If you want to become a great sprinter you need to train year round.
But how can you improve your sprinting if there’s a foot of snow outside?
It sure isn’t by running in the snow. (Trust me, I tried.)
There are 5 main things you should focus on in the off-season if you want to get a PR this year.
- Maximum Strength
- Maximum Speed
- CNS training/Plyometrics
I understand that everyone has access to different training facilities, and for some people winter training is the same as their summer training. (I’m so jealous of you Florida people. Honestly.)
To start off we’ll learn about the importance of each of the 5 keys above, and then we’ll cover multiple training plans for different weather conditions and different equipment availability.
The 5 Keys For Winter Track Training
These are the 5 fundamental training principles you need to understand in order to get better in the off-season. If you don’t focus on all of these, you won’t get the results you want.
Sure, you might improve if you focus on only one of the 5, but if you focused on all of them you would’ve improved even more.
Max Strength Training
If you increase your maximum strength for the squat and the deadlift, you will run faster.
It’s as simple as that.
With this training the goal isn’t to increase muscle mass or to become bulkier (although eventually this could happen).
The goal is to increase the amount of weight you can move in relation to your body weight.
If you can deadlift 300 pounds and you weigh 100 pounds, you will run a faster 100m dash than someone who weighs 175 pounds and deadlifts 300 pounds. (As long as there are no other crazy variables involved.)
While there are many arguments about the speed of lifting, the number of reps, sets, and everything else possible, here’s a quick list of what you should follow:
- Keep your number of reps per set below 8.
- Focus on increasing your lift weight every workout if you successfully completed your last workout. (Increase it by 5 pounds.)
- Lift with good form.
- Don’t let your ego get in the way.
- Stay consistent.
I’ll let the scientists figure out whether squatting 250lbs quickly for 8 reps is better than squatting 200lbs very slowly for 5 reps.
If you stay consistent and follow the principles outlined above combined with the training plans farther down on the page, you will become a better sprinter.
Max Speed Training
It doesn’t matter whether you run the 100m dash or the 400m dash.
If you’re a sprinter you’ll benefit from increasing your maximum speed.
If you’re a 100 or a 200 runner then the benefits might be obvious, but for a 400 you don’t run at your maximum speed so why do you benefit from increasing it?
Which one is easier:
- Running a 50 second 400 if your best 100 dash time is 11.0 seconds
- Or if it’s 11.5 seconds?
For the first runner to run a 50 second 400, he needs to run at 88% of his maximum speed for the whole race. (11 seconds*4= 44 seconds. 44seconds/50 seconds=88%)
For the second runner to run a 50 second 400, he needs to run at 92% of his maximum speed for the whole race. (I know that 400 yard dashes aren’t run evenly, but the argument still stands.)
After the above calculations the question changes to whether it’s easier to:
- Run 400 meters at 88% of your maximum speed
- Or 92% of your maximum speed.
Which one do you think is easier?
How Max Speed Training Is Done
Max speed training can also include sprint training, core stabilization training, and other training, but in this part of the article I will only focus on the running part.
This type of training is done at 95-100% of maximum speed with long enough rest to allow for complete recovery of the central nervous system.
If you don’t get enough rest, you’ll be training for speed endurance, and if you don’t run hard enough, you’ll once again be training for speed endurance.
Training your CNS can be done through sprinting, lifting heavy weights, and plyometrics.
Since you’ll already be lifting weights and sprinting, this section is focused on the plyometrics part of the equation.
Since you’ll already be sprinting a lot, this isn’t as important as you need to give your nervous system around 48 hours to recover between hard workouts, but it’s still an important concept to keep in mind.
In simple terms, CNS training improves your mind-body connection and help your nerves transfer the data from your brain more efficiently resulting in faster and more efficient running.
While it is possible to improve your speed without focusing on nutrition too much, if you eat what’s good for your body you will recover faster and you’ll get better quicker.
You’ve probably heard this all before.
Don’t eat fast food, eat vegetables and fruits, eat protein, blah blah blah.
In this case I want to set one goal for you:
Try to eat healthy things most of the time (you know when things are healthy and not healthy, don’t lie) without losing or gaining too much weight in a short period of time.
Gaining too much weight is called bulking and it’s something people do in order to gain a lot of muscle at the expense of gaining a lot of fat.
Losing too much weight is cutting, which means that you’re losing fat, but you might also be getting weaker because you’re losing muscle.
Eat healthily and keep track of your weight. This will also help fend off disease. If you get sick anyway, read “How To Deal With Being Sick During The Track Season” for help in dealing with illness.
Improving your coordination is also very important as it helps you maintain good form during your race.
ROM refers to range of motion, and this basically means that your joints can move in all of the ways that they’re supposed to move.
Coordination can be improved with ladder drills and different warmups, while ROM can be improved through proper dynamic and static stretching.
Winter Track Training Plans
Here are all of the training plans sorted using the 5 big principles and done in different environments with different equipment.
The Ultimate Training Plan
Here is the ultimate training plan that you’ll be following:
- Monday: Max Speed Training+Coordination/ROM
- Tuesday: Max Strength Training
- Wednesday: Max Speed Training+Coordination/ROM
- Thursday: Max Strength Training
- Friday: Rest Day
- Saturday: Max Speed Training
- Sunday: Rest day or light workout
Note: Every day starts with a warmup and ends with a cool-down.
The warmup is a very important part of the workout that should not be ignored.
Ignore it only if you love injuries. You have been warned.
Here’s an example warmup:
- 400 meter jog/3 minutes slow biking/3 minutes on an elliptical (Get the blood flowing and get your muscles moving.)
