In this post, we’re following up on the Best Exercises For Speed video and diving into more detail regarding strength and power training for sprinters. For more content like this, make sure to subscribe to ATHLETE.X on YouTube!
When it comes to strength training, power training, sprint training – any type of sports performance training – you need to consider progression over time as the main theme of training. Whatever you’re doing, it needs to be progressing in the direction with which you want to go. That is to say, you want to progress the details of your sprint training program towards the ultimate end goal, making small changes over time to encourage adaptation in that direction.
If you get off the couch and you go try to run flying 20s to improve your speed you’re probably not gonna run very well. On the flip side, if you are to start with some acceleration work and extend it over time, you can increase the intensity over time. Many options exist to progress training, ranging from changes in loads, intensities, and volumes, to changing the footwear and the surface being used. If you progress incrementally in the direction you want to go, you’re going to have a better of opportunity to improve throughout the whole year of training.
For strength and power training, I separate training into six distinct categories:
- General Strength
- Basic Strength
- Maximal/Absolute Strength Prep
- Maximal/Absolute Strength
- Slow Power
- Fast Power
ATHLETE.X Strength & Power Training For Sprinters Chart
General Strength Training
Starting out you have General Strength, which can be done with bodyweight exercises barbell or dumbbell exercises. Primarily, these are going to be done in the offseason, the early pre-season, or early in someone’s training career and during rehab periods.
General Strength work can consist of bodyweight exercises med ball loaded exercises or any type of externally loaded movement that is happening at below 50% of your maximal output. You can use anywhere from 2 to 5 sets of 8 to 20 reps, and these are generally going to be utilized by experienced athletes early in year or less experienced athletes year-round.
General Strength work will induce general conditioning, preparation for future work, low impact cardio, increased cross sectional area of muscles, and improved structural resilience.
Basic Strength Training
Once you have a base of General Strength, you need to move on to Basic Strength, and then eventually absolute strength preparation or maximum strength preparation. Basic Strength is performed with normal barbell exercises as well as other exercises such as weighted pull-ups. Basic Strength can be done in the early off-season for a period of two to six weeks, or during deload weeks with one to two sessions thrown in.
Basic Strength workouts are going to be performed in 50 to 70 percent of maximal load, with 2 to 5 sets of 4 to 6 repetitions. Most athletes with some level of experience can use Basic Strength work to develop technique and postural strength, which is going to help further intensification as time goes on. You can think of Basic Strength as teaching the movements with load, whereas General Strength is teaching the movements with a very minimal load.
For your average athlete who doesn’t have a lot of training experience, Basic Strength is going to help them increase their levels of strength. Once the athlete has been training for a long time and is at a more advanced level, Basic Strength is probably not going to have as much of a strengthening effect.
The main benefits of Basic Strength will come via preparing you for more intense work, getting your body coordinated into the movements, relearning movement skill, and reminding your body of what it is like to use a relatively substantial external load.
Maximal Strength Preparation Training
Maximal Strength Preparation follows Basic Strength, utilizing the same types of exercises but at higher loads. Maximal Strength Preparation will generally be used in the mid off-season to the early pre-season for three to eight weeks at a time, operating at 70 to 85 percent of maximal load.
Maximal Strength Preparation will be performed with more sets than reps, and that is because we want to make sure the repetitions performed are all high quality, high force outputs performed without fatigue. Because the risk of injury is going to increase with fatigue, especially at high loads, athletes and coaches must ensure that this work is performed when fresh and ready to perform quality work. Lastly, Maximal Strength Preparation should be used primarily by moderately to very experienced athletes, but not novice or beginner athletes.
The main outcome goals of Maximal Strength Preparation are going to be increased intensities, increased force outputs, and an improved state of readiness for performing maximal strength work. In moderately experienced athletes, this type of training can help drive up maximal strength levels and cause neural adaptations which promote enhanced force outputs.
Maximal Strength Training
Maximal Strength Training work is performed at the highest levels of intensity, the highest loads, and is intended to increase the amount of force an athlete can produce at slow speeds. While this work is performed at slow speeds, it will aid in producing force at higher velocities if converted into high velocity strength via power training, plyometrics, and sprint training.
Maximal Strength Training guidelines suggest that this type of training is used for three to eight weeks at a time, with exercises performed at or above 85% of your maximal load. We will use more sets than repetitions, and this is going to primarily be used with very experienced athletes.
As stated, the whole goal of this is to increase the maximal amount force that could be produced by the athlete so that we can eventually transition into more power oriented work and convert this force into power. You can think of all of this strength training work as training to train, whereas power training, sprint training, and plyometrics are more aimed at training to perform.
I break Power Training down into two main categories. You could call them strength-speed and speed-strength, or more simply slower-power and faster-power. It doesn’t really matter what you call them as long as you understand the concept that some power oriented work is performed at slower speeds and higher loads, while some power work is going to be performed at faster speeds and lower loads.
Obviously the faster work is going to be more specific to sprinting, but we do want to work the entire force velocity spectrum so that we have competence at all levels of load and all levels of velocity.
Slow Power Training – Strength Speed
Strength speed work is power training that is performed at moderately high loads, and moderate velocities. For this type of training, you can use olympic lift variations, heavy hex bar jumps, banded squats, banded box squats, and similar exercises.
Strength Speed work can be utilized in the off-season, pre-season, or in early competition periods. It is suggested that you wave load Strength Speed training throughout the year, allowing you to increase the volume at certain points in time while at other times using less volume and and higher velocity power work.
For loading, moderately heavy loads are used with the athlete aiming to move as explosively as possible. If the athlete cannot move the load explosively, it is too heavy. For example, with a clean grip high pull, I want to be able to almost or actually jump off of the ground with the load, albeit to a very low height.
Slower Power or Strength Speed Training is sort of a combination of maximal strength and explosiveness, and this is what I would consider to be a tool to be used for converting maximal strength into the faster power outputs. This type of work is going to require high amounts of neural drive, and likely leave the athlete fairly fatigued and possibly sore.
The outcome goal of slower power work is to produce high forces at moderately high velocities, with the ultimate goal being to eventually to convert maximal strength into high velocity power outputs.
Fast Power Training – Speed Strength
Speed Strength, or Fast Power, this is used to train the ability to produce moderately high forces at relatively high velocities. High velocity power is developed using exercises such as power cleans, power snatches, hex bar jumps, banded box squats, and med ball throws done at lower loads and higher velocities. Additionally, athletes can use heavy sled sprints to create sprint specific power outputs and develop the ability to produce force horizontally.
Athletes can use speed strength work year-round, balancing this with heavier loads from time to time to maintain absolute force outputs. Power exercises are best performed with lower repetitions, such as 1 to 3 repetitions, and a number of sets ranging from 3 to 8 sets for most athletes.
Athletes will get the most out of power oriented work when they have already spent time developing maximal strength. The athlete does not need to have immense levels of strength akin to a powerlifter, but they should have a strong base of strength so that they can then train to express that force in a high velocity manner.
Strength & power training is important for sprinters who want to improve their sprinting performance. By working strength & power in a holistic manner, you can train in a way which leads to running faster when it counts most!
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