Muscle Activity During Sprints. Get Strong and Big Legs!

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Muscle Activity During Sprints

Sprints are a highly effective exercise for building strength and muscle size, improving cardiovascular endurance, and burning calories. As compound power moves, sprints utilize a lot of energy and can stimulate hypertrophy and fat loss. In addition, sprints help develop performant, strong, and robust legs, glutes, and core muscles.

The Art of Sprinting: A Biomechanical Symphony

Imagine our muscles as the strings of a finely tuned instrument, transferring force to bones through tendons like musical notes. As they pull on our bones and related body parts, a harmonious melody of movement called muscle contraction ensues.

In this symphony, the contracting muscle takes center stage as the protagonist or agonist, while its counterpart, the relaxing or lengthening muscle, plays the supporting role of the antagonist. During a sprint, the dynamic duo of hamstrings and quads join forces, co-contracting to create powerful strides.

These antagonist and agonist muscles often perform as paired virtuosos, known as antagonistic pairs.

The animation below offers an insightful glimpse into how muscles activate and collaborate during various sprinting stances. The overarching takeaway? Sprints are a masterful workout for calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes, and abs.

Muscle Activation During Sprints
Image Source: Research Gate

Why are Sprints the Maestros of Strength and Size?

One glance at the chiseled physiques of professional sprinters and their impressive leg development is all the evidence needed to confirm the effectiveness of sprints. While these athletes undoubtedly incorporate other exercises into their regimens, perfecting their sprints remains a top priority.

It’s safe to conclude that sprints contribute to powerful, sturdy legs, sculpted glutes, and a trim waistline.

Sprints are the crescendos of compound power moves, demanding an abundance of energy. This is why they torch calories and ignite sugar cravings. A helpful tip for those embarking on sprint sessions: fuel up with fiber-rich complex carbs right after exercising.

During a full-speed sprint, a symphony of activity erupts in the leg and core muscles. The HAMSTRINGS steal the show with the longest duration of activity, even though the quads deliver an equally intense performance. Research reveals that muscle activity escalates with increased speed and distance, like the crescendo of a musical piece.

To examine the impact of fatigue, some studies have explored long endurance sprints, such as the 400-meter dash. These investigations noted an uptick in *EMG activity as the sprint advanced, with increased contact times in the latter half potentially due to a growing number of slow-twitch fibers stepping in as the fast-twitch fibers tired.

*Electromyography (EMG) is a diagnostic technique that measures and records the electrical activity produced by skeletal muscles, like an attentive conductor following each note of the performance.

The Art of Sprinting Versus Long-Distance Running: Finding Your Rhythm

Long-distance running at a cardio pace and sprinting at full speed require two distinct techniques. Many people assume that running is a simple, intuitive activity, but in truth, few (aside from professionals) have mastered the art of proper form and pacing. Like a dance, it takes time and gradual adjustments to perfect your running technique. Watch the video below for insights on leg movement:

When embarking on your journey to master the art of running, consider the following tips to enhance your sprint and long-distance running techniques:

  1. Warm-Up and Stretch: Whether you’re sprinting or running long distances, always begin with a warm-up to activate your muscles and a stretching routine to ensure flexibility and prevent injuries.
  2. Posture: Maintain an upright posture for both sprinting and long-distance running. Keep your head, shoulders, and hips aligned, and avoid slouching or leaning too far forward or backward.
  3. Arm Swing: For both running styles, your arms should swing naturally and rhythmically, with a 90-degree bend at the elbow. Avoid crossing your arms over your body or swinging them too high.
  4. Foot Strike: Sprinters typically land on the balls of their feet, while long-distance runners may use a heel-to-toe or midfoot strike. Experiment with different foot strikes to find the one that works best for your running style and reduces the risk of injury.
  5. Stride Length and Cadence: Sprinters use longer strides and faster cadence to achieve maximum speed, while long-distance runners should focus on shorter strides and a consistent cadence to conserve energy and maintain a steady pace.
  6. Breathing: In both sprinting and long-distance running, practice rhythmic and deep breathing to ensure adequate oxygen supply to your muscles. Coordinate your breathing with your steps to maintain a consistent rhythm.

Remember, practice makes perfect. As you work on improving your running technique, be patient with yourself and make incremental adjustments. Over time, you’ll find your stride and master the art of both sprinting and long-distance running.

Sprint with Caution: The Importance of Balance and Recovery

Sprinting demands a tremendous amount of energy and resources, which means sustainable nutrition is essential. To support your athletic endeavors, consider exploring my Nutrition Secrets and Intermittent Fasting eBook, specifically designed for athletes.

When we sprint, our bodies and minds shift into high alert, consuming significant resources. Though we can run at a steady pace for extended periods, sprinting is more akin to a defense mechanism, helping us escape risky situations. As such, frequent sprinting may not be ideal.

While this perspective is primarily based on personal experience and common sense, it’s important to note that sleep deprivation and regular sprint sessions can be a risky combination. Lack of sleep may hinder your body’s ability to handle the intensity and effort required for sprinting, increasing the risk of injury.

Listening to your body is crucial. If your energy levels are low, it’s best to avoid sprinting until you feel fully rested and recharged.

Everything About Sprints

The Ultimate Sprints Workout for Muscle Gains, Strength, and Fat Loss

Before embarking on a high-intensity sprint training session, ensure a proper warm-up by jogging at an aerobic pace for at least 15 minutes, or until you feel well-prepared. Depending on the temperature, you may need up to 20-30 minutes to warm up adequately. Once you’re ready, follow this workout plan:

  1. 2-3 Sprints x 400 meters (a full track length)
  2. 2 Sprints x 200 meters
  3. 4 Sprints x 100 meters
  4. 10 Sprints x 20-50 meters
  5. 100 Squats, any variation

Recovery time is subjective and should be tailored to your personal capacity. The key is to avoid cooling down your muscles too much. Allow your heart rate and breathing to return to normal before resuming the workout.

Remember, balance and recovery are crucial to preventing injuries and ensuring optimal results from your sprint workouts. Always listen to your body and prioritize proper nutrition, sleep, and warm-ups for a safe and effective sprinting experience.

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