Usain Bolt and Speed Training

Usain Bolt and Speed Training

Usain Bolt is seen as the fastest and greatest sprinter in Olympic history.

How fast is Bolt compared to some of the best sprinters since the first Olympic Games in 1896?

Olympic 100 meter Overview

1896, Thomas Burke won the Olympic Gold with 12.0, he would be almost 20 meters behind Usain Bolt at 100 meters

1936, Jesse Owens wins Olympic Gold with 10.3 seconds compared to Bolt at 9.63

1968, Jim Hines sets Olympic Record, going under 10 seconds (9.95)

To be a great sprinter,  the runner must master four phases of the race and train properly to develop maximum speed.

Each phase of Usain Bolt’s will be reviewed from his world record followed by sprint training methods used to develop speed.

Four Phases of the 100 Meters and Training Methods

Starting Blocks

Usain Bolt’s reaction time of 0.146 when he set the world record is average compared to leading sprinters. Bolt places his feet higher on the blocks and drives up at a 45 degree to get into a good drive position. Bolt can then start his large striding pattern which is a huge mechanical advantage in the race. How huge? Bolt takes 5-6 fewer steps than other sprinters to cover the same distance.

After one step Bolt is at 8 mph, at 8 steps he is running at over 20 mph, about 11-12 meters into the race.

Sample Training Methods (Start)

Start drills from various positions

  • 10 x 2 point start (10-20 meters) with 2 minute rest
  • 6 x 3 point start (10-20 meters) with 3 minute rest
  • 4 x 2 point block starts (10-30 meters) with 5 minute rest

Acceleration Phase

Bolt builds up speed, keeping his head down, driving forward and slowly bring his body to an upright position at 30 meters. 30 meters is covered in 3.8 seconds, Bolt is running at 25 mph with 15 steps taken in the race.

Sample Training Methods (Acceleration)

  • 10 x 20 meters with weight vest (up to 10% body weight) with 4 minute recovery
  • 5 x 15 meters  2 point start with sled (20 kilos/men and 15 kilos/women) with 5 minute recovery

Top End Speed

Usain Bolt’s top end speed of 27.62 mph is at 70 meters, with 30 steps taken in 7.11 seconds. He is in full sprint mode, with long powerful strides and his arms driving forcefully.

 Sample Training Methods (Top End Speed)
5 x
  • 30-meter acceleration
  • sprint 10-15 meters
  • 75% speed for 15-20 meters
  • sprint 10-15 meters

4-5 minute recovery


Bolt stays at 27 mph for most of the race until he looks around the last few meters and his speed drops slightly. He dips below 27 mph for the first time at 84 meters into the race on stride 36. He crosses the finish line at 9.58 seconds at 26.40 mph on stride 41.

Sample Training Methods (Deceleration)

  • 2-3 reps (2×100 meters) @ 95+% of 200 meter pace with 2-3 minute rest between reps with 5- 8 minutes rest between sets