A Review of 400m Training Methods

Posted In: Blog Discussion

  • Mike Young
    Keymaster
    Mike Young on #15671

    A couple days ago it occurred to me that I had one more blog entry to reach 400 and figured it would only be appropriate if my 400th blog post was about the 400m (thanks to Nick for the suggestion). The 400m is one of the weird birds of track and field. Probably more so than any other event (other than the 800m) the ‘Many Roads to Rome’ concept seems to hold true. I’d like to take a look at why

    Continue reading…

    ELITETRACK Founder


    Participant
    Mccabe on #82418

    Thanks for this Mike.


    Participant
    tkaberna on #82423

    Best blog I have read in a while. I have always wondered if shifting the emphasis throughout the athletes years would create the best result. Question always is for me is this: With a freshman in high school do you develop speed first then build in fitness later in his high school career or do you build fitness first to take off the seconds then focus on speed when hes a little older?


    Participant
    davan on #82425

    Tkaberna:

    Couldn’t you do both, to an extent, with athletes that young?

    They are probably hitting top speed no later than 30m, probably earlier. If you are doing 2 days a week of work to 30m and then 2 days of ext. tempo and maybe 1 day of int. tempo, you should see all around improvement. Most people, especially younger athletes, are running the speed work so much slower than their meet times, I don’t see it as being that necessary to run a bunch of 60s to get them ready to go if they are that novice/new to the sport.

    Perhaps you could get the most improvement by keeping training quite simple like that and using meets to generate that sort of specific SE, especially since they are so young and in HS you run numerous meets (just counted mine from senior year a few weeks ago and I had nearly 40 races going into the state meet!).

    Example: Having athletes run more 100s, 200s, and 4x100s early in their HS careers and then slowly incorporate them into more 4x4s and open 4s. If weather isn’t bad, you could even do that each season. You may have issues with order of meets (we always had the 400 immediately before the 4×100, so you couldn’t safely do both), but you get the idea.

    Thoughts?


    Participant
    Chad Williams on #81493

    Awesome blog.

    I have delved into both methods in my 400m training and found that the 85-90% window for the majority of the season keeps the body and CNS feeling fresher throughout the course of the year. I equate it to lifting. The majority of our lifts fall in the 80% range for the olympics, yet when we go and test, PR numbers are frequent. Like Mike said, you can put far more volume into a program that way. Unlike elites, we do ask that our good 400m runners do a lot at big meets (conference, national championships). Sometimes running 6 or more race in two/three days. Without having built a strong foundation to handle volume, I think that an athlete from the speed-power end of the spectrum would crumble under such high volume demands.

    Mike Young
    Keymaster
    Mike Young on #82487

    When I was at Army, I actually experimented quite a bit with my 400m runners…using indoor and outdoor as labs to test short-to-long, long-to-short, and ends-to-middle approaches. My weight and plyo programs stayed basically the same so it wasn’t a perfect test but I found it very beneficial for my own learning. We had the best results using short-to-long with an accelerated progression to speed endurance. Maybe this was because of the kids I have (generally not speed demons and coming in with average high school PRs of 52 seconds. They were able to handle very high training loads and could run rounds without any dropoff.

    Many speed demons seem to do well on the tempo-based programs but there are tons who don’t progress after 4 years if they continue with the program.

    ELITETRACK Founder


    Participant
    Mr Chris on #82547

    Great post. I’ve been researching and experimenting with the 400m for a while, working to understand the how, when, and why’s for the different training methods. What I’ve learned definitely agrees with what Mike laid out, and this is by far the clearest explanation/summarization I’ve come across.
    Has anyone developed a preferred process for determining which end of the spectrum is best suited for a particular athlete? For example, do you use a set training method and figure out the makeup of an athlete based on their performance over time? Or are there a specific set of parameters that can help identify where an athlete naturally falls within the training spectrum?


    Participant
    Jason Gosa on #82629

    Great Blog!
    I will be reading this one closely. If I am guilty of one thing, it is that I basically start in the middle, without trying one end or the other. I apply that “middle of the spectrum” to sprinters and see it through all four years. I would like to specify to each athlete more, but it is challenging to do that based on picking “what” for “who”.


    Participant
    Jay Turner on #82734

    Best blog I have read in a while. I have always wondered if shifting the emphasis throughout the athletes years would create the best result. Question always is for me is this: With a freshman in high school do you develop speed first then build in fitness later in his high school career or do you build fitness first to take off the seconds then focus on speed when hes a little older?

