Wayne’s Wisdom: M75 Bennett shares bounty on faster sprinting

A couple weeks ago, M75 sprinter Wayne Bennett sent me a paper he wrote, saying that coaches who say “run yourself silly and then run some more” is bad advice, especially for masters. “This just tears up the body and tires it out,” Wayne writes from Texas. So he attached a short paper he once wrote and says he believes it really works. He begins: “One of the things that I have noticed is that a lot of sprinters don’t really know what to concentrate on in their training. Too many of them rely on what they remember from high school and college days. All too often that training was faulty.”

Wayne hands off to fellow world-classer Bob Lida at 2013 Olathe nationals.

Wayne’s treatise on sprint technique continues:

Here are a few things that I have learned by listening and watching some of the best in the business. Form and technique is extremely important. Speed, strength, speed endurance and strength is the name of the game.

I am going to take the liberty of telling you my theory of how to get the most out of your body. Weightroom work is very important. Core strength and upper body strength makes a big difference even in a short race.

You don’t have to be a big muscle person to have strength, but the stronger the legs and upper body the more force you can exert onto the track to be faster.

Technique and form will win a lot of races. Two items are really critical here: Placement of the foot precisely under the hip and bringing the foot all the way up to the butt behind you. The foot also must be dorsiflexed. That means locked into position with the toes always pointed up.

When the foot hits the ground, it is correctly placed on the ball of the foot, ready to execute a full push off the ground. There is not any power at the toes. If the foot comes down in front of the hip, then you are first braking and then pulling forward before the body can catch up and move forward. All of this is lost time.

Knees do not need to get above horizontal. If they get too high, it takes too long to get the foot back on the ground. I have heard that the foot needs to be moving about 78 mph when it hits the ground. I don’t know how you measure this, but that means you are really bringing the foot down hard on the track. Good footwear is important.

Another thing I have learned is that rest is very important. You do not gain strength during the time the body is working. Strength is gained during the recuperation time between work sessions. You can gain more strength by resting 10 or 12 minutes between all out sprints than you can by running them 2 minutes apart, just wearing the body out before it can repair itself.

Just how often do you ever run two races in two minutes? The same holds true for reps in the weight room. After a hard workout, make the next day an easy one or even an off day.

My routine is to run three days a week and go to the weight room on the other two and rest all weekend except on meet weeks, then I usually skip Friday and Monday workouts.

You also have to keep the body fueled and hydrated. Everyone is different here and I have discussed diet before, but you know what works for you. Yes, I do eat any and everything in moderate quantities but my cholesterol and blood pressure is reasonable and where my doctor says it should be.

One of the things I do on a regular basis, and I wish more would do it, is donate blood. Don’t do it just before a meet, but the body will rebuild the red blood cells in a couple of days.

Another factor of running fast is correct arm action. The arms must come back and then you put your hand in your pocket, so to speak. How far forward you bring them is optional but they shouldn’t come more than 45 degrees above horizontal for maximum stride length.

Upper-body strength is critical again here. One other thing is to keep your chin down. There is nothing up in the sky that you need to see while you are running. The focus should be about 20 to 30 meters down the track. That’s all you need to see in a race.

Everything needs to be pointed forward when you are running; hands, knees, feet and eyes: no side-to-side movement. Stepping from one side of the lane to the other as you come out of the blocks is a waste of time and effort. Come straight out with the feet close together.

One other thing is to keep the hips under your body. Don’t let them get behind. They are an integral part of the power train and must be aligned properly for maximum power. I would like to hear from some of you if have a difference of opinion or a better idea than mine.

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August 18, 2014

11 Responses

  1. Joseph Burleson - August 18, 2014

    What great advice from a true champion. Wayne’s advice on strength training, proper rest, hydration, nutrition and form are critically important, not only for sprinters, but for athletes in any sport.
    One minor point: Donating whole blood can take 8-12 weeks recovery time for regaining full concentrations of red blood cells. The British National Health Service recommends no more than every 12 weeks, and the American Red Cross recommends no more than every 8 weeks. Some individuals are counseled not to or disallowed from donating at all for various reasons.
    Donation of plasma only can be done much more often.

