400m and 400m Hurdles Speed Work

Lap it up! 400m Running

The 400m is a sprint with athletes running at over 90% of maximum speed for the one lap. To do this requires great physical and mental strength. The athlete, for example, has to build up a tolerance to the “waste products” that build up in the bloodstream (lactic acid is formed which has a stifling effect on performance). The good news is that regular and relevant training will enable all athletes to maximise their potential.

Is the event for me?

You need to have good basic speed and a great, relaxed running technique. You also need to enjoy training and the odd tough workout (or two!). Many 200m runners make great 400m runners and you can always build up to the 1-lap race as you progress as an athlete. Momentum coaches will be there to advise you on your training and whether the 400m is for you.

Here are three areas that Momentum coaches will work with you on to produce your best results over 400m.

Maximum Speed

Simply put the faster you are flat-out the quicker you’ll be at 400m when running at 90%. So improving top end speed is vital.

Speed Endurance

This is key to 400m running - it’s the ability to run at near maximal speed for further than you could when sprinting at maximum speed. This doesn't normally produce high levels of lactic acid when you are relevantly trained. You’ll do, for example, repetitions of up to 150m (200m-250m for very elite athletes) with long recoveries (long recoveries are needed so that you can maintain the speed required). A rough guideline for this type of speed endurance is to take a 1-minute recovery for each 10m in a repetition.

Lactic Tolerance

400m races are won and lost in the last 100m often by the athlete who "dies" the least. World record holder Wayde van Niekirk moves away from his competitors in the last 100m - not because he accelerates but because he slows less than his rivals. To train this ability requires workouts which condition your body to tolerate increasing lactate/lactic acid levels.

Here are some examples: these workouts are designed for a 400m runner who has a suitable background of relevant training behind him or her.

If you are looking for more specific advice See our interactive Online Training facility.

We split the training year into three sections for 400m training - conditioning, pre-competition and competition phases.

Maximum Speed

Conditioning Phase – in this phase, which is all about building foundation, little max speed work is performed. Our aim at Momentum is to get the 400m athlete fit and strong. Max speed work is added in the subsequent phases. However, it is very useful to do technique and sprint drill work during this phase, so the 400m athlete is ready for the “explosive” speed work later on.

Pre-Competition Phase – sample session; 4 x 40m with 5 minutes’ rest prior to a speed endurance session.

Competition Phase – when it’s race time speed is crucial. Sample session/session content;

4 x 30m from blocks
3 x “flying” 30m (build up for 20m sprint flat out for 30m)
3 x 30m overspeed sprints. Using a bungee or a slight downgrade, the athlete runs faster than what they would be able to do so on the flat.

It’s important to note that this is a very intense workout and that good preparation over the previous training phases is needed in order to make the athlete strong enough to handle the workout.

Speed Endurance

Conditioning Phase – here light sessions designed to get the athlete used to running at a reasonable speed are useful e.g. 10 x 150m (3min recovery @ 80% effort)

Pre-Competition Phase – in this phase we reduce the number of repetitions but try to increase intensity, so e.g. 5 x 200m (7min recovery @ 90% effort)

Competition Phase - this phase includes sessions with very long recoveries, so the athlete can run as fast as is required for each effort e.g. 4 x 150m (15min recovery @ 98% effort). The aim is to run as fast as possible, whilst maintaining as much relaxation as possible.

Lactic Acid Tolerance

The key for 400m runners – lactic acid tolerance. The training in this phase “teaches” the body to cope well with the onset of high levels of lactate. This type of training needs to be done about twice a week for athletes looking to maximise their potential. However, you do need to have a high level of relevant fitness before doing this training due to its intensity.

Conditioning Phase – much training will be relatively aerobic (steady state – medium heart rate), to prepare fitness for later training phases. Longer faster reps will be performed on the track such as 500m reps with 4 minutes’ recovery. These workouts, although performed around 70% of max speed, will be tough and they will produce relatively high levels of lactate.

Flash/pull out

Our bodies are amazing machines and with the relevant and regular training and coaching they will adapt – so much so that workouts you thought were initially impossible become possible…

Pre-Competition Phase – this is the most important time of the year for this type of training. High quality runs will be performed with significant recoveries (approx. 10min) normally at around race pace – with race pace determined by the distance run. So, if a repetition was 600m it would be completed at approximately 800m pace. A typical session: 600m, 500m, 400m, 300m (all with 10min recovery @ race pace as described).

Competiton Phase – At this time of the training year races provide a great deal of very specific conditioning for lactate tolerance. To these are added workouts such as 500m, 300m, 200m (20min recovery @as fast as possible).

Fancy the 400m? Then find out more - see the services we offer to athletes. We'd love to be able to help you!

Learn more / further reading

  1. 400m Fitness Training
  2. Strength for 400s
  3. Mobility for 400s
  4. Running Kit
  5. Getting Involved with 400m running
  6. Online Coaching
  7. 400m Training in a group with our coaches
  8. Kestrel Club (coaching for youngster)



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