Training a Master’s Sprint Athlete- Strength Work

Training a Master’s Sprint Athlete- Strength Work

How exactly do you train a 61 year old sprint athlete? It requires a very slow and patient process of incremental increases in a non-linear fashion.

Aging is for Wimps!

I want to go over the current training regime of a 61-year old client of mine name Patricia. Specifically, I want to demonstrate a strength session she recently performed at my facility.

She has been working with me now for almost 5 years and is the first real Master’s athlete that I recruited from being a former soft-tissue/rehab client. More specifically, I turned Patricia into a Master’s Sprinter, or a Sprint Athlete as I like to call it.

She has competed for the last 4 years in at least a couple of track meets per year racing the 100m and 200m dashes respectively.

The racing is more my push as I am really trying to encourage more Master’s athletes to compete against other athletes in their respective age groups.

The problem is that there are no other women in Patricia’s age category doing the sprints in the state of Arizona so she often ends up racing against much younger women including collegiate women, which isn’t really a well matched race for her! I’m really hoping to get her to a Regional and/or National Track & Field Championship so she can actually race against other women her own age.

The SprintAthlete Advantage

Training to be a sprinter (SprintAthlete) involves the development of many beneficial attributes including:

  • Relative Body Strength
  • Speed & Power (also improvements in the Stretch-Shortening-cycle)
  • Endurance (both power and speed, depending on training protocols)
  • Rate of Force Development (RFD)
  • Dynamic Flexibility
  • Timing and Coordination of Muscle Firing (Motor Control Improvements!)
  • Muscle Mass Development ( especially in high-threshold fibers if focusing on the short sprints)*
  • Bone Density (large Ground Reaction Forces impose osteogenic stimuli into lower body, hips and spine)
  • Many more biomotor qualities!

Of course with increased speed and power training comes increased risk of muscle/tendon pulls and strains. But this risk can be greatly minimized with a quality strength program, sound sprinting mechanics and a common sense training process (i.e. periodization/programming). An example a strength program for my client Patricia will be shown below.

The Drawbacks of Excessive Training for Endurance

It is my biased opinion that most people (especially adults) who are wanting to become fit feel a pull towards endurance activities. This may be due to the sheer number of participants involved (if everyone’s doing it, its got to be good!). However, I feel that many people would be better served by training to become more sprinter-like, and less like an endurance athlete.

While some people are clearly designed to be better endurance athletes for various reasons, it is my belief that the over-infatuation with endurance training embraced by many people (including several clients of mine!) is not the best training stimulus to apply to the aging body.

How muscular do you need to be do be an endurance athlete? My point is that for health and aging, the guy on the left might not necessarily be the best example of what we should strive for. And maybe the guy on the right (Dwain Chambers of Great Britain) may be a little extra muscled for most (and was busted for performance enhancing drugs), but the photo still demonstrates a good example of body adaptations that occur at either end of the extreme.

Having given treatment to dozens of marathon runners, cyclists, and triathletes over the last 12 years has led me to this conclusion. I am of course biased, and maybe unnecessarily so, since I have mostly only seen the broken down and injured people. Maybe there is a large group of uninjured and thriving endurance athletes that I am not seeing so my population is not the norm?

In any case, I know that many of these endurance athletes are at increased risk for several types of injuries, especially when volume or quantity (i.e. “junk miles” in runners) is put before movement quality and efficiency. If endurance work is to be performed, there must still be a minimum level of quality and intensity present. You can still take this “SprintAthlete” approach and apply to the endurance athlete; something I will be writing about in the future since WAY more people are into endurance activities than speed, strength, and power activities!

Training the SprintAthlete: Strength Work

Since sprinting is so challenging for the body from a force standpoint, sterngth work is absolutely essential to help the body deal with the ballistic nature of the movement.

So what I did with my client Patricia is to focus on quality movement and training stimuli and minimize “garbage reps” or volume of training as I turned her into a SprintAthete.

Most of her reps are well under 10 (except for certain phases of training and particular exercises). The results have been impressive! At 61 years of age she is probably in the best shape of her life despite having spinal “degenerative” changes in her neck and lumbar spine, possibly from some scoliosis in her spine that she has had for decades. Some of her personal bests include:


  • 100m dash- in mid 17 second range
  • 200m dash- in low 37 second range
  • 400m dash- in 1 minute 23 seconds- She’s only done this twice timed so can improve upon this for sure!

Strength work:

*I have been ultra conservative with compressive loading due to scoliosis so she is probably stronger than this if I really pushed the envelope!
Power clean: 75 lbs. for 2 reps

  • Deadlift: PR around 200 lbs.
  • Squat: PR around 115
  • Bench Press: 90 lbs x 1 rep
  • Press: 65 x 1 rep
  • Chin-ups: 3 reps x body-weight is personal record
  • Pull-ups: 1 rep only
  • Kettlebell Snatch: 78 reps x 26 lb KB in 5 minutes..have only tried this once! With some more specific practice she could pass this, which happens to be the RKC Snatch test for her age and weight category.
  • KB Clean & Press: 2-3 x 26 lb
  • Get-up- 2 x 26 lb. KB

That’s just a small example of some lifts people may or may not be familiar with. These numbers aren’t bad for a woman half her age and we have done this with a very slow and patient process of incremental increases in a non-linear fashion. I have been monitoring her mobility and stability during movement patterns as well using the FMS (and modified SFMA) along the way as well to make sure her training isn’t disrupting her natural fundamental movement patterns. It appears to be working quite well! Here is an example of a recent strength session she performed after we did two 150m sprints on the track.

Article written by Keats Snideman and originally appeared on

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