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Quite the statement, but consider this:
- Sprints will keep you lean during a bulking phase.
- Sprints will shred fat when dieting down due to their impact on insulin sensitivity.
- Sprinting before lifting will potentiate the CNS for greater gains in strength.
- Sprinting helps you build powerful hamstrings and glutes and may be the key to conquering your muscle building plateau.
While sprinting is typically been associated with athletic development, lacing up the Nikes and hitting the track improves your conditioning, athleticism, and shreds ridiculous amounts of bodyfat, all while preserving your hard-earned muscle.
Yes, even when you’re looking to gain muscle.
The fact is that even skinny dudes need conditioning work. Hoisting weights isn’t enough, especially when the end goal is a body that’s shredded and athletic.
In all honestly, what’s the point being strong and jacked when you’re gassed walking up the stairs or can’t sustain your beastly skills a simple pick-up game?
Don’t be like most people who slug away on the treadmill or scan Facebook with a half-assed eliptical workout for 30 minutes, four days per week. Most of all, don’t skip conditioning altogether.
Drop the “conditioning keeps me small and weak ” sob story.
It’s time to maximize your training by unleashing the power of sprints. You’ll stay shredded, uncork new power and athleticism, and when combined with a muscle building diet, add muscle onto your glutes, hamstrings, and quads.
Here’s Why You Must Sprint
Speed Work Potentiates the CNS for Gains in Strength
Place your sprint training directly after a dynamic warm-up and movement prep to supercharge the nervous system for more strength. From sprinting, your central nervous system (CNS) is fired up to speed up your rate of force development via two potential mechanisms:
- According to Hamada et. el (2000), there is an increased phosphorylation of myosin regulatory light chains during a maximum voluntary contraction (MVC). This allows the actin and myosin binding (for muscle contraction) to react to the increased calcium release. This reaction triggers a cascade of events leading to enhanced force muscle production at the structural level of muscle (Horwath & Kravitz ). Thus, increased muscle activation yields a greater duration of calcium ions in the muscle cell environment, yielding a greater phosphorylation of the myosin light chain protein (Rixon et al. 2007).
- The second theory is based on the H-reflex, an excitation of a spinal reflex elicited by afferent muscle nerves. It is theorized that the PAP intervention enhances the H-reflex, thus increasing the efficiency and rate of the nerve impulses to the muscle (Hodgson, Docherty, Robbins, 2005).
Sprinting before lifting is ideal for improving performance in athletes and potentiating the nervous system for heavy lifts and explosive training. Start your training by doing sprints to hack your nervous system and improve strength performance.
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Improved Anaerobic Conditioning Levels
Ahh, the good ole’ C-word. No, not Crossfit. Kidding aside, cardio really is regarded strangely in the fitness industry; some people love it for overall health and fat loss, and some people are hell bent on making cardio-bashing memes and slamming running like it’s worse than ISIS.
Smart people and good coaches no the answer is always “It depends with cardio.” You probably also know that—if used correctly, like sprints—cardio has a place.
To cut through the basis, our body has three main energy systems that work in concert to provide us with the energy (i.e. ATP) necessary for our daily activities, including exercise.
- ATP-PCr: Provides energy for very high intensity, short duration activities (6 – 10 seconds) without the use of oxygen (1 ATP per reaction)
- Anaerobic Glycolysis: Provides energy for high intensity, short-to-moderate duration activities (10-90 seconds) without the use of oxygen (2 ATP per anaerobic cycle)
- Oxidative Phosphorylation (Aerobic): Provides energy for low-to-moderate intensity activities lasting more than 2 minutes (36-38 ATP’s per cycle)
To keep this short and concise, it’s important to note energy systems are not mutually exclusive. They all work together and are recruited based on the demands of an activity.
For example, a two mile race is primarily oxidative, a power clean is primarily ATP-PCr dominant, and a 200 meter sprint is primarily anaerobic glycolytic dominant.
Back to my point: Sprinting is a high intensity method that emphasizes the ATP-PCr and anaerobic glycolysis systems, the same energy systems used during most high intensity lifting sessions.
By sprinting and improving your anaerobic glycolytic capabilities you’re allowed to work at higher relative intensities, which elicit peripheral adaptations associated with aerobic AND anaerobic metabolism (i.e. improves function of ALL three energy pathways). This means, you’ll improve work capacity in your muscle-building workouts, allowing for harder training and building more muscle.
