Improvement Techniques for 400M Sprinting

Young man stretching on a running track

The 400 meter sprint is one of the most challenging events in track and field. At all levels, it requires speed endurance and technique. Runners should understand how the body reacts to the stresses that are put on it during the event. Athletes can show vast improvements in their overall performance by learning the nuances of techniques, and training and applying them accordingly.

What Happens During the Race

The 400 meter sprint is one of the most physically difficult events because it requires the athlete to be at or close to maximum speed for the duration of the race. In longer-distance races, the runner must pace himself to conserve energy. Running at top speed for that duration leads to lactic acid building up in the muscles and causes the runner to tighten up and slow down. One of the keys in training for the 400 meter sprint is to build up a tolerance to this effect. Develop a pace that is effective in minimizing the lactic acid build up, while being careful not to slow down too much.

Break the Race Down Into Distinct Parts

By breaking down the race into phases, an athlete is able to use techniques to help the body maximize speed. The first 50 meters of the race is the drive phase. Start the race and run at or near maximum effort to quickly get close to top speed. The next 150 meters is the tempo phase in which a runner focuses on keeping up the pace without losing leg speed. The following 100 meters requires the most work and is when most runners go from feeling good to slowing down due to the build-up of lactic acid. A big effort is required to offset this effect. During this part of the race, an athlete often slows down without realizing it. Runners should focus on keeping their stride frequency while making a noticeable increase in arm tempo. The last 100 meters is the drive to the finish. A runner will feel the worst while lactic acid is building up. Stay mentally focused while remaining relaxed. Quicken the arms to help maintain speed.

Develop a Training Plan

Early season training should focus on speed with short interval runs. This can be achieved while raising lactic acid levels by completing 35 to 60 meter runs with active rest. Mid-season training should lengthen the duration or length of the runs. Hill work outs of 150 to 200 meters could bring an added challenge. Late season workouts should progress to faster and longer intervals as lactic acid tolerance should be higher, enabling a runner to go faster, longer. Intervals should now vary between 100 and 400 meters at near max effort.

Keep a Relaxed Posture

In training and racing, good running posture is a key to efficiency and speed. There should be a proper alignment between the head, core and hips with a slight forward lean. Extra movements in these areas will create excess work and will be less efficient. A runner’s arms should counter the movements of the lower body. Arms should be moved powerfully, but in a relaxed large range of motion. It’s especially important for a runner to use his arms during the finish to keep the stride frequency up and maintain proper form.