Sprinting, Jumping, Losing Body Fat, (And Cultivating Gratitude), Part Two
I hope you enjoyed part one of this presentation. I’d like to you pay particular attention to the four prerequisites in your diet and fitness program that must be in place before you can properly benefit from explosive sprinting and jumping workouts. They were detailed at the end of part one, and to briefly recap they are:
- Diet. Ditch processed sugars, grains, and industrial seed oils
- Movement. Increase all forms of general everyday movement
- Avoid the chronic. Correct anything in your training schedule that gives off even a whiff of being chronic in nature
- Do high intensity correctly. We’ll detail the workout templates here, but make sure that you only attempt explosive, high-intensity sessions when you are fully rested and energized to deliver a peak performance effort.
Increasing all forms of general everyday movement is a broad and non-specific recommendation, which makes it more difficult to integrate into daily life. It’s time to focus on a life-changing centerpiece to meet this objective: A morning flexibility, mobility, core & leg strengthening routine. I do this every single day immediately upon awakening. What started as a pretty simple and non-strenuous 12-minute session has progressed gracefully over the past four years into a quite challenging session that takes a minimum of 35 minutes every day to complete – by choice. You don’t have to make a big production out of it if you don’t want to.
My integration of the morning routine into a habit has been a life-changing experience for many reasons. It provides discipline, focus, and structure to start my day, and I have a sense of pride that I have a streak going past four years and counting. This regimen elevates the fitness platform from which I launch all formal workouts, and especially helps with injury prevention.
Sprinting The Right Way (and how I one-upped Usain Bolt)
The following is a simple template for a highly effective sprint workout.
The Cardio Warmup
I always take a 10-minute bicycle ride or jog to the running track. Usually I’m off into the warmup right after my elaborate morning routine, so I don’t need the additional stretching. Otherwise, consider doing some dynamic stretching after you complete your cardio warmup. You want to get your heart rate and respiration elevated, be breaking a light sweat, and central nervous system focused on delivering upcoming hard efforts.
Review the basic and advanced running technique drill videos for ideas. Even though running is a simple sport, developing correct technique is critical. This video will help you avoid common mistakes and dial in the most efficient technique for sprinting and all slower speeds. I’ve been really enjoying a focus on skipping drills. Many sprint coaches contend skipping is the single best way to refine good technique because you can isolate certain aspects of the running stride that are hard to focus on when running full speed. And also because the basic skipping movement and all variations are inherently explosive—just like good sprinting.
This video details 10 Ways To Skip. I typically circle a 400-meter running track two times and do all ten skipping styles shown. Work efforts are usually around 20 seconds (never longer).
Since I’m fully warmed up when I start skipping, these two laps have quite a high degree of difficulty. I’ll do a skip drill for about 20 seconds, jog for about 20 seconds, and then another skip drill. I’m breathing hard and my heart rate is elevated as I finish a sequence. I’ll end my two laps with the difficult hamstring kick outs as seen here on the advanced technique drills video. They have to feel good in order to proceed to real sprinting or hard jumping. On occasion when I feel too sluggish with the skipping drills, I’ll just head home with an aerobic cooldown and wait for a better day. This is an extremely important admonition. Sprinting or jumping when the muscles or central nervous system are fatigued is a recipe for big trouble in the form of injury or an ineffective workout with extended recovery time at the very least.
Preparatory efforts where you accelerate up to nearly full speed and then immediately slow back down. Your accelerations last 4-5 seconds before you slow down. This is just revving the engine for the formal sprints ahead. Focus on precise and explosive sprinting techniques. If you notice any tightness or imperfections in your technique, this is a good final checkpoint to consider skipping the main sprints.
Main Set of Sprints
I’ll do four to eight 80 meters sprints with at least one-minute rest between efforts. My 80- meter efforts take me 11-12 seconds, so I’ll rest at least five times longer than the sprint, or around 1:00.
This honors what Dr. Craig Marker calls “luxurious” rest intervals in the HIRT protocol. During the recovery period, you want your respiration to return to near normal and your nervous system to return to what sports scientist Dr. Tudor Bompa calls an, “optimally excited and uninhibited” state—you are psyched to take on the next sprint! This is a big difference from toeing the line with your tongue hanging out, hoping you can “survive” three more. I had to learn to ditch my endurance athlete mindset at the chain-line fence I hopped to access the track, and instead treat my body and my psyche with the delicate sensitivity shown when training thoroughbred racehorses.
Surprising as it may seem, you never need to do anything more than eight times 80 meters for a template sprint (running) workout. Those new to running sprints can start out with four times 80 meters and progress up to eight. The only reason to run longer sprints is if you have competitive goals, where you encounter high risk for minimal extra payoff (more shortly.) Trying to sprint for longer than 20 seconds invites cellular breakdown, increased recovery time, and appetite spikes in the aftermath. If you keep your sprints between 10-20 seconds, you are burning ATP and creatine phosphate for fuel instead of blasting through your glycogen stores.
