Strength Training

Trenazhery I Spetsialny Uprazhneniya v Legkoi Atletike

Alabin, V.G. and Krivnosov, M.P.,

Trenazhery I Spetsialny Uprazhneniya v Legkoi Atletike, Fizkultury I Sport

Publishers, Moscow 1982.

Translated by Andrew Charniga, Jr.

Sportivny Press©

The book Trainers and Special Exercises in Track and Field is the creation of the following authors:

Candidates of Pedagogical Science, Merited Coaches of BSSR V. G. Alabin; G.Z. Brezinsky; [Merited Master of Sport, Merited Coach of the BSSR (V.G. Bulatov;] Merited Coach of the USSR P. N. Goikhman; Candidate of Pedagogical Science D. N. Deniskin; Merited Coaches of the BSSR M.P. Zhelobkovitch, A.M. Zhurin; Masters of Sport A. I. Konnikov, R.N. Krasheninnikov; Candidate of Pedagogical Science, Merited Organizer of Physical Culture of the BSSR, Merited Coach of the BSSR, Merited Master of Sport M.P. Krivonosov; Merited Coach of the USSR B.B. Levinson; Candidates of Pedagogical Science E.A. Maslovsky; A.P. Pozyubanov; Mertied organizer of Physical Culture of the BSSR, Merited Coach of the BSSR, Master of Sport T.R. Rennel; Merited Coaches of the BSSR, Master of Sport M.M. Sidorenko; A.D. Skripko; Candidate of Pedagogical Science A. K. Stacyuka; professor, Doctor of Pedagogical Science, master of Sport V.P. Filin; Merited Coach of the BSSR N. D. Finkinshtein; Merited Master of Sport A. I. Yulin; Candidate of Pedagogical Science T. P. Yushkevitch; Merited Coach of the USSR, Master of Sport V. M. Yagodin.

The Means and Methods of Training Track and Field Athletes

The contemporary level in the development of track and field requires prolonged persistent work which is focused on the development of physical qualities, mastery of the technique of the track and filed events, and the education of psychological stability. It is common knowledge that athletes who achieve high results have systematically participated from childhood to adulthood in their respective sports. The contents of the educational training sessions, the forms, methods, and their organization have changed significantly.

Research data from the VNIIFKa faculty devoted to the theory and methods of youths’ participation in sport permit us to conditionally divide the entire process of the sportsman’s multi  year training into four fundamental stages: 1) preliminary, 2) beginning sport specialization, 3) in depth training in the selected type of sport, and  4) sport perfectioning. A clear cut border between these stages does not exist.

The process of the long term training in Track and Field is structured to take into account the maturation of the participants with respect to the peculiarities of the universal Track and Field program. One should bear in mind the physiological limits of the athletes in the various events while constructing this program.

In order to best prepare future Olympians, A. Boiko and M. Romanov proposed an age classification for the Track and Field program which groups all of the events by the age of the sportsmen.*

The sportsman acquires a good general physical base in the beginning stages of the long term training by incorporating a large number of general developmental and special exercises from a variety of sports. Special physical training plays a very minor role. With the rise in the sportsman’s achievement, special physical training begins to predominate over general  physical; the higher the sportsman’s class the greater the predominance.

There is a known tendency for the high class sportsman to limit the means of special physical training to only the most effective exercises. At the present time the basic training indicators of volume and intensity of loading of the high class athlete are nearing the limit of the athletes’ potential and yet not provoke illness. Consequently, the necessity arises to find new means and methods to improve results in Track and Field without increasing significantly the volume and intensity of the training.

This can be accomplished by including special exercises and training devices (trainers) into the training of the track athlete. The basic value of these special exercises is that they allow one to focus on the development of individual muscles or muscle groups. Scientific research shows that the loading on the entire organism is relatively small with exercises that have a “local” effect; this, in turn, allows one to increase the volume and intensity for speed strength emphasis. Furthermore, it is possible to apply a specific dosage of these exercises.

It is common knowledge that one of the fundamental conditions to achieve high results in the majority of track events is speed strength training. Speed strength training is understood to mean the effective combination of means and methods of the complex “education” of speed and strength. This type of training, especially during the juvenile and youth years, allows one to create favorable prerequisites for mastering rational technique and reduce the possibility of errors which can arise from an insufficient level of physical preparedness.

The tasks, means and methods of speed  strength training, are selected by taking into account the age, sport stage, and the peculiarities of the specific track event. Speed  strength qualities are understood to signify a person’s ability to display maximum force in a brief interval of time. Knowledge of the regularities connected with the development of speed  strength qualities is of great significance because a foundation is being created, already in a child, for future sport achievements.

