We get young sprinters coming to the gym as young as 14. We don’t start them on any form of weight loaded work. Instead we spend time working on foundation body strength and control. We work on ropes, parallel bars and rings, involve them in wrestling for kinesthetic sense development, basic easy to learn gymnastic movements and spend a lot of time teaching them form and technique (unloaded) around split squats, front squats, cleans and snatches – form, form , form our focus.
On the track we concentrate again on developing good form, allowing the sprinters to find their natural styles, footwork control with speed ladders and mini hurdles. The only plyometrics we do is with two feet onto a small box (6 inches or less) teaching the concept of light feet – no depth jumps, no multiple jumps, no height or hurdle jumps and definitely no one foot actions. Instead we do fast basketball, volleyball and speed rope skipping. We do explosive throws with med balls for upper and overall body.
Dynamic mobility is also a key teaching point – one we continue to develop on throughout their career and one very important in allowing recovery from injury or where that is not entirely possible helping the body to adapt to a slightly different pattern of movement.
After 1 to 2 years of this basis, depending on physical maturation and progress we start to load our weight exercise – and bring in more movement such as pulls and back squats. Progression is carefully monitored, strict form and appropriate technique is always required. Plyometrics now becomes a little more advanced – jumping onto boxes up to perhaps 18 inches of height, some bounds and some single legs.
I guess many would regard such progressions and foundations as old fashioned – but we want athletes performing over a long career and we feel this “patience” serves them well.
From then only there is always a push to progress. Movements become more explosive and demanding – strict form always – we want to train these guys to perform on the track not injure them trying to over-perform in the gym. We use bands, chains at different times and certainly sprinters are extremely powerful relative to weight.
At 35 yo barring injury athletes are easily able to perform and recover as well as they did at 25 yo and we actually expect better performances in the gym. However injury, particularly those that gradually accumulate – spurs, tears in hip cartilage etc – do change how we train. We may need to remove some exercises – such as very heavy compression loading and add others to stimulate the same effect. The training at this stage is very much a partnership – not instructive – the athlete knows his or her body and has been encouraged to listen and respond to it – sessions are not set in concrete but adapted to the feel on that day or that week – our role becomes more offering ideas to overcome weaknesses, plateaus etc and the odd tweak if form is not correct.
At 45 yo some physiological changes have occurred – recovery is certainly not as quick and cartilage (even undamaged) is starting to age and needs more TLC. We have 6 world class for their age sprinters training with us over 45 yo – 4 of them still do very heavy compressional lifting but only on average every 12- 14 days. Two have injuries – lumbar spinal stenosis and hip arthritis – not yet ready for the surgeons knife – and are still performing extremely well but do a lot less compressional work and have really gone back to the early foundation stuff – they still maintain the power developed over those years in this way – one holds the world record for over 50!
Strength if trained properly can remain unabated into 50s and 60s – look at elite powerlifters!
and yes westside for skinny bastards is a good solid programme – you just need to adapt a little to your own body, injuries, needs and other trainign demands – train with your brain – build your muscle!