400 Meter Training from Supertraining

UPDATE: download Clyde Hart’s 60 page Training Manual from the 2007 USATF NPEP Conference.

If you are serious about training for the 400 meters, or even sports and general fitness, Supertraining and Supertraining Blog is a great resource. It is devoted to sports, strength and fitness science, training, therapy and education.

It was founded by the late Dr. Mel Siff and still has a great following. Please be advised that your full name and city MUST be posted in all your postings, to ensure a high quality of articles, and not a lot of pessimistic people, just very opinionated.

Supertraining can be found here:

Here is the entire article:

From: <CoachJ1@aol.com>
To: <supertraining@yahoogroups.com>
Subject: [Supertraining] 400 Meter Training
Date: Sunday, September 29, 2002 3:19 AM

Mel and Members:

A few years ago I had the good fortune to coach a young man who won the 400 meter dash all for years of his prep career. As a result, many coaches became interested in the Lisle 400 training program. It was rather amusing, because such interest seemed to suggest that this young man’s successes automatically meant I had some special formula for success that would guarantee improvement.

It is typical of track, at least at my level, that coaches are often presumed to have some “secret” training insights if they happen to be training a state caliber or even national class athlete in a particular event.

Well, I don’t think I have a “secret formula,” and I certainly never deserved that short lived guru status, but at the time it did give me a chance to share a few insights that I still believe might be helpful. Here goes:

Historical Approach to the 400 Meter Dash

Many long sprint coaches have either heard about or believed in a philosophy similar to this one:

The 400 should be broken into four segments, 100 meters each. Each 100 meters is run a certain way, especially the first three. I tell runners to run the first three my way and the last 100 their own way.

I have them run the first 100 very fast. They learn to come off the first curve as relaxed as they can, and they run the backstretch without slowing down, yet without using up too much energy.

The key is the third 100. This is where too many people slow down. Drill into your runners that, when they hit that second curve, they must start to work again. Everybody seems to think this is the place to slow down, so they will have power to come off that last curve and kick the straightaway.

Well, there isn’t anybody that is going to kick in on the last straightaway, because fatigue is setting in. Teach your 400 athletes to run that second curve hard. This is not easy to teach. Work on this all year long, on relaxing in that second curve and in that second curve running it fast.

For well over twenty five years, many track coaches have agreed with this assessment of the 400 meter dash. If we asked coaches today what they observe when high school athletes run this event, they will note a clear slowing down at the 200 meter mark. As a result, they will tell their athletes to run “fast but relaxed” through the curve, and they will also say something about maintaining form in the final 100 meters.

However, I’ve always questioned conventional thinking regarding this event:

Are segments of the 400 run differently by choice or physiology?

If slowing down is more physiological than volitional, what do we accomplish by merely advising athletes to “run the backstretch without slowing down.” Rapid deceleration is the result of a physiological change that cannot be corrected by merely advising the runner to demonstrate a different behavior in that segment of the race.

Here is the way I’ve tried to maximize potential for athletes in this event

I believe that success in coaching athletes in the 400 meter dash involves three components. Coaches must:

  1. Understand the physiology of the event
  2. Develop a personal “overarching” philosophy based upon this understanding
  3. Construct a training program based on these physiological principles as they relate to their overall philosophy.
  4. Assess the training data and race performances to determine the potential to achieve both short term and long term objectives

It is important to note that the different approaches of highly successful coaches like Charlie Francis and Clyde Hart are the result of different overarching philosophies. Such philosophies will reflect their training backgrounds, as well as their personal competitive insights and instincts.

With this said, here is a brief discussion of each of the elements, based upon my own interpretation or “feel” for the event:

Physiology of the Event

For prep coaches like myself, this may be the most neglected aspect of coaching, primarily because authors of track manuals and books, at least the ones I read years ago, did not present research-based criteria for their recommended workouts. I often referred to these as “workouts for the sake of a workout.” Here’s a quick overview of what happens to leg muscles during a high speed run of 400 meters.

If the 400 meter race were segmented into equal parts, as some coaches believe it should, we would find that, contrary to belief, it is the second part, the second 100 meters, which is almost always the fastest. Research done back in 1992 confirmed that athletes capable of running from 50.5 to 47.5 cruise along at an average speed of 8.06 meters per second during the first 100 meters, and increase their effort to 8.3 meters per second in the second 100 meter section.

After this second 100 meter segment, running speed falls off steadily, dropping to about 7.64 meters per second between the 200 and 300 meter mark, before tumbling to a low of about 7.01 meters during the final 100 meter segment. This final 100 meters is a whopping ten percent below the overall average 400 meter tempo, and 16 percent under the high speed reached between the 100 and 200 meter points. No wonder part of the classic strategy involved telling athletes to run the final segment their own way!

Everyone talks about doing multiple repeats to build up a tolerance to lactic acid, but the research raises some serious questions about the effectiveness of such training. Blood lactate levels are certainly elevated following a 400 meter run, but they actually get even higher about six minutes after athletes have finished their race. If an athlete tests at 11 millimoles per liter of acid build-up after his 400, in another six minutes that level will shoot up to as much as 15 millimoles. There is a logical explanation for this increase. Leg muscles are continuing to push excess lactate into the blood, and as the blood flow to the liver diminishes, lactate removal is slowed. Owen Andersen did quite a bit of work on this subject several years back.

