Share the Knowledge – 400m Training

Posted by Marc Mangiacotti

During the second half of the season I shy away from racing long sprinters in the 400m every week. I’ve found this strategy effective because it allows me to evaluate where each athlete is in his or her training. As part of the evaluation process I use several staple workouts to help gauge improvement levels and to design efficient workouts for the remainder of the season. This period is extremely important for athletes who have qualified for championship season, and for 400m training.

Wilbur Ross developed a workout I use to examine midseason training progress. For critical zone assessment I use 2 x 3 x 160m with 20-30 seconds between repetitions and 8-10 minutes between sets at 90-100% depending on the time of year.  The athlete runs 3 x 160m with short recovery.  I time the first two 160m’s then the first 80m of the third 160m to get a 400m training value (160+160+80=400m).  After a longer rest the athlete tries to replicate the first set.  I want to see if the athletes can keep the time of the two sets fairly close to one another.  A differential of +1 second is excellent, +2 seconds is good, and +3 seconds is not satisfactory.

stopwatch_trackSince the sport of Track and Field continues to evolve, I try to keep up with the latest advances and tips other coaches share. Last week, I read an article by Gabe Sanders which sparked my interest in the different workouts other coaches use to predict 400m times or gain more insight to the overall fitness level and training for 400m runners. So I did what any eager coach might do…I started investigating.  Here are some of the responses I received from some great 400m coaches.

Gabe Sanders
Boston University
@CoachGSanders

“In addition to the workouts in the article from last week, another workout I’ve done in the past is a “400 the hard way” around the track:  Essentially it’s 7x100m full tilt with a 50m walk back after each 100m segment until you cross the finish line.  Two aspects of my execution of the session are the first 100m is out of blocks, and the following 6 efforts are with a three step walk in, making it a little more reflective of actually 100m segments of the race.  Each and every athlete I’ve ever put through this session truly feels like the separate 100m stages of the race; reps 1-3 feel like the opening 100-150m of the race, reps 4-5 feel like 150-300m, and rep 6-7 is like the final 100m.

As a predictor I take out the fast and slow segments, take the average of the remaining segments and multiply by 4.  This workout has been pretty spot on in predicting 400m relay legs 3-4 weeks out of target competitions.”

Dave Cusano
Wheaton College (MA)

“I use 2 x 250m (50m On- 50m Off) last 150m full go. The athlete sprints 50m, floats 50m, and then runs full effort for the final 150m.  I use this a few times a year, as rest decreases I look to see how close the two reps times are in comparison to one another.”

 

Ron Grigg
Jacksonville University
@Rongriggjr

I know Coach Grigg uses 4 x 300m with 4 minutes recovery several times throughout the year.  The goal is to get to 4 x 300m at 82% of the athlete’s current 200m time with 4 minutes recovery.  He usually starts with a lower percentage the athlete can handle earlier in the season like 75% and builds as the year progresses. Coach Grigg believes that if the athlete can run the first three 300m efforts at 82% then come back even faster for the 4th repetition then that athlete is really ready to roll.

Greg Roy
Head Men’s T&F/CC Coach
UConn

“If I had to pick one, it’d be the world record workout.  Blocks to 100, short rest 1-2, 2-3, 3-4 all on the fly, attempting to mimic technique for each segment, while trying to be as close to breaking the world record as possible.  I only do this late in the season (post conference) with advanced 400m athletes.  Don’t have much empirical data, but if you can go 11-10.5-10.5-11, you should be able to run in the 46.0-46.7 range.”

 

Reuben Jones
Columbia University
@Reubenajones

“I use a 320m time trial and add + 12″ to the 320m time to predict 400m time”

 

Mike Ekstrand
Umass Lowell University

“I like several work outs for 400m training.  The one I use every year 11 days out from the beginning of NCAA’s Is this: Full warm up then 1×60 out of blocks take full rest, then 1×80. Take full rest then 1×150 fast but very relaxed. Take full recovery then run from a 3 step roll a 300. The 3 guys that have run 46 open all have dipped under 34 sec hand time. Guys that have run 35 point have run 47 open and most have split 46 on a relay. Guys that run 35 are your standard 48 sec guys. Occasionally a few will surprise with a 47relay split. After this, we rest 20 min then do a rolling 200 in 21sec. This work out has been an excellent predictor for us.

