(Re)Building the Masters Sprinter

The Power in the Posterior Chain

When Masters athletes contact us and want to train for sprints they generally fall in to one of four categories:

  • Never competed before but used to feel pretty fast “as a kid”
  • Have been doing parkruns but feel they are supposed to run faster (and much less distance)
  • Ran as a youth and/or young adult and want to get back into it
  • Currently compete but want to improve (or at least not slow down as they age)

No matter which category they fall into we look very early at the effectiveness of their posterior chain.


The posterior chain refers to the muscles are the rear of the body. The Posterior Chain is made of four major muscle groups:

  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings
  • Calves
  • Spinal erectors

 Posterior chain exercises involve contracting and lengthening the muscles in a chain like manner


Hunter Charnesk, the American Physical Preparation expert, describes the Posterior Chain as the “GO” muscles. Despite sprinters generally having very impressive physiques, the muscles we want to develop lie in the power generating engine and not in the “show” muscles. The key component of that engine is the hips. Power is generated by extension of the hip muscles to drive foot into the track. The other muscles of the posterior chain support and sustain control as the hip goes to work.


We need to build strength in each component of the posterior chain. As we progress our training will become more explosive. We also need to ensure that each component of the chain works in synchronicity with the others to ensure the most efficient flow of power and that we don’t have energy leakages.

Below we have listed some of our key exercises for developing the posterior chain. To suit each athlete, and to progress or regress the exercise as needed we can:

  1. Add or decrease volume
  2. Add or decrease speed
  3. Add or decrease weight
  4. Alter foot/hand placement
  5. Alter rest periods
  6. Adjust range of motion


  • Supine Bridge
  • Hip Thrust
  • Squats


  • Roman Chair /45 degree back extension*
  • Good mornings*
  • Glute – Ham – Calf Raise*
  • Nordics
  • Deadlifts*
  • Rack pulls*
  • Kettle Bell Swings*


  • Double leg calf raises (standing and seated)
  • Single Leg calf raises (standing and seated)
  • Pogos
  • Straight leg rebounds
  • Rope skipping

Spinal Erectors

  • Any of the above exercise marked with “*”
  • Reverse hypers (also a great glute exercise)
  • Bent over rows

Exercise such as the Olympic lifts (and their derivatives and variations), sled pulls and prowler pushes are means we use in the gym to develop the co-ordination and efficiency of the posterior chain.

For more information on how Strength and Conditioning programmes can help you improve your sporting performance go to https://www.damnfitsc.com.au/contact/

The Taper – Are You Getting It Right?

Be at your peak for competition

With less than 8 weeks to go until the Australian Masters Athletics Championships, and also until the Stawell Gift, most of our Track & Field athletes are in the final phase of their preparation. Trying to “get it right” on the day of competition has always been one of the most challenging aspects of programming for athletes – it is part science and part art (experience)

We are going to look at the taper – the final physical preparation for an athlete, the science behind it and how we look to put it together.


Definitions vary but the general concept is that it is a reduction in an athlete’s training load, which is achieved through an adjustment in some or most of the training variables:

  • Training Volume –total km covered, sets/reps/weights lifted
  • Training Intensity – how hard you train, the level of training
  • Training Frequency – how often you train
  • Training Pattern – how you put your training phases/sessions together


  1. Training Volume is the most easily manipulated component. The taper should see a reduction of roughly 50% of total volume. Research appears to indicate that this volume reduction is best achieved by reducing the volume across all or most sessions rather than just by reducing sessions.
  2. Training Intensity should stay at the pre-taper level. There is a general consensus that there should not be significant increase or decrease in the training intensity during the taper. This is despite the temptation that may exist due to the athlete feeling fresher due to a decrease in training volume.
  3. More in dispute is the reduction in training regularity. Whilst much of the latest research indicates that decreasing training regularity is not ideal, there is still a very strong body of anecdotal/experiential opinion that is not against the idea of reducing the number of sessions an athlete experiences during the taper period. This is possibly a semantic argument as many coaches in my experience may drop a “training” session but introduce an extra mobility session or massage.
  4. Changing the order of training sessions and recovery sessions/rest days can also be used to reduce the training load of athletes. This can also effect the pattern of the reduction in load – does the reduction happen linearly or with a significant initial drop or a small bit at first and increase over the length of the taper?
  5. Full tapers generally run for 7-15 days though can operate over as little as 5 days depending on the pre-taper loads on the athlete


The answer to this question lies in the “art of coaching”. It involves knowing the athlete, monitoring the athlete and, especially in the case of Masters Athletes, listening to the athlete. There is no “one size fits all” solution.

A basic taper involves the reduction of training load. However, as each athlete is an individual, the effect of any taper design will vary between athletes. Therefore the design of a taper involves knowing your athlete and then using that knowledge in conjunction with the principles outlined above.

