Top GB Sprinter Adam Gemili On The Importance Of Setting Goals

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Be a goal-setter

For me, setting goals is massively important. I won’t start a year without set goals. I have both long-term and short-term goals. At the start of the season I sit down with my coach and we plan where I want to be at different times of the year. We’ll then go through short-term goals for that week, and we’ll review things regularly as well to check if I’ve achieved them. If I didn’t, we set a new goal and ask how I’m going to improve.

Training for fun is great but if you’re actually training for something, such as losing weight or a marathon, having goals keeps you on track.

When I first came into the sport, I didn’t really understand goal-setting - I just wanted to race and enjoy it. But as I’ve got older and more aware of my body, I know I need to be working towards something. I’m not just here for fun.

At first it was just “I want to run this fast at this championships”. Now my goals are a lot more specific and wide-ranging, and they’re to do with diet, gym training and psychology. It can be annoying to have to sit down and review everything but it’s so important.

My main goal for this year is to win the world championships in London. I want to run to my full potential, I know what times I want to be hitting, and I want the European records in both the 100m and 200m.

Strong is fast

Strength is crucial for sprinting. This year I’ve focused a lot more on my gym work – plyometric and core exercises. It’s also important to develop power. The more powerful and strong you are, the more force you can put through the floor and the faster you can run. But for sprinting, size isn’t always helpful – muscle is dense and you have to carry it while you run. I know how big I need to be and what my targets are for strength.

I lift three times a week, working mostly on explosive power rather than high reps. I do low reps with heavy weights. I do some squatting, power cleans, snatches and bench press [see below for Gemili’s advice on getting the most out of these moves]. I also do a lot of smaller exercises to target specific areas of my body such as my glutes and core, using kit such as medicine balls and gym balls.

I have my gym sessions on my phone and I know exactly what I’m doing and what weights I want to be hitting. And then there’s the mental preparation. I make sure I’m mentally ready for every training session. I enjoy it as well – particularly when the whole group is in there and you’re lifting with other people. But sometimes, if I’ve got a really heavy lift, I’ll just put my headphones in and concentrate on what I’m doing.

Technique triumphs

The biggest thing for speed is technique, which means being efficient when you sprint. When I see people running I can be a bit critical when I notice how inefficient they are - the upper body is swinging, the arms are going sideways.

Make sure you bring your knees up high and don’t let your heels flick out behind you. If you land with your foot in front of you then you have to use your strength to pull yourself forwards, but if your foot lands under your body or behind you, you’re generating more forward force. Swing your arms up to eye level – with elbows bent at 90° – because that’s where your power comes from.

You also need to work on your speed endurance. You can only maintain your top speed for about ten metres. Winning is about whoever is decelerating the slowest, so it’s vital that when you do get tired you don’t drop your head to the side or get inefficient.

If you want to get faster, try this speed endurance session. Once you’ve warmed up, do 300m, 250m, 200m, 150m and then five or six efforts of 100m. Push yourself to a decent pace but don’t go massively fast or flat-out, and give yourself five minutes’ recovery between runs. You’ll feel it but it’s a good hurt, if that makes sense.

A winning mentality

You can be in the shape of your life but if you’re not ready mentally, you won’t run to the best of your ability. Try thinking that it’s the same thing you do in training. It’s your track, your lane – just because there’s a crowd there doesn’t mean you should do anything different. Some people struggle to take their training performance into competition because they lose focus or they get scared. Nerves are OK but if you let them dominate, you’ve lost.

I never trained as hard playing football as I have in athletics. Athletics is a killer. You train so hard that the competition is the easy part and you get to show everyone how fast you can run. The crowd are cheering for you and it’s enjoyable. The happier I am the more relaxed I am and the more relaxed I am the more fluid I move so that mindset helps me to run.

If you’re in a high pressure situation and you feel that nerves are getting to you, go back to your execution. Close your eyes and think about how you’re going to execute it. If you’re sprinting, feel the movements in your head. Think about the process rather than the outcome.

Gemili’s Three Favourite Lifts

Power clean

The biggest thing for me was feeling confident with the weight. If you’re cleaning 135kg then you need to go in there with speed and good technique. Your back has to stay straight, you need to keep the bar close to your body. I practise hang clean shrugs, so just the first movement, with a heavy weight so when I reduce the weight I’ve got the confidence that I can lift the weight in a full clean. If you go for it half-heartedly you’ll get half a lift.


I do variations of squats – quarter squats, speed squats, single-leg squats. Single-leg squats I like because it helps work your core. You’re not going really deep but it’s deep enough to feel it. And you have to make sure your back stays flat and doesn’t curl forwards. It’s about being slow and controlled and going to your limit without compromising your form. It’s not about how heavy you go – it’s about working the right muscle groups with the right technique.

Bench press

Don’t just drop the bar on your chest and bounce it back up. It’s about controlling the weight. Benches are important because it’s your upper body where your power comes from. I never used to bench at all but this year I’ve made big improvements. It’s important not to get too big because that can restrict your movement, but if you can swing your arms powerfully then you can run faster.

Adam Gemili is an ambassador for Muller, which supports British Athletics. Visit to win tickets to this summer’s athletic events and merchandise