Another work out we do about a month earlier is more of a strength work out but, it gives me a good indication of where we are with our training. It goes as follows, 2x3x200@ 25-24-24 rest 2 minutes between the 1st and 2nd repetition and 1 min between 2nd and 3rd repetition. We then rest 10-15 min before starting the 2nd set. Some times we run 25-25-24. It varies a bit.”

Matt Gardner
Gardner Performance Training
@MattSGardner

“In the past, I have used ‘Bleed Runs” in my 400m training. Bleed runs are a very dense and intense form of intensive tempo. Why are they called bleed runs? There are multiple reasons as I see it, but the big things are the runs “bleed” together and they hurt… a lot. I’ve heard intensive tempo described as a burn that progressively bubbles up your body. Bleed runs you’re cut pretty early, never really catch your breath, and it just keeps coming until the session is over. It could also be said that there is a lot of bleed between what qualities you are training here as velocities here can make it very close to speeds seen in more full rest special endurance 2 work.

I typically program it as 4-6x250m @ 90 seconds rest aiming for around 90 percent 400 pace.  Learning how to relax, keep posture and run through fatigue is one of the most valuable skills in the long sprints. You’re not trying to blow kids up in workouts like this, but have them perform well in an extremely physiologically demanding environment.

I have used this (for folks that respond well to that type of work) with last workout falling 7-10 days out from champ meet with higher level high school 400-600.”

These are some fantastic examples of 400m training from some great coaches.  I want to learn more about what other coaches do to test fitness levels and make predictions for 400m runners.  PLEASE post workouts that you use below. Do not criticize what works for others.  Lets learn from one another. Share your knowledge.

Please follow mw on Twitter.  I try to post workouts daily. My Twitter handle is @MarcMangiacotti

 



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  • Dan

    Wondering if you could clarify %’s for me. I have a good understanding of % effort/perceived effort, and use it all the time in acceleration work and recovery days, and it seems like my athletes understand it well. What I need to do for next season is solidify my times on intervals when it comes time for quality workouts.

    If I have an athlete running 54.00 in the open 400 in the early season, with little top end training, and want to put together intervals based on that number, how do I calculate? If I want a 400 @ 85%, is that 54.00 + 15% of 54, for a time of 62.1?

    Seems like a silly question, but I have hesitated to use specific times until now because I would rather use perceived effort and under train, than blow up a young training age 16-17 year with over zealous intervals in the middle third of the season. Also, I feel like it can be discouraging if times are set incorrectly and an athlete keeps missing them in a practice.

    Thanks, and great article. Season is over out here in Idaho, would love to see a summer time weight training article for sprinters (non-xc folks).

  • Elizabeth

    Hi Marc

    My 15 year old daughter did a “400m The Hard Way” around the track today. Taking the fastest & slowest 100m rep out of the equation, Kelsey’s average 100m time was 13.53s – which if this session does predict 400m time, would give her the equivalent of 54.12sec.

    However, Kelsey has yet to beat 60sec – she did a PB of 60.29 on a “slow” track last week. Thus, my husband & I are wondering if you might have any ideas as to why she is not running faster over 400m. Kelsey said that she coped with today’s session really well but struggled with a recent 3 x 300m session (10 minute rest between each rep) plus 1 x 150m at the end (average times were 44.9 plus a 23 seconds for the 150m).

    We are thinking that Kelsey may need to do more long speed endurance sessions at a higher intensity percentage of her 200m PB??? She seems really strong and has always been a smallish kid who won the cross country races whilst also been very “quick off the mark” with great agility. Running reps at 80% or so seems a breeze to her – hence our thoughts around speed endurance. She has an opportunity to race over 200m this week & we are estimating that it will be low 26sec.

    Kelsey’s major 400m event is in 40 days & she will have to run a heat, semi & final over 2 consecutive days. She is such a diligent trainer with an amazing capacity to handle a training load. We want to give her the best opportunity to be the best she can be. Thus it is essential to get the next 5 weeks training, racing & recovery in balance. We totally understand that it is difficult for you to give specific advice but would greatly appreciate any insights that you think may be worth considering.

    Many thanks & kind regards.

