It’s hard not to feel accomplished when you’re sprinting, even if it’s literally for just a split-second. Sprinting is one of the most intense forms of human movement. Think about it, in less than 10-seconds an Olympic Sprinter can cover a distance of 100-meters (or more). What does this mean? This means that you are outputting some serious energy, power and concentration.

Although a 100-meter sprint doesn’t burn more than a few dozen calories within the 10-seconds or so of actual “work”, it’s an incredible fat-burning stimulus because of its effect on your metabolism after the work is over. While sprinting is anaerobic work (without oxygen), because your work output surpasses your ability to provide oxygen to your muscles, you end up winded for minutes after those 10-seconds. What this means is you’ll be burning calories and fat for hours after your workout (the afterburn effect), not just during.

Sprinting Requires Power & Focus

Sprint-workout

Sprinting is a power-based workout. During the sprinting session, you will use all three energy systems (anaerobic, glycolytic, aerobic), with greater emphasis on one or another based on the structure of your sprinting session. The emphasis of your workout will be influenced by how much anaerobic (power) work you do compared with aerobic (oxygen-based) in your current training program.

For example, a power-based athlete will likely be able to achieve high speeds during their intervals, but the duration of their training session may be limited and they’ll need more time to recover between sprints because of a less-developed aerobic system.

On the flip-side, an endurance athlete who does more aerobic training and less power-based training will most likely not be blazing up the track during their sprints, but they’ll be able to recover faster between intervals and endure a longer training session.

Sprinting is incredible, not only because of its fat burning benefits, but because it pushes you towards your absolute physical and mental limits. In order to endure, you have to focus all of your attention on the task-at-hand. It forces you to push through muscular fatigue and oxygen deprivation, which can help you become a more powerful athlete overall.

Sprint Workout Instructions

Warm-up

sprint-warm-up

Before you dive into your sprint workout, it’s critical to perform a thorough warm-up. This will help you prepare mentally and physically for your training session, while also decreasing your risk of injury.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to warming up for a sprint workout:

1. Low-Intensity Cardio: Break a sweat by jumping rope or jogging for about 4-5 minutes.

2. Sprint-Specific Drills: Perform a series of lunges (walking or stationary), skips (front skip, side ski, power skip), and leg swings (front/back and side-to-side). This should take another 4-5 minutes, and should definitely get you to break a sweat.

3. Plyometrics and Accelerations: Perform some light plyometrics (such as skater hops, squat jacks, and high knees) and some 10-, 20-, or 30-meter accelerations for 4-5 more minutes. Your emphasis here is on activating your muscles and honing your reaction time so you can generate speed quickly and safely when it’s time to sprint. You don’t want to do anything too fatiguing, otherwise you’ll compromise the quality of your sprint intervals.

Now that you’ve spent about 15-minutes warming up your body, you’re ready to sprint!

Sprint Workout

Sets Distance Rest Instructions
4 40-meter sprint @ 95% Walk back to the start Do one set every 2-min. Rest for a full 5-min after all 4 sets.
1 400 meter sprint 2-minute Sprint as fast as possible.
4 100 meter strides Walk back to the start Easy strides, cool-down

Cool-down: Jog ½-mile and finish with some easy stretching.

Sprint Workout FAQ

1. How often should I do this workout?

Beginners should start by sprinting 1x per week, and all other athletes could do a sprint workout 2x per week.

If you choose to sprint more often, you have to understand that the physiological demands of sprinting can break you down if you’re sprinting too often and not resting enough between workouts. This could eventually lead to overtraining syndrome and injury.

Also, exclusively focusing on sprinting means you’ll be neglecting the development of your glycolytic and aerobic energy systems. Think of an Olympic 800-meter runner as glycolytic dominant, and a marathon runner as aerobic dominant. The best-case scenario is to train all three energy systems in a well-rounded training program.

2. Are there any considerations/contraindications?

Adding a sprint workout to your training program can help you efficiently burning fat and boost speed. It’s important that you take the time to warm-up appropriately, and to change up your sprint workout after about 4-6 weeks.

A good way to ensure continual progress is to create a periodized training program. Your first training period could be called Phase 1, and could endure for a period of 8-12 weeks. Each phase is comprised of 4-week blocks, and each block can even split into micro-phases (1-2 weeks each).

Within these micro-phases, you can be very specific about what your training is focused on (for example, speed, strength, or absolute power). After 1-2 weeks, you would move on to a new micro-phase and change your sprint training to work towards another goal.

Speed: up to 60-80 meters

Strength: 80 meters or more

Absolute Power: 10-30 meters of “Flying” sprints, where instead of starting from a standstill you gradually build into a sprint, so by the time you reach the 30, 20, or 10-meter mark you’re at full-speed.

