Reply To: Thoughts on wt. trng

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I’ve read a lot of track stuff. It’s funny that they disagree on some training philosophies too. Not as bad as swimming though. One thing that pretty much all track people agree on is that the base for a 400 and under is speed. The 400 is most similar to the 100 in swimming. Some people in swimming still believe in that an aerobic base is the most important thing for the 100.

In track, all of the best 400 runners are better at the 200 than the 800. There are guys that come up from the 200 to run the 400 but nobody comes down from the 800 to win a major 400 competition. Primary 800 runners do not have the speed reserve to hang with sprinters. Although there is an aerobic component to the 400 and 800 runners have much greater aerobic capacity, it is not enough to close the gap. If you have 2 runners who’s best 200 times are 19.5 and 21.0 and they both take out the 400 in a 21.5, the 19.5 guy takes far less effort than the 21.0 runner and will have much more in the tank to bring it home. And if the 21.0 guy takes it out in 23.0 then he is too far behind to catch up. 800 runners simply don’t have the speed to hang with sprinters in the 400 even if they have insane aerobic capacity and don’t fade at all on the back half.

The 800 is like the 200 in swimming. There has been a shift in swimming where less people are doubling in the 100 and 200. Some people can do it like murphy. But look at people like Schooling, Peaty, and Sjostrom. Primary 200 swimmers have no chance to challenge them because they don’t have enough speed reserve. It’s particularly obvious in freestyle. Sun yang has a mountain of aerobic capacity and can put in a good 100 but he’s not going to win a major 100 completion unless he can get more top end speed.

Ability to maintain speed is still important. Holding speed or slowing down at a slower rate is called speed endurance. The former wr holder in the track 200 and 400, Michael Johnson, had some of the best speed endurance ever. He still has the fastest second 100 of the 200 ever (including Usain Bolt) and the fastest last 100 of the 400. He no longer owns those world records because the 2 people that broke those records had enough speed reserve to overcome Michael Johnsons near perfect speed endurance. If there is one thing I took away from reading track stuff it is “You can’t maintain speed that you don’t have.” This is obvious but people tend to overlook this. I remember Matt Grevers saying in the year leading up to trails that he needed to make his 200 better to help his 100. If you look at his best 50 back and his second 50 of his 100, he already had great speed endurance. He needed more speed reserve to get better, not more aerobic work.

The point I wanted to get to though is that weight lifting will do nothing for speed endurance. In the 100 breast Peaty has a 4.1 gap between his best 50 sprint and his second 50 of the 100. This is really good speed endurance. Michael Andrew is also around the 4.1. Peaty is a weight room freak and MA doesn’t lift. Van der Burgh was another big weight room guy but he could only get into the mid 4’s along with a lot of other people that lift like Kevin Cordes. Weight lifting and strength has nothing to do with holding your speed and will not improve your speed endurance.

I’m not trying to use MA as the sole example, it’s just someone who everyone knows doesn’t lift and since most elites lift, it was hard to come up with an example. But if you look at Juniors nationals or any high level junior meet and look at the gap between 50 sprint times and the second 50 of the 100, there are lots of kids with great speed endurance. People who don’t lift can hold their speed just as well as the people who lift. Looking at the data, it’s pretty clear that lifting doesn’t give you an advantage in speed endurance.

After about 5-7 seconds into the race you are already leaving the power system and moving into speed endurance. The real question is, does weight lifting help you obtain a higher speed in an allout 5-7 second swim. If your speed is better than that is going to allow you to have the potential for a better back half because of more speed reserve.

The thing is, most track sprinters lift. Explosiveness and quickness are the essence of speed and that is what sprinters are looking to achieve in the weight room, not necessarily strength. They say a powerlifting coach would ruin a track sprinter real quick. There is a right and wrong way to do it. I feel like a right way to develop explosiveness with weights to hit a higher top end speed in swimming could be developed.