The way of the "400" Thanks to KK

This contains some of the infomation given in the great lactate thread.
I just tried to make some sense of it, because there is really great info.
The posts are mainly from our great help Kitkat who gave great insight in his view of trainng for the 400.

Here it comes…Hope you like it…

Regarding the 400m.

The 400 is a power-endurance sprint, involving a high degree of technical excellence, and the ability to maintain time-specific rhythm(s) (ie: tactical judgement) from start to finish.

From what I have read in this thread, there seems to be a slight reluctance to be SPECIFIC about targeting speed outcomes, ie: goals.

Don’t hide from speed:

Establish your target times for your athlete and get after them. Go hard. This is the toughest race in terms of enduring pain, so this must be factored heavily into the preparation.

Philosophy and Purpose of Training:
Establish in the athlete’s mind the ideal technique for this athlete. Use drills, feedback, strengthening, flexibility, massage, etc etc etc so that the athlete is “free” to assume the optimal technical position(s) during the sprint stride cycle.

Then in my opinion the purpose of training is to enable this athlete to maintain his/her optimal technique for as long as possible under the various pressure of race circumstances - ie: high speed, high fatigue.

Don’t waste any time getting down to the issues from the first cycle of preparation.

The challenge is to develop all the threads of performance: ie speed, strength, stamina, suppleness, style and [p]sychology.

How you do this is a great challenge. It is the key to everything. Program theories abound.
But there are three main theories _ short-to-long, long-to-short or concurrent (ie: short-and-long).

I prefer concurrent development.

For the following reasons: It takes a very long time to develop elite qualities for special speed endurance, and also for the endurance involved in running the last 100m of a 400m in under 12sec for a male, under 14sec for a female when running off competitive opening 300m times of m32/f36 sec.

The sooner the athlete starts to develop the qualities needed to finish the 400m at such a level the better. Anything less than these levels will not enable a 400m sprinter to consider Olympic finals.

Of course if that is the championship target, then preparation for multiple rounds places an even greater need to start early.

Practical experience suggests it requires something like 10 months to develop the tolerance to run the final 100m off 300m in the split times referred to above.

The Endurance Paradox:
In order to accomplish significant endurance training sets, a relatively high degree of speed is desirable for the athlete at the same stage of training. Hence my preference for the “concurrent” program theory.
Sometimes “less is more”; sometimes the more you try for strength the weaker you become.

It is (in my opinion) highly desirable that the 400m runner does not lose much speed throughout the year.

This then will enable the athlete to have a “cushion” or “reserve time” with which to get through the early repetitions of a tough endurance set and still hold form (ie: triple extension - of hips, knee and ankle joints sequentially in the supporting leg, esp when the torso lines up above the knee in the vertical plane) for the rest of the set.

For instance: a typical session I have used to lay the strength base for the 400m race is 6x200m in the come-home speed for the target-time 400m, with jog-200m recoveries (must be run under 2mins).

For a male hoping to eventually run 400m in 44-flat the objective of this session is to run 6x200m in 23sec with jog recoveries as above. For a female hoping to run 400m in 50-flat the objective is to run 6x200m in 26sec with jog recoveries, as above.

Race Modelling:
The training target times in the 6x200m (which ultimately collapses to 2x200m off 2mins at race-specific splits) are based simply on the most common race models.

The models are: 400m in 44.0sec (1st 200m in 21sec, last 200m in 23sec); 400m in 50.0sec (1st 200m in 24sec, last 200m in 26sec). The standard differential models at 2sec.

Obviously there will be variations to these models based on the type of athlete involved. Some have great speed at 100m and 200m, others have endurance capacity suggestive of 800m talent.

Athletes with whom I developed my own training model had modest career personal best 100m times of 10.4el (male) and 11.6el (female). Outcomes at 400m: 44.3el (third round) and 50.2el (third round).

I ALWAYS recommend athletes must train “systematically” and also “symptomatically”.

By that I mean that if you’r 300 PB is 32.0sec but you can’t move much better today than 37sec because you are tired, sore, tight or the prevailing wind is terrible and there’s nothing else you can do about the situation, then 37sec is what you run. Then you try to put in just as much in the back-up reps.

