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Scientific Basis of Selection and Training for Olympics Sports 'The Indian Context'

  • Retired Life-Support Scientist and Physician


The Selection & Training for sportspersons in tournaments like Olympics and World Championships are very important. If they have to excel to a podium finish selections must have scientific considerations of body anthropometry. In 'Track & Field' events, the importance of having a long leg length or arm length is extremely important for relevant events. Similarly, in swimming, the arm length along with palm surface areas adopt great significance. Weight-Lifting is the only sport in which a shorter body-frame could be advantageous. Training of the sportsperson must be on the scientific lines with the progression monitored through objective parameters. In some individual sports one's own performance parameters reflect his/her chances of podium finish such as weightlifting, archery, shooting, swimming, track & field events and so on. In these events, the individual's performance is unaffected by others. In other sports where one has to prevail upon the opponents like boxing, wrestling, fencing, judo, Taekwondo, team events of football, volleyball, hockey etc, it is the own performance combined with how the opponent performs. In these sports, there are tactical moves to out-perform the opponent. The training approach in these two groups of sports is different. This book also throws light on the 'killer instinct' in competitive sports. There is also a serious problem of an individual unable to repeat his/her 'own best' on the D-day of the championship. It has been seen happening time and again. As a result, someone who had the skills to win an Olympics gold (say in weightlifting), could not even qualify.
Scientific Basis of
Selection and Training
for Olympics Sports
‘The Indian Context’
Dr V N Jha, MD; Scientist F (Retd)
Indian sports federations and Sports Authority of India (SAI) send
the scores of participants most of whom come back empty handed.
Most of our athletes get eliminated in the initial rounds of the events.
It baffles the entire world that the second most populous country
does not have sports talent.
After PM Modi set-up the Task Force for the next three Olympics
participation in 2016, the stage was set for the various sports bodies
to get on their toes. As expected, there was no immediate change in
India’s fortune of Olympic medals. It only demonstrates a fault
lineseither in selection or training of the athletes or the both.
Having been a small-time weight-lifter, a doctor and a Scientist in
the ‘Life-Sciences’ stream, I was convinced that our approach
needed to be changed. While visiting SAI facilities at Bangalore, I
had seen the weightlifting participants and coaches adopting age-
old methods with hardly any new scientific method of coaching.
Same was the condition of the sprinters on the track & field. Hence,
came the idea for this book.
I know my lack of experience, of not being a prominent sports
person myself but being a scientist, I can see the problems in
selections and trainings. Presently there is no consideration of
incorporating the anthropometric parameters in the selections for
better performance.
I hope the sports federations take cognizance of the suggestions in
this book and adopts the scientific methods in selections and
trainings so as to optimize ones performance.
Dr V N Jha
Table of Contents
Contents Page
Indian Aspirations of Olympic Medallion: Tokyo 2020 5
Indian Steps on Olympics Podium…an overview 5
The way sports were viewed earlier… 7
The Problem areas in Indian sports 9
The Broad Categories of Sports 14
Physical sports. 14
Physico-Technical Sports 15
Scientific basis of Selection & Training 17
Selection 17
Pick-up Type-I (ST) of muscles constitution athletes 17
Athletics Trainings for Track & Fields 19
General Training 19
Running/walking sports training. 20
Some Training Tips for Sprints 21
Throw & jumps sports. 23
Some training tips in Weight-Lifting 24
Increasing the Muscle power 24
Increasing the Fast twitch muscles 25
Injury Concerns in Sports 27
Training Progression 28
Preparing for a major Events 28
Perming Below ‘par’ of own Best. 30
Yoga in Sports Training 32
Threat of Covid19 Pandemic 33
Concluding Remarks 33
Indian Aspirations of Olympic Medallion: Tokyo 2020
Indian performance at Olympics ever since its inception,
has been abysmal. Among other factors, absence of desired
genotype & anthropometric considerations in selection and not
following a science-based trainings have been significant. The
national sports policy 2001 did bring some changes in the thinking
at the highest level. Among other measures it broadened the base for
the sports, linking it to education, creation of sports federations, new
facilities, better
coaches and also
introducing a
scientific footing in
sports. However,
performance in 2004
Olympics only
revealed that not
much foot-hold could
be gained by the steps
taken for varied
reasons. Modi Govt
in 2016-17
constituted a Task Force to recommend adopting new measures esp
directed to the next three Olympics. The govt did not delay
implementing those measures but the efficacies are not truly
convincing. This article highlights some such issues which
apparently are on the other side of the coin…...
Indian Steps on Olympics Podium…an overview
India’s tryst with Olympic medals have always been
circumspect: Lot of enthusiasm and hypes created before the events,
invariably culminating in to disappointments. An occasional flicker
of hope on to the podium doesn’t speak much for our country of
>1.3 billion. Thanks mainly to Hockey in early decades that India
got a medal. Emergence of Shooting, wrestling, boxing and
badminton events in recent times has been saving India from
embarrassments, giving us few medals since 2008 Olympics. Our
abysmal Olympic medal tallies (G-gold, S-silver, B-bronze) over
seven decades are shown in Table-1.
