Sprinting for Fat Loss, Strength and Athleticism. The Ultimate Guide.

Whether you are a high level athlete, a weekend warrior or completely new to the gym, sprinting should be an integral component of your training program.

Not only is sprint speed an extremely important factor for athletic success, the act of sprinting can help promote fat loss, increase our strength, and improve our overall athleticism.

Lean, strong and athletic

Lean, strong and athletic

Sprinting for fat loss

Let’s start with how sprinting can cause fat loss, and help us maintain a high level of leanness.

Firstly, sprinting is taxing.  I mean REALLY taxing. It ultimately requires the integration of every muscle in the entire body working at near maximal capacity to sprint at (or close to) our top speed. This alone is using up a HUGE amount of energy during our sprint session.

Additionally, due to the accumulated fatigue sprinting causes we also get a significant increase our metabolic rate up to 24-48 hours after our sprint session. This rise in energy expenditure is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (or, EPOC), and can lead to serious energy use for a significant time after exercise.

These two factors are what allow sprinting to promote fat loss effectively.

A sample sprint workout aimed towards fat loss might look something like this:

-          Sprint 85% max speed for 90m distance

-          60s rest

-          Sprint 90% max speed for 90m distance

-          60s rest

-          Sprint 95% max speed for 90m distance

-          60s rest

-          Sprint 100% max speed for 100m distance

-          60s rest

-          Sprint 100% max speed for 80m distance

-          Repeat 2 times

These workouts should be performed on upper body days, or on cardio specific days. They should NOT be performed before lower body workouts because the fatigue associated will limit your performance in the gym. On the same note, they should NOT be performed after your lower body workouts as the fatigue form the gym session will increase injury risk while sprinting.

 

Sprinting can improve our strength performance

Undertake short, non-fatiguing, sprint work after your dynamic warm up is a fantastic way to prime the nervous system before a heavy gym session.

After sprinting, you central nervous system is fired up. This improves your ability to produce force rapidly (rate of force development for you science nerds out there). By sprinting before heavy lifting our nervous system is primed to produce maximal levels of force at a rapid rate, this means that we can lift heavier and more explosively in the gym, which can lead to serious strength gains.

A sample sprint workout aimed at priming the nervous system might look something like this.

-          Sprint 75% max speed for 40m distance

-          60s rest

-          Sprint 85% max speed for 40m distance

-          60s rest

-          Sprint 95% max speed for 40m distance

-          90s rest

-          Sprint 100% max speed for 40m distance

The idea here is to NOT accumulate fatigue. You should finish the sprints feeling quick and powerful, not tired and shitty.

 

Sprinting for Athletic Performance

Sprinting is a great tool to use to improve athletic performance.

Sprinting requires significant effort from the hip extensors (glutes and hamstrings) to produce force rapidly. These muscles are important for jumping, changing direction rapidly, and accelerating and decelerating, and as such, play an integral role in successful athletic performance. As sprinting can improve the ability of these muscles to produce force quickly, it can have a direct carryover to these other important movements’ as well.

Sprinting also improves our anaerobic capacity. During sprinting we are working at a speed well above lactate threshold, which requires the integration of our ATP-CP and anaerobic (or glycolytic) energy systems. By spending time where these energy systems our under significant stress, we promote physiological adaptations that improve the capacity of these energy systems. This results in an improved anaerobic work capacity, meaning we can work anaerobically for longer, and at a higher intensity!

A sample sprint workout here might look something like this:

-          Sprint 75% max speed for 40m distance

-          60s rest

-          Sprint 85% max speed for 40m distance

-          60s rest

-          Sprint 95% max speed for 40m distance

-          90s rest

-          Sprint 100% max speed for 40m distance

-          Repeat ONCE more

-          Sprint 85% max speed for 90m distance

-          60s rest

-          Sprint 90% max speed for 90m distance

-          60s rest

-          Sprint 95% max speed for 90m distance

-          60s rest

-          Sprint 100% max speed for 100m distance

-          60s rest

-          Sprint 100% max speed for 80m distance

In this scenario, we use short sprints to improve our maximal force production rate of force development, and then finish using longer sprints, which allow us to spend more time above anaerobic threshold.

 

There are some considerations.

Now, before you head out and start sprinting straight away there are a few things that you need to consider.

Firstly, if you haven’t sprinted since your last high school sports carnival 7 years ago,

Take it SLOW.

This means not exceeding 90% of your maximal speed for the first 4 weeks. This may seem excessive, but is important. Sprinting at speeds between 90 and 100% maximum speed is extremely demanding on the body, which increases risk of injury significantly. If you haven’t sprinted for a couple of years, this risk of injury becomes much, MUCH greater.

Don’t worry, HUGE benefits still occur within the 75-90% speed range. In fact, I like to keep the bulk of most people’s sprint work within this range, with occasional jumps up to 95% and 100%. This limits accumulated fatigue and associated injury risk while still maximising the benefits of sprint training.

In the same vein of thought,

Hill sprints before flat ground sprints

If we think about running mechanics for a second, a lot of people tend to get injured as they ‘over stride’. This is when the front leg extends too far in front of the body, which can result in hamstring injury. Running uphill is a great way to avoid this.

Additionally, the ground reaction forces are significantly lower as we sprint up hill, which reduces the amount of stress placed on the knee and ankle joints, reducing the risk of joint injury.

Similarly, try and keep most of your sprint work on grass or turf. Concrete, bitumen and pavement should be avoided as they are very unforgiving and create unnecessary load through the joints.

Focus on your sprint movement quality

This is an important factor to focus on that allows us to reduce soft tissue and overuse injuries. Keep the chest up tall, shoulders back and head in a neutral position. This will ensure that we are not leaning over at the hips, placing unnecessary stress on the hamstrings.

The movement should be fluid. This means nice smooth arm movement and smooth rotation of the thoracic spine. Elbows should be bent to 90 degrees and the arms shouldn’t cross the body’s midline – they should move only forward and backwards along the side of the body.

The knees should be kept high, and the foot should strike directly under the hips, NOT out in front of you.

Warm up effectively!

Lastly, make sure you warm up. And I mean warm up properly!

This means making sure we have prepare ourselves for movement by working on hip and thoracic mobility. We then need to warm up dynamically, promoting muscle activation and blood flow to the extremities. This should be followed by gradual build-ups, where we slowly build up sprint speed to our working speed of that day.

You should feel primed and ready to go before you start your sprint session. If you feel stiff and sore then you are not ready to sprint!

 

If you want to incorporate sprinting into your program but don't know where to start, or are interested in joining my coaching program,  fill out the form below.

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