In the sessions you have listed, there is a 30 seconds rest between the finish of the long repetition and the start of the first short rep in each set (eg: between the 300 and the 60 there is 30sec rest.)

Then after the 60, all the subsequent recoveries are with a relaxed walk back.

So that would be 300m, then 30sec rest, then 60m (standing or more usually rolling start), then a 50m walk back to a marker cone situated 50m to the finish line, sprint that 50m, then walk back 40m, turnaround and sprint from the 40m cone to the finish line.

All the short reps are marked out before the session starts and all finish at the same line. I always try to line up the short sprints to run with an assisting wind.

Between the sets you take what time you need to recover to a level that will allow you to put in just as much energy as you applied during the entire first set. The recoveries between sets may be 10minutes to 20 minutes or they may be a bit more.

As you get faster in the reps, you will probably need longer to recover between the sets, although when you become fitter and can tolerate the extra speed, the recovery periods may come back in duration.

Of course if you are running your 300m in 37 for the whole year, you can look forward to some very slow 400m races in summer.
So if you cheat on effort, you cheat only yourself.

But by the same token if you are really only in 35sec shape for 300m (for whatever reason) and you try to run 33sec when it’s not in you yet, then disaster may be just a step away.
So be kind to yourself, be gentle with your body. Build speed from rhythm, mechanics and relaxation on the run.

Listen to your body, pay attention to the warnings. Your first instincts then will nearly always be right, which will help you avoid injuries in the short term and help you come to good speeds when your body can cope.

You are ready when you are ready and not a moment earlier.
I know I bang on about keeping to a time-line schedule.

But of course, The Way It Should Work Is That WHEN You Are Ready To Run Fast, Only Then Should You Look For A RACE.

The reality too often is far different. Most athletes are impatient and/or irrational and will race simply because there is one on the calendar.

The art and science of coaching tries to match the peak state of preparedness of the athlete with the peak events on the calendar (such as national titles, grands prix, and/or international tournaments.

Program Structure:
I prefer concurrent development basically from Day 1.
I have found best results following a weekly pattern of two days training, one day rest, three days training, one day rest.
The general prep cycle is basically two x six-weeks of training.

But my experience indicates a dynamic stereotype is established firmly after as little as three weeks.
Therefore to avoid this problem, I loosely divide the six-week cycle as follows: first two-and-a-half weeks can be described as strength & endurance. The second two-and-a-half weeks can be described as speed & power.
The sixth week is what I term a “rest and test” week, involving time and gym-strength tests on two days separated by at least 48 hours. So the track time trials might be on a Tuesday and another following on the Thursday or Friday if greater recovery seems necessary.
This enables me to keep a close eye on technical development (or deviations) and allows me to stop any dynamic stereotype or fatigue-related issues before they become a threat to the yearly goals.

Short speed development:

Two days per week during the speed-power period of the general prep 2x6wk block and thereafter every week, except when we may opt to return to a similar GP block to insert another little wedge of basic training as the season progresses and opportunity or necessity may arise.

The speed development days always follow the Rest days, so that the sprinter is as fresh as can be managed thereby enhancing the prospect of establishing better neural patterns in the relative absence of fatigue which causes interference and therefore potentially injury.

I mostly use a short-to-long approach to this issue, as does CF.

My speed sessions usually start in earnest with 2 x 2 x 40-20-20 (where the first 40m of thereabouts is acceleration from a standing, crouch or flying start, the middle 20m or less is a max velocity/lift zone, and the last 20m or so is an exit zone where velocity maintainance with emphasis on relaxation can be rehearsed.

Establishing the race model:

I realise that achieving max acceleration and max velocity usually takes at least 60m of max effort sprinting to fulfil, but in training specifically for 400m there is less emphasis on the need to achieve 100m-like acceleration values.

More important is to develop the “feeling” of arriving at the 60m zone in a fully upright “lift” (ie: triple extension) position with optimal speed after which relaxation and form become the next target objectives.

This requires considerable rehearsal because, like most other tactical and technical aspects of the 400m, the execution will need to be accomplished under extreme duress in a race when the poorly-drilled competitor will often lose proprioceptive awareness in the heat of the moment.

