400m speed training

I am currently studying P.E and sports coaching degree in cuba and I am in my training practice year now (final year). I would like to get information and ideas on :
1.how to improve speed over the 400m using the assisted and resisted sprinting methods.
2.should be done throughout the training the year,ie from general preparations to competion phase ? or when should this method be utilised ?
3. how often should be applied in a week?
4 what methods will you advice for using with weighted vests,sleds etc ?

A must-read thread, if you haven’t done it already!


More specifically to your question, Charlie suggests that any resistance work on the track should not exceed a 10% reduction in your time for a set distance.

Hope it helps!

Edit: assisted work and runs with a vest perhaps wouldn’t be the best -please use the Search button on top and have a look at these issues.

Ideally an athlete wishing to have sucess over 400m (at any level) should already have good 100m/200m speed because it is easier to develop endurance than speed, this is evident with a lot of todays world class sprinters who have come from those events as youngsters, and therefore speed development whould not be the main focus as a means to improve 400m performance. In the case of an 800m/400m type runner, however, improvement in max speed will obviously have more of a significant effect on improvement.

So, when approaching speed development for 400m athletes one should first look at long term goals for the athlete. If the athlete is of a young age (or young training age) and significant imporvement of max speed is to be expected, then long term it would probably be better to train as a 100m/200m athlete with competitions over 400m acting as the endurance development over a season.

Question 2: The fastest way to develop speed is to train it exclusively whenever possible. This would mean either focusing on it yearly in the case of young athletes, or in off season phases of the season with older athletes.

Question 3: Assuming speed development is the exclusive training module, then the recovery times for the body and cns being at least 48hrs with the types of training invloved alsos 2-3 sessions a week.

For more experienced athletes who it is determined speed development should be an area of focus in order to improve performance they would likely be an endurance dominant athlete, as is the case with 800m/400m athletes. In this case the athlete would be running at a higher % of max V in a 400m race than a 100m/200m based speed dominant athlete. Therefore as they develop speed they must be sure to develop the ability to run at high speeds with a relaxed technique as it is likely the will continue to be running with a small speed reserve, as any endurance training they continue to do will lilkely develop at or close to the rate of the comparativly slower speed development. This will determine the tools used; the use of assisted/resisted methods may have a negative effect on technique.

Question 1: I would advise against assisted methods apart form maybe running in a tale wind. Towing & downhill runing both result in the foot striking further in front of BDC and hence longer gorund contact times. If you are feeling very adventurous you could do heavy weights 1-3reps before sprint practice to enhance CNS activation in the sprint session but this is an injury risk!

Resistance training is more useful. As Nikoluski points out resistance should slow performance no more than 10% time. It is probably best to combine resistance and non resisted runs into a single session. Some thing like:

sets of
1 x 30-50m resisted
3 x 30-50m normal

or 1 set resisted following sets normal.

This method works by using the resisted run to overactivate the cns and improve proprioception. These effects are then imediatly capitalised on by running max v at an improved performance.

As a note i would guess that a resisted or assisted session would be more stressfull than a “normal” session and hence other activites, such as weights, may need to be reduced in volume and/or session frequency reduced.

Question 4: Points to consider are: Weighted vests increase the loading on the lower spine. Sleds move the athletes effective CoG and may negativly effect technique. Another option is speed makers which are weights attached to the thighs, this takes the loading off of the spine and has the added effect of increasing reisistance to hip flexion, although i couldn’t say if this is desireable or not. Shallow hill training is probably the most natural and my preferred method.


I am trying to approach training for 400/800 by develping speed and endurance concurrently. Right now, I have two days per week speed focus and two days endurance focus, along with two days of weight training. As a slightly older athlete, I can vouch for the idea that endurance is easier to develop.

That approach has worked well for me in the past as well. The trick is to getting the 800/400 guys (myself in this case) not to freak out at the low distance intervals (and attempt to do too much volume).

thanks every one for giving your ideas… I really appreciate them… I would like to update on my training diary… I am currently in santiago ( a hilly or mountanous area ) do I have to can I a make use of the hills and how many time weekly…

first week in october
monday-6 km runs different pace
tuesday-30m102…100 general jumps
wednesday-200m10 at 75%
walk back recovry
120 general jumps
thursday-5 km
walk back rec.
10 min rest

sat- 40m42 sand sprints

will give an update on this week’s program… can you give your ideas and comments please… gracias

Which seems to be what you have done speedymose. Typically speed work would consist of volume around 2 x 4 x 30m or 2 x 3 x 50m or 5 x 60m until work capacity goes up then session volume may go up to around +50%.

How long do you plan on doing the Xkm runs? What do you plan on doing next.

With the concurrent plan my preferred method is to do speed development short-to-long, adhering to charlies principals so i won’t go into the reasoning. And long-to-short on the speed endurance. So long as the intensity of the speed endurance isn’t to high the longer, and therefore slower, paced speed endurance runs interfere less with the speed dev. adaptation. Long-to-short seems to be the best way to develop endurance and by the time the athlete is approaching SE1 (300m sprints) they should have improved their tolerance to high intensity work and be able to cope with. Speed dev would be no more than 95% at this time however. It should already be in place by this time of the yr.

Speedymose; with your program i would start by reducing the volume of the sprint sessions to what i described earlier in the post. As a simple progressive guide the following use hills/resisted runs is an example:

Each training period 3 speed session/wk

1st period: 2 hill sessions 1 flat session
2nd period: 1 hill sesson 2 flat sessions
3rd period: 1 *complex resisted session 2 flat sessions

*1 x 30-50m resisted
3 x 30-50m normal

or 1 set resisted following sets normal.

If you are doing a lot of speed endurance development the number of seesion may need to be redcued:

M - Speed/weights
T - Endrance
W - Rest
T - Speed/weights
F - Endurance
S - Adjustment session*
S - Rest

  • I use the adjustment session which is mainly a conditioning session to complete the week. So if it was a hard week it would be a recovery session, if i have missed an element of training due to an exceptional performance early on or due to fatigue then i might do a little work on this, or even if it is a very easy week i might repeat monday or thursday which is still with in limits, the only reason it is not scheduled is because i have found the speed endurance slows recovery compared to if it was just a tempo session.

More accuratly i increase volume and decrease the density of speed sessions to give a longer recovery time between sessions which gives me time to recover from the lactic inducing speed end. sessions.

Speedmose, by all means, take advantage of the time you have to train will hills! I’m speaking for my own experience here, and have found that hill training has always worked wonders for lowering my times–at any distance I’m training for. Serious hill work will rough you up but you should benefit in the long run.