Want to add some sprints to your workout? They have myriad benefits. Many people do them to lose fat and build muscle as sprinting has a positive impact on human growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and testosterone levels in the body. But they can also help improve other fitness markers as well, such as endurance, peak power and VO2 max. Not surprisingly, you’ll need to do a little work to get in shape to sprint. Start with some moves for mobility, stability and power, coupled with a sprinting program that you can advance as you build speed and stamina.

Before you begin

Before you start sprinting, build a solid aerobic base. If you’re a beginner, you may need to allow three to four weeks to advance. If you’re not accustomed to running, you may want to start building your aerobic base on the stationary bike or a rowing machine. Don’t plan on running sprints if you have limited range of motion or asymmetry in your ankles, knees or hips.Plan on your sprint sessions lasting 10 minutes, up to 30 minutes. You can train using the “work to rest” method, alternating set times for work and rest intervals – or you can use a heart monitor to sprint until you reach your target heart rate, and then rest to recover to 50 or 60 percent of your max heart rate.Begin with these movements for mobility, stability and power.

Seated Arm Sprints

DURATION PER SET: 10-30 sec (build up time each week as form and endurance improve)
SETS: 2-3

  • Sit on the floor with your legs extended straight in front of you.
  • Maintain good posture by sitting up straight – bracing your core. (Imagine tightening up your midsection as if someone was getting ready to punch you in the stomach.)
  • Bend your elbows about 90 degrees and slowly pump your arms as if you were running. Increase the speed of your arm movement throughout the duration of the exercise.
  • Arm movement should come from the shoulders. Your hands should be open and relaxed throughout your set, and should swing straight up and down from the hip up toward the side of the head, reaching ear level – make sure they don’t cross your body.

Wall High Knees

DURATION PER SET: 3-5 each leg
SETS: 2-3

  • Place your hands at shoulder height on a wall and step back so that your body is at arm’s length from the wall, creating a 45 degree angle with the ground.
  • Pushing against the wall, begin to run in place, drawing one knee high toward your chest, flexing your foot as you lift it – and then alternating with the other leg.
  • Be sure to stay on the balls of your feet and avoid rolling back to your heels.

Lateral Leg Swings

DURATION PER SET: 8-10 each leg
SETS: 2-3 each leg

  • Place your hands at shoulder height on a wall, and step back so that your body is at arm’s length from the wall.
  • While keeping your torso relatively motionless to keep the motion primarily from the hip, extend your right leg out to the side, swing it laterally across your body to your left side, then return to your starting position. The leg should remain as straight as possible throughout the movement. Repeat with your left leg.
  • Gradually increase the height of the lateral leg swings as you continue to warm up.
  • Leg abduction height should peak around 45 degrees.

Bridge Kicks

DURATION PER SET: 8-10 each leg
SETS: 2-3 each leg

  • Lie on your back, arms at your sides with palms facing up, and knees bent with your feet hip-width apart on the floor.
  • Lift your hips toward the ceiling into a bridge. Keep your glutes and hamstrings engaged and your left foot on the ground. Extend your right leg until it’s parallel with your left thigh.
  • Draw your right knee toward your chest, then straighten it with a kick toward the ceiling.
  • Lower your straightened right leg until it’s parallel with your left thigh again, and then lower both hips to the ground.
  • Return to your starting bridge position and repeat with the left leg.

Running Mountain Climbers

DURATION PER SET: 4 per variation
SETS: 1-2 sets per variation

  • Start on your hands and knees in a pushup position with your hands placed directly under your shoulders. Evenly distribute your weight between your hands and toes.
  • While keeping your hands on the floor, push your weight back onto the balls of your feet and flex the knee and the hip on one side of your body – bringing that leg forward until the knee is right under the hip.
  • Quickly reverse the positions of your legs, extending your bent leg until it’s straight and supported by your toes, while bringing the opposite foot forward with the hip and knee flexed. You’ll feel like you are “running” in place.
  • Alternate four times for each of the following variations:

A. Straight on: as above.

B. Diagonal to each hand: Perform a standard mountain climber, but bring your right knee toward your opposite (left) elbow. Then bring your left knee toward your right elbow while extending your right leg back. Continue alternating leg until you reach the designated rep count.

C. Straight on again: as above.

D. Springing Mountain Climber: Begin as for a standard mountain climber, but switch your legs in mid-air and make sure your feet land near your hands on each repetition.

Reclining Russian Twists

DURATION PER SET: 8-10 each side
SETS: 2-3

  • Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flexed so that only your heels are on the floor.
  • Raise your upper body so that it creates a V-shape with your thighs. Your arms should be fully extended in front of your body — perpendicular to your chest. With hands clasped and elbows out, engage your core and lean back slightly while maintaining a neutral (straight) spine.
  • Exhale and rotate your torso to one side until your arms are parallel with the floor.
  • Pause at the end range of motion, contracting the obliques. Then inhale as you rotate your torso back to the starting position.
  • Repeat this motion to the other side, and continue alternating sides until you reach the designated amount of repetitions. You can hold a medicine ball, dumbbell or weight plate to make the exercise more difficult.

Shuttle Runs

Hit the basketball court for the sprint portion of your workout. Here’s one set:

  • Starting from the end of the basketball court, sprint to the first free-throw line, then back to the starting point.
  • Then sprint to the half-court line and back to the starting point.
  • Then sprint to the far free-throw line and back.
  • Finally, sprint the full court and back.
You can follow this guide to progress your shuttle run workout to increase the work interval and decrease the rest interval.
  • Week 1: Rest 4 minutes between sets – 6 rounds
  • Week 2: Rest 3m 50s between sets – 6 rounds
  • Week 3: Rest 3m 40s between sets – 6 rounds
  • Week 4: Rest 3m 30s between sets – 6 rounds
  • Week 5: Rest 3m 30s between sets – 8 rounds
  • Week 6: Rest 3m 20s between sets – 8 rounds
  • Week 7: Rest 3m 20s between sets – 8 rounds
  • Week 8: Rest 3m 10s between sets – 8 rounds


When your work level is intense, your work period will be shorter and your rest period will be longer. If you’re working for a longer period, your intensity will be lower and therefore your rest interval will be shorter than your work period. You can progress your workout by
increasing your work time, cutting your rest time, doing more sets, increasing the distance or targeting a higher heart rate.
  • BEGINNER: If you’re just starting out, begin with longer intervals at more moderate intensities (such as a rate of perceived exertion or RPE of 7 or 8 on a scale of 10). Use a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio for the length of your work and rest intervals. Your total work time may start at 10 minutes and you’ll build up to 30 minutes.
  • INTERMEDIATE: Until you adapt to this next level, intermediate sprinters should target an RPE of 8 or 8.5, with a corresponding increase in the length of rest intervals. Try 1:2 or 1:3, and increase the work interval so that you’re training at a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio of work to rest. Plan on training from 15 to 30 minutes.
  • ADVANCED: Sprinting at an advanced level demands even higher intensity and longer recovery, initially. A work-to-rest ratio may start with 1:3 or 1:4 and as time goes on, the rest interval may be reduced, to a ratio of 1:2 or 1:1.5. “Shuttle runs” are a great change from straight sprints, as they require more acceleration and deceleration, creating greater demand on your muscles and boosting the metabolic impact.

This workout is demonstrated by Nik Herold, 24 Hour Fitness Regional Educator.