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 — 5×3
Front Squat — 1×8, 4×5
Chin-Up — 4×6
Glute Ham Raise — 5×3
Core (Leg Raises, V-Ups, Bicycle Crunches) — 2-3×20-30 each exercise
Push Jerk — 4×4
Clean Pull — 3×5
Reverse Lunge — 3×8
RDL — 3×10
Core (Med Ball Crunch and Throw, Med Ball Russian Twists) — 3×15-20 each exercise
Power Clean to Squat — 1×5, 4×3
Back Squat — 3×5, 2×3
Incline Press — 4×6
Hypers — 3×8
Core (Med Ball Sit-Ups, Med Ball Toe Touches): 2×20-30 each exercise
Physioball Plank — 2×60 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.