Another fascinating observation is that blood lactate accumulates the highest between the 100 and 300 meter marks of the 400, then actually declines during the last 100 meters, only to rise again during recovery. Researchers believe that the rate at which blood lactate increases reaches its highest level after about 27 seconds of running–or for most typical prep athletes right about the 200 meter mark. This explains why so many of my high school colleagues refer to sprinters as “hitting a wall” at the start of the curve.

What goes on inside the muscle is also fascinating. In the 400 meter dash, creatine phosphate, a high energy compound which furnishes a great deal of high octane energy needed in this event, drops by as much as 50% after the first 100 meters of the race. Creatine phosphate continues to decline during the final 300 meters. Most importantly, it takes eight minutes of recovery before creatine levels return to normal.

Overarching Philosophy

These are some of my fundamental beliefs:

Even for distances from 1500 meters all the way to the marathon, fast race times result from high running speeds. This is not really profound, but as the distance goes up, its importance seems to diminish. I believe that the higher the maximal running speed, the faster an athlete will be able to run any particular race. Research supports this. Anderson, for example, noted that maximal running velocity may be a better predictor of performance than either V02 max or running economy!

If we improve 100 and 200 meter dash performances, 400 meter dash projections will require a lower percentage of an athlete’s maximum running speed. This is also very important. The young man who won four successive state titles in the 400 for Lisle also ran the 200 in 21.7. For him, a race speed of 24 seconds per 200 seemed tolerable because it was well within his speed reserve. Quite simply, as an athlete’s speed increases, 200 paces will seem easier. For example, when this same young man was a sophomore, I doubled him in the 800-400, reminiscent of the great Cuban sprinter Alberto Juantorena, whose effort at Montreal in ’76 is still one of the greatest efforts I’ve ever witnessed in track and field. My sophomore ran 1:56.79 to win the 800, then on 19 minutes recovery took the 400 in 48.38. Because of his speed reserve, I knew that a 1:56 would be, at best, comfortably hard for him, and in the smaller class of our state’s two-class system, a time of 1:55-1:56 could win it.

This speed component has been important for Olympians as well. Ouita of Morocco, for example, ran repeat 200 meter intervals between 22 and 23 seconds before his world record 5K performance in ’87. Illinois’ legendary Joe Newton often talked about the incredible 200 meter repeats Seb Coe ran in “secret workouts” he did on York’s track in preparation for Seoul.

Many believe that repeats of anything longer than the distance athletes are actually running will basically make them good at running repeats, and that these repeats will, by their very nature, be far slower than what we’d desire them to run in competition.

Perhaps I’m more like Charlie Francis in that I believe in developing maximum velocity over short distances, then gradually stretching out that top speed. I do accept that speed stamina is important, but only at a given velocity. I’ve found that my athletes generally find it easier to add distance at a set speed than to step up their speed at a set distance, such as 400 meters. With younger sprinters, the wrong kind of “endurance” work can actually inhibit their potential.

Some believe that, since the body adapts to the work demanded of it, too many long runs at an intermediate velocity may convert undifferentiated or transitional muscle fibers to red or slow twitch rather than white, or fast twitch. I think it was Loren Seagrave who once noted that working the lactate intolerance system results in what he colorfully descibed as a poisoning of the nervous system, and that endurance work will lock in patterns of movement that are incorrect for the event.

We never let any runners in our program get too far away from our primary pursuit: more speed. We don’t ‘build’ to speed some coaches do, and I’ve always kept in mind Charlie’s unique insight on conventional pyramid peaking for sprinters: If American track coaches had designed the Great Pyramid, it would have covered 700 acres and topped off at 30 feet!

Training Implications

If coaches are going to use 400 meter repeats to improve running economy, these recoveries need to be long–some believe as much as eight minutes. When recoveries are shorter, the most efficient motor units, those that enable athletes to run with the greatest economy, will not have had their creatine phosphate levels restored, and will thus fatigue more quickly during their next repeat. The result is that athletes will simply run repeats progressively slower. The reduced recovery time will force the athlete to rely on less efficient motor units in order to complete the repeat. If this occurs, the most desirable motor units will never be trained.

This goes back to my basic philosophy: why train slow to run fast? Short recovery intervals of 400 meters would make sense if our athletes competed in stages. In other words, if the event called for sprinting 400 meters, walking for a few minutes, sprinting again, then walking for another few minutes, I suppose short recovery “run to you puke” intervals would make sense. However, I’ve yet to see a race where the winner is the athlete with the lowest total time for six to eight 400 meter efforts, yet according to the principle of specificity, short recovery intervals basically train an athlete for just that kind of performance. It’s like what boxing analysts used to say about Canadian legend George Chuvalo: if every boxing match went 50 rounds, Chuvalo would be the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. Unfortunately, bouts were never designed to best suit a training regimen that was prepared to go well beyond 15 rounds.

The 400 that I need to prepare athletes to run requires a single burst of effort on full stores of creatine phosphate. This kind of effort is physiologically quite different from running 400 meter repeats between short recoveries.

