Early Off Season Strength Training for Sprinters

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Strength training should be an essential element in a coach's quest to enhance his athlete's performance. All athletes involved in competitive sports follow an annual plan intended to result in peak performance at the time of the main competition(s). Thus, a sound, 12-month strength-training program is one of the key ingredients in building the physiological foundation for achieving peak performance. To produce peak performance in your athletes, the training program must be planned and periodized in a way that ensures continual improvement from phase to phase, leading to the highest levels prior to key meets/events. The first step in every strength-training program is to prepare the athletes for the rigors of training and the competitive season. This phase of training is often referred to as the anatomical adaptation or AA phase of training.

The goal of this phase is to progressively adapt the muscles, and especially their attachments to the bone, to cope more easily with heavier loads during the following training phases. By doing this, the athlete's chance of injury is greatly reduced and the load of training can be gradually increased without the athletes experiencing much discomfort. The simplest and most used method of AA training is circuit training (CT) mainly because it provides organized structure and alternates muscle groups.

Although CT can be used to develop cardiorespiratory endurance as well as strength, it should be adjusted to ensure development of strength. In developing the CT routine, a wide variety of exercises and devices may be used and the circuit can be short (5-7 exercises) to long (10-12 exercises) duration and may be repeated several times depending on the number of exercises involved. Remember to consider each athlete's work tolerance and fitness level when deciding on the load, number of stations and repetitions per station used.

The performance coach should first start by testing each athlete for a 1 RM to calculate the load for the prime movers. A certain progression should be followed, depending on the level of the athletes' training background. For instance, younger athletes with little or no training background should start with exercises using their own body weight. Over time, the exercises can progress to using light implements, then barbells. Remember, the CT should only utilize exercises that involve the muscle groups that are key to sprint performance.

Training Parameters For CT For Sprinters

Duration Of AA : 3-10 Weeks
Load (If Weights Are Used) : 30-60 % 1 RM
Number Of Stations Per Circuit : 4-12
Number Of Circuits Per Training Session : 2-5
Total Time Of CT Session : 20-40 Minutes
RI Between Stations : 60-90 Seconds
RI Between Circuits : 1-3 Minutes
Frequency Of Training : 2-4 x/Week

Suggested Exercises

Seated Rows, Upright Rows, Back Extensions/Hyper Extensions,
Good Mornings, Deadlifts, Abdominal Curls, Knees Lifts, Leg Curls,
Squats, Reverse Leg Press, Toe Raises, Low Level Plyometrics,
Reactive Jumps, Medicine Ball Throws

Example CT Program For A Sprinter
  1. Reverse Leg Presses
  2. Leg Curls
  3. Seated Rows
  4. Push Ups
  5. DB Hammer Curls
  6. DB Triceps Kickbacks
  7. Overhead Medicine Ball Puts
  8. Toe Raises
  9. 6" Box Jumps
  10. Dot Drills
Load Used : 50% 1RM
Duration Of stations : 30 Seconds
RI B/T Stations : 30 Seconds
RI B/T Circuits : 90 Seconds


Shawn Dassie, MS, CSCS
Sprinting Pro Trainer
Director Of Physical Enhancement
Siouxland Acceleration: Fitness & Athletic Enhancement

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