Special Endurance revisited

Would speed endurance be emphasized twice a week with max v once a week early in SPP2?

HI Charlie

re the 150+50 session
what feedbck, performance indications did you get from such sessions.

how did you relate this to upcomign races.

Depends on the lenght of this phase and the importance of early objectives, but it could be set up that way.

Hi charlie , many thanks for your response, With the structure of the special endurance runs would you run them with varying (limiting intensities )as in your phase 1 speed progression i.e 60m but run hard for 40m plus maintain?

secondly as the runs increase in length say upto 200m would you need less of the runs in any given work out?

i.e lets say you move from doing 80’s as you suggest from 7/8 mins rest through the weeks your now on week 6 can you start introducing 100’s and 120’s here and would the rest bewteen reps follow with longer breaks needed?

i.e now say breaks of 12/15 mins?

I wouldn’t wait so long to introduce the longer runs. you could be into 100s within a couple of weeks and 120s one week after. In our case they were introduces almost right away outside as weather is such an issue here, we need to stay at 60 for a bit indoors and our easiest next step is a split 120 (60 down and 60 back) though you could start with split 50s if you prefer (easier for the coach to get back to time the second one!)
As for the rest, yes, start with 40+maintain, moving out as conditions allow and of course the number of reps will drop.

Does the split 120 (60 down and 60 back) mean to sprint 60 and immediately sprint 60 back, or is incomplete recovery given?

You have to slow down safely and compose yourself again before the retuning run so you are looking at about 30s rest periods at the least. I would go by how composed the athlete looks on the return run to determin my recovery. I don’t want the athlete to loose concentration and pull something because they think they need to turn around as fast as possible.


Pretty much as immediate as it can be. In our case, you have 30m to the wall to slow down and you turn and walk back to the end of the lane markings which are 24m past the finish, then set up and go back the other way to a pre-set cone marking the finish. It prob takes 30 secs or a bit less. There is, of course, full recovery between such sets.

Hi charlie,

could you give give some advice on the structure of the split runs . im guessing that the split 120’s for example would be one of the work outs a week totaling upto your volume limits of 500-700m respectively. would that mean that the other special endurance would be of the higher qulaity type that was discussed earlier i.e 2-4 runs at 80m with 7/8mins as a guide.
and another devoted to max velocity early in spp2 obviously changing through the season as it comes closer to competition

i know that there issnt much of a factor of special endurance for teh long jump as the event is only 6 seconds long. But there needs to be some work for variety and adaption past 50m and 60m would you reserve those runs with the higher quality reps over longer recoveries mixed in with shorter speed sessions on the other days

You’re right about the need for some variability, though the amount required will differ between individuals. As a general thought, the more difficult you find very high intensity work, the more you would benefit from Special Endurance.
Two speed and one SE should be fine.

As SE is progressed to longer distances from SPP1 to SPP2 how are rest intevals continued. For example, towards the end of SPP1 a SE workout might be 4X60m w/ 15 min recovery between each. As the 60’s are replaced by 80’s in SPP2, should the rest intervals be dropped back down to incomplete or continue to lengthen?

First of all, when the SE lengthens, it increases one of the high-intensity variables-duration in the intensity (speed)/duration of exposure, so even rests of the same duration as the indoor 60 breaks will be incomplete, so that might be the starting point if the weather is good. Of course, once the max speed for the cycle is in place, top speed for the fastest sprinters will move from just touching top speed at 60 (remember, it’s a bit slower up to the top velocity without the blocks), to holding it possibly from 60 to 80m, so intensity and duration variables are advanced, requiring much longer breaks.

Thought this would be a good place to bring this question up.

Today, I got to talking with another athlete about training and how he goes about it. This guy is 25, with a 400 PR of 45.7. We were talking about speed development, and he had an interesting viewpoint that I’d never heard before.

He agreed with me that short sprints with full recovery was the best way to develop speed, and he also said that longer Special Endurance runs have an important place in the program. However, his reason for doing so was different than any I’ve heard used before (or maybe I havent been paying attention). He said that in short speed work, we don’t recruit and work all the muscles, so we’re not getting the most out of them that we could be during training. He says that in the longer special endurance runs, muscles start to fatigue, so you recruit more and more of the muscle to make up for it and you strengthen it that way. Then when you go back to short speed you’ll run faster because you have an ability to recruit more of the muscle fibers.

Is this reasoning sound?

Charlie has talked before about SE and weights having a similar mechanism and involving maximal recruitment. Maybe this is a real world example?

There was some work published in the late 1990’s done in (I believe) Finland, where they instrumented some 400m runners with EMG equipment on their legs. The researchers found that in the last 100m of a 400, the neuromuscular system was recruiting additional muscle fibers, to replace those that were tiring due to acidosis. It’s not clear to me what place 300-600 SE runs have in this, but clearly there is a place in 400 training for heavy squats for neural recruitment.

