Sprinting For Size

You want huge wheels. Heck, you want cuts, too. You've been pumping iron as though you're possessed, and you have the results to prove that your approach works. But yon want more you want to train differently. Ever thought of sprint training? Sprinting can be exceptionally demanding and, despite what some people say about running turning you into a pencil neck, sprints can make you grow – if you do them right.

Consider this: When it comes to sprinting for building bigger legs, size is created by volume of training, while load (amount of speed or resistance) builds strength. If as a bodybuilder you create different types of workouts using these principles, you'll become stronger and continue to pack on quality mass. This is where sprints come in. Beyond adding growth and strength to your thighs, sprints can help you warm up, cross-train and begin the recovery process when done before, during or after your weight training.

Getting Started

No matter how you choose to incorporate sprints into your regular training, you must still warm up, loosen up and build up in order to train and not strain your body in your sprint workout. Sprinting puts an unaccustomed load on your muscles, so to avoid injury, you must build up your speed pattern. Remember, if you don't have time to warm up, you don't have time to work out.

Some type of warm-up, such as build-up (nonmoving) or dynamic (moving) stretching should lead into build-up sprints, which should start at 50% – 60% of your max speed and build in speed with each sprint until you're sprinting at 80%-90% of your max speed.

When you decide to sprint in your workout depends on two things – your training goals and the availability of a sprinting area. If you want to build size and strength, sprint after your weight workout so you don't wear yourself out before you lift. Another possibility is to break your workout into two sessions in one day. For example, you could warm up and sprint in the morning, then lift in the afternoon or evening (after another warm-up). As a beginner, it won't make much difference whether you lift first or sprint first. If you sprint in the morning, however, allow yourself some extra time to warm up. You could start your warm-up drills with a variety of walking movements forward, backward and laterally, then mix in some bodyweight lunges, squats and giant leg swings to get really warm and loose.

A Word on Volume

Angel Spassov, former professor of weightlifting in Bulgaria and now at the University of Texas at Austin, says volume is the key to training. In other words, the more sprints you can do, the fitter, stronger, faster, thicker, and more cut and powerful you become. The requirement is to never, ever miss a workout. If you miss one session, it takes two to catch up. If you miss a week, it takes two weeks to catch up. If you miss a month . . . well, you're retired. Now I know you guys might look at this as being quite dogmatic, but I'm just trying to make a point, and I may have exaggerated a little. Suffice to say, missing scheduled training sessions ain't cool. At the same time, it would he wise to leave the gym with just a little hit left in your tank so you'll be ready for your next workout.

Bodybuilders should sprint a total of around 600-1,200 meters (660-1,320 yards) in a workout; a huge sprint day would total 1,500-1,700 meters (1,650-1,870 yards). Determine the day's total volume by the number of sprints multiplied by the distance. For example, if you do 24 50-yard sprints, you just did a sprint workout of 1,200 yards. That's a big day.

Volume is typically increased by sprinting for a longer distance. Over the course of the week, however, don't run for more than about 2,000 total yards if your goal is to add mass. As you approach this limit, you'll be less able to pack on mass, depending on your fitness level. Yet if you're more interested in cutting up, your maximum volume might be 2,500 yards. Once you begin to exceed 2,500 yards, though, you'll hamper your development once again.

As you begin your sprint program, do what feels good 2-3 days a week and record that in your training log. After about 4-5 weeks, you can approximate your personal level of sprinting fitness. From that point forward, says Vein Gamhetta, MA, president of Gaiiibetta Sport Fitness in Sarasota, Florida, add no more than about 10% to your volume in any one week. So if you sprint for a total of 1,000 yards a week after the first month, you can add about 100 yards to each week for the next month.

A Word on Intensity

Do most of your sprinting at 80%-90% of full speed you don't need to go all-out to make gains. Gary Winkler, women's track coach at the University of Illinois at Champaign, allows his sprinters to run at full speed for only about 5% of their total training volume for the year. As a bodybuilder, you can benefit from the same guidelines. A good rule of thumb is to make it fun and not push the speed barrier on every rep. Of course, wear quality running shoes that fit properly and are laced up snugly, and run on a good, even surface with plenty of room to stop.

A closer look at intensity reveals that in general, a shorter distance merits a higher speed, and a longer distance warrants a slower speed. Any way you cut it. if you run at 80% of your best speed for a given distance, you're training fast. For instance, if your best 100 yards is 13 seconds, then you'd want to run at a pace no slower than 15.6 seconds for each 100 yards, or 80% of your best time. Your top training speed would be 14.3 seconds, which is 90% of your fastest time.

