A Total Sprint-Training Program for Maximum Strength, Power, Sprint Speed & Core Strength

This article is guest blogged by Jim Hiserman, author of the books Program Design Method for Sprints & Hurdle Training and Strength and Power for Maximum Speed

This is a 5 part series:

Part 1 – A Total Sprint-Training Program for Maximum Strength & Power, Core Strength, and Maximum Sprint Speed.
Part 2 – A Sprint & Hurdles Program Design Overview
Part 3 – Training for Development of Maximum Speed
Part 4 – Basic and Advanced Technical Models, including Proper Execution of Key Drills
Part 5 – Speed throughout the Training Year

Part 1 – A Total Sprint-Training Program for Maximum Strength, Power, Sprint Speed & Core Strength

The recent article on 400/800 lactate tolerance workouts for 400 sprinters brings up the differing opinions of SHORT TO LONG vs. LONG TO SHORT philosophies.

I am currently consulting former athletes who are now in the “higher volume, shorter rests, slower speeds builds strength” type programs. While the concept of “building speed/strength endurance” through this method of training for 400 meters has been strengthened by the Clyde Hart approach, it is necessary to re-visit the PROVEN PRINCIPLES of Speed Development that apply to the 400 meters as well.

Unless coaches are blessed with athletes like Michael Johnson, Jeremy Wariner or Sanya Richards, it is best to remember that there are various types of physiologies that can be successful at sprinting over 400 meters and no ONE METHOD fits everyone.

There are, however, some basic bio-mechanical principles that must enter into the development of sprinters regardless of the sprint race distance (60-400 meters).

The Sprint Training Goal should be aimed at getting athletes to develop and properly execute FRONT SIDE MECHANICS at Maximum Velocity. If this seems odd to coaches involved with training 400 meter runners it might be best to examine a few critical principles of sprint biomechanics that will affect sprinting at all distances.

  • Sprinters who spend more time on the Front Side Mechanics will be the faster at all sprint distances given everything else being equal.
  • Forces produced during the first half of Ground Contact are greater than those produced in the last half (Front Side Mechanics vs. Back Side Mechanics).
  • Faster sprinters are those that end their Ground Contact earlier and reduce the time needed to get back to Front Side Mechanics.
  • Once an athlete reverts back to Back Side Mechanics due to fatigue, they cannot regain Front Side Mechanics and are limited to the inferior BSM and resultant inferior performance.

Obviously, a more efficient sprinter reduces Horizontal Braking Forces with proper Front Side Mechanics. It is also apparent that the sprinters who spend more time on the Front Side of Ground Contact will be the faster/more effective and efficient sprinters.

Mixed workouts such as 3 x 40m w/2’ & 5’, 1 x 250m Race Model w/10’, 3 x 30m w/2’ & 5’, 1 x 180m Race Model will help to develop high speed sprint mechanics in addition to providing the speed endurance/ lactate tolerance necessary for 400 meter training, yet it is easier to find more high schools using a 5 x 300 w/ 5’( at 85% of 400 pace) workout to build that “strength”.

The Million Dollar Question for coaches to answer is this: How in the world do you teach such high speed, properly programmed Central Nervous System movements without incorporating precise and high speed sprinting throughout the entire training year?

Why are there so many coaches who spend all Fall with slower paced, higher volume work that gradually transitions from extensive tempo type work to intensive tempo work?

Why can’t high-speed work exist year round in varying amounts?

I think it would be worthwhile for coaches to take a look at the LSU and Texas A&M Fall, Winter and Spring Sprint Workout Plans. Texas A&M, with Pat Henry bringing the LSU Model with him to College Station, has begun the foundation for turning out world class performers in the future.

LSU (under coaches Henry and Shaver) has consistently produced high-level sprinters (100,200 and 400), hurdlers (short and 400H) and relay teams over almost two decades. What is important to note is NOT that they get high-level talent BUT their sprinters and hurdlers continue to develop after their collegiate eligibility has expired. Most continue with the same training system (LoLo Jones) with people like Muna Lee re-emerging on the World Scene after training in other systems and returning to work with Coach Henry.

For coaches willing to examine the elements necessary for the development of sprint training programs, there is much to be gained by looking at those programs that have been CONSISTENTLY successful at developing their athletes from year to year.

There is an enormous amount of research-proven information available

In regards to sprint performance — covering such areas as sprint mechanics, hurdle mechanics, energy-system physiology, strength training, power training, plyometrics, proper warm-up, core development, race models, etc.

But simply knowing all the components is not enough. The challenge is to take all this relevant knowledge and communicate it to athletes in the form of a structured and progressive training program.

The challenge in designing such a “Total Sprint-Training Program” for collegiate and/or high school sprinters and hurdlers is to balance the workloads between the sprint workouts and the weight room for each day and week, and to make sure that they follow the same weekly emphasis.

This integration of training for:

  1. maximum strength/power,
  2. core strength training, and
  3. maximum sprint speed, should be the desired goal of sprint/hurdle coaches.

The program design should be constantly upgraded using the latest research findings. In addition, integration of successful training from many of the successful coaches who have shared their methods of sprint training in articles, books and seminars should be an ongoing process of upgrading training programs.

The design of a successful program combines all the vital components that have been shown to improve sprint performance into an effective and periodized plan — one that can be adapted to the individualized needs of the various talent levels that may exist within any specific training group.

Through frequent testing, the appropriate and specific volumes and intensities of the various training components can be prescribed on an individual basis without any other deviation from the day’s workout.

This type of program design provides a model for the creation of sprint programs capable of providing improvements in the strength, power, speed and speed endurance of athletes over a number of years as well as the current season. It also provides for individual program adjustments so that athletes can continue to move to higher levels.

NOTE: Sprinting and hurdling are closely related — the development of maximum speed is a primary factor in hurdle training as well as sprint training. Although there is nothing about hurdling technique in these articles, the program design template is meant to apply to hurdlers as well as sprinters. The blending of components for hurdle skill and rhythm into the daily workout plans where they apply can be done on an individual basis depending on the skill levels of hurdlers involved.

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
  • I wanted to note an excellent video clip you have which demonstrates your point on FSM v BSM. You have a you tube clip of Szewinska overtaking Koch in the 400m back around 81. In the last 100m you can see the maintenance of front side for Szewinksa and the slight deterioration of Koch toward backside. Szewinska gains a couple m over the last 100 with the mechanics. This demonstrates your point as well as anything. Very nice.

    Pat Pawlowski
    San Ramon CA

    • Yes. This is a very good clip for review.

      As an aside but interesting, it has been proven in training and competition for powerlifters and weightlifters that maximal weight as well as maximal speed in lifting can be trained all year round. I find the comments supporting short to long emphasizing front end to be logical. An issue comes up for my youth athletes in that they begin with inadequate glute/ham strength for front end work over more than short distances. This seems to improve only with a combination of regular front end practice and glute/ham raises alternated with deadllifts. An issue I run into is that my guys play soccer most of the year and sprint only in the spring. Techniques are considerably different and my emphasis is on soccer but I regularly send quality sprinters to the HS track coaches. I had to discontinue AAU work due to time limitations.