Taking insufficient recovery time between sprints is another way to trash yourself and compromise the intended benefits of the workout. This is a mistake I made for 13 years with my sprint workouts because I inappropriately projected my endurance athlete mentality into my sprint training. Mind you, I could perform my sprints on short recovery intervals just fine because of my strong endurance background. I recall an all-comers meet a decade ago where I achieved something not even Usain Bolt could ever dream of. I ran a 100-meter race and was disappointed with my performance. So I jogged back to the starting line and lined up in the blocks to participate in the next heat. After perhaps a minute of rest, I improved my time by 1/10th of a second, and was only 3.5 seconds off the world record! (For those uninitiated to track & field stats, this is a joke that happens to be true.)
When one is pumped up and ready for a peak performance session, the potential drawbacks are not perceivable in the moment. The problem when you perform explosive efforts with short recovery is that you experience that aforementioned cellular breakdown and increased recovery time in the hours and days afterward. For so long, I associated sprint workouts with waking up the next day feeling beat up, calves sore to the touch, and needed to crash out for a big nap in the afternoon. After all, this was a centerpiece workout with huge fitness benefits that you only do once every 7-10 days, right? Alas, there is a cutoff point where a workout becomes too difficult for maximum benefit, and toning things down can be a much better strategy. With a correctly designed sprint workout, I can perform significantly more of them over the course of a year, not have to waste precious resources repairing sore muscles, and not challenge my general health and hormone function with high-stress workouts.
If you’re performing low- or no-impact sprints on a stationary bike, cardio machines, rowing, or running uphill or upstairs, you can sprint for longer and do a few more reps than you can with running sprints. The lower degree of difficulty of the activity, the more the body can handle. For example, Olympic sprinters spend perhaps 1-2 hours a day on the track, with just minutes of explosive effort in total. By contrast, Olympic swimmers spend 4-5 hours a day in the pool, including numerous high-intensity sets and sprints. With low impact activities, you can sprint for up to 20 seconds, but keep the range between four and eight and keep the rest “luxurious,” at least one minute. Maximum benefits accrue with high impact running (bone density, fat reduction signaling), so strive to progress to running sprints if at all possible. Whether running or doing low-impact, you always want to set your sights on going faster rather than adding more sprints or taking less recovery than what’s recommended here.
Jump Into Jumping
So you’re not a jumper you say?! Even if you don’t dream of Olympic bronze like me, I strongly encourage you to consider adding jumping to your training regimen. Leaving the earth to briefly experience the theory of gravity viscerally is one of the quintessential human movements, yet even many highly devoted fitness enthusiasts never get air time of any kind. The reason sprinting on flat ground and jumping are the best fat loss workouts is because the penalty for carrying extra non-functional weight is so severe (unlike non-weight bearing sports like swimming or downhill skiing, or moving at lower levels of intensity). This is why you never see a fat sprinter or high jumper!
Sprinting and jumping send strong genetic signals to shed excess body fat so you might find yourself more adapted for ensuing sessions. Even with workouts lasting less than 30 minutes in total, and cumulative explosive efforts totaling only a few minutes (e.g., 8 x 12-second sprints, plus a dozen difficult technique drills lasting 10 seconds each totals 3.6 minutes), the metabolic benefits are experienced for days afterward.
This is a concept known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC)1 – your metabolic rate increases in response to the extreme energy expenditure during the workout. What’s happening with EPOC is that your body is working hard on cellular repair, hormone rebalancing, building new and stronger muscles and mitochondria, replenishing fuel sources like ATP and glycogen, replenishing depleted neurons in the central nervous system, and so on. Countless studies have validated that a little goes a long way such that a properly conducted explosive sprint or jumping workout or a resistance training session, can deliver a greater return on investment than lower intensity workouts2 lasting five times longer.
All manner of jumping can also improve bone density, balance, and resilience against all kinds of athletic or everyday physical injuries. Dr. Michael Roizen, co-author with Dr. Oz of the popular You: The Owner’s Manual health book series and leader of the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, says you can preserve bone mass in the spine and lower extremities by simply jumping up and down 20 times, every morning and every night. The attributes of bone density and better balance, general mobility and athleticism also represent some of the most important longevity attributes, because it’s the number-one cause of injury and death.3 in American’s over age 65 is falling. A simple falling incident with a frail senior can spell doom because the recovery time restricts activity and leads to further atrophy. This increases the risk of accidents from even the most mundane of daily activities. Many falling victims never get back up after breaking a fragile femur bone and being bedridden for so long that there’s not enough strength to get back up even with the initial break healed.