Coaches who still maintain that muscles need to learn to tolerate high levels of lactic acid in order to perform better in the 400 may not realize that lactate levels don’t actually change all that much within muscles during up to 10 minutes of recovery. In other words, current research indicates that lactate levels three minutes after a 400, a relatively short recovery, aren’t that different from the concentration four or five minutes later. However, creatine phosphate does recover fully after eight minutes. This means that it makes far more sense to use longer recoveries, since this will guarantee a complete restoring of CP levels which would be comparable to those the athlete has at the start of a race.

How do you know if your 400 training is effective?

If your program boosts muscle levels of creatine phosphate and their ability to use CP for powerful running, if you increase the muscles’ maximal rate of glycolysis, and if you teach muscles to tolerate upswings in acidity, you’re doing an excellent job preparing your athletes to tun the 400.

What can you do to translate these goals into actual workouts?

First, run 100 meter intervals at close to top speed. Why? CP is broken down at the highest rate during the first 100 meters of 400 meter running. These 100 meter intervals will stimulate muscles to create stores of CP and use it as a powerful energy source.

Second, run 300 meter intervals at near maximum effort. Why? Lactic acid production maximizes after 100 to 200 meters, but begins to decline after 300 meters of high speed running. Thus, 300 meter intervals done at high speed will maximize muscles’ ability to break down glucose quickly.

Third, you can run those 400’s on recoveries of two to three minutes, because they will teach muscles how to perform under high acidity and depleted CP levels.

You might reconsider 200 meter intervals, because the research indicates they may not be physiologically practical. Creatine phosphate levels have already fallen dramatically after the first 100 meters, and really won’t decline that much more during the next hundred meters. Also, by running 200 meter repeats, you’re missing out on the super high rate of glycolysis which occurs after 200 meters–between the 200 meter mark and the end of a 300 meter interval.

I like 100 meter repeats at near max with long recoveries, 300 meter repeats at near max with long recoveries, and short recovery 400’s.

I’ve also become a proponent of sprint bounding exercises, which require the athlete to optimize both the length and speed of each bound so that a prescribed distance is covered with a minimal number of foot contacts in the shortest possible time. Sprint bounding is a great way to enhance leg muscle power, improve flexibility, and heighten coordination.

How do you sprint bound?

On command, an athlete sprint-bounds down the track for 30 meters. Start timing him or her when the foot on the start line breaks contact with the ground. Stop timing when the torso crosses the 30 meter finish line. A second helper is responsible for counting the number of bounds it takes to reach the finish line. This number should be rounded down to the nearest half-bound. If I recall, some sprint bound tables appeared in an NSCA Journal several years back. For example, if it takes an athlete 15.5 bounds to cover 30 meters in 4.5 seconds, the rating would be 15.5 X 4.5 or 69.875. The lower the index, the better the result.

What about other systems, such as endurance and aerobic capacity?

  • For short speed endurance (6-12 seconds) you could try fly 60’s, 75’s, or 90’s.
  • For speed endurance: (12 to 16 seconds), 120’s might be good
  • Special Endurance: (1 to 2 minutes): I’m not a big advocate of longer repeats

If you want to develop aerobic capacity, consider multi-directional movement patterns. In previous posts, this has often been referred to as the continuous warm-up. However, I believe it’s a workout in itself and not a “warm-up” in the conventional sense. Some believe that a ten minute, continuous multi-segment “workout” has benefits equivalent to a 30 minute steady run. Another option would be to go on a ten minute run, do circuits, then go back and do another ten minute run. Again, this is not a workout we do, although it is recommended by many coaches.

The alactic-anaerobic or glycolytic systems can be worked by doing 10 X 40 meters with 20 seconds of recovery between each run. Allow more than five minutes between sets, with a max of three sets. You can also do a repeats of fly 75’s. Take a ten meter fly zone, sprint 75 meters, hit the finish line, and walk back. When performances begin to drop off, shut down the workouts. Most sprinters can get it about 3-4 repeats tops. I’ve also used the 50 second run. Quite simply, the athlete runs as far as he or she can in 50 seconds. We prefer our unique 2000 meter Eight Minute Drill. Athletes run twenty 100 meter repeats trying to drop below eight minutes for their total time. They need to average around 24 seconds per 100. If they run faster, they can then “recover” between repeats. In other words, if an athlete runs a 100 in 15, he can then take about eight seconds before his next repeat. If he doesn’t rest, he must figure on running his hundreds in an average of 24 seconds. Monitor improvement throughout the season.

A great energy system workout would be what Peter Tegen called the 90:10 dynamic run. Take a good warm-up. Run for 90 seconds at steady state pace, then sprint for ten seconds. This kind of dynamic run should last for twelve minutes.

What about taking all this and putting together a weekly program?

First, choose a “focus” for each day of the week. Note that I’ve used the term “focus” rather than “block,” because I don’t believe we can isolate and target one specific component–and that component only–each day of the week.

  • Monday:Acceleration
    Active/Dynamic warm-up with drills that emphasize strength and power. Block
    30’s and 60’s
  • Tuesday:Energy Systems:
    Try any of the extensive tempo workouts I mentioned above, like the 90:10 or the ten minute run, circuit, ten minute run. You could use our Lisle Eight Minute Drill.

    These workouts allow the nervous system to “recover.”

  • Wednesday:Contrast training–lots of fun stuff involving multi-plane movements, deceleration, and re-acceleration
  • Thursday:Speed Development:
    Begin with 20-25 minutes of multi-plane skips, hops, etc. You could then do your 300 repeats, or your 100 meter repeats. Remember to take longer recoveries.

