Last Updated on March 21, 2013 by Jimson Lee
Pietro Mennea’s 19.72 200 meter World Record was set at the 1979 World University Games in Mexico City. The WR would later become the holy grail of the 200 meters until Michael Johnson broke it (twice) in 1996.
Today, that 19.72 sounds like molasses in January compared to 19.19.
Pietro Mennea also won the Bronze medal at 1972 Munich Olympics at the same distance and then the Gold medal at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
Mennea competed in 5 consecutive Olympics (1972-1976-1980-1984-1988), a rare feat in longevity especially for sprinters who are known to lose their fast twitch fibers over time. Carl Lewis made the Olympic team in 1980, followed by 4 consecutive Golds in the long jump.
Pietro Mennea’s new book “L’ Oro di Mosca” (The Gold of Moscow) leads up to his Gold medal 200m victory, and includes complete detailed training logs from January to July 1980. The book is only in Italian, and can be purchased here.
I purchased the book and so far I am enjoying it… slowly. My Italian isn’t that great.
Notice the amount of volume and medium-to-high intensity training. Also take note how he integrates plyometrics and weight training. With the weights performed prior to a track workout, they certainly were not maximal weights and primarily used for stimulus.
Also notice the amount of over-distance work, including several 500s, 400s and the common distance of 300 meters. This man is not afraid of pain!
If you have any questions, you can always connect with him on Facebook.
Here is a snippet from his latest book:
Tuesday, February 12, 1980
AM workout – No workout
35 min warm-up
- 5x80m, 5x80m, 5x80m, 4x100m, 9 min rest between runs, 2 min rest between sets
- 3x400m with 3 min rest
- 1st set: 9.18, 9.03, 8.96, 8.89, 9.01
- 2nd set: 8.80, 9.02, 9.00, 8.92, 8.88
- 3rd set: 8.82, 8.94, 9.20, 9.03, 9.16
- 4th set: 11.17, 11.45, 11.35, 11.65,
- 5th set: 60.20, 61.30, 64.48
Wednesday, February 13, 1980
2.7km run, 13:25
30 min warm-up
- 9 x 5 bounds (Distances (m): 15.00, 15.60, 15.90, 15.85, 15.49, 15.10, 15.86, 15.88, 15.80)
- 400m/300m, 300m/200m, 300m/200m, 4 min between runs, 15 min between sets
- 1st set: 53.10, 40.00
- 2nd set: 38.23, 24.15
- 3rd set: 39.00, 24.03
Thursday, February 14, 1980
18 min run over 4km
20 min warm-up
- Fast squats with weights, 1/2 squat jump (weights: 60kgx4, 70kgx4, 60kgx4,70kgx4, 60kgx4, 70kgx4 )
- 1/2 squat jump (weights 120kgx3, 120kgx3, 120kgx3)
Drills and Light Plyometrics
Friday, February 15, 1980
3km run in 14 minutes
40 min warm-up
- 5x80m, 5x80m, 5x80m, 5x80m, 8 min rest between runs, 2 min rest between sets
- 500m-500m-400m-400m, 4 min between runs
- 1st set: 9.38, 9.20, 9.21, 9.26, 9.38
- 2nd set: 9.14, 9.13, 9.08, 8.96, 9.03
- 3rd set: 9.06, 9.03, 8.98, 8.94, 8.96
- 4th set: 9.02, 9.02, 9.16, 9.12, 9.00
- Last set: 1:15, 1:16, 61.24, 61.70
Saturday, February 16, 1980
40 min warm-up
- 5 sets of 5 bounds (Distances (m): 15.50, 15.78, 16.20, 15.95, 15.93)
- 3 sets of 10 bounds (Distances (m): 31.75, 32.28, 32.53)
- 5x300m, 8 minutes rest between runs
- Times: 38.46, 38.62, 39.03, 39.83, 38.73
Sunday, February 17, 1980
45 min run on 3km loop
35 min warm-up
- Fast squats with weights, 1/2 squat deadlift (60kgx4, 70kgx4, 60kgx4, 70kgx4, 60kgx4, 70kgx4)
- 1/2 squat al castello (120kgx3, 120kgx3, 120kgx3)
- 5x80m, 5x80m, 4x100m, 4x100m, 8 min rest between runs, 2 min rest between sets
- 1st set: 9.28 9.42 9.08 8.92 8.93
- 2nd set: 8.97 9.03 8.91 9.12 9.15
- 3rd set: 11.83 11.82 11.80 11.88
- 4th set: 11.58 11.88 11.75 11.68
If you want to see his entire 6 month training log, then you’ll have to buy his book.
Andy Cano says
It is amazing to me that his 100 meter PR was 10.01 with that type of training regimen. This type of workload is not suited towards the flash and dash of the 200 meter race. Then, as now, the 200 meter dash is dependent upon sheer, blinding speed. No further proof is needed than the mercurial brilliance of Usain Bolt. I am sure that his workouts don’t consist of Herculean sets of 500 meter and 400 meter dashes. The rationale being, that such exertions won’t help one increase, develop, or hone their speed for the 200 meter race. The 200 meter dash requires only a modest smidgen of stamina. Mennea’s workouts would have been better suited to 400 meter men and half-milers.
Jimson Lee says
@Andy – I certainly agree with you. That type of training in theory does not produce world class times in the 100m. You can’t run 12m/s when training at 10m/s.
Then again, he did win a bronze medal in the 4x400m at Moscow, so he showed fitness to the Italian relay coaches!
