Workouts For Sprinters In Track & Field

Posted by Cody Bidlow on

To be the best sprinter you can be, it is important that you are doing the right workouts for sprinters. In this article we will discuss workouts for sprinters who compete in track & field.

Workouts For Sprinters

Workouts for sprinters in track & field can be put into the following categories:

  • Acceleration Training
  • Speed Training (Maximal Velocity)
  • Speed Endurance Training
  • Special Endurance Training
  • Strength Training
  • General Conditioning

Each of these types of training plays an important role in the performance of track & field sprinters. To run your fastest, it is important that you place a balanced emphasis on all of these qualities throughout your year of training.

workouts for sprinters

A good quality sprint training program will build the physical qualities necessary to sprinting fast, and will progress training in a way that builds you up from your current fitness level into being able to sprint fast over your specific race distance.

What Sprinters Need In Their Training

Depending on your chosen sprint even, you will need to focus your efforts slightly differently.

Short Sprints (60m/100m)

Athletes competing in the short sprints, such as the 60 meter dash and 100 meter dash will need to place a greater emphasis on acceleration, speed training, and strength training. Because these sprint events are so short, the sprinter who can accelerate aggressively, reach a high maximal velocity or top speed, and then maintain their speed for 20 to 40 meters will have the best chances of running fast and wining the race.

Short sprinters can benefit from general conditioning in the form of circuit training and tempo endurance training, but they need to make sure that these slower, low intensity forms of training are used in a supportive manner and not as the primary aspects of training. For example circuits and tempo endurance can be used in the off season to build fitness levels, and can be used in-season on recovery days.

Athletes in the short sprints need to place a significant emphasis on strength training and plyometrics, as sprinting fast requires sprinters to produce very large forces in short amounts of time. Strength training in the gym can help improve force production, reduce injury, and improve joint stiffness, while plyometric training helps teach athletes to be efficient, elastic, and to apply force under very short time constraints.

Speed endurance training, especially short speed endurance, is particularly important for the 100 meter dash sprinter. Many athletes find success in the 60 meter dash but cannot replicate this success in outdoor track. The main reason for this is that while the 60 meter dash is all about acceleration and top speed, the 100 meter dash requires athletes to try and maintain their speed as long as possible. To do so, the athlete must exhibit impeccable sprinting technique, and also have specific fitness needed to run fast under fatigue.

Long Sprints (200m/400m)

Long sprinters competing in the 200 meter dash and 400 meter dash have similar needs at short sprinters, with the major caveat being that these sprinters need much more endurance than athletes in the short sprint events.

The further the distance you run in the sprints, the greater the demand placed on the athlete's aerobic and glycolytic energy delivery systems, both of which need to be developed through sprinting workouts.

Long sprinters need to have good acceleration and top speed capabilities if they want to be elite, but what they need the most is the ability to maintain their speed once they have accelerated. Athletes who go out fast but cannot maintain their speed will end up falling apart at the end of the 200 meter, or by the 300 meter mark in the 400 meter dash.

It is important that 400 meter sprinters especially spend enough time in their off-season developing their aerobic system through repeated sprints at a moderate intensity level, as this will help them in later phases of training to be able to recover between faster long sprints that are performed in specific preparatory phases of training.

Acceleration Training For Sprinters

Acceleration training is a foundational aspect of training for sprinters in track & field. Every sprint event starts with an aggressive acceleration phase, albeit slightly differently depending on the event.

In the 60 meter dash, athletes need to accelerate as quickly as possible to maximal velocity and try to sustain that through the end of the race. In the 100 meter dash, acceleration can be extended further into the sprint in an effort to distribute energy efficiently and ensure the sprinter can maintain speed for a strong finish. If an athlete reaches maximal velocity at 30 meters, they will have a long distance over which they need to maintain their speed. If instead they can accelerate through 60 meters, they then only have 40 meters over which they must maintain and reduce deceleration.

In the 200 meter dash, efficient acceleration on the turn will play a large role in whether or not the athlete has the stamina to finish at the end of the race. If the sprinter works too hard and wastes energy during acceleration, they will not have as much energy available during their finish. Athletes in the 200 meter dash should aim to accelerate as fast as they can while staying relaxed and efficient with their movements.

400 meter dash sprinters also accelerate from the blocks, but their acceleration curve would be slightly drawn out over a longer distance, and for many athletes will be slightly submaximal as far as effort is concerned. For example a sprinter may accelerate at 100% effort in the 100 meter dash, whereas they might accelerate at 90-95% effort in the 400 meter dash.

Acceleration Workouts For Sprinters

Acceleration workouts for sprinters can be performed with or without starting blocks, with or without resistance such as a running sled or weighted vest, and can be done as a standalone workout or in combination with other forms of sprint training.

