T Nation

In Praise of Sprinting


With the Commonwealth Games currently in full swing down here in Melbourne I thought I might pay some attention to the aesthetic benefits of sprinting.

Speaking as someone who has sprinted on and off for a couple of years, I can't help but notice how much better my body looks when I'm running. Now I'm not just talking lowered body fat, but muscular development and posture. My arms, shoulders and back in particular always seem to blow up after a couple of sprint sessions.

The only draw back I tend to find is in balancing my recovery between weights and sprints. Anyway, I'd love to hear how others factor in sprint training into the overall schedule and the various results garnered.

Cheers J.


How can this be? I bet what you're actually seeing is the muscles appearing to be bigger as you get leaner. Leanness brings out definition and can give the appearance of greater size.


Take a look at olympic sprinters. They're huge compared to long distance runners. Sprinting is awesome for legs and glutes, and it stimulates GH production which is why sprinters often look very lean but anabolic.

I'm going to start incorporating it into my cutting program. I wanted to use it more while bulking but had to be careful due to joint issues, and also as you mentioned, recovery.


You'd be amazed at how much armswing is involved in high-level sprinting. Of course, a good deal of it IS probably due to leanness.


I've noticed that as the years go on and I get more serious about lifting I can handle very few sprints in my routine.
I love them to death but they can wipe me out.
Nowadays I'll hit them up once or twice a week for a few rounds. A 60/30 split X 5 or 6 times, rarely more than 10 mintues total. I'll also only do it before a day off (preferably two).
I'm interested myself in finding ways to factor more sprinting in and not mess with my recovery. I hate cardio and sprinting gets me lean with very little time investment. I have the sinking suspicion I may just have to suck it up and just start doing it more often.


I'm starting today myself. I actually came on looking for CT's Running Man article and found this thread first. In the past my secret to successfully incorporating sprints was to ease in slowly and build up over time. I like 200m sprints the best (400 leaves me dead for days, but less than 200 I feel I'm not working hard enough), and I'll start off after a lay-off from sprints doing four or five with 2:00 or so rest periods. I'll gradually widdle down the rest periods over the course of a few weeks without adding to the workload. Once I get to 60 seconds rest periods, I'll add another sprint to the total, and bump the rest periods back up to around 90 seconds, and work back down to 60. This way, I improve something every week, but actual work load only increases every fifth week or so depending on how fast you decrease your rests. This gives my body ample time to adjust to the sprinting and recover.

By the way, I'm 6'2", 255, and probably about 15-18% BF right now. I tweight train 3 days/week using a full-body approach with a O-lft variation, power lift variation, 3 supplemental lifts and grip work on each training day. On off days I do cardio (2 days sprinting, one day low impact weighted walks) with abs and usually something that needs some extra attention like rotator cuff.


In my case we're talking about dropping bf% from around 10 to 7-8, so I don't think leaning out is so much of an issue when noticing defintion in arms -it's already evident. Once you actually start working on technique you would be suprised how much your upper body is involved. Sprinting is in many ways different from just running ( don't even get me started on jogging), it is a whole body exercise.

I suppose the separate issue here is whether sprinting is being undertaken specifically for fat loss, or, for conditioning and muscular development. I seem to recall CT mentioning his hockey players gaining muscle and losing fat sdimultaneously whilst sprinting on higher cals.



I also have bitter sweet memories of CT's 400m recommendations. Sure they get you lean as hell, however, you really need to be on higher carbs and and lower reps in the weight room to off set that 'zombie-like' feeling.

I like running 200s and your notion of using a scheme of progression, at present I'm concentrating on 100s with a 1:2 work rest ratio x 10-15. From past experiences - and I hope someone might offer some insight on this - there appears to be a point where I hit a peak both in speed on the track and appearance, then really start to struggle with my recovery. At this stage I think there might be some sense in having a week of lower intensity sessions, say sprinting about 75-80% of max effort and just focus on technique and recovery.

Cheers J


I love sprinting, for some reason I think to me it's even more satsifying then lifting wieghts (I know, I know: sinner!! Burn the witch!! etc etc) I usually sprint twice a week and lift twice a week so recovery is not that big of a deal for me. I like to mix it up, sometimes i'll work on short distance sprints (around 50-100 meters) other days i'll do longer distance (400-800 meters, though when I get out to 800 its more of a fast run then a sprint) and sometime I do hill sprints, which are great for hams and calves.


Amen brother!

Sprinting is cardio that builds muscle and burns fat. I always scoff at the people who suggest fast walking for fat burning, cmon walking is WEAK.

Other interval sprinting exercises I use besides just running 400m are:

Stadium stairs
Running up a steep hill


I've got to second burpees as a sprint alternative. I remember last winter it raining for like days on end and trying to come up with a suitable sprint replacement I could do indoors. After looking up some old gpp-type articles I came across the idea of high rep burpees and was considerably humbled. Additionally, the explosive component of the exercise seems to positively influence sprint times.


I love sprinting but it destroys my hamstrings - I have to be careful when I DL for fear of pulling them. My last pull came when I DL'd two days after doing 5X400m on the track.

I normally do my sprinting on the rowing ergometer. 4x1K w/5' rest a fast 1K should take about 3 to 3:20 minutes is just as mentally/physically draining on the legs and glutes as running 400m sprints without the impact. Plus you have the added benefit of the upper body work as well Leans you out big time as well.


i'd have a hard time giving up my weekly sprints session. it only takes 20-30 min, and it leaves me with a nice endorphin release / huge appetite afterwards.

though i usually give them time off in between sessions, i've found that i can train legs the day after sprinting. never tried the reverse.


I have to disagree on the burpee/sprint correlation. I did the same thing when winter hit really hard around here for a week or two. Unfortunately I know I lost around a couple of seconds of my 400 when I started running again. Maybe just me though.