Table-1: Olympic Medals won by India
In the entire history of Indian participation in Olympics
both before and after our independence, India has participated 24
times and won a total of 28 medals. It is beyond imaginations how
track & field and water sports
having so many medals at stakes,
have been eluding us. The total
events/sports wise medals won by
India is shown in table-2. This
indirectly means that India
possesses significant talents and
skills in those sports/games. Hence,
its participation in those events in
future too will remain well justified. However, the sports in which
Indian team has not progressed beyond the 1st heat stage, one may
have to review participation. The number of total events in
Olympics have increased from 9 in 1896 to 26 in 2012, 28 in
2016…. and to 33 events scheduled for 2020 where it features 5 new
sports (Baseball/softball, Karate, skateboard, sport Climbing &
surfing) of which one is familiar in India too. In all future Olympic
team selection, one question of ‘winning ability’ must also be asked.
Winning ability is decided by the performance levels in those events
in international competitions having reasonably higher standards of
participating athletes. A personal best record comes the next. In
track & field, water sports as well as weight-lifting (except 48 kg
women) personal best records of Indian athletes, lag far behind and
possibilities of getting medals are rather bleak unless the selection
& training methods are improved drastically and the personal best
records are
brought close to
the Olympic
records. Indian
performance in
the track & field
events are shown
in table-3
opposite. It can
be seen that in
several events the Indian record (in red) are fairly close to the
Olympic records. In these events if a science based selection &
training method is adopted, there are all possibility to a podium
The way sports were viewed earlier…
The sports in India were traditionally considered
‘recreational’ with very few having professional aspiration till the
last few decades. We lacked advanced infrastructures & facilities of
competitive sports and its promotion in rural / small cities were very
limited. As a result, the selection was from among who showed-up
at the national games, unable to be trained optimally for required
duration and levels, to be a medal prospect. In the last few years
however, a national sports policy has been initiated on a wider
platform of promotion and selection through Khelo-India
involving all schools (rural & urban) with some added incentives
that showed immediate result at the 2018 Asian games but many of
the games records were much too short of Olympics medal
aspirations. Table-3 shows a performance yardstick for Olympics
medal hope. The figures shown in red represent the values in which
if more attention is paid in the scientific basis of selection and
training, we could hope for a medal in a shorter span of time.
Past performance of athletes in sports are seldom useful but
for the ‘event records’ which though always subject to be broken by
a new one, are of immense value as a yardstick for training goals of
the athletes. A look at our Indian records vis-à-vis Olympic records
(Tables 3 & 4) reveal wide gaps and explains why we are unable to
even qualify or progress beyond elimination rounds, semi-finals or
finals, leave alone the podium finish. It is no surprise that we seldom
stood a chance in the past and if our selection & training continues
as it is, there are hardly any scope for sudden jump in the medal
tallies in near future too. These performance parameters serve as a
very important training goal.
This is a yardstick for the coaches to ponder how to get the
training goal near the event records if not over it. The figures in red
show a few events where our national records are fairly close to the
Olympic records in which our athletes can hope for a medals, if
special (science-based) efforts in selection & training are made on
the probable. Some amount of ‘spot performance surge’ do happen
during the actual events (owing to high adrenalin, high stakes and a
sheer motivation) but only over a narrow margin. So what are the
problem areas in Indian sports?
The Problem areas in Indian sports
Lack of awareness of the various types of sports & games being
played in a particular region at various levels among the people (all
included). Very few of the rural youth are aware of many
competitive events. Of late, of course, TV has made the awareness
to some level.
The parents/guardians feel it a waste of time & effort of their
wards. Only a few fancied sports events have captured the
imaginations of the youth whereas many other sports suffer identity
crisis and promotional indifferences.
Lack of Career prospects. Youth in sports often have to fall out of
the higher education or leave the sports to compete the curriculum.
Even if someone pursues sports, there is hardly any career prospects
during or after his active phase. Therefore a mandatory sports quota
in educational instt of repute are needed for the probable at the
places of their training.
Lack of Sports Infrastructures. Insensitivity of successive govts in
the country towards sorts had been a sad affair. Rajiv Gandhi was
the first to enhance the budgetary allocation by almost 8 fold in 1987
followed by Bajpayee govt who increased it by 2.5 times in 2002.
Even basic infrastructures for various sports & games were lacking
at the villages, Panchayats, Schools & colleges levels. While it may
not be possible to have advanced facilities at periphery, basic
infrastructure can be made with reasonable investment and that has
been the problem in our country. Along with the govt, even
corporate sectors must take responsibilities. It was in 2016 that
sports in India was
given a status of
Industry and the
budget allocation of
sports increased many
folds in 13th 5 yr plan.
Investment in
infrastructures of stadia and other facilities, sports goods
manufacture, opening of sports academics, scientific training,
holding of international championships etc will surely propel
Indias chances of gaining prominence. We only hope that India will
now excel in sports.
Lack of Institutions of ‘Par excellence. The teaching institutions
in sports were non-existent in our country. Sports authority of India
and a few sports federation were the sole agencies. The type of
training they imparted, were evident by the medal tallies of our
nations in various international championships. With no intention to
criticize them, it must be
confessed that their
knowledge domain in
most sports & games can
be termed anything but
“par excellence”. They
were little receptive to
new ideas, new methods,
new technologies and
new suggestions. As a
result, as many nations
progressed in their
methods of selections and training, we lagged behind as evident in
our achievements.
