The Sprinter’s Compendium Preview Tempo



Below is a small preview from my upcoming book. The Sprinter’s Compendium. I hope you like it and please let me know your feedback. Remember this information is a work in progress.


Tempo work has become a large part of most top quality sprinter programs across the globe. A sprint coach can use either intensive or extensive tempo training. Extensive tempo is part of in programs like Charlie Francis’s bipolar or Clyde Hart’s long to short periodization models. Extensive tempo elicits different adaptations depending on the intensity of the intervals. Charlie Francis liked to train a tempo workout at 70% intensity to stimulate aerobic adaptations that he believed would add to the value of active recoveries. Sean Burris, Nick Buckvar, and I would use our tempos with 80 to 85% intensities. Our tempo work in conjunction with short recoveries creates waste and fatigue. However, we use these tempos to teach pacing for the 2nd 200 of 400-meter dashes or 300/400H race. Besides pacing, we choose to use these intensities because it allows the body to improve its buffering capacity. The buffering capacity comes from improved levels of sodium bi-carbonate allowing your athlete to push harder and longer.
Inexperienced coaches might look at these potential adaptations and try to extend the intervals. As a word of caution sometimes more is not better. Long or lactic threshold runs are not great for short or mid-sprinters. After a certain distance and  with low intensities can cause poor posture and long contact times. Shorter distances allow for the sprinter still to think about their running mechanics while at the same time maintain a consistent pace. A sprinter who trains to slow for too long adapts to the training making them better at running slow for a long time(Not ideal for sprinting). The other issue that comes from longer runs is a sprinter’s psychology tends to not handle that type of training. A negative self-voice can be very destructive and the longer a sprinter is out on a long run, the louder the voice. Intervals on the middle of the track allow you to communicate with the sprinter to keep them motivated appropriately to finish the training.
When performing tempo 200s it is best to do your 200-meter work in the middle of the straightaways on the track. This way with short rest and fast athletes you can cross the middle of the field to get times plus communicate with your sprinters. We typically choose to do our tempo work both clockwise and counter clockwise. I choose to do this to limit injuries from continually loading one side of our athlete’s body at moderate to high speed. If you are on an indoor track, it’s more important to go both ways since the tight turns create significant centripetal force straining the body. In an indoor environment I would train in the outside lanes to reduce the stress as much as you possibly can.  If you are doing 100 tempo repeats, I would still stand on the middle of the straightaways or athletic field. This way you can cue your athletes to maintain good posture. Make sure your athletes do not fall on the ground or walk far away from their “go” mark. The recoveries must be short to maintain the correct adaptations. Sprinters falling down or walking away from the go mark can disrupt the entire construction of the workout.



Interval Distance: For the intensive tempo the distances should be 80 meters or less (Short Sprinters). For extensive tempo distances, intervals should be between 100 to 200 meters. (Mid-Sprinters and Long Sprinters)

Recoveries: Intensive tempo recovery’s between sets can be much larger because the shorter distances allows for high intensive which is not just fatiguing aerobically, building waste, but these sets of intensive tempo can trash a sprinter’s Central Nervous System (CNS). Understanding this reality of multi-layered fatigue, recovery between sets can be much longer then extensive tempo training. Recovery between intervals can be 30 seconds up to 5 min if the athlete needs more time. However, to truly be tempo the rest should be very short and avoid the longer recoveries. If the athletes need more rest, I allow the sprinter’s recovery between interval sets to be more substantial and keep the athlete’s rest between repetitions shorter. Recovery between sets can be 3 to 10 min. Extensive tempo with 200 intervals recoveries can be from 45 seconds to 2mins. I typically stay with 2mins until we reach peak phase. During peak phase, the theme of the repeat 200s changes by increasing the intensity, increase recovery and change volume. For the 100 intervals, your recoveries can be as short as 30 seconds up to 1.5mins. Recovery between sets with 100-meter tempo work can be up to two min. Some coaches will choose to make the rest between these intervals active by adding push up, body weight squats, or other body weight activities to add stress between intervals.

Load: Intensive tempo loads can be 800 to 2800 Extensive tempo loads can be quite large. Hart usually starts with the largest number of tempo repeats at the beginning of the season. In most club and high school programs it would be my suggestion to start with lower volumes. As the season progresses, a coach should add volume and then reduce the volume again when they reach their peak phase. Extensive volume for short sprinters is anywhere from 1000 to 3000. For mid sprinters, the volume can be 1800 to 3000meters. For long sprinters, the volume can go from 1800 to 4000 meters.