Usain’s Strength Training

In the Weight Room With Usain Bolt

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9/1/2009 | Views: 290
By Josh Staph
See the issue: September 2009
In the world of sprinting, there are no debates. The notion of “arguably the fastest guy” does not exist, because things are settled in the most conclusive fashion possible.

Competitors are handed a set of starting blocks and assigned a compressed rubber kingdom 100 meters long and 48 inches wide. Side by side, they dig their spikes into the blocks, await the starting gun and explode out to determine where they rank in history.

The resulting times do all the talking.

When Usain Bolt dug his gold Pumas into the blocks at the Beijing Olympics, and flew to world-record-demolishing times of 9.69 and 19.30 seconds in the 100 meters and 200 meters, respectively, his results made one indisputable statement: I am the fastest dude to ever walk the planet. His recent re-upping of the 100m world record with a 9.58 at the 2009 World Championships followed that statement up with a swift: You will never catch me.

Garnering additional attention was Usain’s revolutionary physique. The 6’5” pride of Jamaica looked nothing like the prototypical, much shorter, more muscular sprinters of the past. And while his almost-illogical height-and-speed combination is now redefining track and field, it has always been a part of Usain’s athleticism. “I recognized that my speed was special awhile back,” he says. “When I was 10 and playing cricket, my cricket coach saw me running and told me I should focus on track and field. That’s when I got into serious running. Then, when I turned 18, I started my professional running.”

Not surprisingly, once Usain exploded onto the international sprinting scene, he immediately began flirting with world records. But it was his epic 2008 Olympic performance that firmly established him as the fastest man in history, making his name a household word throughout the world, and especially in his homeland. “It was a wonderful experience,” he recalls. “The people showed me a lot of love when I came back. I’m like a superstar in this country, so it’s great [chuckles].”

By no means has Usain’s new superstar status gone to his head. He keeps his goals and path ahead clearly defined. “This is my job, and I take it seriously,” he says. “I really enjoy what I do, and I know the hard work pays off. On the track, it’s all about staying number one.”

Usain’s On-Track Advice

The Form That Keeps Usain Number One:

Warm-Up: Strideouts

We do strideouts, not laps, to start. We usually do 10 to 15 strideouts to get warm. Then we move onto some dynamic drills, stretching, then a few more drills. We finish with more strideouts.

Starting Blocks: Focus

Instead of up, I try to focus on driving forward, keeping a straight back, driving from the hips, getting full extension and putting some arms into it. Make sure you don’t focus on the guy next to you, because that can really throw you off. Another guy can be very quick out of the blocks, which can make you lose focus. You have to stay focused on what you are going to do and run your race at all times.

Drive Phase: Hold and Transition

Make sure you hold your drive phase for 30 to 35 meters. Then you have to get the transition right so you don’t come up too quickly. Come up gradually from the drive phase instead of popping up. That transition is so important, because it helps you get from your drive phase to full speed much easier. If you pop up and try to start running too soon, you really have to work to get to top speed. That transition takes about 15 meters, from 35 meters to about 50 meters.

Just like with the start, stay focused and don’t think about the guy next to you. He may have gotten a fast start and might be out in front of you, but you can’t panic and pop out of your drive phase. If you do, you’ll lose your whole race plan—and the race is pretty much over.

Running Fast: Relax and Execute

If you do your training, it should all be okay come race time. So, I get into the blocks, take a deep breath and just remind myself to get a good start, hold the drive phase, relax and execute. Your muscles get tight when you tense up; they start getting heavy and you begin losing speed. The more relaxed you are, the smoother and faster you’ll run. Just focus on turnover and using your strides.

Usain’s Strength Training

As a precaution, Usain didn’t begin lifting weights until he was 18 or 19 years old; but now he regularly incorporates a reasonable dose into his training. “I didn’t want to harm myself by beginning too young, and I always made sure to learn how to do the exercises correctly first,” he recalls. “Even today, I’m not a real heavy lifter; I just go heavy enough to develop the muscles. I don’t go after it like some other guys, mostly the shorter runners [laughs]. I’m not really that kind of sprinter.”

