Category Archives: Sprint Training

The Most Common Training Mistake made with Sprinters

Author: Steve Bennett The Most Common Training Mistake made with Sprinters – Attempting too much sprinting in a state of neural fatigue. Sprinters commonly attempt too much quality training too often, by this i mean too often in the week, too close to super heavy gym sessions, too many reps in a training session and training reps that are too long. Its also too easy to give sprinters more speed endurance and conditioning work than they need just to make them feel happier about doing something and this also sabotages the quality of their most important activities and that is sprinting at 100% maximum speed. The microcycle (which may be as short as week) needs to be planned carefully with the highest quality most important development activities planned first and then all the conditioning work and extra activities planned carefully around it. Each athlete is different and what they can do and stay balanced with highest quality work actually being enabled will vary throughout the athletes development. Beware of the chronically stale sprinter syndrome where the athlete is always in a state of neural fatigue, evidence of this is apparent if the athlete runs much faster after being sick or injured. Try to maintain and even improve all high quality activities almost constantly through each macrocycle, make every high quality element measurable so you can monitor it. That sets us up for anther topic for another time about the need to split a sprinters development up into 3 macrocycles yearly and in many cases get -2-3 years of improvement in one year and avoid injuries at the same time.

Sprinters Nervous System Pre-school

strong>Sprinters need to be steadily throughout the year training for more strength and then training in ways to let their nervous systems learn how to use the extra strength & convert it to power. Its not enough to lift heavy weight or lift weights fast. Muscle contraction are far faster than any lifting that can be done. See every activity as a way to let the brain learn. Just like when you learned to walk.

If you do too much high quality training e.g. heavy lifting, max power lifting, max speed running or max acceleration & your nervous system will be overloaded and your sprinting improvement will go stale. You will learn to run slower.Some squads do this all year, every year! There are probably superstars in those squads that are having their potential destroyed. Just like a talent singer who pushes their vocal chords too hard too often. They will end up with no special talent showing itself.

Some theories say to lift weights & run in the same session. There are a few ways to do this:

  • Lift specific heavy weight first in small volumes first and then sprint flat out shortly afterward.  The best specific weight exercises is single legged step ups on a low box.
  • Lift weights straight after the sprint session. This creates more recovery for the nervous system for the next quality session.
  • Mixing some bounding alternate legs is a good way to link strength training to sprinting. (i will write another separate article about this soon)

The main thing not do is volumes of half effort sprinting and think that is sprint training. It is only conditioning & filling in time. Done too fast these will spoil speed development as well, and doing them in volumes will only convert fast twitch fibres too slower.

SPRINT Training Approach

Just a few sprint training ideas today for runners who want to improve.
Think of yourself as athletes like a dragster. To be faster your engine needs more power to get an engine upgrade you need to train smartly with weights for years. This will if done properly look after your engine requirements to the best of your genetics.

At the same time as you do this you need to work on getting your engine to deliver what you want through the tyres. This requires you to give your nervous system the opportunity to practise using the improving engine as often as possible in the most effective way. Put simply, you need to sprint over short distances faster than you ever have before, you need to practise starting quicker than ever before and to jump or bound or do whatever power activity you do better than ever before. Your brain needs practise at accessing and using your newly available power & strength. This is what sprint training is. You are training to give your brain the chance to convert the new engines abilities into improvement in running speed.

Body builders & weight lifters can lift much more than most sprinters, But without sprint training it most likely has no positive effect on their sprinting speed if they dont do sprint training.

Regular small doses of the best quality sprint training is the key to seeing steady improvement in performance.

So the plan is to
1/ Upgrade your engine – by doing smartly planned weight training
2/ Convert the gains by doing Sprint Training – small amounts at 100% effort.

Do your homework by performing a variety of core (back & abdominal) exercises this helps the link between the key power muscles and the running action.

