Sprinting For Fat Loss: Part 3

This is the third and final part of our Sprinting For Fat Loss trilogy. You have already learned why sprinting is so effective, as well as how to warm up and prepare your body properly for the demands of a killer sprint workout.

Now it’s time for the good stuff. This post contains the actual sprint workouts that will significantly improve your performance and dramatically transform your physique.

There are several important factors to consider when designing a sprint workout. These factors include: distance of sprint, rest interval in between reps and sets, intensity (% of max speed) and timing of sprint workout.

If I were designing these workouts for a specific athlete striving to improve performance, I would also have to consider the precise needs of his or her sport or event. But that is beyond the scope of this post.

Instead, we will stay on the topic of sprinting for fat loss. Let’s start with the optimal distance for each sprint.

Optimal Sprint Distance

This is a very controversial topic. The few fat loss “experts” who actually believe in sprinting state emphatically that the sprint distance that produces the greatest fat loss results is 400 meters.

They justify this assertion by reminding all of us that a 400 meter sprint produces a maximal amount of lactate, which has been shown to increase growth hormone production.

This is true. A 400 meter sprint will dump a ton of lactate into your blood. I’m just not 100% convinced that this lactate leads to an increase of growth hormone that is significant enough to warrant our attention. Furthermore, there are some serious downsides to this distance, including:

1) High rates of injury- Unless you’re an experienced sprinter, you should not be sprinting 400 meters. I’ve witnessed way too many “weekend warriors” pull a hammy or strain a hip flexor making this ill-advised attempt.

2) Takes a long time to recover from- This can have a negative effect on your resistance training, which is the cornerstone of your program.

3) Produces more cortisol than shorter distances- Sprinting is one of the rare fat burning exercises that can actually build muscle. If you keep them short, that is. The longer the distance, the more catabolic sprinting can become.

4) Has a more technical requirement- 400 meters requires you to transition from acceleration to max velocity and hold that speed for quite some time. This result of this for a less experienced/coached individual is often a breakdown in technique.

Additionally, sprinting this distance can cause a great deal of fatigue. This increases the risk of a technical breakdown. This breakdown in form results in bad habits and high risks of injuries (see point number 1).

Based on what you just read, I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that I am a believer in shorter sprints. For my money, the optimal sprint distance is from 30-120 meters. That being said, experienced and well conditioned individuals can go a bit longer. Now we will move onto the next factor.

Optimal Rest Interval

How long you should rest in between sprints can have a huge impact on your training results. If you are training for pure speed, you generally want full recovery in between sprints. For the distances discussed above you could easily rest 3-6 minutes in between sprints.

However, a rest interval this long is not necessary for fat loss. Instead, we will decrease your rest intervals to 60-180 seconds, depending on the length of the sprint.

Intensity (% of max speed)

Whenever I prescribe sprint training, most people automatically assume a sprint is always performed at max speed. Unfortunately, this only leads to overtraining. Unless you are specifically testing your max speed, you should not exceed 95% of your max when sprinting. I know that this may seem tough to gauge (which it is) but the point is to leave just a little in the tank.

Timing Of Sprint Workouts

Unlike most traditional cardio workouts (i.e. coasting on an elliptical machine), sprinting has demands on your body that need to be considered when deciding where to place the sprint workout in your training schedule.

After experimenting with every possible option for a number of years, I have found that there are two options that produce the best results. I’ll also include a third option that has its drawbacks, but works well for someone whose time is limited yet really wants to emphasize sprinting. Here they are:

1) Perform your sprints in the morning on lower body strength training days. These workouts should be spaced 4-6 hours apart. This allows the perfect amount of recovery so your strength work does not suffer from residual fatigue. This works great for those of you who can train twice daily. Here is one option for this type of schedule:

Monday
AM Sprint
PM Lower Body Strength

Tuesday
AM Off
PM Upper Body Strength

Wednesday-Off

Thursday
AM Sprint
PM Lower Body Strength

Friday
AM Off
PM-Upper Body Strength

Saturday-Off

Sunday-Off

2) Sprint twice per week on a dedicated sprinting day. Your schedule could look something like this:

Monday-Upper Body Heavy

Tuesday-Sprint

Wednesday-Off

Thursday-
Lower Body Heavy

Friday-Upper Body Hypertrophy

Saturday-Sprint

Sunday-Off

3) Sprint directly prior to strength training. This only works for those who really want to emphasize sprinting. Unfortunately, this sequence does take away from your strength training.

