Sprint Training - Energy Systems - Complete Track and Field

Sprint Training – Energy Systems

Posted by Tony Veney

Sprint Training – Energy Systems

By Tony Veney

At the beginning of each track season, you sit down and evaluate the returning and the incoming talent. The thoughts eventually shift to the top sprinters and the expectations we both have for the upcoming season. If girls or boys ran 12.5 or 11.0 last year, you just assume that they will improve through maturation. But sometimes our expectations are not always met with the hoped for results. If you eliminate the distractions of approaching graduation, boy and girlfriends, jobs, parental pressure, etc., your kid should run better (the good ones are able to manage all of the other static, which includes the coach as well). And running better is what I am the most concerned with. Getting the sprinter to run faster than ever before through a systematic approach to the energy systems needed to produce the needed performance.

Start off first by knowing just a little about the physical patterning of your sprinter. Do you know what your sprinter’s stride length is? Do you know what your sprinter’s stride frequency is? If not, then you’re playing a game (and some of you very successfully) of sprinter’s roulette. Don’t have your sprinters running fast in spite of your training; it should be in conjunction with as much of your training and speed development as possible.

Aerobic training has nothing to do with sprinting, and should never be used to make your sprinter faster. Aerobic training is good for the development of the cardiovascular system to enable you to recover from the tough workouts and helps in the development of running more reps and learning to run rounds. But there is nothing about a 1000 breakdown, or 5-10 miles of running that will enable your sprinter to improve from 12.5 to 12.2.

You need to know what the body is affected by when you sprint, and you need to train those areas and perfect them so that when it’s time to “punch” it, they “punch it” like a Top Fuel Funny Car and not like the neighborhood garbage truck. But that is what you are doing when you go outside of the energy system requirements preset in the sprint.

The following chart outlines the duration of effort, the energy system it touches, the use of either power or capacity, and the training effect. If you are doing starts, it is clear that you’re working in the 0.0 to 5.0 second range. So what? Well, you need to know a little about the biochemistry of the body which states:

The legs have stored ATP (look it up) in them and lasts for 2 muscle contractions. During that moment

0.0-.20 equals reaction to the stimulus of the gun
0.0-.20 equals the first push from both legs
1.0-2.0 equals the energy stored in the legs (block exit)
2.0-5.0 equals the pushing phase of the acceleration pattern
5.0-15.0 equals maximum flying speed

Each one of these areas has an energy system that you can tie into which lets you know what distances you should be covering because you have the duration that the system is available to you. If you are a 200 meter girl, and wish to train your speed endurance, you must touch on the 15 30 second range which allows you to run very fast, at a very high percentage of your maximum effort. Do not train speed endurance at less than 90% or you will lock in a slower muscular recruitment and thereby get a slower muscular response. Want to run fast? Train fast.

“But she’s got to get strong,” you say. If your girls run 10 x 200 at 75% with short recovery, they’ll be strong as sin. But when they run against my girls, who have run 1 x 250 in 30 sec. with 20 mins. and 1 x 180 in 21.6, I win. That’s because my girls can endure at the target pace of the run, while yours can run a whole bunch of them, but slower than sin! Of course this is not all I do all year, and you may think that 10 x 200 is necessary in the beginning; it has its place, but not to make her fast. If it is an aerobic workout, call it that, but do not call it speed. If my boy is a 50 flat boy, and I run 3 x 500 fast with good recovery, then I’m working the lactic capacity (the ability to tolerate lactic acid which deadens the muscle’s ability to maintain the power needed to go fast).

3 x 3 x 60 meters on the fly Alactic Power
1 x 600 @ 95% 90 sec. 1 x 200 @ race pace Lactic Capacity
10 x 30 meters starts Alactic Power

Try not to run more than 150 to 175 seconds worth of actual running on the track. It works out to a lot of running very fast if you go up that high.

1000-800-600-400 Lactic with Aerobic Support***

***Be careful here because you have to ask yourself, what is it about a 400 in 49 or 54 seconds that has anything to do with needing aerobic support. But this system does let you know what areas to train your 800-1600-3200 kid when it comes to what system will make you a more capable runner.

Finally, train for speed first and you will be able to run at a reduced percentage of that speed for a longer distance. But if you start slow and try to run fast off the slower velocity, you will more often than not find yourself on the raw end of someone’s kick.