Lack of specialised Coaches were a common factor at the districts
and lower levels. Even some of the state sports bodies did not have
qualified coaches as they could not afford paying requisite
remunerations. Besides, availability of high quality coaches in the
country having experience of either a podium finish in Olympics /
World championships or enabling/coaching participants / teams to
podium finish, are highly deficient. Such experienced coaches only
know what type of preparations are required in medallion
aspirations and are able to exercise their coaching skills effectively.
Lack of special nutrition / diet has been equally hampering the
capabilities and performance of our sports persons and probable
athletes. A very rich & nutritious diet is mandatory for all physical
and physico-technical sports to develop the power, speed, stamina
that were hardly ever been made available to them. Some sports
demand a very high calorie diet during trainings and while
participating in the events.
Lack of means. A youth from poor family may not be able to bear
the cost of even basic sports kits for competition. Such people, even
if having extraordinary merit, will not come in to the eyes of the
selectors. Of late, there was some news that a University Hockey
team did not have shoes and sticks while going for competition.
Remunerations / Scholarships for those who are really medallion
prospects at international levels of competition is another
requirement. Of course, Khelo India has taken care of it but it must
ensure that the tax-payers’ money go to the deserving ones, selected
scientifically, on the basis of performance and free of any personal
biases whatsoever. Here comes a riddle. Modi govt has steeply
hiked the sports allocations right from its first year. Thereafter,
based on the task force recommendations there are steep hike on
almost all accounts. Hike in infrastructure development will always
remain an asset in the training & promotion of the sports. Steep hike
in scholarships for the selected sports-persons and their daily
expenditures are also welcome provided its reaching the individuals.
Steep hike in the remuneration of the coaches are welcome but are
these deserving coaches who can fulfil the nations medallion
aspirations? There are also pensions to the ex-sportspersons which
is welcome step but one can only hope that there are no biases in
their nominations. It can be hoped that India has taken a major leap
in investments in sports and results should be expected in near
Lack of transparent and Scientific selection at the peripheral levels
covering the nukes & corners of our country are the root cause of
suitable persons being picked-up as probables. Reasons for it are
many, incl favoritism & nepotism. The new sports policy tries to
address this issue by starting a Pan-India school games but what if
that material is a school dropout for some reason? Further, the one
who stands 1st or 2nd position at the school / state / national level
competitions, need to be given due scientific considerations in
selection. For example, the Khelo India School competition shows
that many boys coming 1st or 2nd in various events are 17 yrs old.
The one coming 3rd or 4th may be 14/15 yrs, having better body
phenotype or anthropometric constitution, have greater scope for
performance improvements by training. Final Selection must be
only merit based, of fit athletes only. If any person is having an
injury likely to affect one’s performance, he/she must be screened
out of the competition. We have seen injured competitors
accompanying the team with sorry state of performance. Sports
medicine specialist must play his due role, free of any admin
pressures, collateral considerations or biases.
Body phenotype or anthropometric constitution are of greatest
importance in the selection. It forms the ‘X’ factor for all physical
sports. Leg-length becomes crucial in runs, jumps; Arm-lengths in
swimming (incl
palm length &
breadth); some
relevant in some
sports are
mentioned in the
table-5. Parameters shown in red have higher relevance in one’s
These parameters
are inclusion
factors in the
selection ie. if
there are 5
candidates from
whom 1 or 2
probable are to be
selected, the
parameters become important for success. Anthropometric
measurements can easily be taken on a low cost “Modified Moran’s
board”. Equally important is some exclusion factors of diseases &
deformities in body & limbs. Ailments limiting physical capabilities
and deformities like flat-foot, knock-knees, kypho-scoliosis of spine
and recurrent dislocations of joints may better be screened out
during selection.
The Broad Categories of Sports
The Olympic sports events may broadly be categorised as Physical
or Physico-Technical as shown in the figure-1, most being a mix of
the two. Table-6 below highlights the possible extent of importance
of the Physical & Technical factors in various Olympics sports as
well as possible mind applications these sports as represented by the
numbers of the ‘+’
marks. One ‘+’ shows
the least application and
four ‘+’ shows the
maximum. One may
however, argue whether
a particular event applies
2, 3 or 4 ‘+’ in any given
event but there is no
doubt that it represents
the extent of one’s Physique, Technical skills of the mind
application in that order.
Physical sports. In these sports, performance depends upon the
physical constitution of ones’ body built with some skill elements
too. The body built constitutes both the body framework (lengths &
breadths) and the muscles (both types and mass). The Fast-Twitch
(FT) muscles (Type-II) act in spurt (explosive) movements (short
distance running-cycling-swimming, jumping, throw sports etc),
whereas the Slow-Twitch (ST) muscles (Type-I) are known for its
endurance (marathon/ long distance running-cycling-swimming,
walk). Hence, it is very important to know the predominant
constituent muscle type in a person (Phenotypes) before one’s
selection for a given sport. This can be done by actual performance
in the given sports, offering saliva tests to determine the sportsman’s
ACTN3 makeup and biochemical genetic profiling through
myocyte enhancer factor 2 (MEF2) proteins and Calcium-dependent
Ca2+/calmodulin kinase activity may be useful. In doubtful cases
testing one’s muscle biopsy for number / density of mitochondria in
the myofibril are also done. Studies show that the body's muscle-
fiber production depends on which variant (X or R) of the gene
ACTN3 one possesses. Two copies of X-variant of the gene
produces a bounty of slow-twitch fibers having predisposition for
endurance sports, while two copies of the R variant lead to an
overproduction of fast-twitch fibres for speed. These muscles act on
body frames which must yield optimum performance. These body
frames come under Anthropometric parameters and are considered
X-factor of success. For example, a person having longer legs will
perform better in running than a person having shorter legs even if
both are of the same Type-II phenotype muscle constitution (refer
the tables on anthropometry above). Similarly, a comparatively
shorter trunk & arm-length subject will have better prospects in
weight lifting. A boxer with tall height and longer arm-length will
have much more impact on his opponent. This is why knowledge of
both phenotype and anthropometric considerations get importance
in scientific selection. These physical performances based sports are
mainly athletics track & field (mainly running-cycling-swimming-
walking etc) having numerous medals at stake.