Here are some guidelines for putting together an acceleration workout for sprinters:

  • Intensity Level: 95-100%
  • Sprint Distances: 10 to 40 meters
  • Session Volume Range: 100 to 300 meters
  • Rest Periods: 1-1.5 minutes per distance sprinted (ex. 3-5 minutes for a 30 meter sprint)

Acceleration Workout Example #1:

  1. Track Warmup
  2. 2x20m, 2x30m, 2x40m (1-1.5 minutes rest per 10 meters sprinted)
  3. Weighted Vest Alternate Leg Bounds - 4x20m
  4. Weighted Vest Power Lunge - 4x8

Acceleration Workout Example #2:

  1. Track Warmup
  2. Acceleration Contrasts: 2-3 sets of a 20m weighted vest block start contrasted with a 20m block start without resistance (2 minutes between sprints, 4 minutes between sets)
  3. 2-4 x 40m sprints from blocks.

Acceleration Workout Example #3:

  1. Track Warmup
  2. 4x15m sled pulls (25% velocity decrement)
  3. Block Starts: 2x30m, 2x40m
  4. Weighted Vest Alternate Leg Bounds - 4x20m

These acceleration workouts can be used by sprinters of various levels and in all of the different sprint events. Sprinters in the short sprints will tend to perform more acceleration sprints per session, and more sessions per year, compared to long sprinters.

Speed Training For Sprinters

Speed training is an essential form of training for athletes in all sprinting events of track & field. Speed training helps improve an athlete's maximal velocity, can prevent injury if done in the proper amounts, and can help improve an athletes overall coordination and movement abilities.

Speed training is a very potent stimulus and needs to be used wisely. Athletes cannot perform speed training every day, and they need to get adequate recovery both before and after speed development sessions to ensure they adapt to the training and can stay injury-free.

Speed Training Workouts For Sprinters In Track

Speed training workouts can be performed as flat out sprints from a static start, as flying sprints performed from a dynamic start, or using In's & Out's where the athlete changes speed throughout the sprint.

Here are some guidelines for putting together a speed training workout for sprinters:

  • Intensity Level: 98-100%
  • Sprint Distances: 40 to 70 meters
  • Session Volume Range: 150 to 350 meters
  • Rest Periods: 1-2 minutes per distance sprinted (ex. 4-8 minutes for a 40 meter sprint)

Speed Training Workout Example #1:

  1. Track Warmup
  2. 4-6 x 50m sprints from blocks.
  3. Low Height Stiff Ankle Hops - 4x15
  4. Scissor Bounds - 4x30m

Speed Training Workout Example #2:

  1. Track Warmup
  2. 3-5 x Flying 30m Sprints (Accelerate 20-30 meters into a 30 meter zone of maximal velocity sprinting)
  3. Rest

Speed Training Workout Example #3:

  1. Track Warmup
  2. 60m In's & Out's - Accelerate 20 meters, float for 10 meters, fast for 10 meters, float for 10 meters, fast for 10 meters.
  3. Low Heigh Stiff Ankle Hops - 4x15
  4. Speed Bounds - 4x30m

Speed Endurance Training For Sprinters

Speed endurance training is particularly important for sprinters in the 100 meter, 200 meter, and 400 meter dash events. The type of speed endurance training performed will vary based on the event, but the general theme remains the same. The goal with speed endurance training is to reach maximal velocity or close to it, and maintain that speed for as long as possible.

Short speed endurance training can range from 60 to 120 meters per sprint, whereas long speed endurance would range from 120 to 150 meters per sprint. These distances may vary depending on the level of athlete, considering that for example young female sprinters will not be able to maintain their speed as far as an elite male sprinter. As such, you should aim to adjust speed endurance workout distances to the capabilities of the athlete, rather than assuming a certain distance is objectively the best.

Short sprinters can perform relatively more short speed endurance, while long sprinters will perform more long speed endurance. Short sprinters can progress to longer speed endurance sprints once their short speed endurance abilities have been maximized.

Speed Endurance Training For Sprinters In Track

Similar to speed training, speed endurance training workouts can be performed as flat out sprints from a static start, as flying sprints, or as In's & Out's. Typically I would perform flying sprints, use dynamic starts, or use In's & Out's when I am further away from competition. Closer to competition I would use flat out sprints from blocks to increase the specificity of the training.