- A-skip 10 yards
- B-skip 10 yards
- Karaoke 20 yards one way, 20 yards back facing the same way. (Here’s a video to show what I mean)
- Walking hamstring stretches 10 yards
- Walking knee pulls 10 yards
- High Knees 20 yards
- Toe Walking 10 yards
- Heel Walking 10 yards
Note: This is an example warmup. You can change it up if you want to, but make sure that you do some sort of warmup.
If you don’t know how to do the A, B, or C-skips here’s a video:
Max Speed Training Workouts
Here are the workouts you can do to increase your speed.
If you’re lucky enough to live in Florida, or you have access to a big enough gym these are the workouts you can do: (you should do one of the following workouts every day)
- 8 x 40 meter sprints (at least a 5 minute rest in between)
- 8 x 40 meter sprints from different starting positions. From a plank, pushup position, sitting on the floor, facing backwards, side planks, etc. (at least 5 minute rest in between)
- 4 x 100 all out. (10 minute rest in between)
- 5 x 30 meter flys. Accelerate for 20 meters, sprint all out for 30 meters, and decelerate for 10-20 meters. (7 minute rest in between)
Most treadmills don’t go up to a high enough speed for you to be at 95% of your maximum speed, so to fix that you’ll have to use a treadmill that can increase the incline.
Ideally you should be doing the following exercises at at least a 12% incline. The higher the better.
- 10 second sprint, 5 minute rest. Repeat 6 times. (If your incline isn’t that high)
- 5 second sprint, 3 minute rest. Repeat 8 times. (If your incline goes up to 20% or higher.)
Some stationary bikes have different levels of resistance while biking.
You should be using the highest level of resistance available to you for the following workouts.
- 10 seconds max effort. 3 minutes rest. Repeat 6 times. (If the resistance isn’t very high.)
- 5 seconds max effort. 2 minutes rest. Repeat 8 times. (If the resistance is higher.)
If you have a choice of using a stationary bike or a stair stepper, opt for the stair stepper. It’s more effective at improving your max speed.
Do 10 seconds at max speed, followed by 5 minutes rest. Repeat 6 times.
Max Strength Training
You can increase your maximum strength with dumbbell exercises, barbell exercises, and even body-weight exercises.
If you have access to a gym with barbells, use barbells. If you only have access to dumbbells, use dumbbells.
If you don’t have access to any of the above, you can buy these adjustable dumbbells to use in your home.
If you don’t want to do that, then you’ve gotta do body-weight exercises. Wear one of these weight vests for better results.
Training your lower body is important, but you also shouldn’t forget to train your upper body.
Here’s a one program you can follow:
- Tuesday: 3 x 5 squats. 1 x 5 deadlift. 1 x 5 bench press. 1 x 12 weighted chin-ups (5 minute rest between sets)
- Thursday: 3 x 5 deadlift. 1 x 5 squat. 1 x 5 overhead press. 1 x 12 weighted pull-ups (5 minute rest between sets)
Or you can do the following:
- Tuesday: 1 x 7 squats. 1 x 5 deadlift. 1 x 5 bench press. 1 x 12 weighted chin-ups (5 minute rest between sets. When lifting lower the weight in the span of 5 seconds, and then raise it in the span of 5 seconds.)
- Thursday: 1 x 7 deadlift. 1 x 5 squat. 1 x 5 overhead press. 1 x 12 weighted pull-ups (5 minute rest between sets. When lifting lower the weight in the span of 5 seconds, and then raise it in the span of 5 seconds.)
Make sure you perform these exercises with proper form!!!
I recommend going to this website, clicking on each of the exercises, and making sure that you can get the form down perfectly before increasing the weight. Don’t let your ego get in your way!
If you have dumbells, or you have access to a gym, dumbbells are a great way to increase your maximum strength.
You just have to get a little bit more creative.
- Tuesday: Alternating jump lunges. 1 x 5 per leg. Shoulder press 1 x 5. One arm row 1 x 5.
- Thursday: Jump squats 1 x 5. Front raise 1 x 5. Lateral raise 1 x 5.
Body-weight training will improve your explosiveness and strength, but not as much as dumbbell or barbell lifts.
- Tuesday: Alternating jump lunges 1 x 10 or 1 x 15 per leg. Clapping push-ups 1 x 10. Leg lifts 1 x 10.
- Thursday: Unilateral (one leg squats) 1 x 5. Diamond push-ups 1 x 10. 1 minute plank. 30 second side planks.
If you’re doing sprints and lifting using dumbbells or barbells then you’re already doing enough plyometrics.
If you’re doing bodyweight lifts combined with non-running workouts then you should do some of the exercises below.
Here’s one workout you can do:
- One leg max height jumps. 1 x 5 per leg. (Start standing on one leg. Jump as high as possible off of that leg and land on the same leg while trying to keep your balance.)
- One leg box jumps. 1 x 5. (Get a box and jump on top of it using one leg.)
- Box drops to a maximum height jump. 1 x 5 (Get on a high box, jump off, and as soon as you land try to jump up as high as possible.)
For the cooldown you should just do some static stretches in addition to leg swings to increase your hip flexibility.
Here’s a video if you don’t know what that is:
Winter Track Training For Sprinters: Conclusion
If you want to become a great sprinter you need to train year-round.
If you focus on the 5 big concepts during your winter training, you’ll improve much faster than those around you.
- Max strength
- Max speed
- CNS training
- Coordination/Range of Motion
Best of luck, and if you have any questions please don’t be afraid to ask them in the comments below! And if you also run longer distances, check out our article on winter training for middle distance runners.