Therefore we do a huge amount of race modelling throughout the year - eventually working into and out of the bends - although mostly on speed development days and on the day before any race.

KK on special endurance (main concept in his concurrent model)

My feeling is that “special endurance” is probably something like a max effort 300m sprint. That’s what I think this term refers to.

Anyway, in the program structure I have used it is possible to work on all elements concurrently.

A Sample Week:
Eg: Day 1 (Rest Day);
Day 2 (Speed, maybe 3x block, stand, fly, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60m);
Day 3 (Specific 400m endurance, such as 6x200m in sub-24sec with 2mins jog-around recovery);
Day 4 (Rest Day);
Day 5 (Special Speed Endurance, such as 300m, 250m, 180m all max with 15min> recoveries);
Day 6 (Endurance, maybe long hills with jog recoveries);
Day 7 (Maybe temp, such as 2x5x100 for form, rhythm & relaxation, or pool session);
then the cycle of rest-train continues, hence Day 8 would be a Rest day again.

Weight lifting would follow the track/speed sessions ( on the above model, that would come in the PM on Days 2, 5 & 7).

About the sample week
The concurrent concept allows the 400m sprinter to maintain a decent amount of speed year-round. So I would never ask an athlete to run say, 6x200m, in any pace closer than about 2sec of their running-start-1RM for 200m current at the time of the session.

EG: If a woman is only capable of running 24sec or just under (with a flying start), her target for that day would be high 26sec. If she blew into the mid-27sec I wouldn’t be too concerned, but might suggest for the time being that she walks the recoveries, or that she splits the 6x200m into two sets of 3x200m with 10mins between sets. Eventually, maybe after five or six weeks, the two sets would be merged to accomplish at least one set of say 5x200m in 26sec.

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3 Race Tempo Tolerance:
These sessions are additional to my core lactic tolerance race-tempo work typically of 6x200m in 26sec jog recoveries, and some long hills (50sec+) with jog-down recoveries.

The 6x200m and its derivative sets (eg: 2x2x200m) and derivatives of the 300 and 150 sessions (eg: 2x300+150 off 30sec recovery between reps/ full recovery between sets, or 2x200-300+200 where the opening rep is tempo and the backup rep is race-pace flying 26sec 200m-pace) are moved forward very quickly to become race-rhythm specific as per examples given.

I guess what I am exploring with you is whether you intend to go race-pace specific in your endurance track training, and if so, how will you get there and how long will you take to get there - to the heart of the issue? Maybe I am impatient. Or maybe I just prefer to skip the foreplay.

Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7

kitkat langauge

Taking the Heat Out:
“Taking the heat out” is just a loose term to mean getting away from the sheer speed.
I try to take the heat out of the back-up days. That’s to say, I don’t like to run - for example - a female over some 200m sprints in 23sec, followed the next day by some more 200m sprints in 24sec-low or high 23sec (or splitting the equivalent en route to a 300m).

For me there needs to be more separation of intensities, although at various stages of the year I will schedule training to simulate multiple-rounds nature of a tournament.

A good female athlete with 50sec 400m potential will find running 200m in 26.0sec-26.9sec very comfortable at any time of year. With a decent warm-up (& preferably massage, spa etc the previous night), she will be able to run at this pace without risk of injury the day after firing all guns the previous day.

The training effect obviously comes through the accumulation of fatigue. By the third 200m rep in the set of 5 or 6, life is starting to get ugly and by rep 5 she knows what it feels like to finish a 50sec 400m. (ditto for a male at 44sec effort)

Flying on Auto-Pilot:
There’s probably nothing scientific about this, but it’s just my coaching experience that leads me to believe the elite 400m sprinter needs to develop the proprioceptive awareness that what s/he is doing technically and rhythmically to run (f)26sec or (m)23sec on the sixth rep of 6x200m is exactly what s/he will need to reproduce in the Olympic arena.

When fatigued, pained, confused, bedazzled and/or scared in that championship moment, the athlete needs to be able to “centre” (find a calm place to shelter in the storm) on that familiar feeling experienced in training.
My athletes tell me it is like a pilot flying blind in a storm, flying on auto-pilot.

