The 4 Toughest Sprint Workouts You Can Do

Dec 12 / Build Muscle

While the super-lean physique of an elite distance runner might not be your goal, just about anyone interested in fitness can benefit from a little pavement, track, and trail pounding. And if you’re short on time, serious sprint sessions are a huge bang-for-your-buck workout as they increase cardiovascular fitness, boost your strength, and burn calories like crazy. Plus, they are a perfect counterpart to just about any lifting regimen. To make the most of your time outside the gym, give one of these weekly, hard-core workouts a go. Super-Quick Repeats Interval training is all about balanci...

While the super-lean physique of an elite distance runner might not be your goal, just about anyone interested in fitness can benefit from a little pavement, track, and trail pounding.

And if you’re short on time, serious sprint sessions are a huge bang-for-your-buck workout as they increase cardiovascular fitness, boost your strength, and burn calories like crazy. Plus, they are a perfect counterpart to just about any lifting regimen.

To make the most of your time outside the gym, give one of these weekly, hard-core workouts a go.

Super-Quick Repeats

Interval training is all about balancing high-intensity bursts of speed with recovery time. Not only will they help you improve aerobic capacity and speed, the calorie burn can’t be beat.

(For a great fat-burning workout that doesn’t involve running, try musclemorphosis.com.)

“When it comes to intervals, the simpler the better,” says RJ McGinnis, an elite decathlete who is currently coaching at the University of Arizona. The goal of this workout is to push you to your limit for a short period, recover, and then do it all over again.

“If you haven’t been running, don’t even focus on time the first workout,” McGinnis advises.

Do this: Warm up for 1 to 2 miles with easy running. Run 10 x 200-meter intervals somewhere between 30 to 36 seconds each, depending on your fitness level. Rest after each interval close to four times your run, so about 2 minutes.

See the example plan below that will help you increase your speed and cut your rest time each week.

Week 1: 10 x 200 meters at 30 seconds with 2:00 minutes rest

Week 2: 9 x 200 meters at 29 seconds with 1:56 minutes rest

Week 3: 8 x 200 meters at 28 seconds with 1:52 minutes rest

Week 4: 7 x 200 meters at 27 seconds with 1:48 minutes rest

Drop the Hammer Downhill

At first blush, running downhill may sound like a piece of cake, but downward sprints are one of the best ways to build muscle.

Related: musclemorphosis.com

“Downhill running includes eccentric muscle contractions, during which muscle fibers lengthen under tension, which can help increase muscle power and make you faster since eccentric contractions are our strongest type of contraction,” explains Jason Karp, Ph.D., a San Diego-based coach and exercise physiologist.

Proper mechanics are critical during downhill running, so work on maintaining your form and staying under control, says Karp. With increased turnover, don’t fall into the trap of overstriding and braking on your heels.

Do this: Start by warming up with 15 to 20 minutes of easy running.

Find a 100-meter long hill with a slight 2 to 3 percent downhill grade. Begin running around 70 percent your max effort and let gravity increase your stride rate and speed as you progress down the hill. Lean slightly forward and land on your midfoot to stay balanced and in control of your body.

For recovery, slowly jog back up the hill. As you gain speed and fitness, bump up the number of hills you’re completing each week.

Week 1: 6 to 8 downhill sprints, 2:00 jogging recovery

Week 2: 8 to 10 downhill sprints, 2:00 jogging recovery

Week 3: 10 to 12 downhill sprints, 2:00 jogging recovery

Climb the Ladder

Ladder workouts involve running intervals of increasing distance and then retracing your steps and working your way back down. When done in short bursts of speed in distances ranging from 30 to 90 meters, this is a lung-busting endeavor that’ll pay off in a fraction of the time a steady state run will.

“The key here is decreasing the recovery time, which allows for you to work the high-powered anaerobic system,” explains Ryan Warrenburg, who coaches elite and adult runners for ZAP Fitness based in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. “Because the recovery is so short and you are not fully bouncing back between intervals, you’re working the aerobic system during the recovery portions as well.”

The distance of each sprint and rest interval you do here will always add up to 100 meters. As you gain fitness, you’ll be logging faster intervals, thereby increasing fitness gains over time.

Do this: Warm up for 20 minutes with easy running. On the backstretch or homestretch of a track, start with an all-out 30-meter sprint, then walk or jog for 70 meters.

For the next 100 meters, run all-out for 40 meters, then walk or jog for 60 meters. Keep building up until you reach a 90-meter sprint with a 10-meter recovery, and then work back down the pyramid. See the workout below.

Interval 1: sprint 30 meters, walk/jog 70 meters

Interval 2: sprint 40 meters, walk/jog 60 meters

Interval 3: sprint 50 meters, walk/jog 50 meters

Interval 4: sprint 60 meters, walk/jog 40 meters

Interval 5: sprint 70 meters, walk/jog 30 meters

Interval 6: sprint 80 meters, walk/jog 20 meters

Interval 7: sprint 90 meters, walk/jog 10 meters

Interval 8: sprint 80 meters, walk/jog 20 meters

Interval 9: sprint 70 meters, walk/jog 30 meters

Interval 10: sprint 60 meters, walk/jog 40 meters

Interval 11: sprint 50 meters, walk/jog 50 meters

Interval 12: sprint 40 meters, walk/jog 60 meters

Interval 13: sprint 30 meters, walk/jog 70 meters

Hellish Hills

Hill sprints are one of the oldest tricks when it comes to getting and staying in shape.

“This type of workout can be about fat loss or building general work capacity, equipping you to handle a heavier load in training,” said Andrew Zomberg, a strength and conditioning coach at Cressey Performance training center just outside of Boston. “Over time, you’ll adapt to the new training stimuli and can increase reps, distance, and intensity.”

Once you’ve mastered this workout twice a week, you’re ready to bump up the difficulty. For the greatest fat loss, this should be a continuous workout, requiring you to walk back down the hill after each sprint and immediately starting the next interval again.

Related: musclemorphosis.com

Do this: Begin with a 15-minute jog and perform any drills that will help you warm up your muscles and get loose. Find a steep hill somewhere between 8 to 12 percent grade and sprint up it for 20 yards at 70 percent effort. Walk back down the hill to recover. That’s 1 round. Do 6 to 8 rounds.

Workout 1: 6 to 8 hills, 20 yards at 70 percent intensity

Workout 2: 8 to 10 hills, 20 yards at 70 percent intensity

Workout 3: 10 to 12 hills, 20 yards at 70 percent intensity

Workout 4: 6 to 8 hills, 30 to 40 yards at 80 percent intensity

Workout 5: 8 to 10 hills, 30 to 40 yards at 80 percent intensity

Workout 6: 10 to 12 hills, 30 to 40 yards at 80 percent intensity