When I go through my sequence of jumping drills, I’m honoring the principles of sprinting where my work efforts last between 10 and 20 seconds with plenty of rest between sets. A single set of jumping drills isn’t as tough as a sprint of the same duration, so I’m resting maybe 20-30 seconds between work efforts instead of 60.
Usually I’ll do ~14 sets, which means most but not all of the advanced suggestions here. If you are a novice, focus on the basic drills and limit the duration of your sets to 10 seconds. You can try to work in some advanced drills over time and extend the duration of your work efforts up to 20 seconds, but never over. As with technique drills and sprints, end the set if you notice technique or explosiveness falter.
Jumping Workout Sequence
Here is a template for a fun and effective jumping workout:
- Low-intensity cardio warmup, dynamic stretching
- Basic and advanced running technique drills
- Main set of 5-15 jumping drills as follows
- 2 x Explosive vertical jump, two-foot takeoff. Stand comfortably with feet shoulder-width apart, crouch down so thighs are near parallel, then swing arms aggressively as you explode straight up off the ground. Catch your breath for a bit and repeat, or progress to immediate takeoff after landings. Honor a maximum duration of :20 for the set.
- 2 x Vertical jumps, three-step approach. Vertical jump with three-step approach (as if dunking a basketball or high jumping), landing on two feet. Swing arms upwards in unison for takeoff. Repeat with your dominant takeoff leg ~6-12 efforts. I like to simulate the high jump takeoff by taking the three-step approach with a slight curve and taking off at a 45-degree angle. You can also proceed in a straight line and jump vertically. Land and then take another three-step approach for another explosive jump.
- 2 x Vertical jumps with three-step approach, opposite leg takeoff. It’s always a good idea to balance the training load instead of favoring your dominant limb or side. This helps the central nervous system refine good technique with your dominant limb or side. The same is true for golfers—try hitting some shots with a left-handed club some time! Strive to execute well with your off-hand, off-leg or opposite swing as an important component of your training program and skill development.
- 2 x Explosive skipping. As seen here on the 10 ways to skip video, it’s essentially a vertical jump with a one-step approach, landing on the same leg, then taking one step into a takeoff on the opposite leg. Continue for ~12 jumps.
- 2 x Bunny hops. Take off and land with feet together, splitting the effort between height and distance. Strive to land gracefully and in balance every time. Slow down for a beat if you need to gather yourself between hops
- 2 x Leap frogs. Assume deep squat position with hands on the ground. Explode up, splitting effort between height and distance. Land gracefully and in balance.
- 2 x Left leg hopping. Take off and land on Left leg for 12-20 hops. On each Left leg takeoff, the R leg swings gently forward to provide momentum and balance. Land in softly and gracefully. Preserve hip height at all times.
- 2 x Right leg hopping. 12-20 hops. Land gracefully with a balanced center of gravity.
- 2 x Explosive bounding. Take extra-long strides with an explosive takeoff and a graceful landing. Be as light on your feet as possible and try to maintain forward momentum. Take care to always land in balance and preserve hip height. Try to explode off the ground with each landing rather than collapse your weight into the ground.
- 2 x Bicycle drill. Take off on the left leg and complete a simulated pedal rotation in the air before landing on right leg. Take a couple steps and execute another left leg takeoff, right leg landing for ~6 reps or :20 max. Expert: Take off on left leg, land on right leg. Then take one stride and execute a right leg takeoff, left leg landing-2 strides into a right leg takeoff, right leg landing, then back to left leg bicycle, then right leg bicycle. Focus on a graceful and balanced landing for each bicycle stride.
- 2 x lateral single-leg hops. Take two Left legged hops, then explode sideways to land on Right leg and take two Right leg hops. Then explode sideways and land on Left leg. Take two Left leg hops and so on.
- 2 x Explosive lunge in place. Assume the lunge position with R leg forward and L leg behind, both bent to near 90 degrees. Swing arms aggressively and explode directly up in the air, switching your forward leg in midair to land with L leg in front and R leg behind. A graceful and balanced landing is critical here. Try to maintain a straight and elongated spine and land on midfoot with hips level.
- Sumo lateral bounding. Face forward with knees slightly bent and explode off L leg up and sideways. Land gracefully on your R leg on midfoot, with balanced center of gravity and knees tracking over midfoot. Gather your energy, swing the arms and explode off R leg to land on L leg.
There are a lot of options here but please don’t get overwhelmed. 2004 Olympic high jump champion Stefan Holm, who holds the world record for jumping a differential of 2’0” over his height (5”10” with high jump personal best of 7’10”), suggests getting really good at a handful of your favorite drills and perfecting them. He’s pretty good at Holm Hurdles (they are 5’0’ high!). If you haven’t left the ground in a while, you can start with the basic drills and just do a few of them each time you work out. Baby steps count for a lot when you head in the direction of sprinting and jumping, so get started right away and strive to make steady progress over time. Good luck!!
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