As long as I coach athletes, training for the sprint races of track and field will always be near to my heart. The process of achieving mastery in regards to speed represents a cornerstone, applicable to all other areas of sport development. A guy who is doing an awesome service to the track and athletic community with his upcoming book, “The Sprinter’s Compendium”, is Ryan Banta, which is going to be the most exhaustive sprint training book ever written when it is completed. Ryan is a true student of the sprints, and is also one of the most connected coaches I know as far as having a network of experts to bounce ideas off of.
With this said, here is an interview I did with Ryan on some important, and often debated topics in the world of sprint and speed development. You can read more of Ryan’s coaching accomplishments at the bottom of this article.
Ryan Banta competing for Carthage College
Just Fly Sports: What is your view on tempo training? What individual considerations would you look at when advising (or not advising) this type of training means?
Ryan Banta: Tempo training, to me, is a very important part of the program. I do believe how you handle tempo training is event dependent. What I mean by this is you must first decide the type of sprinter you have. Are they 100/200, 200/400, or 400/800? If they are 100/200 sprinter (very rare) I think lesser volume and intensity(proposed by Charlie Francis) is wise. Sprinters in this discipline need large amounts of time off between high-intensity workouts. If your sprinter is a 200/400 type (more common) larger volumes and higher intensity (85% efforts) are worthwhile because you are trying to elicit a different adaptation.
For example, a 400 meter specialist needs to develop enzymes to create buffers against waste, common in the later parts of the 400 dash. One of the top high school 400 coaches in the nation uses the tempo work to develop rhythm related to the second 200 in the 400 meter race. I know Clyde Hart uses large volumes and does his tempo work on Mondays. I don’t like this placement and would rather use a tempo workout on Tuesday because you want your highest intensity day (Monday) following your day of complete rest (Sunday). Flipping these days allows your sprinter to keep their intensity up and reduce injury.
I don’t think it is ever wise to do high-intensity work after the fatigue of a high volume tempo workout. For the 400/800 long sprinter, tempo becomes more important because your athlete needs to run with control to allow them to take advantage of their speed reserve. Later in the week if you use tempo for the second time, I believe it is prudent to uses slight shorter intervals and reduce the volume. I will avoid the second day of tempo work if you are racing that Saturday. Think about how much easier long sprint because if your sprinter is used to running different intervals at close to race paces with short recoveries between repetitions. Consider all of these factors if you are trying to train using tempo.
Just Fly Sports: What are your thoughts on plyometric training for sprinters of various training levels?
Ryan Banta: Plyometric training is a useful training modality. However, if you are coaching on a limited daily training window, this would be one of your training units that may have to be excluded. That being said if you have time to fit plyometric training into your daily workouts, I believe there are certain factors you should consider.
First, when you begin plyometric training, start with low impact types of jump training and higher repetitions. A delayed method will give you enough time to “teach” the sprinter how to land and respond back off the ground using your athletes elastic properties. Then I would move to horizontal low impact plyos. After they show they can handle the load, you can move onto more difficult horizontal plyos adding mini hurdles and cones. After that phase, you would move onto high hurdle jumps or box drops when you athlete shows they can maintain the quality of plyometric work.
Finally, once they have mastered all of these different types of plyometric activities you can then move to depth jumps and more complex combination jumps. I moved plyometrics to the beginning of practice this season early in the year to make sure it was something we didn’t miss out on because of practices running late. Additionally, literature has pointed to the negative effects of static stretching being minimized using explosive jumps. We placed our plyometric after our flexibility training for this reason. As the year carried on we then moved the most complex plyometric work toward the end of practice.
Just Fly Sports: What do you think of complex/contrasting methodology on the track (such as super setting sprinting and bounding, or other combinations)?
Ryan Banta: In the weight room, we do some of this work. I know complex/contrast training is controversial, but logically if we don’t see improvement in training we wouldn’t do it. I have kids who lift and train year round and understanding this we have to expose them to different types of stresses on their systems to keep them from hitting the wall in the weight room.
