Warming Up for Sprinting in Track and Field

A Sprinters Warm up. 3 Essential Rules:

1. Think relaxation in all things you do. If you are not able to perform the movement in a relaxed way do something easier.

2. Take your time. Don’t rush your warm up. I learned this lesson the hard way from former World and Olympic Champion in the men’s 100 meters Ben Johnson. I asked what he had thought of my race at one of my first national championships in 1991 in Montreal. He said “ okay , but you would have done so much better if you didn’t rush your warm up.”. I never forgot what he said and it changed the way I prepared for all training.

3. An excellent guideline to know you are ready for the actual work of your training is achieving a mild sweat on your forehead. This rule does not seem overly sophisticated but it works. I am not talking about profuse sweating before you begin. 

Guidelines for an extensive warm-up before Sprinting or Tempo

Note :
 Get in the habit of timing your warm up, pay attention to how much time various parts of your warm up and training take, and record it in your training diary.  

1. Jog slowly for 10 minutes or X number of laps around the track or grass if you have it. Usually 3 to 4 laps outside on outside track.

2. We used the length of the football field (post to post) to perform a lot of the drills and runs in the warm up. It was a predictable distance and most often easy to replicate in almost any location in almost any country. Approx. 100 yds or meters depending Canada, US or Eurupe. Soccer or American Football. 

3. Once the 10 minutes of jogging took place we usually launched immediately into side skips down one length and shaking back. Generally we would mix in one , maybe two exercises at one end of the field. Generally the end where we had all of our bags , water etc. The exercises would be a mixture of med ball throws, donkey kicks. sit ups mixed with stretches. 5 to 8 minutes

4. Side skips, grape vine, back ward arm circles and tripling were the main exercises on the way down the field and then usually we did what we called shaking back which was like a jog but shoulders are down and you are shaking your entire body. Some have commented on the silliness they feel doing this exercise but it promotes relaxation throughout the warm up.  

NOTE: Shaking promotes relaxation. It’s not a jog. It’s not a skip. Your hands should fall to your side and as you are shuffling along in somewhat of a jog as you are shaking your body. 

5. @ approx. 18 to 20 minutes Power Speed Drills = Power Speed was included in 99% of every warm up I ever performed in 7 years of training. 

• Bum kicks
• A skip
• B skip
• Running A’s 

The distances might vary. A typical progression might be =

3 sets of each drill over 10 meters , then 4 x 10 meters of each drill. As the drills improve so too does the distance maybe. Quality first , volume second. 

Total time up to this point = Not more than 45 minutes but not one hour. 

More is not better / Practice makes permanent

In my next blog I will discuss the things that need to be added after the power speed but often on tempo days the above warm up might be it. But maybe not. 

Often we used a series of med ball throws routinely in our warm up.

After the 10 min jog and within the back and forths and before and or during the power speed.

When I first started out , I did far more little exercises in the body of the warm up before Power Speed. ( see the bike workout for this) 

The reason for this was to gain FITNESS. So for all of you talking about how possibly fitness is not important for speed or the development of speed. 

Pay close attention to the details within the warm up. 

And I never lifted one weight for 2 full years. Instead I worked extensively with a very light med ball. I think it was 2 or 3 k. I remember complaining on deaf ears "when can I use a heavier ball". I got nothing back.

You are ready to move ahead when you are ready to move ahead. Most athletes all want to move ahead faster . No kidding.

I'd love to hear about your warm up. Thank you for all of your questions and feedback. I will do my best to respond to you.




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What do you do for speed endurance. I seem to run out of gas too soon!



Question about Power/Speed Drills. I notice many times that in discussing power/speed many people leave out the “C” drill. I guess I have a twofold question:

1. Can you clarify what the C drill is? I have seen two very different video variations as to what the drill is. I guess what I am looking for is how Mach intended this drill to be performed.

2. Why is the drill not used more? I figure that maybe the answer to 1 may answer this, or I could be way off base and maybe it is used more often that I thought.

Thank You

Jason Mensinger

Hello Darren and thank you for your comments.
1. If I were coaching a group of people I would encourage the warm up to be as continuous as possible, as smooth as possible and as deliberate as possible. If I were to characterize how I warmed up as a competitive athlete I would say the mixing of exercises around the body as much as possible was important. Jogging first, back and forth skipping etc next and then adding in exercises like med ball throws but maybe not all the time and maybe not for some groups. I hope this at least in part answers some of what you wish to know.
2. I am only speaking to my own background and my own experiences. Luckily, as a kid I had an excellent background as a swimmer, gymnast and runner at the earliest, pre puberty stages of my development. Would I introduce Olympic lifting at a young age pre or during puberty? In a perfect development model, the introduction of Olympic lifting might well need to happen as early as possible with respect to load and volume vs age and strength of each child. I am saying this to support the idea that you would want your athletes to effectively perform OL properly well into their development.
Tudor Bompa in “From Childhood to Champion Athlete” discusses the 4 Basic Laws of Strength Training.
Law # 1
Before developing Muscle Strength develop joint Flexibility.
Law # 2
Before developing muscle strength, develop the muscles attachment to the bone. ( tendons)
Law # 3
Before Developing the limbs develop the core of the body.
Law # 4
Before Developing the prime movers develop the stabilizers.
I see no reason why wooden bars might not be used in place of real bars.
Examples of some of the reasons why gymnastics, track and swimming are considered by people like Bompa as the sports of athletic development is because of the use of one’s own body weight during plyometric exercises in gymnastics and track, the conditioning aspect of swimming as well as the strength and flexibility qualities of running and jumping in both track and gymnastics. The nature of each of these sports opens the door later in the life to learn more effectively when the base has been put into place.
When I finally learned from Al Vermeil how to Power Clean I was pretty good. He was an excellent teacher who was patient and knowledgable. I was in my late 20’s by this time and while I might not have been able to compete as an Olympic lifter, according to my then coach I was as good as I needed to be.
Remember, that lifts like OL in Track are said by coaches like Charlie to be supplementary in nature. His idea was for a longer view of development and the absolute safest way for athletes during their careers and well after they are finished as athletes.
As coaches we can make people go fast and get strong and we might be able to do this as fast as possible. Faster development is not better it’s just faster.
I hope my answer has been helpful. You will let me know if you have further questions.

Angela Coon

I was curious about two points you make in this post about Warm-Ups.

1. Med ball and other exercises within the body of the warm-up prior to Power Speed drills – With these included, would your warm-ups be considered continuous movement?

2. “Never lifted a weight for 2 full years” – What constituted you (or any athlete) being ready?

I coach both Sprints and Olympic Weightlifting. I like to introduce Olympic lifting concepts to my sprinters as early as I can (I coach at the high school level) so they are prepared to incorporate them properly if they move on to college. I see so much bad lifting technique in training videos from “high level” track programs (or any other place Olympic movements are used) that I feel an obligation to arm my kids.


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