    Your speed development day might also be structured this way:
    Place cyclical activities in your warm-up;
    Workouts involve fly-in sprints (30’s-60’s-75’s)

  • Friday:Return to an energy system workout. Your could do the 10X 40
    Here is where you might do your repeat 400’s with shorter recoveries
  • Saturday:Sprint Bounding or hill work

Assessing the Training Data… Performance Predictions for the 400:

The following assessment has been around for years.

Take the projected time in the 400 and divide by two. That gives the average 200.

Then, take the average 200 minus 1 second to give the first 200 split. Take the average 200 plus 1 second to give the second 200 split.


53 seconds divided by 2 = 26.5
1st 200 – 1.0 = 25.5
2nd 200 + 1.0 = 27.5

Younger athletes:

200 Personal Best X 2 + (4.5-7)
26 X 2 = 52 + 4.5-7 = 56.5-59

Establish each athlete’s maximum 30 and 60 fly speed

60 meters in 6.1 comes out to a maximum velocity of 10 meters per second (60 meters divided by 6 seconds)

The fly-in 150 is the classic speed endurance assessment. Start the fly 150 with just enough fly zone to overcome inertia–about five meters. Take 150 divided by the time run; this will give you meters per second.

Next, compare the athlete’s maximum velocity in meters per second to his or her meters per second over 150. If the time for 150 meters is 20 seconds, the “speed end” is 7.5 meters per second. For a maximum velocity of 10 meters per second, this speed end is 75% (7.5 divided by 10)

Speed endurance should be as close to maximum velocity as possible. Most prep athletes can run about 80% of their max velocity over 400 meters. The top quarter milers are between 85 and 90%.

The higher the athlete’s speed end, the better suited that runner will be for the 400 meter dash. A fly 150 in 20 seconds is excellent, but remember these efforts should be viewed in comparison to maximum velocity.

Here is another example. If an athlete run his 30 meter fly in 3.6, his meters per second (mps) = 8.3 80% of 8.3 = 6.6 meters per second.

400 meters divided by 6.6 = 60.6– Therefore, an athlete with 3.6 fly speed, and a speed end of 80%, should be able to run 60.6 for the 400 meters. This same athlete will be running the 100 in the 12.4 to 12.5 range.

You can even run these 150’s not just as an initial test of speed endurance, but to assess this athlete’s progress. For example, for the athlete with 3.6 fly speed, his time for 150 should be 22.7 (150 divided by 6.6) Remember, 6.6 is his 80% speed end for a max velocity of 8.3. As his meters per second improves, so will his 400 time.

You can do this with 300’s as well. Running 300’s in 6.6 meters per second would give a time of 45.5. This comes out to 15.1 per 100 meters, or 60.4 for 400. Times faster than 45.5 will indicate increases in the speed end.

You can even use these tests to assess goals. Let’s say you wanted your athlete to run the open 400 in 52.0. The meters per second needed to run this time is 400 divided by 52, or 7.7 mps. For this athlete, 7.7 meters per second is 93% of his maximum velocity of 8.3 meters per second. Clearly, your athlete with 3.6 fly speed is not going to negotiate the 400 in 52 with this speed component! To get to a 52.0, he would need to have a maximum velocity of 9.6 meters per second. For a 9.6 meters per second maximum velocity, this athlete needs to run his 30 fly sprints in the 3.1 to 3.2 range. This sprinter is then running in the 11.4 to 11.5 range in the 100 and between 22.9 to 23.2 in the 200. Going back to our original formula: 23.2 X 2 = 46.4 + (4.5-7). 46.4 + 5.5 = 51.9 It is always better–and easier– to lock in speed before speed endurance.

Here’s an example of how this relates to world class performances:

In order to run 44 seconds in the 400, an athlete needs to run 9.1 meters per second. Using 80% as the speed end, this athlete needs to be able to run a maximum velocity of 11.4 meters per second. For 30 meters, this athlete is running in the 2.5’s. Many speed charts will note that an athlete running 2.56 to 2.59 is capable of running 10.2 to 10.3 in the 100 meters. The best male sprinters can actually run 12 meters per second, and the best women sprinters 11 meters per second.

On the basis of this data, what is the most effective means for improving meters per second for the 400 meter dash?

To answer this, consider the following closing thoughts:

I believe that prep athletes can be frustrated by endless repeats designed to build special endurance. This special endurance, the element that seems the most sensible to work during training, may actually “lock-in” patterns you don’t want.

Further, movement patterns are dictated by what is most rehearsed. If your athletes consistently train for this event by running longer repeats, they will be rehearsing an ineffective sub maximal motor pattern. In my opinion, concentrating on speed is the easiest and most sensible way to improve meters per second.

I’ve found that many of my athletes have become pretty good 400 meter runners often through fly-in 30 meter sprints.

As Owen Anderson once said:

“The best gains in performance will be achieved when key parts of our training closely mimic what we do when we compete. To put it another way, the more specific to training, the greater the impact of training on performance. As the specificity of our training increases, the likelihood that training induced physiological gains will actually be beneficial in competition also increases.”

To run fast, train fast. I believe this logic should never be overlooked in any sprint race–especially the 400.

