Sprinting for Greater Gains
There are some exercises that even the most dedicated gym goers tend to avoid. A good example is front squats, which are more effective at building the quads than back squats, but are much more uncomfortable.
Another exercise that isn’t very popular is burpees. But the activity that is shunned the most by serious lifters? Running!
Even lifters who see the value of running still hesitate to pound the pavement for some reasons. Running is boring. It is hard.
For some, it can even be physically painful. But there is good news. One doesn’t need to be a dedicated cardio fanatic to reap the benefits of running. You just need to sprint.
A sprint is like a more manageable-sized run. Sprinting is a more efficient way of running, ideal for people who are serious about body composition, size, and strength.
It allows you to get more done in a shorter period and with better results. Now that we got your interest, here is a condensed starter's guide to sprinting.
Why Should You Sprint?
Most people will say that they hate sprinters’ physiques. However, those same individuals may be surprised to learn that sprinters' training regimens typically include lots of explosive, heavy lifting. If you stop and think about it, these two activities certainly have plenty in common.
Unlike steady-state, long runs that tend to compromise muscle mass and eat up stored glycogen, sprinting relies heavily on your body’s explosive energy stores and directly works your fast-twitch, growth-prone muscle fibers at the same time.
What this means is you will be exerting yourself with greater power and more intensity but for a shorter period. Even highly conditioned athletes are only able to sustain all-out sprints for about 20 to 25 seconds.
After that, your body starts to draw upon some of your other energy systems in to keep you going. In the meantime, the muscles in your calves, hamstrings, and quads are trained to produce more force in a short amount of time. This leads to improved performance in exercises involving those muscles.
What about burning fat?
Research shows that people who did four to six 30-second sprints a couple of times a week improved their cardiovascular fitness markers as much as those who engaged in lower-intensity cardio in a longer session, and they lost more fat.
The 1994 study found that the sprint group was able to lose 12 percent more visceral fat and 9 times more body fat compared to the group that underwent aerobic training.
Like other types of high-intensity activities, a large amount of energy is needed to recover from sprinting.
This means that your body uses more energy during the next 24 to 48 hours after your last sprint. It is referred to as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which results in burning calories during rest.
Also, sprinting has been shown to improve the production of natural growth hormones in your body, which can help with fat loss and muscle growth.
The targeting of your fast-twitch muscle fibers also ensures that you are highly likely to grow or retain muscles through sprinting.
What Is the Best Way To Sprint?
Want to become a lean, mean, sprinting machine? Consider the following tips when putting together your training routine.
1. Frequency. Sprinting is a very high-intensity activity, so if you are completely new to it, doing it one or two times per week should be enough to encourage your body to burn more fat. You can add one or two sessions per week as you begin to make progress.
2. Rest. When it comes to sprinting training, one of the more overlooked factors is rest. There are several work-to-rest ratios that you can try, including the 30-second sprint program, where 4-minute rest breaks are taken in between sprints.
Sprints are mainly fueled by creatine, ATP, and phosphagen, and these are almost used up within 15 to 25 seconds. At this level of intensity, maximum rest is usually achieved in four to five times of what the work interval was. So for example, a 10-second sprint should be followed by 50 seconds of rest(slow jogging or walking) so you can maximize the effort for your next sprint.
3. All-Out Effort. In sprinting, the effort can only be sustained for so long. Therefore, you need to run as fast as you can during each interval. You should aim for 90 to 95 percent effort on every sprint.
4. Volume. Volume decreases as intensity goes up. Or it should, anyway. The longer your sprints are, the fewer you need to do.
5. Flow and Form. When sprinting, you need to avoid heel strikes on every stride and make sure that your arms are pumping hard and swinging in line with your body. YouTube is a great resource for learning about proper sprinting form.
And as with other high-intensity activities, do not start your first set without doing a thorough warm-up. Warming up will boost your performance as well as significantly reduce your risk of injury.
Workout 1: Sprint Intervals 101
This workout is a good basic introduction to sprinting for fitness. It calls for you to perform ten 10-second sprints and take 50 seconds of rest in between.
Perform this workout on non-lifting days two times per week. Each week, add one second to your sprints and take away one second from the rest periods. You can then move to a more advanced program after five weeks.
Workout 2: Science Sprinter
One study had athletes run 30-second sprints and then rest for 4 minutes. This yielded fantastic results each time. If it worked for them, then it can work for you as well.
Try doing this workout two times a week (maximum of three) and make sure that you give it your full effort for the entire interval. As your energy starts to fade, continue pumping your legs and arms as hard as you can. Just keep in mind that you will have four minutes to rest afterward!
Workout 3: Track Sprinter
This is a one-mile run that involves sprints of about 100 yards on straightaways at the beginning. Then walk the curves and get ready for the next sprint. Repeat the process until you have done four full laps (eight sprints). Do this workout two times per week, and then add one lap per week as you build endurance.
Plenty of gym-goers hate doing cardio exercises. Fortunately, sprinting allows you to do as little as possible and leverage the short intervals to support muscle mass.
Author Bio: Alma Vernon is a health and wellness blogger who writes for a number of health-related blogs including Muscle Sensei. When she is not writing, she likes to hike, indoor rock climb, and try out new things.