400m Training HELP!!!

OK, I need some help here. I’m coaching a group of college men and women in the sprints. Most of the group is concentrated on running good 400’s. I’m having a difficult time trying to figure out what end of training to come from. (ie train from short side and do more speed based stuff or train from long end and have more endurance)

Basically I’m trying to figure out if during the SPP Phase we are in now, we should be concentrating on short end speed with higher intensity or special endurance at a lower intensity.

I’m a believer that you should develop your SPEED first then train to run faster longer, but some people are trying to tell me that you should train to go longer first and faster later.

Please help, this is causeing me alot of stress lately. Any input would be greatly appreciated!

Wekk first of all, what is your current training structure? Are you following a Charlie Francis template with alternating low and high intensity days or are you doing something else?

Another thing, how much longer is your season since you’re already in SPP? If its less than 5 weeks I’d follow what I have here and then have your runners taper for their peak. If its more than 5 weeks you would probably want to change it as time goes on so they dont get stale from the same training on the same day of the week.

Also, (I dont pretend to be an expert here but…) I think you can follow a Charlie Francis template using your beliefs in terms of training. You can use maybe something like this (just a sample)

Monday: MaxV (your runners are fresh and so it would be a good idea to develop this here, also, acceleration and decelerration are all on a percentage of your overall MaxV for a 400m runner, so a runner with a high MaxV would have an advantage over a runner with a lower one)

Tuesday: Extensive Tempo (here you can really get your runners acclimated to longer runs by doing distances of 500 or even 600m at about 70% for an overall volume of about 2000m)

Wednesday: Special Endurance (This is where you really develop your race, maybe have your runners do 2*420m in racelike conditions with full recover [read:35min+] between runs)

Thursday: Extensive Tempo (do less volume today after the intensity on the CNS the day before, possibly 400m or 500m runs at 60% for a total of 1500m)

Friday: This would be like a wild card day, if you notice a runner is weak in terms of overall speed then have them work MaxV. If a runner needs to work on endurance maybe do a workout similar to Wednesday or even consider intensive tempo (possibly). If you see a runner is still fatigued from the preceding workouts then have them do a short extensive tempo session and send them home to rest.

Sat: Extensive Tempo similar to Tuesday (or give runners day off, depends on how they feel)

Obviously you would want to include weights or training with Med balls at least twice a week (3 for more advanced runners) on your intensive days.

This is just what I think, and I could be completely off base, so anyone else feel free to comment or correct me.

Maybe you could check the CF archives because I think there might be some food for thought there, including a concept of concurrent development of speed and endurance for the 400m.

Concurrent development of speed and endurance for the 400m runner is very beneficial for several reasons:

It allows a speed base to be built up.
It allows a greater period for the development of both to occur over and therefore allows more gradual progression, which helps reduce risk of injury and increases the control you have over the rate of development.
Each feeds off the other. Speed will aid endurance and endurance will aid speed.

However, speed development does not necessarily entail max v work with full recovery etc. Hill work with short recovery, drills, flat speed with short recovery and even some types of endurance work will develop speed.

Just being devils advocate here…

Couldn’t too much flat speed with short recovery actually make you more susceptible to injury? Running fast when not fully recovered is always a risky proposition.

Overdistance with average recovery seems to be the best way to build speed endurance without risking injury. I rarely ever see of a 400m runner getting injured doing the 600m. On the other hand, I’ve seen many runners get injured doing 3x3x100m @85-90% with 30sec rest between reps…

Concurrent development of speed and endurance for the 400m is the way to go.

However, I would prefer both ends to middle…

Here are a few articles, there are extra links on the second one.



In the first article it states the importance of endurance runs to improve aerobic capacity, even though the 400m is only about 5% aerobic.

Good article…

Thanks for the link…

Here is an article asserting that the 400 is 43% aerobic, 57% aerobic:


Is this correct?

I believe Siff also asserted that the 400 was more than 5% aerobic, but I don’t remember the precise number and don’t have ST with me right now.

I think the level of aerobic-to-anaerobic involvement depends on how fast you race the 400m, how well conditioned you are to tolerate high velocity from start to finish, and probably also on how you approach this race from a strategic standpoint.

When Michael Johnson with his 19.3sec 200 pace goes through halfway of a 43sec 400m in 21.6sec or thereabouts he may well be operating with a higher aerobic element through his opening 200m.

Whereas someone else who has 200m pace of 20.2sec probably dare not run the first 200m faster than 21.0 to 21.2sec splitting in a 400m race. Therefore this man is operating more in the anaerobic area, relying more on his muscle fuels.