The results of control tests are employed in sport to determine speed strength preparedness. The vertical jump is used most frequently as well as the three and five successive standing long jumps. It has been established that jumping scores have a significant affect on the Track and Field results of children, juveniles, and youths. Although this quality is to some degree an innate ability in man, it can be improved significantly with specially selected exercises.

Nevertheless, despite the accepted value and accessibility of the controlled pedagogical tests, these tests help determine primarily the total speed strength qualities of the extensor muscles of the legs. They do not permit a differentiated approach to assess the individual muscles which are involved in extending the lower extremities. Furthermore, these tests do not provide a thorough evaluation of the muscles which flex the legs which are of extraordinarily importance in achieving high results in sprinting.

“Instrumental” methods are widely utilized at the present time to evaluate the development of speed strength qualities with which we are able to measure individually the “index strength” (Y. V. Voronin, et al, 1964), the “coefficient of reactiveness” (Y.V. Verkhoshansky, 1963), the “gradient strength” (M.A. Godik, V. M. Zatsiorsky, 1965), and  the “impulse strength” (T.P. Yushkevitch, 1975) etc.

Experimental research conducted by the VNIIFKa, as well as other observations, has shown that the speed strength training of junior sportsmen should be conducted by means of taking into account the perfection of technique in the specific event the athlete will be specializing.

Speed is the most difficult quality to develop. It is common knowledge that a sportsman’s speed stagnates. In the sprints one often encounters a stagnation of results despite a large volume of training. For the most part this is due to insufficiencies in the existing system of educating the sportsman’s speed. It is known that with this system the athlete needs to execute the exercises of this system at maximum speed and endeavor to achieve high results with each attempt. The fundamental method of training for speed is the repetition method. The rest interval between sets needs to be of such a length that the subsequent attempt can be executed with no diminishment of speed. If speed begins to fall due to fatigue, the work on speed ceases because the subsequent repetitions at the diminished speed “educates” endurance, not speed.

The previously mentioned training method has essential insufficiencies. The multiple repetition of one and the same movement leads to the formation of a “motor dynamic stereotype.” The spatial characteristics of the movement stagnate the speed and frequency of movement. This is known as a “speed barrier.”

On the one hand, in order to improve speed in a certain movement, it must be repeated multiple times; whereas, on the other hand, the more times one performs a movement, the more ingrained the dynamic stereotype, the more the limit speed stagnates. Simply increasing the volume of training does not result in improvement. The stagnation of speed that results from the multiple repetition method is apparently the main obstacle to a sportsman’s significant improvement of speed.   

Can the speed barrier be overcome? Does an effective system exist to develop speed; is it most important and difficult to train physical quality? Yes, it exists, but one has to specialize later in the selected event. Many American track athletes begin specialized sprint training relatively late. However, they achieve high results at the beginning of this training, without actually being “pure” sprinters.

What sort of methods to educate speed are appropriate to utilize so that the improvement of speed does not cease prematurely? We recommend three methods:

1)     repetition of speed strength exercises (the dynamic force method);

2)     repetition of exercises of the sportsman’s specialization at maximum speed.

3)     facilitate the external conditions of the performance of speed exercises.

The method which should play a key role is the use of strength exercises which are designed to educate the ability to display great strength in fast movements. A wide range of jumping and leaping exercises with and without loading is recommended for this method (little balls, sand bags, barbells, kettlebells, dumbbells).

Resistance exercises should be performed such that the form and character correspond to the movements peculiar to the fundamental sport habit.

When only speed  strength exercises are employed, one is unable to increase maximum strength significantly because the effect on the neuro  muscular apparatus is very brief. Therefore, it is appropriate to employ exercises with big weights and a slower speed of movement. Here the maximum force is produced for longer periods of time which, in turn,  results in greater increases in strength.

The second method of educating speed involves repetition of the exercise the sportsman specializes at maximum speed (under the usual or slightly altered conditions). When a specific number of repetitions are to be performed, one should strive to execute each with maximum speed, but smoothly without superfluous tension.

The third method involves facilitating external conditions of speed exercises which enables the trainee to learn to execute the movement at limit speed (shortening the distance, the height of the barrier, use a lighter implement, using a inclined track).

One needs to devote considerable effort to mastering the art of relaxation, i.e., the ability to perform movements in the absence of unnecessary tension. Training sessions should include running with the arms hanging with maximum relaxation, with the eyes closed, with maximum relaxation of the shoulder girdle, acceleration with smooth increasing speed, running with the shoulders sagging, and maximally relaxed.

Usually, more time is devoted to developing strength during the in depth stage of training. During this stage the following tasks are performed: strengthening all of the muscle groups, learning the skill to generate the fundamental types of effort (dynamic, static, strength proper), as well as the ability to utilize rationally muscular strength under a variety of conditions. Strength exercises designed to develop all of the muscle groups are employed extensively. However, it is necessary to find a place for exercises which have a specific effect on those muscle groups on which the power developed in the selected event depends.

