13

votes

Sprint intervals: most effective techniques?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created February 19, 2010 at 2:15 AM

I'm interested in gradual body recomposition--retaining or building lean mass while losing some flab. I've started running some intervals at our local track. What are the most effective combinations of duration, number of sprints, and workout frequency to get me to my goals? Also, is it better to recover completely or incompletely between sprints?

Addendum: I'm most interested in the actual experience those in the Paleohacks community have had with sprints and interval training. What works best for you?

4164a77c7ccf4839ec7f1e665d27cc6d

(1085)

on October 10, 2011
at 04:14 PM

Chris - I suppose youre right...if youre a young woman. Im only kidding with you. Though I respectfully disagree about Wolf being clueless.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on November 28, 2010
at 03:38 AM

Sprinting or heavy weights with low reps would be the easiest for HGH/IGF

9dd74d3941535d0aaa2c8d3cf454fb7e

on November 28, 2010
at 01:59 AM

Stephen, can you expand on specific types or styles of HIIT that increase IGF ? Thanks

8254c4e4d1f2aedd09cb9608b8777654

(140)

on August 11, 2010
at 02:56 PM

Tabata intervals were 20 sec fast, 10 sec slow, which doesn't work well on a treadmill unless you slow it down and increase the incline, which I didn't want to do. I have plenty of hills here in Pennsylvania when I want to run hills. I went with 1 minute intervals because 20 seconds didn't seem long enough, and 2-3 minutes seemed too long for an intensive interval. It seems to work for me based on the idea of not being exhausted by it, but knowing that I did a very good workout nonetheless. The answer therefore is basically trial and error.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on August 10, 2010
at 06:20 PM

Thanks Richard. How did you arrive at your formula for intervals, i.e., did you read it in a blog or book, or did you develop it yourself?

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on July 24, 2010
at 02:56 AM

@Rob Palmer, thanks for the interesting link RE tabatas.

F38f19b6ec74b2c6bf49531fe5dae567

(486)

on July 22, 2010
at 03:25 PM

I'd also add that I'm not a big believer in cardio promoting weight loss (either through intervals or steady state). They may add some contributions, but diet is of chief importance and weight training falls somewhere below that. Can cardio help? Sure, but relying on it solely sets yourself up for failure.

F38f19b6ec74b2c6bf49531fe5dae567

(486)

on July 22, 2010
at 03:22 PM

"For a proper Tabata workout, 170% of that wattage would be 510 watts (for perspective, Tour De France cyclists may maintain 400 watts for an hour). This is an absolutely grueling workload. I suspect that most reading this, unless they are a trained cyclist, couldn’t turn the pedals at that wattage, that’s how much resistance there is." http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/research-review/effects-of-moderate-intensity-endurance-and-high-intensity-intermittent-training-on-anaerobic-capacity-and-vo2-max.html

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321

(1973)

on July 20, 2010
at 08:23 PM

Jaap & Robb Wolf are clueless. Intervals have dramatic effects on insulin sensitivity. http://pubget.com/search?q=doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0803781

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on July 20, 2010
at 02:26 AM

I respectfully disagree. Even if you replace calories, your affe ting a multitude of hormonal changes for the better, and those ARE part of what cause weight loss. Just keep in mind that saying Robb wolf also likes to repeat, you can't out exercise a [email protected]$Ty diet.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on July 19, 2010
at 09:52 PM

@Rob Palmer, interesting take on tabatas. Why don't they work, and do you have any relevant links? Thanks,

1dd1d4bde5b46b4c90efeadea3a96a75

(180)

on June 12, 2010
at 02:04 AM

I read somewhere that uphill running is speed work in disguise, so uphill sprints are taking sprints to a new level. My experience with this has been very good. During soccer games I would be frequently out of breath despite twice weekly training sessions with normal cardio. After 2 weeks of sprint training only twice a week, it seemed like no matter how much I ran I was never out of breath. I have tried going back to regular (flat) sprints and although good it doesn't have near the effect. Mountain trails are great for alternating sprints/walks, 10-20 times.

25819079a9264c10bcba7cd592e16216

(446)

on May 21, 2010
at 05:48 PM

Good point, Jaap. Love robb's stuff :) Thanks.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on April 23, 2010
at 06:57 PM

@pieter d: great suggestions, and great point about the low impact of uphill sprints

0637289bb4a0ab314d80fa4de627d395

(1015)

on March 13, 2010
at 08:50 PM

I would say a combo of complete and incomplete recovery is appropriate. I mostly use incomplete because I rarely get time to recover completely in jiu-jitsu (my main sport). Also, where I am training tends to dictate wether I use complete or incomplete. If I am in the gym, I almost always use incomplete recovery. If I am trail running then I favor complete intervals. Actually most of my trail comes under the idea of "fartlek" training.

