Latest review of masters sprint studies confirms why we get slow

Masters Athlete author Peter Reaburn of Australia asks and answers the age-old question: Why do [adult] sprinters get slower with age? His answer: “[Studies] concluded that aging sprint runners preserve their stride frequency but appear to reduce their stride length as they age. Moreover, this reduced stride length appears due to reduced propulsive ground reaction forces and the rate of development of this force. That is, the ability to push off the ground quickly is reduced. This reduction appears mainly due to three major factors: 1. Lower maximal strength of the lower limb muscles (about 30% from young to old) due to reduced size of the fast twitch muscle fibres; 2. The slower rate of force development and transmission of this force to the ground; and 3. Reductions (about 35% from young to old) in elastic energy storage and energy recovery in tendons due to reduced tendon stiffness in older athletes.” Another reason? It’s hard to train with kids, career and the economy breathing down your neck.

Steve Robbins and Peter Crombie battle at 2010 nationals. (Ken Stone photo)

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November 29, 2011

46 Responses

  1. Warren Graff - November 30, 2011

    Also shown in the photo is M65 long-sprint phenom Donald Neidig, who ran 57.07 in 2009 and 58.01 in 2010 outdoors in the 400M; sure would have liked to have seen him compete in Sacramento.

  2. Milan Jamrich - November 30, 2011

    Totally unexpected findings :-). I am jumping lower than 40 years ago, but I figured it is because the gravity has increased over the years.

  3. keith McQuitter - November 30, 2011

    as a hurdler fex is very inportant older you get the more streaching is needed ,any one got a good way to change im trying to lift more wts one the leggs this year with flex work outs ,any one got good ideas,would like to hear them.

  4. grant lamothe - November 30, 2011

    This is to Keith McQ:

    Bro, I’d advise you to take yoga. I’ve been taking it regularly for the last 2 years and have found my flexibility to increase, despite the fact that at my age (I’m 68, same as Steve Robbins) my connective tissue is diminishing every minute. Also, yoga is certainly helping my core strength, important for the hurdles (among other events). Of course, keep doing the weight workouts too. Hope this helps, Grant L.

    ps: there’s another USA/Europe decathlon challenge meet coming up next year on Aug 3-4 in Oxford, England. Interested in taking part? (Note that the 2012 Olympics are going on in nearby London at the same time – great chance to see ’em).

  5. Michael Daniels - December 1, 2011

    I agree with Keith about the yoga. It’s a patterned flexiblity routine. I discoverd that most of the flexibility exercises I do are actually yoga. The problem I had last year was overtraining in my running and missed practically all of outdoor track last year except the Nationals.

  6. Ken Kudo - December 1, 2011

    I agree with alot of what the website proposes.

    Working on maximum strength will take care of factors 1 and 3. I do nothing but deadlifts at 90% of my maximum. I hope to recruit larger, faster motor units to prevent from slowly down during the course of a race. Flexibility is less of a concern if the amount of force is maximal, every time you push off.
    For factor 2, I find what works for me is just high speed running and no tempo work. Also, box jumps following the deadlifts.

  7. Anthony Treacher - December 1, 2011

    Ken Kudo, funny you should now mention deadlift and jumping afterwards. I believe in that but now again got a nasty injury (Popliteus muscle) behind my LJ take-off knee. Certain now that deadlift+ is the cause for me. It’s individual but be careful. Anyone else with this problem?

  8. Milan Jamrich - December 1, 2011

    I do dead lifts with a trap bar (350-400lbs) following by depth jumps (drop from 24″ jump up to 36″). I find BTG (butt to the ground) squats 220-250 lbs work followed by depth jumps works better for me.

  9. Milan Jamrich - December 1, 2011

    corr. I do dead lifts with a trap bar (350-400lbs) following by depth jumps (drop from 24″ jump up to 36″). I find BTG (butt to the ground) squats 220-250 lbs followed by depth jumps works better for me. For track and field people death lift with trap bar is better than straight leg dead lift with a regular bar.