S/he knows that s/he doesn’t have to find anything special - just reproduce training form. That is Specificity in practice.

Use it or Lose it:

With regards the short-to-long or vice-versa: The concurrent model requires a fairly high revolution (call it Variety) of work types (to avoid dynamic stereotyping and to “use it so you don’t lose it”.

You could easily start with the “speed & power” micro cycle and then go into the “strength & endurance” micro-cycle. But after only about 17 days you’ll be back doing the other micro-cycle again. It’s the chicken and the egg I guess. Which came first? Does it really matter with regards to the 400m in this type of program model?

When Special Endurance is moving forward, you always know where you are and what to expect in a race. This is how confidence is established- to say nothing of the performance capacity in the first place! All you have to do is go out there in the meet and repeat what you’ve already done in practice- nothing more!

Race Modelling:
kind of part 2, part 1 is the “day3” text

Personally I think that for women 400m runners the target remains 50-flat, so we are of the same view there.
I am fully aware it will take considerable time to get to this target, perhaps a 52sec performer may plan to be there not before 2008 (although I hope you can take her there much sooner).

I mention the 50sec as the standard, and therefore refer back to the basic models for achieving such a time: 1st 200 in 24sec, 2nd 200 in 26sec, 1st 100 in 12sec, last 100m in 13sec, last 300 in 38sec.
Of all the model targets, the come-home 300m in 38sec is the most difficult objective to achieve and will take the hardest, most consistent work over the longest duration to achieve.

Building to race speed
Speed is Specific to Itself:
Charlie once advised me “speed is specific to itself” and that is so true. Even an increase of as little as, say, 0.5sec over 200m (from say, 23.0sec pace to 22.5sec pace) will have a major impact on adaptation.

It may be that you can run 23sec comfortably, but may struggle to do much in the way of reps at 22.5, plus you may pull up surprisingly stiff or sore the next day after moving into a faster speed-band. [Nevermind moving from 21sec+ to 20-point)

Experience with some Olympic level 400m sprinters indicates adaptation is accomplished after as little as two weeks training of at least two sessions per week in the target speed band.

However the adaptation does not last long - maybe only another couple of weeks - if the training is performed for only two weeks.
Adaptation will stick for perhaps five months if the training is maintained at the same quality for one month (and then elements of the same set are later still touched on occasionally). This huge improvement in duration of adaptation after 4wk as compared with 2wks mystifies me, but I have experienced it to be true.

The dilemma is that each new speed band - which I believe can be as narrow as 0.5sec increase over 200m - requires a period of attention before the adaptation is stablized and locked in for a season.


Well the target 400m pace can still refer to any part of the 400m race. For instance, the target pace of a 50-flat 400m can be as slow as 13-14sec because that is the time needed over the final 100m.

So you can look at that segment, work at producing that rhythm in your running and construct a set, or better still, extend the duration over which you can hold that (race-specific) rhythm. That’s essentially what you end up with when you go for 26sec repeat 200s (13+13=26).

That sort of construction is the basis of a lot of the thinking in the running strength sessions (eg, 4x600m) devised by highly successful 400m coaches including Jim Bush, John Smith and probably also Clyde Hart.
One System Does Not Fit All:

Like I’ve said, there are many paths to the top of the mountain. I’m just throwing up my own thoughts based on the experiences of my own coaching successes (and some flops).

One system does not fit all athletes, just as one coach does not suit all comers.

Think things through, suck it and see, take the best of what’s offered and create your own system.

The Grand Plan
As you can see, an athlete could spend a very long time climbing the pyramid of such bands before they can get into the race-specific band of speed s/he really wants to become tolerant in.

I just prefer to "cut to the chase " - start working at race-specific pace as early as possible in the training year.

For an aspiring male 400m runner like yourself Dazed “race-specific” can mean running as slowly as a flying start 23.0sec-to-23.9sec for 200m which would be easy for a 20.6el 200m performer like you.

Although to get the kind of benefit you might be hoping for you would need to be running that 23sec 200m in a state of fatigue, hence the option of an aforementioned set like 6x200m in 23sec off 2min recoveries.