As a starting point you should:

  1. Know the pre-taper volumes of your athlete
  2. Look to reduce that volume by roughly 50%
  3. Plan how long you wish to taper and how that will impact the manner in which you reduce the volume
  4. Maintain the pre-taper intensity of training sessions

It is important to also remember the concept of training reversibility:

  • Strength/Speed  based athletes will start to lose maximum strength after 3 weeks of inactivity
  • Endurance based athletes will see a 5-20% reduction in endurance performance after 4 weeks of inactivity

The maintenance of training intensity will ensure that the athlete does not lose performance during the taper period (though it is important not to extend the taper past 15 days).

Good luck with your upcoming competitions

 For more information on how Strength and Conditioning programmes can help you improve your sporting performance go to www.damnfitsc.com.au/strength-and-conditioning

PART 3: If You Want to Run Faster… Build These

As we have discussed previously – one of the major benefits of strength training is its ability to improve the running economy of runners.

If you have missed this discussion I invite you to go back and read Part 1 of this series Kickstart You Running. Part 2 of the series, 3 Mistakes to Avoid is also worth a look

IF YOU WANT TO RUN FASTER you need to build strength in these muscle groups:

  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Gluteals
  • Calves


Key muscles: Vastus Lateralis, Vastus Medialis, Vastus Intermedius, Rectus Femoris

Key Functions: knee extension and hip flexion

Key Exercises: Squats, Lunges


I will often incorporate both of these exercise into a runner’s program. At times I will run them concurrently, with the most of the heavy lifting being done in the squats while the lunges are used to develop strength and stability on each leg individually. At other times I will use variations such at the Bulgarian Split Squat or Front Loaded Split Squat to target the muscle differently.


Key muscles: Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Minimus

Key Functions: hip extension and knee flexion

Key Exercises: Deadlifts, Nordics


Both of these exercise will load and strengthen the hamstring. Early on you need to be aware of soreness and how this will impact your running.

When using Deadlifts I like to mix up the range of movement (from the floor, raises, deficit and Romanian style) and the means of weighting the lift (Hex Bar, Olympic Bar, Dumbells, Banded).

There are a great number of variations of the Nordics. Throughout the season I like to vary the style to challenge the muscles in a variety of ways. My absolute favourite is using the Glute Ham Raise (GHR).


Key muscles: Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Minimus

Key Functions: hip extension, external rotation, transverse abduction (Glute Med), Internal rotation (Glute Med), Abduction, Transverse Abduction (Glute Min)

Key Exercises: Hip Bridging, Bench Hip Thrust


My “go-to” exercise for the Glutes is the Bench Hip Thrust. It has the ability to move a heavy load in a running specific direction (esp in terms of acceleration) without the overloading of the spine that can occur during squats and deadlifts. To incorporate Glute Med & Min I place a band around the thighs just above the kneecaps and then resist the pulling together of the knees caused by the band.


Key muscles: Soleus, Gastrocnemius, Tibialis Posterior

Key Functions: Dorisflexion (Gastroc, Soleus), Plantar flexion. Inversion (Tib Post)

Key Exercises: Standing Single Leg Calf Raises (barefoot), Weighted Seated Calf Raises


Being able to develop strength in the calves in both the straight leg and bent leg position will help to significantly reduce the chance of common running injuries such as Achilles Tendinopothy and Plantar Fasciitis.

One of the common ideas we use is to develop the eccentric strength first, working slowly on the downward part of the moment (often under weight) and then being assisted in the rising motion.

Sets 2-3 of 15-20reps on a single leg will assist in building the required strength.

The exercises we have listed above will help develop strength in the key muscles involved in running. These exercises (or those that work the muscles similarly) should form the core of any strength programme aiming to improve running performance.

For more information on how Strength and Conditioning programmes can help you improve your sporting performance go to www.damnfitsc.com.au/strength-and-conditioning


(or am I crazy to want to coach myself?)

I love legal dramas… they are my favourite TV binge. I think, most of all, I love the “formulas” good script writers use to create drama and suspense.

One for the most common of those formulas is the use of a lawyer who has been accused of a crime and then, in their wisdom, they elect to defend themselves. 9 times out of 10 this plan creates hassles that could have been avoided had they decided instead to employ a different lawyer as their counsel.

American President Abraham once stated words to the effect that “any lawyer who acts as their own lawyer has a fool for a client”

So what does this have to do with coaching and training… surprisingly quite a lot.

Many Masters Athletes, through one means or another, end up acting as their own coach.