Duration of
Session Effort
Energy System(s)
Training Effect
0 to 0.2 sec.
0 to 0.2 sec.
(per leg)
Alactic (Stored
muscle ATP)
Initial Thrust
0 to 1.0 sec
(CP system)
Single leg thrust
at top
1 to 2.0 sec
Alactic (nervous
+ stored ATP + CP)
2 to 5.0 sec
Alactic (CP system)
5 to 15 sec
Alactic (CP system)
Maximum speed
(flying start)
15 to 30 sec
Alactic (extended
CP system)
Speed endurance
(ability to hold
30 to 45 sec
Ability to produce
energy w/ot O2
or CP
45 to 90 sec
As above +
ability to tolerate
lactic acid
90 to 300+
Lactic with
aerobic support
Aerobic +
Power + Lactic
Abil. to use O2 to
hold pace as lactic
acid accumulates
5 to 10 min
Aerobic with
minor lactic
Aerobic Power
Max O2 rate
10 to 12 min
Power Capacity
Raise anaerobic
20 to 60 min
steady pace
Fuel: glycogen
Ability to maintain
Above 1 hour
Aerobic Fuel:
glycogen + fat
Ability to maintian
steady pace for
the marathon

Tony Veney is the head track and field coach at Ventura Community College in Ventura, CA.

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  • Kelsey Condley

    If you can understand how and what system you are training for you can easily set up your training. Everything I have read and everything that makes sense for a sprinter can be summed up with the phrase train fast run fast. The old school long reps and lower percentages has its place but it is minimal for a true sprinter. (55, 100, 200)

  • Dewayne

    In this article you say not to do Speed Endurance work at less than 90%. Is this always even in pre-season(fall)?

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas


      If it is less than 90% intensity it is not speed endurance work.

  • Roger

    Reading the article I have a question about training younger sprinters (age 13-15). I have both CST programs. The article states that the speed endurance training should not be less than 90% (train fast, run fast), which makes a lot of sense to me. Does this affect your conditioning and recovery days? Are the runs on those days still executed at around 70% as referenced in the program sample? I’m new to this and am trying to get better. It is my understanding that you can’t train at such a high intensity every day because the body needs time to recover. I also thought the running on the recovery days initiallty helps to teach the sprinter to run at a consistent pace, even though it is not as high in intensity. Any feedback on this would be greatly appreciated.

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas


      If you’re going to use extensive tempo (70-75% intensity) runs for recovery work, then yes, they would be executed as I wrote them in the sample programs. You can only train at 90%+ 2-3 days per week at most. With high schoolers, on the average, I alternate between 2 ‘quality’ days one week, 3 the next, back to 2, etc. Running on recovery days, I would argue, does not help runners run at a consistent pace because the pace is too slow to be relevant or to elicit proper running mechanics. Those runs are purely for aerobic capacity and recovery purposes. Generally speaking, with 55-200 runners, I do not do very much extensive tempo for recovery. Instead, I do long warm ups and/or circuits.

    • Coachi

      Coach T. I want to thank you for taking time out to make all of this information available. I have one of your CST DVD sets and i have encorporated them into my girls program. This past year, I had two girls compete in the 400m state championship (55.7-2nd ; 56.3 – 3rd) and my 4x400m girls won our state division as well as ran the fastest time in the state this year (3:48). Thanks again!!

      • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas


        My pleasure. But more importantly….DAMN!! Doesn’t sound like you need me at all!! You’re doing WORK down there! Congratulations on your success!

  • Dewayne

    what are 4 x 10 step wicked drill, and what is 150 + 30??

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas


      I will discuss those things in an upcoming article or series of articles.

      • jack boylan

        I was wondering what your opinion is on power days VS Circuit Days maybe for recovery.
        2 days pwer or vice versa?
        Thank You coach

        • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

          @jack boylan:

          Power development would not be considered a recovery mechanism. However I use a ton of circuits on my recovery days. But I’m not sure I have enough information to give you a more specific answer.

          • Jeremy Boone

            Enjoyed the article! What’s the best way to get in touch with you via email?

            all the best,
            Jeremy Boone

  • http://md.milesplit.com steve

    I think there is one mistake in the chart:

    0 to 0.1 sec (should this be 0 to 1.0?) Not sure, but thought it might be wrong.
    (CP system)
    Single leg thrust
    at top

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas


      Good catch. Fixed.

  • Jon Beyle

    Great article. Thanks Latif and Coach Veney. One big issue I continue to struggle with is volume with my high school 400 runners/300H. Currently I am not going above 1800m in a session (extensive tempo, or course) and the shin issues have been better. I know there is no magic #, but is that enough. Personally, I love the emphasis on speed, but I want to make sure I am doing enough volume.

    • http://www.completespeedtraining2.com Latif Thomas

      @Jon Beyle:

      I don’t worry about volume. And I don’t design any of my training based on volume goals. If we were doing extensive tempo, which we would rarely do, it would be for recovery purposes. Volume is dictated by the capacity of the individual athlete. Once they can’t run a time you want them to hit, they stop the workout.

      “Free yourself from volume concerns and the picture becomes much more clear.” – Vince Anderson – Texas A&M

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