Speed Training

Athletes in the sprinting events (100 meters, 200 meters and 400 metres) have fast twitch muscles while distance runners have greater cardiovascular (heart-lung) systems. Developing the fast twitch muscles receive therefore more attention in the sprints

The following aspects are important in developing a sprinter’s runningstyle:

  • The emphasis must be on the drive leg leaving the ground with the toe and knee up;
  • The drive leg is driven to the waist while the toe is still pointing up and the left arm is brought to the chin;
  • While the right leg comes up to the waist the toe and knee is up passing over the knee of the left leg on its way to the waist;
  • When the right leg reaches the waist it is driven back to the ground directly under the hips.

Sprint training must be focused on the development of the fast twitch muscles by doing fast runs and not slow runs. If one trains a fast twitch muscle to run slow it will become slower. There must be an emphasis on 100% effort on improving the fast twitch muscles. Remember, you get faster by running fast and not by jogging in practices.

To run fast the stride length is very important to the sprinter. The athlete must be aware that stride length is based on how far the hips move down with every step the athlete takes and not how big the step is. The hip must therefore be kept directly over the foot to provide momentum at all times to maximize the stride. If the foot stays on the surface of the track too long time gets lost.

In the workout for sprint training the coach must distinguish between quality work and quantity work. Quality work for speed endurance in the 100 meters and 200 meters distances vary from 100 meters to 600 meters. The athlete must be given plus minus 10 minutes to recover to ensure that there will be quality in the runs. Examples of endurance workouts are: 4 X 450 meters, 2 X 300 meters, 4  X 150 meters and 6 X 110 meters.Quantity work for speed endurance will help the oxygen intake which will involve a shorter recovery time and to be able to do more and longer workouts. These runs are done at a slower pace to enable the athlete to learn rhythm and tempo. The rest period in quantity work is shorter between 2-3 minutes. Examples of tempo endurance workouts are: 3 X 300 meters 3 X 200 meters, 6 X 150 meters and 8 X 120 meters.

Building strength is also important for the athlete. Strength endurance involves resistance running, long hill running and running the steps of the stadium. Power speed running requires of the athlete to do short hill runs of about 60 meters and resistance runs over 10 X 30 meters. This workout emphasises muscle contraction.

To be prepared to run different distances for example 100 meters, 200 meters and 400 meters the athlete must also run over the following distances:

  • 2 X 45O meters running the first 100 meters at full speed, float 200 meters and run all out over the last 150 meters;
  • 3 X 300 meters running 50 meters at full speed, float 150 meters and run all out over the last 100 meters;
  • Build-ups over 50 meters at 50% speed, 50 meters at 75% speed, 50 meters at 90% speed with a walk back recovery

It is up to coaches what distances they want the athlete to run. A sprinter must do some aerobic running to improve endurance by running at a steady pace for 10-15 minutes. The athlete can also do fartlek by running for 30 minutes by covering 4 x 800 meters witha 4 minute recovery time.

It is important for a coach to focus on speed running by doing workouts at full speed on the straight or the curve varying from 30 meters to 60 meters. Rest must be long between runs to enable the athlete to recover fully in order that quality running is possible.

Strength is developed through weight lifting in the gymnasium while explosive jumps can help to improve resilientpower. This can consist of hops and bounding.

The emphasis in the 400 meter race is different from the 100 and 200 meters because the athlete incurs a high oxygen debt and lactic acid is building up in the muscles. Training runs vary from 100 to 600 meters. To enable the runner to recover the rest period will usually be around 10 minutes in order that there will be quality in the runs.

Speed endurance must be developed by doing the following workouts:

  • 9 X 100 meters;
  • 6 X 150 meters;
  • 5 X 200 meters;
  • 4 X 300 meters;
  • 2 X 450 meters;

(5-10 minutes rest between workouts)

Tempo endurance involves runs at a slower pace focusing on rhythm and tempo. In this workout the emphasis is on quantity and not on quality and the rest period is usually 2-3 minutes. Examples of tempo endurance runs are: 8 X 200 meters and 5 X 300 meters with a 3 minute rest period.

As is the case with the 100 and 200 meters strength endurance must be developed for the 400 meters by getting a good base of aerobic running to improve the oxygen intake of the athlete. This is done by cutting the recovery time between efforts to a minimum. The focus must be on resistance running, long hill running and running the steps in the stadium.

Improving basic speed through speed drills can also be helpful for the 400 meters runner. Examples of speeddrills are 3 X 60 meters, 3 X 50 meters, 3 X 40 meters, 3 X 30 meters starts as  well as 3 X 80 meters, 3 X 60 meters, 3 X 50 meters, 3 X 40 meters starts.

Coaches must adopt the program of their athletes to build their specific need over different distances with shorter and faster or longer and harder workouts.

In Conclusion


In sprinting, hurdling and the long jump speed development is an important factor that must be emphasised by the coach in training programmes. The focus must be on improving the strength and flexibility of specific muscles as well as the development of endurance. The coach must also work on an athlete’s technique in conditioning him or her to reach optimum performance in his or her event.