On the first workout…2 minutes rest are for reps, 9 minutes ( usually less) for sets…
1/2 squat deadlifts, are 1/2 from the bottom..all the squatting exercises performed in a multipower ( castello).The problem with mennea and vittori is that, 1 with his talent and work capacity, the other with his ideas forged on mennea, they broke hundreds of talents in 30 years in italy using the same methodology.
Jimson Lee says
@erozag – thanks for the correction. Prior to Mennea, do you have any info on Livio Berruti’s training?
In response to Andy, Bolt and other Jamaican sprinters train long to short, not the volume of Mennea, but do include longer reps early on, and they start their season off with running open 400’s or 4×4 legs. They even run 1000m for a time trial and gradually bring that down, many sprinters prefer short to long but there is more than one way to skin a cat.
Andy Cano says
Gary, my contention was that I didn’t see how 4 kilometer runs (at a slow pace), endless sets of 500 and 400 meter laps @ 62 second 400 meter dash pace, and 80 meter “dashes” at @ 45 second 400 meter dash pace (9.5 mps) could or would help a 200 meter specialist develop, increase, or hone their speed. I do know that Bolt utilizes many techniques and applications to develop “explosive” sprinting power, which he most certainly possesses and displays.
My point is that a sprinter should and must train to meet or exceed the pace required for their discipline. Mennea’s regimen would be ideal for a mediocre 400 meter specialist or an 800 meter runner.
Dale Harder says
I agree with Gary. Different folks respond to different methods. It seems counter-intuitive for such a heavy workload for a 100/200 runner but similar analogies can be seen in other sports. Just read an article about world class powerlifter Don Blue who did 10 sets of 10, sometimes sets of 20 and even 50 to increase his squat, bench press and dead lift whereas conventional wisdom says that sets of no more than 5 reps per set would develop strength and explosive power. Yet, it worked for Blue. One could always argue he might have been even better with different training methods but that would be impossible to prove at this time since he was at his peak many years ago.
“there are many ways to skin a cat” – but only 1 way is most efficient. Short to long approach is the way foward, how can you expect someone to run well for 80m-500m if they running slow and innefficient to 20m?
“10 sets of 10” – this seems to be a power endurance/hypertrophe workout depending on the speed of the lift. There is plenty of scientific research and experimental studies out there to suggest and theorize that improving max strength, power or power endurance is better developed through the methods of 3-5 sets of 1-8 reps with 3 minutes recovery for a given muscle group. Just read the work of alwyn cosgrove. power endurance will however, require less sets 2-3 and more reps 10-?? whatever you can handle whilst maintaining good technique and speed of movement. rest must be 5-7 minutes or so, to ensure speed of movement doesn’t deteriorate too much, otherwise it turns into a hypertrophe workout which bulids muscle and could slow you down.
“400m – 800m specialist” – and poor one at that. or at least one who hasn’t reached their potential.
Andy Cano says
The salient point, which seems lost on the viewers is that the 200 meter dash requires only a modicum of stamina. Certainly, fitness cannot hurt any athlete in his or her performance. But, as “Speedendurance.com” has stated and publicized, the 200 meter dash is 80% ANAEROBIC. Studies on sprinters and sprint performance agree with this figure.
I concur that Mennea’s regimen WILL develop stamina to a substantial degree. In Mennea’s case, it did bolster his fitness and stamina. In the final 100 meter segment of his 200 meter races, he was able to maintain his form, and he won races because of it. But, 200 meter specialists must develop speed, and if they already possess it, must hone and refine it through appropriate SPRINT workouts at or beyond race pace. I can only wonder what Mennea would have achieved with modern training theories, modern race equipment, and modern nutritional supplements.
His 400m results were in the low to mid 45s, which is good but not spectacular for a sub 20s sprinter. Which goes to show that this type of workout was mainly effective in improving repeated sprint ability. I’m sure if the olympics were about doing 15-20 sprints on one day he would have a massive collection of medals.
Berruti’s training was almost….casual..4 sessions a week, nothing extrem, low volume, some starts, some fast runs, a massage and go.
Please note that mennea( Vittori’s) training has ruined 30 years of sprinting talent in italy.
There are similar cases with many programs. Many Russian middle distance programs have failed dozens of athletes but have given rise to an olympic champion here and there. If you look at Alberto Juantorena’s program for 400m and 800m he has some ridiculous workouts which would only seem to do more harm than good. Australian 400m record holder Darren Clarke ran for an hour every sunday. Sometimes ‘other factors’ come into play or other times we forget the individual responses to training can vary. What i will say however is that its ridiculous to assume that you must be doing all your training at or above race speed required. Usain bolt couldn’t be going out to training and running sub 10seconds for everything, defeats the purpose of training.
This is a very poor paraphrase of something Frank Shorter once said: “If you read that an Olympic champion runs 140 miles a week, so if you run 150 a week you’ll beat him – it’s not that simple.” My experience is that what works for someone else might not be the best for me. If Pietro Mennea did Usain Bolt’s workouts, would he have run 19.19? Would Bolt have been no faster than 19.72 if he had worked out like Mennea?
Learning about different athletes’ workouts can give me ideas for my own training. To see if a particular workout results in improvement I should give it an honest shot – perhaps for a few months – and then do a time trial or race. Compare where I was at this point in the season last year. If there’s a difference try to isolate the cause. Be as scientific as possible in the experiment, but realize that training is an art.
Those previous comments that remark on how pedestrian Mennea’s workouts appear to be for someone who was a world class sprinter for the 100/200 do not take into account that these workouts are done in February. Later in the season, I predict that his workouts would have been more intense. He is beginning his season by getting the endurance base before he gets to the competitive part of the season.