    I would develop speed first. One could argue that it would depend on the talent level of the athlete. Personally, I say develop speed first no matter what. I say this because no matter how fast they are running coming into high school, they can’t possibly be running to their absolute potential that early in age. Now, while developing that speed, I’d mix in tempo, plyos, weights, etc. Then as Mike said, as they start to develop further, you have to determine what specific route to take, whether it be more to the tempo side, or more to the speed/power side.

    I agree with everyone here Mike. Best post I’ve read in quite a while. This is an instant classic.


    Participant
    tkaberna on #82739

    We do take the speed route first where I am at and still mix in tempo, plyos and weights. The problem for me is by the time I actually learn the athlete and how they respond to a certain stimulus they are a senior. I would love to start with a lot of speed for their frosh/soph years then move the juniors and seniors to more of a tempo based program to see how they respond. Problem is living in Chicago it is very difficult to get outside and do anything worthwhile when it is under 20 degrees for the first couple months of the season. I have found if we do too much tempo on the basketball court it wrecks our kids lower extremities for a couple days.


    Participant
    Jay Turner on #82740

    When?

    Based on some casual observations of various training systems I think it’s fair to say that for many athletes it’s probably best to start off on one side of the spectrum and move towards the center as there career progresses.

    Based on your when, here is my question…

    How do you determine WHEN to move to something else? And I guess this can be asked for any sprint event, from 100 and beyond regarding training. How do you know when they’ve had enough of one thing, and have them move on to something else? What should you look for in training/races?

    Mike Young
    Keymaster
    Mike Young on #82766

    [quote author="Mike Young" date="1240913932"]When?

    Based on some casual observations of various training systems I think it’s fair to say that for many athletes it’s probably best to start off on one side of the spectrum and move towards the center as there career progresses.

    Based on your when, here is my question…

    How do you determine WHEN to move to something else? And I guess this can be asked for any sprint event, from 100 and beyond regarding training. How do you know when they’ve had enough of one thing, and have them move on to something else? What should you look for in training/races?[/quote]It seems that in most of the cases I’ve observed that it becomes fairly obvious because performances actually start to DROP off. They don’t even maintain. There are TONS of great collegiate 400m runners who never progressed beyond there junior year. I’m guessing that it’s basically a case of being away from one end of the training spectrum for too long so those qualities can no longer be maintained through indirect training stimuli.

    ELITETRACK Founder


    Participant
    Jay Turner on #82804

    [quote author="Jay Turner" date="1241251191"][quote author="Mike Young" date="1240913932"]When?

    Based on some casual observations of various training systems I think it’s fair to say that for many athletes it’s probably best to start off on one side of the spectrum and move towards the center as there career progresses.

    Based on your when, here is my question…

    How do you determine WHEN to move to something else? And I guess this can be asked for any sprint event, from 100 and beyond regarding training. How do you know when they’ve had enough of one thing, and have them move on to something else? What should you look for in training/races?[/quote]It seems that in most of the cases I’ve observed that it becomes fairly obvious because performances actually start to DROP off. They don’t even maintain. There are TONS of great collegiate 400m runners who never progressed beyond there junior year. I’m guessing that it’s basically a case of being away from one end of the training spectrum for too long so those qualities can no longer be maintained through indirect training stimuli.[/quote]

    So basically you’re saying you’ll see your times get WORSE over time? Is that to say that the answer to my question would be to train one side of the spectrum until you see these drop offs in time, or should you try to be ahead of the curve?

    Also, is what you’re saying pretty good evidence as to why a “both ends…” approach is usually the better way to go in sprint training, simply because it allows you to keep all aspects of training involved from micro to micro, meso to meso, and year to year?


    Participant
    Jay Turner on #83169

    Mike? Anyone?

    Mike Young
    Keymaster
    Mike Young on #83171

    So basically you’re saying you’ll see your times get WORSE over time?

    That’s what it seems like when you look at athletes that start in programs that are clearly on one side of the spectrum.

    Is that to say that the answer to my question would be to train one side of the spectrum until you see these drop offs in time, or should you try to be ahead of the curve?

    I’d imagine you could try to stay ahead of the curve but I’m not sure how to do it to be honest. It seems some people progress for 2 years and others for 3 or 4. Still others don’t progress at all.

    Also, is what you’re saying pretty good evidence as to why a “both ends…” approach is usually the better way to go in sprint training, simply because it allows you to keep all aspects of training involved from micro to micro, meso to meso, and year to year?

    Yep.

    ELITETRACK Founder

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