Volume-of-Quality Training and the Inverted Pyramid

If you’ve been to Le Louvre museum in Paris, then you’ve seen the inverted pyramid.

However, in the coaching world of athletics, we always use a regular pyramid base, primarily the GPP or General Physical Preparedness as the “base”.  See my other articles on periodization.

John Wooden is a great example.   Charlie Francis’ “vertical integration” concept does all components of training all the time.  Only the volume and intensity changes slightly throughout the year.

This works for sprinters, and many middle distance and long distance coaches use the same regular pyramid principle.  That is, build an aerobic base first, then add speed work as the competition approaches for middle and long distance coaches.

Chances are, if you coach middle distance and long distance, then you have to blend the fall cross country and winter/spring/summer track seasons together.  Think “double periodization”.

Out of the Box Thinking

Dan Kaplan Volume-of-Quality Sometimes we have to think out of the box to get success.  Ask questions. Trust no one.

So when I read Dan Kaplan’s VOQ Training for Cross Country & Track, I have to admit it was a refreshing read.

Dan Kaplan has coached Cross Country and Track & Field at Willamette University and McKay High School in Salem, Oregon. His coaching and competitive background includes a mixture of sprint and distance events, which is probably why quality track sessions are emphasized, and not simply going out and do garbage mileage.

If you are a 400m coach or athlete and are considering moving up to the 800 meters, then this book is a MUST READ.

Here are some of the points I liked about the book.

First, I admit I am biased because I believe (at least for 800m runners) that speed and quality track workouts are the key.   Yes, there is the Lydiard approach, but if you have athletes for a few years in high school or College, you have to get that quality speed work in.  The splits they attain in practice is also the BEST confidence booster they need for races.  In my opinion, it’d better than any sports psychologist in the world.

As a coach, you are judged and measured by results.  Sure, you want your athletes to PR every time, and it all starts with proper planning from Day 1.

In this book, you have a coaching manual from a live, real, complete season with all the workouts, and detailed explanation on the how’s and why’s each workout is being used.  You have the daily and weekly workouts used for an entire season.  How many coaches do that?  

The appendix at the end explains several workouts including the Russian Drill 200’s, breakdown 800’s, and 110m cone drills for 800m runners.  For 1500m and milers, he discusses the classic 12x400m and the 4×300/2×800/3×400 workout!

Tapering and Rest is also discussed in detail, and Dan and I share the same philosophy, coming from a sprint background.

The key to the inverted or upside-down pyramid is having a huge “base” on top which consists of consistency and year-round racing “readiness”.  This is quite contradictory from the traditional “do the aerobic base first, then add speed work later” methods.

VOQ Training is written primarily for High School and College coaches,  but exercise physiology students will enjoy this as he discusses VO2 max, Lactate Threshold,aerobic capacity all in simplistic detail.

At a high level, you can copy and past this book to your training, but your case will be different because of the differences in the athletes’ background and the number (and timing) of your race schedule, both cross country and track.  You want to make sure you peak at the right time.

You can order the book directly from the website at http://voqtraining.com/ or buy it on Amazon.

Dan Kaplan can be reached at dan [AT] run-down.com and http://run-down.com/.


  1. Oyvind says

    The 800m olympic champion in Atlanta 1996, Vedbjørn Rodal, had a similar way of training. He developed all the skills required for 800m running at the same time. Sprint, airobe, anairobe, plyometrics etc… all year round. He still has the olympic record.

    This seems logical to me, since physical skills, espesially airobe capasity drops fast when not maintained. However, there is a 1000 ways to train. But when a white, northern european runs 1.42 for the 800, he has to do something right ;)

    • Jimson Lee says

      @Oyvind, I think for a professional athletes, the key should be “always ready, at any time”. You get paid to perform. So with meets ranging from May to Sept, that’s one long peak. There are some rare cases, like 200m sprinter Kenteris who barely raced at all.

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