Here are some guidelines for putting together a speed endurance workout for sprinters:

  • Intensity Level: 95-100%
  • Short Speed Endurance Sprint Distances: 70 to 120 meters
  • Long Speed Endurance Sprint Distances: 120 to 150 meters
  • Short SE Session Volume Range: 150 to 400 meters
  • Long SE Session Volume Range: 200 to 500 meters
  • Rest Periods: 1-2 minutes per distance sprinted (ex. 8-16 minutes for an 80 meter sprint)

Short Speed Endurance Workout Example #1:

  1. Track Warmup
  2. 3x80m from blocks.
  3. Low Heigh Stiff Ankle Hops - 4x15

Short Speed Endurance Workout Example #2:

  1. Track Warmup
  2. 2-4 x Flying 40 meter sprints with a 30 to 40 meter acceleration zone.
  3. Single Leg Hops In-Place - 4x15

Long Speed Endurance Workout Example #1:

  1. Track Warmup
  2. 3x150m from a 10 meter running start.
  3. Core circuit post-workout.

Long Speed Endurance Workout Example #2:

  1. Track Warmup
  2. 1x120m, 130m, 140m from blocks.
  3. Hopping circuit post-workout.

Special Endurance Training For Sprinters

Special endurance training is used by all sprinters, but is most important for athletes in the 200 meter and 400 meter dash events. Special endurance is high intensity, specific endurance training that stresses the lactic glycolytic energy system.

Special endurance training is very stressful, and many coaches make the mistake of including special endurance training for most of the training year.  The problem is that this work is so hard, that overdoing it can lead to athlete burnout, injuries, and overtraining.

Don't get me wrong, special endurance training is very important and is a potent training method to use. Doing special endurance work will make your sprinters faster, especially in the longer sprints. With that in mind, we must respect special endurance sprint training and use it only when appropriate, such as the specific preparatory phases or pre-competitive periods.

Special Endurance Training Workouts For Sprinters

Special endurance training can be broken up into Special Endurance 1 and Special Endurance 2, which is mainly differentiated by distance sprinted. Special Endurance 1 can be used by short and long sprinters, while special endurance 2 will mostly be used by long sprinters and middle distance runners.

Special endurance training can be run as flat out sprints or as split runs. In a split run, the athlete will sprint fast over a give distance, rest for a very short period of time, then sprint a shorter distance as fast as possible. This is followed by a very long rest period. These workouts can be used in a progression toward running the full distance fast, such as breaking up the 400 meter before performing all out 400's and 450's.

Here are some guidelines for putting together a speed endurance workout for sprinters:

  • Intensity Level: 95-100%
  • Special Endurance 1 Sprint Distances: 150 to 300 meters
  • Special Endurance 2 Sprint Distances: 300 to 600 meters
  • Short SE Session Volume Range: 300 to 600 meters
  • Long SE Session Volume Range: 300 to 1200 meters
  • Rest Periods: 1-2 minutes per distance sprinted (ex. 20-40 minutes for a 200 meter sprint)

Special Endurance 1 Workout Example #1:

  1. Track Warmup
  2. 1x200m, 1x175m, 1x150m, 12 minutes rest between each sprint.

Special Endurance 1 Workout Example #2:

  1. Track Warmup
  2. 2-3x Split 250's - 150m fast, 1 minute rest, 100m fast, 15 minutes rest.

Special Endurance 2 Workout Example #1:

  1. Track Warmup
  2. 2x300m with 20 minutes rest.

Special Endurance 2 Workout Example #2:

  1. Track Warmup
  2. 2-3x Split 450's - 300m fast, 90 seconds rest, 150m fast, 20 minutes rest.

Strength Training For Sprinters

Strength training is an important aspect of a sprinter's training program. Strength training can help athletes produce more force, recruit large motor units, prevent injury, increase power outputs, and improve overall conditioning.

Strength training is a broad subject that cannot be fully covered in this post, but there are some important points you can take away which may help you in your pursuit of sprinting faster.

Younger athletes with a low training age can make significant progress with simplistic forms of strength training, such as performing bodyweight circuits, exercises with dumbbells, kettlebells or medicine balls. The less experience an athlete has, the more general and moderate their strength training can be. Relatively untrained athletes will see significant improvements in their strength without having to lift very heavy loads or use complex training schemes.

More advanced athletes tend to require more intense strength training, as well as programs that are designed with higher complexity or specificity. For example, while a less experienced athlete may get stronger and faster as a result of doing kettlebell squats and bodyweight core circuits, advances athletes may need to focus more on improving joint stiffness, lifting weights around 80 percent of their maximum, and they may need to use contrasts to stimulate the body to a greater extent.

Earlier in the season or an athlete's career, more general exercises can be performed. Full range of motion squats, deadlifts, RDL's, bench press, pull-ups, rows, back extensions, calf raises and hip thrusts are all good exercises to include in a sprinter's strength training program.

