Before we get started with our discussion on sprinting for fat loss I would like to point out a few very important facts:
- Sprinting is a very advanced mode of training, requiring high speed limb movements, resulting in great stress being placed on muscles and joint structures and therefore isn’t suitable for everyone seeking fat loss results.
- Even if you are a highly trained individual, you will experience a high level of muscle soreness in the days after your first sprint training session and this may interfere with your overall training plan.
- Pure sprint (speed) training is used by athletes for speed development and will require longer time to prepare for… i.e. a longer warm up period is required.
- We are primarily concerned with using sprint training for its powerful fat loss and conditioning benefits.
- Technique is very important, not only in order to avoid injury, but also to make sure you benefit maximally from your time invested.
- Sprint (speed) work does not have to be exclusive to track work, you can also perform sprint training protocols on bikes and rowers.
- Sprint training causes huge amounts of EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption) which is what all fat loss seekers need!
Track Sprinting Versus Treadmill Intervals
Both track sprinting and treadmill sprinting (intervals) have their advantages and disadvantages. So what should you choose? Well it’s rather simple… you have to look at what method is going to suit your goals, ability level and also choose the one which you have access to. Do you have access to a track or smooth grass field?
The disadvantages of using a treadmill for sprint interval type work is that the intervals will need to be 30 seconds or more in duration as you have to dial in the speed… going up and down. It will often take several seconds to reach the speed you plan to use before you actually start your timed interval period.
Another problem with treadmills is that they are too quad dominant, meaning the front side of your legs do all the work and your hamstrings and glutes, the muscles heavily involved in true sprinting, get disengaged. This can lead to muscle imbalances and injuries.
Moving at high speeds on treadmills can also feel a little restricted and unnatural.
The main advantage to treadmill sprinting (intervals) is that you can dial in the exact speeds you want to move at for both the high intensity portion and the low intensity recovery period of your training session… Therefore over the weeks you can push the speed level of your intervals up and up in a more structured and controlled manner. Think of this as controlled intensity escalation.
However treadmills have a maximum speed limit and like I said earlier… intervals shorter than 30 second are going to be pretty much out of the question.
Track sprint work and interval training work beats treadmills for this reason as you have no speed limits, and can perform sprints and intervals of any time duration. From as little as 5 seconds upwards! You control the speed and getting up to speed is easier and quicker.
Your entire body, including your glutes and hamstrings, will be more engaged when you sprint on a track or grass field surface. More muscles being taxed means greater energy expenditure during the training session… greater conditioning and ultimately higher levels of EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption) will be achieved… resulting in greater overall calorie expenditure and fat loss.
Sprint Intensity, Recovery and Duration of Sessions
I don’t like to prescribe specific sprint training plans for anyone. What I prefer to do is have a person tell me how much time they have to perform their sprint interval session and go from there, making sure to calculate in enough time for their warm up and cool down.
If you are new to track sprint work I suggest you keep your intervals to 30 seconds and upwards, going no further than 90 seconds, keeping the majority of your work in the 45-60 second range… and using rest intervals that are equal to or greater than the actual work period. So, if you sprint for 30 seconds, rest for at least 30 seconds. Usually the shorter the sprint interval is, then the higher the intensity will be (you will be sprinting faster) and therefore required to rest longer. I would generally rest no longer than 4 times the duration of the sprint interval work period between reps. This means that if I sprint for 30 seconds I will rest no longer than 2 minutes (120 seconds) before I start the next 30 second interval. However, I may perform multiple sets of 30 seconds and will rest longer than 120 seconds in between the sets. Here’s an example so you better understand what I am talking about.
- Set 1: 4×30 Second Intervals – Resting 120 Seconds Between Reps
Rest: 4 Minutes (240 Seconds) Before Commending Set 2
- Set 2: 4×30 Second Intervals – Resting 120 Seconds Between Reps
Rest: 4 Minutes (240 Seconds) Before Commending Set 3
- Set 3: 4×30 Second Intervals – Resting 120 Seconds Between Reps
Now let’s work out how long that session will last. Well we first see that we have 2×4 minute rest intervals between the sets, so that’s 8 minutes. Next we can work out how much each set will take to complete. We have 4 x 30 second intervals so that’s 2 minutes, plus 3×2 minute rest between the reps, so that’s a further 6 minutes, meaning that each set will take a total of 8 minutes to complete. So each set takes 8 minutes, we then rest ½ that total time between sets (4 minutes) and the entire session will take us 32 minutes to complete.
It’s interesting to note that out of those 32 minutes we will only be working for 6 minutes at high intensity… meaning that 26 minutes is made up of recovery time… BUT trust me, this interval training session is going to be far superior than any steady state 30 minute run or bike ride you have ever done.
Intensity and EPOC creation is the key to this type of training session.
NOTE! This same interval protocol could be used on an upright stationary bike, rower or cross trainer in the gym. Sprinting would be my first choice, followed by the upright bike option and the rower and cross trainer would be my last choice.
My suggestion to you is to first look at what time you have to get the work in and then plan your session based on your time constraints. The less time you have the more intense you will be required to work… i.e. if you only have 10 minutes you can’t do 1 minute intervals resting 2 plus minutes in between… it would be better for you do to 30 second intervals with 30 seconds in between reps and maybe take a slightly longer (maybe 60-90 seconds) rest interval after 4 reps (half way point) have been performed.
Just be smart and think your workouts out well in advance… Not when you arrive to the gym or track. I suggest that you don’t do interval type work any more than 3 times per week and use this in conjunction with your resistance training program… not in place of it.
I hope you found this tad bit of information informative and hope you will find it helping in planning your sprint interval session plans, in order to help you accelerate your fat loss efforts. Best of luck to you with your fat loss and physique development goals!