The Lifter's Guide to Sprinting

Get Athletic, Get Ripped, and Get Off the Treadmill

Here's what you need to know...

  1. Sprinting creates a superhero physique. You build powerful hamstrings and glutes, and no other exercise will blast off body fat faster.
  2. Working sprints into your current routine doesn't need to be hard. Sprinting 2-3 times per week will give you the maximum benefits.
  3. Sprinting up hills takes the intensity to damn near unlawful. Hill sprints are actually a safer choice than the standard sprints on the track.

Build a Superhero Physique

If you perform sprints and lift consistently, you'll build a superhero physique. Your hamstrings will be thick and powerful. Your glutes will sit high and tight like a military fade haircut. And no other exercise will decimate body fat faster.

Despite these benefits, few people practice sprints. Instead, you see most of them wasting an hour on lame cardio machines, looking like zombies, going through the motions as they wait for their pre-programmed time limit to expire. All this and they've only burned 200 calories. Wow.

Why spend that much time going nowhere fast when you can hit the track, perform real conditioning, get vastly better results, and feel alive in a fraction of the time?

The Sprinter's Warm-Up

You hear this a lot: "Well, I'd like to sprint but I worry about injury." Or, "I tried it and pulled a hammie!" The key to avoiding injury is preparation. Your warm-up should be specific to what you're about to do. When it comes to sprinting, the drills you do to warm up should mimic the movements of sprinting.

The purpose of these drills is to get your glutes, hamstrings, hips, knees, ankles, and feet prepared to sprint. If you attempt to run sprints while you're cold, you're just inviting a popped hamstring.

Sprinter Warm-Up

  1. Walking drills. These drills are regressions of the main drills. If you're new to sprinting, they'll also help you develop coordination between your arms and legs.
  2. Skipping drills. These are progressions of the walking drills. They're performed with a bit more speed and are more dynamic than the walking drills.
  3. Running drills. During these you'll be moving at a very brisk speed.

The key to these drills is getting comfortable. The speed will come in time, as long you're consistent with the drills. They'll feel weird initially, but you'll get progressively better with practice. There are also a few optional plyometric drills like long jumps and bounding that can be added to your sprint warm-up to help activate your central nervous system.

Perform Lower Intensity Sprints

After your warm-up drills, you'll need to run a few lower intensity sprints at a brisk (but not full) speed to truly be ready to begin your workout. The goal is to get your CNS further activated, in addition to prepping your body to move fast. Start with the 10-15 yard sprint drills, then progress to low-intensity sprints. For the lower intensity sprints, aim to run about 3-5 sprints at about 10-30 yards per sprint. You'll then walk back to where you began before starting the next rep.

Hill Sprints

Hill Sprints

When it comes to training, sprints can be rough. Add a hill and you'll take the intensity to damn near unlawful. Hill sprints are actually a better choice than standard sprints on the track. Why? Many new sprinters get overzealous and try to push too hard initially when trying hill sprints. However, physics won't allow it. You can't reach full speed on an incline. This will prevent you from trying to mimic Carl Lewis and ending up in the ER.

Shoot for distances of 30-100 yards for hill sprints. Once you've run them consistently for a good amount of time, you can step up to the big leagues and try to run 150-300 yard hills.

Many athletes tap out from running hills. However, if you can stay consistent and get through the pain, you'll be rewarded with not only a great body, but also an unbreakable will to win.

Training Split and Sprint Workout

Working sprints into your current routine doesn't need to be hard. Sprinting 2-3 times per week will give you the maximum benefits. You can even make the choice to substitute one your lower body lifting days with sprinting. Here's an example of an effective training split:

  • Sunday: OFF
  • Monday: Lower Body
  • Tuesday: Upper Body
  • Wednesday: Short Sprints
  • Thursday: OFF
  • Friday: Lower Body
  • Saturday: Upper Body followed by Medium or Long Sprints
  • Short sprints are between 30 and 60 meters run at near max (85-100 percent) speed. Perform 4-6 total reps.
  • Medium sprints are between 100-250 meters run at a brisk, but not maximum speed (70-80 percent speed). Perform 6-10 total reps.
  • Long sprints are between 300-500 meters. Run these at a slower speed than the medium sprints but under no circumstance should you be jogging (65-75 percent speed). Perform 3-6 total reps.

Rest 1-3 minutes between reps based on your current fitness level. However, you may need more rest initially. Please take it. There's no shame in that. The only shame would come from avoiding sprints!

There are many different ways to run sprints, but focus on the above guidelines until you get comfortable and get into good sprinting shape. To better understand the steps, check out the video.

3 Keys to Sprint Prep

What About Sprinting Indoors?

Indoor tracks aren't as commonplace as outdoor tracks, but if you can find one you'll be able to sprint all year without weather concerns. Trying to run sprints on a treadmill doesn't count though. Doing the elliptical faster doesn't count either. What counts is performing sprints the way they're supposed to be done, either on the track, a grass field, or a hill.

Get Ugly to Get Good

Many people worry about looking bad when they train, especially when a training modality is new to them. But if all you do is low-effort training that doesn't really challenge you, you're never going to maximize your physique or performance. You have to get ugly to get good.

Eric "Fitman" Brown is a certified sports performance and physique coach. He is also a two-time Men’s Health Next Top Trainer Finalist, a motivational speaker, and the owner of the Fitman Performance Training in Philadelphia. Follow Eric Brown on Twitter