Also help your brain convert the new found strength/power by doing smart bounding exercises like explained at

Balance all the different elements of training each week, so the different activities do not spoil the quality of the others. If done properly over the course of your development everything should steadily improve. If it isn’t do something slightly different.

Variety of quality is the KEY.

The biggest mistake for sprinters is to do too much. It is amazing how little you need to do when its done perfectly and doing slightly more than that is BAD. This is why you need a coach and to do what they tell you. Coaches be confident and its better to do less even if the athlete is frustrated at how little they are doing, be firm.

If the athlete is steadily improving you are doing the right thing. So keep it like that.

Steve Bennett

There are many great strength exercises


Developing Sprinters a Yearly Plan

Sprinters need to maintain a high level of speed all year. Over the past few years I have found the best way to develop sprinters is with a double periodized year. This is because they can then be training with high levels of speed all year & working on every area of development in a more effective way for a higher percentage of the year. What follows is the outline of a yearly plan:

Yearly Plan – 44 weeks

Conditioning Phase A 8 weeks Every 4th week is a recovery week

Weight training initially targets hypertrophy & general conditioning. It is usually performed 3 times per week. Interestingly when athletes lift in sets of 8-10 they stay much fresher in terms of their nervous system than later in the year when they are lifting more intensely with sets of 3-4. This means that during the conditioning phase it is much easier to perform quality running without it being effected by flatness from the weight training sessions. Late in the phase sets should decrease from maybe 3 sets of 10 to 3 sets of 8. Athletes should lift upward fast & down slow, they should not lift to the same tempo as a body builder even though the aim of this phase is to attain some muscular hypertrophy.

Plyometrics in this phase should aim to develop power with the longer contact varieties. Standing start bounding e.g. 4 alternate leg bounds & a jump into a sandpit can be performed. Standing long jumps & standing triple jumps can also be performed.

Hill training can be performed over distances of 60-100m and some can involve alternate leg bounding. e.g. run 60m bound 20m.

Athletes should perform two relaxed tempo sessions on grass per week & total between 1200m-2200m in each session. It is essential to keep tempo sessions slow so that they do not effect the quality of training the next day. This means running 100m reps not within 4s of maximum effort. A good tempo session may be something like 4 sets of 6 x 60m with a set of pushups & crunches before each rep. Athletes can rest after each run for 30-60s then start the exercises & have 5min between sets. These sessions build good general conditioning & are a much better alternative for sprinters than jogging for 20min.

Speed development sessions initially focus on improving performance over 30m from a 3 point start. Often what happens is the athletes will find that improvements in strength, bounding & 30m times will happen concurrently throughout the phase.

Strength Phase A 6 weeks

During this phase weight training changes to smaller sets e.g. 3-5 sets of 3-6 reps to target the development of maximum strength. This move can easily negatively effect the quality of running that can be performed the next day. It is ideal to be able to do fast track sessions in the morning & then weight training straight afterward or later on in the same day. In this way it is easier to balance the recovery in the week to maintain quality in faster track sessions. Weights should be continued 3 times a week.

Maximum speed work should expanded to include as well as the 30m runs longer distances of 40m, 50m & 60m. It is best to shift emphasis to 40m then to 50m then to 60m. In the second period the emphasis can start longer & be built up to include some 80m sprints. It is also a good idea to do some flying start runs of 15m to 30m or in & outs over longer distances. Speed sessions can be performed twice a week. It is important to aim to do only as many sprints as you can perform with quality at maximum effort. Make sure the athlete can back up from the session to the next one & still perform good quality. If the athlete is finding that they can’t back up for the next session do less reps , do the runs sub-maximally or do less weights. Balancing this area is a key problem when coaching sprinters.

Plyometrics should progress toward varieties that have shorter duration ground contacts. A good way to do this is by performing running start bounding. e.g. 10m running start then 4 alternate leg bounds & a jump into a pit. They should continue to do longer contact bounding as well. Plyometrics should be done once a week.