Strength exercises are divided into two groups:

1)        Strength proper where muscular strength increases by increasing the amount of weight and, consequently, by the development of the sportsman’s ability to generate maximum tension in the working muscles (for example the press, the clean and jerk, snatch; martial arts exercises where one lifts a partner; rope climbing; squatting with a partner on the shoulders or other loading; step – ups).

2)        Speed strength where muscular strength increases as a result of the increasing acceleration communicated to the weight or apparatus (for example, throwing, sprinting, ball games, dumbbell and kettlebell exercises with small weights, barbell exercises with small weights executed at high speed).

Youths can engage in strength training including barbell exercises as long as the dosage is correct, carefully taking into account age, and  level of preparedness; they can also engage in  rope climbing, tug of war, games where one lifts a partner, acrobatic exercises, gymnastics, squats with a partner sitting on the shoulders, or  with a barbell. You need to remember that the dosage of barbell exercises and other forms of resistance should increase gradually.

Junior athletes chiefly employ the repetition method to increase the general level of strength. A relatively large volume of muscular work causes significant tissue breakdown which, in turn, has a positive effect on strength. Furthermore, this method reduces the possibility of over  strain by  creating favorable prerequisites for the assimilation of the technique of the strength exercises.

In the beginning stages of training, exercises with small weights are effective for developing strength. The weight needs to increase along with the rise in work capacity. Strength increases with moderate weights (60 to 70%), then improvement slows. Subsequently, strength will increase only with the use of maximum weights.

The correct dosage of resistance exercises is of great significance. The faculty of the VNIIFKa carried out a series of experiments with sportsmen ages 15 to 16 years after 1 to 2 years of training and 17 to 18 years after 3 to 4 years of training (table 1).

These exercises were selected based on experimental verification from groups of track athletes specializing in running and jumping. The optimum weight was determined not by the maximum result but by the junior athlete’s bodyweight. The 15 to 16 year old should not employ maximum weights. Kettlebell exercises are effective with girls for improving speed strength (table 2).

The volume and ratio of these or any exercises are determined individually, depending on the age and preparedness of the athlete.  Of utmost significance, the main task for the mid age youth to develop the musculature as a whole or for the older youths is the development of the muscles which are most important for the specific track and field event. It goes without saying that it is not possible to cease working on the general strengthening of the sportsman’s musculature.

The development of the individual muscle groups of youths and girls which depend upon the power generated in the specific event has some peculiarities. The aims with these groups are the same as with the youths and mid age girls which are to employ a variety of dynamic and static strength exercises. However, selection of these exercises, to a great extent, depends on the specific event the athlete specializes. For instance, barbell exercises should contribute to the development of strength and speed of muscular contraction in conformity with the structure, character, and magnitude of force displayed in the specific track and field event.    

Table 1

Dosage of resistance exercises in the training of youths ages 15 to 16 years

Exercises # of repetitions # of sets Rep/set
Dumbbell Exer. Up to 5 7 – 8 10 -12
Sand bag Exer. Up to 25 7 – 8 10 – 12
Kettlebell Exer. Up to 24 7 – 8 10 – 12
Barbell exer. % bodywt.:      
Clean & Jerk Up to 80 2 – 3 4 – 6
Snatch Up to 50 2 – 3 4 – 6
Press Up to 50 2 – 3 4 – 6
Back Squat Up to 80 2 – 3 4 – 6
Leaps w/barbell on shoulders Up to 50 2 – 3 40 – 50
Jumps w/barbell from low squat Up to 30 2 – 3 8 – 10



Table 2

Dosage of resistance exercises in the training of 15 to16 year old girls

Exercises # of repetitions # of sets Rep/set
Dumbbell Exer. Up to 2 5 – 6 10 -12
Sand bag Exer. Up to 12 4 – 5 10 – 12
Kettlebell Exer. Up to 16 2 – 3 10 – 12
Barbell exer. % bodywt.:
Clean & Jerk Up to 50 2 – 3 4 – 6
Snatch Up to 30 2 – 3 4 – 6
Press Up to 30 2 – 3 4 – 6
Back Squat Up to 50 2 – 3 4 – 6
Leaps w/barbell on shoulders Up to 30 2 – 3 30 – 40
Jumps w/barbell from low squat Up to 25 2 – 3 6 – 8

Gymnastic apparatuses, acrobatics, squats with a partner seated on the shoulders, and with a heavy barbell, executed at a moderate tempo, are employed to strengthen the individual muscle groups. A large volume of special preparatory exercises designed to develop those muscle groups which play a decisive role in the selected track event such as jumping, throwing, sprinting, and the track exercises with small weights for resistance should be  performed at high speed.