There are many benefits for this arrangement. “Self-coached” athletes often say:

  1. Nobody knows me better than me

And this is true. Who knows you better than yourself? After many years of training you understand what sessions feel good and which ones you struggle with. You understand the difference between “good sore” and ‘bad sore”

  • It’s a much less expensive option

A good coach is a professional and they deserve to be compensated as such. However this can become an expensive option. Sometimes it comes down to resource allocation – it doesn’t cost anything to coach myself

  • My life is so hectic I can’t fit into a normal coaches training schedule

One the major hassles with many structured coaching set ups is you need to be available when the coach is available. With life being so busy – fitting in to someone else’s schedule is not easy

  • After so many years in the sport I know what works for me

Experience provides us with many insights. We learn what can work for us

  • Nobody is more invested in my results than me

If you are keen to perform then this it totally true – you understand what you want

  • I work in this field so it just makes sense

Many Masters athletes are coaches themselves… it just makes sense. We have a love of doing what we do. So why not use our own expertise to coach ourselves??!!

  • I love the independence and flexibility

The complete freedom to programme and train when and how you want is very appealing


“Self-coached” Athletes can:

  • be too “soft” on themselves

When the pain of training starts to kick in – it becomes very easy to “second guess” your original programme. There is also the danger of programming only what we like… not what we need

  • be too “tough” on themselves

There are times when we NEED to stop (injury, fatigue, stagnation) but the fear of being soft drives us on

  • “negotiate” away their spare time

The flexibility of training can be a crutch when we put ourselves last, and train at the least convenient times to us personally.

  • get stuck in a rut

Being your own boss (no matter the industry) can become tedious – the challenges and “conflicts” which can stimulate thinking are harder to find for the self-coached

  • lose objectivity in assessing the program and results

It takes in incredibly clear mind to become emotionally involved in analysing performances and training programmes – the danger becomes we make decisions based on our emotional investment rather than on the specific needs and long term plans

  • lose the ability to separate their sport from their life

Coaches, by nature, are often obsessive about their athletes’ performances. When you are self-coached this can become overwhelming due to the tendency to be constantly thinking about training/programming/recovery/performance. The critical sport-life balance can be lost to the detriment of the athlete and the performance.

  • feel isolated and having to solve problems by themselves

What happens when results don’t go your way, where performances get unexpectedly worse or when injury strikes?

  • lose the “critical eye”

How easy it to stand back and look at everything that is happening (positive and negative) and not look at it through the “emotional eye” of the athlete? There is a very relevant old saying along the lines of “its never as good as it seems or as bad as it could be”.


  • Get a mentor

Find someone you can talk to about your training and who is happy to give an honest opinion about how they think you are going

  • Find a training group

Spread the “cost” of the coach, gain many people to critically evaluate how you are going, gain a huge emotional boost from the support of the group

  • Decide that the positives outweigh the negatives

Look at the lists above and decide that you like the benefits or being self-coached and that also there are negatives you are happy to wear them in pursuit of your goals

  • Get a coach

Coaches add much to what we as athletes do. But there is no one correct coaching structure.

Explore your options. Look at:

 (a) part-time face-to-face contact with a coach

 (b) online coaches who provide the programming expertise and critical review while allowing you the flexibility and freedom self-coached athletes desire

Every athlete is different… and their needs are different. Analyse your current situation, your goals and consider which option works best for you.

For more information on how Strength and Conditioning programmes can help you improve your sporting performance go to www.damnfitsc.com.au/strength-and-conditioning

The Ageing Warrior – Fighting Speed Loss

We can’t avoid age. However, we can avoid some aging. Continue to do things. Be active. Life is fantastic in the way it adjusts to demands; if you use your muscles and mind, they stay there much longer.

Charles H. Townes

If we loose our sight our other senses develop further to help us cope.

If we injure our hip we change our gait to be able to keep moving.

If we lose running speed our brain adapts and uses our experience to improve our game sense so we are able to anticipate better and still compete

These amazing adaptations however can be a curse on the sports field.


As we age, we slow down and our body adapts to keep us competitive. This often causes us to accept the fact that we are slower. Rather we should ask 2 questions:

  1. Why am I slowing down?
  2. What can I do to prevent/decrease the decline?


  • Our lifestyles become more sedentary- we sit more, we are less active more often
  • We put on weight and in particular we put on fat
  • Our muscles get smaller
  • We produce less growth hormone which decreases our muscles ability to grown and strengthen
  • We produce less Creatine Phosphate which decreases our ability to reduces our ability to work at high intensity
  • We have less time to spend on recovery techniques especially sleep
  • Our flexibility and mobility decrease



  • Weight train… regularly. For team sport players 2-3 sessions per week will help increase muscle mass and strength
  • Eat a well balanced diet, ensuring that you take into account your need for protein for muscle building and carbohydrates for energy
  • Try to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night
  • Train mobility daily to ensure range of motion is maintained and improved
  • Train at high intensities for 2 sessions per week
  • Design a training programme which allows full recovery

Our body is incredibly adaptive. It will adapt to our ageing but it will also adapt to the new demands we place on it if we create the right conditions.

For more information on how Strength and Conditioning programmes can help you improve your sporting performance go to www.damnfitsc.com.au/strength-and-conditioning