T Nation

Sprinters Maximum Strength

I am a 400m sprinter at 6’0, 162 and low body fat. Enough reading on the web has convinced me that before any other strength qualities are improved, I need to focus on maximum strength in order to improve maximum speed. However, I am worried about possible injury due to following such a program.

Would I need to follow a phase of hypertrophy to increase connective tissue strength before training for maximum strength, and could I gain sufficient injury protection from bodyweight exercises alone?

I think it would be foolish for a 400m runner to focus on maximal strength instead of training for speed. There are varying schools of thought, but, to my knowledge at least, weights are not a huge part of training for most 400m runners.

Strength work is going to help more with acceleration, of which is not as important for the 400m as it is for shorter races such as the 60 or the 100.

You need to be working on special and speed endurance, as well as top speed. Most of tht work would be done on the track. Weights can certainly be a supplement to this, but I doubt there are many excellent 400m runners who are doing hypertrophy phases.

But what if maximum speed is the factor holding me back? Would it not then be better to build up max strength in order to have a higher max speed and so a greater speed reserve?

As a 400M runner the biggest thing you have to worry about (apart from conditioning) is top speed, but top speed is not gained through weights. Acceleration can be gained in the weightroom, but top speed is gained on the track.

I would focus on things like Fly 30s and 50s with maybe an occasional block 60 or 100 thrown in. This will help for speed.

As for weight work, just do some squats and GHRs after your sprint workouts. Nothing too stressing, but seek to gradually up the weight used. Again, for the 400M, spend lots of time on the track, but try to stay as fresh as possible while doing so.

[quote]el0gic wrote:
But what if maximum speed is the factor holding me back? Would it not then be better to build up max strength in order to have a higher max speed and so a greater speed reserve?[/quote]

That’s the thing. Strength work helps more with acceleration than max speed. It can have a positive effect on top speed, but not nearly as much as actually sprinting, for most people.

I personally believe that a sprinter should be as strong ( powerful ) as possible, without slowing down.

So if this guy had like 162LB and 140LB was muscle and bone, 22LB of fat, why not go to 150LB of muscle with 12LB of fat, and more power and strength.

I believe sprinters should work at high intensities, and lower intensities can prove to be a waste of time.

You want to train yourself to go to a higher level of intensity than you currently are able.

90% of the 400M is holding the speed, and while sprint work cannot be replaced, being stronger at a similar body weight will not hurt.

I believe front squats are safer and more applicable for atheletes. Learn the form, and do it under high intensity.

That I’ve personally seen, and this was during “dated” times when the knowledge was not as good as today, that someone was able to perform better in all aspects just by building his powerclean and VJ.

Or that bringing up the powerclean alone increased the VJ, and noticed that the 40 was better, and was running under more of a “fury”.

Most of this is by adjusting “mental tightness” - or intensity.

I’d provide a real start - which cannot be “knocked”.

Build a SICK core. ( abs, spinal erectors and obliques ). Build a core none of your competitors is insane enough to build.

Your core both LOOKS great, and is much stronger than people of similar body weight.

Check your posture. Find what posture works best for your body type and leverages. Proper posture will allow for best power delivery.

Build up your vertical jumnp using plyos and jumping program.

Vertical jump is “power managment”, it can translate and should not hurt. And vertical jump training does not take that much time.

Look at doing some of your high intensity sprinting work with a vest. IE: 10-15LB for your body weight. A 200LB guy might use a 15 or 20LB vest.

On the sprinting work, will leave that to people specialized.

I will leave - while the knowledge is getting better sports performance is still at an early stage.

On the 400M get more accustomed to runing during the stages that are “painful”. IE that second turn where most people slow down.

I’m sort of in the same situation, however I run the 100 and 200m.

For the 400, endurence and being able to stay consistent with your speed is cruicial.

Guys on my team would destroy me in the 400 due to their endurence being better than mine.

However, when it came down to the 100 and 200 I was the fasest on the team.

I plan on gaining weight, and training my fast twitch muslce fibers with the use of front squats and the various forms of the clean.

Give us some stats:

How tall are you?
Whats your bw?
Pull ups?

What are your 60, 100, 200 and 400m times?

I’m mainly a Olifer but I am also training to do 110m.

400m is maintaining speed. It is easier to maintain lower levels of speed if you can run faster (have higher top end speed) or you can bust a nut and learn to run at nearer your maximum speed.

MJ use to run 100m in 10.01 but he was a special athlete. A COMPLETE beast on the track. From 100-200 and 400m (his 100m was the weakest but we can give him a little break :P).

400m is a one hell of a sprint!


[quote]djrobins wrote:


Have you looked at what the best 400m coaches are doing or do you just figure that doing plyos with a weighted vest is the answer to all problems athletic?


