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:
PM Lower Body Strength
PM Upper Body Strength
PM Lower Body Strength
PM-Upper Body Strength
2) Sprint twice per week on a dedicated sprinting day. Your schedule could look something like this:
Monday-Upper Body Heavy
Thursday-Lower Body Heavy
Friday-Upper Body Hypertrophy
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
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,