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This is a Terrible workout for sprinters!

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When I was growing up, I was raised to respect adults and do whatever they said, even if I strongly believed they were wrong. So, as a kid, I always thought that once you became an adult, you just magically knew how to behave and had all the answers.

When I became an adult I realized how completely off base I was!

When I was a young coach, I believed that if you were a college coach, especially at the Division I level, you must *really* know what you are doing. Otherwise, how could you get a job like that?

When I went to USA Track and Field Level II school, the college coaches had a distinct ‘high and mighty’ attitude toward us mere high school coaches. Then final projects had to be presented and we realized, very clearly, that not all college coaches knew what they were doing. It was, quite literally, a jaw dropping realization.

This past weekend I was working with a Division I collegiate sprinter with terrible coaching.  I’m not going to get into the mechanical and technical issues we worked on. For more information on that topic, check out this 82 minute webinar I recently conducted:


Look at the workout, in the order it was run. Then I’ll break it down. Remember, this is a primary event 200m runner (who never runs the 55) less than 4 weeks out from their Conference Championship:

1. 2 x ladder accelerations
2. 2 x 40m starts out of blocks
3. 200 – 150 – 150 @ roughly 80%, R = 2’
4. 4 x fly 40m


2 x ladder accelerations

Unless your entire team consists of identical clones, don’t use an acceleration ladder. This simply teaches your sprinters a restricted acceleration pattern/drive phase based on….nothing. A tall athlete will have different stride length than a short athlete. Same for a 400m runner vs a 55m runner. Same for a strong athlete vs a weak athlete. Experienced vs. inexperienced. Biodiversity is so great from athlete to athlete that forcing sprinters into an arbitrarily established acceleration pattern is a sure way to keep your athletes from getting faster. Additionally, as your sprinters get stronger and more explosive from their time in the weight room and doing plyos, their acceleration pattern is going to change.

2 x 40m starts from blocks

I have no problem with this in and of itself. However, their starts are going to be all screwed up based on ineffective and inefficient acceleration ladder work they finished a few minutes earlier.

     200 – 150 – 150, R= 2’

Obviously, with 2’ rest, these can’t be all that fast. So why do intensive tempo/middle intensity runs in the middle of a speed day? There’s no specific value in doing this type of training for a short sprinter. The volume is too low to get any particular physiological improvement for a D-1 level athlete and the intensity is too low (especially at this point of the season) to do anything relevant as well. You have the athletes running at full speed out of blocks then you slow them down and create lactic acid in an extremely easy workout. The problem is that you can’t expect athletes to make improvements in any high intensity work for the rest of the session because they are now in a state of fatigue. Well, this is OK as long as the coach isn’t going to do anything like maximum velocity work after….Oh.

4 x Fly 40m (aka Maximum Velocity)

I would be all about this portion of the training session if the athletes didn’t just run a few intervals of middle intensity lactic acid work. As we all should know by now, to make improvements to speed of efficient acceleration and maintenance of maximum velocity (click above link for more information on this critical topic) athletes can not be in a state of fatigue. But they are here. So athletes won’t be efficient from a neuromuscular standpoint, they won’t hit top speed and they’re more likely to get injured.

What’s the moral of this story? (Besides the fact that, like at the subcollegiate level, there are some extremely excellent college coaches and some that should be fired)

Take out the middle intensity work and ladder runs and this workout is pretty standard.

So here are a few pointers:

1. Don’t use acceleration ladders unless you’ve carefully set up the distance between each rung based on a specific line of logic

2. Don’t do lactic work on the same day you you’re doing full speed work. Also, don’t give your sprinters a ‘booty lock’ workout the day *before* a speed day.

3. Middle intensity work (80-89% intensity) has little value for a short (55-200m) sprinter. So do more speed sessions each week and less tempo work. Just lower the volume per session.

Got questions? Ask them below.
Complete Speed Training

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