What Is a Weightlifting Program for Sprinters?

Sprinters need to develop fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscles.
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A strength-training program for sprinters builds the Type II fast-twitch muscle fibers that are critical for sprinting success. These muscles that provide bursts of energy over a short period, needed as you drive the legs and body into the ground to accelerate from the starting blocks. Strength training also builds the Type I slow-twitch muscle fibers needed to maintain top speed. A weightlifting program based on the classic Olympic lifts --the snatch, and the clean and jerk -- encourages explosiveness.


    Sprint programs should build so that an athlete reaches her peak physical fitness when she competes in the most important meets. This type of training is called periodization. A linear model of periodization takes a sprinter through distinct stages of training from the offseason leading up to peak competition and ending with a transition stage of training at the end of the season. Sprinters who compete in both indoor and outdoor seasons will need to approach their linearization in a bi-cycle method, going through all stages twice a year.

Olympic Lifts

    Weightlifting programs focusing on Olympic-style lifts benefit sprinters since they focus on maximum muscle recruitment. This helps sprinters to strengthen both fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers that are used during a race. Doing Olympic lifts such as snatch, and the clean and jerk -- as well as related lifts such as the power clean, standard and front squats, push and incline presses, deadlifts and Romanian deadlifts -- work both the posterior and anterior muscle chains. Olympic lifts use compound movements when transitioning from different elements of the lift, training core muscles that help sprinters drive power to the ground.

Offseason Training

    Offseason training involves heavy lifting to help build power. The first week of work can start with three sets of 10 reps per exercise with rests of 90 to 120 seconds at 70 percent of the weight for a one-rep maximum. You will gradually add weight and sets while decreasing sets until the fourth week, where you do eight sets of two to three reps at 85 percent of a one-rep maximum. Lift three days a week.

Preseason Training

    Preseason training focuses on hypertrophy and muscular endurance. Hypertrophy is an increase in the size of muscle fibers, allowing them to produce more force and become more resistant to fatigue. Adding muscular endurance allows sprinters to maintain the speed they build up throughout their race. Sprinters typically do a higher amount of reps with lower weights during their sets while working out once or twice a week. This phase might begin with three sets of 15 reps at 55 percent of a one-rep maximum weight and transition to six sets of six reps at 70 percent of one-rep maximum in the fourth week.

In-Season Training

    Lifting once a week is sufficient for sprinters during the competitive season. You will spend most of your training focusing on running sprints and honing your technique. Excessive weight training makes it difficult for muscles to recover between workouts or events. You can work out with weights five days before a competition by doing three sets of 12 to 15 reps with weights at 45 to 55 percent of your one-rep maximum.

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