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Coaching Spring10:Coaching Spring 09 6/15/10 12:38 PM Page 14

400 Meter Training: Ideas for Training Design Part I by Jim Hiserman


The challenge to the coach is to identify strengths and weaknesses of each athlete so the various training plans can reflect the components most critical to the individual athletes involved. 14 Coaching Athletics Quarterly - Spring 2010

evelopment of 400 meter sprinters is a complex task that requires a thorough understanding of sprint mechanics, maximum speed development, strength and power development/maintenance, development of Metabolic Adaptations necessary for long sprint performance and development of a cycle-length training pattern design with which to implement all of the above factors. It would also be helpful to have a basic understanding of the implications of different muscle fiber concentrations and body types of 400 meter sprinters to better design individual training plans for the various types of long sprinters. Attempts to devise training plans for 400 meter sprinters seem to have produced more methods than can be counted. However, there are many conclusive facts that have been documented that can provide coaches with a “to do” list of necessary components. These essential “to do” components can provide a challenge to coaches to creatively weave these components into a training plan for the specific types of 400 sprinters they coach. In researching the volumes of articles aimed at 400 meter training, it’s apparent that the long-to-short and short-to-long philosophies both seem to be based on principles found to be necessary for success in the longer sprint. However, taking a critical look at the list of essential components for 400 meter success, it should be obvious that a blend of both methods can provide a wider range of benefits to aspiring 400 meter sprinters. What seems to be lacking in some or all of the Phases of the Yearly (Seasonal in HS) plan is a consistent presence (varying in volume) of Maximum Speed Work and Maximum strength/power work. This appears to be more true for the preparation phase of the yearly plan and the pre-season/early season phase for high schools. Of course, individual strengths and weaknesses will dictate the actual doses of each component that adequately address each athlete’s specific training needs. The challenge to the coach is to identify strengths and weaknesses of each athlete so the various training plans can reflect the components most critical to the individual athletes involved. Of course, all the necessary components must be present in each plan but more time can be allotted for the weaknesses of each individual. Training for the 400 must address the factors identified as essential to successful 400 meter performance. These factors are: • Proper sprint mechanics aimed at mastery of ground contact phases to increase the economy of sprint efforts at high speeds. (Mechanics of Sprinting and Hurdling, Chap. 10/Critical Performance Descriptors for the Long Sprints, Dr. R. Mann, 2007) • The development of maximum speed. Gajer et al. found that better 400 performers were able to achieve higher absolute and relative velocities (% of best 200 times). (Velocity and stride parameters in the 400 meters, Gajer et al. NSA/IAAF, Vol.22, #3, 2007) • Regarding the development of explosive strength and explosive strength endurance Miguel & Machado found higher levels of explosive strength and explosive strength endurance resulted in faster 400 meter performances (Miguel & Machado, Speed Strength Endurance and 400m Performance, NSA/IAAF, Vol. 19, #4, 2004) while Mann (see reference in first point) points out that 400 meter success is determined by the ability to generate great amounts of explosive strength at the proper time (combination of mechanics and strength). • The development of the the following metabolic pathways: aerobic power, anaerobic

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