Training for 1600 meter test

Blog by: Kaushik Talukdar.

Edited by: Suryakant Tripathi.

This article will be helpful for coaches and athletes involved with intermittent sports such as field hockey and football (soccer). The 1600-meter (1.6km) running test has become an integral part of performance test batteries among these sports. The test is usually performed on a turf or a field (80-100 meters) in length. The test is unique and challenging due to the total duration, as athletes often tend to perceive this test as a long endurance work and lose sight of speed. The training information in this article for the athletes will be divided into two categories, athlete 1 (lacks work capacity) and athlete 2 (lacks speed).

Athlete 1 (lacks work capacity)- Athletes that lack foundational endurance work capacity (extensive) and generally has high resting heart rates (>65 beats per minute) with poor 1600-meter times (>6.5 minutes) and longer recovery times may fall into this category. These athletes may require few weeks (4-6) in a cycle developing work capacity. Some key strategies for building extensive work capacity are as follows:

Athlete 1(lack work capacity, high resting heart rate, poor 1600 meters time, low recovery)

1) Extensive intervals (>2 minutes) at 70-80% of max speed (based on 1600 meter test) interspersed with some active recovery (depending on the athlete, longer recovery for poorly conditioned athletes), rest period should be ideally less than work time (total time spent on tempos 30-40 minutes, 2-3 times a day, depending on the athlete).

2) Exceeding the test distance: Exceeding the distance (>1600 meters) helps athletes to overcome the psychological barrier associated with distance and also build foundational endurance, particularly cardiac output. However running more than 3 km should be avoided, as it can alter stride mechanics for some athletes.

3) Base strength: Basic full body strength exercises with controlled tempo will help in building peripheral adaptation. Combination of upper body, lower body and trunk exercises done simultaneously with rest can be useful in building work capacity and density. The rep range should be between 8-12, progressively building strength.

Athlete 2 (lacks speed but has good work capacity)- Athletes that lack speed but possesses good endurance foundation and work capacity will fall in this category. Often these athletes will also have below par scores in short speed tests (<40 meters). They lack the ability to apply force quickly.

1) Intensive intervals (repeated 100-meter runs within 17-22 seconds) interspersed with longer recovery (30-40 seconds), total volume in a session can be 1000m to 1600 meters a session, some football players (midfielders) may require longer session going up to 2400 meters, however gradual progression is necessary without significantly altering speed for each repetition.

2) Short intervals (repeated 50 meter and 25 meter shuttles)- Total of 150-175 meters can be performed in 30s starting with a longer length (50 meters) with adequate rest and progressing to a shorter length with more change of direction (25 meters) over time. Shorter shuttles <30 meters can be more challenging due to frequent change of direction. Covering 150 meters within 30s can be a good starting point. Rest between sets will be determined by athlete’s conditioning level, anything from 1 minute to 3 minutes can be used. Due to the impact on joints the volume of short shuttles in a session should be kept low (<1000 meters), and focus more on speed.

3) Acceleration, deceleration and progressive change of direction work-Short starting speed <30 meters along with progressive angle (45, 60, 90, 180 degrees) direction change work can compliment the speed work. However, the volume should be kept low and the recovery should be long, work to rest ratio (1:5-7)

4) Power– Progressive power work including medicine ball, jumps, hops will be useful to avoid running injuries and enhance performance in a 1600 meter test due to the involvement of reactive tendon training.

There can be a third category of athletes that are fast and explosive but may not be able to sustain the intensity for much longer. These athletes will have high scores on jumps, short speed tests but lower scores on 1600 meters and longer tests. Prioritizing the right work for these athletes with the right dosage of volume and intensity is vital to enhance performance. Furthermore, time and distance for work should be specific to athlete’s work capacity and speed; therefore testing every 6-8 weeks will provide valuable feedback regarding time and speed. Training should be based on individual speed for e.g. if an athlete completes 1600 meter in 5 minutes, then the maximum speed for that distance will be 19.2 km/hour. Therefore training should be based around that speed (extensive at or below the speed, intensive at or above the speed). Remember, practicing the 1600 meter test like track athletes running around a 400 meter track may not guarantee better score for your sport, as most intermittent sports require change of direction and therefore this test will be performed on a 80-100 meter turf or field, running back and forth. Finally, do keep a track of your recovery heart rate particularly with the intervals.

Kaushik Talukdar (Strength and Conditioning Manager)

Masters in Sport and Exercise Science.

Currently pursuing a PhD in Sport science and psychology)

Australian Strength and Conditioning Accreditation level -2



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