Effect of Training on Grass

In light of recent developments in the world of track and field, the two fastest men in history training almost exclusively on grass, I think it’s time to look into this a little further. We’ve all heard of the benefits of running on grass early in the season and for tempo work, but perhaps doing acceleration and max velocity work on grass provides some unknown or unheralded benefits. I remember reading a study on this board that showed that training on grass led to increased tendon stiffness compared to training on a harder surface.

Is it possible that running full speed on grass works as a sort of very specific resistance training for the event itself which is run on a very fast surface, Mondo? This is just pure speculation of course, but is it possible that they have stumbled upon a better way of doing things?

Good post and subject.

I would think the quality of the grass surface would be a factor. Here grass tracks are simply markings on a park used for soccer or rugby in winter. They have a few dips in places, aren’t cut that short and quite spongy even in summer. That said conditions in the WI don’t look flash either.

Here is my personal experience on the topic.

I find training on grass much more comfortable than on other surfaces. I feel more “free”, natural and relaxed and i definitely feel the diference of the impact on the joints. Whenever i run on synthetic tracks the pounding is very noticeably.

If long cross country spikes are used speed and accels can be done perfectly on grass with no skidding at all.

We had a number of discussions about this in the past. Ben trained on grass for th transition from GPP to SPP in winter 86/87 and was breaking records almost from th start of the season (missed by only .01 in that first race)
Tim’s program had grass sprints included and this program appears to have been continued with Gatlin and Crawford.

Charlie, do you think the new turf has the same effect?

Further, what about for athletes who play on turf. Would working on the track for speed/accel have a benefit for them on turf?

Charlie, can you speculate on what mechanism is in play? What makes the sprints on grass effective?

From experience, I can relate being tighter through the hamstrings and calves when running faster on grass. The softer the surface the more difficult it becomes.

Contact time is also increased on the softer ground.

It has always been a bone of contention whether running on track or grass is better for going faster. I tend to agree that a combination at the right times of the prep will work best.

Exactly, is it possible that training with this added difficulty produces certain qualities that carry over to running faster on a track than one normally would?

It would have a overspeed effect.

No wonder I see my teammate that’s the WR of football team run the 100 and 200m like nothing. 11 and 24 a piece.

I would doubt it is the same- I don’t like it for training personally.

i do SPP on grass as much as possible and even into SPP if weather permits or if training circumstances demand (St Kitts had no track in 86). It’s a form of added resistance and easy on the legs. it does seem you can round into sprint speed very quickly after.

Could you please expand on this, I am just curious, as here in vancouver the fields are used for soccer and are chewed up to pieces. I have been using it with my athletes and with my own training, and find it great for the gpp and accels in the warmup. Im just curious to the negatives to it.

“Grass turf”–the stuff with the little black rubber pellets–seems to be pretty popular in the States. I think Charlie has said before that he didn’t like it, but is it bad enough to just use the track instead?

I am training on grass at the moment. We will do the vast majority of sessions on grass until Spetember.

I have noticed an athlete having problems with calves (which put him out of the sport from 12 months) and hadn’t thought that the grass could do it.

However the athletes may have 3-4 sessions on the track over winter.

I am not sure what new based turf you are talking about, but the field hockey turf is on a concentrate base and still hard.

I think it’s highly individual so it’s hard to give you hard and fast guidelines. try it with the idea that it’s a safe surface and use it when you can. you must NEVER fight over a grass surface and relaxation is paramount.

I actually had the same tightness in the areas you describe. It’s due to the slipping / lack of traction. If you wear proper shoes, also with long spikes, you wont get any kind of discomfort.

At the end of the day, an athlete with better mechanics or that is fresher and recovered should suffer less from any of the issues.

It’s best when the grass isn’t too soft either, I reckon a grass track after rain is way worse than having a session on the Mondo track when it’s raining - but with that said, you can’t do 6x200m on the grass one week and do 6x200m on the track for the next session (if it happens to be raining, for example).

I reckon you have to transition from grass to track properly. And that may take a few weeks, i.e. to use the previous example – to go from doing 6x200m at 85% walk back recovery on grass to doing the same session on the track.

That being the case then, you would need somewhere with consistent weather. In the UK, I don’t think it is practical to run quickly on grass throughout the winter months, others may want to correct me, with the cross country spikes or not. Also, the weather is inconsistent even this time of year, so if you are not able to locate your sessions based upon day to day weather, you would be better sticking with the track??