Does sprinting make you faster?
If performed properly, sprinting can definitely make you faster. In this article, you'll learn about how to sprint faster using sprinting workouts and other forms of sprint training.
Sprinting can make you faster, but how much faster you sprint will depend on how your sprint training program is set up, whether you are an experienced athlete or not, what types of sprinting you perform, and how much time you dedicate to training.
Sprinting Makes You Faster
Typically in life, the best way to get better at something is to do it. If you want to sprint faster, the first logical step would be to sprint fast on a regular basis.
Sprinting makes you faster by activating fast twitch muscle fibers, recruiting high threshold motor units, and by improving your sprinting technique.
Sprinting Affects Many Systems Of The Body
When we sprint fast, all systems of the body must work together to produce the high speeds seen in sprinting.
One major system involved in sprinting is the nervous system, where our brains work hard to activate muscles and coordinate our movements as fast as possible. Meanwhile, energy delivery systems churn out ATP at a high rate, including the ATP Creatine Phosphate system, Alactic Glycolytic system, and the Lactic Glycolytic system.
By sprinting fast in your training sessions, these various systems of the body will get better at doing their jobs, ultimately leading to sprinting making you faster.
Sprinting Improves Sprinting Technique
As you perform sprinting workouts, you learn how to move more efficiently, to sprint with relaxation, and you learn how to apply force more effectively. Essentially, sprinting will improve your sprinting technique.
Improving your technique is one of the best ways to run faster. Often times people think that the main way to sprint faster is to apply more force to the ground, but the reality is that the manner in which you apply force to the ground is more important.
Research from JB Morin shows us that the direction in which force is applied to the ground is better correlated with sprinting speed than the absolute amount of force going into the ground. This makes sense when we consider basic physics, such as Newton's 2nd Law.
Because sprinting is performed at high velocities and the movements happen quickly, it takes many sprint training sessions to optimize your sprinting technique. If done properly over time, sprinting will make you faster as you continue to improve your sprinting technique.
Why Sprinting Makes You Faster - The SAID Principle
The SAID principle states that there are specific adaptations to imposed demands, meaning that whatever demands are placed on the body, the body will respond with adaptations that respond to those imposed demands.
This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, as an organism must be able to adapt to the stressors of its environment. If an organism must sprint up hills or climb trees to escape predators, then the body should be able to get better at those activities in response to the stressful stimulus.
With this in mind, it is logical to assume that in a basic sense, sprinting does make you faster. If sprinting faster is the adaptation or change we are after, then we should impose stressors or demands on the body which are specific to that which we seek.
How The Body Responds To Training Changes Over Time
The problem that exists is that once the body has been exposed to a certain stimulus enough times, the body or brain may not feel that it is necessary to continue to dedicate scarce resources toward the pursuit of running faster.
This is particularly true if athletes repeatedly perform the same workouts without much variation or change in their program over time. The body will adapt specifically to the demands imposed upon it, but will only do so if the body senses there is a need from a survival perspective.
If you have done the same workout one hundred times and your body feels it can handle the workout without much issue, the chances are low that you will continue to see increases in sprinting speed as you continue to monotonously repeat that workout.
To continue to encourage the body to adapt to training and make the changes we seek regarding sprinting faster, we must change our training over time to ensure that the stressors applied to the body are novel and worth responding to from an energy scarcity perspective.
How To Make Changes In Sprint Training
There is an endless number of ways in which training can be changed, but to make changes that help push you toward your goal of running faster can be more of a challenge.
When it comes to changing your training, here are a few variables that can be modified:
- Training Intensity - How intense something is, sometimes represented as a percentage of effort.
- Training Volume - How much training is performed, often represented in distance or weight such as meters sprinted or total pounds lifted.
- Exercise Selection - The exercises or workout components used, such as an unresisted sprint, a back squat, or medicine ball throw.
Increase Sprint Training Intensity Over Time
Changing your training intensity is important, as sprinting faster is inherently limited by how much intensity you can produce, and this is limited by what the body has been exposed to. People who only ever jog will sprint slow because their body is conditioned to produce only low intensity efforts.
When you first perform sprinting workouts, it is safe to keep your intensities sub-maximal, meaning below your maximum. People who begin sprinting often make the mistake of trying to hard, hurting their ability to relax and often leading to injury.
As such it is wise to introduce sprinting first in a relaxed manner to allow for the body to get used to sprinting, the sprinter to learn better technique, and to allow for room to intensify training over time.
Once you or the athlete has grown accustomed to sprinting at 75% intensity, increasing the intensity of sprints to 90% maybe an appropriate change to make in your sprint training program.
As training is intensified, the stress of training and demands on the body will increase. The brain will send faster signals to the muscles to contract and relax, higher threshold motor units will be activated which will lead to high amounts of force production, and increased levels of muscle tension will strengthen your tissues. All of this comes together to make the sprinter an overall faster athlete.
Eventually sprinters will be able to regularly handle sprinting above 90% effort, such as having 2 to 3 workouts per week where the intensities reached get to 90, 95, or even maximal intensity or 100 percent effort. These changes in intensity of sprinting makes you faster if implemented properly.
Increase Sprint Training Volume
Another way of changing training is to increase training volume, or the amount of sprinting performed in a training program. Just like increased intensities, increases in training volume should be incremental and only increased once the athlete is no longer benefitting from the current level of work in the program.
Changes in volume can come in the form of performing more sprints, such as progressing from 4x30m to 6x30m in an acceleration training workout. The sprint volume of this session would increase from 120 meters to 180 meters of sprinting - a 50% increase.
Alternatively, the distance of each sprint can be increased like you would see in a short to long sprinting program. Athletes may be performing short speed endurance training in the form of 3x70m at one point in their season or career, while at another point they progress toward medium length speed endurance with 3x120m sprints. In this case, the sprinting volume increased from 210 meters so 360 meters, an increase of 70 percent.
Realistically, athletes should focus on smaller increases of volume than the 70% increase in this example. 3x70m to 3x90m might be a more appropriate change for the average sprinter.
Change Your Exercise Selection
Whether in the gym or on the track, changing the exercises or types of workouts performed can be a good way to cause change when the body stops wanting to adapt to sprint training.
One way of changing your exercises could be to add resisted sprinting, such as sprint sled towing. This modifies the exercise, sprinting, and adds a demand for greater force production. These resisted sprints can be done on their own or paired with non-resisted sprints, and these modifications can help give the brain and body something slightly different to deal with and reignite the adaptive systems of the body.
In the gym, changing exercises also helps because it creates different demands for patterns of muscle activation, rate of force development, coordination, etc. Changing exercises also helps prevent chronic overuse injuries.
Sprinting To Get Faster
Getting back to the original question, sprinting does make you faster. But, as you continue to perform sprint training, the potency training has with regards to sprinting faster will decrease as the diminishing returns effect kicks in.
This is when we should seek to make changes in our programs in the form of increased intensity, increased training volume, and by changing or modifying the exercises used in the training program.
If the athlete continues to train, continues to modify the sprint training program, and the athlete stays healthy, they should to see improvements in their sprinting speed over longer periods of time.
If the athlete's progress begins to stagnate, the athlete or coach should look at the variables mentioned in this article and decide what needs to be adjusted to further encourage the body to adapt to training.
With effort, diligence, and time, anybody can use sprinting to make them faster!