The Berlin-bound long jumper chats with John Shepherd about his training, technique and more
Athletics Weekly: Tell us a little about how you got started in athletics. Did you always do the long jump?
Dan Bramble: I started athletics via taekwondo, I always used to jump far on to the mat we had at the start of the sessions and so I got referred to an athletics club. Between athletics I used to play football, I swam and later into my teens I turned to more extreme sport such as BMX riding, skate boarding and Parkour, or freerunning – the latter of which I feel helped my jumping because it was pretty much an extreme version of plyometrics.
AW: How was the Commonwealth Games experience? And what have been your career highlights?
DB: The Commonwealths were everything I could have asked for – an amazing location, an amazing life in the holding camp and in the village too. Just knowing that we were all there for the same purpose but from such different backgrounds and sports made for a really unique experience that I can’t compare to any other.
So far, my career highlight was the World Championships in Beijing in 2015. That really gave me a taste of what it’s like to compete on the big scale and gave me that real hunger for athletics. (Bramble jumped 7.83m but missed out on making the final where Greg Rutherford won with 8.41m – Ed.)
AW: When did you realise that you had a talent for the long jump?
DB: I feel I’ve always had a bit of natural bounce. As a baby my mum used to say that I’d cry if I was taken out of my baby bouncer, so those “early sessions” must have really done me well! I realised I was actually not bad at long jump quite later on when I jumped 7.91m in 2013 – then it finally clicked that maybe I could do this as more than a hobby.
AW: Who has motivated you throughout your career?
DB: My parents and friends have really motivated, whether it’s taking me to competitions or daring me that I couldn’t jump a certain distance … they’ve all helped push me in different ways. I think as a youngster watching Irving Saladino (2008 Olympic champion) jump huge distances almost effortlessly really inspired me to try and do exactly the same … also Jonathan Edwards, seeing jumps events executed almost perfectly is so pleasing to watch.
AW: Who is/have been your coaches?
DB: My first coach was a guy called Pat Cornell. I stayed with him from when I started athletics until I was around 18 when I then joined Larry Achike (1998 Commonwealth Games triple jump champion) and his group. After he moved away in 2012 I went to Frank Attoh, who I’m still with.
AW: What is your main target this season?
DB: The main target for me this year is the European Championships in Berlin. That will be the highlight of the European season and I feel like I could definitely come away with a medal!
AW: What are your long-term plans?
DB: I want to make it to the next Olympics and Commonwealth Games. I’d love to come away from both with a medal. Jump wise I’d love to push the distances out further and further and really see how far I can go before it’s too late.
AW: What do you think of the state of UK long jumping and what would you like to see more of?
DB: Compared to other countries we don’t have as much depth in the event on an international level. I feel that long jump is one of many field events in the UK that gets overlooked as if they aren’t important. If I had my way I’d introduce more jumps camps for elite and emerging athletes for them to share ideas and training tips and expertise to help move the event forward.
AW: What physical qualities make for a great long jumper?
DB: The two main ones I’d say are speed and strength. A lot of athletes think that we just run and jump. But if you’re not strong enough at that board you will not get up at all!
AW: What advice have you for young jumpers wanting to do the event?
DB: By all means try it! It’s a lot of fun and is a very enjoyable event, but stay open-minded and open to other events, you might be better suited to another.
AW: Should young athletes specialise in the long jump at say 13-14?
DB: If an athlete is certain that’s what they want to do then definitely. I started doing long jump properly around that age and never looked back.
AW: Tell us what technique you use?
DB: I’ve always used the hang from as early as I can remember, but I am slowly adapting to the hitch as I feel it allows better penetration through the board meaning further distances.
AW: How do you deal with flights and travel?
DB: When I land, I rest. I might then warm-up and roll out because you get tight flying. Pre-comp, I’ll usually do a full warm-up and drills too.
DAN BRAMBLE’S TRAINING
Monday: Weights cleans; squats; step-ups 3×5 at 70% 1RM*. Ab and jumps circuit
Tuesday: 3x120m; 3x150m 70%
Wednesday: am: weights cleans; squats 2 x 4 at 90% 1RM; pm: plyos 3 x hops on each leg; 3 x step bounds; 3 x skips for height; 3 x hop-step; 3x hurdle bounds
Thursday: 2x3x120m 70%; 4x100m 70%
Saturday: Running drills; ab/jumps circuits
Sunday: Hills 2x5x50m
Monday: Weights cleans; squats; step-ups 3×5 at 60%; running drills, high knees, A skips, B skips
Tuesday: 4x30m 100%; 4x60m 90%
Wednesday: Run-ups x 4; 10/12 stride approach jumps x 4
Thursday: Running drills (as Mon)
Friday: Stretching/rest ahead of competition
• These sessions are for illustrative purposes only and reflect Dan Bramble’s requirements, training and maturity
* 1RM refers to 1 rep max – the maximum you could lift only once
AW: What are your particular strengths as a long jumper and what do you think you need to do some more work on?
DB: My strengths have always been my explosiveness off the board and with plyometrics. The thing I’ve constantly had to work on is run-up speed/structure. It’s more so in the last couple of seasons that this has come together and I’ve started jumping more consistently over the eight-metre mark.
AW: What are the cornerstones of your training?
DB: I’d say key for me are gym, technical sessions, for example, run-ups, short approach jumps and lastly drills and sprint sessions.
AW: What are your go-to plyometric exercises?
DB: Hurdle bounds: a fun way to test and increase your lower leg power … by fun I mean slightly scary! Hops: a single leg exercise, good for strengthening both legs separately. Stride bounds: these work on striking the ground efficiently and moving forward which is important when it comes to penetrating through the board. Pogo jump: a lower leg exercise working on quick ground contact and maximal height from near straight legs.
AW: How important are weights in your training and what are your key exercises?
DB: I feel that gym is important for power athletes as it helps maintain strength through the season, for me my key exercises are cleans, squats and step ups because I feel they’re most relevant to long jumping.
AW: How much running do you do in your training?
DB: For a jumper I do quite a bit of running, mostly speed work but quite a bit of speed endurance too – to keep the fitness levels up throughout the season.
AW: What are your favourite sessions and the ones that you dislike most?
DB: It’s got to be the jumps and plyos sessions. I’m naturally bouncy so doing these sessions can be tiring but worthwhile and a lot of fun. The sessions I do not like are the speed endurance ones. They never seem to get easier!
AW: If you could choose four or five conditioning exercises for the long jump what would they be?
DB: Ab circuits: a strong core is crucial to jumping efficiently at take-off and landing especially the leg shoot. Stretching: this keeps the body mobile so the right angles can be achieved on the runway and take-off. Skipping for height drills: helps to replicate a good take-off position. High knee drills: helps you stay tall on the runway.
AW: The long jump is a tough event, what do you do to minimise injury?
DB: For me, stretching and drilling are key … putting your body through that much stress and not being flexible and efficient is almost a recipe for disaster. So, stretching and staying quick on the ground would be key.
AW: What about nutrition?
DB: I don’t follow a specific plan but I know what to cut out and what works best for me, which is less of the things I enjoy, like sweets, pizza… and more of the things my body needs!
AW: Do you use sports psychology?
DB: Not particularly. I do have a few cues I use such as deep breathing and relaxing the shoulders before jumps. I tend to use a lot of visualisation too in the warm-up and between rounds to really instil what I need to do.