You can expect to be approximately 15% weaker during your strength work due to the fatigue caused by the sprinting.

Now, let’s look at two actual sprint workouts:

Workout A (Close to a pure speed workout)

3 x 30 meters/rest 2 min/95% intensity
3 x 60 meters/rest 2 min/95% intensity
1 x 100 meters/95% intensity
1 x 400 meters brisk walk

Workout B (Closer to a conditioning/speed endurance workout)

1 x 120 meters/rest 2 min/95% intensity
4 x 40 meters/rest 1 min/90% intensity
1 x 120 meters/rest 2 min/95% intensity
Rest 5 minutes
Repeat

And that completes our sprint trilogy! Sprinting can be an excellent addition to an already sound exercise program. It can yield fantastic results, but only when executed properly.

That means you need to utilize the proper distance, intensity, length, technique, and all the other pertinent variables. So carefully study the details in this series of posts, and then add sprinting to your routine.

I can guarantee that you’ll be in a for a pleasant surprise when you see what it does for your physique and your general conditioning. Good luck!

Dedicated to your success,
John Alvino

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Comments

  1. DiscoStew says:

    Thanks John, I’ll stick with low reps whilst I’m sprinting for fat loss :-)

    DS

  2. DiscoStew says:

    John, in Workout B, the sprint session is repeated twice (5mins rest between). Would it be ok to do the same with Workout A?

    DS

  3. John Alvino says:

    @DiscoStew: Good idea, let me know how you make out

  4. John Alvino says:

    @DiscoStew: Hey DS, the total volume would get too high if you were to do that. After a pure speed session, you should not feel beaten up. Leave the workout feeling fresh. Then focus on improving

    • DiscoStew says:

      John, do you think one can still sprint (eg once a week) when trying to gain muscle? Once I’ve lost those last 5lbs, following your “sprinting for fat loss” program, I’d like to continue sprinting. I’ve seen articles about sprinters training legs just once a week and traditional bodybuilding trains legs once a week also.

      DS

      • DiscoStew says:

        As a once-a-week sprint session, I was thinking of something like this:

        1x100m
        4x50m
        1x100m
        Rest

        Repeat 2-3 times

        What do you think?

        DS

  5. hi john. i usually do 3 sprints a week that constitutes of sprint 8 where 5 mins of warm up followed by 30 seconds of all out sprint then 1 minute 30 seconds rest then repeat until i’ve done 8 rounds. If i do this two times a week, will i still get the same results? this is what i did this week monday off tuesday off wednesday sprint 8 thursday 1h moderate cardio friday: sprint 8 saturday : 1h moderate cardio sunday: sprint 8. although on sunday i feel so tired that i cant be bothered to sprint

  6. John, when following your “sprinting for fat loss” program, when should I do my squats and Deadlifts (assuming I squat and Deadlift on separate days)? Or should I drop Deadlifts whilst on your program?

    P.S. I do squats and RDLs in my lower-body workout.

    DS

  7. Hi John,
    I played several different sports growing up that involved longer distance running with bouts of sprinting. When I finished playing these sports, I took up distance running for fun and until about 8 weeks ago, I was running 45 miles a week with a couple of days of intervals per week thrown. Eight weeks ago however, I decided to join a track team to see what I could do sprinting wise. I have an unusual amount of natural strength and power for a woman (probably from playing and training sports at a really high level from the age of three on for my whole life) and I think just from genetics. So even though I spent about five years running a lot of distance, I still have substantial muscle, I am build like a sprinter, and no one would mistake me for a distance runner!

