Sprint Training: Why Sprinting is Absolutely Critical
Here’s your scenario for the day.
Somebody puts a gun to your head and forces you to choose to stick with only one form of training for the rest of your life.
(Kind of excessive I know)
But what would you choose?
After you stopped shitting your pants and started thinking rationally, would you be able to make a decision? You can tell me in the comments below.
But I know that my choice would be simple.
I’d stick to sprint training.
No kettlebells. No skipping ropes. No weights. No bodyweight stuff. No resistance bands. None of that.
I’d just sprint.
I’m often baffled at the fact that nobody sprints. And I mean NOBODY!
It’s like you’re telling me you own a stick shift and you never put it into 5th gear. C’mon man!!
There seems to be something about sprinting that intimidates people. Scares them even. I guess going balls out and running as fast as you can for a few seconds really turns people off. Nobody is willing to step outside of their comfort zone these days.
But here’s a fact: sprinting is crucial.
It’s a must. Absolutely CRITICAL to building a better body.
Your body EXPECTS you to sprint
Think about this for a second.
A few pages back in the book of human existence, mankind was required to hunt down its food. There were no grocery stores or restaurants for you to stop and grab a quick bite. If you wanted to eat, you had to hunt that shit down.
Like a cheetah, you would stock your prey. Hide in the bushes. Wait for that perfect moment.
Then, when the time was right, you exploded out of the bushes and ran as hard as you could to catch that animal. Everything was riding on this run. If you didn’t succeed, you didn’t eat. Your family didn’t eat.
You were running balls out for your life.
The sprints were sporadic. Life was about chasing or being chased. Sprinting – or running as fast as you possibly could – was simply a part of life. Engraved in your genetic mix.
A genetic mix that hasn’t changed much to this day.
But the world we live in today is a little different. There is no longer a need to hunt for your food. A world that revolves around convenience has changed all of that.
But your body doesn’t know that. It hasn’t adapted just yet. It’s still expecting you to explode out of the blocks as if there was a mountain lion on your ass.
It’s expecting you to sprint every now and then.
Benefits of Sprinting
Sprinting does more for your body than one post could possibly explain. The list of benefits spans so far beyond the realm of imagination that it hurts just thinking about it. Here are some of the most important benefits of sprint training:
- Sprinting works muscle groups in an explosive, dynamic, and balanced manner. Everything is working in unison. Your hamstrings and quadriceps are working together to propel you forward, not in isolation. Every component of your glutes is firing. Your core is activated from every angle as it works to generate and provide power to the extremities all in an act to keep you moving at the fastest manner possible;
- Sprinting is a high-impact activity that allows for improved bone strength and density. The high-impact nature of the exercise also works to strengthen the connective tissues that ultimately support all activity;
- Sprinting increases your body’s ability to take in and store oxygen;
- Sprinting is a great way to build an amazing physique. Take a look at a sprinter’s physique and you’ll understand where I’m coming from. Ladies, please note that sprinting helps build amazing glutes (i.e. a great butt) – read here
- Sprinting is an extremely efficient form of training. We’re talking absolute BEST bang for your buck here. Although I tend to have longer sprinting sessions (personal preference), you can do some great things in as little as 20 minutes;
- Sprinting improves your focus and mental concentration. Unlike your typical gym workout where your mind is God-knows-where while you’re exercising, sprinting requires absolute concentration. In those 5-10 seconds of absolute balls-to-the-wall running, you won’t be thinking about how you have to pick up a carton of eggs on the way home. You won’t be thinking about work or that guy that cut you off. Sprinting demands your complete attention;
- Although it’s a full-body, all-consuming, highly intense activity, that feeling does not last. Unless it’s your first time sprinting (where you’re going to use muscles you never thought you owned), you won’t wake up with an aching body. You won’t feel drained the next day. Instead, you’re going to wake up feeling fully energized;
- Sprinting is like wonderland for your hormones. Your body will be gushing with all sorts of hormones. Your insulin sensitivity is improved. There is also a huge boost in your growth hormone levels – your natural fat burning hormone. Sprinting improves the fat burning potential of muscle and improves the efficiency of your muscle during exercise. This means you will help your body become more fat-adaptive as it will more-so rely on fat for energy than glycogen [ref];
- You will feel absolutely amazing after your sprint session. A euphoric, high-on-life kind of feeling where you’ll want to just keep going. It’s an incredible feeling;
- Your heart rate and EPOC levels are going to go through the roof, turning your body into a fat-burning furnace for hours after your short sprint session. Remember – best bang for your buck.
Like I said, the list of benefits are endless.
