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Strength & Training for Track & Field Outside the Weightroom

Article By: Don Babbitt
University of Georgia, Athens, GA

With the beginning of the track and field season drawing near, high school track coaches may find themselves in a situation where they are unable to condition their whole squad in the weightroom. In many cases, the weightroom may be too small, while the track and field squads very large. In other cases, sports such as football may also be using the weightroom at the desired time making it hard to squeeze in a whole workout for the track and field team.

This article is designed to offer some alternative strength training workouts for track and field programs who are unable to utilize the weightroom. A comprehensive strength and conditioning program can be performed out on the field using just a set of medicine balls, traffic cones, a weighted sled, elastic tubing, and a set of short boxes for plyometrics.

Most high school coaches will probably find that many of their athletes will still be unable to train effectively with weights because they are still in a growth phase. Coaches may also find that doing exercises that use only body weight or a small amount of resistance, such as 1 to 5 kg. will allow for training gains to be made while not overloading the developing athlete. There are exercises that can be performed outside the weightroom for almost every muscle and movement associated with track and field by utilizing medicine ball drills, plyometrics, or body weight resistance exercises.

The best way to organize a strength and conditioning session for a large group of athletes out in the field is to perform a circuit routine. The circuit system will allow more athletes to be active at any given time which will make the conditioning session quicker and more efficient. From an organizational standpoint, the circuit system, in which the athletes are going from one station to the next, will be the easiest for the coach to control a large number of athletes. Several stations can be set up, which can vary in number, depending on the number of athletes and the emphasis of the training sesison.

Categories of Training Exercises

Training exercises for the field can be broken down into different groups based on what type of movement is involved in the exercise. For the purposes of this article, these exercises will be broken down into the following categories: 1) Medicine Ball, 2) Agility & Conditioning Drills, 3) Upper Body Plyometrics, 4) Abdominal Routine.

Medicine Ball Exercises

1. Hip Flexor Drill: While the athlete is hanging from a bar, have a partner lob the medicine ball toward them so they can kick it back to their partner with the bottoms of both feet.

2. Leg Curls: While the athlete is lying on their stomach, have a partner roll the medicine ball down the back of their legs so they can kick it back to the partner with their heels.

3. Overhead Throw from Kneeling Position

4. Chest Pass

5. Trunk Twists

6. Overhead Throw from Standing Position

7. Tricep Tosses

8. Roll-back Throw: The athlete will throw the ball to a partner from a seated position with their back to their partner. The athlete will perform the throw by rolling on to their back as they throw the medicine ball with both hands back over their head.,

9. Foot Throw: The athlete will hold the medicine ball between their ankles while in a standing position and then flip the medicine ball up to their partner by kicking both feet up simultaneously.

10. Medicine Ball Sit-ups

11. Fish Out of Water Throws: A partner will roll the ball to the thrower who is lying on their stomach, facing their partner, with their arms outstretched to receive the medicine ball. The thrower will pull the ball behind their head and throw it back to their partner.

Agility and Conditioning Drills

1. Alternate Push off (with 8-12" box)

2. Lateral Box Step-up

3. Side to Side Box Jumps (with 8-12" box)

4. Front Box Jump (double legged with 8-12" box)

5. Lateral Box Jump (double legged with 8-12" box)

6. Lateral Cone Hops

7. Bounding: Double leg, Single leg-alternate, Single leg-same leg, Double leg-diagonal hop

8. Two-footed Ankle Hops

9. Squat Jump

10. Split Squat Jump

11. Double-legged Tuck Jump With Knees Up

12. Double-legged Tuck Jump With a Heel Kick

13. Walking Lunges

14. Weighted Sled Runs

15. Slow Squats with Body Weight

16. Jumping Toe Touches

17. Calf Raises on Stair or Curb

Upper Body Plyometrics

(For athletes with advanced upper body strength only)

1. Push-ups with wide to narrow arm stance

2. Side-to-side Push-ups

3. Push-ups with a clap

4. Side-to-side Push-ups with one arm up on box (with 8-12" box)

5. Wheelbarrow Walks

Abdominal Exercises

1. Crunches

2. Seated Rows

3. Leg Cross-overs

4. Leg Raises

5. Hip Raises

6. Trunk Twists

7. Hanging Leg Raises

Training Considerations

Before getting started with a training circuit for your track and field program, a number of pre-training considerations need to be looked at before prescribing exercises for all of your athletes. First of all, the coach should look at the age, body weight, and the physical state of development of each of their athletes. Secondly, the coach should look at the training levels of each athlete with regard to strength and speed training and their prior training experience. Finally, the coach should evaluate the strength training needs of each group of athletes as classified by their event specialties. Once these variables are all taken into account, the coach can set up a training circuit for their athletes.