Although Usain keeps things lighter than most, his lifting has noticeably carried over onto the rubber. “It really has helped me with strength endurance,” he says. “And it’s good to have that strength, because you can run fast for longer periods.”

Machine Squat

• Assume athletic position under pad with feet just wider than shoulder width and toes pointed out slightly
• Keeping weight on heels and knees behind toes, slowly lower into squat until tops of thighs are parallel to ground
• Drive up into start position; repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 1x10, 1x8
Coaching Points: Keep chest and head up, core tight and back flat // Do not let knees extend past toes
Bolt: This is for power in my quads and back. You have to make sure you are doing it right.

Seated Chest Press

• Sit at Seated Chest Press machine and grip handles at chest level
• Without changing upper body position, drive handles away from chest until arms are fully extended
• Allow handles to return to chest with control; repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 1x10, 1x8
Coaching Points: Keep low back against pad and core tight
Bolt: This is good for all athletes, even though you might not think it’s important for a sprinter. You should do core work and chest work to get everything strong. You need all of your body to be strong and work well; it’s very important.

Leg Extensions

• Sit at Leg Extension machine and lock shins behind pad
• Fully extend legs and hold contraction at top of movement
• Lower weight with control until legs are bent 90 degrees
• Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 1x10, 1x8
Coaching Points: Get full range of motion—from 90 degrees to straight legs // Do not use momentum to move weight
Bolt: This is also for your quads and helps with the strength endurance needed to run faster longer.

The fastest man in the world slows down to hydrate: “I mix Gatorade with water and drink it consistently throughout the day. I’ve been doing this since I was young. When I’m feeling especially tired during training, I drink it straight to get a burst of energy. And after training, it really helps me recover from a hard workout.”

Fabulous. Maybe Usain can revitalize the HIT movement.
BTW, what is the source of this article? Stack magazine?


lol wut. doh

There’s nothing in the article to say that it’s HIT. It could simply be that the weights aren’t emphasized that much by Mills compared to other things like hills and sleds.

Part of it was a joke, also the machine weights with 1-2 sets per exercise.

What is posted is pretty much HIT to a T. Of course, he could be slacking on the weights, but supposedly that is the reason why he has progressed so much the last couple of years. :eek:

Leg extentions…Wow

Is there something wrong with leg extensions?

Can’t see why, involves the hamstring less, stabilising muscle. It is all relative to what is being trained, sure CF has it covered somewhere.

You called it

If Usain has just done a track workout, then right away gone into the weights room - no need for many endless sets of warm ups - he is already warm.

I tell ya - i wish my shoulders looked like his just doing bench presses! make that machine press - his shoulders are huge on him

3x10, don’t complete the movement. works for me

Bolt is hoping people copy this workout so he can stay on top of the world

The training session contradicts a previous website article on Usain’s training. On another website, it said he employed lunges with heavy dumbells, and “frog jumps” and “leap frogs”.

It has been said that his breakfast is:

Fried green bananas
Dumplings (meat with onions and other ingrediants.)

Perhaps the reason for using machines is because, being so tall, his coach doesn’t want the tall body contorting itself with deep barbell back squats, (which for very long legged person) could end up being “good mornings” lift, instead of squats.
In the machine however, he can change the technique.

Machines obviously don’t build more strength than barbells, but you recover quicker from machine work, because there is less stabilization involed. (neural and central neural recovery). This has been covered before in scientific research papers.

Darren Campbell also used the machine bench press, just less risky and less time consuming than setting up a barbell bench press. (Remember, Asafa Powell damaging his pecs with barbell bench press?).