The last three reps will be very ugly but your adaptation will be specific to a 44-flat 400m which should be the target area for anyone of your capabilities and ambition to become more than a relay reserve. You are a better talent than that.

Moving to more targeted 400m training, perhaps along the lines suggested in this thread, may also help keep those injuries at bay.

But learn the rules first before you break them. That’s really what this thread is all about.

Flush and Feed Mechanism:
I too use some extensive tempo, to develop the capillary network in the legs to help “flush” out the lactic acid buildup and “feed” nutrients to the working muscles by improving the blood supply to the working muscles.

I use 12x150 with some jog recoveries in 23sec or faster (on grass track) and also I use 9x300m in 50sec or faster with jog recoveries on a grass track.
But these two sessions appear just once each in the first six-week cycle and then they appear once each again in the repeat 6wk cycle.

About Skipping:

I saw that PJ likes to use skipping. I do too (not with a rope). I like the fact that skipping horizontally is a gentle but explosive activity which encourages triple joint extension (hip, knee, ankle - in that sequence) and “active” ground contact. For me, skipping is a safer alternative to bounding. I often see athletes failing to achieve triple extension and a neutral pelvic position while bounding, which is not particularly productive and is definitely an injury risk to lower spine/groin areas.

I often use skipping on flat grassy surface 2-3 x 100m alternating with acceleration and some sled-resistance work. (eg: 2x80m build-up, 2x80m skipping, 2x60m light sled or resistance cord)
I prefer skipping alternative legs over a distance of about 100m. That can be surprisingly fatiguing. PJ’s idea of going out to 250m is very interesting but I suspect form may suffer.

When I see a breakdown in form, my attitude always is to either stop the repetition, stop the set or stop the session - depending on whether the athlete can regain form after a period of rest.

I know a lot of athletes have used rope skipping on the spot, but I’m not a fan.

There are so many different things you can do in training that can contribute to improving an athlete’s performance. But you cannot fit everything in. So in the final analysis I have just tried to find things (drills etc) that suit my purposes. I only use three drills. The rest as far as I’m concerned is window-dressing.

So I make up compound sets - from 3-6, but when done in volume this session takes on the characteristics of a power-endurance session for which of course there is always a place in any of the sprint events.

There’s nothing special that I do in the short-speed development area, or for that matter in any other area. It’s just how everything works together, how much time the coach can afford to give the athlete, how much talent the athlete has, and at what stage of development the athlete is at which determines the specifics of the training work and the outcomes. :slight_smile:

Thanks, that info definitily needed collating…

That was great! Thanks for doing this!! :smiley:

If I have more time i’ll try to extend the info, for now this will be it.
I took me more work than i Thought.

:eek: Gee, even I can understand it now. :stuck_out_tongue: Thanks for taking the time and applying your intellect to sort the info into some kind of sequence. :slight_smile: kk

Great job! Thanks!

Thanks pindaman!! That sums it up quite nicely!

I made some to try to understand your way of approaching the 400. Along with others who made great contribution in the thread and elsewhere in the forum I got enough time to kill trying to get all messages into context. And try to make some sort of 400m guide of it.

My original 190 page document has shrunk to about 100 pages, Now all i need to do is sort things Out :eek:

cool post!

I plan to run 200 and 400m in May as a part of my school exams.
The 400m need just 58,7" and the 100m 12,3" and its much easier to do some over-points, which i need, because i cant throw(pentalon).
So i plan tempos at 80-85% up to 300m and special endurance runs(max or near max) also up to 300, maybe 400m.
Normally i dont go over 200m for special endurance.

So my question: If i am a little bit more heading for the 200m and 400m; am i loosing speed for the rest of the summer season for my special event: the 100m ???

And if so: Will i get my former speed back when i am shutting down the “400m-chapter”?

Keep the tempo runs at 75% or less. They are for general conditioning and recovery. If you go higher, you won’t have enough in the tank the next day when you do speed or speed endurance work.

i make the tempo run differences like this:

< 75% up to 300m(gras): as recovery and after high intensity-days

80-90%: also up to 300m. Maybe once a week after high-intensity-days. Next day rest.

