Picture yourself running at full speed.
Arms pumping, legs kicking, going fast for ten seconds.
Your lungs are burning and as soon as it began it ends.
You stand at the end the track feeling exhausted but your body doesn’t show it.
In fact, your body looks more lean and muscular than the people watching you.
Now take a step back.
That’s not you.
You’re the spectator.
You are in awe of what sprinters look like.
But what does it take to look like that?
Let’s think about it for a second…
What are these guys and ladies doing to stay so lean and stay muscular.
- Do short bursts of cardio
- Avoid long cardio
If you look at short distance runners, those who run in the 100 meters, 200 meters and 400 meters range you see some of the most muscular athletes around.
We can also lump NFL running backs and wide receivers in this category.
Guys who run for short and intense burst of time.
And even though you’ve seen plenty of guys do this on TV you still avoid doing any form of cardio.
I get it.
You’re afraid you’ll lose your muscle gains.
You’ll look like Screech from Saved By The Bell.
Or at least that’s what you’ve been told in countless bodybuilding forums and by meatheads the world over.
Cardio is necessary if you want to look lean.
Unless you’re already the skinniest guy within a 100 mile radius you should be doing cardio.
Benefits Of Cardio
Heart Health: What good is it having a strong set of muscles if you’re going to run out of breath after all why are you going to risk having a weak heart with a short life span?
Supplying Oxygen: When you lift two things happen. You breath at a faster rate and your heart rate quickens which means your body will require more oxygen. Now if you aren’t breathing and processing that oxygen as effectively as you need to your workout will suck. That’s right, if you want to have stronger muscles the best way is to develop stronger and more efficient lungs.
Muscle Building: This is where most of us get confused. Many times you hear the words cardio and a panic ensues. Don’t fret. Cardio is very important for muscle building. Yes, your workouts will improve and you’ll develop stamina and conditioning but let’s not kid ourselves, we want to gain muscle. Well, cardio workouts will help develop slow twitch muscle if you do long form cardio. Slow twitch muscle fibers aren’t really the type that you’re looking for if you want to look muscular… however, if you do cardio the right way, by doing intervals, you will see an increase in fast twitch muscle fibers, in other words you’ll have strong muscles. This is what you see in sprinters.
Fat Burning: Do cardio and you will burn fat. True? Not quite. There is such a thing as the chubby aerobics instructor or the not totally slim guy who runs 5 miles every other day. Yes, cardio will help you burn fat but it is important to do so in a way that is strategic yet effective. Again, if you look at lean athletes you will see them doing interval training, combined with slow to moderate cardio. Add strength training and you’ll be looking like the next Olympic track star.
Long Form Cardio Versus Short Intense Intense Intervals
So there’s always the fear that by doing any form of cardio will lead to a loss in muscle mass.
Here’s the deal.
Unless you run marathon sessions on a regular basis you really have nothing to fear.
Marathon running and any long distance type cardio will have you looking skinny if you choose to do this long term. Unless you decide to run several miles every day, run for more than 30 minutes straight nearly every single day, believe me you don’t have to worry about it.
However, if you want to look more like a sprinter and less like the winner of Survivor, then you have to do your cardio in a way that is higher in intensity and not time consuming.
Unlike a professional sprinter, you don’t have hours to train.
So the goal is to maximize your workouts using a fraction of the time while gaining muscle and keeping the fat demons away.
If we break down a typical sprinter’s routine you will find that these athletes train mostly with short distances. It is common to see these athletes training at distances ranging from 10 meters to 300 meters.
The difference in distance will vary on whether they are training for speed endurance (60 meters and above) or simply working on starting line speed (10 meters to 50 meters). Different days are dedicated to either one of these two types of drills.
However along with these drills, which can take up to an hour, we have to take into account warm up drills as well as technique and body mechanics.
Here is an example of a sprinter routine:
Along with doing these drills there’s also strength training/ weight training usually on the same day.
Unless you’re a college level athlete or professional athlete or have several hours to spare, have enough rest time and have your nutrition in check you won’t have a problem at all. If you’re just a regular guy or lady with either work, school or family responsibilities then you can’t train at this level.
Not to worry.
You can be a muscle building and fat burning machine by using your time wisely and working with the right types of exercises and drills in a fraction of the time.
A Sprinter Routine For Non-Athletes
If you’re reading this chances are you are a regular guy or lady.