Depth jumps are the most effective speed strength exercises. Analysis has shown this exercise to have a number of advantages over traditional jumping exercises because:

1)    a high level of muscle tension is reached in a short time; the switch from yielding to overcoming work and the development of maximum force occurs very quickly;

2)    depth jumps are a very strong physiological irritant which has a significant affect on the neuro muscular apparatus.

In order to develop all of the musculature of the youth, the same complex of strength exercises is used with the mid age youths. However, the volume is increased and the amount of weight is gradually increased. The training loads are regulated by changing the amount of weight, the number of sets and the number of repetitions per set, the length of the sessions, and the rest intervals. Also, the tempo of executing the exercises is also considered.

The following methods are appropriate for weightlifting sessions with youths ages 17 to 18: 1) repetitive effort, 2) maximum effort, 3) dynamic effort. They should be sequenced over the yearly cycle of training.

The repetitive effort method with moderate weights yields the largest training effect. The maximum effort method should be used as additional work for “educating” strength. The volume of barbell exercises with limit and near limit weights is relatively small. However, these exercises play an important role in the training of youths because they further the involvement of all of the participating muscle groups in the work as well as the maximum mobilization of the sportsman’s volitional effort.

Maximum tension is achieved with the older youths by: 1) repetitive lifting a barbell with small and moderate weight up to the onset of noticeable fatigue, 2) lifting limit and near limit weights, i.e., weights which can be lifted 1 to 2 times without significant emotional excitation or a maximum of three times. Lifting small and moderate weights increases the track athlete’s speed  strength preparedness.

Training is structured in the modern stage in the development of track and field on the basis of quantitative and qualitative characteristics of training, the parameters of the competition movements, and the functional preparedness of the organism. Precise data is only possible with technical devices which can gather crucial information of the cause/effect connections between the various aspects of the motor action.

The improvement of physical qualities and the achievement of record results causes the effect of a particular training method to diminish; this, in turn, leads to a dialectical search for new or better ways of implementing the already developed methods.

If you trace the evolution of the training process, you will discover the tendency to utilize more specialized means, specialized adapters and trainers to arrive at the so called “non traditional” means.

Specialized training devices allow one to model extensively the specific structure of the competition exercise. They can be conditionally divided into four groups:

1)       training devices which yield information about the technical characteristics of the sportsman’s movements;

2)       training devices designed for improving the sportsman’s physical preparation;

3)       training devices designed for improving tactical and theoretical preparation;

4)       training devices designed for improving psychological preparation.

Training devices allow one to create the necessary combination muscular work regimes which stipulate the conjugate development of physical qualities and the improvement of technique. Furthermore, training devices allow one to train specific muscles or muscle groups.

In their paper “The Intra  Musculature of the Peripheral Heart,” (1974) N.I. Arinchin and G.D. Nedvatskaya revealed, based on their research, there are essential intramuscular peripheral hearts which assist the “central” heart. The authors corroborated the venous pumps and extra cardial factors of blood circulation which, along with the central heart, make up the intramuscular heart to perform vital activities; it can function independently and develop appropriate “supercharged” activities which do not take a back seat to the central heart’s pumping functions. Indeed, they demonstrated that the pumping function of the peripheral heart can even exceed that of the central heart. They showed that the peripheral heart functions not only at rest, but during work it “pumps” in response to various forms of contraction and stretching. The training of the peripheral heart is of no small significance for facilitating the activities of the central heart.

A natural, logical conclusion can be drawn here; it is necessary to find specific means exercises and training devices for the skeletal muscles (the intra muscular peripheral heart).    

An ongoing important task involves developing training devices for learning technique, perfecting technique, and movement rhythm. These types of training devices can be employed in practically all stages of sport training from the beginner to the athlete at the high sport mastery level because the perfection of technique is a continuous process. There are technical means which can help eliminate the “altering activeness” of muscles phenomenon which are not directly participating in the work and the creation of conditions for the sequencing of the work regimes of the muscles and improving inter muscular coordination (I. P. Ratov, 1972).

For instance, to perfect the rhythm of sprinting technique, the improvement of an athlete’s speed group of the VNIIFKa faculty devised a “facilitating the lead” trainer complex; the equipment of the system is such that the sportsman reduces his bodyweight along with enhancing his skill. The sportsmen who used the trainer attained speeds exceeding his personal record. Also, the quality of speed improved. The previously mentioned exercise is such a “narrow  specialized” activity that observes the conjugate principle not simply in the individual phases of the movement, but in the entire structure of the competition movement.



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