Hill training can be continued by decreased to once every 2 weeks. The hill session should be of less volume of shorter hills with some bounding e.g. 2 x 3 x 40m hills with run 20m then bound 20m these can be done like a tempo session with exercises in between sets. It is also a good idea at this stage to start getting used to some speed endurance on the track by doing just 2 fast relaxed 150m reps on the track after the hill session. This will make it easier to transition to more work on the flat in the next phase.

Athletes should continue performing two simple tempo sessions on grass per week & total between 1200m-2200m in each session.

Power Phase A 4 weeks

Weight Training 2-3 times a week moves toward a power focus. A small volume of strength lifts are maintained. One gym session a week is aimed at developing power with exercises such as:

  • stiff legged bounces with a light weight e.g. 20kg
  • jump up onto a box with less than 30% of 1RM half squat.
  • stomping step ups with less than 30% of 1RM half squat.
  • power cleans
    These are often done in a circuit type situation with some heavy ¼ squats includes for a contrast effect.
    Plyometrics should progress toward even quicker ground contacts. This is done with the performance of alternate leg speed bounding. These are done with a 10m running start and the aim is to get as much power into the track as quickly as possible e.g. taking the minimum number of strides to go 30m but also in a minimum time. The athlete needs to aim to strike the ground well underneath the body.
    Hill training is replaced with small volume speed endurance sessions e.g. 150m rest 8min 150min rest 8min 150m rest 2min 150m.
    Maximum speed sessions should be expanded to include sprints of up to 60m. They can also start to include some over-speed either using a strong tailwind or an assistance system. These should be performed in small volumes that the athlete is used to using.
    Athletes should continue performing two simple tempo sessions on grass per week & total between 1200m-2200m in each session.

Competition Phase A 3 weeks

Weight training sessions can be performed once a week with a very small amount of a complex lifts just to maintain strength e.g. power cleans as well as ¼ squats are performed to maintain strength.
Plyometrics are stopped to enhance the athlete’s nervous system freshness.
Maximum speed sessions are performed of the same variety as the power phase but the emphasis needs to be on racing. The 72hrs leading into the race need to be free of anything that could effect the nervous system on the day of the race. This means almost no intense high cadence training, plyometrics or heavy lifting.
Tempo sessions once to twice a week with 800m-1600m in each.

Conditioning Phase B 6 weeks

Similar to Conditioning A but the athlete should be entering this phase with higher levels of speed. They should do the smaller volume hill session from the strength phase e.g. e.g. 2 x 3 x 40m hills with run 20m then bound 20m with full recoveries and exercises between sets.
Maximum Speed Development can be of a greater variety between distances of 20m & 60m. But most work should stay at 40m.
Plyometrics should be of the long contact variety and can be combined in a session with block starts.
Some alactic capacity speed sessions should be performed involving the use of larger numbers of short repetitions e.g. 3 x 4 x 60m at less than 95% effort with 2min between reps and 10min between sets.

Strength Phase B 6 weeks

Similar to Strength A. The athlete should aim to become even stronger in this phase.
Hills should be replaced in this phase with speed endurance sessions that are initially longer repetitions e.g. 2 x 300m but progress toward shorter repetitions of 100-150m.
Maximum speed development should stay the same as in Conditioning B.
Plyometrics should progress toward quicker contacts.
Some alactic capacity speed sessions should be performed involving the use of larger numbers of short repetitions e.g. 3 x 4 x 60m at less than 95% effort with 2min between reps and 10min between sets.

Power Phase B 8 weeks

Similar to Power A
Plyometrics is speed bounds & some higher intensity plyometrics in low volumes e.g. over hurdle bounces e.g. in my squad an athlete did 6 x 2 plyo-hurdles at heights up to 107cm.
Maximum speed work should increase in distance & could re-introduce over-speed.
It is important to do block starts & reaction time practice during this period.
Speed Endurance should focus on progressively shorter repetitions down to sessions like 2 sets of 2-3 sets of flying start 60m-80m runs with rests between of 3min and 20min between sets.
Some competition but not so frequent that the training plan is disrupted.

