I will first espouse the “FOR” arguement why some squash coaches, and perhaps some tennis coaches, still consider 400m sprints as a ‘staple’ of conditioning for their particular sport. The rational is, and I could stand to be corrected, that the athlete will learn to tolerate high amounts of lactate production, for preparation of anticipated long rallies. Based on pure logic, “Yes” this would hold it’s weight in water. One could argue that rallies in either sport, could potentially last over 50 seconds, and therefore, will require from the athlete, a conditioning background to sustain such an effort.

The “AGAINST” argument is as follows:

  • The wattage output in squash / tennis rallies, has been shown to be much less  vs. what is required for 400m sprints, and considerably less relative to 100m sprints. But, in absolute terms, the 100m sprints generate far more wattage in a shorter period of time than what can be expended in a 400m sprint per unit of time. Therefore, why not train the absolute vs. the relative (i.e. 400m), when we know that higher wattage in a shorter period of time equates to greater force, and greater force can translate into greater speed.

“Train Slow and you will Be Slow”

  • The concept of “Usable Speed for sports vs. Actual Speed for Sprints” states that an athlete will only expend enough speed to maintain control with the ball and his/her opponent. Therefore, what he/she does on the track is, as stated above, will be considerably greater than what they expend on the court. If a hypothetical Football wide reciever runs a timed 40 yard in 4.5sec (which would take him at least 5 to 10min. to recover from) he will run his plays at about 30-40% greater. In order words, if he were to run full out on each play, by the second or third play, his “40” time would have increased by 50-60%! Instead, he will run the plays at about 30-40% less speed, this way, he can maintain a relatively stable work output. He might on occasion crank it up to 20% less than his best top end speed, but he will then require more time between plays to then produce the same effort. This of course in not so practical, as most plays occur with 1-2 minutes of each other.
  • As lactate production increased, skill drops. The lactate levels in a 400m run far exceed the lactate levels produced by most rallies in court sports. Grant it,  subjecting an athlete to this type of training might make him/her metabolically tolerate more lactate, however in doing so, you will also teach the athlete to derive most of his/her explosive power purely from a metabolic pathway, whereas, we know that true power must be developed from the Stored Elastic Energy / Coiling done by particular chain of muscles. 400m runs do not train this. In fact the last 100m of the 400m are run by maintaining form, not by exerting more force. The force was expended below the 200-250m mark! Even if you go up to 300m, power out put drops off considerably.

“You do bring a F-1 Race car to a tractor pulling contest”

  • Actual 400m runners do not train 400’s. Why? because the recovery for a flat out 400m is around 40min to 50min! So in terms of productivity, they instead train distances ranging from 60 to 200m (300m), with majority of the volume coming from runs ranging from 100 to 200m. By doing so, they can maintain a higher power output throughout the training session. This higher power output allows them to capture precious seconds during the earlier “non-lactate dominant” sections of the race, because once they hit the 300m, their ability to generate more force considerably diminishes. Therefore, the only thing they have left in the tank to do, is to relax and hold their form.

“Majority of people learn by tripping and falling. Smart people learn by watching others trip and fall”

  • Repeat 400m are far more taxing to the CNS than performing repeat 60m. The Wattage from repeat 400’s is far less than what is derived from performing repeat 60’s. Having said this, the 60’s produce a much higher rate of CNS firing than do there 400m counter parts. 
  • By Training repeat 400’s, you are in essence decreasing the ability of the CNS to fire rapidly. Thus your Reaction Time will begin to drop.
  • Repeat 400’s will lead to far greater mechanical breakdown than performing repeat 60’s with adequate rest.
  • Repeat 400’s will lead to more Repetitive Strain injuries than repeat 60’s, Especially, if they are done on hard surfaces.
  • Most elite level sprinters will perform about 400 to 600 metres worth of volume in a speed session, with an average wattage much much greater than if an individual were to perform repeat 400’s. The sprinters, we have had the privilege to train, are usually “done” by around 200 to 300 metres worth of speed volume.

The choice is yours….

“Run your athlete INTO the ground OR Teach him/her to run over it”

To learn how to properly address Speed-Endurance Contact Us Directly. Each Athlete is unique, therefore, unique solutions must be developed for each athlete.

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