  10. grant lamothe - December 1, 2011

    To Ken and Milan:

    Thanks for the previous posts (#6, #8, #9). Some really interesting workout concepts, namely squatting or deadlifting followed by depth jumps. I gotta try that, I do all (squats, deadlifts, depth jumps) but in separate workouts. Gotta try to combine them and see how it works out, and try using the trap bar with deadlifts. And, Milan, what age group are you in? I’m asking because if you have a 36″ vertical that is awesome at any age! -regards, GL

  11. Ken Kudo - December 2, 2011

    Anthony, sorry to hear about the injury. The main reason I do dl’s is I’ve had no injuries. It’s
    such a simple effective movement when proper technique is used. Also, compared to squats, no spotters or rack are required.

    Milan, I haven’t tried a trap bar. Can you get lower?
    Do you drop the weight when you reach knee height? I’m working at two sets of four reps(max) but can’t drop the bar(club won’t allow it). I could lift more, which is important…working near max wt. will result in increases in strength not in muscle mass(wt.gain).

    Grant or anyone else, if you’d like to email me, I can provide a website link. The site’s focus is dl and plyo training for sprinters.

  12. Milan Jamrich - December 2, 2011

    Grant and Ken,
    I am a high jumper M60. After a knee surgery few years ago, I was not able to do squats. I switched to trap dead lift for a couple of years to build up muscle. Now I can do both again. I can not drop the weight in dead at knee level ( my gym will not allow it either), but I do not have to put it down completely. This means that l slow down the bar on the way down and drop it the last 3-4 inches. Straight leg dead lift involves primarily hamstrings. Trap bar works the quads and hamstrings more evenly. Because of that you can do higher weights and it puts less stress on your back. Trap bar has usually two positions to choose from. Depending which way you turn the bar, there is a 4″ difference. For new people and people higher than 6′ I would recommend starting with the higher position. You can always switch to the higher position later. Having said all that, BTG squats are still the best leg work out (if you can do them).
    As far as the vertical jump is concerned, I can jump from stand on a 42″ box. I also do drop jumps from 42″. However, that is not how people usually measure vertical jump ( measuring reach from stand and comparing it to reach during a jump). I do not have a contraption to measure my actual vertical jump this way.

  13. Milan Jamrich - December 2, 2011


    Trap bar has usually two positions to choose from. Depending which way you turn the bar, there is a 4″ difference. For new people and people higher than 6′ I would recommend starting with the higher position. You can always switch to the LOWER position later.

  14. Dave - December 2, 2011

    While holding 300lbs on the trap bar, I depth jump from the diving board into the deep end of an empty swimming pool, then, still with loaded trap bar, jump out of the pool, do 3 and 1/2 twists in the air, and land and my porch. Of course I stick the landing. I do three sets.

  15. Milan Jamrich - December 2, 2011

    It is time to wake up Dave !

  16. Ace Bond - December 2, 2011

    @post #14
    LOL! The good ole triple lindy with resistance – quite impressive.

    I for one wish that I would have never stopped working out consistently after college. In my early 40s and something tells me that I will never come close to the explosiveness I had when I was 21 – despite the fact that I may be able to “lift” more weight at this age. The physical muscle development is just not the same – you can tell this by simply looking in the mirror. Anyway, I promise myself that I will not stop this time – plan on competing in Masters track until such time I physically cannot.

  17. Anthony Treacher - December 2, 2011

    Good one Dave. Can’t complain. Guess we asked for that.

  18. Milan Jamrich - December 2, 2011

    Dave is right. We asked for that. On the other hand, we get hundreds of posts on topics on use of steroids to improve performance and what ridiculous excuses to use when you get caught. Maybe we should have more posts about how master athletes improve their performance without drugs. Or is that too much to ask for?

  19. Ken Kudo - December 2, 2011

    re: post #14 LOL good one!

    re: post #18 Milan, I feel the same way! This has been
    a good thread, maybe it should be continued in the Forum. The front page sometime tends to be too political for me. 😉

    Three people have already asked me about the website.

  20. Milan Jamrich - December 2, 2011

    Ken, you are right. I did not realized that the Forum is still alive. I appologize to everyone who was offended by my posts :-).

