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 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.
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!
|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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!