More MJ training

I found the following on an Australian website regarding Michael Johnson’s training methods. Some very strange ideas in here. What does everybody think of this stuff?

I attended a seminar over the last two days where MJ presented in detail his
training methods over a 5hrs.

His program worked from quantity to quality and aimed for consistency in
competition. It did not have an aim for a peak. It was more important to MJ
and Clyde Hart his coach to produce consistency and this allowed for more
enjoyment of racing.

Most of his training was either shorter than 100m for speed work. His speed
endurance work was almost all significantly slower than race pace. He tended
to develop speed endurance as the main focus and rely on his natural speed.

MJ worked out in the weights room 3 times a week in a way that was not
periodized and involved mostly 3 sets of 10 and the use of short rests
between sets of 30s or less. His sessions were over quickly. He did not
perform Olympic lifts or Squats. Also he did almost zero plyometrics.

Many of his track sessions people would find suprizingly unimpressive in
their speeds but the stimulus effect of the sessions was the key and also
the way they were run. Mostly at an exactly constant pace. The sessions also
often had as short a rest as possible between reps.

I will follow up in a few days time with some of his key sessions

Here are some more detailed notes.

Strived primarily to be consistent, it was his number one priority.

Program designed to create this.

Did not believe in peaking

Built a base and then did not “milk” it too much, kept topping it up

Consistency - coach , training environment, everything - nothing ever
changed much

Setting goals - big goals with small goals to lead to it.

Maintaining work ethic required reminding self of goals, 100% perfect

Coach learns from athlete, athlete learns from coach - feelings of athlete
shaped work done either quality or quantity. Athlete had superior mental
understanding of program,

Athlete-Coach rely on one another


Initial College strategy was : Slow as possible for first 200m then go hard,
this strategegy was shaped and tuned over the years to be - reach race speed
as early as possible in first 50m cruise to 200m then accelerate steadily
next 100m and hold form for last 100m

Workouts done to rehearse strategy called EVENT workouts
eg 3 x ( 350m in 46s rest 1min 100) 5min rest


Event 300s

Which were run with first 50m very quick but then relaxing to go through
first 200m in 28s and then the last 100 sub12s rest 10min between (in
College) shorter later to maybe 5min

Aimed to have consistent stride frequency and length for duration of race -
not a longer stride at end, Allow a shorter stride to just happen but
maintain cadence.

Holding Form

Improved by Strength Endurance

Upper body strength from exercises like running arms with good form 5 x 15
each arm with 30s rest.

Did mostly 400m training even though he ran 200m in 19.32

Offseason did two aerobic runs a week 20-45min max. This was for firsrtv 3
weeks mostly but offseason was usually 6 weeks.

Longer reps 2 x 800m or 3 x 600m rest 15min

Common key workout In pre-season

3 x 350m rest 5min in College , later it became 3 x 350m rest 3min , each
50m at same speed.

One Speed workout was called 60 -40m

2 sets of 2 laps of 60m at 95% slow down 40m then pitter-patter jog 40m
then 60m at 95% 40m slow down - pitter patter jog 40m. rest between sets

Speed work often was

30, 40, 50, 60, 70 on bend with full recoveries

Weight Training

3 Gym sessions a week usually in morning

from about 9am till 10am - over in an hour

On any day sometime done Mon-Tue-Wed or spread out in week.

Track is at 3pm usually over within 1:45

Weights is general all body work with short recoveries and usually 3 sets of
10 rest less than 1min maybe 30s

No squats , no Olympic lifts, Also did good variety of core work eg 3 x 30m
situps 1min rest

Gym did not change in format throughout the season

Did not ever lift really heavy , he did lunges

Normal Warmup

4 laps jog straight - run bends

Stretch 30min

Drills 4-5 x 30m over a speed ladder with fast cadence. This Michael
believed was significant effect on his turnover. These were done with a
flatish footed contact not with feet pointing down and a quick recovery.

Buildups sometimes for example 3 x 150m with each 50m quicker

Then workout

Comp Warmup

4 laps as usual

Stretch 30min

3 x 100m - first moderate, harder, fast with full recoveries

a few pre-race drills

Time Trials

Did not like Time Trials rather use a key session and base of ease of pace
and recovery.

Typically when 2 x 350m rest 3min in 46s was feeling great - race form was

At Competition

Expect the unexpected


Train the mind to control the body in competition in the way that is wanted.