3d7ede9d05c2730ead7e0876f90aad11

(319)

on March 13, 2010
at 12:01 AM

I think that Rob's point is that any method will cause you to lose weight if you burn more calories than you take in but the body will compensate to maintain homeostasis so you'll end up being hungrier and put it right back on. To change body composition requires nutritional changes that support lower insulin levels and using your own body fat for energy.

B694ff94abba729b4d1568fc12ff3285

(169)

on February 21, 2010
at 11:00 PM

Pls check http://robbwolf.com/2007/10/24/exercise-ineffective-for-weight-loss/ and read the comment above. you wont lose any weight because of a particular fitness method, in fact, you wont lose fat at all when you execise.

B694ff94abba729b4d1568fc12ff3285

(169)

on February 21, 2010
at 10:50 PM

I must say, I like your answer, though not the whole answer. You will not loose fat because of sprinting. It's the same with every other sport. Losing weight and doing sports has nothing to do with one another physically. See: http://robbwolf.com/2007/10/24/exercise-ineffective-for-weight-loss/ So please, never speak of a particular fitness method and weight loss in one sentence :P.

B694ff94abba729b4d1568fc12ff3285

(169)

on February 21, 2010
at 10:41 PM

I must say, I like your answer, though not the whole answer. You will not loose fat because of sprinting. It's the same with every other sport. Losing weight and doing sports has nothing to do with one another physically. Mentally though it will help, see: http://www.mypaleokitchen.com/?p=71 But please, never speak of a particular fitness method and weight loss in one sentence :P.

25819079a9264c10bcba7cd592e16216

(446)

on February 20, 2010
at 01:27 AM

true on the 600m! perhaps a 100/200/300/400m ladder i think it depends on specific goals and current level of conditioning. For beginners or, if fat loss is the goal, short intervals (~200 m or ~1 min sprints) are the easiest approach, will achieve the desired results quickly, and promotes intensity. The body adapts though, which is why it is helpful to cycle different types of sprints. Plus, it takes a certain amount of self-discipline to push yourself to fully sprint longer distances. For example, you could do short sprints twice a week and a ladder at the end to mix it up a bit.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on February 20, 2010
at 12:19 AM

Thanks geelyn. I don't think anyone can truly sprint for 600m, but do you think ladders of longer attempted sprints are more helpful than a series of shorter sprints?

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on February 19, 2010
at 02:57 PM

Thanks jm. These are both incomplete recovery techniques. Are they better than intervals with complete recovery, or should I be doing some of each?

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14 Answers

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13
25819079a9264c10bcba7cd592e16216

(446)

on February 19, 2010
at 06:03 PM

Tabata's are great, but full recovery sprints are useful tools as well, especially if you are just beginning. There are several methods of doing this:

??? Sprint for 45 sec - 1 min/walk slowly for 45 sec-3 min. Repeat for 6-10 intervals.

As you progress, you can do a interval ladders:

??? Sprint 200 meters/ rest 1-3 mins ??? Sprint 400 meters/ rest 1-3 mins ??? Sprint 600 meters/ rest 1-3 mins ... etc.

Personally, I have maintained lean muscle mass while losing body fat (taking weekly measurements) with these sprinting techniques, a.k.a. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Plus, they are quick! No more 2 hour workout sessions! I spend 10-30 minutes interval training 3-4 times a week.

When you get ambitious, find some bleachers or a tall building with multiple sets of stairs! Sprint up and walk down (or take the elevator). Repeat a few times! Steep hill runs are also wonderful for building muscle while losing fat!

Recovery and rest are important for you to fully give your all in each interval. Less can be more. Mix up tabatas and full recovery sprints to train yourself across a more complete range of possibilities.

Good luck!

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on February 20, 2010
at 12:19 AM

Thanks geelyn. I don't think anyone can truly sprint for 600m, but do you think ladders of longer attempted sprints are more helpful than a series of shorter sprints?

