Last Updated on July 30, 2012 by Jimson Lee
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
GREATER STRENGTH = FASTER TIMES
Development of mechanically sound sprint technique and the improvement of Strength and Power are of equal importance in the quest to develop faster sprinters at all sprint distances. Sprinting at the highest level possible, for anyone, is all about the direction and magnitude of force application into the track.
Proven strength programs, that provide the optimum mix of Maximum Strength, Explosive Strength and Elastic Strength Training, form an equal partnership with mechanically sound sprint training techniques in the improvement of maximum sprint speed by improving the magnitude of these force applications.
Sprint race distances of 100, 200 and 400 meters all require attention to the development of sound sprint mechanics along with the elevation of strength and power levels required for increased mechanical efficiency at all distances.
Although all sprinters require consistent work on sprint mechanics, the demands of sprinting over distances ranging from 100 to 400 meters requires sprint training plans that work on a variety of different energy systems. These energy system specific workouts must be blended into the overall training plan according to the specific energy system demands of each sprinter’s primary race distance. It would be a mistake to neglect any of the energy systems in the planning of a 400 runner, while training for the 100 “could” allow for avoidance of the Special Endurance II work beyond 300 meters.
Sprinting at all distances also requires consistent work on the continual development of strength and power levels in order to allow for the optimum mechanical efficiency of each individual. Mechanical efficiency is of primary importance in all phases of each sprint race distance, but absolutely critical in the final phase of each sprint. The ability to battle deceleration in the closing meters of sprint races is dependent on the mechanical efficiency of each sprinter. This efficiency is acquired through a highly planned training program integrating sound sprint mechanics, proper strength and power training and energy system training that is consistent with the race distance.
Two studies demonstrating the importance of strength and power development in the training of sprinters are of particular interest to 400 meter runners. One study used World Class, National Class and Regional Class 400 meter runners. The other used 400 meter runners split into two groups; sub 50 second performers and those over 50 seconds.
In VELOCITY AND STRIDE PARAMETERS IN THE 400 METERS, (Gajer, B., Hannan, C. and Thepaut-Mathieu, NSA by IAAF, Vol. 22, #3, 2007) the authors found that the notable differences between the peak and final stride length during the 400 was significantly greater for the World Class runners than for the National or Regional Class runners. Stride frequency did not provide any significant differences between the groups but the stride length was significantly greater for the World Class groups (Men & Women) with resultant lower stride numbers (185, 193, 198) for female World, National and Regional groups and 172, 179 and 182 for the respective male groups. Since the body-type characteristics of the runners were similar, the results seem to indicate greater maximal strength levels differentiated the World Class groups from the other two groups.
This seems to be consistent with the findings in Speed Strength Endurance and 400 Meter Performance (Paixao-Miguel, P. and Machado-Reis, V., NSA by IAAF, Vol. 19, #4, 2004).
In this study the authors found that Explosive Strength and Explosive Strength Endurance seem to be associated with higher levels of performance at 400 meters. In studying two groups of 400 meter runners (sub 50 group and 50+ group) the authors tested Explosive Strength, Explosive Strength Endurance and Reactive (or Elastic) Strength of the individuals. Of these parameters, significant associations between the better 400 meter performance times and height of Counter Movement Jump (Explosive Strength) and height of Counter Movement Jumps for 30 seconds (Explosive Strength Endurance) were found. Their conclusion was that Explosive Strength and Explosive Strength Endurance seem to be important strength components to consider when designing training programs for 400 runners.
There is no miracle training drill or overall method that will improve every athlete’s maximum speed. The improvement of speed is a process that requires proven training methods (energy system training, sprint mechanics training, proper race phase modeling, strength and power training, etc.) and exercises that are woven into sound Cycle-Length Plans with frequent testing to ensure timely and important training adjustments.
Neglecting the development of Explosive, Elastic and Maximum Strength components would be paramount to taking 50% of the speed equation from the training formula. Integrating these components into the yearly sprint training program may be the missing piece of the puzzle to those who rely only on general strength training methods.
About the Author
Jim Hiserman is the author of the books Program Design Method for Sprints & Hurdle Training and Strength and Power for Maximum Speed. Other published articles on this site include:
- A Total Sprint-Training Program for Maximum Strength & Power, Core Strength, and Maximum Sprint Speed.
- A Sprint & Hurdles Program Design Overview
- Training for Development of Maximum Speed
- Basic and Advanced Technical Models, including Proper Execution of Key Drills
- Speed throughout the Training Year