    My training regime looks like this. Monday and Thursday: track – half hour dynamic warm up (light jog, skips, As, Bs, etc) ; 10-15 minutes stairs 3 flights (run up several at a time, jumps for speed, jumps for height and distance, one footed hops); some accelerations; then we do a variety of things like 2×20, 1×40, block starts +20m, sled drag, sticks (w/40m sprint), drills of As and Bs and hurdles over hurdles; then our actual workout which in December was … short days (Mondays) 6x80m w/3 mins rest between; long days (Thursdays) 2x(3x400m) w/4 min rest between; then we finish with 20 minutes of circuit work doing a variety of leg, core and arm drills with various types of push ups, core stuff, squats, and medicine ball throws. Tuesdays and Fridays: 15 minute warm up jog at about 8:00 min/mile pace; weights – all exercises 3 sets and we just shifted from doing lighter weights and 12 reps to doing heavier weights with 5-6 reps since our indoor season is 3 weeks away: step ups, squats, dead lifts, bench press, pull ups, back extensions, core work on yoga ball. My workouts on Mondays and Thursdays including warm-ups are about 2.5 hours (obviously this is not all at speed but involves rest between sets and reps). My workouts on Tuesdays and Fridays are 1 hour 10 minutes. Saturdays I had been running 20-30 mins but my coach wanted me to stop because apparently endurance running will compromise my sprinting speed. So I usually end up having Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays off.

    This may sound like a fair amount, but when I was running distance, I was running 12k M-F (with a tempo run Mondays and intervals Thursdays) and then 16-20k on Saturday. I was used to working my body fairly hard 6 days a week; now I’m down to four with three days off. In January, I am supposed to look at starting to do some sort of workout on Saturdays (in the meantime, I’m sort of doing some mix of weights or hill sprints or light 20 min run or sometimes off on Saturdays). I knew, given my speed and the distance/time run, approximately how many calories I would need to eat in order to maintain or to lose weight while running distance. Now I have no idea. It feels like I can’t be burning anything because we stand around so much with sprint training and because I’ve got three days where I basically do no workout at all. Now I have not gained body fat. I think I might have put weight on – but that is in muscle and I’m fine with that. I would however, like to drop about 7 pounds of body fat, but I have no idea how to calculate how many calories I should be eating in a day given this training regime that I have. Any advice or thoughts you have would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

  8. DiscoStew says:

    John, what sort of leg workout would you recommend whilst on your sprinting for fat loss program?
    And should one avoid high-reps sets on leg day?

    eg
    Squat 5×5
    RDL or Deadlift 5×5
    Calf Raise 3×8
    Abs

    DS

  9. What are your thoughts on sprinting directly after a leg workout twice a week?

    • John Alvino says:

      @Jon: Hey Jon, this depends on your goals. If you’re an athlete, I wouldn’t recommend doing your sprint training after your strength work. Sprinting technically well is important for speed athletes and working on form when fatigued is difficult. Also, if your strength work involves lactate training, your ability to recruit high threshold motor units will be compromised. This will negatively effect the speed/power aspect of sprint training.

      On the other hand, if you’re just training to be in awesome shape, it’s fine. Go for it.

  10. Also, would lower body strength training in the am followed by sprinting in the pm be ok too?

  11. Hey John, sorry one last question. You’ve been so helpful. I wanted to follow your proposed schedule of sprinting in the am and training legs in the pm on Monday and Thursday? What are some tips to ensure I avoid over training? For example, should I only do a few leg exercises? When would be a good time for my Olympic lifts? Also, if there are days I cannot workout twice, when would be a good time to throw in sprints later in the week? Lastly, when would be the optimal day to throw in some quick ab work? Thanks for the feedback John, much appreciated!

  12. Is it an absolute no-no to sprint immediately after a workout?

    Thank you,

    Chris

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