Sprints Strength Training

The development of strength and, particularly, power are further key elements in the armoury of a sprinter.

This is done with a combination of weight training and plyometric work.

Weight Training

The key to weight training for any sport is to be specific to the discipline that you want to specialise in. There is no point in just getting stronger - you need to ascertain which muscles are required for your sport and whether they need to be strong (shift large weights - regardless of the speed of motion) or powerful (whereby the movement must be fast as well).

Sprinting requires powerful muscle movements to propel your body along a track. However, a muscle's strength must be built before the more powerful work is done.

Good exercises for sprinters include:

  1. Cleans
  2. Snatch
  3. Squats (including Overhead Squats) and Squat Jumps
  4. Calf Raises
  5. Straight Leg Dead Lifts

At the start of a winter training regime, high numbers of reps should be done to build a base of strength through increases in muscle size (hypertrophy). This would typically be something like 4 sets of 10 reps on many exercises. As the winter progresses you should increase the weight and cut the reps, maybe looking for around 3 x 6 by February (this is for a single periodised year - when you'll compete in the summer only).

The finishing touches are put to your weights by alternating high speed, low weight reps for power (e.g. 3 x 6 on a very light weight) and very heavy weight with low reps (3 x 3 on 90% of maximal lift) for pure strength.

Plyometric work is used to increase power and speed of movement. This is normally in the form of body weight explosive jumping and bounding. There is much more information on this in the Strength and Mobility Drills section within our running section.

It is a good idea to build up the number of plyometric exercises that you do slowly over a number of weeks as they can be quite hard work and your body will take a while to get used to them.

Some drills will take more effort than others, so it is hard to generalise exactly how much distance to cover when you do plyometrics; start with a small distance and gradually build up the number of reps and how far you go. A rule of thumb would be to start with 2 to 3 reps of 10m and work from there.

Plyometrics can be carried out throughout the year, but you should avoid doing too much around the time of competitions, so that you allow your legs to be as fresh as possible when you compete.