By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
The truth is, improvement comes from constantly making small improvements over time. I like to call this the Milo Effect.
So, now the question becomes,
Before we can assemble the bigger picture, we need a clear understanding of the pieces.
The three most important qualities an athlete needs to develop is strength, power, and speed. These are the foundations of every athletic event. There are different ways of developing each of these qualities.
Strength comes in three main flavors; general strength, absolute strength, and elastic strength.
Power = Force x Velocity. So drills and exercises that involve moving an object at high speeds will develop power. The most obvious way to develop power is with olympic lifts, but there are also other exercises that can be done outside the weight room. In particular, multi throws and multi jumps require moving weighted objects at high speeds. Probably the most applicable power exercise to the track and field athlete is sprinting.
Speed also comes in three main flavors; acceleration, maximum speed, speed endurance. While some may argue that acceleration is not a type of speed, I include it here because it is vital in the development of speed.
Improvements in speed will not always improve performance. Speed is the skill of quickly directing forces at optimum angles. Therefore, learning the skill of speed should be a reoccuring component of a solid yearly plan.
A solid training plan will start with general skill development of these three qualities and progress them towards more sport specific applications. The art of putting this together is balancing the emphasis throughout the year. Start by building a foundation of strength, speed, and power. Then, the closer you get towards an important competition, or season (that features more event or sport specific skills) the more you focus on either speed, power, or strength while never neglecting the other two.
The first phase of this yearly plan is the foundation on which everything is built. Equal emphasis is given strength, power, and speed. First develop general strength, then transition into absolute strength. Power should be developed via low impact plyometrics. This is also the time to refine technique for the olympic lifts. Acceleration is the speed quality that must be addressed in this phase. For the best long term gains, this phase should last 50% of the year.
The second phase places a little more emphasis on speed and slightly less on strength and power. Absolute strength is the goal in this phase. Power can be developed with more dynamic plyometric exercises and using heavier weight for olympic lifts. Acceleration should still be trained in this second phase, but you can mix in speed endurance work. This phase should last 30% of the year.
The third phase increases the emphasis on speed to at least half and equally splitting emphasis on strength and power. In the weight room, stress elastic strength with contrast training. Acceleration mechanics should now need only remedial work which will leave more time for speed endurance and maximum speed work. This phase should last 20% of the year.
More specific details about the skills, drills, and exercises is the topic of another post. In the mean time, take time to plan out your year and how to distribute strength, power, and speed.