Physico-Technical Sports where the physique, technical skills as
well as application of mind in differing proportion yields success.
This category of sports forms the majority of competitive individual
and team events like weight-lifting, wrestling, boxing, Shooting,
Table tennis, Archery, gymnastic and so on. Water events of Diving
and synchronised swimming are also a physico-skill sports having
many Olympic medals at stake. Thus incorporating a logical mix of
physique and technical skills in these sport will surely augment
one’s performance and increase medal prospects.
Scientific basis of Selection & Training
The author is no expert selector or trainer in any of the Olympic
sports. However, by virtue of being a sportsperson, a doctor and a
scientist in the ‘Life Sciences’, a few general and science-based
problems/solutions are being emphasized which can make
substantial difference in one’s performance in the sports and make
realise the medal prospects.
Selection. A wide publicity is must in the visual media to increase
local participation with some
selection tips at the screening
levels (in villages, panchayats,
schools, colleges). This will
facilitate selection of athletes
from wider sections, both rural
& urban, educated &
uneducated, trained &
untrained. Selection should also include a wide groups of ages to
choose from (12-14yr, 15-17yr & 18-20yr for all sports except
Gymnastic for which 9-11yr, 12-14yr & 15-17yr are better). The
recent plank of “khelo India” does include the under-17 yrs athletes
from school levels all over India but leaves out those who don’t go
to school or the drop-outs. It is a good initiative by the govt but how
it translates in to practice, remains to be seen. All the same, it surely
widens the horizon for selection & training of meritorious
sportspersons. Among the near equal performing trained &
untrained, lower & higher ages individuals, the untrained and lower
age candidates have the edge to perform much higher after training
compared to the other groups.
Pick-up Type-I (ST) of muscles constitution athletes for endurance
and type-II (FT) for sprints. Scientific training can convert some of
the Type-I (ST) & type-II (FT) muscle phenotypes in to each other
through aerobic / anaerobic sets of trainings respectively. In general,
comparatively lower aged athletes of 5’7” Ht, 56.2 Kg Wt and 19.42
BMI have statistically shown better performance. However, this is
a very generalized statement. Functions of Height must be further
subdivided into leg length, arm length & trunk length. In fact, not
only height and lengths but some other anthropometric parameters
as given in table-5 (esp those in red being most crucial) are
extremely useful as selection criteria for enhanced performance.
Every extra-inch of longer leg lengths will add-up to the Step-length
in the in track events and every degree of knee-hip extension will
add-up to extra-height gained in jumps. Similarly every inch of
additional or longer arm-lengths in throw sports in javelin/ shot-put
provides the extra-distance to the
object acceleration and an extra-
centrifugal force to the rotating discus/
hammer), all adds-up to the square of
angular/linear velocity (ω ) at the
moment of release; is directly
proportional to the arm lengths (r) and
the total centrifugal force (F) that takes
the mass (discuss/hammer) away from the centre of rotation is
(m.ω2.r). Hence, anthropometric importance in selection are of
immense value for greater performance. Greater arm length & Palm
(& foot) area serve as better oar/row of the swimmer. Among the
anthropometric parameters, weight-lifting is the sole sport in which
lesser height/arm/trunk lengths are important positive factors, as it
lessens the height to which the weight has to be lifted.
Moderate body frames may allow runners to generate lesser lactate,
dissipate body heat more effectively, thus giving an advantage to
maintain the incredible work output required in the marathoners and
other endurance sports.
Performance at state & national levels must form the basis for
selection of the Olympic probables. A previous Olympics medal
winner, may be included in the list of probables without screening
but they must undergo selections trials at the national games /
special trials, so as to ensure their performance levels are intact.
Selection of probable for Physical sports may be challenged by
any individual demonstrating higher performance at any stage till
final selection before the event. Such individual performance will
become even better with fine-tuning of the skills in the remaining
months of the training.
Athletics Trainings for Track & Fields
General Training. Unlike domestic sports where training often
involves ab-initio athletes, training for Olympics is far too complex,
to augment the athlete’s performance to one’s optimum or to the
highest. It is a joint task of various groups of the support staff. The
nutritionists ensure optimum nutrients & calories, at times different
for different sports, details of which are already available with SAI.
