Italian sprint training

This article sums up and translates an article in the book for technical formation of sprint coaches dated 1983 by Carlo Vittori.
There will be many more, and more recent, in the next future.
The structure of training consist of 3 periods:
preparatory period,competitive period and transition period.
The preparatoryperiod, in a single or annula periodization, is 6 months and a half or 5 months and a half long, and features 3 distincts stages:
general, fundamental, special.
General Stage:2 or 3 cycles of 1 month,depending on the level of the athlete.(longer for the lower level).The first of these cycles is an introductory one, after the transition period, to regainthe best organic efficiency…Working muscle and aerobic power.(the latter more for 400s, the first more for sprinters)after this first cyle, the others will be 3 microcyles of 10 days long, with 6 days of loading and 4 of unloading, with no muscular work and, just for 400s, more aerobic work.
During deloading, many specific tests are performed.(jumps, bounds, quickness exercises, sled)
Fundamental stage:2 months, with 3 3 weeks cycles for elite athòetes ( 2 high load, 1 deload), whereas for lower level athletes 4 week long cycles(3+1).In this stage , speed endurance,lactic capacity, specific speed strength,speed-strength enduraance, acceleration and start technique are emphasazied.The main stressor is the intensity, whereas the volume will grow only in the first cycle.
Special stage:Usually lasts 40 days,2 cycles of3 weeks (2+1).Volumes of work decreases, intensity rises.Everything is getting more specific, more block work, flying sprints, specific endurance.
At the end of this cycle, starts the competitive period, with the first part consisting of lower level races.The training is arranged according to the competition calendar, in order to find the best fitness.
At the end of this first period of competitions, 3 or 4 days of rest and then the main races of the yaer, one or 2 if enough days btwn them are allowed.
More races can e performed after this peak,if a regeneratin period is used.
it consists of 3 weeks, with the first 7 of light wprk or rest, 12 of special work, 3-4 of rest.
Next time, double periodization arrangements…
This is quite old, but it sums up Vittori phylosophy…However, in recent years he has changed some interesting points for sprinters…
Hope it interests …

Very interesting
have you any samples of week schedules?

I think that the actual content of the individual session + microcycles is the key. The loads that Vittori prescribed for Mennea and other elite sprinters is increadible…maybe ridiculous.

Vittori wrote an article in NSA (6:1; 35-46, 1991) which is much milder in it’s approach. It’s on the development of young 400m runners. He is clearly a long-to-short coach. He does no actual speed work in the first prep. phase. As eroszag has stated, weights are removed as competition gets near, and there is a fair amount of jumps training throughout the program. What I found interesting was that Vittori did have his athletes run short speed endurance (60’s, 80’s + 100’s) in the prep for indoor even though speed had not been addressed.

My impression is that Vittori and the Italian school of sprinting has been strongly influenced by Yuri Verkhoshansky who has been employed by their Olympic Committee for sometime now. I remember Charlie commenting that one of the reasons that the Soviets only produced one Borzov is that his coaches rejected the ideology of the state sports scientists. Could their be a relationship here?


The sprint programs of both countries rose at the same time and Mennea was the only one to give Borzov a scare at his prime in early 1972, when both clocked a European record 10.0 in a duel meet in Italy. Borzov pulled out of the 200 and Mennea ran and ER 20.2. There’s no way the Russians were interested in helping the Italians then.
If you look in the Forum Review, you can see some examples of Italian training, often based on 4 speed sessions per week as follows-
Speed, Speed End, off, Speed, Speed End, off, off, with no tempo.
Compared to a Speed, tempo, Speed End, tempo, Speed set-up, it seems to offer more SE over a given season BUT the effect on the CNS requires a 2 + 1 week intensification schedule, vs 3 + 1 in the second scheme, meaning that, at the end of the training year, you get about the same number of intensification opportunities for SE with Vittori’s system but LESS intensification opportunities for Speed.

this is the thoretical approach, but it has undergone some changes during the years.I’ll expose microcycles later…for example, in the preparation phase, aerobic training for sprinters has been virtually eliminated in the last coaches guide.

Yes, tempo has always been ignored in the Special Prep period, though prob used in the GPP. I have always felt it has a role- at least in regards to recovery and, it seems, in the development of absolute speed as tempo increases vasc density around the MM Neurons, lowering electrical resistance. There is an arguement about this in the first Forum Review.

my concern is that, in Italy, the so called Speed Endurance, is intensive tempo run (with large volume) and speed work is ineffective for a large period of the year.

paradoxically (ok, it isn’t parax), the best italian sprinter is one of the fewer who take cure of indoor’s races (60s) with good performance in winter (and of course in the early summer)

I have read quite alot of the Mennea training and see very few pure speed sessions. There was alot Int. Tempo work which was often preceeded by ASSE/GSSE work. There were also quite a few sessions of jumps training. The modulation of these sessions was also quite interesting as they would often piggyback similar sessions on consecutive days. Was this disinformation? The more recent writings of Vittori seem more reasonable in their approach.

