Strength Training Program Design

Terms and Planning

Work Capacity: The ability to repeat sub-maximal efforts.

In the speed and power events, medicine ball and plate circuits and Olympic lifting combination exercises address work capacity in the weight room. Event specific training exercises can also improve work capacity.

Work capacity is part of the initial preparation and part of the transition between the indoor and outdoor seasons.

Strength: the ability of the neuromuscular system to produce force)

Force = ma (mass x acceleration), Newton’s second law

In the weight room, multi-joint movements ranging from sub-maximal to maximal lifting efforts, including squats, pulls and presses develop strength. Using heavy implements and throwing other heavy objects develop throwing strength. Examples of specific strength exercises include throwing overweight balls for the discus and heavy dumbbells from a stand in the shot put.

Explosiveness: High speed muscular power

Rate of Force Development: the time muscular force can be applied

Functional Strength, Power and Explosiveness: Force production for specific movements


Using the olympic lifting movements and strength exercises with sub-maximal efforts focusing on bar speed and the rate of force development improve explosiveness. Also, medicine ball, plyometric exercises and other speed movements improve explosiveness.

The best lifting exercises to achieve strength and explosiveness are the olympic lifts. The snatch, clean and jerk and assorted variations are the cornerstone to high level throwing programs.

Proper technique in weight training and conditioning is critical and the coach or other professionally trained supervisor must watch over all activities performed by the athletes.

Common lifts in training:

Olympic Lifts: Cleans, snatch clean hi-pulls, snatch hi-pulls, mid-thigh or box cleans, mid-thigh or box snatch, front jerks, back jerks, push press, split snatch, clean and jerk and continuous clean and jerk, Romanian deadlift.

Dumbbells can be used for the all movements, also single arm and single leg olympic lifting can be trained with dumbbells.

Lower body exercises: Squats, front squats, overhead squats, step-ups, lunges, reverse lunges, explosive pause squats and explosive ½ squats.

Upper body exercises: Bench, incline, press push, explosive pause bench, standing military press, all types of dumbbell work with single and double arms.

The daily exercise plan should include-

  • Dynamic warm-up from general to specific activities
  • Olympic lift variation
  • Multi-joint leg exercises and/or pressing exercises
  • Posterior exercises for lower body and/or upper body
  • Medicine ball and/or plyometric activities
  • Core work (rotational and linear abdominals)

Sample Training Week

(early competition season)

Day 1
Power Cleans 6 sets-3 repetitions: up to 80%
Bench Press 4 sets-5 repetitions: up to 80%
Squats 4 sets-6 repetitions: up to 60%
5×10 Hammer Toss Throws
3×20 Sit Ups with Twist
Day 2
Hang Snatch 6 sets-3 repetitions: up to 80%
Step Ups 4 sets-5 repetitions: light
Incline Bench  4 sets-6 repetitions: up to 70%
10×5 Hurdle Hops (30″)
5×10 Walking Plate Twist
Day 3
Hang Cleans 8 sets-2 repetitions: up to 75%
Front Squats 6 sets-3 repetitions: up to 80%
DB Bench Press 3 sets- 8 repetitions: light
Circuit (3 sets)
-V-Ups x20
-Kneeling Chest Pass Throw x20
-Vertical Jumps x20

Season Planning

During the early phases of training, volume starts higher and intensity is lower. As the athlete moves toward the competitive season, training volumes are decreased as intensity is increased. A similar approach is taken with running, jumping and throwing volume and intensity for the speed and power events in track and field.

Scott Cappos (University of Nebraska)

Damon Davis (Auburn University)

Track and Field Strength Training Experts

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