Competition Phase B 8 weeks

Mental & physical freshness for races is the highest priority.
Gym once a week should focus on maintenance of strength with a small range of complex lifts.
Speed sessions should focus on technical aspects or extra speed may be chased using over-speed methods but this is not a good time of year to sustain an injury.
Speed Endurance should be enhanced from appropriate amounts of racing.
Tempo sessions of 800m-1600m should be continued once to twice a week.

Recovery Phase up to 8 weeks


The aim is to perform the following simultaneously as the competition phase approaches during each half of the year:

  • decreasing contact times of plyometric activities.
  • decreasing total volume of weights & aim finally for improvement in power.
  • extending the distance of sprints from blocks.
  • decreasing the distance of speed endurance.
  • decreasing the volume of relaxed tempo sessions.
  • decreasing total volume of all training for major races
  • introducing some over-speed when appropriate late in the preparation.
  • build confidence & mentally preparedness for racing with block starts, reaction drills etc.


Sprint Training for the Developing Athlete.
by Steve Bennett
B.Sc. (Physiology)

This article is designed for younger athletes who have done little training. It contains the main points of a long term approach.

It is initially much more important to improve balance, posture and stability of the trunk than it is to improve leg or arm strength.

Sprinters should develop overall fitness in a way that does not involve jogging. They should however BE ABLE to jog for a long distance without a problem. Overall fitness can be acquired through dance, medicine balls, skipping etc. A variety is best. Progressive circuit training is great.

Improving the ability to have the type of speed that comes with little effort is the goal. Athletes need to always practise relaxing when running. The is a skill that must be practised from a young age. RACING can often be a time of practising the bad habit of trying too hard especially in the very young. The ability to run fast and have it look easy is of the highest importance. The quality of an athlete that can have very fast steps is the first thing that needs to be developed from a young age.

Young Runner

Sprinters should not be instructed to run on their toes or to pump their arms high.
-It is better to develop a foot that is moving backward before impact and a foot carriage that is as close as possible to the shin (Dorsiflexion).
-Arms should be held with relaxed fingers and the main focus of effort should be a backward stroke. They should also not move very far forward from the body.

Maximum running speed is the most important quality to develop on a regular basis. This should be done with maximum speed experiences over short distances. eg Flying start 20-30m runs or Standing start runs over 30-40-50 or 60m. The athlete should perform these runs at maximum relaxed speed in sets of 3 with rests between of 3-5min where they stay active and between sets they should do other balance or trunk activities for maybe 10-15min. eg A maximum amount may be 3 sets of 3 runs over 60m. A good amount to do regularly (ie. 2-3 times/week) would be 2 sets of 3 runs over 40-50m. The athlete should never do more once they are getting slower within the session eg. If the times over 60m are 8.30, 8.20. 8.25, 8.30,8.60,8.80,9.00. Then they should have ended the session after the first obviosly slower run in the session and in the example that was the 8.60. Initially runners may be slowing after even the first run, but with training they may be able to 9 runs at the same speed.

The ability to develop the endurance to finish off a 100m or 200m race is best developed in races. Training at slower speeds to improve performance in these events is mostly of a little positive effect. Endurance is best developed while running at race speed If the athlete is really lacking in Speed Endurance at the end of these races they could do sessions like below:

  • 2x 3 x Flying start 60m runs at high speed with rests of only 90s
  • 4 x Flying100m very fast rests 3min.

The 400m event needs special training at the slower 400m race speed. The ability to relax and use little energy is important at race pace.
Some sessions to improve performance in the 400m are:

  • 10 x Flying 100m at 400m race pace rests 3min
  • 4 x 200m at 400m pace rests 5min
  • 2 x 300 at 400m race pace rest 15min
  • 400m athletes should also do more endurance training and can get by with more jogging especially in the off season. Maximum speed training is also of high importance.

