If you’re looking for an efficient way to burn calories, improve running speed, and increase muscular endurance, then consider adding sprint workouts to your running plan.
But sprint training can also be intimidating for beginners. In fact, starting a sprinting routine with no previous speedwork experience is like signing up for advanced statistical mechanics when you haven’t brushed up on basic physics of late. The key difference is that you won’t tear your hamstrings while doing statistical mechanics.
To help you get started with sprint workouts, in today’s post I’m sharing with you the complete guide to sprint training for beginners.
Let’s lace up and dig in.
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.
Just be careful. Sprint workouts are high impact training per excellence—it will take a toll on your body. For this reason, you’ll need more recovery between workouts to prevent injury and burnouts.
In general, there are two basic ways to perform sprint workouts: either on flat surface or incline surfaces.
Flat-sprints is the ideal way to get started with sprint training. To do a flat sprint, simply run as fast as you can on a flat surface. For example, you might sprint on:
- A high school track
- A jogging path
- A sports field
- Any open road
Just remember to pay attention to your surrounding. You should have enough space that’s safe for running.
Incline sprints are more challenging. If you’re just starting out with sprint training, avoid doing any hill training. Instead, stick with flat sprints to build your base then, once you’re ready, move up to incline sprints.
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
As long as you’re in a safe location, you’re good to go. Again, pay attention to your surroundings, especially traffic, foliage, debris, and lighting.
The Benefits of Sprint Workouts
There’s plenty of science that backs up the efficiency of sprint training. One example is a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that reported that sprinting drills help increase running performance and build endurance.
When you sprint, you’re running at near maximum intensity—usually 80 percent or more of your maximum effort—for a short amount of time, take a break, then repeat again. This, by definition, is a form of high-intensity interval training, or HIIT.
HIIT can help you improve your VO2 max more than any other form of training, according to a meta-analysis published in Sports Medicine.
Furthermore, HIIT running burns more calories in half time of steady-state workout, based on research published in Biology of Sports.
I can go on and on about the importance of HIIT for runners, but that’s another topic for another day.
Getting Started With Sprint Workouts- Dynamic Warm-up
To avoid injury and ensure optimal performance during your sprinting training, pay attention to your warm-up. A good warm-up helps increase blood flow, heart rate, and core temperature—getting your body for intense exercise. Skip this step and you might find yourself feeling dizzy during your workout, injured, or burned out.
As a rule, the harder you run, the more time you need to get yourself ready by warming up. But, as a guideline, start off with a 10-minute easy jog, then perform 30 seconds to one minute of the following drills with little rest between each move.
Doing these speed drills before your workout will ensure proper mechanics and prevent injury and lots of trouble.
- Butt kicks
- High knees
- Heel raises
- A Skips
- B Skips
- Jumping lunges
- Backward runs
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 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 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 Sprinting Technique For Beginners
Sprinting is a sport that requires a high emphasis on running technique, especially if you’re serious about making the most out of it while avoiding injury.
Here are a few pointers to help you develop and keep proper sprinting form:
- Shoulders. Keep your shoulders relaxed to avoid shrugging. Use your shoulder to power up your movement, not your arms.
- Arms. Engage your arms throughout the session by keeping them bent at a 90-degree angle and backward to an open place behind your body. Do this as fast as possible to create momentum. Avoid crossing your arms over your body.
- Elbows. Keep your elbows flexed at a 90-degree angle and moving in a straight line. Focus on pumping your arms in coordination with the legs. Make sure to drive your elbows back to create momentum.
- Feet. Focus on a powerful and quick push off from the toe while aiming for a quick and fast cadence.
- Shorten your stride. Take short and fast strides instead of long strides. In fact, overstriding may produce more vertical energy and limit your speed.
- Relax. Keep your body relaxed the entire time. By doing so, you will reduce the amount of energy wasted from holding on to tension. Plus, it makes for a more enjoyable workout.
- Land right. Land on the forefoot and focus on pushing off from the toes to speed up.
For more, watch the following Youtube Tutorial:
How to cool down After Sprint Workouts
No matter how tired you are, don’t skip the cool-down. Walking following a run helps transition blood from the working muscle to normal flow function, which may prevent dizziness and reduce post-workout soreness.
I’d recommend an active cool-down where you jog slowly 5 to 10 minutes after a sprint workout. This helps your breathing rate and heart rate to slowly return to normal.
Once you’re done jogging, slow down and walk for a few minutes. Then a perform a series of static stretches, holding each pose for 45 to 60 seconds.
Great post-run stretches include:
The Hamstring Stretch
The Calves Stretch
The Hip Stretch
The Beginner Sprint Workout
Below I’m sharing with you a few sprint workouts to try. Some of the sessions can be applied to longer distance running to improve endurance and speed.
- Start by 15-minute warm-up, then perform:
- Three 400m at 90 percent of maximum speed. Rest for 30 seconds between each.
- Three 200m at 90 percent of maximum speed. Rest for 15 seconds between each.
- Five 100m sprints at maximum speed. Rest for 15 seconds between each.
- Finish with a 10-minute slow jog cool down.
Explosive Hill Sprint Workout
Want to make your sprints more challenging? Try doing them on an incline.
But make yourself ready first. Don’t challenge yourself before your body approved. Uphill running helps you build explosive strength and power that improves speed and running economy.
Incline training helps you improve your power by targeting your anaerobic energy system, which is the primary source of quick sprinting energy.
That’s not the whole story. The downhill section also targets your quadriceps and improves 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-minutes slow jog on flat ground.
As you get fitter, make it more challenging by increasing the number of reps as well as the incline. Keep in mind that hill sprints are pure explosiveness, so it 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.
Looking for more sessions? Check my 7 running workouts article.
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Cross-Training – Backing up Your Sprint Training Efforts
As you already know, sprinting is an explosive anaerobic sport per excellence. But to get good at it, you will also need to work on strengthening key sprinting muscles and doing polymeric training to boost your explosiveness. You know how much I emphasize on the importance of strength training program for runners.
Try to do at least two to three strength sessions per week. Aim for three sets of 8 to 12 reps with each exercise, pushing your max on each move and reaching muscle failure in the last few reps.
Here are some of the exercises you need to be doing.
Other exercises include barbell squats, front squat, sumo deadlift, chin-ups, dips, hanging knee raises, jump squat, 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.
Performing sprint workouts is one of the best things you can do to take your running routine to the next level.
It’s a fantastic fitness boosting tool for runners who don’t have much time for long runs, but still want to improve their running performance and athletic power.