Looking to take your running game to the next level? If so, sprint training is your ticket to burning calories, increasing speed, and building muscular endurance.
However, for those who have never tried it before, starting a sprint training program can be intimidating. It’s like signing up for an advanced physics course when you haven’t brushed up on the basics in a while. Except, unlike physics, sprinting can leave you with sore muscles and potential injuries if you’re not careful.
But fear not because I’m here to guide you through the process!
In this post, I’ll be sharing the ultimate beginner’s guide to sprint training.
I’ll cover everything you need to know to get started, from proper warm-ups to the best sprinting workouts.
So, let’s lace up our shoes and get ready to sprint toward a stronger, fitter you!
What is Sprint Training
Sprint training consists of high-intensity, short bursts of running performed at top speed. This workout method helps build muscle, burn fat, and increase metabolism.
Sprinting is an intense workout method that involves short bursts of high-speed running.
There are two basic ways to perform sprint workouts: on flat surfaces or incline surfaces. If you’re just starting out, flat sprints are the way to go. All you need is a safe, open area like a track, jogging path, or sports field. And trust me, and you’ll want to be paying attention to your surroundings – the last thing you want is to be dodging pedestrians or tripping over debris mid-sprint.
Once you’ve built up your base with flat sprints, it’s time to take things up a notch with incline sprints. These are more challenging but also more rewarding. To do incline sprints, find a hill with a steep grade and at least 40 to 60 yards of running space.
For example, you might choose:
- A hilly road
- A mountain path
- A city park
- A treadmill
Just imagine the satisfaction of conquering a steep hill or powering up a mountain path at top speed.
But don’t rush into hill training if you’re new to sprinting – take your time and build up your strength gradually. Pay attention to your surroundings, especially traffic, foliage, debris, and lighting.
The Benefits of Sprint Training
Sprint training is not just a workout, it’s a way of life. And the benefits are worth the effort. Science has proven that sprint training is a highly efficient way to provide plenty of benefits.
Of course, don’t take my word for it.
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research shows that sprinting drills can help you build endurance and improve your running performance.
This type of training can improve your VO2 max more than any other form of exercise, according to a meta-analysis published in Sports Medicine.
And the best part? HIIT running burns more calories in half the time of a steady-state workout, as reported by Biology of Sports..
I can go on and on about the importance of HIIT for runners, but that’s another topic for another day.
Here’s more about the history as well as the benefits of a sprint training program:
- The Training and Development of Elite Sprint Performance
- History of Sprint Races
- Sprint (running) – Wikipedia
- A History of Sprinting At The Olympics
- Effects of Resisted Sprint Training
- Effect of Different Sprint Training Methods on Sprint Performance Over Various Distances
- Research into the Health Benefits of Sprint Interval Training Should Focus on Protocols with Fewer and Shorter Sprints
Risks of Sprint Workouts
While sprint training has a lot to offer when it comes to improving speed and power, it also has its downsides.
For starters, sprinting puts a lot of stress on your joints, particularly the knees and ankles, so if you’re dealing with any pre-existing joint conditions or injuries, you should proceed with caution.
Sprinting can be challenging for beginners who are overweight or obese, as the extra weight places additional stress on the joints and may increase the risk of injury.
In other words, sprinting is like driving a high-performance sports car. Just like driving a high-performance sports car requires skill and caution, sprinting requires proper form and caution to avoid injury.
If you’re not sure whether sprinting is for you, I’d recommend that you consult with a qualified healthcare professional before beginning any new exercise program.
Running Shoes for Sprinting
Before you lace up your shoes and go for a sprint, you need to choose the right ones. Pro sprinters have different shoes for different tracks and events, and you should too.
Again, don’t take my word for it. A study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences found that track spikes offer better performance than regular running shoes during sprinting. Track spikes are designed to keep you on your toes and offer maximum traction for power and thrust. They also fit snugly, feeling more like an extension of your foot rather than shoes.
Look for a pair of lightweight shoes with a relatively stiff design and an outsole that can grip the track surface for maximum propulsion. Track spikes are a great option, as they offer maximum traction for power and thrust, fitting snugly and feeling like an extension of your foot.
Additionally, consider your running mechanics, training experience, and the field you train in to determine the best type of shoes for your needs.
Additional resource – Bolt top running speed
Recovery and Rest
Recovery is an integral part of any training plan, as it allows your body to rest and repair the muscle tissue that is broken down during exercise. Proper recovery between sprint sessions can help prevent injury, reduce muscle soreness, and improve overall performance.
To promote recovery, do the following:
- Consume a balanced diet that includes adequate protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.
- Hydrate well by drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your workouts.
- Try active recovery techniques, such as foam rolling or light stretching, to improve blood flow and reduce muscle tension.
- Sleep better. Aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night, as sleep is essential for muscle recovery and growth.
Think of your warm-up as a key that unlocks your body’s potential. Without it, your muscles and joints are stiff and unprepared for intense exercise, leaving you vulnerable to injury and poor performance.