How to Start Sprinting
The beautiful thing about sprinting is that it’s relatively easy to do and it requires nothing but a large open space to run (fast) on.
However, there are a few things I need to point out.
If you’ve never sprinted before, you need to PREPARE your body for what it’s about to endure. More than likely, your body has muscular imbalances that could result in injuries if you suddenly started running like a mad man (this is more pronounced with age).
The high-intensity nature of this exercise makes it efficient, but also extremely strenuous.
You need to prepare your body with a good dynamic stretching routine. And I mean a REALLY good dynamic stretching routine.
This is what I do before I start my sprinting session:
- 500-800 light jog
- 40 yards of high knees
- 40 yards of short stutter steps
- 40 yards of butt kicks
- 40 yards of body twists
- 20 yards of bodyweight lunges forward
- 20 yards of bodyweight lunges backwards
- A short series of mobility exercises (shoulder, elbow, hip, neck, and ankle rotations)
This usually lasts about 10-15 minutes, but it’s absolutely critical to incorporate a dynamic stretching routine before you start sprinting.
Very important note: as much as sprinting involves balls-to-the-wall intensity, it’s important to understand that to get the maximum benefits of sprinting you need to run at the highest speed possible that you can endure safely. This means you need to listen to your body. It will tell if you if it can handle the speed you’re trying to take it at.
Once you’ve finished up with the dynamic warm up, you can move on to the actual sprinting stage.
There are a few things you need to keep in mind.
Basic Sprinting Technique
I’m not a sprinting coach. And I’m not going to pretend to be one.
But I know the basics. I’ve spoken to some track and field coaches and strength and conditioning coaches on football teams about the technique of sprinting, just so I make sure I’m doing things right.
Becoming a good sprinter takes a lot of time and practice. But your aim isn’t to go up against Usain Bolt in the next Olympics. Your goal is to master the basics of sprinting so you can safely and effectively get the most out of your sprinting sessions.
Here are some of the most basic guidelines to keep in mind when you’re sprinting:
- Start low at the starting line
- Take a quick breath and hold it throughout the sprint (this is for short sprints; for longer ones, you’ll probably end up taking one or two breaths throughout)
- For the first few strides your head should be down, knees should come up high and your body should be angled forward almost 30-45 degrees to the ground
- There should be a forward lean of the whole body with a straight line through the head, spine and extended rear leg
- Sprint on the balls of your feet
- Keep your arms close to your body and elbows at 90 degree at all times
- Bring your knees high and step long on every stride
- Use your feet to dig into the ground and pull (as if you’re trying to pull the ground towards you)
- Keep your shoulders retracted, chin down and the muscles in your upper body relaxed as much as you can (there shouldn’t be any tension)
- As you get through the first few strides, stand taller, look straight ahead and lengthen your strides
If you’re interested in a more in-depth description of proper sprinting technique, check out this article.
There are a lot of things to keep in mind here and it’s hard to remember all of them when you’re actually in the act of sprinting. It takes time and practice to master.
Note: I like to watch videos of sprinters like Usain Bolt and Michael Johnson. You can pick up a lot of interesting technique tips just by watching what they do. Youtube is a great resource.
Once you have the technique down, it’s time to get into your sprinting workouts.
Simple Sprinting Workouts
I posted a few of my sprinting workouts in an old sprint training post.
But I wanted to give you two more that you can add to your routine.
These are some of the sprinting workouts I use today:
Workout 1 – Yard Dashes
This workout is fairly straight forward. Start off with short distance dashes and slowly progress to longer ones. Sprint in one direction and then walk back to the starting line (the walk is your rest).
- Sprint 10 yards X 5
- Sprint 20 yards X 5
- Sprint 30 yards X 5
- Sprint 40 yards X 5
Workout 2 – Competition Workout
This sprinting workout is designed to be done with a partner, but it’s not completely necessary (I do it alone often).
This workout is all about reaction and explosion. You’re going to be starting from different ‘starting positions’.
If you’re working with a partner: both of you get into starting position. One person initiates, the other reacts (switch up every sprint). So let’s say your starting position is from a sitting position. One person is going to explode out of a sprinting position and sprint. The other person has to watch and react accordingly. This can get super competitive.
If you’re working along: get into starting position. If available, use some sort of timer or beeping device to trigger your reaction. If you don’t have anything, then simply work on the exploding part.
Here are some starting positions you can use: sitting down facing forward, sitting down facing backward, laying down on your stomach, laying down on your back. Feel free to get creative.
Note: exploding from the blocks engages the core like crazy.
There you have it guys.
I hope this post has inspired you to get out there and pretend like you got a mountain lion chasing your ass.
Feel free to share any of your sprinting workouts in the comments below.