I have been posting and talking a lot about my higher intensity workouts and wanted to share with you a little bit of information on sprint training and higher intensity cardio training. I often get asked a few questions about sprint work and want to shed some light on the topic.
Both track sprinting and treadmill sprinting (intervals) have their advantages and disadvantages. In our busy life and schedules, you really have to look at what method is going to suit your goals, ability level and also choose the one which you have access to. Some people don’t have access to a track and others live within walking distance!
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.
Did you know that another problem with treadmills is that they are too quad dominant, meaning your quads do all the work and your hamstrings and glutes get disengaged. If you are already quad dominant, this can lead to muscle imbalances and injuries.
Moving at high speeds on treadmills can also feel a little restricted and unnatural. There isn’t anything like running as fast as you can, with no restrictions, the fresh air blowing in your face and the site of real life, rather than a wall or window…
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, keeping track of your progress and intensity.
Track sprint work and interval training work beats treadmills since you have no speed limits, and can perform sprints and intervals of any time duration. From as little as 5 seconds up to intervals of 30 seconds and more. You control the speed and getting up to speed is easier and quicker. Not to mention the fresh air and scenery, I mentioned earlier!
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… I.e. greater conditioning and ultimately higher levels of EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption) i.e. greater overall calorie expenditure and fat loss.
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 30-60 second range… and using rest intervals that are equal to or greater than the actual sprint 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 then will need 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.
It’s interesting to note that out of entire time you are performing your sprint work, less than 10 minutes or so is actually at a super high intensity and the remaining time is used for recovery time… BUT trust me, this interval training session is going to be far superior than any steady state 30 minute steady state cardio session you have ever done!
NOTE! You can use this same sprinting interval technique on any other cardio machine in the gym such as a stationary bike, rower elliptical, step-mill, etc.
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 half way.
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 and steady state cardio.
You can see that if you are under time restraints, you can plan your week out right an use some of your training days to incorporate sprint work. You will find yourself getting in the most amazing cardiovascular workouts in no time at all, not to mention, you will notice a huge difference in your overall fat loss goals!
Remember change is key, incorporate a few of these sprint type sessions to your weekly routine and watch your progress and success! Get some good beats and have fun!