Sprinting for fitness
Sprinting can be summed up as running really, really fast in short bursts of output. It is one of the most potent forms of physical training possible and a key activity for building fitness skills (particularly speed, power, strength, and cardiovascular capacity), developing lean muscle and losing fat.
The intensity of sprints are unlimited and you can never outgrow it as an exercise. Whilst your body is becoming stronger and faster with all out sprint training, the workouts never get easier.
The benefits of sprinting
- anaerobic and aerobic capacity
- lean muscle mass
- growth hormone secretion
- fat loss
- maximum power development
Sprinting for beginners
Sprints generate incredibly high forces and for the beginner can pose a high risk of injury if not approached in the correct way.
Here are some sprint drills for beginners to help lower the risk and develop a base level of fitness...
- Pick a distance (100 meters is a good starting point).
- Gradually accelerate over the first 40 metres until you reach your top speed.
- Maintain that speed for approximately 20m and gradually decelerate until you stop at the 100m line.
This sprint drill is good for beginner sprinters because it lets you experience moving at top speed without the explosive start.
Another sprint drill to get you accustomed to sprint training is running bursts. This approach introduces higher force levels than the build up sprints but is still less stressful than true explosive sprint starts as you already in motion.
- Slowly build up to top speed and then slow down to a medium speed and then accelerate back to top speed.
- Repeat this sequence several times.
Advanced sprint training
When competent with standard sprint training and looking to increase the effectiveness and intensity of the exercise you can try some of these suggestions -
- Beach sprints - good for reducing the impact on the body whilst increasing resistance
- Hill sprints - like sprint training. but up hills.
- Weighted sprints using a weighted vest or back-pack for increased intensity
Sprinting and building muscle
Long distance, steady-state running is counter productive when trying to build muscle, and even worse, can break down existing muscle mass.
Short anaerobic bursts of activity, like sprints or intervals actually promotes muscle growth.
Chronic cardio is for endurance athletes and hamsters. Incorporate sprint training into your fitness regime for effective cardiovascular training without compromising muscle-building goals.
Consider the differences in physiques between your average marathon runner and that of a sprinter. Intensity is the core factor to developing the sprinters body.
Sprinting and fat loss
As mentioned above, long distance running is not the most effective form of burning fat. Whilst running as an activity is good at burning calories, the metabolism isn't as fired up after the run to continue the calorie burn as it is after a session of high-intensity exercise like sprints.
Sprinting is an effective means of losing weight because it's much higher intensity, shorter duration running, in short bursts of output.
- Where possible, run on sand, grass or trail with concrete as a last resort (to minimise impact on the body)
- Aim for around ten minute sprint sessions
- Walking - low level, minimal impact aerobic conditioning
- Running - long distance, steady-state running. An endurance activity not as effective for fat loss as sprints and compromises muscles mass
- Hill sprints
- Weighted sprints
- Band resisted running
- Beach sprints