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What Are the Different Types of Training for Track and Field?

The high jump requires training for short, powerful bursts.
Sprint distances are typically no longer than 400 meters.
Hurdlers often focus on strengthening their legs in training.
Sprinters who run short distances focus on building large muscles that give them great propulsion.
Track and field runners work on their speed to prepare for an event.
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  • Written By: Renee Booker
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2014
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Track and field is a combination of events that include running, jumping, and throwing. Track and field is classified under athletics, and is a major venue at the Olympic Games. Due to the diverse nature of track and field, training for track and field events is generally sport-specific.

Running makes up a major portion of all track and field events, with the 100-meter dash being a very popular Olympic event. Training for track and field events such as the 100-, 200-, and 400-meter dash require a very different approach than training for the 5,000- or 10,000-meter distances. Short distance sprinters train with a focus on explosive energy, building large and powerful muscles in the process. Sprinters focus a large portion of their training on weight lifting and plyometrics, a exercise training method intended to produce fast, powerful movements, in order to convert the maximum amount of muscle fibers to type 2a fast twitch muscle fibers.

Long distance runners focus the majority of their efforts on cardiovascular endurance, and forming type 1 slow twitch muscle fibers. Long distance running puts the most strain on the cardiovascular system and slow twitch muscle fibers that are designed to produce sub-maximal amounts of energy for long periods of time. The most effective way to train for long distance running is to simply run long distances, and to constantly increase the length of the runs.

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Another major track and field event is hurdles, which involves running at maximum speed while jumping over bars at a set height. Training for track and field events such as the hurdles involves many of the same principles as sprinting, since the longest hurdle event, with the exception of the steeplechase, is 400 meters. Hurdlers place the most emphasis on strength training of the legs, specifically type 2a muscle fibers. Common exercises include squats, lunges, high jumps, and long jumps.

Training for track and field events like the long jump, high jump, or triple jump involve very sport specific training. The best jumpers are born with a very high concentration of type 2b fast twitch muscle fibers, which are responsible for short, powerful bursts of energy lasting less than 30 seconds. In order to maximize the effectiveness of these muscle fibers, heavy weight training and explosive plyometrics will be used. Weight training will focus on lifting the heaviest weight possible for three to five repetitions, with an explosive contraction phase. Plyometrics will focus similarly on explosive, rapid movements.

The last group of events are the throws, including events such as the hammer, discus, and javelin throw, as well as the shot put. Training for track and field events such as these combines both upper and lower body strength into one fluid movement that results in the projectile being thrown as far as possible. Just like with sprinting and jumping, throwing involves a rapid release of muscle energy over a short period of time. This demand for rapid power transfer is best met with explosive weight training. Important lifts include squats, bench presses, and overhead presses. All weightlifting exercises should be performed with 80-90 percent of the athletes doing a one repetition maximum for three to five repetitions.

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