How they train – Luke Cutts

The self-confessed adrenaline junkie tells AW about his training approach

Posted on December 18, 2013 by
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Luke Cutts (copyright Mark Shearman)

Luke Cutts credits a consistent training programme along with long-term coach Trevor Fox for his improvement this year.

Scaling new heights to an outdoor PB of 5.70m at the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games, he moved to No.2 on the Power of 10 rankings before equalling Steve Lewis’s best with a further PB of 5.71m indoors at Villeurbanne in mid December.

Having had a disappointing 2012, which saw him fail to qualify for the Olympics, Cutts bounced back in 2013 to win the British Championships with a PB (at the time) of 5.65m. Despite clearly being on an upward curve, the 25- year-old was not selected for the World Championships.

Undeterred, he went on to clear 5.70m two weeks later at the Olympic Park – a height which moved him to third on the British all-time list. It marked a great return to form for The Dearne ALC athlete, who last won the UK Championships in 2009, the same year in which he also claimed silver at the European Under- 23 championships in Kaunas, Lithuania.

Cutts had a successful start to the indoor season with his indoor PB set at the French INSA Perch’formance. Speaking ahead of that performance he said: “My training is going amazingly. My main aims are the World Indoors and breaking the British record, so everything in training is geared towards that.”

Based in Yorkshire, Cutts has been fortunate to be able to do all his technical work indoors at the EIS in Sheffeld. Under Fox’s guidance, he is part of a strong training group which also includes Adam Hague, Abigail Roberts and Nicholas Cole, who are all ranked in the top five in the UK in their respective age groups.

Although on the British Athletics “potential Olympic” funding scheme, he is still on the look-out for sponsors who could help in his quest to reach the necessary lofty heights that mean world-class.

In such a technical event, it is of little surprise that the group usually do three or four technical pole vault sessions a week and these often last up to four hours to simulate the environment of a competition. However, just as important as technical skill is possessing the necessary body strength as well as being in condition to run fast with the pole and propel yourself almost six metres into the air. Cutts prepares for this with gym work and speed work on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Pole vaulters are often good all-round athletes and they need to be agile and so Fox incorporates gymnastics into all of the technical sessions. Fox explains: “We keep speedwork, vaulting and gymnastics in the training programme all year round. The gymnastics is great for body awareness and general conditioning and teaches them to know which muscles to use at the right time. We have better facilities for this at Loughborough, with a high bar and ropes, but we make use of a squat rack when we are at the EIS in Sheffield.”

Anyone who enjoys throwing themselves over a bar six metres in the air is clearly a bit of an adrenaline junkie and Cutts is no exception, and describes himself as “a bit crazy”. He adds with a smile: “What I like about pole vault is the danger.”

Fox reiterates: “Luke is very committed to training, but enjoys showboating when he clears high heights. He also likes having gymnastics contests with the other guys in the group. It keeps them motivated and it prepares Luke for when he competes against the world’s best, as Lavillenie is also a exhibitionist. The guys often spend hours doing somersaults on the mat after a session and this adds to their strength and fitness for pole vaulting. I like to see them having fun.”

Fox works on a simple philosophy. He wants to make sure his athletes learn the correct techniques and skills for the event, but then likes to leave individuals to feel the movement for themselves and he thinks this is something that Cutts has mastered well. Fox explains: “I like to take a step back and leave them to it. I don’t like to be too pushy, as I think it is better to let them discover the timing and spatial judgement for themselves and this has worked well with Luke over the years.”


Monday: (pm) Four-hour pole vault technical session divided into three units. First unit: start with gymnastics warm- up (chin-ups, straight arm shoulder exercises, agility, skills on mat). Second unit: competition-specific full run-up, 5m+ heights for an hour. Third unit: general vaulting off elevated heights – technical at top end, mixed in with that is barbells between snatching, power cleaning, squats, deadlift. Pole vaulting drills relating to carrying and planting pole and hurdle drills.
Tuesday: (pm) Same as above.
Wednesday: (pm) Strength work (squats, power cleans, bench press, bicep curls, shoulder press, curling, straight arm pull-overs). Speed session: example 6x5x50m with walk-back recovery and 10min rest between sets.
Thursday: (pm) Same as Monday and Tuesday (sometimes at Loughborough so can do two sessions with a rest in between).
Friday: (pm) Same as Wednesday.
Saturday: Rest.
Sunday: (am) Loughborough. Similar to Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, but more equipment. Example: downhill run-up so we can use bigger poles, rope work and high bar for gymnastics such as giant swing circles.

» The above sessions are specific to the individual athlete and may not be suitable for other athletes

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