T Nation

Tempo Work in Sprint Training

I just finished reading the Charlie Francis Training System. In there, he mentions that his sprinters perform tempo work. He says they would run certain distances at 65-75% of their max speed, and would run for up to 2-3 kilometres like this.

Unfortunately, he didn’t elaborate on this too much. So for the sprinters who are reading this, maybe you can answer this.

Is tempo work the same as aerobic interval training? If so, how long do you rest between runs? What kinds of distances do you run at this pace? 100 metres? 400 metres? Some other distances?

I’m not that knowledgeable, but it will depend on whether you’re talking about extensive tempo or intensive tempo. It sounds like extensive tempo, if effort is ~75%.

Anyway, the answer is sort of. Extensive tempo has you running more volume, up to about 3,000 meters, but the effort is quite submaximal, so recovery is incomplete.

Intensive tempo is lower volume, but at about 90-95% effort.

Interestingly, I saw a video today of a Jamaican coach whom I think works with Asafa Powell, saying that at least for 100 and 200 meter sprinters, if you’re trying to get in say, 2,000 meters of volume, it’s better to do it in 10 sets of 200 meters than 4-5 sets of 400-500 meters.

Tempo runs are at or just above your lactate threshold.

I would stick with 100-200m runs. Normally I do walk back recovery between reps, and between sets I take some actual rest + do some ab work (once in a while I’ll also do pushups and neck exercises).


Thanks everyone!

I think your rest interval depends on your current level of conditioning, and what goals you have to achieve. The better anaerobic condition you are in, the shorter your rest intervals will be. Your lactate threshold will be higher too. So when you progress on this tempo program, you will most likely want to lessen the rest interval.


The following comes from my copy of “Training for Speed” this is Charles first book, copyright 1997, before the little 98 olympic thing. This is for a well conditioned athlete.



1st set 100M + 100M + 100M
2nd set 100M + 200M + 100M + 100M
3rd set 100M + 100M + 200M + 200M
4th set 100M + 200M + 100M + 100M
5th set 100M + 100M + 100M

warm down

walk 100M between sets and the “+” means walk 50M.
This means for set one you run 100M, walk 50M, run 100M, walk 50M, run 100M


Your last 100M of set 5 should be the same speed as your first 100M of set one. If its not, your running too hard. Do NOT run over 75% or you defeat the whole purpose of Tempo running.

If you push your tempo workout, what happens is you will be in great shape from all the over work that your doing but your speed will not improve as much as it could because your not giving your CNS time to recover.

Relax during tempo days, and bust your ass on sprint days. Ben Johnson, even on the juice needed tempo days between his sprint days or his times decreased. Don’t push the tempo stuff.


it should also be noted that the 75% is based off the time that you could potentially run that day, not your personal best. so obviously there is a little guessing which would mean you should really be more on the conservative side.

I should also note that my sprint times timed fully automatically were faster following a day of tempo runs than bodybuilding circuits (elitetrack style-michael young) or even with a full day off.

so they do work, and i dont think i ever sweat as much in my life then when doing tempos. do them on grass if possible, but again factor this into your potential target times (you run slower on grass, with no comp, with no spikes, with no blocks etc.)

hope you get good results with the tempos,



SquatDr comments are dead on correct.
I’m sorry for forgetting to say the tempo work should be done in flats not spikes. Also the suggestion to do them on grass is even better. Especially if you’d like your knees to be functional past 40. I’m 49, five years ago i was scheduled for miniscus repair surgery on both knees. Due to an insurance hassle the surgery date was postponed by 3 months. During that time i started running exclusively on grass and my knees were able to repair on their own. No surgery.

And i’m able to do sprint work 3 or 4 times a week with no pain at all. On grass. Also in doing the tempo work outlined earlier i tend to walk 100M between each run and set. NOT 50M between each run. It is just easier to use the 100M marks on the track. And its still a good workout.


Thanks naard and squatDR.

That’s very detailed.

For the record, I am not a sprinter. I just thought it would be an interesting change of pace for energy systems work.