B694ff94abba729b4d1568fc12ff3285

(169)

on February 21, 2010
at 10:41 PM

I must say, I like your answer, though not the whole answer. You will not loose fat because of sprinting. It's the same with every other sport. Losing weight and doing sports has nothing to do with one another physically. Mentally though it will help, see: http://www.mypaleokitchen.com/?p=71 But please, never speak of a particular fitness method and weight loss in one sentence :P.

B694ff94abba729b4d1568fc12ff3285

(169)

on February 21, 2010
at 10:50 PM

I must say, I like your answer, though not the whole answer. You will not loose fat because of sprinting. It's the same with every other sport. Losing weight and doing sports has nothing to do with one another physically. See: http://robbwolf.com/2007/10/24/exercise-ineffective-for-weight-loss/ So please, never speak of a particular fitness method and weight loss in one sentence :P.

25819079a9264c10bcba7cd592e16216

(446)

on February 20, 2010
at 01:27 AM

true on the 600m! perhaps a 100/200/300/400m ladder i think it depends on specific goals and current level of conditioning. For beginners or, if fat loss is the goal, short intervals (~200 m or ~1 min sprints) are the easiest approach, will achieve the desired results quickly, and promotes intensity. The body adapts though, which is why it is helpful to cycle different types of sprints. Plus, it takes a certain amount of self-discipline to push yourself to fully sprint longer distances. For example, you could do short sprints twice a week and a ladder at the end to mix it up a bit.

25819079a9264c10bcba7cd592e16216

(446)

on May 21, 2010
at 05:48 PM

Good point, Jaap. Love robb's stuff :) Thanks.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on July 20, 2010
at 02:26 AM

I respectfully disagree. Even if you replace calories, your affe ting a multitude of hormonal changes for the better, and those ARE part of what cause weight loss. Just keep in mind that saying Robb wolf also likes to repeat, you can't out exercise a [email protected]$Ty diet.

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321

(1973)

on July 20, 2010
at 08:23 PM

Jaap & Robb Wolf are clueless. Intervals have dramatic effects on insulin sensitivity. http://pubget.com/search?q=doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0803781

4164a77c7ccf4839ec7f1e665d27cc6d

(1085)

on October 10, 2011
at 04:14 PM

Chris - I suppose youre right...if youre a young woman. Im only kidding with you. Though I respectfully disagree about Wolf being clueless.

6
89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on April 23, 2010
at 04:04 PM

My favorite:

uphill sprints as far as you can at top speed

walk downhill and recover*

repeat untill there is a drop in speed/time

*recovery can be short or longer (but I don't rest longer than 2 minutes myself), depending on what metabolic/energy pathway you would like to adress.

added bonus: after last uphill sprint, rest on top of the hill, and then do lunges on your way down. that will fry your legs for sure

and if you're not ready after this: try sprinting one last time, but backwards :P

I like uphill sprints, and as a physical therapist, I advise them to some of my patients because the impact of uphill running is quite low.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on April 23, 2010
at 06:57 PM

@pieter d: great suggestions, and great point about the low impact of uphill sprints

1dd1d4bde5b46b4c90efeadea3a96a75

(180)

on June 12, 2010
at 02:04 AM

I read somewhere that uphill running is speed work in disguise, so uphill sprints are taking sprints to a new level. My experience with this has been very good. During soccer games I would be frequently out of breath despite twice weekly training sessions with normal cardio. After 2 weeks of sprint training only twice a week, it seemed like no matter how much I ran I was never out of breath. I have tried going back to regular (flat) sprints and although good it doesn't have near the effect. Mountain trails are great for alternating sprints/walks, 10-20 times.

3
48d73cb880d957ebc147d658f21c0318

on February 19, 2010
at 07:01 AM

Here are a couple of articles from Mark's Daily Apple that 'll give you a start:

3
0637289bb4a0ab314d80fa4de627d395

(1015)

on February 19, 2010
at 03:11 AM

A couple popular interval programs are:

Tabata's and Taku's. You can google each to get the details.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on February 19, 2010
at 02:57 PM

Thanks jm. These are both incomplete recovery techniques. Are they better than intervals with complete recovery, or should I be doing some of each?

0637289bb4a0ab314d80fa4de627d395

(1015)

on March 13, 2010
at 08:50 PM

I would say a combo of complete and incomplete recovery is appropriate. I mostly use incomplete because I rarely get time to recover completely in jiu-jitsu (my main sport). Also, where I am training tends to dictate wether I use complete or incomplete. If I am in the gym, I almost always use incomplete recovery. If I am trail running then I favor complete intervals. Actually most of my trail comes under the idea of "fartlek" training.

