Best Way to Improve Strength for Speed

  1. Since the other thread has been hijacked and steered off, I thought I’d start this one in hopes on generating discussion, sharing of theories and ideas.

  2. Ok here is my take, we all know that the purpose of the weightroom is to increase limit strength as much as possible, or at least until improvements on the track cease.

  3. The optimal method for improving limit strength would be a powerlifting program, or oly lifting/powerlifting hybird of some sort. But the problem arises of it being too stressful for a track program.

  4. So how would members of the forum modify strength programs that have been shown optimal to improve weightroom strength, in order to fit with track workouts?

Limit reps to 1-2 for squats. Don’t do too many sets. CNS fatigue is envitable if you do too many.

Hit your hamstring with lighter weights and more reps 8-12 a set. Overworking your hamstrings will not affect your running ability whereas doing too many squats will.

I do oly lifts and everything else in low rep sets.

Numba, in my mind the solution is a simple one. If the sprinter’s weakness lies in underdeveloped limit strength, than the development of limit strength must be the priority and the track work must then become maintenance work.

This is how weaknesses are brought up without losing gains in strengths by employing the conjugate model of periodization.

For example: The sprinter must reduce the volume of track work to only the ‘money work’ for him or her, and employ a higher volume of weight training. If the components of sprinting are already well developed than they may be maintained by reducing volume. This reduction in running volume will allow for more CNS fatigue in the weight room.

After it’s all said and done, you have a stronger/faster/more explosive sprinter.

The problem with most is that they employ a linear model of periodization in which certain motor abilities go untrained for 3 weeks or so at a time. This is the culprit of detraining.

By employing conjugate periodization, no motor abilities go untrained; instead, certain motor abilities are maintained while others are strengthened, while NO motor abilites are detrained or lost.

For most traditional thinkers a leap of faith is required. Most sprinters are leary of sacrificing track work for time spent in the weight room.

After all of the reading, discussing, and referrencing is done, there is only one sure fired method of assessing the efficacy of a training method.

Try it for yourself.


Few problems to consider:
1: If all track work becomes maintenance work, how will you know if the weights are having the desired effect of advancing track ability? Speed work must ALWAYS be priority one, and it will advance with increases in strength in a sound program, even though it needn’t advance in a linear fashion.
2: If you use a single track volume approach, you will be confronted with an overload of intensity with an insufficient amount of vol to maintain gen fitness over time. That’s why you need a high AND low intensity volume curve, with only the need to adjust the high intensity vol in relation to the weights- the low intensity track work doesn’t compete with weights in levels that are complementary to speed. This is why, in my programs, tempo vols don’t drop as much as speed vols in the final stages.
3: Speed componants are strength related, so speed can never be “well developed” before adequate strength levels are in place.

I have my idea jman, I was just wondering everyone else, this thread is going as I would like, and I agree with charlie’s points. As well, sorry if I missed this, you cant keep track volume constant even in maintainance because it is so high intensity, it must be reg. on a day to day basis, as well as the strength training reg. on a day to day basis in relation to the strength training.

With respect to the development of speed, I Can’t argue with Charlie. In retrospect, I had a more junior level runner in mind when constructing my post. In the case of a junior level runner/athlete I would in certain cases (i.e., those who lack limit strength/hypertrophy) supercede track volume with weight trainng.


Presumably supercede speed work vol, as opposed to all track vol?

I would superced a specific component of sprinting, the athletes strongest ability, with weight work.

As always employing a cost/benefit analysis.

So, no, not supercede all track volume, only the strongest component of sprinting which is in LEAST need of development, therefore, providing a little leeway which allows for the mixing/matching of a higher training volume where needed.


If I may share a bit of personal experience -
These last 2 weeks or so, Ive run into exactly the same problem as Charlie outlined. It remains to be seen however if my limit strength gains (10lb PR in 5rm box squat) will create the supercompensatory effect when I test with my 60m on friday.
my previous 3 track sessions were
10-20-30-40-50m accels, 2r each, followed by a test 60m…
only the 60m were FAT. they were 7.74 -7.70-7.70
by feel, the first session my 60 felt faster, and the shorter the accel, the slower it felt.
just the opposite the second and third sessions.
each session was split up by 3 days of low intensity general work…

Comments welcome—


On the old forum you mentioned that hou had your athletes perform loading work in the 8-10 rep range and more recently made the comment that when doing a pyramid weights system that sprinters would be wise to use a broader base than lifting athletes. Can you go into a little more detail on this?

I did do a wider base with some, but not all. I am saying that the SE demands of the sprinters may reflect on the width of their base. Whether or not they need to go to higher numbers is individual and depends on such factors as time available (more likely with double than triple periodization, for example), event (400m vs 100m), and other training factors (use of explosive med ball training, either before or during the weight period in question), and years of training with weights (Ben used sets of 10 extensively till 1985, but only occasionally after).
Some points to consider:
1: Will a short period with higher numbers aid in recovery from CNS overload?
2: Can a move to higher numbers aid in a shift to a higher-than-anticipated advancement of lift percentages, made necessary by a prolonged injury period (Ben upper body 1988)?
3: Are higher numbers adviseable if plyo numbers must be lower, due to athlete limitations?
You must reserve the flexibility to do whatever is needed, whenever needed. The point of experience is to know when to vary from the accepted model to get the job done.

As all speed competes for CNS energy with weights, I assume you mean you drop the total speed vol by dropping that portion of it which is least in need of improvement- which is exactly right!
People are still shocked to hear how little time Ben spent on starts. But, how much work did his start need anyway?

Allow me to stray from the thread for a moment…

Charlie, it is encouraging for me to observe that you have validated my concept of prioritizing volume requirements. As a S&C coach who is relatively new to the field, in a professional/formal sense, it is very rewarding to receive, if only on an isolated training topic, the ominous dominous from an individual of your caliber.