| July 22, 2021
By Trevor Mah
Read time: 5 min.
Sprinting, or short burst interval workouts, have many benefits that anyone can use in their programs. In Reasons to Start Sprinting, I explained some common benefits for why they should be used.
However, structure is also important to know how and when to use them in your routine. Just like with resistance training, having a plan that you can regress/progress, track, and assess is essential versus simply just going all out recklessly.
There are countless styles and programs out there for sprinting, but I would like to share a couple that I have tried out in the past that I have liked. I have done different variations in the past, but for the most part they are fairly standard in terms of timing, effort, and distance where applicable. Goals have always changed along the way too, but these are great to compliment any program aimed at body recomposition (decreasing body fat) and cardiovascular improvement (improved resting heart rates, oxygen uptake levels, etc.).
Note: To clarify, these sprints should be all out efforts for maximal effect. That is, 100% effort each time you are moving. This is relative of course, but building that resiliency requires you to actually go all out.
Sprint in intervals of 400, 300, 200, 100 meters
Rest 4 minutes after 400 meters, 3 minutes after 300 meters, and 2 minutes after 200 meters
This sprint workout consists of sprints based on intervals of decreasing distance and rest time. For convenience and simplification, I used 400, 300, 200, and 100 meters to track as they are easily marked on a proper running track and usually common on treadmills. The decreasing distance allows you to perceive the training to become easier as you go along, but the challenge is somewhat balanced out with decreasing rest times. This is a great way to ease yourself into a variety of sustained ranges for sprinting to see what works best for you. Note that these distances and rest times are not set in stone and you can certainly scale according to your own ability or even experiment with what works for you.
This is essentially the reverse of the above sprint program. I don't believe I need to explain how to do it as it is self-explanatory, but the main difference is in the perception of having to deal with ramping up as you progress. As a result, this option is generally more challenging.
This one combines both decreasing and increasing sprint interval options by performing them back to back. You can either choose to pyramid up (100-200-300-400-300-200-100) then down, or down then up (400-300-200-100-200-300-400). This is a more difficult approach as the session is generally longer (literally twice as long) and more suitable for advanced trainees. I found for myself this was better suited for performing on its own separate day due the time it takes to complete, especially with the reverse pyramid where you perform the 400 meter sprint twice. As always, you can modify the distance to shorten the time required. This method is great if you want to mimic fluctuating demand.
30 seconds all out sprints followed by 4 minute full rest
Repeat 4 times
Add additional bout each consecutive week up to 6 total times performed
This method is popular for assessing an athlete’s peak anaerobic power and capacity in testing situations. While you may see footage of this used in sports combines, you can certainly use the protocol for your personal conditioning needs. The beauty of many sprint programs is that they don’t need to be overly complicated. As the Wingate method shows, it is one of those that look easy on paper but certainly challenging as you continue to improve each time. In many instances for sports, you may see athletes perform this on a spin bike but you can certainly apply it to sprinting or really any cardio based movement.
As you add additional sets each week, your aim is to progress on your ability to max out on your all out sprints. This workout highlights those instances you hear about where 30 seconds seem much longer than they are. I personally found this effective in improving my own mentality when dealing with challenging conditioning stints, and something I go back to every now and then to test my capabilities.
Sprint all out for 8 seconds, rest for 12 seconds
Repeat 60 times (for total time of 20 minutes)
Many trainers have their own thoughts on work-rest ratios for interval training, and you can certainly experiment with them. As long as you attain the desired training effect or if the ratio aligns with your specific goals, that is how they should be structured. For this specific one, I have used an 8:12 ratio in the past to ease myself into a routine where I could have a definitive time limit. Knowing that these are set, it is a good way to plan your workouts overall and fit it in where you can.
I have also found that this routine is fairly manageable for beginners as short bursts of 8 seconds is just long enough to perform, while 12 seconds is short enough to keep their heart rate up and not be completely winded by the end of it. Of course this is all relative, but certainly worth a try. Knowing that you repeat this 60 times (essentially 3 bouts/minute) gives you a definitive end point which can be beneficial for overcoming any mental obstacles.
To ease in people who are not quite ready with the pace in the above, a simple 10 second all out sprint followed by a full 50 second rest to the minute can be enough. Repeat for about 4-6 times and that can help grease the groove in your conditioning. Some people are at the extreme ends with their conditioning with either too much or not enough. If you are able to supplement this once per week workout with a few lower intensity cardio sessions, then this is a good way to check off the bare minimum requirement as you slowly improve.
In conclusion, conditioning is something that is essential for everyone, and I find sprint workouts to be a great low-maintenance method to accomplish this aspect of one’s fitness regimen. I find that sprinting is also a very difficult mental challenge to get through due to its all-out nature. For me it’s certainly worth it and brings a good sense of accomplishment, but I know for a lot of people that it’s one of those “death” types of workouts. To that end, I would simply just recommend doing it often enough so it becomes habitual to develop your own tolerance and proficiencies.
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