Training approach for one of my athletes?

I need a little help in deciding when and how to implement certain elements of training with an athlete of mine. He is a senior in high school, looking specifically to break the school records in the 200m and 400m. Last track season, he was a 400m and 800m. His best 400m time is 51s. His goal is a 49.5. He has more of a middle distance body type, at about 5’9’, 150 lbs. When I started working with him a few months ago, he was only 140 lbs.
My focus with him up to this point has been predominantly in the weightroom. It was obvious that if he wants to be competitive at the 200m, he needed to add some muscle mass. So after a few months of box squats, deadlifts, goodmornings, etc, his strength is coming along nicely.

We basically have another three months before track season gets going. We started getting into sprint mechanics work about 2 weeks ago, and he is making nice progress there as well. I was shocked at how poor his form was, because I’d heard a lot about him as sprinter. Based on how little muscle mass he was carrying, and the major technical flaws I saw, I think its very realistic that he could knock at least that 1.5s off his 400m time.

Because of limited time available to work with him, I’m having trouble deciding where my focus with him should be. Weightroom? Mechanics? 200m and 400m specific training? Admittedly, my speciality is the weightroom. I’m a solid coach of the basics of mechanics, especially with someone whose flaws are so glaring. My weakest point is actual 200m and 400m prep, as this is the first track-specific athlete I’ve worked with. (Usually deal with football players.) I’d appreciate any suggestions on how to time the different phases of training at this point, what balance of weightroom and sprint work we should be focused on, etc. Thanks in advance, and I love the board!

I’ll let the expert post specifics but I’ll give you a bit of advice.

Be very careful when you introduce the real speedwork that you adjust the weight training accordingly.

Given his lack of experience/training years with weight training it is probably taking a lot out of him CNS wise. (More than the average person)

When you get to training on the track with speedwork, intervals etc the weights take on a supplemental role.

Best of luck, It sounds like he has good potential!

thanks for the tip, chris. any ideas on how to juggle those two needs? (speed work/strength work). I guess I’m trying to find that fine line of getting as much strength work in because he needs it so badly, but not wanting to start the speed work too late.

What you could do is begin to work on acceleration development with him. Many 400m runners have a weak acceleration. His strength work will compliment this.

Monday: Acceleration development / Weights
Tuesday: Tempo / General Strength work and Bodybuilding Circuits
Wednesday: Possibly a more intense weights day
Thursday: Tempo / General Strength work and Bodybuilding Circuits
Friday: Hills- You have to figure out whether you want to use these for acceleration development or general conditioning. If you are going to use them for acc. dev., you could keep the distances 20m and below and get up to as high as 20 reps with walk back recovery. For general conditioning, the distance and rest could be extended as needed. Weights could come after hill work.

The tempo runs will help keep his general fitness up where it needs to be. General strength work can be bodyweight stuff. Different iso holds, gymnastic moves, etc. can all help here. For bodybuilding circuits, you can go an do 2 times through 8-12 exercises with 8-12 reps each. The weight would be extremely low (probably 50% of max). This would aid in the increase of work capacity as it is low-intensity work and can help get some more basic strength work in there for him.

That is a very interesting question :slight_smile:

What were his current/previous speed workouts looking like?

What I find works really well is to seperate out your pure strength days from your strength endurance day.

Generally if he has a good rest/work schedule you can hit weights immediately after short speed. given he is going to be running 200s/400s I would keep the short stuff starting in distance at 50-60 meters.

For example: (This is just a example, I dont really know anything about this athletes background)

Short speed/Weights Workout: (accel, Max velocity, strength)
warmup - 1km jog, dynamic stretching, drills/skips
4 x 80 meter strides
4 x 50 meter accels
3 x flying 20’s with 30-40 meter buildup *(top speed work)
5 x 60 with 6 minutes rest (speed endurance)
2-3 sets deadlifts
2-3 sets jumpsquats
2-3 sets squats
2-3 sets pushpress/bench press

Strength Endurance Workout
Warmup, stretching, drills etc
bodyweight circuits
3 x (burpees 15, pushups 20, situps 40) (NO REST BETWEEN SETS)
rest two minutes
3 x (squat jumps 15, hypers 20, V-sits 30 ) (NO REST BETWEEN SETS)
rest two minutes
3 x (running arms with dumbell 25 seconds, hanging leg raise 20, chins 10) (NO REST BETWEEN SETS)
rest 6 minutes
partner assisted towing
5 x 20 seconds tows with 60 seconds rest. (Work up to 40 seconds)

Lactic acid Interval workout
warmup - 1km jog, dynamic stretching, drills/skips
4 x 80 meter strides
3 x 50 meter accels
2 x 3 x 200 (80-85% effort with 3 minutes rest between reps and 5 minutes between sets)

You can intersperse pool work, extensive tempo or rest between these workouts.

Depending on the phase you’ll see an adjustment in total volume downwards (weights and meters of speedwork) with an emphasis of quality/intensity/rest between sets upwards as you go through the phase. (% of effort, weight used, quality of runs)

The weights are only supplementing the speedwork as you progress through the later phases. The focus switches from volume of work/weights lifted to quality of work on the track.

Due to my work situation I normally try to get two quality speed workouts in a week, two quality weight workouts, one strength endurance workout and the other days are used for recovery workouts or rest.

Hope this helps!


In another thread, it was discussed how developing lactic acid tolerance, maximum velocity, and speed endurance cannot all be trained effectively at the same time. How would you periodize these qualities in your plan for the 400m guy?

It’s hard to know without evaluating the athlete first. You can work at two ends of the spectrum and cross over.

Early phases focusing on strength as that is a weakness of his. “Relatively” short accel work (60-80 meter) and the longer speedwork in the 80-85% range (interval and lactic training)

Then as you progress through the phases gradually shift the emphasis so that weights are tapered down in volume (still high in intensity though eventually leading to a pure maintenance phase) longer speed makes a shift more to quality with longer rests and reduced volume (less sets and reps) and more technical work comes into place.

This guy is not a world class athlete, I think he will make great gains with a program that stresses general fitness, lactic tolerance, and speed endurance with a solid overall gain in strength.


Good points. I think the recommended accel is a little long though and may be speed endurance for a younger, weaker athlete. Working both ends of the spectrum is a good idea though.

thanks so much guys. this was exactly the type of info i was looking for. its nice to be able to pick the brains of knowledgable guys. although the difficulty is figuring out which aspect to focus on, the good thing is that because he is so raw, he’ll progress no matter what. thanks again.