Sprinting is an exercise that can help you build muscle mass and burn calories. As a result, potential benefits of sprinting training include improvements in speed, cardiovascular health, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. When sprinting, an athlete moves faster than they do while performing traditional running. Sprint workouts are also an excellent form of cardio and anaerobic exercise that has numerous health benefits.
Evidence shows that short, high-intensity sprint workouts improve aerobic capacity and endurance in about half the time of traditional endurance exercise. While many think of running when they hear sprinting, the truth is that it's possible to sprint in any aerobic activity, whether it's swimming, cycling, roller-skating, or exercising on an elliptical machine. In this context, sprinting means varying the intensity of the activity. The key to sprinting is doing an activity at a certain percentage of all-out effort in order to increase your heart rate.
It has been established that primary kinetic factors that allow for the fastest sprint speeds are high vertical ground reaction forces (GRFs) applied over short periods. Competitive sprinters exhibit higher vertical GRFs and shorter contact times than non-sprint athletes and this finding remains not only at the maximum speeds of these athletes, but even over a range of speeds. Moreover, force application technique, specifically the orientation of the GRF vector, is important for performance.
Greater stride frequencies require the legs to move through the stride cycle at faster rates and the muscles must shorten and lengthen more rapidly, hence the force–velocity relationship of skeletal muscle is a primary limiter of maximum sprinting speed. In particular, the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles are largely responsible for the vertical GRF, and from a force–velocity perspective, shorter ground contact times mean that these muscles must contract with increased shortening velocities, resulting in decreased peak forces.
Sprinting can be classified as a “motor skill learning” which is typically defined as “the process by which movements are executed more quickly and accurately with practice.” This means we can train the nervous system and muscles to react and move in a way that produces optimal speed, and this kind of training can lead to significant improvements.
Sprinting boosts protein synthesis by up to 230% and boosts growth hormone levels. It can also prevent the reduction of bone density and improves heart health. These benefits partly contribute to an increase in post-exercise metabolism after sprinting as sprint events rely heavily on anaerobic metabolism to support the high force output.
You can potentially reap quite a few rewards by doing sprints regularly but keep in mind that the benefits will vary from individual to individual, but some advantages of building a sprinting routine can include:
· Heart health: Sprinting is a cardiovascular exercise that raises your heart rate and can keep your heart healthy, including minimizing your risks of heart disease and high blood pressure.
· Improved mental state: When you sprint, your body releases endorphins, which are chemicals that counteract pain and stress, giving you positive feelings. That could decrease your incidence of depression, lower your overall stress levels, and make you feel happier.
· Increased muscle mass: Sprinting breaks down fast-twitch muscle fibers, and when your body repairs those fibers, it makes them stronger, leading to increased muscle mass.
· Fat loss: You can practice sprinting as part of a high-intensity interval training (HIIT)workout. HIIT exercise elevates your heart rate and encourages the body to burn fat even after you’ve finished exercising. This can boost your metabolism, which can sometimes translate to losing body weight. This can change your body composition over time.
· Improvements in blood glucose levels: With regular sprint training, studies have shown an improvement in blood sugar levels.
Optimal sprinting technique and posture doesn’t come naturally and must be developed. On the surface good running and sprinting form share some commonalities. Both require a neutral pelvis, head looking forward, tall posture, foot strike to be underneath the centre of mass etc. But dig a little deeper and the differences become very apparent. The role of technique is substantially more important in sprinting versus running. The body angles, ground contact time, arm movement and foot strike are totally different. Trying to get faster without understanding and practicing correct sprinting technique only serves to reinforce bad habits.
1. Upper Body Posture
· During upright sprinting the posture should be tall with the head, neck and shoulders directly on top of the hips. Anything more than a very slight forward lean will move everything out of position. The shoulders are relaxed and down. This allows foot placement and force application to be vertical (think of marching in place). Being broken at the waist or leaning too far forward will drastically reduce your ability to apply force straight down to the ground. Less vertical force = slower sprinting.