You have a busy life but at the same time you are dedicated to working out.
So your time is precious.
You only have so many minutes and not hours to dedicate to your training.
We are going to keep our workouts short in typical Look Like An Athlete fashion.
The focus on the workouts will be specifically on speed endurance.
It doesn’t matter how fast you can run.
It doesn’t matter if you run faster with each session.
All you need to focus on is intensity and making the sessions as brief as possible.
So we can eliminate working on how fast we take off from the starting line or working on mechanics.
The only things we need to work on are warming up properly and doing a series of drills that will fire up the fast twitch muscles.
Your sprinting schedule will consist of anywhere between 1 to 2 sessions per week. Ideally you want to start with one session and work up to two sessions after a couple of weeks.
I like to start off conservatively in order to avoid burnout.
Start With A Warmup
I’ve previously talked about doing dynamic warm ups. You can do the same types of warm up exercises prior to starting sprints.
A quick warm up can go like this:
Jumping Jacks (30 seconds)
Bodyweight Squats (10 reps)
Bodyweight Lunges (5 per leg)
Mountain Climbers (15 to 30 seconds)
Do this drill without resting in between exercises.
Next jog one lap (400 meters) or jog for 60 to 90 seconds.
Ok, we’ve covered prepping the body for action.
Time to break it down with some drills.
100 meter sprints; 6 to 10 sets
Rest for 60 seconds between sets
Sprint speed should be at 80 to 90 percent of your maximum effort
100 meter sprint, 200 meter sprint, 300 meter sprint
Repeat one more time
Rest 90 seconds between sets
Spring speed will be at 80 to 90 percent of maximum effort
If you are going to choose a treadmill make sure to apply the same principles.
Keep the sprints short and fast.
Sprint at a speed that is 80 to 90 percent of your maximum effort.
Sprint for 20 to 30 seconds
Rest for 60 to 90 seconds
Repeat 6 to 10 times
A bit over a year ago I was sidelined from lifting any weights for close to 5 months.
Thanks to a pickup game of basketball I wound up with mallet finger in my pinky.
Basically, I tore the tendons and I wound up with a crooked finger all thanks to a basketball banging the tip of my pinky on a quick pass.
Even though I didn’t need surgery I still had to wear a splint in order to keep my finger straight 24 hours a day.
Under doctor’s orders I was not allowed to grip heavy objects.
So other than doing pushups and some lower body exercises I was out of commission from most strength training.
If you’re used to training 4 or 5 days a week and then having to eliminate lifting entirely for months is nerve wracking.
My first thought was that I would lose muscle, end up skinny and all my effort would go down the drain.
Well I had to do some form of training in order to stay in shape.
Luckily I have been a fan of interval training for a long time and despite my injury doing an activity like sprinting was still fine.
Over the course of these 5 months I lost very little muscle and definition.
I didn’t lose weight and my legs continued to gain muscle all thanks to sprinting.
So now that we have covered the sprinting portion of the workout we need to cover the strength training portion.
In other articles I have written here I’ve talked about the benefits of doing Olympic movements in order to build a lean and muscular body.
If you want to come as close as possible to looking like an athlete and especially if you want to look like a sprinter then doing Olympic movements will be important.
(Here’s Usain Bolt showing some Barbell Hang Cleans)
For maximum results try and find a way to blend these types of exercises along with bodyweight movements.
Here is a sample workout
Day 1 & 4 (Lower Body)
Power Clean (4 sets of 5)
Front Squat (3 sets of 6 to 8)
Deadlift (3 sets of 5)
Leg Raises (for the right way to do this exercise read here)
Upper Body Day 2 & 5
Bench Press (4 sets of 6 to 8 reps)
Chin Ups (4 sets of 6 to 8 reps)
Shoulder Press (3 sets of 6 to 8 reps)
Biceps Curls (2 to 3 sets of 6 to 8 reps)
Day 3 & 5 Rest
In order to achieve a very athletic body it is best to give enough focus to the upper body muscle groups as well as the lower body.
Although it is fine to blend upper and lower body workouts on the same day I would recommend splitting them into separate days.
Do your sprints after your strength training for added benefits of fat burning and to boost HGH.
In order to get the most out of this type of training make sure to combine both strength training and interval training. Sprinters, and nearly all athletes, combine both types in order to have highly athletic bodies. If you do the same you will get results that will have you looking like a sprinter as well.