In terms of distance, you may prefer to sprint 30-50 yards rather than stride 100-110 yards. Run at a pace that feels fast but doesn't require you to push yourself to the limit. Once you've been sprinting for more than a month and have established a good base, you'll better understand your general range of training yardage and corresponding intensity.

At the Next Level

if sprinting starts to bore you factor in variety and overload, You can add distance (volume) or resistance (load), or go faster (speed). You can move laterally or begin to mix in hills or stairs. Follow these guidelines as you begin to make your workout more complex.

  • Adding resistance – Using sleds, Parachutes, steps or hills adds load for a variety of training effects. Each will overload the glutes and hams if done running forward, but the overload shifts more to the quads if done backward. Lateral-movement overload affects the groin and gluteus medius; groin involvement still be minor if you shuffle and major if you use a crossover step. As you add overload with vertical displacement (hills and steps), the calves will overload. Hill training will load the calves more than stair climbing because of the added stretch of the calf muscles by the angle of the hill.
  • Speed of movement – If your goal is to maintain speed, we recommends overloading with no more than 10% of your bodyweight during sprinting activities. If you want to add mass or strength, add more resistance. You could overload up to the point that your speed of movement in 100 yards is almost the same as walking, as in pushing or pulling a car. If the load is extremely heavy, make sure you drive off the ground flat-footed, with your heels on the ground, but realizing that at some point you'll need to get up on your toes. This really burns your quads, glutes and hams.
  • External loads -You can increase the training effect even more by adding external loads with weight vests, sandbags or hand weights. Whether you run hills or steps, your muscles will he affected in the same sequence as described above but to a greater degree. Hand weights, which add shoulder stress in tempo runs, enhance the importance of hand and shoulder movement in sprinting. The load should be very light, in the 1-5 pound range, and avoid jerking the weights – this could add trauma to your shoulders. Stride 100 yards 10 times, alternating the use and nonuse of hand weights on each sprint as you focus on how your hands and shoulders move in your stride.

Goal-Specific Considerations

Over the course of a week, when should you simply sprint and when should you do special strength (resisted/external load) sprinting? In A System of Multi-Year Training in Weightlifting, former Soviet weightlifting expert Alexsei Medvedyev indicates that if your goal is speed and power development, you should do speed sprints early in the week, overload with light weight midweek for power (remember not to exceed 10%) and overload with volume (distance) or heavy resistance at the end of the week. This will help enhance your speed, develop your power, maintain your fitness and allow you to recover sufficiently over the weekend for your next workout.

If your goal is to maximize strength and size as well as speed and power, you can frame your program in three basic ways as the week progresses. You can add volume (distance) and drop the load, you can drop volume and add load, or you can decrease the volume or load at each end of the week and do your hardest sprint workouts (in terms of volume or load) in the middle of the week.

If your goal is mass and strength, the key training variables are volume (more is better here) and overload. Use high-rep, multiple-set, medium low loads in the gym for mass/hypertrophy. Out on the track, hill or stairs, do medium to long sprints with bodyweight to light medium overload for medium to high distances (1,000-1,600 yards). These workouts require a lot of energy and willpower, so pay particularly close attention to your food and supplement intake. Also make sure you get enough water and electrolyte mineral restoration.

If your workout is strength-oriented, your gym training should consist of medium to high loads with moderate to low volume. On the track, hills or stairs, use medium to low volumes for medium distances (1,000 1,400 yards) with bodyweight or light loads. These workouts require moderate amounts of energy and willpower, but you still need to facilitate your recovery with nutritional aids, adequate water intake and electrolyte replacement.

Recovery from most of your workouts will take 48-72 hours. If you have difficulty warming up and feel 'heavy" when you prepare to do speed work, you haven't recovered from your previous workout and should take precautions to avoid injury.

Remember, speed, mass, strength and power are created by quality training, not by cheating or partial work. The more quality work you do, the closer you'll get to your goal. And never, ever miss a scheduled workout. Stretch and supplement after every session, chart your training and evaluate your workouts each month. You should start to see results in about 3-5 weeks. The better your nutrition, the more consistent your training and the more intense your supplementation, the more spectacular the results. All it takes is training hard, eating right, resting and recovery every day! Now go out and grow.



Goal: speed/strength

  • Speed sprint drills
  • Short-distance stairs, ramps
  • 20-50 yards per rep 3-5 reps at 95% intensity

Rest: 1 minute between sprints


Goal: power/mass

  • Power sprint drills
  • Hills, weight vests, weighted long-distance sprints
  • 20-80 yards per rep 5-8 reps at 90% intensity

Rest: 1-172 minutes between sprints


Goal: strength/mass

  • Volume stride/overload drills
  • Weighted
  • 80-150 yards per rep 8-12 reps at 80% intensity

Rest: 2-272 minutes between sprints

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