As discussed in my previous video, Power Force Velocity Profiling is a great way to gain insights into what a sprinter might need training wise in order to improve their sprint acceleration.
Knowing whether you have a force deficit or velocity deficit is important, but this information can only be of use to the athlete or coach if they can then generate a plan which works to correct these deficits and create a more balanced force velocity profile in the athlete. Even more important, is knowing which types of training are more suited for beginner or advances athletes.
Today we will cover some concepts related to strength training, sprint training, and differences in training for novice and advanced athletes.
Tools In Your Toolbox
A simple way to categorize exercises that would be used in training sprinters for strength and power is that which Dr. Bondarchuk came up with. Within this system there are General Preparatory Exercises, Specific Preparatory Exercises, Specific Development Exercises, and Competitive Exercises.
General Preparatory Exercises
General Preparatory Exercises are non-specific exercises which do not mimic the competitive exercise, neither in movement mechanics nor physiological demands. GPE exercises are typically included in general strength circuits, medicine ball circuits, or other non-specific workouts. GPE exercises develop general qualities of coordination, strength, mobility, and overall fitness, but do not lend themselves to much benefit in the form of improved sports form.
General preparatory exercises are useful for all athletes, but beginner and intermediate athletes have the most to gain from these exercises. For very young or complete beginner athletes, GPEs can be used to create a balanced level of strength, mobility, and fitness, while in more experienced sprinters these exercises are used to maintain basic levels of general qualities and to encourage recovery between specific, high intensity workouts.
Specific Preparatory Exercises
Specific Preparatory Exercises are exercises which utilize muscle groups similar to the competitive exercises and stimulate the systems which underlie performance in the competitive exercise. A typical SPE for a sprinter could be weight room exercises such as squats, split squats, split leg box jumps, etc.
These exercises are general in that they are not derived from the competitive exercise, but they can be specific in some ways such as targeting muscle groups or energy systems that are very important to the competitive exercise.
SPE’s help build up the physical structure and physiological systems that the competitive exercise depends upon, and in that manner can help drive improvements in sport form. These exercises can help prepare your body for the demands of more specific training, hence the term specific preparatory exercises.
Specific Development Exercises
Specific development exercises mimic the competitive exercise in separate, component parts. SDE’s can meet or exceed the demands of the competitive exercise, and will incorporate similar movements and bodily systems.
For a sprinter, an SDE could include sprints with a sled or parachute, acceleration sprints, flying sprints, weighted vest sprints, etc. Because of the specific nature of these exercises, they have a higher probability of improving sports form in the competitive exercise as compared to GPE or SPE movements.
Because of the ability to overload the body, such as in the form of a resisted sprint, SDEs present a potent training stimulus that can be useful in correcting force deficits in a manner that is highly relatable to the competitive exercise itself.
Competitive exercises are exactly that - the exercise performed in competition. The 100 meter dash from blocks, a shot put with the competition weight shot, or a full clean and jerk are competitive exercises for different sports.
What Should You Use?
The exercises you choose to include in our program should depend on your current training age, physical capacities, and performance level in your competitive exercise.
Beginner athletes are in a good position in that they can benefit more than advanced athletes when they use more general exercises in their program. An athlete who has never trained for or competed in the 100 meter dash will probably get quite the workout from a simple bodyweight general strength circuit or medicine ball circuit, back squats in sets of 10, or low load step-ups.
Because it takes time to develop postural strength, joint integrity, and high levels of coordination, beginner athletes should avoid very high loads and highly complex training programs. Instead, these athletes can improve their force outputs in sprinting by building a foundation based upon general exercises performed through large ranges of motion and varying durations of output. For example, one strength workout for a beginner sprinter could consist of a circuit where the exercises are performed for 10-20 seconds each, using loads as low as just the athlete’s body weight.
To progress strength training in beginner athletes, loads can be added in the form of weight vests, medicine balls, dumbbells, and barbells, but the progression in loading should not be drastic.
On the track, these athletes can sprint into a head wind, sprint up hills, and utilize SDEs in the form of sprints that are either a shortened or lengthened variation of the competitive exercise. For example, they can use 30 to 50 meter accelerations in one sprint session for acceleration and speed development, while performing 120 meter sprints at submaximal intensity for extensive or intensive tempo training.
General training can account for up to 70% of a beginner athlete’s training program, which will allow for increases in specificity and intensity over time as they develop.
Once an athlete has been training for an appreciable amount of time, or the athlete is at a more developed age, training can be adjusted to incorporate higher loads and more specific training.
Intermediate athletes can take more advantage of Specific Preparatory Exercises, and can perform these using higher loads than beginner athletes. For example, while a beginner athlete might perform squats with a kettlebell, an intermediate athlete could squat using a barbell and higher loads.
Loaded split squats, step ups to various heights, nordic hamstring curls, and bench press might be incorporated depending on the athlete’s needs. Intermediate athletes with a force deficit can benefit from loads ranging from 50-75% of their maximum, so long as the volume is reasonable and these exercises are repeated over time.
Intermediate athletes should continue to incorporate general training in their program, making up as much as 50% of their program depending on their needs and level of performance. GPEs will help maintain fitness levels, mobility, and overall physical health, while assisting in the recovery from more specific high intensity training.
On the track, intermediate athletes with force deficits can incorporate SDEs such as resisted sprints using sleds and parachutes, heavy resisted sled marching with very high loads, as well as the typical sprint workouts that target maximal velocity, speed endurance, etc. The track work for intermediate athletes can be more specific and more intense than beginner athletes.
Eventually, an athlete has trained long enough such that they will not see much or any training transfer from less specific forms of training and lower intensities of training. This group is closer to their genetic potential as far as performance is concerned, and as such it is more challenging to eek out improvements in their sports form.
Experienced athletes can and should include GPE and SPE type exercises in their programs, but these exercises are used more for maintenance of physical qualities rather than in hopes of directly improving sports performance.
To garner improvement in sports form and to improve force deficits in sprinting, experienced athletes will rely more on SDEs in their training due to the specificity and intensity relative to the competitive exercise.
This group of athletes can incorporate special forms of strength training such as heavy isometrics, oscillatory lifts, complexes and contrasts, and can often tolerate higher loads than intermediate or beginner athletes.
On the track, advanced athletes with force deficits should incorporate heavier resisted sled sprints which reduce their 10m or 20m sprint times by 40-80%, while also experimenting with resisted upright sprinting through the use of a parachute, weight vest, weight belt, or sprinting into a headwind.
Advanced athletes need to be more cognizant of variation and changes in their program when compared to beginner athletes, as changes to the program can prolong the time until they reach peak form in their competitive event. It would be wise for these athletes to limit their training to only a few workouts with a limited number of exercises, aiming to be strategic with their program rather than throwing everything at the wall in an attempt to see what sticks.