Last Updated on March 10, 2013 by Jimson Lee
One of the earliest papers I read on 400 meter training was written by William Black from the 1988 Winter edition of TRACK COACH.
You can download the PDF here (168Kb).
The paper talks about the physiological factors of performance in the 400 meters, and one specific reference was from 1980. It’s a good read if you want to know the physiological factors in relation to race distribution.
But there was some interesting data from the research of a 1980 study from VanCoppenolle. Remember that by 1980, and even by the start of 1988, only 2 men broke 44 seconds. By the end of 1988, that number would be increased to 4!
- 400 meter dashes run in 43.8-44.9 seconds were accomplished by running the first and second 200 meters in a mean time of 21.5 (20.7-22.4) and 23.0 (22.1-23.5) seconds, respectively. 400-meters run in 45.0-45.9 seconds were run with the first and second 200s covered in mean times of 21.7 (20.8-22.7) and 23.8 (22.5-25.0).
The top runners have a smaller time differential between the first and second 200 meters (1.5 vs. 2.1 seconds). The difference between the mean times for the second 200 meters for the two groups of runners is significant on the 1% level.
- For the fastest (43.8-44.9) 400 runners, there is no distinct correlation between the second 200 meters and the final time. A favorable result can be run with a reactively fast or slow second 200 meters.
- For 400 runners in the 45.0-45.9 second category, there is a distinct correlation between a better final time and a better second 200 time.
Take a look at splits from the USATF 2008 Men’s 400m Olympic Trials Finals, and you’ll see differentials of 0.86 and 1.10 from Jeremy Wariner and LaShawn Merritt.
Here’s the link to the 400 meter splits from 2009 Berlin World Championships with a deeper look from the IAAF Biomechanical Analysis.
The conclusion is straight forward: the difference between the best and the sub-best 400 runners is that the best were able to run a faster second 200!
Duh! I’ve been preaching speed reserve for almost 5 years now on this Blog!
As for physiology, here were the conclusions:
- Success in the 400 is highly dependent upon a very high ability to produce energy via anaerobic glycolysis, with the accompanying lactate acidosis. When comparing heterogeneous groups of runners, the anaerobic capacity of the athlete is the main determinant of superior ability to run the 400 meters.
- More successful 400 meter runners are characterized by superior sprint speed. When comparing homogeneous groups of runners characterized by a very high anaerobic capacity, those who are faster over shorter distances tend to also be faster in the 400.
- More successful 400 meter runners may be characterized by superior alactate anaerobic capacity. It may be that those runners who are able to produce more energy in the early stages of the race, via the splitting of high energy phosphates, are more successful.
- Successful 400 meter runners are characterized by an anaerobic power similar to that of other athletes who participate in sports requiring a combination of speed and aerobic endurance (for example, soccer and basketball). A very high maximum oxygen uptake is not advantageous, and may even be detrimental, to high-level performance.
Now the 4 points above in nothing new for intermediate or advanced coaches, but it does give you an idea of the traits for 400 meter athlete selection, as well as planning your 400 meter workouts.
Of course, all this depends on your sample pool of athletes you have to work with!
Fred B says
Nice work, thanks Jimson.
Johnson Walker says
I have twO daughters Age 13 and 14.. They have been involved In several sports since age 5. Soccer, dance, tee ball, running club, first triathlon at age 8, two J Olympics Cross Country appearances , basketball (which I strongly discOuraged at age 9, but my daughter proved that she could play ), middle school track( cOmpeted in Wichita , ks in 2011 JO s this summer against highschool students, softball, and tennis. Please dOnt think I’m bragging, just trying to let you know what you’re dealing with. My girls aren’t the best , but with some help they can surely strive for best .
At about 10 my daughters found a love for track. One loves the 100(basketball/ soccer player) the Other loves the 400(tennis/soccer). I would like to focus on the 400m sprinter first. By the way , I really appreciate you giving me an opportunity to email you!
My 400m sprinter loves lOng distance (5k) and. triathlons( cOmpeted in 4;wOn one; (200m swim, 7 .1 mi bike, 1.5 mi run). Last year while in 7th grade, her best time was 103.10. Her goal for 8tj grade is 57-58.
Over the off season we have been working on technic . I let her run for a guy who wasn’t a good track coach at all. PARENTS beware, not everyone who claims to be a track coach is capable of training young athletes . I’m sure that if she would have had better form she would have broke 1 00 this summer.
Using some of your articals and some similar , her sprinting mechanics have greatly improved. Articals like block starts, how to run the curve in the 200&400, proper arm swing, and info from the Jamaican track team
The girls are on a light weight training program. I ve incorporated a lot of single leg exercises since I read the Jamacain track artical. I’ve tried to water them down to fit for my 13 & 14 year old daughters. We do some hill training, sled work, polymeterics etc.
How do I need to train my daughter to help her reach her goal of a 58 second 400 at age 13. By the way she finished 2nd in the state of Louisiana at 12 years old in the Hersseys Track and Field meet. What times should her- practice 300 s be in? How much recovery time? Should she run 200s? How often should she run? We do 1-2 5ks per week. She likes long distance Is this helpful to her 400?
I am not a professional track coach. Just a dad trying to gather as much info as possible to help my daughters reach their goals. Thanks for info! Hope you can help us.
excellent article jimson , very insightful !! :)
interesting to note pre 88 , only 2 athletes had broken 44. was this due to lack of real quality athletes or maybe some guys started ” helping themselves ” after this period . ????????? . there was always a question mark over butch reynolds
Jimson Lee says
@hugh, I think it goes to show that sub-44 is an incredible feat, even BIGGER than sub-10 100m, sub-20 200m, 4 minute mile or 2:10 marathon. (Okay, watch the flame comments now!)
[ ha ha , re flame comments:) .] :) but i have to say i agree sub 44 is the PROMISED land !!, one of the ultimate goals in all of sports , case in point so few have achieved it ! yep bigger than sub 10, 20 or 2.10 . . the greats tommie smith , michael johnson , jeremy wariner , a yes i most definitely AGREE !!!!!