Top 5 Summer Training Tips
What to do when the summer months are upon us???
You’ve got a number of options, so here’s my take on getting the most out of summer training for sprinters (or any athlete in any sport, for that matter):
1. Consider not training at all.
Summer competitions are more popular in some places than others. Where I live, it’s not incredibly popular. And quite frankly, I’m cool with that.
I generally don’t steer kids toward summer training and/or competitions unless the kid is hardcore and keeps asking about it or they’re a scholarship caliber athlete who needs the work in a low pressure environment.
The type of athlete who is going to be interested in summer track is the kind of athlete who’s probably already got 6-9 months of training under their belt for the season. That’s a lot of track! Track isn’t like basketball or soccer where much, if not all, of practice consists of 2-3 hours of…playing basketball or soccer. Track is just straight up training and that gets tough to focus on after a while. So summer is a good time for kids to recharge their batteries.
If you think overtraining is a possibility, consider doing anything other than track during the summer. But for those people who insist on training and competing, I always recommend the following:
1. Drop down in distance from your primary event. If you’ve been running 400s all year, don’t run the 400 all summer. Drop down to the deuce or the 100. Your sprinters need the speed work anyway.
2. Don’t train every day. 3-4 days a week is sufficient. Your (developmental) sprinters need the break from training. You don’t want them to show up in the fall feeling like they’re already tired because they trained too much all summer.
3. Don’t worry about setting personal bests. Your sprinters peaked at the end of spring. Now is the time to focus on execution because they’re not necessarily ‘in shape’ to run PRs anymore. Take that out of the discussion and shift focus elsewhere so kids don’t freak out when they get a great start at a meet, but don’t run a lifetime best. I’m not saying they can’t or won’t PR, but I don’t focus on times during summer competition.
2. Focus on weaknesses
Instead of treating summer track like an extension of spring track, consider using it to work on training and competing weaknesses that manifested over the course of the season.
Having a consistently tough time finishing 400s? Spend the bulk of training developing lactacid capacity and some Special Endurance.
Bad start? Don’t worry about speed endurance and fancy progressions. Focus on accel work over 20-30m and establishing an efficient and consistent drive phase.
Get the idea?
I don’t want to run a regular training progression during the summer. I want to get athletes set up to achieve their goals for the upcoming season and continue to develop their self confidence. This can be done by turning their relative weaknesses into relative strengths.
3. Focus on strengths
I read a quote from a coach one time who said, in essence:
“We spend too much time trying to turn our weaknesses into strengths instead of making our strengths even stronger.”
It might have been Clyde Hart. Or not. Either way, it’s an interesting concept to contemplate.
There are 4 levels of skill acquisition and none of your sprinters have reached the point of Unconscious Competence. More likely, they’re hovering somewhere along the spectrum of Conscious Incompetence. So ‘strengths’ are quite relative for our developmental sprinters.
Got a great start? Keep cleaning it up and adding more technical elements to shave precious hundredths of your sprinters’ times.
Known for your top end speed? Focus on transitioning out of your drive phase and getting lift.
Spend more time focusing on the things you’re already good at and that’s going to lead to better results!
4. Weight Room!
Your sprinters don’t run faster because they’re not strong enough. Their lack of general, absolute and specific strength is the primary glass ceiling keeping them from the next level, whatever that happens to be for each individual athlete.
So, instead of trying to do all the fancy drills and workouts they aren’t physically capable of executing consistently and efficiently, spend the summer focusing on gaining strength in the weight room and improving the ability to handle more advanced plyos.
Technique in the weight room is, of course, critical. So don’t sacrifice technique to try and throw a million pounds around. Nail down technique and focus on developing the strength and power that allows your sprinters to take advantage of the technical skill you teach during the regular season.
Teach your athletes these Olympic Lifts and they'll get stronger *and* faster.
5. Focus on acceleration
At the end of the day, success in the sprint events boils down to your sprinters’ ability to consistently execute (starting to see a pattern with the importance of ‘consistency’ and ‘execution’?) an efficient drive phase/acceleration pattern. And, more specifically, your ability to teach it.
So you really can’t go wrong spending the summer only focusing on acceleration development and block work. In fact, I’d argue that you could have a very productive summer if your sprinters never ran a step longer than 30m. If that doesn’t translate to a far superior ‘start’ in the next season, I’ll be absolutely shocked.
Of course, just running 30s out of a 3 point stance three days a week isn’t going to cut it. As the coach, you have to know exactly how to teach skills like low heel recovery, triple extension, glute activation/force application, etc. If the technical feedback from the coach doesn’t facilitate a learning environment for the athlete, then you’re really just reinforcing bad running mechanics and making the situation worse.