Kindest regards,

Ken Jakalski
Lisle High School
Lisle, Illinois

*Don’t forget to sign all letters with full name and city of residence if you
wish them to be published!

Jimson Lee

Jimson Lee

Coach & Founder at SpeedEndurance.com
I am a Masters Athlete and Coach currently based in London UK. My other projects include the Bud Winter Foundation, writer for the IAAF New Studies in Athletics Journal (NSA) and a member of the Track & Field Writers of America.
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
  • Great article.
    My son is running track at a Divsion II school (Great Lakes Valley Conference). His coach is advising him to take creatine to improve his 400 meter run. I’m skeptical. What advice should I give him?

  • Good article built around sound fact. Speed is the key to most events and should never be overlooked.
    In Europe (Sweden) where I live, speed is generally overlooked in events above 400. An emphasis on speed helps middle distance runners as well. Speed is certainly an important component in the 800.

    Long live speed!!!

    Jeremy Pryce
    Mölndal, Sweden

  • @Jeremy – Good point.

    Your 800 meter time is based on your 400 meter time (double +10 sec?)
    Your 400 meter time is based on your 200 meter time (double + 3.5 sec?)
    Your 200 meter time is based on your 100 meter time (double +/- 0.2 sec?)
    Your 100 meter time is based on your 60 meter time.

    It all comes down to raw speed.

    If I had a high school kid running 20.80, i could train him long-to-short or short-to-long and he would still run 46 mid. Getting him into the low 45’s would be another story,

  • i was wondering if you guys could send me some coaching tips on the 200 and 400 meters my problems is i start off to fast in the 4 and end out very slow. in the 200 i ran a 23.73 but i need a few tips on how to get that daon to at least a high 22 my e-mail address is wdb689@comcast.net

  • I have a sprinter thats running 22.53 seconds for the 200 meter dsah as of right now. I did a calculations of his times and saw that his 200 meter times were off by 47 tenths. he should be running between 22.06 and 22.11 seconds. What type of workout would be good to get him where he should be.


  • @Charles – 3.07.3 means the leadoff guy runs 47.57 and the other 3 averages 46.57 on the “fly” – with a running start. That is a *very* good time for youths.

    I assume you mean 2.56.1 – which is 44.77 leadoff and 43.77 ave for the next 3 guys.

    To run 44.77, you have to be able to run an open 200m in 20 low, with splits of 21 low and 23 low in the open 400m. You would split 300m at around 32 or 33 seconds.

    Those are world class times.

  • forgive me i ment I have some youth girls that ran the 4 x 400 in 4.07.1 sorry about that. can you tell me what there 200 and 300 meter split should be to run a 3.56.1 time

  • @Charles – 59.77 leadoff with blocks and 3 runners in 58.77 flying start would give you 3:56.1

    A 27.88 open 200m time would give them splits of 28.88 and 30.88 respectively.

  • i ran the 400 last yr n had a 68 as my time in 8th grade this yr my 1rst time running it this yr i had a 66 while running a 4×4 with my teammates i run a 28 in the 200 and i calculated that i should at least be running a 59.5 what should i do to get where i need to be im a freshmen and i know i can be real great by my senior yr any tips to get 59 in my 4oo what workouts should i do

  • @Tammy – first, I would consult your high school coach.

    The 2 biggest factors in 400 meter training is:

    1) are you training long to short, or short to long? Are you doing a lot of “slow” intervals or lots of speedwork? When I mean “slow” I mean slower than race pace.

    If you want to run 59, that means splits of 27.5 & 31.5 APPROX. Which means, are you running the speed of 13+ for 100m in practice? You can pro-rate that time for an euqivalent 60m or 80m time. Your body has to get used to running at race pace.

    2) are you a 200-400 or 400-800 type of runner? This makes a difference in your whole program. You are either (genetically) fast-quick or have good endurance.

    Hope this helps.

  • I am 15year old boy and I would lke to know I should I run my 400m. My 200m time is 24.22 and my currrent 400m time is 56.19. What should I do to be running 52.00seconds in this event. How should I approach this race.

  • @Jerrano – a 200m PB of 24 means you should run 25 and 27 splits for a 52 400m providing you do the training.

    You HS coach should approach your training long to short, or short to long.

    Let’s take a look at short to long. If you start working on your speed at shorter distances, and if your 200m time drops to 23, then that makes 25 and 27 easier based on your “speed reserve”.

    Typical workouts for this is 1X per week do 2 x 250m at near top speed – the same speed of a 400m race. Then extend that distance every week until you are able to do 2 x 325m at that speed. Some coaches believe in 3 sets, all with a full 10-20 minute recovery, depending on the speed.

    Of course, this is such a small picture – there are a lot of components to training. Even the easy days you should be doing 10x100m or 20x100m on a grass surface at 70% speed.

    Also, your coach would correct your form through various drills.

  • well i dont know if im genectically fast i just know i got a big heart for track and im really commited my coach said my 2 races are the 400 and the800 thats mainly what i do my time for the 800 is currently 238.5 n now my time for the 400 is a 62.4 im actually happy since the last time i wrote you but now i know i can break 60 seconds n i have good endurance and my coach makes us go all out at practice i just wanna know how can i get even better litte advices i shold do while doing my workouts because by 11th grade i really wanna be 218 n the 800 and 56 0r better n the 400 plz and thankyou

  • @Tammy – Yes, please take your advice from your coach and parents!