I have only seen a small sample of what Mennea did prior to Munich, but it was much seemed much more reasonable to me at least. I am not saying that Verkhoshansky was helping the Italians during this period, only that he has worked for them of late. I’m not sure if he moved after the fall of the Soviet Union or if he defected some time prior. To me at least, his influence on Vittori is apparent.


…and we do see the results in the long term!
Today I really feel General Fitness and Low Intensity training for speed power events have been too long ignored and their structures and implications too little investigated lately around here…

I see from a few italian coaches this approach.
Another corrent trend is the “transformation” concept: for example after a weight training for a javelin thrower is a must do some not resisted work …

I agree with Charlie and pakewi regard the low intensity.
I had experience from myself : 1 year training only at high intensity,never done a tempo or low intensity work.
My BF% was higher than normal even if i was checking a little more the nutrition.
it was hard to sleep some nights;my progress in sprinting(max speed)were not so good,even if power and strength were improved quite well…and many other things :slight_smile:

you can see my post in the topic about english sprinter, in which i wrote about some samples of Mennea’s week schedules

Actually I meant long runs through the woods, not the extensive tempo, that however is not really present, execp at the beginning of the year, but later the pace seems to increase too much…

I will post what i have when I have the chance

How good is Verkhoshansky? Is he up there as one of the World’s top coaches?


Verkhoshansky is a sports scientist/training theorist.

Is he any good? I personally like some of his ideas, but much of recent writings seem designed to provoke a reaction. Many of his concepts run counter to Charlie’s methodology. I personally tend to lean more towards Coach Francis if for no other reason, his experience is practical rather than theoretical.


Verkhoshansky is a great scientist and coach and i don’t think that his ideas as regard training are so far from Francis ones.
I.e. the concept of the concentrate loading of strength training and the process of deleyed training effect (after this period)
We can see it with the chart in Forum Review by CF (one of the last pages).
There is an article by YVerkh in which the russian wrote that after an hard session of training, in the following day, the athlet have to arrange an easy session (he argues these one with protein synthesis, urea concentration and anabolic/catabolic process)
On third day of this miniblock of trainging, he suggests a medium session (the 4th can be a rest day)
If we see CF’s schedule we can have:
sprint + W
tempo run
SpEnd + W
Tempo run
Sprint + W
tempo run

First, Third e 5th day are hard but the third (SpecEnd day) is (relatively) light

Again: the process of teaching technique is similar (summarily(!): before comes strength process and the technique)
Instead, in Italy many coachs pride that they focus much in technique but… they do it with an intensity of 85-90%!!

So, for me, the main problem, in italy, is to understand the peculiarity of sprint training and process:

  1. intensity is the main factor
    If we see evident difference in Mo’s running in world contests with a small difference of 0"1 btw QF/SF and final!
    but what have i to think when italian sprinters spend 4-5 months of the year with and intensity below 90-95%?

  2. sprint sessions taxe heavly CNS more than other activities (For example: WLing)
    Instead, in italy we can see sprinters who perform 4-5 session per week with large volume

  3. if you believe that a training element is important, you have to train it every week: if you don’t train strenght for weeks, you will lost strength!
    in italy, many sprinters adopt this strategy

  4. there is a training process and a recovery process: some sprinter of national level don’t have a therapist (one of the problem)

and so on

I don’t want to hijack this thread with a discussion of Verkoshansky, however, I totally reject the idea that he and Charlie have anything but peripheral similarities.

YV places places all training methods in distinct blocks, ExT moving into IntT moving into Speed and finally finishing with SpecEnd for example. He completely rejects the short to long method as well as the idea of speed being addressed throughout the program. Finally he prescribes some very high intensity jumps training which run counter to Charlies views.

As it relates to Italian sprint methodology I see some very strong parallels with YV.


btw, who has YV actually coached?

instead, i think there are parallels with russian (generally)
As wroten, in Platonov you can see some studies in wich the microcycle was:

I day
II day
Speed endurance
III day

I agree for plyos

“Is he any good?” What? Who did the pilot research in the Soviet Union on jump training aka plyometrics? Who led soviet weightlifting research and countless other sports research to back up what coaches were doing? Non other than Pr Yuri Verkhoshansky. I suppose he is more a researcher/scientist not a coach.

If I may add Verhoshansky’s training plan leads to an athlete doing high volumes of concentrated strength training during which performance/supercompensation is delayed for the equal amount of time that the strength training occured. For example if the concentrated strength phase took 2 months to dig yourself a whole, then it would take 2 months to super compensate! Its all in Supertraining by M Siff. Also do not forget that YV and his scientists and coaches would have been able to control training using high quality testing equipment that, so I would not recommend doing entirely all he proposes unless you have lab tests and the same tests available .