So please keep that in mind.
Teach your athletes the skills to become quicker, faster, and stronger!
So there you go. Those are some basic ideas for you to let marinate in your mind in terms of how you can approach your summer training.
DO YOU KNOW OF ANY PERSONAL TRAINER IN THE HOUSTON, TEXAS AREA FOR A 15 YEAR OLD GIRL WHO IS CURRENTLY RUNNING THE 400 IN ABOUT 1.02.
I like #1 and #5 best….great ideas I pass on to current and future clients.
Thanks again Latif, when I told my son this he got a little excited about the “not running 400 a lot during summer, try the 100” tip because he says deep down the 100 is his favorite event, but his 400 is a bit stronger. I have a question about strength development. Have you heard of P90X? One of my friends recommended that my son tries it. I was wondering if we should use that on the days my son is not in the weight room.
I really enjoy reading your articles which are always insightful and informative. The one comment I have in regards to this article is that as a club summer track coach, what we find here in the Greater Houston area is that the kids here are only getting really quality training from the club track teams rather than the schools. A lot of the schools in our area including middle schools as well as high schools are nothing more than relay programs. I have kids who come out for our summer programs who basically can’t run a quality 800 without folding over because all they’ve done in school is practice baton hand-offs and relays. I would assume that a lot of what you are stating in this article would simply be a matter of the area in which these kids are competing in, because if not for summer club track teams, the high schools in our areas would be putting out sub-par track athletes.
What do you mean exactly by low heel recovery? Good article and insight.
I will be competing in the master’s European champs on July 15 – 24. I will be competing over 100m, 200m & 400m. I am self coached and in excellent condition. What would you suggest i do in final prep over the next twenty days?
Yes!! First response. Good stuff as always, just wanted to say I’m about to watch the last dvd in cst 2 and I must say it has been very helpful. You’ve given me quite a few ideas on how to approach teaching proper sprint mechanics. The progression you give for it is awesome and I have already seen improvements from the summer team kids I help with. I’m already getting acustom to using your verbage; ‘step over, drive down’ is my favorite, I’m definitely stealing that:)
I even did your sample speed day warm up today before I worked out…I was gassed but it was solid. One question, I employ a similar warm up in almost every aspect except we run 6-8 100m strides at about 70% instead of jogging/skipping, do you see anything glaringly wrong with that?
My reason being: I never found that jogging was sufficient, no matter how many laps I did. I found that the strides helped me open up my hips and hammys better when I was running in college. I think that it also gives the kids a better kinesthetic awareness early in the warm up.
I know what your thinking; slow to fast progression coach, and even as I’m writing this I’m questioning myself. I just remember never really being fully warmed up until after my first race whether it was a prelim or timed final 100m dash, so I know my kids aren’t as warm as they think they are. I use the 100m strides to give the kids’ muscles that first race feel and to knock the dust off early. It puts them into top speed mechanics without running top speed and warms up the hip flexors better than jogging or accelerations, in my humble opinion. And in comparison, your sample warm ups have about the same number of accelerations as mine, I like them, accelerations, that is. But I just don’t think they’re enough. I always tell my kids, “the only thing that gets you ready to sprint…is sprinting!”
That being said, I’m totally gonna gonna steal your warm ups, with slight tweaks, and see how the kids respond to them:)
Steppin’ Over and Drivin’ Down as Always,
Perfect timing on this topic, I compete on college level, no longer with my university due to a lot of disagreements with training. This is my second year back after a 4 year sit out I feel out of wack with training. I know the bulk of your information and training is based on developmental stages of track, which is good cause i still feel very undeveloped. Having you touch on this topic as allowed me to have less confusion on what I need to focus on this summer. I was about to go HARD on training to catch up on lost time, lol, but now I see working on the key elements, in my case weaknesses such as lack of strength in the weight room will be just enough if not more going in to fall training…But I do have two questions for you, should I be going heavy with low set/reps or light with more being that around the end of Aug I normally start strength training. Also I seen your 90m video, and being that I fell my university phases of training were WAY off, generally how long should GPP, SPP, COMP be on a collegiate level??? Thanks in advance, keep the knowledge coming!!
Thanks that was great information. Reason I kno is because its the same things other great coaches have said to. This come at a good time because my 7 year old son wants to train all year around. Thanks again!
I have a 10 year old ! not sure what to do wit her she likes the 100 yard an i am training her more for the 400 ! What can i do to help her with the last 100 yards !
most of my runners runs junior olympics. are saying not to work on geeting better but just work on other events. how much break or rest do they need during the summer after JO. some of my runners want to train year round.
