How to get a track athlete to run faster?

That is the question that we will be discussing in part 2 of our post about Anna Kessler and how she dropped her times enough to qualify for the state track meet this past spring.

Last week, I discussed her PR’s she had her freshman year and made note that she did not advance to the district finals in the 100M, the only individual event she participated in.  In order to advance in that or any other event she was going to have to get faster.

When the off-season arrived she started her workouts three times a week.  This was in late October.  The goal was to be explosive by the start of OUTDOOR season on March 4.  She would be running in indoor meets and would incorporate the meets into the training she was doing for speed.

Anna has not reached her physical maturity yet, so the basic focus for her strength workout was to continue to develop overall strength and power.  That being said, you don’t have to give a high school kid a workout that you would give a college athlete shooting for a spot on the Olympic team.

The goal for the strength workouts were the following:

  • Improving strength in relation to her bodyweight is key. The closer we can get to a 2:1 ratio, specifically for the squat and deadlift, would be optimal.  It is tough for a high school athlete to get to that point, but if you can it will really optimize the body’s ability to generate explosive speed.  By March, she was weighing around 115 pounds with her approximate max for the deadlift being 200 pounds and squat 185-190.
  • We also wanted to continue and develop the posterior chain (lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves). This year we utilized added hip thrusts to the mix as well as single leg curls in a doriflexed and plantarflexed position for the foot.  Both exercises would help to overload the eccentric contraction of the hamstring and handle that force better due to sprinting.
  • The upper body needed to be stronger, but balanced (push/pull). Specifically, if she was able to do bodyweight pull-ups, we felt this would coincide with the strength to bodyweight ratio we were trying to achieve and posterior work we were doing with the lower body.
  • On heavier lifting days for the squat or deadlift, at various points in the program we would do contrast training where she would do a set of low reps/high weight with the exercise and 30 seconds later do some type of similar movement plyometric like some form of a jump squat. We felt this would help with the explosion development.

With her speed workouts, the form is already there so it is about maximizing the speed and explosiveness.  That includes a lot of the following:

  • Plyometrics vertical and horizontal are huge. The initial workouts would be geared towards jumps sticking the landing.  As we got into it, we would change those to rapid fire or plyos that involved minimum foot contact time and maximum explosiveness – IE jumping over plyo hurdles.  Or, I’d time her jumping over a rope extended over 18 feet.  The rope would be at a certain height and she would have to jump over the rope back and forth and moving down the rope for time.  10 jumps total.
  • Another good drill would be 1 legged hops onto a box for time. Get as many as you can for 6 – 8 seconds.  If the number gets into double digits, then increase the height of the box.  This type of power on the leg replicates the type of power needed to run fast.
  • Any acceleration drills need to be done at a speed 90% of maximum or faster. If they don’t do these close to full speed, you will not get faster.  I like to do pushup starts or a plyometric into a sprint IE jump over a hurdle then sprint out.

Next week, we will talk about how all this newfound strength and power gets implemented into the track workouts.  Being stronger and more explosive doesn’t mean anything unless you can transfer it to the track.  You’ll see a nice difference with her PR’s to illustrate we were able to transfer it to the track.