There is a counter argument to heavy barbell work though… If some ones beating themselves up with barbells they might not have as much energy left for the more important track work. Remember, the mentality of most is to really push it on each gym training set. (Charlie used barbells, but it was often way below max anything, and there were usually reps to spare at the end of each set, so they rarely overtrained with weights.) A lot of athletes don’t have the patiance for this aproach and believe they have to go gung-ho, every time they step in the gym. They may be aware of the science, but still have the subconscious mentality of “no-pain, no gain”.
Putting such athletes on the comfortable machines might not be such a silly idea. In a machine, you can push it with the reps, but still not fry your neural system.

The above fact has been proven by simple tests, when weight trainers who have fatigued themselves with the barbell, are still able to push out a number of reps on the machine (with same weight) with no rest between the two sets. (not a training recomendation, merely a known experiment which proves the point.)

for 10 years + I have been using the smith machine (machine bench press) and cables, no freeweights the athletes have never had an injury.

i find i can push out either 2 more reps on a quality machine bench or about 2.5kg more in weight than a normal bench.

Indeed. And then there is the design of the machine… In the photos of Usain Bolt, he is using a version of the “Hammer press” benching machine. Where you sit up and press horizontally. I find I can press significantly more weight here than a barbell, even though it doesn’t necesarily mean I am using higher c.n.s intensity.

But in a classic vertical smith machine, most could probably bench significantly more than with a barbell.

The fact that you can ‘only’ push 2.5 kilos more in machine (most could push about 10 kilos more), suggests to me that you probably have very good stabilization and adaptation to the barbell bench press.

I do - i know where they all are, and how to treat them to be useful - if they are tight, i struggle to lift anything… so find something else to do. Then go and Foam roll using a foam ball.

The trick with weight training, is to know when to stop using something, and replace it with another. Push ups, bench with bar, bench with hammer strength, heavy bag boxing - All fairly similiar in nature depending on how u do each and what u want to achieve.

What if u plan on doing Bench’s Only as a pressing exercise, you go to the gym, its MeatHead hr (or 2) and no matter what, you cannot use the barbell bench, the hammer bench is being used to read TXT msg’s…

These days in gyms, you need to be versatile. Or own ya own

From a couple of sessions I had with a 30 year old female and teenagers.

Track session before weights, no high CNS stuff.

A young disabled girl won a world medal for CP 100m not long after lower level program. She was found training in a Gym, ha

Is it worth a laugh or maybe a reply.

Thursday, 27 July 2006 Glendale 3x10 extreme pottysquat-smiths-40lb/legpress-60kg/ benchpress-smiths-30,20,25kg /pressbehindneck-smiths-20kg/dips/latpulldown3brick /chinups
Monday, 31 July 2006 R/T 3x10 extreme Pottysquat-smiths-50lb/legextension-5b/ benchpress-smiths-20lb /pressbehindneck-smiths-bar/dips/latpulldown6b /chinups
Thursday, 3 August 2006 Glendale 3x10 extreme pottysquat-smiths-20kglb/singlelegpress-70kg/ benchpress-smiths-25kg /pressbehindneck-smiths-20kg/dips/latpulldown3b /chinups
Monday, 7 August 2006 R/T 3x10 extreme pottysquat-single-smiths-20lb/leg ext-6b/bench-35lb/press/20lb/latpull-6b/chinup
Thursday, 17 August 2006 Glendale 3x10 extreme pottysquats-2x301x50/legpress-50kg/ bench-35kg/ dip/ latpulldown-4b/chinup
Monday, 21 August 2006 R/T 3x10 extreme calfraise-155/singlepottysquat-1x20lb,2x50lb/ legext-8b/ bench-1x40,2x60lb/ dips/latpull-8b
Thursday, 24 August 2006 Glendale 3x10 extreme calfraise-20/pottysquat-75lb/ legext-9b/ bench-1x40kg,2x30kg/ dips/latpull-4b
Monday, 28 August 2006 R/T 3x10 extreme calfraise-155/pottysquat-50lb/ legext-8b/ bench-60lb/ press-1x40,2x30lb/dips/latpull-9b