2
4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

on July 19, 2010
at 01:07 AM

I need to chime in about all the exercise doesn't cause weight loss hooey

I beg to differ, exercise doesn't cause acute weight loss, it sure changes your hormonal profile tho, and that IS what causes wright loss. You have to do exercise that bumps IGF, Testosterone, HGH... Some like HIIT does exactly that

I like doing 10min of alternating All out sprints and slow walk till I've caught my breath

Personally the best card hiit I've found is ultimate frisbee, start stop walk run sprint jump, very hunteresqe

Ultimate ftw

9dd74d3941535d0aaa2c8d3cf454fb7e

on November 28, 2010
at 01:59 AM

Stephen, can you expand on specific types or styles of HIIT that increase IGF ? Thanks

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on November 28, 2010
at 03:38 AM

Sprinting or heavy weights with low reps would be the easiest for HGH/IGF

2
B1b9f0574aa9571f6aec6adb81d43190

(578)

on March 13, 2010
at 10:25 AM

In addition to everyone else's great posts, I suggest working on specific distances and functionality in sprinting.

Mix in days of 2x10x10m (2 sets of 10 reps of 10 metres), followed by 5x20m with decent rest in between - or something along those lines. It helps to work on acceleration and short-distance power. Maybe throw in a sidestep or quick turn-around halfway between running the full distance (50m sprint, quick turnaround, 50m sprint).

Once you get fast, sprints and all forms of running becomes a blast. That's good for exercise, and good for just plain life.

2
693b4a92133c19c288277dae8b43ab69

on February 19, 2010
at 03:55 PM

FWIW: I train in martial arts and we do a LOT of tabata workouts (plus lots of kettlebells, yeah!). I am not good at motivating myself through intense workouts - training in a group is what works for me.

Our warmups before regular class (sparring, weapons training) include lots of tabatas in different forms. So, one thing that's worked for this chick is to find a group of people training in the same way.

1
8eec45c654ab8ea2ba730f291ff20b3e

on August 11, 2010
at 02:56 PM

Turn your body from a sugar burner to a fat burner through diet (strict paleo) and you won't have to exercise to try to lose weight.

For the fitness aspect, do as Steve suggests and check out the P.A.C.E. program. You will build powerful lungs, build muscle and get fit very quickly.

1
8254c4e4d1f2aedd09cb9608b8777654

on August 10, 2010
at 04:20 PM

This is what I do on a treadmill. 10 minute warmup @ 6.3 mph followed by 1 minute at interval speed, followed by 30 seconds at 3.0 mph, then 20 seconds at 6.3, then 10 seconds to bring it back to interval speed. I repeat this 10 times and I'm done. Total time of workout comes to 30 minutes. I started with an interval speed of 10 mph and now do 10.5 mph. The workout leaves me feeling like I got a good workout, but not exhausted, which was a problem before. I do the workout once or twice a week depending on outside running conditions and how I feel. I'm 53 and prefer this workout to 20 minute tempo runs. If I run outside, it's generally an easy 90 minute (10 miles) run on trails.

This workout is at least as effective as anything I did before and has the benefit of leaving me less beatup so I recover quicker, which is important at 53. I eat paleo (low carb) and usually do this workout after work around 4:30 pm, having eaten only breakfast (eggs, bacon or sausage, milk with heavy cream) around 6 am, that is, after 10-12 hrs of fasting.

8254c4e4d1f2aedd09cb9608b8777654

(140)

on August 11, 2010
at 02:56 PM

Tabata intervals were 20 sec fast, 10 sec slow, which doesn't work well on a treadmill unless you slow it down and increase the incline, which I didn't want to do. I have plenty of hills here in Pennsylvania when I want to run hills. I went with 1 minute intervals because 20 seconds didn't seem long enough, and 2-3 minutes seemed too long for an intensive interval. It seems to work for me based on the idea of not being exhausted by it, but knowing that I did a very good workout nonetheless. The answer therefore is basically trial and error.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on August 10, 2010
at 06:20 PM

Thanks Richard. How did you arrive at your formula for intervals, i.e., did you read it in a blog or book, or did you develop it yourself?

1
F38f19b6ec74b2c6bf49531fe5dae567

on July 19, 2010
at 09:44 PM

Don't do Tabata's. Simply put, they may get you out of breath, but you are not going to receive the supposed benefits. HIIT is good for body recomposition although it is also by no means a miracle workout. I used to like a work/rest ratio of 15/45, so 150yd sprints would be a good distance for that.