It is important to have good foot function and for this reason it is useful for athletes to spend as much time as possible barefoot. Walking on sand is very good. Training should be conducted in very light simple shoes. Racing flats from the Runners Shop are much better than joggers for training in.

In Cold weather athletes must warm-up carefully and keep warm. Tights are great for training in as they maintain warmth during the frequent recoveries.

Training to improve muscle elasticity is very useful in all athletes eg. Games like Fly, Hop-Scotch, Skipping short distances, Leap frog and playful hopping and bouncing around are all great stimulation to the elastic qualities of muscle. Combining sensible amounts of these activities with balance challenging activites and relaxed movement practise would be ideal especially for very young athletes.

Any strength training should be restricted to the trunk until the athlete has optimal development of their posture and good levels of stability. Strength training is much more effective after this is developed anyway.

Young athletes lose flexibility as they grow and their bodies will naturally try to cheat to find ways to move to make up for the deficiency. Small amounts of perfect practise are better at decreasing the development of bad habits. Large amounts of high effort training during stages of decreased flexibillity and poor posture will result in the athlete learning a bad running style that will be more difficult to correct. Athletes need to have a smart stretching program designed persoannly for them during periods after faster growth. They need to be taught good posture and given feedback on what is good and bad posture when sitting, standing, walking and running. Most of our society have posture far below ideal.

Much more info is in my ebook Training Kids For Speed


Author: Steve Bennett

This article explains a way of training for runners that will steadily improve their power levels in a specific way.  It works as a crucial element in the development of Sprinters & is also very effective at improving “ease of speed” & finishing burst speed for distance runners.

Standing Start Bounding

These involve starting from being in a standing race start position & doing four bounds then a jump into a sandpit. We measure the distance from the front of the “front foot” to the back of the sand print from the landing. The athletes should aim for maximum distance & try to steadily improve their total distance.  Part of the improvement is in technique, but much of the long term improvement is built from the benefits of doing good weight training & improving core strength.

Bounding of this kind involves slower longer muscle contractions that running start bounding. In terms of specificity standing start bounding is most similar to the sprinters start & early acceleration phase. So improvements in standing start bounding distance will usually show in a faster start for the athlete.

Weight training exercises that will help improve this area the most are single leg step ups onto a box.  I have seen elite female sprinters do as much as 90kg in this exercise. Its a great exercise in terms of being specific for both this bounding and the sprinters start.
Squats are also useful as well, but being a two legged exercise they dont load the legs as much as single leg exercises, however they do steadily strengthen the back muscles more so.

Think of standing start bounding as being an activity that allows the nervous system to practise using the strength gained from weight training. It is a way of converting muscle gains into really power gains. Then running itself being the next step in that process. Bounding can link the two.

Many squads do too much volume, where we pioneered a low volume approach.  Athletes should do no more than about 30 contacts per leg of bounding in a session. Focus on quality. If the athletes are used to this small volume on a regular basis it is a very safe activity. Doing 2-3 times that volume is the mistake that many coaches have made in the past.  If kids grow up doing this type of bounding they will have incredible power potential and it will likely give them greater resilience against being injured. We do always do them in cushioned shoes or jumpers spikes. Certainly not in hard shoes with no cushioning, or on a synthetic surface barefoot, although doing them barefoot on grass with athletes used to running barefoot will probably be OK.

Each foot contact should be as flat a foot as possible (not a toe first impact) and the athlete should be aiming for an active (backward moving) foot strike. Also use a big & powerful arm action.

Running Start Bounding

Running start bounds are a progression from standing start bounding & can be done more during the power phases of the year.  Its best to start from a 5m running start & measure them similarly, then progress once a plateau is reached to 10m running start. 10m is usually the best distance.  True sprinters/jumpers usually go far further from a running start & get bigger distance from the 10m run than the 5m run by far. However the athlete has to be ready for it & must develop solid ability at standing bounds before starting running bounds.