  21. Pino Pilotto - December 3, 2011

    @Milan Jamrich:
    Yes, I was very offended by Your posts. I do dead lifts BTS (butt to the seat)with only 100kg an then jump from only 25cm to only 40cm (maybe next year 101kg/26cm/41cm).
    But I accept your apology.
    Pino Pilotto, M55

  22. Greg Theologes - December 3, 2011

    Milan, you’re 60 and TBDLing 350-400?! And you’re probably under 200 lbs bodyweight too, right. YES, I’m offended too!!!!

  23. Greg Theologes - December 3, 2011

    From a more serious standpoint, I agree that the trap bar deadlift is more appropriate for a T&F athlete than the conventional straight-bar deadlift. This goes for athletes of all ages, not just masters. The only ones that *must* do straight-bar deads are competitive powerlifters. For everyone else, it’s just a lift.

  24. Milan Jamrich - December 3, 2011

    Hi Greg,
    I am 180lbs, but being over 60, I had many years of practice…
    I agree on your deadlift comment. It is also useful for people who have weak hamstrings, but strong quads.

  25. KenKudo - December 3, 2011

    There’s quite a few opinions out there in favor of either trap or straight bars. At the moment I use straight with a sumo pull. Been able to do two sets of four reps with twice my bodyweight.
    So, if I try a trap bar, I’d work my quads and hamstrings more evenly? And pull more weight? Are there any other advantages?
    I may give it a try but not until the indoor season is
    over, not going to change anything that’s working for me now.

  26. Stefan Waltermann - December 3, 2011

    I like it, Milan. I’m 62, do 375 lbs trap bar deadlifts for reps followed by standing long jumps on soft surface. Do 300 lbs safety bar box squats a fraction below parallel followed by 18, 22″ box jumps (2 lifts, 2 jumps, 1 min rest, 12 x 2). Do front squats for the jav throw. Don’t do too many auxilliary stuff to prevent bulking up. I weight 175 lbs in winter, 173 in season.

  27. Stefan Waltermann - December 3, 2011

    Still, don’t forget power clean, power snatch, perfect for speed strength and good for our old bodies. Think belt squats if your lower back hurts. Think forehead to lock- out overhead presses in power rack instead of bench pressing. Think good old push-ups, close grip on med ball, wide grip on two med balls, going way low. Work up to one armed push-ups without twisting your body. Never neglect gut work, your core needs to remain strong. Always think total body exercises, don’t isolate body parts.

  28. Greg Theologes - December 4, 2011

    All 3 of you guys repping double bodyweight (or more) in any style of deadlifting is excellent. I hope to get there myself again. I just “rediscovered” TBDLs during the summer after a few years away from seriously working them. I’ve put 50 lbs on my TBDL in 5 months, which has translated to adding about a meter to my 56# superweight training throws. That’s a good thing. But so far, very little benefit to my 35# weight throws.

  29. Greg Theologes - December 4, 2011

    Ken, I like the TBDL for athletes because the load is in line with the lifter’s center of gravity, instead of out in front as with the conventional DL. Sumo DL gets it less in front, but not as centered as the TB. Less stress on the spine when the load centered is a good thing, I believe. (Of course, just my opinion.)

  30. Greg Theologes - December 4, 2011

    Stefan, I fully agree with you….”think total body exercises” is a great way of putting it. We’re not bodybuilders, we are athletes. Even though most of us had our initial exposure to lifting from bodybuilders.

  31. Stefan Waltermann - December 4, 2011

    Ken, don’t change a anything. But for many older lifters, less torque (shear force) to balance your body is an advantage of the trap bar. Trap bars have the load inline with your feet. Your quads/anterior chain is able to assist to a much greater extent. The reduced shear force on your body usually translates into a stronger lift. If you do the power versions of the Olympic lifts, you already pull from the floor. That gives you enough traditional dead lifts. Use the trap bar and take stress off your back.  Think sumo dead lifts if you want to Hit the glutes, help the hip stabilizers and erectors.
    Also, with a straight bar deadlift, the lifter needs to be much more deliberate about his set-up and technique to keep the weight centered properly.
    One note of caution. If you train heavy, you can train the squat and bench each week. Not the dead lift. If you are pulling hard every week, you will eventually overtrain and injure yourself. If you only use the traditional deadlift, many experts feel you should train the deadlift every other week and most often out of the rack instead of off the floor. Mixing it up could be the answer. I move from sumo to partials in the rack to trap to resistance bands. 
    Whatever you do, lift to become a better track & field athlete.

