Sprinting is an explosive, anaerobic process. Good reserves of muscle glycogen are critical for Olympic sprinters so weight training, plyometrics and optimal nutrition are necessary to obtain world class results in the 100 m, 200 m and 400 m races. Special emphasis is placed on training the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings and calves along with a strong core to help stabilize movement. At a world class level, every athlete is different and will have an individualized workout.
It's More Than Sprinting
Sprinters have to sprint in practice, explode from the starting blocks, run in a straight line for 100 m, make any turns perfectly, accelerate into the tape at the end, and do all this with maximum efficiency. Sprinters on the USA Olympic team spend their training divided among running to build cardio capacity, strength-training to build muscle, plyometrics to increase range of motion and explosiveness, and rest time. It is a full-time job.
Sprinters spend many practices running at half and three-quarter pace, in repetitive sets. A typical practice is dynamic warm-up, a lap or two to loosen up, stair runs, and then sets. Videotape of the athlete practicing sprint distances will show the placement of the head, torso and arms, which is critical to reducing drag. Olympic hopefuls will spend the day practicing up to three separate times, with meal and rest breaks.
An Olympic sprinter uses the block to position the buttocks at a 90-degree angle to the calves, toes and ball of the foot on the block and heels off, head down and eyes ahead. When the starter's gun goes off, the glutes and hamstrings contract and propel the sprinter down the track, the first two or three strides are still in this lowered position, then the body raises and legs in fully extended movement. Practice with the blocks usually occurs twice a week for 10 or 20 repetitions per session.
Olympic sprinter workouts incorporate strength-training at least two days per week, and mostly three days per week. Core strength and stability are just as important as leg strength. In the off-season, many sprinters lift heavier weights to build muscle. Three sets of eight to 10 repetitions is common, and during the season the emphasis is on lighter weights with higher repetitions, such as three to four sets of 15 repetitions. Most sprinters do not run on the track on weight days, or only lightly.
Plyometrics and Stretching
Plyometrics are popular. Because Olympic sprinters need long legs, box jumping is popular as is jumping rope, skipping, and hopping through a pattern to build ankle strength. Plyometric workouts are usually performed as part of the warm up on the track, or in the weight room. Dynamic stretching is part of every warm-up, and static stretching during the cool down.