T-Nation is a technical online forum. meaning ideas that arent congruent with whats working or currently accepted or popular can be discussed.

The coaches aren’t going to reveal everything - just like an engine builder will not…

I have to say, the weighted vest, just moderate increase will create a stronger runner. Consider it added stress which the runner become accustomed. I made 10-15LB for this light sprinter.

I also said, what you cannot knock, is a super tight and powerful core ( spinal errectors, ab rack, and obliques ). A core that was put together like tuning the strings on a piano. A core so tight that the torso can be “locked” with little effort.

Its going to take time to biuld a real core, using:

Ab work ( leg raise, weighted and unweighted, crunch, situp, slant board situp, weighted chair crunch, twists )

Lower back ( good morning, hyperextension, hyperextension in chair, stiff leg deadlift, deadlift, power clean )

Oblique ( various twists in racks, side crunches )

Vertical jump and power clean training did not take too much additional time for the athelete. And allow him to become accustomed to higher than “natural” workloads.

Thats what this is all about, increasing your “limit” to higher than what is supposed to be possible.

That we also have to look at mental and psychological factors.

IE: if a runner is so strong, that he can KILL them on the 2nd turn, he will feel it and will provide confidence boost to stride finely down the last stright.

I say for this athelete consider weight and weight distribution. IE: if there is low fat but still some, it can replaced with muscle while mainting weight in 160-175lb range.

That he has to do some things that others are NOT willing to do, but prove to be what pushes him over the edge.

And once again, speed work for the 400M runner is sometime not made as important as it should be.

This guy should be able to smoke on the shorter distances.

Posture - I said to check against someone with similar body type.

Posture will naturally improve as athelete is able to hold and deliver more power.

All I really have to say is I think track time is a lot more important than weights, but weights should not be neglected. Here is an informative article by Clyde Hart (Jeremy Wariner’s coach):


[quote]djrobins wrote:

That he has to do some things that others are NOT willing to do, but prove to be what pushes him over the edge.


Out of your whole post, this just struck me.

I don’t think this is an issue with most competitive sprinters, even at the high school level. Have you seen the crazy things adolescents are willing to do to get better!?!

Really it isn’t about doing more and harder workouts than your opponent, it is about training smarter and addressing your weaknesses.

But maybe what you are getting at is the mental state needed to get through tough workouts. It is helpful to think that you are doing what others don’t have the guts to do when it starts hurting.

Oh, and I think the issue with your posts (djrobins) is that they give a lot of generic advice that nobody can really disagree with. Your advice would hold for pretty much any sprint event, not just the 400. What specific recommendations would you make for a runner training for the 400?

[quote]djrobins wrote:


Umm… alright, let me know how that works out for you and your athletes.

In the meantime, I’d suggest the OP check out that Clyde Hart article.

[quote]el0gic wrote:
But what if maximum speed is the factor holding me back? Would it not then be better to build up max strength in order to have a higher max speed and so a greater speed reserve?[/quote]

Max strength and max speed aren’t really related. How fast do you think the avg powerlifter is? How quick even do you think he is?

I would think that squats and deads once or twice a week would help you bring power to your game, but wouldn’t wear you out and take away from your track work, which is the most important thing. Especially for a 400 guy, who doesn’t need all that much power, you’re nearly to the middle distances.

I dropped down from the middle distances, so my maximum speed isn’t that great. I had already seen the Clyde Hart methods, and these will influence my training for next season (currently stopped due to injury).

Track work definitely comes above weights, but my reasoning is that in order to improve speed, I need to improve stride length, which comes from a more forceful push off, which will come from hills and weights. I’m just not sure how quickly I can jump into maximum strength training.

The max strength would be in the pre-season, with conversion to power and strength endurance coming in later, and then maintenance through competition.

El0gic -

Don’t discount leg “turnover”. Making it faster comes by being smoother with power delivery.

Being stronger means a given workload will be “easier”…

what’s your 400 time?

top speed will come with a short ground contact time both vertically and horizontally along with a faster turnover. I believe that plymetrics are of greater help with this, and thus top speed, than heavy lifting. “The best plyo drills for top speed are vertical in nature” says Charlie Francis, who i strongly agree with. using plyos and trying to minimize ground contact time should help with top speed. Yes weight can, and probably will help with top speed a little, they will help with acceleration the most - which is also incredibly important even in the 400. As Clyde Hart says that you should be at top speed 50m into the race, this is a key point and better acceleration will help this.

On top of this, however, i find it very hard to believe that you are reaching you top speed i na 400m race and that is limiting you. normally in a 100m sprint the runner is alowing down at the end and to say that you can maintain that same top speed for 350m is amazing in itself and you probably wouldnt be on a website trying to get help because your times would be world class already.