Here’s how to do it Start with a 10-minute easy jog to get your blood flowing, and your heart rate up. Then, incorporate some speed drills to fine-tune your mechanics and prevent injury.
Kick your heels up with some butt kicks, drive your knees high with high knees, and practice quick footwork with ankling. Don’t forget to work your calves with heel raises and improve your coordination with A and B skips. And if you’re feeling bold, add some jumping lunges and backward runs to spice things up.
Now that you’re warmed up and feeling limber, it’s time to dive into the sprinting workout. Start with short strideouts, pushing yourself to run at 80 percent of your maximum effort for 40, 50, and 60 meters with 90 seconds of recovery between each burst. Focus on proper form and maximum speed to get the most out of your training.
Once you’ve completed your sets, finish strong with a closing routine. Sprint as fast as you can for 20 seconds, then jog slowly for a minute to allow your heart rate to recover. Repeat this cycle eight to ten times to really push yourself and see results.
Here is what you need to do next…
This is the first section of the sprinting workout and involves performing short sprints at 80 percent max effort with 90 seconds of recovery between each burst.
Focus on maximum speed and proper form.
Here is how to proceed:
- Sprint for 40 meters as fast as possible, then rest for 90 seconds.
- Sprint for 50 meters as fast as possible, then rest for 90 seconds.
- Sprint for 60 meters as fast as possible to complete one set.
- Rest for two to three minutes, then perform four to five sets, pushing your body as hard as you can.
Next, perform this closing routine.
Sprint as fast as you can for 20 seconds.
Jog slowly for one minute, allowing your heart rate to slow down and recover fully before jumping into the next sprint.
Repeat the cycle 8 to 10 times.
Proper Sprint Technique For Beginners
Sprinting is like a dance – a carefully choreographed routine of movements that require technique, grace, and proper form. Without proper form, you might find yourself stumbling on the dance floor or, worse yet, nursing an injury.
Let’s start with your shoulders. Imagine your shoulders as a set of wings ready to take flight. Keep them relaxed, and don’t shrug them up. Instead, use them to power your movement, like a graceful bird soaring through the sky.
Now, let’s move on to your arms. Think of them as pistons, moving rapidly and powerfully. Keep them bent at a 90-degree angle and pump them backward in an open arc behind your body. This motion creates momentum, so avoid crossing them over your body.
Next, your elbows should stay flexed at a 90-degree angle and move in a straight line. Pump them back vigorously in coordination with your legs, driving them back to create forward momentum.
As for your feet, focus on pushing off from the toe as if you’re launching yourself like a rocket. Take short, fast strides instead of long ones, as this will help you generate more power and avoid overstriding.
The key to maintaining proper form is to relax your body. Don’t hold onto tension or waste energy. Instead, keep it relaxed like a lazy Sunday afternoon.
For more, watch the following Youtube Tutorial:
How to Cool Down After Sprinting Workouts
Once you’re done sprinting, don’t forget to cool down properly. Start with a slow jog for 5 to 10 minutes, letting your breathing and heart rate gradually return to normal. Then, take a leisurely walk to let your muscles relax.
To finish off, perform a series of static stretches, holding each pose for 45 to 60 seconds. This will help prevent post-workout soreness and keep you feeling limber and ready for your next sprinting session.
Great post-run stretches include:
The Hamstring Stretch
The Calves Stretch
The Hip Stretch
The Beginner Sprint Workout
If you’re new to sprinting, I’d urge you to kick it off with this beginner routine. This session is perfect for anyone looking to get started with sprinting and improve their overall fitness.
To perform this workout, start with a 15-minute warm-up that includes dynamic stretches and light jogging.
Then, perform three 400m sprints at 90% of your maximum speed, resting for 30 seconds between each sprint.
Next, perform three 200m sprints at 90% of your maximum speed, resting for 15 seconds between each sprint.
Finally, perform five 100m sprints at maximum speed, resting for 15 seconds between each sprint. Finish the workout with a 10-minute slow jog cool down.
Explosive Hill Sprint Workout
If you’re looking for a more challenging workout, try incorporating hill sprints into your routine. Uphill running helps you build explosive strength and power that can improve your speed and running economy. Incline training targets your anaerobic energy system, which is the primary source of quick sprinting energy, helping you improve your power and explosiveness. Additionally, running uphill also targets your quadriceps and can improve strength in your tendons and joints.
Here’s a sample hill sprint workout for beginners:
- Warm up for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Perform your first hill sprints at 80 percent of max power for 30 seconds.
- Jog down for recovery. Take more recovery time if you need to.
- Repeat the cycle for 15 to 20 minutes. Give it 100 percent each time
- Finish your sessions with a 10-minute slow jog on flat ground.
As you get fitter, make this workout more challenging by increasing the number of reps and/or the incline. Keep in mind that hill sprints are pure explosiveness, so they should be quite challenging.
