Sprinting And Hypertrophy: Strange Bedfellows or Likely Partners?


As a running discipline, sprinting has always been linked to athletic development. Unlike marathon runners, sprinters have a more developed musculature, and a significant overlap between bodybuilders and sprinters, regarding the pursuit of stronger legs, has been noted. Sprinting cannot be a primary muscle growth method, because it is a type of speed work, but it brings you much faster to your size destination because it helps speed up the hypertrophy process.

A sprint cannot be held for long durations or distances, because when you start sprinting your body uses glycogen rather than oxygen to provide power to your muscle cells, meaning that you cross from the aerobic to the anaerobic zone. After a short period of sprinting, you start to feel fatigue and a burning sensation in your muscles due to the buildup of glycogen which leads to the production of lactic acid.

Speed training


What is the relationship between hyperthrophy and sprinting?

Assistant professor at KarolinskaInstitutet (Stockholm), Mona Esbjörnsson, was also interested in the matter and conducted a research with her team to find out. Three successive Wintgate tests were performed by 8 women and 9 men (aged 20-30). According to their results, there was an increase in Akt/mTOR signalling in skeletal muscles. They have concluded that “sprint exercise enhances skeletal muscle p70S6k phosphorylation and more so in women than in men.”

Why you must sprint


What is a Wintgate test?

The Wintgate test is considered one of the hardest research protocols. It is an anaerobic test performed on a stationary bike, also know as a cycle ergometer. Muscle biopsies and blood samples are taken from all test subjects before the first sprint. Biopsies were taken once more, 140 minutes after the last sprint, and blood was drawn 9, 80, and 140 minutes after it (as well as between each sprint).

According to the results, these conclusions were reached:

  1. a) There exists a strong correlation between insulin increase and P7056k in the post-exercise period.
  2. b) Regarding power output, there are no major differences between men and women, which negates body fat differences. Also, major fiber type differences were also negated, leaving gender as the only influencing factor.
  3. c) There are no notable differences in both genders when it comes to insulin and glucose (hormones which promote muscle growth). The levels of hormones increased in response to the exercise, but the increase in glucose was higher in women. The increase in insulin was about 3 times over the baseline in men and 5 times in women. The levels of growth hormone were higher during the rest of the time for women, but there were no other significant differences in peak values.
  4. d) As for the AMPK phosphoryllation, levels of lactate, plasma lactate, plasma leucine, and mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin, the protein which regulates cell growth, motility, proliferation, survival and protein synthesis), there were no significant differences between the two subject groups.

The energy status of cells has a lot to do with hypertrophy response to a physical stimulus, as the research results imply.

Speed work can do various things for you. If you do not know how to change your sessions to find the best way for applying speed work, try to answer grow model coaching questions and see what results you can achieve.

Jacked sprinter


What Are The Results Of Sprinting?

  • Improvement of anaerobic conditioning levels. An optimal level of alactic and lactic system performance can be ensured by sprinting. These systems are the body’s important energy support.
  • Fat gain prevention. For increasing muscle size and depleting stored fat, sprinting is considered to be one of the best exercises. Calories are burned faster after training, when post-exercise oxygen consumption is increased.
  • Strengthening of fast-twitch fibers. These fibers are responsible for fast and explosive movements like sprinting. However, they can be used for short periods of time because, unlike slow-twitch fibers, fast-twitch fibers do not possess an endurance-boosting ability.
  • Sprinting is a form of resistance training. However, sprinting is not the same type of resistance training such as kettlebells, barbells and dumbbells training. This type of progressive overload is different due to our bodies’ mass momentum. Multiply the landing impact (which can exceed 3 times of our body weight) with the number of foot contacts during a sprint, and you will see the real challenge of sprinting and muscle grow benefits it brings.
  • Sprinting is a supplemental hip training. It is a good hamstring strength test, because the hamstrings are the most dominant muscle group in sprinting. Speed exercises, when combined with your training, address the weaknesses of the posterior chain, allowing you to maximize the employment of that area during weightlifting.

Athletic body


Along with the right nutrition and proper muscle recovery, sprint training can lead to building muscle mass, because it causes protein synthesis to increase up to 200%. Just compare the physique of marathon and sprint runners. Sprint runners are obviously much more muscular and have a lean physique (even without performing strength trainings). Volume-fatigue, general overload, and high eccentric contractions are present during sprint exercises, and those are all the conditions needed for muscle growth.


About the author:

Mathews McGarry is passionate about many forms of strength training, and spent years lifting, dragging and flipping all manner of heavy objects. After graduating from the Faculty of Health Sciences, he started writing about his experiences, and sharing tips for better life. Check out his website ripped.me and follow him on Twitter.

Photo credit: Nigel Farrow