How to Train for the 400-Meter Dash

woman running on track

The 400-meter dash is a challenging event that requires an athlete to possess both a high level of speed and specific conditioning. The 400-meter race requires contributions largely from the anaerobic glycolytic system, which produces large amounts of metabolic waste products that ultimately lead to the "burning" feeling in your legs and reduced ability to produce more energy as the race moves on further. Therefore, you must train to facilitate your body's use and removal of these products to ensure that you are able to run faster and longer.


Step 1

Develop your speed. In his self-titled book "Charlie Francis Training System," the legendary sprint coach Francis states that the best 400-meter runners possess a significant amount of basic speed, which is advantageous because it allows you to run your 400-meter race at a lower relative effort the faster you go. Use flying sprints to improve your speed. Begin 20 to 30 meters behind the starting line. Start your repetition and accelerate to your top speed before reaching the starting line; once you hit the starting line, sprint at top speed for 30 more meters. Take at minimum two minutes to recover before beginning the next repetition. Repeat the 30-meter sprint up to 10 more times.

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Step 2

Produce more lactate. Elite sprint coach Carl Valle suggests that 400-meter runners learn to produce more lactate in training as it can be used as an energy source in the latter parts of the race. Use special endurance repeats to train this system. Run a 300-meter repetition as hard as possible. Rest up to 15 minutes and repeat one or two more times.

Step 3

Improve reactive strength under fatigue. In the book "Athletic Development," Vern Gambetta suggests that 400-meter runners should consider practicing plyometric jumping activities in states of fatigue to improve their performance. Perform 150- to 200-meter lengths running slightly below the 400-meter race energy effort, followed immediately by a set of five explosive hurdle jumps. Rest one to two minutes and repeat up to five more times.


Step 4

Develop general fitness. No runner will be successful by only training at high intensities, says Francis. Thus, athletes must participate regularly in low-intensity activities such as extensive tempo running. At 75 percent of your best speed and no faster, run 100 meters. Rest approximately the time of the running repetition and repeat up to 30 times. This type of training will help you recover from hard training and improve general fitness.

Things You'll Need

  • Track

  • Hurdles


400-meter runners may find value in strength training to help maintain posture during sprinting and for adding more force. Do no more than three hard training sessions per week. The more fit an athlete becomes, the less total volume of sprinting he should do to prevent excessively fatiguing his nervous system.


Always consult your physician before beginning a sprinting program.

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