Sprints Build your Glutes and Hamstrings
Sprinting is a total body exercise with the primary driving force being powerful hip extension and flexion in acceleration, then rapid stride turnover as you reach top speed. The muscles primarily responsible for explosive hip extension/flexion are some of the biggest muscles in your body: the glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors, and quads.
Rather than solely using deadlifts, squats, cleans, and other weight-room exercise to build your backside — use sprints. My assumption is you haven’t sprinted in ages. The training variety should be just what the doctor ordered to jump-start rapid growth.
Sprinting Shreds Body Fat
Besides improving the look of your booty, improving athleticism, and stimulating muscle growth, sprinting will of course, shred body fat.
I’d take it as as to say that sprinting during the summer is the best training method accelerate fat loss and improve you athleticism. And do your best Rocky and Apollo reenactment before the most famous bro-hug of all time.
As an added bonus, sprinting works as a check-and-balance system during bulking phases. Too often, du. Oftentimes, overzealous lifters crush every calorie source available and follow the “See-Food” diet. Sprinting provides a similar reaction for the body to resistance by improving insulin sensitivity, increasing anabolic hormone levels, while burning more calories through high intensity exercise.
Sprinting effectively builds a safeguard against this all too common bulking pitfall to keep bodyfat low, even when you’re bulking up.
Low Volume Sprints Before lifting
Sprinting before lifting is ideal for improving performance in athletes and potentiating the nervous system for heavy lifts and explosive training. As a result, your strength performance will increase, conditioning will improve, and athleticism will be preserved.
But wait…Sprinting is a technical movement that needs practice. The most demanding and explosive exercises require maximum focus and energy to preserve technique and thus, should done first in a workout, which means sprints.
The neural demands of sprints need full focus for maximum performance and low injury risk, at least if you’re moving at top speed. Remember peeps, we need risk versus reward: enough sprinting to spark the nervous system, yet low enough in volume to prevent excess fatigue, especially in hard-gainers.
Perform low volume, short distance sprints before training rather than long-duration sprints when you’re already gassed and fatigued. Two days per week perform five sets of 10-20 yards with walk-back recovery and adding one sprint per week.
This way, you’ll improve athleticism and power without excess stress and training volume to interfere with your gains.
Sprints at the End of Your Workout
Option BEEE (B, duh), is sprinting at the end of your workout, ideally on a hill. Using a hill keep sprints sub-maximal in speed, but not effort to prevent overstraining and hamstring pulls, yet still shred fat and scorch your legs.
When sprinting for conditioning start with running two days per week on a treadmill or slight hill. After a warm-up and speed drills, sprint for 10 minutes with 8 second sprints and 50 second rests, increasing sprint time by one second and decreasing sprint rest by one second each week up to 15 second sprints.
Week One: Sprint 10 seconds, rest 50
Week Two: Sprint 11 seconds, rest 49
Week Three: Sprint 12 seconds, rest 48
Week Four: Sprint 13 seconds, rest 47
Week Five: Sprint 14 seconds, rest 46
Week Six: Sprint 15 seconds, rest 45
As always, a micro-progression to condition the body and tissues to the demands of sprinting without exceeding your recovery capabilities.
Listen, I know cardio sucks. That’s why we all skip it, even more-so when there are too many options. Unfortunately, neither is a good option, So I’ll make it simple:
Get up and sprint.
Yea, it might be scary, but you must sprint to maximally improve improve athleticism and preserve muscle. Just as important, sprinting torches unwanted bodyfat that’s been hanging over your jeans from the Holiday season.
You have nothing to lose—only athleticism, a shredded body, and powerful legs to gain. Alright, I gotta go hit the gym to use the recumbent bike. Just kidding, hill sprints it is.
This post originally appeared on BachPerformance.com
About the author:
Eric Bach is a Denver based strength coach and fitness author who owns and operates Bach Performance, He is a passionate ex-athlete turned performance coach to athletes, ex-athletes, and busy professionals everywhere to increase their strength and athleticism. Be sure to follow him on Facebook and Twitter for more from Eric.
Horwath, R., & Kravitz , L. (n.d.). postactivation potentiation: A brief review. Informally published manuscript, Exercise Science , Retrieved from http://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article folder/postactivationUNM.html
Rixon KP, Lamont HS, Bemben M. Influence of type of muscle contraction, gender, and lifting experience on postactivation potentiation performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2007; 21: 500–505.
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