Sustained Speed work

60m & over was at 95% - never 100%.

Longer work was done for stimulus not for race pace rehearsal, so nearly all
was at paces slower than race pace.


6 x 100m at 95% non-timed from standing start rest 5min


Never did plyometrics

Overtrain - Undertrain

Better to undertrain than overtrain

Going into Championship

More taper (already doing less volume anyway)

Workout Accuracy

  •      cones every 50m - beeper sounded at set intervals - athlete ran

each 50m at same speed. - Be on the buzzer

  •      Standing starts
  •      Workouts done at times planned not faster - not slower.  

Important not to go faster than predetermined targets even with 200s in 32s

The program includes a plan that divides

Off season - 6 weeks (first 3 weeks on grass)

Pre season

Early season

Late Season

But almost year the program is similar

Monday - Tempo 200s starting with more at 32s and progressing to less late
in year in 25s

Tue - long reps starting at 2 x 800m progressing to 2 x 450

Wed - 350m reps x 2-3 - improving in speed

Thu- hills, speed or event specific

Fri - similar to Thurs

Sat - similar to Thurs

Refreshing Base

Coach needs to decide when to refresh base by going back slightly from
quality to quantity even if just for a week or two mid season , important
not to take too much from base.

Athletes rewarded

Athletes rewarded with fun things - more speed , less reps by doing well at
quantity stuff and proving they are ready to do less with more quality.
Coach decides timing.

Interesting stuff. The times sound slowish, seems like he does extensive tempo most of the time if those times are correct.

Pretty much exactly what we do not believe here on Charlie Interesting. MJ was just one of a kind i guess.
Is this how Clyde Hart trains his 400 runners at Baylor now too? If he does then that just goes to show there is more than 1 way to skin a cat which we already know.

It just seems so crazy to me.

It appears to be tempo for first 3 days, then speed based last 3 days of the week. I guess if you extend it over a few weeks its still a speed, tempo, speed, tempo etc format.

Just keep in mind some of it wasn’t quite reported accurately. There are a few things that are slightly misleading and others have been left out.

[QUOTE=QUIKAZHELL]If he does then that just goes to show there is more than 1 way to skin a cat which we already know.


It’s amazing how often you guys throw this phrase around without actually meaning it.

Not neccessarily. The only thing he does that would make some of you beef-head 400 runners piffy is the amount of overdistance he did. Hills can be just as good as plyo’s if the hill is steep enough, and sometimes (most times IMO) more effective than weights. MJ still did speed work and in a method that allowed his CNS to recover between sessions. The factoring of the central nervous system into workout schedualing is really the only major difference between the assumed “CF doctrine” and mainstream sprint training.
My two cents

----offhand MJ comment—
Ever wonder what kind of an 800 that monster could churn out? 1:47-8 or faster?

There were other major differences in the programmes … A majority of the speed work was done with short recoveries on grass, and wouldn’t have impacted of the nervous system in the same way.

He also didn’t actually say he didn’t do plyo’s. He said he didn’t to some types of plyo’s just as hurdle hops or bounding, but there were other thinks in there…

On the side note, he actually said he struggled massively with anything over 400m. According to him 450’s, 500’s and 600’s were by far his worst sessions.

That’s more or less what i’ve red from various seminars transcripts of Clyde Hart.
Yes, the times seems to be slow for MJ, but Hart explained that the difference is in the recovery times, much short for MJ than for the others. Hart takes more attention to the runs times, so when MJ was tired, he lengthened the recovery times in order to that MJ did the projected run times.

About weights, this article confirms that they weren’t interested in lifting heavy weights, they paied more attention to the number of reps and the release speed. During the first part of training year, they did weights in the morning, and track the afternoon, because strength work is more important at this stage of the year. Later, in the last part of the year, they do the opposite.

Dazed is correct on a number of points.

1.) There are some things missing from the article.
2.) He trained on grass as much as possible.
3.) He REALLY struggled the longer the distance got in training.

Still, I would say that what OZtrack put out is @95% on target, and allows the reader to get an idea of what MJ did in training.

Pierrejean is correct on the intensity/recovery time issue. Everyone at Baylor runs the same target times. Adjustments are made in the rest as the athlete improves. In general, MJ’s were the shortest. Interesting way to modulate intensity of a session, but it does seem to work (3:01.06 this past weekend in the 4x400relay).

PJ is also correct on the weights philosophy.