Sprinting is not your average exercise.
When you’re doing that mad dash, puking is not far-fetched. Injuries can occur if you’re not careful. And soreness is guaranteed. But you know what else is guaranteed? Amazing results.
So who is sprinting for? People who want to take it to the next level. People who are willing to go above and beyond to reach their goals. People who want to get stronger, faster, and/or leaner. Sprinting is also an awesome exercise to do if you are trying to put on lean mass (add muscle with as little fat as possible.) The bottom line is that if you want extreme results, you have to go to extreme measures. And as far as intense exercise is concerned, few things surpass sprinting.
Just for clarification, sprinting is basically running as fast as you can. I’m not talking about la-dee-da running, I’m talking about moving your legs and pumping your arms so fast that within a matter of seconds your heart feels like it’s going to jump out of your chest.
The benefits of sprinting include increased power and strength and a boost to your metabolism that will help you burn way more calories long after you’ve finished working out. It improves aerobic and anaerobic cardio endurance. I seriously think it is one of the most effective workouts for burning fat. Oh, and it is a GREAT butt workout.
Sprinter Alenka Bikar’s buns. Hot damn!
For a very detailed and scientific explanation of what happens to your body when you sprint, read this article. And this is part two, with more how-to info.
Doing sprints on a track/street is far superior to doing them on a treadmill because of the force it takes to push yourself off the ground (1). When you are pushing yourself off the ground as hard as you are during an all-out sprint, you’re recruiting way more fast-twitch fibers. These fibers are the ones that respond to stimulus by growing (2). Muscle growth = good. Sprinting on a treadmill just doesn’t give you the same explosiveness because the moving track supports you more.
For those who are just starting out with sprints, you’ll want to take it easy the first few times. ANYONE who is going to sprint, whether they are fit or not, needs to warm-up. A light jog is ideal. You should also do dynamic exercises like the ones in this article.
Mobility work is a good idea, too. So basically you should jog lightly for a few minutes then do things like bodyweight squats and lunges, butt-kicks, walking high kicks, leg swings and leg cradles.
If you have access to a football field, that’s perfect. If not, then any stretch of open space will do.
Those who have access to a football field or a marked track:
-Beginners can sprint 50 yards then walk 50 yards to recover. Repeat 5-8 times. If you’ve walked 50 yards and still need recovery time, take it.
-To reduce the risk of injury, begin your sprint with a running start. Once you pass 20-30 yards start sprinting. (People who are more advanced can opt to skip this.)
-Beginners should aim for 50% of their top speed, and gradually increase their pace every workout.
-Intermediate/advanced level people can sprint 100 yards and walk 100 yards to recover.
-Intermediate/advanced people should be aiming for 90-95% effort. Basically, you are running as fast as you possibly can. NO slacking.
Those who do NOT have access to a football field/marked track:
-Run as fast as you can for about 10-15 seconds. If you can last longer than that, you are not sprinting as fast as you can. (Beginners shouldn’t push quite as hard. The sprint should still be very fast but not top speed, like a 7 or 8 out of 10.)
-Rest for a minute and repeat this 5-8 times. If you need more than a minute to rest, take it, but don’t go overboard.
Other things to keep in mind:
-Sprints should not be done more than twice a week, on days you are NOT working your legs.
-Make sure you warm-up to prevent injuries.
-Expect to be sore the next day, even in your abs.
-As far as technique is concerned, make an effort to relax your shoulders and pick your knees up higher than you would doing a regular run. When your arms are swinging as you sprint, your hands should not go higher than your cheek as they come up, and should not go behind your hips as they are coming back down.
-You need to be putting a lot of effort into this. It’s sprinting, not running. You should be running as fast as you possibly can. If you are not gasping for breath after 10-15 seconds, you need to step it up.
Sprints aren’t pretty. But they are totally worth the pain. Don’t believe me? Try them for a month and see what happens.
I hope I didn’t scare you. Sprints really do deliver excellent results if you do them consistently!