How to Set Up the Training Circuit

The training circuit should be performed on the grass infield of the track for the majority of the exercises. This should be especially true for the lower body plyometrics to reduce the shock of the ground impact, and it will allow the track to be clear for running workouts to be held concurrently with the strength and conditioning session. The training circuit can be performed up to three times a week on a schedule that allows for at least 48 hours of rest between sessions. Once the competitive season begins, the training circuit may be cut back to only twice a week to allow for ample rest before competitions. If the coach chooses to go on a schedule that uses the training circuit only twice a week, they may want to allow for 72 hours of recovery between sessions by going on a Monday-Thursday, or Tuesday-Friday schedule. The coach should also start their training circuit with more low intensity exercises and gradually increase the intensity as the year advances. It is actually a good idea to start the season with general conditioning period for a few weeks before beignning a training circuit such as this, although athletes who had just finished another sport season should be in good enough condition to begin right away.

When setting up the training circuit, the coach should pay special attention to the order and frequency of the exercises that are to be performed. It is recommended that each training session consist of 2 to 4 exercises from each of the four exercise categories, and that there is adequate rest time between stations. The order of exercises should follow a pattern upper body to lower body to abdominal exercises, and then repeat the same order. This type of arrangement will allow for more recovery time for a specific muscle group because it is not being used in successive exercises. A sample workout with this type of ordering is as follows:


Go through each exercise twice (2 minutes rest between stations)

1. Chest Pass with medicine ball (20 reps)

2. Front Box Jumps (25 seconds)

3. Crunches (30 reps)

4. Push-ups with a Clap (10 reps)

5. Split Squats (20 reps)

6. Hip Raises (20 reps)

7. Tricep Tosses (20 reps)

8. Walking Lunges (10 reps, each leg)



Go through each exercise twice (2 minutes rest between stations)

1. Overhead Tosses with 3 kg. medicine ball

2. Side-to-Side Box Jumps (25 seconds)

3. Hanging Leg Raises (20 reps)

4. Fish Out of Water Throws (15 reps)

5. Slow Squats with Body Weight (down in 4 seconds, up at moderate speed, 10 reps)

6. Crunches (30 reps)

7. Side-to-Side Push-ups (15 reps), Chest Passes with Medicine Ball (4 kg.) ( 20 reps)

8. Leg Curls with Medicine Ball (4 kg.) (20 reps)

9. Seated Rows (25 reps)

Assigning Exercises

When assigning the number of stations and the number of repetitions for each exercise, the coach may want to set up a series of circuits based on the level of physical development of their athletes. If this is not possible, the coach may want to designate that certain athletes bypass some stations that have an exercise that is beyond the physical capabilities of the athlete at that particular time. In terms of prescribing exercises for each event area, the coach should pay careful attention which exercises will help the specific needs for an athlete in their particular event. The agility and conditioning drills and abdominal exercises are good exercises for all track and field athletes, but the more ballistic exercises, such as the box jumps, should be used more by the power oriented athletes (sprinters, jumpers, throwers). Upper body plyometrics are more advanced exercises that should only be used by athletes with well-developed upper bodies, such as throwers and pole vaulters. Medicine ball drills can benefit athletes in all event areas, although athletes in the throws and pole vault may want to emphasize more upper body medicine ball drills.

I have tried to mention a number of different exercises that can be incorporated into a training circuit so that a coach can have a variety of exercises for all of their athletes to perform. This is one of the beauties of the field training circuit in which there are a number of different exercises that can accommodate all skill and strength levels for every type of athlete. It will also provide sufficient variety so as to avoid the monotony of doing the same exercises over and over. The following table lists a basic guideline for how many contacts and repetitions can be performed for each typ0e of exercise.


Exercise Reps or Contacts per Set

Medicine Ball Exercises 10-25 reps per set

Box Jumps 10-30 contacts per set

Bounding 10-15 contacts per set

Leg Exercises 10 reps per set

Jumping Exercises 10-15 reps per set

Upper Body Plyos 10-20 contacts per set

Abdominal Exercises 10-30 reps per set

For more information on these types of training exercises, please see the articles and books in the reference section.


Allerheiligen, B., & Rogers R. (1995) Plyometrics Program Design, Strength and Conditioning 17(4), 26-31.

Allerheiligen, B., & Rogers, R. (1995) Plyometrics Program Design, Part 2, Strength and Conditioning 17(5), 33-39.

Baechle, T. R. (1994) Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics.

Chu, D. (1992) Jumping Into Plyometrics. Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics.

Zatsiorsky, V. (1995) Science and Practice of Strength Training. Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics.

Article By: Don Babbit

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