Note – You don’t have to perform these sprints on the steepest hill around—it can also be a gradual incline.
How to Progress Sprint Workouts:
To take your sprint training to the next level, it’s key to gradually increase the intensity, volume, and frequency of your sprints over time. This can be achieved through a process called periodization, which involves dividing your training into distinct phases of increasing intensity and volume.
During the initial phase, focus on building your sprinting power by improving your sprint technique and boosting endurance with shorter sprints and longer rest intervals.
As the months go by, make your workouts more challenging by limiting rest periods and increasing the distance or duration of the sprints. Finally, during the peak phase, perform high-intensity sprints with shorter rest intervals to improve your speed and power.
Cross-Training – Backing up Your Sprint Training Efforts
Do you want to become an explosive sprinter? Then you need to train like one! Sprinting is an anaerobic sport that requires a combination of power and strength to excel. While running intervals and sprints is essential, it’s not enough on its own. To become a top sprinter, you need to strengthen your key sprinting muscles, which is where cross-training comes in.
Let’s start with strength training. I can’t stress enough how important it is for runners. Two to three strength sessions a week will do wonders for your sprinting ability.
When performing your strength exercises, aim for three sets of 8 to 12 reps, pushing yourself to the limit and reaching muscle failure in the last few reps. So what exercises should you be doing? Try barbell squats, front squats, sumo deadlifts, chin-ups, dips, hanging knee raises, jump squats, jump rope, and sled drags.
Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart with a barbell positioned under your shins.
Next, while keeping your back straight and engaging your core, squat down and grab the barbell with an overhand grip a bit wider than shoulder-width.
Please make sure to keep your chest out, shoulder back, and head up the entire time.
Next, while keeping the bar as close to your body as possible, push your knees back, lift your chest up, then start to slowly raise the barbell from the ground to roughly above your knees.
As soon as the bar passes your knees, explosively stand up by first rising up on tiptoes, pulling the bar up higher (leading with the elbows).
Then, once the weight reaches your sternum level, assume a mini-squat position, drop your body under the barbell, flipping your wrists over so that your palms are facing the ceiling, and stand up tall with your upper arms parallel to the ground.
Last up, to lower the bar down, slightly bend your knees then lower the bar to thigh position.
Then slowly lower it to the floor, while keeping the core engaged and back straight the entire time.
While balancing on your right foot while extending the left straight in front as high as possible with arms extended out, squat down by bending at the knee and sitting your hips back.
Imagine you are going to sit in a chair behind you.
Once you reach at least a 100-degree angle in your right knee, extend your leg back to standing position, repeat for 8 to 10 reps, then switch sides.
If the single-leg squat is too challenging, then perform the chair assist or the TRX version.
For more challenge, rest a dumbbell on your chest.
Please make sure to keep your back flat and the right knee pointing in the same direction as the right foot.
Start by holding a loaded barbell at the hip level with a pronated grip—with the palms facing down.
keep your knees slightly bent, hips high, and shoulder on top of the barbell.
Next, lower the barbell by moving your butt back and bending your hips as far as you can while keeping the core engaged and back straight throughout the motion.
make sure to keep the barbell as close to your body as possible, with shoulders back and head looking forward the entire time.
Once you reach the bottom of your range of motion (you will be feeling a good stretch in the hamstrings if you are doing it right), slowly return to the starting position then stand up tall, and repeat for the desired reps.
I love to do this in front of the mirror because I can keep my lower back under control.
Keep it straight, don’t let it curved too much.
Begin by assuming an athletic position, then lunge forward with your right leg.
Next, while keeping the torso straight and core engaged, jump up as high as possible, and switch your leg position in midair, landing with your left leg in a forward lunge.
Then, powerfully jump up and switch legs to land back in a lunge with the left leg out in front.
Keep jump lunging, alternating sides for 45-second to one minute.
Start by laying on your back on a flat bench.
grab the bar with an overhand grip, lift it off the rack, and hold it above your chest with arms fully extended and core engaged.
Next, slowly lower the bar straight down in a controlled and slow motion until it touches the middle of your chest.
Hold for a moment, then press the barbell in a straight line back up to the starting position.
Please focus on using your chest muscles to move the bar throughout the exercise.
Don’t let your shoulder and elbow work alone.
No cheating allowed.
Perform 10 to 12 reps to complete one set.
Stand tall feet hip-width apart, at a comfortable distance from a 60cm high box or an elevated step (or sturdy object).
Next, assume a mini squat, then while engaging your core, extending your hips and swinging your arms, leap onto the box, landing softly on both feet.
Hold for a moment, then jump backward down to starting position and spring quickly back up.
Sprint Training Explained – The Conclusion
Ready to take your running routine to the next level? Sprint workouts are the secret weapon you need!
These quick and effective fitness boosters are perfect for runners who want to improve their athletic power and performance, but don’t have the luxury of long runs.
So, lace up your sneakers and get ready to sprint your way to success!