  32. Mark - December 4, 2011

    In his website Dr Peter Reaburn reviewed the work of Arampatzis and coworkers:

    In the review the age-related reduction of force production in sprinting was thought to be related to three factors: 1. Lower maximal strength of the lower limb muscles (about 30% from young to old) due to reduced size of the fast twitch muscle fibres; 2. The slower rate of force development and transmission of this force to the ground; and 3.Reductions (about 35% from young to old) in elastic energy storage and energy recovery in tendons due to reduced tendon stiffness in older athletes.”

    Two first points have been verified in masters sprinters. However, the third one, that decreased tendon stiffness is one key factor contributing to reduced force production, is based on studies (isometric contractions) in untrained people and could thus reflect not aging effect per se, but rather inactivity-related deterioration. In one study the same researchers found more than 40% increase in tendon stiffness (patella) as a result of strength training in previously untrained older people. Thus, one could assume that the decrease in tendon stiffness in non-athletes is due to sedentary lifestyle and may not apply to masters athletes.

  33. Weia Reinboud - December 4, 2011

    That trap looks interesting. I do not do any of those gym exercises, maybe that is why I jump so low. 😉

  34. Milan Jamrich - December 4, 2011

    Weia you are so funny!

  35. Milan Jamrich - December 4, 2011

    I generally agree with what Ken and Stefan are saying. I like the trap bar also because you can do “farmers walk” with it. I do it with 200-225 lbs for about 20 yards. I do TB dead lifts once a week. Also full squats once a week. Stefan’s work out following heavy lifts with long jump are similar to my workout. I usually follow squats or deadlifts with box jumps. Either from stand (36-42″) or from squat (30-36′). This is probably somewhat better for high jumpers, while standing long jump is likely to be better for long jumpers and sprinters. One problem with box jumps is that people eventually learn to land with knees very high – with head barely higher than the knees. Because of that I sometimes reduce the hight of the box significantly and try to land with straight legs. However, even the extreme frog landing has its advantages as it requires very strong involvements of abdominal muscles. it is not uncommon to get sore abdominal muscles after many box jumps.

  36. Ken Kudo - December 4, 2011

    re: posts #29+31

    Greg and Stefan, thanks for answering my questions about TBDL’s. Will give them a try next spring!

    Stefan, I’ve been doing DL’s for the last four years and yes, there have been times when two heavy workouts within seven days is too many. Adding three
    runs of say, 3x80m hard, it’s quite taxing! I don’t have a strict daily/weekly schedule. I go by feel or monitor my resting heartrate. If I need an additional day off, I know I’ll benefit from it.
    Doing quality sets in the gym or on the track are key to being healthy and ultimately, faster!

    Milan and Stefan, you fellas are lifting some serious weight at +60years of age!

  37. Milan Jamrich - December 4, 2011

    Ken (and others), don’t think about your age. Have a workout plan and stick to it as long as you are not hurt. It might take 2-3 years of work, but you will be amazed what can be achieved at any age. It also helps to work out with younger people who are serious about getting stronger.