Lol. Yes Clyde Hart did make that statement. I use to run at Baylor, and that is something he stressed. Working on our strengths are very important. I do like all of the article. Lots of good points. I’ve been following your work and we are very similar n our training philosophy. You are doing a great job for USATF with teaching and guiding those coaches who are students of the sport. Keep using what God gave you the ability to do. Good luck in the future.
I like your ideas of focus for summer training. Since I have access to the high school weight room, I have anyone interested to come in during the summer. Now I am better equiped to suggest and demonstrate (I do some olympic type lifting myself to condition for masters competition) various lifts the kids can do to help develop
speed and power from watching your video (CST volume 2) I plan to call pre-season conditioning practices in early January (we usually start early Feb.) to work primarily on running mechanics and general strength training
What about like summer track programs? I want to get one started at the school I am coaching at and was wondering if it was worth the time.
I love the articles! Great information and I am learning a ton!
Great ideas. Due to my lack of being able to see my athletes on a regular basis in the summer (they don’t live at college for these 2.5 months), I generally give my athletes only workouts that they won’t develop bad habits with or that I can give them a video of myself or youtube done correctly. I think the coaches who are heavily involved in the summer programs who have commented here should develop good workouts, and implement them in the summer, but obviously keeping in mind the betterment of the athlete rather than just their accolades.
Finally, I was a little skeptical of paying for these DVD’s from a high school coach that are based on developmental athletes, but as an NCAA DIII coach, many of my athletes are still in need of development when they get here. If you’re reading this and you haven’t purchased CST2, I would strongly recommend it. Yes I have to extrapolate to my season length and rules, etc., but it’s worth it. The best coaches are constantly learning, if you want to be the best, you don’t have to buy this training package, but you should be doing your research and getting the best information you can.
Where have you been all my life? Finally some one turns the lights on in American High school level sprints. Been raised on Charlie Francis for the last 15 years. never replied, just read. Bought your speed 2, You just let the cat out of the bag. I was with you at the step over, but the drive down is to simple a concept that has been highly over look. At 12 I watched the 72 Olympics and watched a really fast Russian show the world that technique does matter and can be taught. Thank you for another missing magic bullet. I’m unworthy, thanks for the tech support
RUSSELL GEE: I don’t. But if anyone here does, feel free to post some options.
Tito: As a former 400m runner, I relished any opportunity to not run the 400. I answered your P90X question wherever it was that you originally posted it.
Patrick Benson: That’s a really great point. And, believe me, I understand how bad the average high school track coach is. I would say that in your situation you’ll have to modify your summer training so athletes get more specific training. But, as the knowledgeable coach, you still have to keep in mind that amount of training the kids have under their belt from their crap coaches in their crap programs. So, by all means, do what you think is best for the athletes. But possibly consider that they might benefit more, overall, from teaching them specific skills as I mentioned, then running a full bore, periodized summer training program. Certainly a catch 22 for all of you in this situation. I even deal with it here in the summer where I get an onslaught of kids and parents asking for help for the same reasons: they know their high school coaches aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. But, in no way do I disagree with your approach.
Travis Hanson – low heel recovery is a topic for one of my upcoming videos
JOSEPH: Tough question because I don’t know all your training and that answer could get long. I would focus on race modeling workouts geared at the acceleration/max velocity end of the spectrum for your 100/200 races and longer special endurance type runs for the 400 such as 200m @ Race pace, rest 90″, sprint 60m. R= full recovery. repeat.
Coach Dot: I’m glad you’re liking the program! I have no problem with doing 6-8x100m at tempo pace instead of jogging. In fact, I did that very thing for several years which is an idea I stole from John Smith. The only thing I would add is to make sure that your sprinters are running with proper technique – that is, not running heel to toe.
Clifton: Loads for the weight room would be based more on your current strengths and weaknesses. What does your gut tell you you need to do? Generally speaking, GPP is 30% of the annual plan and SPP is half as long as GPP. PC and MC are fairly equal in length, but for me it depends on the skill level of the athlete.
Charmaine: I would train her more like a 100m runner and develop her speed and technique. As she gets older you can move her up and it will address her closing strength. Remember, most great 400m runners are converted 100/200 runners.
maurice: working on any of the things I mention in this article will make them better at all events. I just like to give kids the break and focus on off events. Similar to what most elite sprinters are doing this year since it isn’t an Olympic or WC year, i.e., Allyson Felix running the 100m at Nationals. I think developmental athletes should take at least 4-8 weeks off between jumping back into GPP.
Damien: Glad I got that right!
