Track Training in Middle School
A track athlete in middle school needs to focus not only on mastering the technique of the event she participates in, but to build strength, power and conditioning to become a better overall athlete. Strength training, plyometrics and cardio endurance workouts will accentuate track-specific skill work and help a young athlete become more confidant and physically accomplished. While students will be anxious to jump into training, always begin each workout with a 10 to 15 minute dynamic warm-up consisting of jogging or jumping rope and dynamic stretches like walking lunges and bodyweight squats.
Schedule two strength workouts every week, ensuring there’s one day of rest in between them. Assign two to three sets of each exercise, with each set consisting of 10 to 20 reps. Have the athletes complete crunches and planks, to strengthen the abs and stabilize the torso; squats and lunges, to build strength in the major running muscles; toe raises, to build muscle in the calves; side leg raises, to protect the hips and knees from injury; and pushups, which allow for a stronger arm drive and improved posture when running.
To help your track students be more explosive, incorporate plyometric exercises into their training regimen. Plyometrics involve power activities like jumping, hopping, bounding and skipping, and are effective at building power in athletes ages 10 to 13. Greater power leads to higher jumps and faster sprints. Add in plyometric exercises twice per week while allowing two days off in between each one. Middle school track athletes who are new to plyometrics should begin with squat jumps, star jumps, pogos and double leg speed hops. Have the students do two sets of six reps of each exercise.
Having a strong cardiovascular base and maintaining it will help improve your student’s performance and also help reduce their risk of injury. Add in two to three cardio conditioning sessions every week. You can build your students’ aerobic capacity by incorporating circuit training workouts, organizing relay races and assigning timed runs. Circuit workouts involve assigning stations, each of which feature an exercise such as squats, jumping jacks, crab walks, knee pushups and line jumps. Athletes complete the exercise at a station for 60 seconds and then move onto the next one. A relay race, which involves teams of two who take turns running and exchanging a baton, incorporates competition into the conditioning work. The timed run drill involves setting up cones either 20, 30 or 50 yards apart and having athletes run between the cones for 60-second sets.
The majority of training time for your middle school athletes should be dedicated to skill and conditioning work that’s specific to their individual track events. For example, sprinters who participate in the 100-meter, 200-meter or 400-meter races should perform drills that help them develop their technique at the starting block and when they’re sprinting. Hurdle athletes will also add in hurdle technique work. Long, high and triple jumpers will work on their jumping techniques while athletes who participate in the throwing events will work on mastering their work with the shot put, javelin, discus and hammer. Every training workout for track athletes should contain drills that are specific to their events.
Kim Nunley has been screenwriting and working as an online health and fitness writer since 2005. She’s had multiple short screenplays produced and her feature scripts have placed at the Austin Film Festival. Prior to writing full-time, she worked as a strength coach, athletic coach and college instructor. She holds a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton.