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400 Metre Training Programme

400 metre training is tough no doubt. This sprinting event is the one most likely to induce vomit and the training itself can be a gruelling task. The only issue is that training for this event is confusing. No one seems to agree with what works best. The following is a 400 metre training programme based somewhat on the methods of Clyde Hart, combined with the maximum intensity model promoted by Unleashed Training. Clyde Hart was the coach of the great sprinter Michael Johnson and the only white man in a long time to win the 400 in major meets like the Olympic games and world champs, Jeremy Wariner.

Many years ago it was stated that the 400 was 90% anaerobic and 10% aerobic. This thinking obviously led to coaches designing programmes that were almost exclusively anaerobic. Such programmes included flat-out sprints and long rests between repetitions. A typical 400 metre training session might include five 150s at maximum pace and finished off with two 300s. This leaves nothing in the tank at the end of the workout. Check out the article I posted about volume and intensity. According to the original Clyde Hart method, one would solve this by performing at a sub-max level throughout so as to keep the workout consistent from start to finish. However there is a simpler solution, being that the volume needs to be reduced and maximum sprint work should be shorter to start the workout and long sprints should be kept very low in volume.


Now lets set the stage. Say you have a season lasting seven months starting July. Most coaches will try and make their athletes peak at one point during this season, generally at the most important race. 400 metre training the way Hart recommends, the athletes will peak and start again each time they have a major competition rather than just having one peak. Keep in mind that this programme includes only the running portion. Being that 400 metre sprinting is both an anaerobic and aerobic event, I highly recommend doing some of the standard Unleashed Training programmes or workouts as extra conditioning work. However keep track work and plyometrics as your ultimate priority.

For the sake of this 400 metre training programme we will say that there is one major meet every six weeks. For this reason the programme will be of six weeks duration and will start again after every competition.

Keep in mind also that 400 metre training need not just be for 400 metre runners. This can often be a good running programme for those wanting to increase general fitness, lose weight or train for various team sports. However keep in mind that the average person will likely need to scale it back a little, likewise for a recreational competitor.

Week One

All repetitions during week one should include a 90 second rest in between. No more, no less.

SESSION ONE:

3 x 400 metres at at a moderate pace

SESSION TWO:

5 x 50 metres at max pace

3 x 200 metres at max pace

SESSION THREE:

For this you will need someone to time each interval, or you can set one yourself, as long as you stick to the precise timings.

You will complete two sets of the following, which is termed the Tabata protocol...

Run 20 seconds at maximum pace, rest 10 seconds. Do a total of eight intervals. That's one Tabata, you will do two, with a 90 second rest before moving onto the second one.


SESSION FOUR:

2 x 100m at max pace

1 x 200m at max pace

1 x 300m at 95%

1 x 500m at 80%

SESSION FIVE:

4 x 250 metres at max pace

Week Two

All repetitions during week two should include a 2 minute rest in between. No more, no less.


SESSION ONE:

4 x 400 metres at at a moderate pace

SESSION TWO:

5 x 50 metres at max pace

3 x 200 metres at max pace

1 x 400 metres at 95%

SESSION THREE:

For this you will need someone to time each interval, or you can set one yourself, as long as you stick to the precise timings.

You will complete two sets of the following, which is termed the Tabata protocol...

Run 20 seconds at maximum pace, rest 10 seconds. Do a total of eight intervals. That's one Tabata, you will do two, with a 90 second rest before moving onto the second one


SESSION FOUR:

2 x 100m at max pace

2 x 200m at max pace

1 x 300m at 95%

1 x 500m at 90%

SESSION FIVE:

2 x 100 metres at max pace

4 x 250 metres at max pace

Week Three

All repetitions during week three should include a 2.5 minute rest in between. No more, no less.

SESSION ONE:

2 x 400 metres at at 85%

1 x 400 metres at race pace

1 x 250 metres at max pace

SESSION TWO:

3 x 50 metres at max pace

2 x 200 metres at max pace

2 x 400 metres at 95%

SESSION THREE:

For this you will need someone to time each interval, or you can set one yourself, as long as you stick to the precise timings.

You will complete two sets of the following, which is termed the Tabata protocol...

