Sprinting…and what I think about it.

May 17, 2012 — 12 Comments

Sprinting is certainly enjoying some popularity right now. Everyone in the S&C world is recommending sprinting with the following reasons (I’m sarcastically paraphrasing)

  • It’s good for your hormonal responses
  • It’s high intensity and that’s better than ‘chronic’ cardio
  • It’s time efficient

I agree with those things…BUT, I really disagree with telling people to sprint.  In over 60 workshops where I spoke about running and sprinting, I ALWAYS put out warnings that it may be a very BAD idea to starting sprinting for the majority of people.  Why? Because it’s way too intense and demanding for most people to do as is recommended.  I imagine the conversation going like this: Expert advice “You should start sprinting. It’s fast and intense and will get you ripped and explosive.”  Here is what I hear, and italics are read in sarcasm “You should start sprinting. You, who haven’t even run in years, who haven’t lunged in years, who haven’t trained legs at all in years, should start sprinting.”  To me that is irresponsible advice.  Why? Here are some reasons why it’s irresponsible advice in my opinion

  • People suck at running. Form is bad, or terrible.  How do you injure yourself? You add intensity to bad form.
  • People lack the posterior chain strength needed to sprint safely
  • People lack the single leg stability and strength needed to sprint safely
  • Professional sprinters are always hurt. And they are professionals….

Now, when I say people, I generally mean beginners.  And IMO almost everyone is a beginner.  For instance, a fantastic site with great advice is Mark’s Daily Apple, the Primal Blueprint man.  His site has changed TONS of lives for the better.  There are recommendations on that site to sprint each week-and I am uncomfortable with that because lots of people going to that site are out of shape beginners and are not ready for sprinting.**  Now the thing is this…I REALLY like sprinting, and think it IS good for everyone to do……..provided they learn how to sprint correctly and then they work their way up to it!!!

Here are my very basic recommendations to employ if you want to work up to sprinting.

  • Add in multidirectional lunges, forward, backward, crossover, and laterally.
  • Add in single leg deadlifts, hip thrusts, and KB swings.
  • Start sprinting up hill, which is quite safe because it slows you down and shortens the stride length (which means you aren’t ‘pulling’ in a fully stretched position where the hammy ouchies generally take place).  Gradually (slowly. very slowly. if ever) decrease the angle of the hill working towards flat. Read Jason Feruggia article about hill sprints.
  • If you have sand, you can sprint shorter distances on sand because it also slows you down and decreases stride length.
  • If you insist on sprinting, do 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s because you won’t even hit max speed which is safer.

Make no mistake…sprinting will help you to Be Athletic, and seriously increase your levels of BadAssery.  


I would highly recommend going to this Sprinting Instruction workshop with Franz Snideman if you get the chance to.

If you are in San Diego and you want to get some in person instruction, or if you are interested in online coaching, email me cliftonharski@gmail.com.

**I believe at Mark’s Daily Apple, there is good advice for people to NOT sprint if they are not ready for it.  This is the type of advice most people don’t follow though, because people aren’t honest with themselves.  This is why visiting mobilitywod.com and the Primal Speed workshop is so important.

12 responses to Sprinting…and what I think about it.

  1. 

    Thanks for this Clif.

    I am a sprinter born, never was good at slogging out miles anyway. But ever since going barefoot stride, my sprint has been off. Any suggestions? Or do the ones above still apply?

    • 

      They still apply, and I’m a little unsure what you mean as “off”?

      • 

        Nowhere near as fast and proprioception seems off, meaning I think with the lean forward, I may not have enough momentum or something. I dunno. More practice?

      • 

        How far are you sprinting? I would just work on short accelerations where you start slow and gradually work up to as fast as you can for a minimal distance. That will sorta let you ‘ease’ into a more comfortable stride…sorry, not being able to watch really makes this difficult!

      • 

        Probably no more than 100m. I usually just pick a section of trail and gun it. Yeah, it probably looks as bad as it feels! 😉 I’ll just have to look you up and hire you for a session if I’m ever in San Diego.

  2. 

    I don’t disagree with you but I’ve never injured myself sprinting but have doing deadlifts multiple times. No doubt this is due to my crappy form but the point is that, at least for me, it is much easier to sprint properly than to lift heavy things properly. I think sprinting is self-limiting, you can only go so fast. But idiots like me regularly try to lift more than we are really capable.

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