Special speed endurance: up to 300m. max intensity. After Sprint-Sets. Once a week with 1-2 runs.

I think the word “tempo” is such in general. I know- normally it describes <75%-runs. But then i miss the medium-intensity-runs…
Arent you doing this kond of running?

What would be the point of doing 80-90% runs up to 300m the day after high intensity days? I don’t see a purpose really… ?

i cant do them before speed days, bc i am little bit trashed afterwards. I do them once a week the day after speed work, bc there is no prob to do them.
Then i rest.
I think if i m just doing 75%-runs i m not able to get used to the speed and length of the runs

Bumping this back.

Can we get it made asticky please?


just a few questions. i coach 15-18 year old athletes with only a few years of training experience. my kids are not world class (51 s boys and 61s girls) can i use your 6x200 workout or should i modify it a bit? what type of preparation work would be necessary before using the 6x200 protocol? is intensive tempo a prerequisite for the 6x200 session? thanks and i patiently wait your response.

Select the target time(s) for the 200 reps. WALK the recoveries. See how many reps they can then run in the target zone (with walkback recovery) until they blow out the backend of the target timezone. At that point, maybe after you can get 3 or 4 reps done, they need a longer rest, so maybe 10 to 15 minutes, and you back up with a second set of maybe two reps and they should be able to get back into the target zone again.

In any case I’d restrict sub-elites to a maximum of 5 x 200 for the day. Over time, they will be able to progress until they can put five out in a row off walk recoveries in your target time.

Then you can introduce a jog recovery between the first two reps, then revert to a walk between the rest of the reps.

Ultimately you build in more jog recoveries until there is a jog between all five reps.

The target time ideally is the come-home 200m split for the 400m race they want (realistically) to run for that season.


Like HS Coach I train mostly teenage athletes.

I have a 17 yo girl who has run mostly 1s and 2s. She has run 25.0 for 200m and feels she is not quick enough for the short runs.

At the end of this season she has run a couple of 4s doing mid 56s. Next season she wants to focus on the 400m. She is a runner who makes up ground in the 2nd half of her 200m races.

Your sample sessions do a lot of longer work. Do you think it still important that a 400m do a lot of say 60m type work to allow the speed over the first 200m.

I know you have produced great 400m runners who don’t have great 100m speed. Does the longer work give them greater capacity to finish off their races.

I attended the Gold Coast seminar. The 400m sessions put forward there did not include as much volume of work as your proposed sessions. Do you think different types of runners would be suited to one particular type of work over the other.

Obviouly this is KKs thread but always think about the developmental age of the athletes and what you think will be most beneficial for them over the long run. I think quite a bit can be done just by focusing on speed and general conditoining for younger and less well developed athletes (e.g. modified 100m training). You can just push the SE out a bit to 300s etc if they want to run the quarter.

Apart from Wolfgang Meier’s short to long program, I think I have less “long stuff” in my program than any coach I know!

But to your question: I found that to be competitive at 400m at world level (top 8), you need to be good enough to be in the medal mix at 100 at State level, be in medal mix for 200 at National level as a prerequisit to reaching an OF at 400.

So, yes, definitely, plenty of work from 20-80m. We certainly did a lot at various times of the year.

TC, in his response (any contributions from TC always valued by me) was spot-on. That’s all I did to get a couple of girls onto the 92 Seoul world juniors (200m and the other was 400 hurdles).

Whatever else may come into the equation, the 400 is still primarily a Sprint.

Thanks for both of your replies.

We have tried to look at the longer view and work more on 100s and 200s and done no work towards the 400s thinking that we will go to the 400m much later.

I think many junior athletes look at their 200m time and think that it will be easy to run a fast 400m and that they will be more competitive in the 400m event but it requires even more hard work and the positive results don’t always occur.

I see with your 200m sessions you have initially a walk back recovery. Is there a maximum time you would restrict that recovery to like 5 minutes.

Also I know you have the session where the athlete runs 300m and follows with the shorter runs. Should the athlete run the 300m at the pace they would for the first 300m in the 400m or should it be as fast as they could go. I would think it should be the first 300m in the 400m pace because I’d imagine they would be very fatigued.