2. Sprinting Arm Action
· Correct sprinting arm movement balances the body, promotes rhythm and increases force production. Many coaches and articles say things like “keep your arms at 90 degrees” or “lock the elbows.” The theory being that a bent arm moves faster and will decrease the flight phase (when both feet are off the ground) of the sprint. While other coaches insist that extending the rear arm will provide additional speed. They argue that instead of locking the elbows and arms in a fixed position, the arms should work in harmony with what the legs are doing. Regardless of which camp they are in, all sprint coaches can agree that the arms move front to back (or on the sagittal plane) with virtually no movement side to side. They should also be relatively free of tension and fluid. Over tightness in the arms will flow to the legs and slow you down.
3. Lower body positions
· If the upper body and arm movement is correct, it will be much easier to hit the proper positions with the lower body. Remember, the goal of sprinting is to provide maximum vertical force to the ground. In order to achieve that force, the pelvis or hips should be neutral(not tilting forward or backwards). This will create a stretch across the hip flexor muscles during the stride. Similar to the stretch of the arms, this will allow for an elastic return of the thigh to the front side of the body.
· To sprint fast you need to have the foot land directly underneath the centre of mass. Think of stepping over the knee and driving the foot straight down into the track. Longer strides should be the result of applying more force to the ground which will automatically propel you forward. Many athletes make the mistake of trying to cover more ground by lengthening their stride. This is a mistake and should avoided at all costs. Over-striding or “reaching” is a killer when it comes to sprinting. The reason is because when you reach out for a longer stride you are going against your inertia. It’s like putting on the brakes every time your foot hits the ground. Each stride will also be less powerful if it lands in front of the body. You won’t be in a position to fully utilize the strength of the quads and gluteus muscles. Reaching also puts unnecessary stress on the hamstrings. Instead focus on pushing down to the track or ground with a neutral pelvis.
4. Leg Movement Positions
· The lead leg should follow a 2 stroke movement. The first movement is up to form the “hard Z.” The foot is behind the knee and the calf is close to the hamstring. This is much faster than an “L” position where the calf is perpendicular to the ground. The second movement is an active strike directly down to the ground. As soon as you hit the “hard Z” immediately explode down to the ground. Don’t wait. Just changing this single element of your sprinting form should have a sizable impact on your speed. Fast sprinters spend less time on the ground with each stride and a big part of that is achieved through an active strike to the ground.
5. Ground Contact
· Don’t run on your toes! If you try to run on your toes what ends up happening is a collapsing of the ankle once the foot hits the ground. This will increase ground contact time and lead to slower speeds. Instead the foot should be “dorsiflexed” which is having the toe close to the shin. This creates another stretch reflex where the stored energy will act like a spring once your foot hits the ground.
1. Warm up. Before sprints, warm up thoroughly with easy exercise for 5-10 minutes. Perform the same exercise you will be using for your sprints.
2. Do your first sprint. Perform your first sprint at about 60% max intensity. If you feel any muscle tightness or joint pain, back off and continue to warm up.
3. Recover. Recover for 4 minutes by slowing to a comfortable pace, but keep moving.
4. Do your second sprint. Perform this sprint at about 80% max intensity.
5. Recover. Recover for 4 minutes.
6. Do your third sprint. Perform the remainder of your sprints at 100% max intensity or all-out efforts of 30 seconds. You should be pushing yourself to the max for each one.
7. Recover. Recover for 4 minutes after each sprint to allow your breathing and heart rate to slow to the point that you can hold a conversation without gasping.
8. Repeat. Repeat the sprint/recovery routine 4-8 times depending on your level and ability. For your first workout, you will want to stop at 4 sprints. Try to gradually build up to 8.
Perform a sprint workout routine three times a week. Allow at least one to two days of rest or another easy exercise between sprint workouts.
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