First he needs to be able to achieve 5.95 regularly, jump 6 meters several times every season, then begin to confront bars higher than 6 meters. To do so, as I said, the priority direction in training remains the optimisation of his qualities, by focusing on details to improve and target higher bars. We are going to work on his strong points, especially his explosive strength, taking into account his build (1m76, 67kg). Renaud is an athlete with great athletic ability, he's someone that can manage to long jump 7.50 without specific training, so I think it is more consistent to work on his qualities than to aim at making him heavier to increase pure force. We rather aim at the development of "foot-strength", to increase his ability to impulse, and at improving his "relaxation" [availability] at the last strides, so that he can speed up even more.- What does a week of training with Renaud look like, when he's in a preparation phase ?
First of all I'd like to point out that Renaud is part of a training group with Marion Fiack (4.42m, 20 years old), Stanley Joseph (5.62m, 21 y.o.) and his brother Valentin Lavillenie (5.70m, 21 y.o.).
Concerning the weekly training program in preparation phase, he begins on monday morning with a weights session focussed on the upper half of the body. In this session, we also insist on injury prevention, especially on the neck and lumbar regions, because the first principle of my training group is that a competitive athlete is an athlete who is not injured. This prevention work is very important for Renaud which is very fragile on the neck. Monday afternoon is focused on speed components with educative exercise routines [kness-up and so forth], the aim is to run well in order to run fast.
Tuesday afternoon we have a specific training session for pole vault (2h30), then a strengthening session (1h30) with core strength and postural movements.
Wednesday morning we do a weights session with weight-lifting moves (snatches and cleans) and gymnastic moves (high bar exercises for instance), then in the afternoon a session with runs on a slightly rising slope, to avoid deforming the stride. This so-called "lactic acid accumulation" session is often made of runs with high intensity for 10 to 14 seconds (which is equivalent to a 8x100m flat session), for instance someone that runs the 100m in 12 seconds is going to run it in 13"8. In the afternoon, Renaud only makes a cardio training in the gym, to avoid another run session with additional impacts on the floor.
Thursday afternoon we do like Tuesday a pole vault session (2h30).
Friday morning we begin with a plyometrics session made of off-plateform jumps, impulses, and a work towards vertical explosiveness with bounces, we never do more than 250 impacts per session. Then the afternoon a weights session focussed on the lower body parts, with movements on one leg only, especially on the horizontal press. I prefer to work with lighter weights on one leg, because with two you spend most of the time for putting and removing disks on the press, and because you don't run on 2 legs anyway! This session also includes strengthening of the back chain, especially gluteal and hamstring muscles, with a great number of repetitions, then very often we finish with bounces on a bench.
Saturday starts with a strengthening part that makes the athletes ready for a shorter vault session (1h) based on form, trying to establish a transfer from the specific strengthening made before. Renaud ends usually with a cardio training session without impact.- In track and field, and especially pole vault, the coach is usually also in charge of physical conditioning, unlike other individual sports like tennis or boxing, can you tell us why? How do you handle this particularity?
Culturally in track and field all the coaches work on energetic development, it is the very support of our performance system, so it is true that almost all coaches take care of technical aspects, planning, as well as the physical preparation, because the latter is the core of our training.
In my training group, I have been working for a few years with Yann Remondin, a physical conditioner who does not come from athletic events. He enters the training program twice a week in autonomy for one hour or more, before or after specific vault sessions on very specific domains that I choose, in particular for muscular strengthening. He sets up active core-strength exercises, which correspond to the needs of pole vaulting. I exchange a lot of ideas with him, we talk a lot, and I approve or not the exercises he suggests. I'm convinced of the benefit he brings, because before that the athletes were doing this strengthening at the end of the session with no involvement. The fact that this part is a training session of its own, and that it is supervised by someone who is competent is a real plus. I therefore think that if you come from athletics, you shouldn't hesitate to call external skilful people, with a control over the contents of the session, to optimise the performances of your athletes.