The highly trained coaches draw schedules to augment one’s
Physical and technical skill capabilities to optimum, right from
warm-up to the actual events taking scientific route. Responsibility
also lay with him to educate the athletes to prevent any injury during
training. The scientists ensure that the training needs meet the
physical/ physiological criteria of one’s aerobic / anaerobic
functions thru’ VO2max or other biochemical markers. The sports
psychologists must take the athletes to a specific frame of mind to
overcome any doubt on to oneself and make them believe that they
can win (also called killer instinct in loose terms). It is relevant to
all sports where offensive actions are required by the athletes when
the killer instinct help them prevail upon the opponents. This psyche
helps in evolving a highly successful training pattern. For example,
smash action in badminton, penetrating the opponent D for taking a
scoring shot in hockey, looking for all opportunities to land a
scoring punch in boxing or similar actions in wrestling and other
sports become very helpful. Of course, the training teaches them as
to when and where apply these killer instinct. There could be
moments when a drop shot in badminton may yield a sure point
when smash may be uncalled for. Same will be the circumstances in
other sports too. Last but not the least, India having vast knowledge
of Yoga and it must be adopted to develop a positive frame of mind
and for enhancing the performance in various sports as elaborated
in later page. Last but not the least, entire sports administration
ensures that effective and structured trainings continue without any
hurdles and are so scheduled that the performance of the athletes
peak during the actual events, not before or after.
Running/walking sports training. The distance covered in a unit
time is the product of Step (Stridal) Length (SL) x Step (Stridal)
Frequency (SF). SL depends on one’s Physique (leg length &
strides) and the SF is the
function of the muscles &
training. Trainers
recommend Strides must
be optimised with every
forward step touching
ground at >90 deg but less
than 1100 to the track but
most of the Olympic 100m finalists invariably show their strides
increased to around 110-120 deg of contact esp while accelerating.
Strides more than this will lead to “Heel hitting” and slow the SF
hence, prolong the time. Every inch of SL add-up to the distance
covered. SF on the other hand, is the outcome of number of steps
taken in unit time which is the function of the muscle strength &
speed. The speed of muscle training responds more to higher
Repetitive Movements (RM) than higher loads on the muscles. This
is the reason why putting increasingly higher loads on the trails of a
sprint runner does not necessarily increase one’s speed. Competitive
abilities in running, walking, swimming and the other so-called
"physical sports" essentially comes owing to the raw muscle
strength and speed / endurance (depending on the sports whether it
is the speed type or the endurance).
Here comes the Training and Preparations. It all depends upon
which championship one is preparing for. In the Indian national
games, one of our own athlete will win with whatever time he has.
However, in international championship, it gets tough with even
fraction of a second counting for podium finish. It gets tougher from
national championship to
Commonwealth Games
(CWG) and finally to the
world championship or the
Olympics as can be seen in
this table-7. It is however,
evident that there are very
little difference between
world & Olympics records.
In World & Olympics
records, the athlete has to put
everything at stake and such performances can only be termed as
extreme, the competitive best of the human performance. In order
to achieve such best, a very different psyche’ has to be developed
both among the coaches and the athletes…focused to break even the
previous event records to ensure a win.
Some Training Tips for Sprints
Training approach to the scientifically selected “Track & Field”
sprinters have to be fully structured. First find out one’s SL & SF
properly during a video & foot-mark assisted sprint. Measure the
SL, the angle of foot-holds on to the ground and finally the SF. At
this juncture, another variable called “Flight Time” comes which is
the period when both legs are off-ground, a function of the SF
propelling power optimally found among elite sprinters. Let us
consider each of these one by one: -
Step Length (SL) is a function of the leg length (not one’s
height alone) and the extent of thigh-hip movements. Hip
extension permits the legs move fore and aft during a
stride. Here an unrestricted dorsiflexion of the foot become
important in permitting the leg extend backward without
losing the foot-power to propel one forward. The stride
forward must be only to an extent that permits the ankles
perform ball-of-foot movement, that does not lead to heel
hitting the ground and also pushing back one’s Centre of
Gravity (CoG) and thus resulting in decelerating or falling
back. Strides moving back through hip extension will
increase the SL but beyond certain limits, the power of
stridal push forward will deplete and so will the flight time.
A very fine balance is maintained among the three by the
highly successful sprinters and it has to be practiced during
training. The trainer must also keep in mind that the stridal
length may not be identical for both legs. One should start
the spring with a few initial sub-optimal SL (to prevent
groin muscle strains/injuries) and then accelerates to
optimal, one’s maximal. It is natural that SF is inversely
proportional with the SL. The highly successful sprinters
maintain a reserve in their SF to break-away from the
others in the terminal phase of the sprint for a podium
Step Frequency (SF) is a function of the muscles of hip,
thigh, calf and a bit of the joints involved. These muscles
must be predominantly Fast-Twitch (FT) type as
elaborated earlier for a greater SF. However, there are vast
influence of different groups of the muscles of hip, knee,
ankle and foot in the different stages of the spring incl start,
toe-off, flight time, ground touch, Ball-of-foot action to
mid stride and again toe-off. Whereas the hip muscles
directly influence the SF, the calf & foot muscles dictate
the force of flight hence the flight time esp the horizontal
component. The groin / hip muscles are esp prone to
strain/tear injuries in longer SLs esp in the initial parts of
the sprints. As already emphasised that some amount
conditioning ST muscles to FT can be undertaken during
the training, it must be a gradually increasing range of
movements through repetitive process. The trainer &
coaches must aim to achieve higher SF by the followings:
i. Strengthening the group of muscles for both speed &
ii. Transforming / reconditioning the ST muscles to FT
A gradually increasing Flight Time / Ground contact time
ratio is a healthy indicator of the progressive training
outcome of faster sprints. Stride Flight achieved from
higher dorsi-flexed foot yields greater Stride Length with
just minimal vertical rise.