I believe if you superset exercises in the weight room, it is best to start with the large proximal muscles first as they are the ones called upon first in any activity. Then superset this with a quicker and light strength activity as the body moves through this same process as speed picks up. For example, a heavy curl followed by a speedball routine (Alan Wells) or a Yogi hamstring activity followed immediately by a medicine ball hamstring roll down with a quick toss.
On the track I usually divide up the units separately into or warm up, suppleness/flexibility, biomechanics work, plyometric training, energy system development, striders, cool down, post session flexibility, weight room, and then debrief with me. Now, if I had a 100 and 200 specialist we would use Post-Activation Potentiation methods combined with our energy system development work to maximize the potential of the nervous system.
Just Fly Sports: What are some ways that you train quad-dominant athletes for better top-end speed and mechanical efficiency?
We spend A LOT of time working on bio-mechanics, I know the jury is out on the effectiveness of this type of work. I believe the lack of clarity on the effectiveness on this work is not from the fact that running drills aren’t effective. Instead, I think research has not been longitudinal enough for what it takes to improve the runner. Rewiring someone takes time as the myelin wrapping physically takes time. In other words improving a sprinter’s biomechanics is a career-long pursuit that involves constant flexibility work, specific strength training, and rewiring from myelin wrapping over a long period of time from drill work.
Another factor that needs consideration is how your bio-mechanic work needs to be periodized just like every other training modality. Running drills should change over time in coordination, length, duration and power requirements. Doing this forces the body to keep improving and limit issues with plateauing. In other words, quad dominant athletes will need to be brought along slowly with these changes.
On the flip side coach McMillan calls these sprinters pushers and suggests that we should instead train them where they live. Having a quad dominant sprinter may mean less plyometric work, more acceleration training, and heavy amounts of weight training. Dwain Chambers comes to mind when I think of a sprinter that is quad dominant. Personally, I have few quad-dominant athletes because I coach sprinters at the youth or junior level which allows me to model their training more globally. My fear is to have an athlete become too dominated in one aspect, creating imbalances that could lead to injury.
Just Fly Sports: How do you approach reducing the occurrence of hamstring strains for sprinters?
Ryan Banta: (From the Sprinters Compendium) It may be hard to believe but in my last six years we have had only one hamstring pull. Now we have had some great things happen over the past six years in our sprint program. Recently we finished our season with a 2nd and 4th place finish in the 4×100 relay at Class 4 (Largest Schools) State Championships. I am sharing this bit of information to give you clarity on the fact we have kids pushing the limits increasing their chance for injury.
The question must be answered “how do you perform at a high level and not get hurt?” For example, when it comes to hamstrings, a “one size fits all” flexibility program cannot and will not do. I know we have beaten the horse to death on whether a dynamic, static or passive flexibility routine is the best to protect or prime our athletes for performance. The TRUTH is we do them all. We rotate different routines for different days. Our routines vary depending on the time of the season. They increase in complexity and duration. Our general warm-ups change and so do the running drills.
Again I am fully aware some think running/Mach drills don’t make people faster. I can tell you they do with developmental athletes. More importantly I believe these drills keep your athletes healthy. The drills allow you to train them more without getting hurt. I know improved foot contact placement along with healthy, supple hamstrings is a combination for success.
If you would like a better understanding of how to put this together on a day to day basis, please don’t hesitate to ask. Writers Note: Since this blog we have still only had one hamstring pull in the span of five and half years. Later in the book we will detail a number of routines, strength training, and biomechanics work that have led to such a healthy group of people.
More about Ryan Banta:
Ryan Banta is Parkway Central High School Girls Head track and field coach 2003 to the present, and Parkway Central High School Head XC coach 2013 to present. Ryan’s coaching tenure has yielded 84 school records. 2 top 4 finishes in 2008 and 2009, District Champs 2007, 2008, and 2009, four runner up finishes at districts 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, two state records 4×800 and 3200 meter run, 14 nationally ranked events, 34 all state performances, 7 runner up finishes, 8 state championship events and 70 state qualifiers(track and xc). Ryan is the MTCCCA Vice President and MSHSAA advisory board member. He is a writer for elitetrack.com and speedendurance.com and has his USATF Level II in Sprints, Hurdles, Relays, and Endurance, as well as a USTFCCCA technical certification.