How to Run Sprint Intervals

Jason Kelly STACK

Sprints are great for the athletic and general populations. They are an incredible expression of speed and power. They also definitely have a more significant payoff than jogging when it comes to getting in shape, enhancing your health, boosting your strength, developing fast-twitch muscle fibers, shredding fat, and creating lean muscle mass.

Sprinting Advantages

  • Slows down aging and cognitive decline
  • Improves cardiovascular health
  • Lowers your risk of heart disease
  • Improves your blood cholesterol levels
  • Helps control and prevent high blood pressure
  • Increases and extends metabolism post-exercise more than jogging
  • Improves blood sugar, balance, and control

I can’t lie. To obtain these benefits, you must be prepared physically. It is not smart to start trying to sprint. Having a great idea and the best programming can work against you, especially if you are untrained. Trying to go from couch potato to elite sprinter in one-week is asking for an injury. Even athletes are vulnerable to strain and injury without preparation. Many of their injuries and strains occur most times from the off-season and into practice pre-season training. Your muscles need to learn or relearn how to handle, sustain, and absorb force. You cannot apply force or excessive force to muscles not prepared to handle it. Much like trying to drive a 4-cylinder car like an F1 in a car race, you will blow the motor. It is essential to prepare.

Strength Training

The effects of strength training done before or with sprint training are crucial to enhance sprinting and prevent injury. Do strength training 2-3 times per week before sprinting for about 4-weeks. You should prepare your hips, knees, and ankles for the application of force to be explosive. Excellent strength exercises for sprinting would be: squats, leg presses, deadlifts, Nordic hip bridges, single-leg deadlifts, single-leg squats, lunges, snatches, jump cleans, split squats, etc. You can run sprints simultaneously with your strength training, but only at a low level of about 60-70%. If you do too much intensity at one time, your muscles will be overtraining, and your nervous system will be overloaded. Overtraining does not yield results, which is why strains and injuries ensue. After 4-weeks of strength training, you can advance to plyometrics. Exercises would include bounding, jumping, and skipping exercises. Sprinting enhancements are determined by your sprint, strength, and plyometric training.

Setting up Your Sprint Intervals – Building the Base

Progressive Overload

In the beginning, progressive overload is essential! Just sprinting as fast as you can all the time is not the best way to develop speed. Sprinting as fast as you can all the time produces slower gains, quick strength plateaus, and fatigue. Adaptation is the key. Let your body adapt to running at 50%, then 75%, 85% and up, etc. When the body adapts to force, it will be able to adjust to more incremental force. Adapting incrementally to force is what creates fast results. If you run as fast as you can all the time, this is not an adaptation.

Progressive overload training will prevent strain, pain, or injury and at the same time, progressively introduce more and more stimulus. What’s most important is the ability to do sprints safely at a higher speed to build into faster times gradually. Because, once you are injured, you will have to start all over again in 3 months when your injury is better. It’s not worth it! Be smart.


Understand why you are sprinting and what your needs are, especially for your sport. If it is for pure fun and training, then set up intervals to measure progression.

  • If you are sprinting for power, take a full recovery of 90 seconds to 2 minutes after each sprint.
  • If you are sprinting for conditioning, rest from 10 seconds to 1 minute.

Don’t train power and conditioning of sprints the same day.

Sprint Workout Example:

  • Monday: Perform maximal speed sprinting. Mid-range sprints, working on top-end speed power, and conditioning. For example, Flying 40, 50, 60 with 2-3 minutes rest in between the sprints. Flying sprints are designed to develop maximal velocity. The goal is to sprint and reach the highest speed possible and continue as long as velocity does not decrease. Flying sprints are often performed from a jogging start, hitting max speed at the 10 to 20-yard mark and holding max speed for 20-60 yards.
  • Wednesday: Perform short sprints focusing on acceleration power with full recovery of 3 minutes. Example- 5 to 30-yard sprints.
  • Friday: Perform longer sprints from 70-100 yards, training different intensities between 60 and 90% with minimal rest less than 20 seconds.

Sprinting Tips

Beginners should start at lower intensities and with more rest until acclimated. When you become advanced, you can increase the intensity and decrease the rest time.

If you are an athlete, understand your sprinting distance and repetition during competition and mimic it during intervals to develop the appropriate energy.

Resisted Sprints

Resisted sprints are used to stimulate sprint acceleration. A few examples are:

  • Sprinting uphill
  • Sled sprints
  • Partner hold sprints

Assisted Sprints

Assisted sprints are the exact opposite of resisted sprints. Instead of sprinting uphill, you will sprint downhill. Sprinting downhill makes your feet and muscle have to react faster. You can also do slingshot sprints hooking up resistance bands like a slingshot; pushing back into them and using the resistance to propel you forward.

Sprint, Decelerate, Sprint

Mark off about 60 yards. Sprint for 20-yards at 90%, decelerate the speed for 20-yards to 75% and then kick it back up and sprint 20-yards 90%.

Speed Testing

Bronco is a great way to test your speed endurance and conditioning. The Bronco Test is a shuttle run test for total time. You need to set-up cones at 20, 40, and 60m and perform shuttles back and forth. There is no rest in between and you have to do it 5 times. It usually takes 4-6 minutes to complete, if you get under 5 minutes, that’s good. The fastest time is 4 minutes and 12 seconds.

There are many sprint intervals out there that you can do. People can most often not sprint for 30 seconds or need more rest than what the interval is asking for. Set yourself up for success, not a failure, injury, or fatigue. You have to follow your fitness level to maximize results and progress. Most people are not successful with progression because they don’t adapt to create their base to train or perform.