3. How do I know if this workout is appropriate for me?

If you have any injury at all, especially one to the lower extremities, hips, or shoulders, I would not do any sprinting at all. Biomechanical weaknesses in the body can’t hide when you’re sprinting. If you have an injury, your body will try to compensate for the weak muscle (or muscles) or imbalances to perform your sprint, which could lead to further injury. Before you start sprinting, you’ll want to wait until your injury or tweak heals, which can take months or longer. In 2012, I took 6 months of rest after a foot injury where I couldn’t run or lift weights. Taking the time to heal and recover is crucial so you can come back stronger and sprint safely.

4. How do I know the right intensity for my sprints?

Because sprinting is such an intense full-body movement, you’ll want to make sure you’re hitting the right intensity for your level of fitness. You’ll also want to focus on the quality of your movement during your entire sprint interval and workout.

If you’re new to sprinting, err on the side of keeping your workouts easier. This will help your body adapt to the demands of sprinting. In your first few workouts, ease into full-speed sprints and instead focus on the quality of your movement. When you’ve increased your comfort and confidence, shift your focus to intensity. Always listen to your body.

When in need rest longer! Stay warm between sets, and don’t focus on being aggressive. If you watch Usain Bolt sprint, you’ll see how relaxed he is while maxing his top speeds, and he’s the fastest man on Earth, ever!

5. What are some important things for beginners / intermediates to keep in mind?

Form, form, form. Again, sprinting is one of the highest forms of intensity the human body can exert. The perfect example is sprinting 100-meters. Factually, humans can’t even sprint a full 100-meters. Even Olympic sprinters are actually (unintentionally) decelerating as they approach and cross the finish line. Most humans can only maintain top speed for about 6-seconds, after which point the fuel in their muscle tissue is depleted, and oxygen (an unlimited resource) can’t be transferred fast enough to maintain your top speed. Therefore you significantly slow down, or try too hard for too long and tear a muscle.

Prioritize your form, focus on progression from workout-to-workout, and take enough rest between intervals and workouts. If you employ these three tips, you’ll be able to achieve new levels of speed while optimizing your fat-burning potential.

Try this sprint workout, and let me know how it goes!

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4 Comments

  1. profile avatar
    Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT May 13, 2016 - 18:40 #

    I’m definitely trying this sprint workout, Mark. Thanks for putting it together. One thing that’s cool about it is both a weekend warrior and an elite athlete can improve from it.

  2. profile avatar
    Ingmar May 15, 2016 - 08:36 #

    Hey Guys!

    Thanks for this! I’ve done the first transformation program and signed up for the new 12-week program too, but I have not started it yet. I’m down to about 16% body fat, measured with the Accu-measure calipers. It’s mostly around the waist and covering my abs. I would like to go down to the point where it stops shaking when I jump or run :). Maybe 10 or 12%?

    Anyway, I’m in the gym regularly for resistance training, I’m doing regular cardio in the form of cycling and running. Recently, I started doing short sprints, at first just a few seconds, maybe 10 or 20 meters. A week ago I did my first 5 100 meter sprints and I think it went well. It was tough and I had some really sore muscles the days after but it felt good and I allowed for recovery.

    Today I started with a good warming up, some active stretching and went for a relaxed run. I did a few more stretches of the hip and quadriceps before going into the first sprint and got ready. Off I went, but almost immediately I felt a sting in my upper right leg, right below the hip. I think I strained my hip flexor! I immediately stopped and walked around a bit. I massaged it, tried to stretch a bit and walked home. It’s not swollen, there is no discoloration but it does hurt.

    Not sure what happened, but it sucks! I’ve done this before a few times and I don’t think I could have done my warming up any better.

    Why does this happen? Could I have prevented it? What should I do now?

    I would really like to continue again and shed that 5 percent!

    Thanks!

  3. profile avatar
    Allie Terry May 27, 2016 - 18:34 #

    So I’m 18 years old, female, 5’5, and about 135 lbs. I was just wondering how many calories I need to burn from exercise per day to maintain my weight while taking in 2500 calories per day?

    1. profile avatar
      Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Jun 21, 2016 - 02:02 #

      Hey Allie, the short answer is that it’s a tough call and I recommend approaching it the other way around – how much should you eat for a given amount of exercise? The reason why is because it’s very difficult to “out exercise” a given diet. Typically, for female clients around your weight range, we usually recommend around 1350 calories for fat loss (bodyweight in pounds x 10), and around 1800-2000 calories for maintenance. If you are training for a couple of hours a day most days of the week, then 2500 calories sounds about right. Maintenance for guys training a few times a week is around 2300 to 2500 depending on the size of the man to put things in perspective. For more information, check out this article on calorie burn, which is not an exact science => How to Calculate Calorie Burn. There are of course many variables, I’m just giving you a general overview, good luck!

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