Though weightlifting and running are frequently assumed to be antithetical to one another, sprinting can offer tremendous benefits for beginning and intermediate lifters. Particularly because sprinting trains power development independently in each leg, it can address imbalances that many of the more common squat and pulling movements would not. Furthermore, sprinting promotes muscle growth specifically in fast-twitch fibers, making it well-suited to the needs of a developing lifter.
When integrating sprinting into a training routine, coaches and athletes should keep the following factors in mind:
- For weightlifters, sprints should be incorporated only once a week, preferably before a rest day.
- Elite lifters will have much more specific training needs and may not see much benefit from sprinting.
- Running on grass or soft surfaces will reduce impact on the joints.
- PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) stretching is an ideal warm-up for sprinting—target the hamstrings, quads, and calves with movements such as walking lunges, high kicks, skips, bounding, etc.
- Sprints should be less than 7 seconds of effort—no longer than 40-50 meters.
- Allowing for full recovery between sprints will help prevent lactic acid buildup.
- Quality vs. quantity: The overall volume of sprints should stay between 300-400m.
In terms of form, athletes should keep the upper body relaxed, upright, and the arms at 90 degrees (bending the elbow on the back swing is okay). Push off the ball of the foot, contacting the ground just beneath or slightly behind the body’s center of mass. At the moment the foot touches the ground, you should have explosive hip, knee, and ankle extension (weightlifters call this the triple extension), applying as much force into the ground as quickly as possible. Overall ground contact should be minimal; you should feel as if you’re floating with each stride.
Just one day of sprinting a week can yield significant results in terms of power and muscle development. Keep distances shorter than 50 meters and total volume under 400 meters. Allow for full recovery between efforts, and get after it!