Throw & jumps sports. In this, a ‘one-time action’ of a group of
muscles win the medals, power & speed training of such muscles
are of immense value. In throw-sports, preponderance of the arm,
shoulder, trunk & waist muscles are coordinated so as to have
maximum effects. It is important to release the javelin/discus/shot-
put/hammer skillfully at a time when the combined linear/angular
speed of the body-arm is maximum. We often see an athlete running
40-50 kmph but slowing down to 20 kmph at the time of javelin
release. Similarly, body-rotation and the extent of arm-length are
directly proportional to the distance a shot-put/discus/hammer will
travel when released at optimum angles. In shot-put & javelin
throws, the whiplash action of the hip-trunk-shoulder as a unit also
comes in play. The bottom-line in the above statements signifies the
advantages of the body-limb lengths as well as muscle strength &
Some training tips in Weight-Lifting
Having background of Weight-lifting, the author knows how this
sport that looks a one-time action, actually involves almost all
muscles of the body. The ‘Clean’ action involves extension of
knees, hip, ankles, flexion of elbows, extension & abduction of
shoulder joint and finally extension of the trunk. ‘Jerk’ involves all
movements of a static jump, extension & abduction of shoulder,
extension of elbows keeping spine straight. Thus calf, thigh, hip,
arms, shoulder and spinal muscles are involved and all these need
training for both strength & speed involved in initial “clean or
snatch” followed by power lifting from squat position.
Increasing the Muscle power of the groups of the muscles involved
in the lifting actions have to be through a structured weight training
with the Squat, dead-lift, bench-press, shoulder-press and ‘pull-up
above waist’ with gradually increasing weights being the most
crucial. For the strength training, coaches will surely formulate the
best sequence of exercises and its RMs with due attention to the diet
and neuromuscular impulse training too. One has to be very careful
in building the power of the fast-twitch muscles through fast & jerky
action and the slow-twitch muscles through slow motions. Muscles
that lift the weight, are given fast movement training and the
muscles which help in regaining the posture are given slow
movements. Squats, back muscle training are slow movements.
These help in getting up with the weight after ‘clean & jerk’ actions.
Increasing the Fast Twitch muscles are structured training of
conversion of some of the ST muscles in to FT. There is special
training for it for the coaches. These groups of muscles differ in each
sport. Training involve repetitive fast movements with and without
The Indian weight-lifting team’s performance in its current form as
shown in table-4 above, is nowhere close to even qualifying for the
Olympics, leave alone the medal hopes. The training skills of the
coaches need to be reviewed. Their age-old training methods have
given no space to the technology-based scientific approaches.
Getting underneath the weight-bar after “clean or snatch” is an art
in its skill training. It may be useful to practice the “clean” &
“snatch” actions to the max weight initially without actually getting
underneath the weight bar, without fear of getting
wrist/elbow/shoulder /spine/back injuries that is so often
encountered while getting under the bar.
It must be understood here that Weightlifting is the most vulnerable
non-contact sports inflicting injuries to the extent that the
sportsperson may be out of the game for life. Hence, to ward off the
chances of injuries, the heavy weight
training could be done with safety and
free of fear for injuries. This could
easily done on a specially designed on
the weight suspending vertical bars
having multiple notches at every 1 cm
or so allowing only one-way upward
movement that gets locked
immediately the weight bar starts
coming down after the complete
‘snatch or clean’ action. Such facility
will allow a weight lifter to a fearless,
gradually increasing the weight through these actions. The height
lifted so, is noted. These heights must exceed the minimum weight-
bar height under which the lifter can get in, from where one will be
able to get-up with those given weights. This training must be
continued till the “clean or snatch” actions of the lifters lifts the
desired weight to the required height (as shown in the figure on the
previous page) to a stable squat position and be able to rise-up to lift
the weights. Of course, the coach must ensure that the ‘snatch or
clean’ action combines all actions optimally…ie fully extending the
knees, hips and the ankles while the upper torso muscles pull the
weight-bar to the maximum possible height. A similar platform of
vertical bars can be made to practice getting-up from the squat
position after the end of the “clean or snatch” actions with the
gradually increasing weights. These vertical bars could also be
useful for the “Jerk” action after the ‘clean’ to increase his lifting
power without injury concerns.
The above actions must also be practiced without vertical bars in
order to balance one-self while trying to get under the weight bar,
trying to get-up with the weights from the squat position or
balancing after the important ‘jerk’ action. This does not rule out the
fact that the art & skills of the lifter getting underneath the bar during
clean or snatch are equally important. Training must also address a
correct technique in the various stages of the weight-lifting. Despite
all these the strength training does take times in months if not years.
Accordingly, the performance output also takes time and there is no
quick-fix measure in Olympic medallion prospects.
If the above weight training is done regularly, the enhancement of
the lift-performance should be glaring to both the athletes and their
coaches. The above methods could also minimize the injury
concerns in the weight-lifting
that takes place due to heavier
weights on the bars. It however,
does not take away of the
importance of some of the
traditional methods in training as
mentioned in the box opposite.
