By Brandon Richey
When it comes to conditioning and you are including sprints into your regular training program, then you want to work towards becoming proficient. You should become faster, you should get better at doing your sprints, and then you can do more of them.
However, once you have gotten better at doing sprints—and have elevated your performance to reaching a point of being able to do more of them—then what comes next?
How do you continue to achieve supercompensation and make big gains in your sprint conditioning program?
In today’s article, I’m going to give you 5 of my top tips to help you do exactly that.
1) Run Uphill
I don’t think any of us can argue that if you really want to challenge your conditioning all you’ve got to do is find a hill. Being able to sprint up a steady grade even if it’s a gradual incline will absolutely test your mental and physical abilities.
Sprinting uphill creates a unique challenge and will blast your legs, lungs, and introduce an intense level of metabolic stress to your entire system in a hurry.
Even though you might be physically proficient for sprint training, once you introduce a hill this will change the dynamics of your conditioning in a hurry.
In addition to the extra stress of climbing the hill during your run you’re also going to be forced to elevate your knees, improve your ankle flexion, and drive off the ground more aggressively in order to pull that uphill climb.
Once you’re ready to add on something extra to your sprint conditioning find that hill. For more speed development find a hill with a slow steady escalating grade.
2) Run Downhill
A faster engine has more horsepower and more horsepower means greater work capacity. When it comes to you elevating your sprint conditioning another way you can go about doing this is by changing up how you attack that hill you just found to run up.
You can do this by simply starting at the top of that hill in order to sprint down it.
Downhill sprints (at a gradual grade) will drastically increase your speed for performing sprints on level ground. A steady downhill sprint will force you to run faster than you’re normally able to run on your own. This is known as overspeed training.
You see the downhill sprint will force you to increase your stride length and frequency in order to keep you from falling on your face as you try to keep up with the speed involved of getting down the hill.
The stress and “feeling of effort” is not going to be the same as the uphill sprint, but I promise you it’s there.
Downhill sprinting taxes your neuromuscular system and make your legs and body more responsive and quicker due to the specific type of stress involved with the downhill sprint.
You only want to perform these once you have elevated your level ground and uphill sprint performance for your conditioning.
3) Weighted Vest
The next simple progression for upgrading your sprint conditioning is loading with a weighted vest.
Once you’re able to get your sprint conditioning dialed into handling a certain volume then you can focus on increasing the intensity by loading yourself with a weighted resistance.
The two variables you can change to continue to enhance your physical progression involve volume and intensity. Assuming you’ve reached a volume of sprint runs you’re proficient with, then the next variable to address should be the change in the intensity. This is where loading comes into play.
This weighted resistance can come in different forms, but for optimal sprint conditioning the weighted vest is actually the most practical and useful option.
By loading with the weighted vest the idea is that the load is kept close to your center of mass. This is most ideal when dealing with more athletic, tactical, and performance type drills as we perform better with the load closest to the center of our bodies.
In other words, it wouldn’t be wise to use a loaded resistance such as ankles weights. This is because the load is placed further away from your center of mass at your extremities.
This is makes for less efficient sprints and also can put you at risk for an injury. Loading at the center of mass is the key to obtaining safe and practical results.
4) Pushing A Sled
The next progression in loading for building up your sprints is by taking advantage of the use of a weighted sled. The thing you want to remember here though is understanding the purpose behind how you should use the sled to enhance your sprint conditioning.
To give you a concrete example if the goal is to enhance your sprints and your sprint conditioning then you’re naturally performing a sprint with more speed and effort. The key to building on your ability to get better at your sprinting is by you being able to produce speed and velocity.
In short, you’ve got to practice running fast in order to be fast. This is known as the S.A.I.D principle. This stands for Specific Adaptation To Imposed Demands.
The S.A.I.D principle basically means that if you want to get better at a specific skill then you should practice that specific skill.
Just like in sports. if you want to get better at shooting a basketball you wouldn’t turn around and go practice hitting a baseball. This wouldn’t make any sense in order to enhance that specific skill of shooting a basketball.
Well the same principle applies to enhancing the speed and conditioning of your sprints. If you’re going to utilize a sled for greater resistance that’s a great start, but you don’t want to load the sled to the point that the weight of it bogs you down causing you to move slow.
I’ve seen videos online in the past where coaches and trainees would be pushing a super heavy sled moving really slow while labeling the video as “speed training.” This is inaccurate.
Now I’m not saying that loading and pushing a heavy sled doesn’t have benefits. Sure pushing a heavy sled is a wonderful “strength drill,” but it doesn’t enhance your speed, or sprinting ability.
The key to leveraging the sled is loading the sled with a lighter weight and pushing it a high rate of speed. The faster you can run pushing it, the more you’re going to improve your sprints.
5) The Bungee or Resistance Band
The next evolution in ramping up your sprints for optimal performance and conditioning is with the addition of a bungee or resistance band. Resisted bungee sprints add in an entirely different form of resistance.
You see the elastic band adds what is known as an element of accommodating resistance.
Accommodating resistance is defined as a resistance that uses a special means to accommodate resistance throughout the entire range of motion rather than at a specific point.
So when looking at a sprint performed with the elastic bungee you’re essentially building more resistance the more you stretch the bungee or band.
The key here is that the resistance is constant throughout a resisted sprint, but the resistance is also scaled and determined based where you are in the stretch of the band.
Of course the same same accommodating resistance can be applied to your bigger strength movements such as your squats and deadlifts as well, but that is a conversation for another day.
Generally you would utilize a bungee or elastic band for sprints by tethering it to an anchor with one end. This may mean you use a pole, rack, or even a training partner. The other end would be attached to your waist with a belt or harness.
From here you’d want to sprint out to tension the band and then back off to lessen the tension or slacken the band before performing a subsequent sprint with the bungee. You can also vary how you perform these sprints with the bungee for different training stress.
I promise you the bungee resisted sprints will transform your sprints and optimize your conditioning in a whole new way.
If you’re serious about training for a whole new level of results I promise you these 5 sprint variations will transform your sprints and overall conditioning.
Not only will you notice a significant enhancement of your conditioning and recovery, but you’ll notice a drastic difference in your performance of your regular sprints by being able to literally chew them up with the new speed development and recovery of training in this way.
If you’re interested in supercharging your fitness and conditioning with more innovative conditioning drills like these make sure you come and visit my website.
Also check out my 120-Day Functional Fitness Program shown above; it’s chock full of awesome workouts that will get you into top shape.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
SEALgrinderPT coach Brandon Richey is a certified strength and conditioning coach, author, and founder of Brandon Richey Fitness.
He has worked with thousands of athletes over his 17 years of experience, developing fitness training programs for beginners to professional and D-1 level collegiate athletes at the University of Georgia.
He also trains MMA and Muay Thai athletes, both professional and amateur.
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