Weights before speed

I’ve seen conflicting information concerning doing weights before or after speed. Bear mentioned that A. Felix often did deadlifts before speed work. Not a lot of volume – just 2 to 3 sets and 2 to 3 reps. He indicates the low volume makes it OK prior to sprinting work.

I sometimes lift at noon – just deadlifts, bench, cleans or maybe some clean and jerk along with one or two supplemental lifts. Two or three sets of 5 reps or fewer, maybe a few more on supplemental lifts. Then I go to the track to do speed work around 5:30 in the afternoon. More often I lift right after the track work. Just wondering if it makes much difference. I do this two or three times a week on the days I do speedwork with tempo/recovery or off days in between.

Curious to hear thoughts on the pros and cons of lifting hours before speedwork, minutes before speedwork or after speedwork.

Any comments?

Looking to get some thoughts on this.

I believe doing speedwork before track may actually help you; however, the intensity is usually set at %50-60 and the volume is low. Take a look a Jess Jarver’s book, "Sprints and Relays. There’s a study in there to what I am referring to. As for what you have indicated for your lifting scheme, I always use to lift at lunch hour and then track at 5-7 p.m. I never had any problems when the wt work was upper body; however, lower body is recipe for disaster.

There is a recent thread of the same topic under Nikoluski; have a look about the comments made there (i.e., weights before track sessions).

Hope this helps!

Thanks. I read that string when it was active – and the basic message there is weights after speed – which I agree with. What prompted the question was a post by Bear that discussed a program he uses – and with Allyson Felix – he says, where they lift consecutive days and often before speed sessions. I don’t get why you would do that and am just wondering if anyone thinks this has any merit. Just for fun, I tried a few low-volume (three to four lifts using heavier weights 3x3) weight sessions about four to five hours prior to a speed session and didn’t notice any problems – but I was fearful that I might be inviting disaster.

I see…
In my opinion though, if you are not sure at all about the effects of such practices on yourself and also about their full programme, better play it safe and do as you know best.

Lifting heavy weights ~90% of 1RM for about 2 to 3 reps (for 2 or 3 sets) elicits a potentiation effect, producing a faster rate of force development (RFD) in subsequent performance.


Is this from experience, or could you support it with data?

What this subsequent performance be?



Below are several references directly related to potentiation. Additionally, two recent studies show that postactivation potentiation increases rate of force development in only highly trained individuals. So if you have someone who is only recreationally trained, this method may not work; but, in top athletes, like A. Felix, this contrast method may prove useful. See references below.

Gullich, A., and D. Schmidtbleicher. MVC-induced short-term potentiation of explosive force. New Stud. Athletics. 11:67–81. 1996.

Hamada, T., D. Dale, J.D. MacDougall, and M.A. Tarnopolsky. Postactivation potentiation, fiber type, and twitch contraction time in human knee extensor muscles. J. Appl. Physiol. 88:2131–2137. 2000.

O’Leary, D.D., K. Hope, and D.G. Sale. Posttetanic potentiation of human dorsiflexors. J. Appl. Physiol. 83:2131–3138. 1997.

Smith, J.C., A.C. Fry, L.W. Weiss, Y. Li, and S.J. Kinzey. The effects of high-intensity exercise on a 10-second sprint cycle test. J. Strength Cond. Res. 15:344–348. 2001.

Young, W.B., A. Jenner, and K. Griffiths. Acute enhancement of power performance from heavy load squats. J. Strength Cond. Res. 12:82–84. 1998.

Duthie, G.M., W.B. Young, and D.A. Aitken. The acute effects of heavy loads on jump squat performance: An evaluation of the complex and contrast methods of power development.


Also, keep in mind that the difference between neuromuscular excitability and neuromuscular fatigue lies in the volume of weight training. If we are talking a full-on weight training session, fatigue will definitely affect the track work afterward. On the other hand, postactivation potentiation occurs with very low volume of work – “get in, get out.”

Hope this helps.


There is a possibility to use weights before sprinting within a mesocycle, that gradually shifts towards doing weights after sprinting when intensities are getting higher. Let’s take a 3-1-3 cycle for example.

  • [first 3w]: start with weights before doing accelerations, or hills @ 95% intensity;
  • [unload]: gradual shift toward the second ideology;
  • [second 3w]: sprints, accels, hills @ ≥95% followed by weights.

Anecdotally, I have seen a small boost in sprinting during the second three-week stint, although, mainly used in the autumn. However, I cannot be 100% sure if the boost is due to the shift in program design or just normal progression. I do know, however, that athletes like the shift; like releasing a rubber band :slight_smile:

I like weights afterwards thou (for 90% of the training year).

This is what I was interested in hearing about. Have you had experience with this approach? What impact does the timing have? Should it the lifting occur minutes before speed work? Hours before?

I agree fully with Charlie’s view on the subject.