  • Marc Mangiacotti

    Hi Elizabeth,

    Can you define “400 the Hard Way”? I understand it as 10 x 40m or 8 x 50m with 20-30 seconds recovery. You mentioned 100m segments so I an a little confused.

    Marc Mang

    • Elizabeth

      Hi Marc – here is the info regarding the 4oom – the hard way :-) I think it from Gabe Sanders

      “In addition to the workouts in the article from last week, another workout I’ve done in the past is a “400 the hard way” around the track: Essentially it’s 7x100m full tilt with a 50m walk back after each 100m segment until you cross the finish line. Two aspects of my execution of the session are the first 100m is out of blocks, and the following 6 efforts are with a three step walk in, making it a little more reflective of actually 100m segments of the race. Each and every athlete I’ve ever put through this session truly feels like the separate 100m stages of the race; reps 1-3 feel like the opening 100-150m of the race, reps 4-5 feel like 150-300m, and rep 6-7 is like the final 100m.

      As a predictor I take out the fast and slow segments, take the average of the remaining segments and multiply by 4. This workout has been pretty spot on in predicting 400m relay legs 3-4 weeks out of target competitions.”

      • Marc Mangiacotti

        Hi Elisabeth,

        I forgot Gabe calls this workout “400m the Hard Way” as well. I do use this workout, however I do not use it as a predictor for the 400m. I am actually meeting Gabe for dinner tonight so I’ll ask him to chime in with his thoughts. Hopefully, he will post something in a day or two.

        My initial thoughts based on your post is that your daughter probably around is a 58 second 400m runner at this point in time. If she is hoping to run 26 for the 200m then this would lead me to believe that she would run anywhere from 57.0-58.5 in the open 400m. It is tough to guestimate because I do not know all of her pr’s and recent workout results.

        Based on the workouts you described I definitely think she should be running faster than 60.2 in the 400m. My suggestion would be to look at her race distribution. There is a possibility that she is going out too fast or even too slow.

        I am sorry that I can not be more of a help. Best of luck!

        Marc Mang

        • Elizabeth

          Hi Marc – thanks so much for this. Kelsey did go out a little slow last week – around 28.5 for the first 200m. So she needs to work on that :-) She doesn’t have any recent PB’s as over the previous 2 seasons Kelsey was suffering from breathlessness (which was cured with hypnotherapy – she had a lot to deal with emotionally in 2011!!)

          In addition, over our autumn/winter season, Kelsey plays Premier Women’s Grade Field Hockey (& age-group representative hockey). She is aspiring to represent New Zealand in the future. She has done as much running training as possible during this time particularly fartlek sessions & appears to have a great aerobic base & anaerobic capacity (hopefully I’m using the correct terminology). However, I know she is wondering about her speed (or special) endurance for 400m.

          She will get an opportunity to race over 200m this weekend – so hopefully a PB (however, here in New Zealand it is Spring & the weather is pretty windy & cool – 13 degrees at training tonight).

          It is possible for Kelsey to race twice a week over varying distances from now to December (how many 400’s does she need to do?) but is this a good idea? I’m conscious of the need to get a balance between racing, training the areas she needs to develop, recovery & tapering for the event.

          Many thanks & kind regards

          Elizabeth

          PS We just bought your 400m Training resource & I also contacted Gabe yesterday :-)

  • Elizabeth

    Hi again Marc. This evening our 15 year old daughter Kelsey completed a 2 x 3 x 160m session (using a 45 second rest between reps as indicated in Latif’s Complete Speed training manual/Vol 2) & 11 minutes between sets. Kelsey’s 400m times were 57.63 & 58.49. In the Share The Knowledge article, you discuss how you use these times for a 400m training value – can you please explain this for me? Many thanks & kind regards, Elizabeth

  • Francisco ArancibiaRobles

    hi. I used to calculate % by transforming the PB to meter/second value and from that i would get the % needing only to transform that m/s value back to seconds. Then i found out that by simplifying the formula all that i needed to do, instead of multiplying, was DIVIDE the PB to acquire by the wanted % and then multiply by 100. In example, using the girls pb, we would have 54 x (100/85) which gives us 63.5 seconds. Wish i would’ve think about you method sooner, i struggled a lot till i figured out my formula hehe.