400m are also good as long as you're using the appropriate rest periods. Just make sure not to overdo it. Remember, diet is the most important factor in body recomp.

F38f19b6ec74b2c6bf49531fe5dae567

(486)

on July 22, 2010
at 03:25 PM

I'd also add that I'm not a big believer in cardio promoting weight loss (either through intervals or steady state). They may add some contributions, but diet is of chief importance and weight training falls somewhere below that. Can cardio help? Sure, but relying on it solely sets yourself up for failure.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on July 19, 2010
at 09:52 PM

@Rob Palmer, interesting take on tabatas. Why don't they work, and do you have any relevant links? Thanks,

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on July 24, 2010
at 02:56 AM

@Rob Palmer, thanks for the interesting link RE tabatas.

F38f19b6ec74b2c6bf49531fe5dae567

(486)

on July 22, 2010
at 03:22 PM

"For a proper Tabata workout, 170% of that wattage would be 510 watts (for perspective, Tour De France cyclists may maintain 400 watts for an hour). This is an absolutely grueling workload. I suspect that most reading this, unless they are a trained cyclist, couldn’t turn the pedals at that wattage, that’s how much resistance there is." http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/research-review/effects-of-moderate-intensity-endurance-and-high-intensity-intermittent-training-on-anaerobic-capacity-and-vo2-max.html

1
3d7ede9d05c2730ead7e0876f90aad11

on March 13, 2010
at 06:45 AM

I just started using a heart rate monitor. I calculated my maximum heart rate and then an optimal zone *the range of which lies between 70 and 80% of my maximum rate). Now when I go for a run I warm up to the lower range limit. Once I hit that number, I sprint until I'm at the maximum of the upper range (80%). I then switch to a comfortable jog until I am again at the low point of the range (70%) at which point I begin again. This enables me to do one mile with effective challenges to my heart instead of three miles of struggling to keep going at an ineffective rate. I used the monitor in the same way, yesterday, on a 14 mile bike ride. At each mile marker I completely rested until my heart rate was in a normal range. Then I took off and got up to the highest speed I could maintain for the conditions of the path and remained there until my heart rate was at 80% maximum. Then I slowed down and stayed at a speed that kept me just above the 70% minimum range until the next mile marker. Surprisingly easy and fun yet I think I got a much better workout than I usually do at a steady cadence.

1
A1ae6a36ca0f4210882603e1255ea42d

on March 13, 2010
at 04:13 AM

I find the easiest way to get going with sprints is to engage the body through a warm-up jog of 0.5 - 1.0 mile and then decide to kick it into high gear by sprinting at top speed for a reasonable distance and then to return to a jog for probably double the distance and repeat 10-15x. (For me, this usually works out to running a warm-up of 10-20 NYC blocks, sprinting 1, jogging 2, and so on).

Tabata's are super tough to do mentally (had to be said) and in the context of a full-workout regimen, require long recover times.

Another two methods of sprinting that are a little more fun is to start off lying on your back or stomach and shoot up for a full spring; the other is shuttle runs (more agility than pure sprint).

1
3d7ede9d05c2730ead7e0876f90aad11

on March 12, 2010
at 11:26 PM

I'm always annoyed by links that lead to commercial products for sale. If you have tried PACE and it works for you--fine--but please warn people that they won't learn anything about the program unless they pay for it first before you send them on another wild goose chase.

0
9d575617bfee322271aeb2d604532558

(16)

on February 19, 2010
at 07:00 PM

Dr. Al Sears promotes (pioneered?) an interval workout routine he calls 'PACE'. it's the best fat burning method I've seen and is similar to what geelyn described above.

here is a link to his site: http://www.alsearsmd.com/pace/

B694ff94abba729b4d1568fc12ff3285

(169)

on February 21, 2010
at 11:00 PM

Pls check http://robbwolf.com/2007/10/24/exercise-ineffective-for-weight-loss/ and read the comment above. you wont lose any weight because of a particular fitness method, in fact, you wont lose fat at all when you execise.

3d7ede9d05c2730ead7e0876f90aad11

(319)

on March 13, 2010
at 12:01 AM

I think that Rob's point is that any method will cause you to lose weight if you burn more calories than you take in but the body will compensate to maintain homeostasis so you'll end up being hungrier and put it right back on. To change body composition requires nutritional changes that support lower insulin levels and using your own body fat for energy.

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