Running bounding has much shorter contact times with the ground & therefore requires much quicker muscular contractions. The athlete also needs to stability strength & eccentric strength to be able to  make quick contacts with the ground. Usually long distance endurance athletes have poor ability in this area due to low % of fast twitch fibres & often can barely go any further from running start bounding. However the opposite is true for specialist sprinters.  This distinction is ability even when untrained is a way of doing talent identification.

Because of the specificity focused on fast twitch fibres & quicker contacts running start bounding is more specific to the middle to late acceleration phases of a sprint race. So this type of bounding should be used in the more specific, power focused stages of the athletes training.

Once again athletes should not do more than 30 contacts per leg of this type of training. They should also measure each attempt & aim for maximum distance each attempt. Often the best distance in a session will occur within the first three attempts so its counterproductive doing more than 6 attempts in a session. Doing more risks injury & will also flatten the nervous system & spoil good quality being performed in power/fast twitch activities for too long a period after this session is finished. It can spoil quality sometimes for more than 5 days.

Speed Bounding

We regularly did 10m running start & 20m running start speed bounds. Youcount the number of steps and also time the 20m interval. The athletes aim to improve by decreasing their score. The score is the number of steps x the time in seconds eg 7.5 steps and 2.6s is 19.5.

The advantage of speed bounds over normal bounding is that ground contacts are quicker and even more so with a running start. This makes them a more specific activity. Athletes usually only have 3-5 attempts at the start of a session. This is usually done in the pre-competition phase of the year.

High Hurdle Bounces

I developed the idea of high hurdle hopping because i wanted an activity that would help an athlete stay “stiffer” & become bouncier when their legs are closer to being straight than in any part of the acceleration phase.  That is because at maximum speed is when the athletes are running with legs that are the closest to being straight during the support phase. It also is true that any athlete the time of years where they will be performing with the highest maximum speed is also when bio-mechanical analysis will show their support phase is the closest to being straight.

So the challenge was to find a plyo-metric activity that made it possible to have a solid stimulus but not one that causes a collapse in support of much more than what happens with maximum speed running. This can only happen in earth’s gravity when an athlete bounces with both legs at the same time.  So the idea of doing just 2-3 high plastic hurdles was thought of and tested. It worked well & seemed in specialist sprinters helps develop in them the ability to stay higher during the support phase & as a result develop their best maximum speeds for the macro-cycle.

The only other more specific activity is sprinting itself! or maybe over-speed running. But often with it the athlete will drop & sit. Spoiling the effect.

High hurdle bouncing is small volumes is brilliant. The recommendation is to do no more than 12 solid contacts per leg eg 6 x 3 hurdles.

The better progression is maybe to just start with 2 plastic ply hurdles & do this 6 times. This will result in just 6 solid impacts % 12 smaller ones.  There is the initial bounce before the hurdle, the solid quick impact between hurdles & then the landing. Just keep in mind that the centre bounce is incredibly intense.

We usually always use special plastic plyo hurdles & do these on a synthetic race or long jump run-up surface. We also do them in spikes and aim to land front foot first with maybe only a very light kiss of the heal on the ground.  Start at a low enough hurdle that the athlete can do them quick & high, then steadily progress.

Once again this activity needs to be done at the right time of each macro-cycle. Just at the right time in the training season  before the occurrence of major races. Its not an activity to do all year. The athlete to get the most out of it needs a background of good strength training & standing start plus running start bounding. Progress in this activity with quality don’t try to force improvement.

Keeping Records

This is a fun activity & it gives the athletes something to enjoy that will show that their strength training is working including the core stability training. It will also be something that helps their performance. Once the athletes have implemented these activities for one year, if you were to discontinue them for a year you would see a definite drop in acceleration & maximum speed.

Caution: Don’t let athletes do above the recommended amounts of this activity, which is easy to do, because they think its great fun & will readily do too much of it for their own good.  So be prepared coaches to “pull in the reins”.  With these activities more is bad.