When it comes to “cardio” for improving performance and body composition, most people assume the position of the hamster and chug away on the treadmill at the same speed and intensity for an hour, when in reality all they need to actually get cut and stronger are bursts of about 20 seconds.
Are you trying to burn blubber? Run at top speed more.
Are you trying to get stronger? Haul ass more.
Trying to improve your cardiovascular endurance? Balllll OUT.
Trying to just plain look better and possibly ensure you can always outrun the cops? (Except for the ones that train at P360, of course.) Then channel your inner Tom Cruise and get your sprint on more often.
But that’s the thing, and probably why it is so beneficial, is that sprinting is not what you would consider traditional cardio as it’s much more anaerobic despite the fact it works your cardiovascular system. It used to just be that athletes ran sprints in order to improve their speed. Run fast to become fast.
While it’s certainly true that sprinting at full speed (and often pulling a sled like our athletes at P360) will improve your speed, the benefits do not stop there, which is the purpose of this post considering the average person doesn’t really give a rats ass about their max speed. Sprinting as little as 50 yards on and off for a few minutes is a great way to improve strength, increase lean body mass, burn fat and just plain improve your body composition especially in comparison to distance cardio.
There is no more pure output of physical effort than to run as fast as you possibly can for as long as you can. True sprinting can really only be maintained for about ten seconds but in those few seconds a lot is happening in your body and energy systems. Pair it with a jog in between for a little bit of anaerobic work and you’ve got a great element to a workout (hello, jog/sprint intervals for P360 members).
A few reasons why I believe in the science of sprinting.
- Sprinting works the ATP-PCr energy system which is the exact same energy system you tap into when lifting heavy weight, making it a great compliment to your strength program. It’s also the same fuel system we used to use to stutter step a saber tooth tiger trying to kill us back in the day making it plain fun to tap into those ancestral roots.
- A 1994 Canadian study by Tremblay et al proved interval training such as sprints to burn nine times for fat than endurance training in far less time.
- Considering that it does not require increased load it is an excellent way to get stronger while not beating up your joints.
- Sprinting has been shown to increase cardiovascular capacity by challenging anaerobic threshold. In other words, sprinting will improve your distance running.
- Sprinting at maximal or near maximal speed activates Type-II muscle fibers to their maximum capacity. This releases naturally occurring HGH in our bodies which in turn promotes serious fat loss, strength gains and lean body mass development.
- As Loki explains, “pretty much any form of consistent sprint training will result in adaptive modifications to skeletal muscular metabolism which will promote fatty-acid oxidation and favorable nutrient partitioning. Yeah, ‘sprinting good for fat loss‘.”
- Sprinting increases muscle mitochondria and insulin sensitivity. Insulin sensitivity is a positive thing for body composition and avoiding a state of fat storage. The more muscle mitochondria you have, the more ATP you can generate which means increase maximal power output when you need it. Attention, power lifting fans.
- For you cardio bunnies, sprinting has been shown to double endurance performance at 80% of V02 max. In English, subjects were able to sustain 80% of their top gear for twice as long. This is very profound for race athletes.
- It makes you more carbohydrate sensitive which means that more of your carbs will be partitioned to promote muscle/glycogen storage than fat storage.
- If you pair sprinting with a jog recovery, think 20 second sprint into a 20 second jog, you get a very effective metabolic workout without overly taxing your body.
- It’s just plain efficient as it changes the body composition and performance far greater than steady cardio in a fraction of the time.
Start mixing in sprints once a week either as part of or after your regular routine and enjoy the benefits above.