Anyway I think the thresh-hold must vary constantly as speed and/or endurance improves, so it may be a bit irrelevant to plan a training program based on aportioning parts thereof to aerobic and anaerobic work. It’s not how I would approach the task at any rate.


Completely agree with kk.
The equations is even harder when you take in account the 200ms type and 800m types of 400m runners.
Some 200m types don’t open fast their 400 (MJohnson, Torrence, G.Jackson), while some others do (Koch, Cheeseborough, P.Davis).
Some 800m types don’t open slowly (Juantorena, Quirot, Crooks) while some others do (O.Nazarova, Miles-Clark, Rübsam)
These examples show that this issue is very individual and rules such as 43%/57% aren’t interesting for us.

Just a thought here. The LOWER the level of the 400m newcommer, the smaller the differential between best 200m and 200m split in the 400. Why? Because the newcommer’s race distribution in the 200m itself is poor and the smother execution on the way out in the 400 yields a surprising result, even though it feels easy. For an experienced sprinter with good 200m race execution, the differentials areas KK describes.

I see it a little bit differently. For me, the 400m newcomer should have his 200m speed already (or partly) in place. This way, the the differential between best 200m and 200m split in the 400 will decrease. And this decrease will be the expression of improvement of specific endurance.
Example with Marie-José PÉREC, who came to athletics with short sprints in 1984 and started 400m in 1988:
YEAR - 400m - 200m - 200split - speed reserve
1988 - 51.35 - 22.72 - 24.7 - 2.0
1992 - 48.83 - 22.20 - 23.8 - 1.6
1996 - 48.25 - 22.07 - 23.25 - 1.2

That is correct in theory, but not always in practice because of the 200m execution by beginners. They go out excessively hard for their ability and struggle mightily on the backstretch. This is why they run faster than expected in the first half of the 400m, often surprising themselves. A 22.72 is not an example of a beginner performance!

This is why i’m not in favour of 400m training for beginners, i mean for young teens athletes (as you can be a 400m beginner after several short sprint training years…)

i understand the issue is very complicated and there is no info about the training stage you re in with your athletes, but i’d prefer the speed to be there is the first place and then start building on speed endurance; especially if they are young, as too much speed endurance wouldn’t be ideal for this stage of their training life; this may not bring immediately optimal results, but long term, i think, it’ll take them a long way vs. the other way round; again, not sure about the level of your athletes…
overall, i agree with you that speed comes first and i’d stick with what YOU think is best!

The initial question here is what to do with college men and women in the 400, where there is no choice but to cover all the events.

I’m with Nikolouski, speed and aerobie first, and year after year introduction of special endurance. But if the initial question is immediate result in college, do all the lactic work you want over distances from 150 to 500m 1 or 2 days per week, means up to 35-40 specific cession from the last part of GPP to the end of the competitive season, burn them in 2 years so that they will improve very quickly for their college and then disappear because of stagnation or psychological loss of motivation because of too hard workouts.
To me, to go back to the original question re “I’m a believer that you should develop your SPEED first then train to run faster longer, but some people are trying to tell me that you should train to go longer first and faster later”, a more efficient and harmless solution is to train speed from short distance to long distance, and speed endurance from long-low intensity to short and comeptition intensity. For 400m, i don’t think that preparing directly specific endurance form short distances is good for beginers.

I believe in speed first as wel but that doesn’t change some competition realities. Even if someone must run the 400 at times, it doesn’t mean that they must forgo a short-to-long approach. In fact, my first girls national 400 champ ran only a few 400m races that year and did no Special Endurance runs beyond 200 meters.

First off, don’t stress, it won’t do you or your athletes any good.

Even with the info that you have given, there are still questions that I need to ask before venturing an opinion. If you ask them of yourself, you are likely to find at least some direction.

1.) What did you do in GPP?

2.) How developed are these athletes? Training age, chronological age, etc.

3.) What has their training backround been prior to you taking on their program?

That should provide a good starting point.

In all candor, I wouldn’t try to get too fancy with them at this point. Evolve from what they did before you coached them to a point where you want them to be in the future. If the bulk of them are jrs. + srs. (21-23 yrs old), you may need to be draconian in your methodology (ie: high levels of spec. end.).

Hope that this helps.

I tend to agree with both of you in theory. Remember, however, that some of these athletes are potentially in the 22-23 years of age range with careers that are likely ending if they don’t run fast soon. In such an instance eevyone involved (coach + athlete) may be served best buy turing up the spec. end. and making the most of the situation so to speak.