  38. Stefan Waltermann - December 5, 2011

    If it would be easy, we could apply science and we all jump higher. For example, dear Weia, if you need to improve your basic strength, go for maximum weights in deadlift and squat. If you are strong as a horse but do not have enough ‘spring’, depth jumps could be your best training tool.  
    Still, improve limit strength in the muscles of the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings and lower back ( hip extensors) as these are the most important muscle groups for sprinting and jumping.  Lifting maximal weights such as performing a 1 repetition max in the squat or deadlift will improve your limit strength capacity.
    Limit strength serves as the foundation for explosive strength, the development of maximum force  in minimal time. That’s why I sit down on a low box, pause and jump on a high box. Jumping from a paused position and sprinting out of the blocks both require nearly pure explosive strength. You can’t wind up, you can’t use pyometric ability. If you’re not strong, it does not matter how fast you can apply force to the ground. You need to be strong and explosive. That was all, we were discussing. 
    Wait, we’re not done here. Let’s talk about reactive strength, reversal strength, reflexive strength… all the same. You naturally perform a quick countermovement (bend down) before you jump. This stretches the tendons in your lower body, you gather energy and create recoil like a rubber band. The reflexive/reactive response is very quick. Create great force in one direction, explode into the other direction and you jump higher. Most of the force generated from reactive contractions is involuntary, you don’t have to think about it. We mentioned bodybuilding style exercises… that’s what you do to mess up reactive strength. Cheating (like in cheat curls), bouncing weights, accelerating through sticking points… a bodybuilder would faint. Well, it’s natural and it enhances reactive ability. Do it.  Forget those bodybuilders, we are strength x speed = power athletes. 
    We are not talking hypothetical BS or showing off. We are trying to wrestle intelligently with father time. 

  39. Anthony Treacher - December 6, 2011

    Thanks Milan, Stefan, Greg, Ken. But before all this recedes into the distance (=subject better for the forum), I still have my injury from it and I wonder why. I am 72 and was doing reps of 100kg deadweight (followed by that standing long jump) at the time. What is normal reps and max deadweight for my 75kg ectomorph type?

  40. Stefan Waltermann - December 6, 2011

    A difficult question, almost impossible to answer from distance and without observation. However, whenever lifting very heavy, five reps per set should be your max, three reps per set better than five, three working sets the most. Working up to one rep with max weight with pause between lifts would be solid advice as well. I believe lifting very heavy (and that, of course, is individual) can be a safe activity that gets progressively more dangerous with each consecutive lift in a set. In the dead lift, the lift is done when you stand up and lock out. You don’t control the movement back to the floor, it simply is not part of the lift. Pulling right back into the next rep without perfect alignment and form now becomes a problem and your injury risk skyrocks Stop, add a few pounds, rest, set up carefully and give it all you have is a much safer option. More productive as well. In my book, dead lifting a light weight for max reps is a dangerous waste of time. You gain nothing but you put yourself in harms way.

  41. grant lamothe - December 9, 2011

    This message is to say a big ‘thank you!’ to all the previous posters who provided information on their weight training workouts.

    It’s great to get information like this from people like me (guys 60+ or so) trying to accomplish the same goals (doing better at age-graded masters track and field events).

    with much appreciation and hoping to connect with all of you at some future event, Grant Lamothe

  42. grant lamothe - December 9, 2011


    Hey Stefan, just want to say thanks to you on your advice to not do to many reps on deadlifts.

    I got into deadlifts because I read a blog about how Alicia Harvey improved her sprinting times after doing deadlifts. But.. I suffered more than a couple of back injuries doing them -with the resultant delays in training.

    Now -finally- I realize it’s better to do fewer reps (so you won’t get tired and careless) and utilize max loading (to involve all your muscle fibres) on every rep. Best way to avoid injuries and get great benefits from the exercises.
    -thanks again, Stefan.

  43. Milan Jamrich - December 10, 2011

    I dont do more than 3×3 deadlifts in a session. I usually do this exercise in front of a mirror to make sure that my technique is good. Yes, you can get hurt doing this exercise, but that is true for any exercise. I never got hurt doing deadlifts, but i got hurt many times doing sprints. Heck, I even got hurt getting out of a bed. So dont take these posts as attempts to convince you to do deadlifts. This is what some of us do to improve our track and field results. Many excellent older athletes dont do deadlifts at all. I feel that trap deadlifts are safer than straight leg deadlifts. You might want to try them and judge for yourself. I like this exercise because it is mentally not very stressful because you can drop the weight easily any time you want.

  44. Weia Reinboud - December 10, 2011

    Guess what I did this week? Trap deadlifts. Not so much weight yet, 80% of my body weight or so, I do not know how much the bar is weighing.

  45. Milan Jamrich - December 10, 2011

    Hi Weia,
    you are so much ahead of your competitors, you dont need to work out at all…

  46. Weia Reinboud - December 11, 2011

    Milan you are so funny!
    Hard work is a big part of my results.

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