A less than elite athlete may effectively initiate weight work in the AM with Speed in the PM

An elite athlete, however, is more effectively able to retain a high intensity training stimulus for a longer period. This is a double edge sword. On the one hand, this allows the elite sprinter to capitalize on CNS potentiation and re-stimulation, as Charlie has explained with reference to his MU recruitment chart. On the other hand, however, this also yields a situation in which an AM weights work will likely inhibit a PM speed session as high threshold MU’s will likely be fatigued from the AM workout.

In regards to my practical experience, I know that at the high school level, my fastest 100m sprinter (who is ready to run 10 high electric and runs a hand timed 4.4 40yd dash) is unable to lift heavy in the AM and perform well in the PM speed sessions.

I also coach an unattached 100m/Long jumper who, so far this season, has gone 10.52 (electric) and 25high, and he has remained incredibly fresh and explosive from performing weights after speed sessions.

His inseason weight work is very low in volume, yet high in intensity.

It is all relative to the sprinters level of preparedness. My view is that any significant amount of weight work, immediately prior to speed work or competition would be suicide for a world class level sprinter.

Charlie, however, is the source for practical evidence on this one, as he has worked with many world class level sprinters.

Post activation potentiation, or the after effect, can be explained like a grass strip. You have a field of grass (the numerous possible neural pathways), and you want to get from one side of the field to the other (from brain to the agonist muscle). The fastest way is a straight line, but the tall grass impedes your pathway, even if you run. When you walk across the field (a slow muscle action) your footprints will flatten the grass under your feet. If you need to walk across the field again soon after, the same pathway that you took before will be obvious because of the flattened grass. There will be less impedance because the grass gives less resistance, making your trip easier (the same muscle action comes easier). This is post activation potentiation. Now, if the wind blows through the field (a neural impulse crossing through to elicit a nother action) or time passes by, the flattened grass may start to raise back up and the after effect is weakened. Too much time passes by and the effect is lost and the grass is back to the previous state.

If you run through the field (a fast muscle contraction) the footprints will be further apart compared to the footprints from walking (explosive (speed-strength) actions have different muscle recruitment patterns from slow (absolute-strength) actions). So, an explosive action will elicit a different post activation potentiation than a 1RM effort in the same range of motion.

If you continue to travel the same path using the same footprints, eventually you will wear away all the grass. When the path is nothing but dirt, there is no resistance to the get from one side of the field to the other (the muscle action has now become an engram). If the pathway goes unused for a period of time, the grass can grow back (muscle memory is lost).

Because of this, strength activities before technical activities should closely mimic each other. This is why a max squat is inadvisable soon before sprinting. As SVS stated, the strength work should be low loads, with 50-60% intensity to prevent fatigue.

Your analogy is applicable to motor-skill aquisition, not post-activation potentiation. Be careful not to confuse the two. There is strong scientific evidence to support potentiation, and it has little to do with activation “patterns,” or grass.

A couple of questions, if that’s ok with you,
what’s the post-activation potentiation performance that has been measured? Apart from the obvious one, i.e., cycling? Sorry, but I don’t recall another one. And,

Why would you need this effect before a high intensity track workout?

Needless to say that I agree with what most in this thread have said, just to be clear; open to your opinions and thoughts though!


If I am wrong, then please explain the physiology behind PAP.

Powerband, do you think post-activation potentiation will be greater when first introduced in a training scheme, but kind of wears off after a while?

Anecdotally again: After a lay off (3-4 weeks, autumn) from high intensity sprinting, and when resuming to them again (beginning of a training year), some athletes might have difficulties executing the sprints optimally (CNS not yet on par with the task). Here, introductory weight training – before the sprints – might actually get them going in the sprints, better than without the weights. However, when sufficient levels are reached, weight training will not have the same effects as earlier in the year. And furthermore, when closing in on absolute top performance (spring/summer), weight training done beforehand, might actually inhibit sprint performance?

Consistency is a great thing!

Exact wording from Mel Siff’s “Supertraining”:

Page 161-“It is know that, if a muscle is stimulated by a series of impulses, its activiity slows down more after the last one than when it is stimulated by a single impulse. Any stimulus, whether momentary or not, leaves traces in the nervous system. The traces or after-effect phenominon persists for some time after stimulation ceases, which reveals the relative inertness of the nervous system and its great significance for motor activities (Pimenov, 1907, Pavlov, 1929, Orbeli, 1947). In physiology, this specific form of muscular facilitation(see PNF, Ch 7.2) is refered to as post-tetanic potentiation , in particular when prepatory stimulus is produced by maximal or activity or “tetanus” (e.g. Abbate, 2000; Brown & Euler, 1938; Burke et al, 1970; Grange et al, 1993; Marsden et al, 1971; O’Leary et al, 1997; Palmer & Moore, 1989; Vandervoot, 1983).”

I’m not sure where you learned about PAP, but this sound like it backs up my definition. What are your ideas about this info (correct, incorrect, or am I interpreting it wrong)?
Thanks for bearing with my long posts and controverial thoughts.