Run 20 seconds at maximum pace, rest 10 seconds. Do a total of eight intervals. That's one Tabata, you will do two, with a 90 second rest before moving onto the second one


SESSION FOUR:

3 x 200m at max pace

2 x 400m at race pace


SESSION FIVE:

2 x 100 metres at max pace

2 x 300 metres at max pace

Week Four

All repetitions during week four should include a 3 minute rest in between. No more, no less.

SESSION ONE:

2 x 400 metres at at 85%

1 x 400 metres at race pace

1 x 250 metres at max pace

SESSION TWO:

3 x 50 metres at max pace

2 x 200 metres at max pace

1 x 400 metres at race pace

SESSION THREE:

For this you will need someone to time each interval, or you can set one yourself, as long as you stick to the precise timings.

You will complete two sets of the following, which is termed the Tabata protocol...

Run 20 seconds at maximum pace, rest 10 seconds. Do a total of eight intervals. That's one Tabata, you will do two, with a 90 second rest before moving onto the second one


SESSION FOUR:

2 x 200m at max pace

1 x 400m at race pace


SESSION FIVE:

2 x 100 metres at max pace

2 x 300 metres at max pace

Week Five

All repetitions during week five should include a 3.5 minute rest in between. No more, no less.

SESSION ONE:

10 x 50m at max pace

SESSION TWO:

9 x 100m at max pace

SESSION THREE:

For this you will need someone to time each interval, or you can set one yourself, as long as you stick to the precise timings.

You will complete two sets of the following, which is termed the Tabata protocol...

Run 20 seconds at maximum pace, rest 10 seconds. Do a total of eight intervals. That's one Tabata, you will do two, with a 90 second rest before moving onto the second one.


SESSION FOUR:

3 x 300m at max pace


SESSION FIVE:

2 x 400m at race pace

Week Six

All repetitions during week six should include a 4 minute rest in between. No more, no less.

SESSION ONE:

2 x 800m at 80%

SESSION TWO:

3 x 50 metres at max pace

2 x 200 metres at max pace

1 x 400 metres at race pace

SESSION THREE:

For this you will need someone to time each interval, or you can set one yourself, as long as you stick to the precise timings.

You will complete two sets of the following, which is termed the Tabata protocol...

Run 20 seconds at maximum pace, rest 10 seconds. Do a total of eight intervals. That's one Tabata, you will do two, with a 90 second rest before moving onto the second one


SESSION FOUR:

2 x 200m at max pace

1 x 400m at race pace


SESSION FIVE:

2 x 100 metres at max pace

1 x 300 metres at max pace

1 x 400m at race pace


After week six the athlete will compete, in theory. The programme should be adjusted for different competition schedules, however follow the same training format.

I mentioned that previously it was believed that the 400 metres and 400 metre training was 90% anaerobic and 10% aerobic. Research has since discovered that it is actually closer to 60% anaerobic and 40% aerobic. This is reflected in the shortened rest times at the beginning of the programme so as to allow an adaptation to faster recovery after efforts. Each week in session number three the athlete will perform a double Tabata. This training protocol is unequaled for its simultaneous effect on aerobic and anaerobic metabolism. So the programme deviates from Clyde Hart's recommendations, however the basic premise is still there, in that the athlete needs a solid aerobic foundation while also developing maximum speed and speed-endurance.

Keep in mind that strength and power are extremely important in 400 metre training. Stick with Unleashed workouts on our main workout page at least three days per week, with a bias towards plyometrics based sessions, which are plentiful with the Unleashed method. Give this a go for at least 12 weeks and notice the difference in your overall performance.

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YOUR COACH – Chris Lyons

Chris Lyons is an experienced strength and conditioning coach, having trained athletes of all ages and levels since 2002. Chris specialises in coaching athletes for speed and power specific to fast-moving sports such as rugby league, rugby union, soccer, Aussie rules football etc. Since 2002 Chris has conducted close to 15,000 hours of training and coaching directly with athletes and members of the general population. From this experience comes Sprint Ninja, based on tried and tested training methods combined with up to date research. Chris continues to challenge himself not only as a coach, but also as an athlete, competing in sprinting events, strongman and Olympic-style weightlifting.

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