Weight training overrated for sprinting beyond a certain point?

Years ago before I discovered this forum I mostly lurked on powerlifting and weightlifting sites. Naturally, there were a lot of football coaches and supposed speed gurus on there. They rave about how strength=speed and would prescribe all kinds of crazy exercises with bands and chains and different tempos/speeds and claim it would shave 0.2 off your 40 yard dash. However they never seem to talk much about actual sprinting. I wonder if strength training beyond a certain point, like if an athlete can squat twice their body weight, becomes overrated and should not be obsessed about? I’ve been reading older posts in this forum and many posters have said strength and “pushing” is important in that start but once you get to max velocity it becomes more reflexive and elastic in nature. For someone decently strong would it be better to spend more time and energy towards sprinting and plyos as the individual has a finite amount of recovery ability? Thanks.

Charlie always emphasized that strength work is general. What you’re doing is stimulating a general strengthening response throughout the whole body. He called it organism strength. It’s always supplemental. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the strength training literature does a very poor job of addressing how to properly incorporate strength work as a supplemental component of an overall training program, despite lip service to the contrary. It is almost always treated in isolation as a primary end. That’s why Charlie’s Strength for Speed video series is so valuable. There really is nothing else like it anywhere that I know of. And it’s applicability extends far beyond sprinting.

Charlie maintained that the high strength levels exhibited by Ben, Desai, Mark, etc., in the weight room was more a product of their power output on the track rather than the other way around, as most people would assume. So, if you overemphasize the strength work, you’ll most likely end up overtaining, which will prevent you from producing those power outputs on the track.

Look up youtube videos of Usain Bolt lifting weights. It looks nothing like a powerlifting workout.

The neuromuscular system of naturally fast athletes lends itself to exceptional force development against resistance (weights are one example); particularly when trained to. Not only does white/Typ II/fast twitch muscle fiber have higher contractile properties and larger cross sectional diameter, the genetically fast population has exceptional neuron to number of muscle fibers innervated ratio (percentages of muscle fiber innervated by motor neurons). This is why every high level sprinter has the potential to be impressive in the weight room; it’s simply a matter of if emphasis is placed their.

In the case of strength coaches, the difference is that it team sports there is little to zero knowledge and practical application of alactic speed work and the vast proportion of what is done is <30m. The result is an “almost anything works” scenario in which novel improvements in the weight room correlate more strongly to improvements in very short distance sprinting- especially regarding athletes who have little to no speed training history.

Alternatively, you will not find a single sub 10sec sprinter who credits their weight program as being any way correlated to their success in the way that strength coaches will regarding their non-track athletes.

Have weights been useful for high level track athletes… of course. Are they the magic answer to shaving tenths of a second off of a 100m athletes times…only if those athletes have little to no background in strength training.

You always have to put the application into the context of the sport’s requirements. For running, strength has the greatest direct effect on the start and first few steps. For athletes that only move in short bursts during their game, general strength will have a greater direct marginal benefit than for someone accelerating and extending over a longer distance. In the case of (American) football players, they only take a fews steps and then hit a heavy object. Shot putters are another good example.

For a sprinter, beyond improving the start, strength training has more of a general, indirect benefit on the overall development of the body and it’s capacity to handle and execute high intensity training. As Charlie emphasized, the start is where you get the lowest marginal improvement in the race. Long term development should initially focus on the end of the race and work backwards to the start. As you work back, you get a lower marginal return on the effort.

What type of strength programme worked best for you and have you tried integrating it (or a cut down version) in your running training.

Max Velocity is terminal acceleration, and is more of a speed maintenance activity. Dr. Ralph Mann has a 3 meter test. You reach 90% of your max velocity in 4 seconds, so the acceleration to get there is very important and once you get to 4 seconds or so your CPK energy sources are in decline and there isn’t much more you can do. All you can do is try to keep as much of what you’ve got as you can for the rest of the race, and that’s what you get from reflexive and elastic.

But acceleration is not just a monolithic all-out concentric activity. It is concentric for the first 10 meters or so, and that’s what you get from heavy weights. But as you gain velocity, you have to apply enough force to continue to accelerate in shorter and shorter time slots. To train for this, you go from heavy weights/heavy sleds to lighter sleds => box jumps up => box jumps down => depth jumps to train to apply adequate force more and more explosively. And when you can no longer apply enough force explosively, that’s when the game is basically up and you just try to hold on to what you’ve got.