Injury Concerns in Sports
The injury concerns in the sports are basically of two types namely
those owing to incorrect methods and those attempting on higher
performance either in the training stages or during the competitions.
The former injuries are almost 100% preventable if coaches are
qualified and strict. The most important measures for preventing
injuries during training are: -
a. Adequate warm-up schedules before starting,
b. Adopting a correct method and technique.
c. A structured progression in performance parameters and
d. Keeping a strict eye on the carelessness during training.
On the other hand, the injuries during championships are commonly
encountered in pursuit of higher
performance. Such injuries are encountered
in almost all events but the contact games
and weight-lifting are especially vulnerable
as shown in the table opposite. Contact
games have typical injuries of contact areas
and due to the impacts of fall, boxing is
infamous for various types of direct punch-
injuries over body and the concussion of the
brain, weight-lifting has chances of back,
shoulder, arms, thigh and knee injuries.
Training Progression. During the training, one’s progress must be
observed scientifically. There are various objective parameters
available for it, be it the evaluation of VO2max, maximal cardiac
output, speed/power output, the lactate threshold. Isometric /
Isotonic Dynamometer and goniometer should be used in measuring
the force & movement of the limbs / trunk / arms. In the track &
field events the ‘Step Length & Frequencies’ become extremely
important. Here ground-marking and videography becomes very
relevant and helpful. In weight-lifting, videography from front and
sides become very useful in correcting the technique. There are
numerous such examples in which various scientific methods are
used in the training progression. A periodic auditing by the coach of
the performance enhancement are routine. It is equally important to
prevent injuries during training which mostly take place due to
inadequate warm-up, improper technique and excessive loads.
Preparing for a major Event
Every athlete, every team, every sports federation must have a blue-
print for a major event such as World-Cup or the Olympics. All
sports persons know that there is a particular way when one can
reach the optimum or their peak performance. This comes from the
individual or team-preparations, exposure to international
competitions followed by the event for which all these preparations
have been going on. The individual and Non-Contact competitive
events in which a person wins on his own personal performance, is
not so much dependent on the international competition before the
event. Thus events like most of the track & field, Weight-lifting,
Shooting, Archery etc do not depend on exposure to pre-event
competitions. As long as one athlete achieves his own performance
parameter at par or close to the Event Record, one’s own technique
should be retained and be improved under their coaches. At the
most, a change of training venue to those akin to the place of the
final event may help to some extent to make them familiar. On the
other hand, the one-on-one contact sports as well as the team sports
are dependent on international exposures before the actual events.
These constitute events like Wrestling, Boxing, Judo, Taekwondo,
Fencing, Badminton, Table Tennis, Lawn Tennis, Volley ball,
Football, Hockey, Cricket etc. In these events exposure to a
competitive opponent is crucial that makes each of the participants
aware of the various prevailing techniques and challenges that may
have to be faced. However, it must be remembered that never
expose suddenly to a team where the self-confidence may take a
World Class Athletes are very special. They belong to an elite class
yet they possess some qualities which are very personal and any
successful coach must know it. Only after the coaches are
acquainted with it, they will be able to get the best out of an athlete.
Athletes being a human being, among many of the socio-
psychological happenings around, they do tend to get affected. In
addition, their biorhythms among other psychosocial factors on
which they may not have a direct control, also tend to affect their
performance. Successful coaches and team-psychologists are
mostly conversant with all these and they also possess skills to
largely get the athletes out of such blues. They also enthuse the
athletes during the championships when the countrymen pray for
them to succeed. As such representing the country in those events
boosts the morale of the athletes when they put all their skills at
stake to fulfil the national aspirations.
Perming Below par’ of own Best. There are numerous instances
when an athletes have failed to bring-out their own best or
performed far below own best in the greatest of the championships.
Some examples of Indian athletes are before us, at the 2016 Rio-
Olympics many of our prominent athletes
were unable to repeat their own
performances as mentioned here and surely
it will repeat in future too. This is most
unfortunate for those athletes, their team-
mates and the nation. Although it could
never be deliberate by the athletes, yet it is
they who must do everything possible to
give his/her best on that day. The coaches
and the supporting staff are expected to
help them bring out the better than own
bests on the D-Days…. with plenty of
enthusiasm, high morale and the quest to
make the country proud. The reason could
be anything…having nagging injuries,
anxiety & nerves, discouraging words
from team /management / coach,
psychological upset and so on. Thus if someone at the Olympics /
World Championship fails to perform own best, it must be
considered a collective failure on part of entire team.
Any person having nagging injuries unlikely to heal much before
the trial runs must not be selected in the first place. It is the
responsibility of the athletes and their coaches to avoid any injury
before the tournament. If an injury has taken place which is sure to
affect the performance, the athlete must be prevented from
participation lest his condition will worsen. However, if the injury
has taken place during the initial rounds of the tournament, the
coach, team doctor and the team psychologist must unite to deal
with it. A Stress of Competition before an event is natural that
prepares a person for the competition. However, anxiety and nerves
are an exaggerated response to the natural Stress of competition due
to excessive adrenalin secretion. Heart-rate (HR) Galvanic Skin
Resistance (GSR) or Skin Conductance (SC) measurements are the
best indicators of such occurrences. Whereas a natural Stress is
beneficial, the anxiety & nerves are counterproductive to one’s
performance. The Yerkes Dodson’s Curve represents an optimum
level of beneficial Stress/ arousal beyond which the performance
decreases. As the level of task complexity increases, the curve shifts
to the left, meaning lesser stress level are recommended for optimal
performance of the more complex tasks. All athletes must be
explained these basics of the Stress & arousal levels and be made to
handle it on their own, by telling themselves to calm-down.