    While I’m not in a position to give detailed workouts without knowing an athlete’s background, you may want to get some sample workouts from this book by Mark Guthrie:


    Of course, your volume and times will vary, but you can get a good idea of the type of program required to run a good 400, and eventually a good 800 with some aerobic workouts.

  • This is a two part request.
    1) I have a daugther that is a freshmen in high school. Her coach is by title only. He means well, but does not seem to have the background to help her. Amethyst PB is 27.9 in the 200m and 63 in the 400m. She accomplished these times in regular tennis shoes. I thought if we got her cleats, it would improve her times slightly. The shoes have been a blessing and a curse. The times have not gotten any worse but she complains of a pain on the top of her left foot. Any thoughts on this symptom?
    2) Could you recommend a workout routine we could perform over the summer?

    Thanks a million, a very concerned father

  • @Robert – Your daughter’s foot is probably caused by running counter-clockwise (i.e. left foot) using unstable shoes that don;t flex very well.

    I recommend getting a pair of regular running shoes. You don’t need to invest in “spikes” unless she plans to take Track seriously, but they will improve her time on a rubber track.

    In general, I like to see 2 (or 3) “hard” workouts a week

    One workout is focused on speed-endurance. For example, after a good warmup and stretch and a few strides, do 2 x 250m and build up to 2 x 325m. Take 15-20 min break between the two. These are performed at near top speed, but not all out. The goal is anywhere from 30 – 40 seconds.

    The other workout is to focus on short speed work over short distances. i.e. 4 x 60 meters, 1 x 80m, 1 x 100m, 1x120m. Make sure you are fully recovered before starting the next run. Eventually add a 1x150m at the end of the workout. Quality runs are a must in these workouts.

    Also, if time and motivation permits, the other 2 or 3 days a week should be “tempo” such as 1-2 sets of 10 x 100m on grass surface at 70% of max speed. (70% is about 20 seconds for a 100 meters). These will help her aerobic capacity and flush out any lactic acid from the hard workouts.

    Of course, any body weight stuff is good too like sit-ups and push-ups.

    I hope that’s a general guideline.


  • I run varsity track at my high school in the 100m and 4x100m. I really would like to run the 4×400 because i know i could. My Personal best for my 100m is a 10.9 and my 400 Personal is a 54.7, my 200m person is 23.87, i need to be 50.5 or 51 to be able to compete in the 4X400m. Is there anyting i could do to improve my 400m?

  • I have this track meet in june and i want to ru n 52-53 tell how should i run my 400meters.should i start fast and run my first 200m in 25 or run it at about 27.my 200 meter time is 24.22

  • Howdy,

    Great article of indepth information. I really enjoyed reading it. I’ve always loved the 400m after watching as a young kid, Eric Liddell from Chariots of Fire with his Christian conviction of not running on Sunday and then running the 400m. I’m just getting back onto the track after a full achilles tendon rupture a little over a year now. Recently, I went out to see my fitness level on the track after a year layoff from my injury and ran a 61sec 400m according to my clocking. Is it possible to request a training program for a potential sub 55sec 400m sprinter and also a training program for a potential sub 50sec sprinter.

    Thank you so much for the awesome insight into 400m training.


  • I am going to try and walk-on to my college track team. I need to be able to run the 400 in about 48-49 seconds. So I need to cut my time by about 2 seconds. Try-outs are in the beginning of January so I was wondering if its possible with the right training to cut 2-3 seconds in 3 1/2 months. And if it is, what kind of training would I need to do? I love to run, but have never trained to seriously. So I feel if I do get a good program and stick to it, I could make the team and continue to improve from there. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  • I am a junior in highshcool finishing up the cross country season (lots of crazy miles). Although, cross country isn’t my sport… I just do it to hold my endurance and get me into shape for winter training(for the 400). The winter of my sophomore year I trained every day religiously with repeats and a fast 2-3 mile run (to hold my endurance) and only dropped my time one second from my freshman year (53 low to a 52 low)…
    I have more potential and I believe I was doing the wrong kind of training…
    I understand this article and the idea of strict speed training(which I failed to include that winter) but it mentions nothing that I read of the weight room.
    Is it something important to include??
    and if so… what should be done in it to help build for this event…

  • @ Justin Jones – you don’t mention your previous events or PBs, so I don’t know if you should train long-to-short or short-to-long?

  • I focused on the 400 and 800 in high school. My PB for the 800 was 2:00:12 and my PB for the 400 was 50.11 open time and a 49.92 in the first leg of a 1600 meter relay. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  • my freshman year i ran a 53.08 400 meters and i was woundring what i will get my senior year and in the 200 meter i ran a 24.46 so what will i get my senior year

  • im a fresher . my PB of 200m & 400m is 23.79 & 53.97 respectively.But my 800m timing is really very slow of 2.13.85. i want to do my best to improve my 800m. can you please help me out. And can you tell me the reason why so vast diffrence between my timing of 400m & 800m.

  • @Saurabh – your “laps” for an 800 meter should be about 5 seconds slower than your 400m PB. You should be able to break 2:00 with that speed!

    If you want to move up to the 800m, I recommend aerobic training as a start. begin with 20-30 mins 3 times a week, even if it means an early morning run session.

    Run or grass surface, or in the pool is best to avoid the waer and tear on your legs.