As an athlete matures or as they progress through their training year, exercises may be modified to emphasize certain qualities. Full squats may be replaced with quarter squats to target joint angles seen in upright sprinting, low intensity jumps may be replaced with higher intensity plyometrics, bands may be used to increase eccentric velocities on lifts, and contrasts between lifts and jumps may be used to create a more potent stimulus.

Strength Training Workouts For Sprinters

Because the strength needs of athletes vary widely, I cannot show examples for every situation that exists. Regardless, the following examples may give you a basic idea of how training might vary for different athletes as they pursue strength for sprinting.

Strength Training Workout Example For Beginners:

  1. Box Jumps - 3x5
  2. Kettlebell Goblet Squats - 3x12
  3. DB Row - 3x12
  4. Walking Lunge - 3x12
  5. Single Leg Glute Bridge - 3x15
  6. Push Ups - 3x15

Strength Training Workout Example For Intermediate Athletes:

  1. Stiff Ankle Hops - 3x10
  2. Concentric Squat Jump To Box - 4x3
  3. Barbell Hip Thrust - 3x5
  4. Parallel Back Squat - 3x5
  5. DB Bench Press - 3x10
  6. DB Row - 3x10
  7. Back Extensions - 3x12
  8. Sit Ups - 4x20

Strength Training Workout Example For Advanced Athletes:

  1. Single Leg Hops (Low Ground Contact Time) - 3x10 per side
  2. Contrast: 6x3 Banded Quarter Squat & 6x2 18" Drop Jump
  3. Single Leg Back Extension - 4x8
  4. Bench Press - 4x3
  5. Weighted Chin Up - 3x12
  6. Seated Sit Up On Box - 5x20

General Conditioning For Sprinters

While much of the sprinter's training should be focused on specific forms of training, it is true that to be good sprinter you must have sufficient levels of general conditioning. General conditioning could be thought of as the basic physical capacities needed to be able to perform sprinting workouts and other forms of training for sprinters.

General conditioning has two main components, tempo endurance running and circuit training. Some coaches use one or the other while some coaches use both, but across the board you will find that most track & field programs include at least one of these forms of training, especially during the early off-season.

Tempo Endurance Training For Sprinters

When it comes to general conditioning, extensive tempo is one way to build fitness for sprinters.

Here are some guidelines for extensive tempo training for sprinters:

  • Intensity Level: 50-75%
  • Short Sprinter Tempo Distances: 60 to 300 meters
  • Long Sprinter Tempo Distances: 100 to 600 meters
  • Short Sprinter Tempo Volume Range: 1000 to 3000 meters
  • Long Sprinter Tempo Volume Range: 1200 to 4000 meters
  • Rest Periods: 30 seconds to 3 minutes per sprint

Tempo Endurance Workout For 100 Meter Dash Sprinters:

  1. Track Warm Up
  2. 3 x 4 x 100m with 45 seconds between sprints, 3 minutes between sets, 75% effort,
  3. Bodyweight circuit.

Tempo Endurance Workout For 200 Meter Dash Sprinters:

  1. Track Warm Up
  2. 8x200m with 2 minutes between sprints, 3 minutes between sets, 75% effort.
  3. Bodyweight circuit.

Tempo Endurance Workout For 400 Meter Dash Sprinters:

  1. Track Warm Up
  2. 3 x 400m, 300m, 200m with 3 minutes between sprints, 6 minutes between sets.
  3. Bodyweight circuit.

Circuit Training For Sprinters

Circuit training is another great way to develop general conditioning, but it also has great effects on general strength, general mobility, and can prevent overuse injuries as circuits do not replicate the movement patterns of a sprinter's specific training.

Circuits can be performed for time, such as 20 seconds on and 40 seconds off, or for reps with a given rest period. Circuits can be done with just an athlete's bodyweight, with a weighted vest, or with medicine balls.

These circuits for track sprinters can include typical strength training exercises such as squats and push ups, but they can also include mobility oriented exercises as well as low intensity hops or sprint drills.

Here are some exercises you could use in a circuit for sprinters:

  • Bodyweight squats
  • Pushups
  • Inchworms
  • Lunges
  • Plank variations
  • Leg raises
  • Lateral squats
  • Ground based mobility exercises
  • Partner assisted med ball exercises

Conclusion

As you can see, training for sprinters in track encompasses a wide range of different training methods, all of which are integral to an athlete's success. If you want to sprint as fast as possible, it is important that you balance your training with these different types of workouts, emphasizing those workouts which are most relevant to your needs and the demands of your event.

If you need more help figuring out how to train for the sprints, make sure to check out my sprint training programs, this page on the 100 meter dash, and this page on the 200 meter dash.


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