This curve clearly shows that the anxiety/panic/nerves bring the
performance level much lower than one’s own best and are thus
counter-productive. This must be resolved by team effort.
The anxiety before the competition could be overcome by regular
encouraging words by the coach or the team psychologist by
enthusing the athletes, by meditation or through Bio-Feedback
methods. All top class athletes and coaches must be aware of it.
Team management and coaches must be very careful while
interacting with such athletes during the championships.
Psychologically upsetting of the athletes are highly counter-
productive. This is why, in the final days of high level tournaments,
the athletes are often insulated from the unfavorable environment,
the family & the society, the social media etc.
Yoga in Sports Training is very important to have physical &
mental conditioning to excel in any sports. Various Yogasana can
assist the athletes in all aspects of promotive, preventive and
curative therapies of any disease adversely affecting one’s well-
being. It also assists in the body flexibilities (required in most
sports) and muscle relaxations as well as in quickening of neuro-
muscular reaction timings. Deep breathing exercises gradually
increase the vital capacities of the lungs. As a result, more Oxygen
molecules are available for the blood to be taken-up in lungs and
make it available to the sprinting muscles. It augments oxygenation.
Meditation is extremely useful in concentrating and focusing on to
one’s final objective in an event. Meditation combined with breath-
holding exercises can do wonders for the ‘Shooters and Archers’,
for both attaining complete focus on to the target. Breath holding
exercise helps stop body/limb movements while aiming for the
target without affecting the oxygenation status. Meditation also
helps in instant computational ability of mind in archery when
transient changes in the wind-speeds could be taken care of. An
expert archer can release the arrow in the nick of time when wind-
speeds are minimal within the given time or compensate the target
aiming under the winds.
Meditation is of immense value in increasing the concentration,
focus on to the goal and overcoming any negative thought within.
Yoga is already introduced in varying forms at the training centres
though there are scope for better approach.
Threat of Covid19 Pandemic
The world is under the grip of Wuhan Virus causing the worst ever
pandemic. Those who suffered from the infection, have been trying
to gain the losses their physical functions which is extremely
challenging. Even those athletes who were unable to train optimally
under the lockdown and other constraints of training, are finding it
difficult to regain full physical functions.
When Corona virus get in to the body cells and tissues, become
parasites on them for oxygen. Hence, any intense physical sport with
very high oxygen demand, be that sprint or endurance, make the
sportsmen vulnerable to both loss of functions as well as risk of
Hypoxia and to lives. People have collapsed or had heart attacks
during intense physical activities during these times. Hence, all
attempts should be made to doubly testing all such athletes for
Covid19 before they participate in the sports of intense physical
exertions. It is for their own good.
There is also a concern of contacting the infection esp in the ‘contact
sports’ from opponents who are either asymptomatic infected who
tested ‘false negative’. There could be many such cases even after
vaccination. If someone gets infected, he or she may infect many
others in own team before being detected. This will put the entire
team at risk of illness as well as poor level of performance.
Concluding Remarks
Indian aspirations of medals at the Olympics or World events have
been alluding us since inception of such events. Except for an odd
sports events, our selection & training methodologies have been
inadequate, lacking any sound scientific basis. Various studies have
brought out the various problem areas to the fore and of late, govt
has been trying to address most such issues too. Sports institutions
of excellence have been opened. The investments in sports have
been hiked steeply. Now the sports persons in various disciplines
receive handsome scholarships and the remuneration for the trainers
and coaches too have become attractive. It can only be hoped that
such steep hikes are for right reasons and reaching the right people
and for right causes. The most important is the sports federations &
SAIs updating their knowledge in sports science & technologies,
engaging the qualified coaches…those who have actually tasted the
podium finish in world/Olympics championship, or someone who
has taken their trainees to the podium finish. Only such coaches can
be expected to fulfill our ambitions of Olympic medallions.
This book dwells at some length the specific training methods in
“Track & Field” events as well as the weight-lifting where medal
aspirations have been alluding India. These are the events where a
lot can be done to improve upon. It must be remembered that
competing for World or Olympics events calls for total dedication
on the part of the entire machineries incl the athletes, the coaches as
well as the supporting staffs. It is for the supervisory staff to assess
the level of the preparations for Tokyo 2020 or any other future
championships. However, the present performance level of our
athletes at various past national & international meets incl world
athletics 2019, are not very encouraging, they fall far short of
Olympic medal aspirations.
This book has also tried to look specially into the scientific basis of
selection and training and brought out the intricacies involved in it.
There are differing physical & skill levels required in different
sports and the physical and anthropometric aspects of the athletes
have been highlighted. There are two different body constitution
(phenotypes) suitable for differing sprint and endurance sports for
which training methodologies differ. Both the athletes and their
coaches must understand this aspect fully well to avoid
disappointments at a later stage.
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.