When it comes to the benefits of sprinting, there are so many more pros than cons. Many different types of exercises (even within run training) come with warnings: don’t overdo it, mix it up with other workouts, etc.
But sprinting is something you can do no matter where you are in your running training. Are you sprinting for general health? Are you sprinting for weight loss? Are you sprinting to complement your marathon training plan?
If so, all sprinting roads lead to better health and fitness.
The Multiple Benefits of Sprinting
I’m not the only one who advocates the advantages of sprinting. I’ve gathered quotes from three running and fitness experts who share their unique perspectives on this exercise.
Jonathan Roussel, a certified personal trainer with a specialization in distance running performance (and owner of The Champ Lair):
“Sprinting has many benefits for your average runner; fast-paced running is important for general fitness. It can indeed help develop their muscular strength in their legs and core.
On the other hand, a competitive long-distance runner can find many benefits in sprinting. They could, for example, improve their late-race pace and finish with a bang.”
- Related: How To Run a 6 Minute Mile
Jeff Parke, owner of Top Fitness Magazine:
“Sprints allow the runner to push their body to a maximum level and increases the overall endurance of the runner.
Sprinting is better at fat burning, helps to build more muscle mass, increases heart health, and increases metabolism better than distance running.”Shab, fitness instructor and self-proclaimed geek (and owner of Recycle studio):
“There are several benefits of sprinting for general fitness and long-distance runners. Sprinting gives us fat-burning effects. It is a good exercise for busy people because you can complete your workout in less than 15 minutes. It increases muscle mass and strength.
It 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.”
To sum up the words of wisdom from these running and fitness experts, here are the biggest benefits you get from sprinting:
- Develop muscle strength in your legs and core
- Improve your overall running pace
- Increase your overall endurance
- Burn fat
- Increase heart health
- Boost your metabolism
- Jump-start your body’s protein synthesis
- Boost growth hormone levels (more about this in the section below)
- Prevent the reduction of bone density
Sprinting for Weight Loss
If you started running because you wanted to lose weight, you’re on the right track. Running is a great way to lose weight, but there are certain techniques that make it more effective.
The best way to run for weight loss is to run for a shorter period at a faster pace. Sprinting takes this technique to the maximum and gets you the best results.
Are you wondering, Does sprinting build muscle? If so, the answer is yes. Here’s how it builds muscle and promotes weight loss:
Sprinting boosts your metabolism.
When you perform high-intensity workouts, you not only burn calories during the exercise but you continue to burn them for hours afterward.
Sprinting regulates fat-burning hormones.
The Human Growth Hormone (HGH) plays a big role in your weight loss journey.
What is it?
It is a protein made by your pituitary gland, then secreted into your bloodstream. It is controlled by hormones in your hypothalamus gland. During exercise, the pituitary gland sends out bursts of HGH, which boosts your protein production and helps your body utilize fat more efficiently.
Because of the proven effects HGH has on your metabolism, many people will take an HGH supplement, which is usually injected directly into the body. But Harvard Medical School advises against this, unless you actually suffer from an HGH deficiency.
The medication is quite powerful and can produce unpleasant and even harmful side effects.
The best way to boost HGH in your body (naturally) is through exercise and plenty of sleep. Since sprinting is an intense exercise, it produces more natural HGH than a typical 30 minutes of jogging.
Note: A crucial aspect of sprinting for weight loss is a healthy diet. Both go hand in hand. So make sure that you are building up healthy eating habits: that means high protein sources, complex carbohydrates, plenty of leafy green vegetables, and lots of fruit.
Sprinting Techniques for General Fitness and Race Training
There are multiple options when it comes to sprinting techniques. The best way to choose between them is to narrow them down by your goals.
If you’re sprinting for general fitness or weight loss, you’ll want to take a different approach than those who are sprinting for long-distance training.
Our three experts from earlier offer advice on these differences below.
Shab emphasizes the importance of the proper sprinting form:
“The level of the ability of the body should be a consideration. The effects of bad sprinting form slow you down and have long-term negative effects on physical health. A consistent turn of the head or shoulders could impact the range of motion in your hips, which in time could cause avoidable pain.
If one of the positions is off, you could be impacting the other joints without realizing it. Focusing on appropriate techniques based on your body’s ability will provide relief and harmony to your body’s forward motion.”
Parke elaborates further on how to achieve that proper form:
“There is one technique to use when sprinting, in order to do it properly and maximize the benefits.
- A sprinter runs with their hands moving in a vertical motion from hips to chin. There is no horizontal motion.
- The elbows maintain a 90-degree bend and the shoulders remain square.
- The knees are pulled straight up without turning in or out.
- When you run, be sure that your feet are hitting the ground directly beneath your hips.
- Run on the balls of your feet.”
Roussel advises that you approach sprinting with the right mindset:
“More than different techniques, I believe it’s about having a different mindset. A casual runner’s goal is to stay fit while a long-distance runner is looking to perform better all the time.
A fitness runner can experiment with different sprinting techniques. A long-distance runner won’t have that luxury. They must be trained to pick up the pace when their body is already in pain. They have to be mentally prepared to switch gears at all times depending on the race circumstances.
For long-distance runners, mindset and fortitude should be the primary focus, whereas a fitness runner should focus on the physical aspect of the training.”
Sprint Exercise Examples and Variations
Here are some different sprint workouts to help you achieve your fitness and training goals.
For General Fitness
These are a fun variation of sprint exercises. The guidelines are quite loose and can be adjusted to any fitness level. The goal here is to gain speed and add variety and fun to your weekly workout plan.
With a classic Fartlek, there is no set time or required pace. You can say to yourself, I’m going to run to that tree at my fastest pace. The key is just to give yourself time to recover in between so you can run your fastest during the sprint.
A high-intensity take on classic sprints, hill sprints can amplify your muscle building and weight loss to the extreme. The main goal is to choose a hill and run straight up for 20 minutes (or until you reach the top). You can also run for a shorter period, then walk for a period.
Sprinting (whether on hills or flat ground) allows you to change up your workout as you go. Experiment with longer, less intense sprints, and shorter, more intense sprints. Keep changing it up!
For Race Training
This technique is great for a quick but effective sprint exercise. All you need is 5-15 minutes to get the job done.
Strides are short accelerations – a burst of speed where you gradually accelerate as you go. Keep the distance short: between 50 and 100 meters.
Don’t run at maximum effort. Keep your intensity at about 80%.
When you are using sprints (in any format) for your marathon race training, it’s important to schedule a plan ahead of time.
Rather than sporadically running some strides here and there, it’s ideal to pencil in your sprint days (and other cross-training like strength workouts) for the week ahead.
Our fully customizable training plans give you room to add your own flair and style to your training.
If you’re not sure how to incorporate cross-training and sprints into your plan, sign up for our free marathon masterclass here. It will explain everything you need to know to set yourself up for a great race!