  2. Craig S. - August 18, 2014

    Thanks for the great advice Wayne. I started training in January hoping to return to sprinting after 45 years. I hadn’t even run at all for twenty years. I ran a road race about thirty years ago. My advice is to start real slow to anyone in a similar position. I’ve already learned the hard way- don’t push it too much too early. I tried to sprint too early and tore a muscle that has been difficult to recover from. I’m starting up again after recovering from more than one injury. I’ve cut down my running days and increased my strength training learning from experience the value of rest and recovery at my age. Hoping to compete next year for the first time since 1970 which will be a year later than my original goal. It takes time, perseverance and dedication but track sprinting is my true love. Instead of “no pain no gain'” it’s “too much pain is no gain.” I’m getting stronger and faster but I’m letting the speed come naturally and not pushing it, and letting my body recover when it needs to. My favorite training is running hills.

  3. Roger Pierce - August 18, 2014

    Wayne…thanks for the article. You have had a wonderful Masters career and it is always great to see you at the Nationals twice a year. ( Indoor and Outdoors) Keep at it my friend and thanks for sharing.

  4. wayne bennett - August 18, 2014

    Ken: If anyone is interested, my track history can be found at dallasmasters.com under contact us Wayne’s History. For Craig, my experience has been that it takes 4 years to get fully ready to compete and don’t expect anything near what you did in your competition years.

  5. Bill Bittner - August 18, 2014

    Wayne and I have been communicating recently and he sent me copies of his advice and history -all great stuff.

  6. James Snook - August 19, 2014

    Wayne’s treatise reveals much information on sprinting, especially for masters. Speed, Speed Endurance, Strength, and I add Power is the name of the game. Plyometric exercises can be useful.

    Weight room work typically consist of Leg Presses, Bench Presses, Back Compresses, etc. that follow the movements in Sprinting. However, I feel work should also include Leg lift (Multihips Up) and Power Clean (Sprint Start).

    Technique is important and appropriate drills can be helpful. Correct start block settings can help with correct body positioning and fast starting.

    Generally, Sprint Training consists of training the Alactic (approximately 7 Sec), Glycolic (up to 90 Seconds), and Aerobic Energy Systems. Distances of 30 Meters and 60 Meters are typical for the Alactic system. Glycolic system distances typically can be 80 Meters up to 600 Meters.

    Other distances (such as 80, 100, 120, 150, 200, 250, 300, etc.) can be used. I feel that distances selected should periodically be (self or otherwise) timed. Timing tends to promote best effort.

    Recovery times that I use vary from 3 – 4 Minutes for short reps to 6 – 10 Minutes for longer reps. Partial recovery to 95 percent, for a short run or strength rep, typically is 3 Minutes. Heart rate can be used to determine an appropriate time.

    Training Sessions should be at least 2 -3 times per week for performance progress. I never do more than 5 times per week including meets or performance evaluation.

    I also use readily available software to assist in training and also planning. Software can be very useful, for example, to determine if each energy system is properly being trained.

    Software that can be used at the Track, is available.

  7. Doug Spencer - August 19, 2014

    Thanks Wayne,you are a true CHAMPION in life and in running, thanks for all you do for Master’s track.

  8. Byrke Beller - August 19, 2014

    Agreed!!

  9. Ken Stone - August 19, 2014

    Steve Robbins has shared a 3,400-word treatise on his own sprint education. Coming up Thursday!

  10. Michcael Daniels - August 20, 2014

    Good stuff. Helps validate what I do in traning. I periodically use some barefoot exercises on the track.

  11. Lindy Raney - August 20, 2014

    Good advice from a good guy. Thanks Wayne.

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