If the SEII runs do have a role in recruitment (i.e., high lactate is required) late in a 400, then it’s likely that split runs will not do the same thing because the lactate loads will not be the same.

Sprint coaches have been programming a 400m sprint 10 to 14 days out before a major tournament for their 100m sprinters for many years, at least back to the early 1950s.

Without the benefit of EMG analysis, the theory has always been that the extreme fatigue of the major working muscles induced through sprinting a 400m would force synergist muscles to come to the rescue, as it were.

I first heard this 400m time trial practise from Mike Agostini, a West Indian who lived in Canada before winning the 100 yards at the 1954 Commonwealth Games.

Then Tom Tellez had Carl Lewis and Leroy Burrell do this,. and presumably all his sprinters, before the 1991 Tokyo world championships (and presumably before Helsinki 83, LA 84 etc).

Extreme muscle fatigue is the critical factor. I wonder though whether the same synergist recruitment could be forced by something as simple as as prolongued isometric contraction - legs raised and held off the ground in an extended position for instance. Maybe no lactic acid, but still extreme fatigue? I don’t know the physiology, just asking. It’s not as “specific” as actually running, but it might get around the lactic issue?

Then there is the point that Charlie made, during the Vancouver 2004 seminar, where metabolic acidosis may have an opposite effect on the CNS than some MU recruitment.

These are the two research papers published with EMG results on 400 meter sprinters:

J Sports Sci. 1992 Jun;10(3):217-28.

Changes in force production, blood lactate and EMG activity in the 400-m sprint.

Nummela A, Vuorimaa T, Rusko H.
Research Institute for Olympic Sports, Jyvaskyla, Finland.

The neural activation (iEMG) and selected stride characteristics of six male sprinters were studied for 100-, 200-, 300- and 400-m experimental sprints, which were run according to the velocity in the 400 m. Blood lactate (BLa) was analysed and drop jumps were performed with EMG registration at rest and after each sprint. Running velocity (P less than 0.001) and stride length (P less than 0.05) decreased and contact time increased (P less than 0.01) during the 400-m sprint. The increase in contact time was greatest immediately after runs of 100 and 300 m. The peak BLa increased and the rate of BLa accumulation decreased with running distance (P less than 0.001). The height of rise of the centre of mass in the drop jumps was smaller immediately after the 300 m (P less than 0.05) and the 400 m (P less than 0.01) than at rest, and it correlated negatively with peak BLa (r = -0.77, P less than 0.001). The EMG and EMG:running velocity ratio increased with running distance. It was concluded that force generation of the leg muscles had already begun to decrease during the first quarter of the 400-m sprint. The deteriorating force production was compensated for until about 200-300 m. Thereafter, it was impossible to compensate for fatigue and the speed of running dropped. According to this study, fatigue in the 400-m sprint among trained athletes is mainly due to processes within skeletal muscle rather than the central nervous system.

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1994 May;26(5):605-9.

EMG activities and ground reaction forces during fatigued and nonfatigued sprinting.

Nummela A, Rusko H, Mero A.
Research Institute for Olympic Sports, Jyvaskyla, Finland.

The present study was designed to investigate EMG activities and ground reaction forces during fatigued and nonfatigued running. Ten male sprint runners volunteered to run a maximal 20-m speed test, a 400-m time trial, and submaximal 20-m runs at the average speed of the first 100 m of the 400 m. During the latter stage of each run, ground reaction forces and EMG activity of four leg muscles were recorded. EMG activities were time averaged during three phases of running: preactivation, braking, and propulsion phase. The resultant ground reaction forces both in the braking (P < 0.001) and in the propulsion phase (P < 0.01) were greater in the maximal and submaximal 20 m than at the end of the 400 m. The averaged EMG during the braking phase (P < 0.01) and during the total ground phase (P < 0.05) was smaller in the submaximal 20 m than at the end of the 400 m. On the other hand the averaged EMG was greater during the maximal 20 m than at the end of the 400 m during the propulsion phase (P < 0.001) and during the total ground phase (P < 0.05). In addition, the more the preactivity increased the less the resultant ground reaction force decreased in the braking phase during the 400 m run (r = 0.77, P < 0.05). It was concluded that the role of the increased neural activation was to compensate for muscular fatigue and the preactivation had an important role in maintaining force production during the 400-m run. In addition, the fatigue was different in each working muscle.

It appears that up to a point (before 300 meters) increased CNS recruitment can compensate for the effect of acidosis.

I’m not sure high lactic is always required to work through the muscles in relay. Fatigue of the working fibre is required to call up other fibre within the same muscles or other muscles to carry on, though, usually, high lactate goes along with it.

How do you know this?