Over the course of my career, I have had opportunities to work with some very talented female track athletes, including NCAA Championship Qualifier and Academic All-American Jenna Caffrey (Iowa State). One overarching theme I've seen: no elite runner was able to achieve her max speed until she began to build strength and power in the weight room.
Most of these female runners already possessed excellent technique and flexibility, but they lacked sufficient strength and power, which limited the amount of force they could put into the ground with each stride. It might seem counterintuitive to increase track speed with weight room exercises. But it's a proven method, which, if done correctly, will yield impressive results. The more force you exert, the longer your stride will be and the faster you will run.
Below is a sample training program for female track athletes. It calls for three workouts per week and is designed to increase strength and power. Make sure to rest one day between workouts. Also, perform the workout after a warm-up and a hip, trunk and shoulder mobility series.
Snatch — 5x3
Front Squat — 1x8, 4x5
Chin-Up — 4x6
Glute Ham Raise — 5x3
Core (Leg Raises, V-Ups, Bicycle Crunches) — 2-3x20-30 each exercise
Push Jerk — 4x4
Clean Pull — 3x5
Reverse Lunge — 3x8
RDL — 3x10
Core (Med Ball Crunch and Throw, Med Ball Russian Twists) — 3x15-20 each exercise
Power Clean to Squat — 1x5, 4x3
Back Squat — 3x5, 2x3
Incline Press — 4x6
Hypers — 3x8
Core (Med Ball Sit-Ups, Med Ball Toe Touches): 2x20-30 each exercise
Physioball Plank — 2x60 seconds
You can manipulate volume and intensity to suit your specific needs. Stick to rest intervals of 90 seconds to three minutes. Be careful not to focus so much on correcting your weaknesses that you neglect to train your strengths.
Joseph Potts, CSCS, is director of sports performance training at TopSpeed Strength & Conditioning (Kansas City), where he oversees athletes training for multiple sports. He has served as a contributing expert for ESPN and as a private consultant in speed development and injury prevention for several NFL and MLB teams. His coaching history includes several years as head speed coach for the Kansas City Royals; and he is certified as a corrective exercise specialist by the National Academy of Sports Medicine.