  • thanks jimson for your advice. but i have an doubt .as i said you my PB of 200m is 23.79, 400m is 53.97 & 800m is 2.13.85. i want to concentrate on an single event either 200m, 400m or 800m.can you please tell me which is the best for me? And during Training should i practice in my spikes or normal shoes. I practice in a mud track.

  • @Saurabh – There’s no doubt in my mind your best event is the 200/400 with the 200 meter as the better event. Training will help you improve your 400m.

    I would wear spikes for shorter distances, say anything under 150m. Flats are fine for over distant work.

    I use long spikes needles, on an old pair of spikes, and do my speedwork on a grass surface.

  • i run about a 12 second 100 meter last year, and my best 400 meter was 55, but i started lifting, and i feel light on my feet. And the we just started track, maybe a week and a half into, and the first practice meet i ran a 55 sec with ease somewhat, but im not in shape i don’t think like heavy breathing wise. But i think my speed became faster, but i was really wondering how low i can get in the 400 meter. My assistant coach says i can probably run a 49 secs by May. What do you think, could i do that or less.

  • @John – extrapolated guidelines for the 100/200/400 are 12/24/52 and 11.5/23.0/50 and 11/22/48.

    If you ran 12sec for 100m, but 55 for 400m, then I would say you need to work on your speed endurance (and special endurance) IF you choose 400m as your event.

    Your event may not be the 400m. What is your 200m time?

  • I am 23 years old and still running 49-50’s in the quarter. As the 2009 season progresses I have ran 6 meets and I haven’t broken 50 seconds yet. However, I broke it quite a bit last season. Am I getting to old? I did start sprinting late in my life though. I’ve also been training like crazy with my college coach. What to do??

  • @Jeff – are you training long to short or short to long? When I trained long to short, I would start my season with a 51 point in June, but finish in 49 point in August.

    You could also be over training, or just in the middle of a heavy volume cycle.

    Once you adjust your training, and peak for a meet, I am sure will will get back to 49 range, barring injuries.

  • I ran this saturday a 52.8 400 meter for our 4×400 relay, but i also ran an 11.8 100 meter, which my 100 meter time drop by .2, do u think i can get down to around 50 flat or close to there by the end of the season, we still have a month till state qualifiers

  • @John – an 11.8 translates to 50.7 – 51.2. It’s still April, and early in the season, so if your speed improves, and you keep up your Speed endurance and Special endurance type training, it might be possible. A 1.5 second drop is common in the course of a season, with all the pieces fitting together.

  • Thanks for answer the question, and just to inform you i ran a 50.8 in the 4×400 relay, but do u think i can go 50 flat or even break it, for some more information, i also ran a 24.1 200 meter, but idk if put all my effort into it because its not as exciting, in which i think i could have maybe drop another .1 or .2


  • I love athletics and used to run the 400 in 49.65 and the 200 in 22.40 when i was in my early 20s. I am now 29 and although i still like to keep in shape i haven’t compete for a few years. I now live in the UK and would like to get back to the track and give it another go. I would appreciate if you could give me some advice and training tips because i don’t know where to start.


  • @Paul – My first advice would be (1) get back in shape if you have not worked out in a while (2) work on muscles and tendons associated with sprinting, i.e. light plyos, weights, etc (3) do all running on grass surfaces at first (4) lose some weight if you have gained weight in the past 10 years.

    Everything else (i.e training plans) is on this Blog. You can always Jim Hiserman’s workouts, or even Irena Szewinska workout guide which focuses a 49-51 sec 400 meter performance for female athletes, which is close to a Male Master’s sprinter.

  • Hello, I am a sophmore in highschool. My fastest 100 is 10.91, 200 is 22.6, and my 400 is 49.6. I can go a lot faster, but I have very poor knee lift and very little stride. I was wondering so you have excercises that would help improve flexibility and knee lift to improve my overall stride length.

  • I am a 400/800. this is my senior year in high school. 400 PB=50.00 800 PB=2:00.00. i run cross country and as soon as its over i need to start working on track. what kind of weights should i lift and what is the best type of workout plan for me i want to run 48 and 156 at least

  • Hello,

    Im in the process of recovering from surgery. I had a hernia fixed and, once im cleared i will pick up training for indoor 400 meter competition. Before my operation i was running 24×100 in 16.6-17.4 sec. grass strides with 30 sec rest, 4 mile runs, and plyosmertics (single,double leg hops, lunges for 25 meters). Im unsure if i should start with jogging or speed grass work when i return from my recovery and because i’ve trained earlier should I continue intense training for start off training light with maybe shorter distance workouts.


  • @Reuben – if you just had surgery, I would focus on fitness and general strength first. Heath first. And yes, I would train on grass surfaces. Forget the track for a couple of months.

    • Jimson I run the 400 extremely slow 59.9 I’m a junior and my high school has horrible coaching. I would like too self assess myself during the off season to improve my time to at least the 50-51 range I always wear running shoes although I have spikes because my school does not own a track nor is there a local one to use and I don’t want to run with them when I have not practiced in them. I would enjoy some advice.