Robert: It’s worth the time if you can get kids interested and have the support. I think it’s a great way to improve your overall track program and I find that the best HS programs have strong summer programs and/or strong middle school (feeder) programs.
Greg: I agree fully. I wish more collegiate coaches would acknowledge the low training ages of their incoming athletes, even at the D1 level. I was a D1 scholarship level athlete based on innate ability. But my work capacity and overall knowledge and skill were so non-existent when I got to college that I was red shirted indoors my freshman year because I wasn’t developing as fast as my stronger peers with more appropriate training ages. I’m glad CST2 has been a valuable investment for you and appreciate the kind words and support.
Latif, as always great insight to summer training! This summer I put together a training package for our athletes so that their overall strength is being developed. Many of my athletes are two and three sport athletes so I wanted to make sure they have a good base of strength going into their fall season. Kind of two fold, let’s their fall coach have a few solid in shape athletes and helps me once indoor starts. It’s very heavy on the weight room and I’ve thrown in a little pre-season 400m workout too.
Side note, took my first athlete to the NY State Championship – 110mHH, he finished 9th as a junior.
Your thoughts on the summer package?
I have been lucky enough to purchase both CST1 and CST2. I love your summer plan and I agree cause it is what I do with my high school athletes. The unfortunate thing for me is that I also have to spend my summer fixing collegiate athletes that use to run for me. I try to keep the kids positive about their coach but the results tell a difftent story. I tried contacting them to offer advice but I was just a lowly high school coach! So to these coaches who believe you know it all please retire. I do not know near as much as I need to but I am only 25 so I am a work in progress. Thanks to all coaches on this web site for trying your best to learn as much as possible.
Latif, i notice you dont include any hip flexor resistance training as you do with glutes and hamstrings with squats and deadlifts. Is this because the only time we are in contact with the ground we use our glutes and hams primarily? The step over part of the stride cycle requires strength/endurance in the hip flexors in 100-400m as it takes almost 200 strides per 400m race or 40+ per 100m race (elite). Lead leg pick up and side L raise are great for conditioning but dont we need something more powerful. In UK athletics, sprinters attach a pulley to their foot which is attached with weight, and they lift their fott upwards in a sprinting motion. This can develop hip flexor strength and power with the right weight, reps, sets and rest. Whats your take on this form of training?
Finally, the only force projecting us down the track is the time spent on the ground as we cant fly (Thomas, 2010). Jim hiserman notes how usain bolts knee joint at ground contact is more fully extended than he’s competitors (rest of the world) hence he has “stiffer legs” which results in shorter ground contact times. I find depth jumps a great way to train this stiff leg concept, but it makes sense, to me at least, to train quarter squats with a range of motion @ the knee joint between 150-180 degrees. The reason being, you can lift more weight at this range and according to hiserman & my own interpretation, will have more functional relevance to sprinters at top speed and beyond. See the video if your unsure, but a single leg quarter squat would be better.
coach w: Welcome to my world brother. I always try to spin my former athletes’ collegiate training into a positive, but my kids rarely make significant improvements over their high school times once they get to college. And that is depressing. All you can do is keep doing what you’re doing. College coaches tend to have very elitist attitudes toward us plebian high school coaches. I learned that first hand at USATF Level II school. Thanks for your ongoing support and keep asking questions. That’s the best way to learn!
Paul: Fundamentally, I consider the hip flexor work supplemental work. And since I make my athletes do their tempo work with knee lift, I squeeze this in there. I also work at the HS level so we don’t have that kind of equipment. So I have no problem using that as a supplement to core lifts.
Depth jumps are fine as well if you have athletes with the strength and coordination to handle it. But that’s not usually the case at the developmental levels. At the club level where you live, it makes more sense.
For quarter squats: Absolutely. Love them. I generally use them during the competitive phase for my sprinters and jumpers. It’s true I didn’t include them in CST2, but that program is so big I had to make cuts somewhere and 1/4 squats are on the chopping room floor.
Everything you say makes sense and will be effective for your sprinters. Nice job.
I have some athletes that are baseball only, we have been doing lots of explosive type training , working with their first step speed. Any specific drill that you suggest that will enhance their first step speed.
Fantastic article. Covers every aspect a sprinter may want to consider during summer training. Great job!
LT & Coaches:
Great timing…being a high school coach and club coach I can\’t believe the hating that goes on both ways to kids trained thru out the year. You see my view on the topic here http://askcoachnick.com/blog/?p=22 I\’d love to know geographically how the balance of knowledge and power (i.e.Club versus High School), differs each region of the US and other places for track.
thanks alot ill use this next time I workout in the weight room or when im running ……..can u send me some high jump notes and things like that i would really apreciate it.