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Just Fly Performance Podcast Episode #45: Dan Pfaff

This week’s guest is Dan Pfaff, head jumps and multi-events coach at ALTIS, and seasoned veteran of the track and field profession.   Dan is, in the opinion of many, the greatest educator of our time in the world of track and field, his philosophy and lectures reaching thousands of aspiring and professional coaches.

Dan’s resume includes 49 Olympians with nine medalists, 51 World Championship competitors (also nine medalists), and five world-record holders.  He has directed athletes to 57 national records across a multitude of events.  He served on five Olympic Games coaching staffs in five different countries and nine World Championships staffs for six different countries. He has lectured in 27 countries and is published in over 20 countries.

It has been a long time goal of mine to have coach Pfaff on the podcast, as well as a chance to have a discussion based on his lectures and work that have shaped a large amount of my own coaching and training philosophy.

For this episode in particular, we go primarily into the role of the weightroom in speed development, special strength, and the addressing of strengths and weaknesses.  We also get into a variety of topics after this, including cueing, team sport transference to track and field, planning and organization, and static stretching.

Dan has made the world of track and field a better place throughout his legendary career, and it’s my honor to have him as a guest for the podcast.

Today’s episode is brought to you by SimpliFaster, supplier of high-end athletic development tools, such as the Freelap timing system, kBox, Sprint 1080, and more.

Just Fly Performance Podcast Episode #45: Dan Pfaff

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Key Points:

  • The use of heavy strength training and Olympic work for speed and power building
  • “Specific” work in the weightroom versus the traditional lifts used for improving speed
  • Ideas on addressing athletic weaknesses in the weightroom
  • Looking at identifying the problem during block start weaknesses
  • Thoughts on the role of rhythm in track and field events
  • Ideas on internal vs. external cueing
  • The ability of team sport explosiveness to transfer to linear sports, such as track and field
  • Recent revelations on planning and organization of training
  • The history of “novel” sprint drills and methods
  • The role of static stretching for speed and power athletes

Quotes:

“For Donovan, static lifts, with very little velocity consideration kind of deadened his tissues rather than activating his tissue.  I think you need to experiment with things and find out what works for you.”

“I’ve had some sprinters who didn’t react well to lifting at all, so we didn’t lift… it just seemed to go better when they didn’t lift.  I had other guys where certain lifts made them feel a certain degree of tonus”

“I think there’s a tendency to go all-in or all-out with a lot of these concepts (strength and lifting)”

“There are plenty of guys walking around who can lift the weightroom, but they don’t run fast or jump far”

“It’s easy to get lost in looking at absolute strength numbers, thinking that’s mythically going to translate (to performance)”

“Obviously you’re not going to see specificity or direct transference from a lot of lifts you do in the weighroom from a kinematic, or maybe even a kinetic standpoint, but, is there some transference biochemically, hormonally, or immune access.  Are there some postural context things, joint switching, change in direction factors that help connect dots?”

“I think there’s danger in indiscriminately intervening in strengths or weaknesses without understanding the layers in the landscape of what’s going on in that athlete and event”

“I think there’s this real myth in North America that if we get bigger and stronger, we’re going to run faster, and I think university football programs have shown us that’s not true in large numbers”

“(Rhythm) is something that should be in the toolbox for any event”

“The people that flow the most consistent and most graceful in my eye are modern dance and ballet and it’s all set up to musical rhythm so if it’s working so well in those disciplines of physical culture, why wouldn’t it work in our world”

“I think we coach with stories and analogies… good coaches have a way of painting pictures and scenarios”

“I worked with a world medalist in the high jump, and the more he played basketball, the higher he jumped”

“There were people doing “spring” exercises in the 1890’s.  People have been looking at the elastic feature of running or jumping for over a century, and I’m sure if we dug far enough back into the Greek antiquity period, there would be guys doing it back then”

“Stretching and tissue tone is one of those topics that people have gotten very polarized on”

About Dan Pfaff

Dan PfaffCoach Dan Pfaff has tutored 49 Olympians including nine medalists, 51 World Championship competitors (also nine medalists), and five world-record holders. He has directed athletes to 57 national records across a multitude of events.

Dan has served on five Olympic Games coaching staffs in five different countries and nine World Championships staffs for six different countries. He has lectured in 27 countries and is published in over 20 countries.

He is the former Coaching Education Curriculum Chair for both the United States Track and Field Coaches Education Schools and the NACAC Caribbean Basin Project, as well as being the lead instructor for each organization at the Level I, II, and III schools.

During his NCAA coaching career, Dan has coached 29 NCAA individual national champions and 150 All-Americans, and has been a lead staff member on teams that have won 17 NCAA National Team Championships, fifteen women and two men.

Dan joined ALTIS as Education Director and Lead Jumps Coach in March of 2013, after a successful 3 year stint in London with UK Athletics, where he coached Long Jumper Greg Rutherford to Olympic Gold.

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