  • hi jimson!

    i’m in high school and this athletics competition in our school is starting in two weeks time. we have different seasons at different times of the year and the soccer season just got over. i was on the soccer team, so i’m not physically lagging, and the athetic season just started and unfortunately, the term is coming to an end so they have preponed the competition.

    i run the 400 and timed 59 last year. can u please advise me on what can i do in these two weeks to improve my timing? i’m 15 years of age at the moment. thank you!


  • my question is this year i m going to prepare for 800 mtr and 400 mtr so please give me some tips about the workout so i can do superb in the competition

  • i’m 19yrs, 400 meters and 400hurdles runing 56secs and 60sec on hurdles need full endurance in the 400meters dash and 400hurdles what can i do to run a better time

  • i’m a freshman girl this year in highschool and i run about 59s for the 400 meter. My coach wants me to train for sprinting events, while I want to start doing mid-distance events. My 200meter time around 25.5s (27.5s indoors)and my mile time is 5:40. Do you think I should focus more on shorter or longer distannce events? I’m currently doing the 400meter and under

  • I have a personal best of 21.49s on 200m but yet i am not capable of running under 48s on the 400m ..how can i improve my time to, lets say 46s??

  • My father who is 70 wants to run a 400m in a month. He used to run a while ago and he walks a few miles everyday. What kind of routine should he have to work up to running a 400m – (if his doctor says ok.)

  • I currently run the 400 meter dash for a Juco school. Problem is we dont like weights on a efficient rate. What shall I do? My fastest 400 is a split of 46.99

  • Hi Jimson

    I am a 41 year old sprinter and have made a comeback in the past 12 months after a 23 year absence.

    I have read with interest the various schools of thought on sprint training in general and the 400m in particular – the train fast to run fast vs. train slow to run fast (Clyde Hart) and the kind of middle ground approach.

    This article is the most compelling thing I have read so far, and I would like know how to expand the info provided into an annual training plan for a talented 17 year old at my club who is in dire need of proper coaching, and also to be able to scale it down for myself ;-)

    Lisle does give a pretty good indication of a weekly program, but how would you break that down in terms of general prep, specific prep and comp phase?

    Thanks for all that you do for our sport!!!

      • Thanks Jimson, I had previously watched this video about periodisation and phases.
        What I am trying to figure out is where Lisle’s example of a weekly program fits into the overall season? Can his weekly schedule be followed from day 1 right through the season by varying volumes/intensities as the season progresses?

        I’d be happy to pay for an annual program based on Lisle’s principles. The challenge I am facing is that there is so much information out there, and whereas some authors have packaged up their programs for sale, I don’t necessarily buy into everything they say. I suppose I’m trying to cobble together a SuperProgram, based on complementary elements from different coaches.

        Information overload! ;-)

        • @Micheal, yes, I’ve been hearing your frustrations from a lot of readers lately. There are several sites always pushing products, whereas SpeedEndurance doesn’t “sell” books or DVD directly (exception to my Bud Winter update on the Rocket Sprint Start). Maybe it’s time to cross over to the “dark side” and go commercial?

          • @Jimson – No one could blame you! This stuff takes hundreds of hours to grasp and assimilate into your existing knowledge
            /experience base. And there’s new research coming out all the time…
            Coaches at my club are all volunteers and provide a valuable service to the community, but I have seen little evidence of knowledge of the latest (proven) methods, or even of the classification of sprint training methods vocabulary as per Michael Khmel.

            I am trying to educate myself on this subject and put together a framework which other coaches can use to benefit the young athletes in our catchment area , and also for my own training. I’m loving the journey, but sometimes feel overwhelmed ;-)

            I’ll put in the hours to the best of my ability, and perhaps you can cast a critical eye over the program once it’s done? I’m trying to fuse the best of the Marc Mangiacotti two triangle approach, Hiserman and Lisle into a kick-ass train fast to run fast program that can be modified according to user age, gender, ability etc. Probably hopelessly ambitious – but the most worthwhile things usually are!

  • Hello. I run the 400, and I used to do hurdles but had to stop because it hurt. My 400 time is a 54.1 . I have a tendency to repeat times. We didn’t ever do anything in practise, so I would just get times weekly from races. I got a 56.5 twice, then a 55.1 three times and then finally a 54.1. I am a sophomore in highschool. I have thought of my self as relatively good, as I have always been one of the best in the area. But I go online and sophomores say they are running 48’s and so I need to get better. I have all through winter because track is in spring here. I was wondering how I would get my times down to around 50-51 before spring. I also do soccer and swimming if that helps or affects anything. Please help because there isn’t anyone near where I live that actually knows everything and the Internet is kinda confusing when I read it…

  • hi
    is the 100 mtrs repeats done at near max all season or just during the competitive end of the season,is it short recovery,s for the 400 mtrs repeats during the off season and longer recoverie,s coming up closer to competition

  • I am a 14 year old girl and I do 400m, 200m and 100m sprints but I have sports Asthma. Every time I find it hard to breathe, I was wondering if there is some way to build up my lung capacity so I can easily do the sprints

  • I saw the 1OOM sprints to work on production of CP and the 300m workouts to work on the breakdown of glucose. What should the rest break be for each workout?

  • I am confused as to why the author is recommending repeat 400s with a short recovery (2-3 minutes) when he says earlier that it basically trains the athlete to run slower. Is the runner supposed to be running at 400m race pace and then try to repeat that same time with only 2-3 minutes rest? How many repeats? I have noticed a significant drop in performance just running the second one.