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Does sprinting build muscle? 3 effective workouts to try

Tips for optimizing sprints for muscle gains

Man doing sprints.
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Various exercises can be performed by those who wish to gain extra muscle mass. The most obvious are any weight-bearing exercises that can be performed in the safety of a gym environment. However, for those who are not into weight training but still want to gain muscle, other forms of exercise are available. 

Sprinting may not be the first alternative to weight training that comes to mind regarding muscle development exercises, but does sprinting build muscle?

Sprinting is a form of exercise mostly associated with cardiovascular fitness and fat burning. However, sprinting can also help with muscle gain, especially when incorporated into other exercise regimes that target muscle building. 

As a standalone exercise, sprinting uses more muscles than you think and is a total body workout. With this in mind, here is a closer look at your guide to sprinting for muscle gains.

Can sprinting actually help you build muscle?

Man doing sprints and jumps
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Sprinting is primarily associated with building muscles in the lower body, especially in the legs. However, sprinting is not just for improving leg muscles, endurance, and speed. It can also be a powerful form of exercise for general muscle growth. 

This is because when you sprint, your body uses a larger number of muscles and muscle fibers than when you jog or do other standard cardio exercises such as walking. 

The increased involvement of muscles and their fibers leads to greater all-around muscle activation, which in turn helps to stimulate muscle growth in both the upper and lower parts of the body. This increased muscle force and exertion makes sprinting a muscle-gaining exercise. 

Jogging or long-distance running generally involves traveling steadily and sometimes at a sedate pace for long periods. Sprinting is a short, sharp, intense body workout that places extreme force on various parts of the body, and if done regularly, all the muscles involved in executing a perfect sprint can strengthen over time. 

What muscles do sprints target?

Men sprinting in a race.
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Sprinting mainly targets the muscles in the lower body, including the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. Additionally, sprinting also engages the core muscles to stabilize the body and keep it balanced while propelling the body forward at high speed into a sprint. 

To maximize muscle gains, focusing on proper posture and technique while sprinting is important. Doing so can help to prevent muscle injuries and ensure that the right muscle groups are effectively activated while sprinting. This form of exercise is also effective at strengthening the heart and lungs and engaging the deep trunk muscles.

How to sprint for muscle gains

Man doing sprints.
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There are different ways to sprint and various types of sprinting that can be incorporated into fitness programs that can help build muscle. All, if done correctly, can engage important muscle groups and contribute to your overall fitness goals. 

Here are three variations of sprinting workouts that are worth trying if your primary goal is to get muscle gains from this cardio activity. 

Workout #1 – Hill sprints

Sprinting on a level surface is an intense workout on its own, but sprinting up a hill cranks up the intensity even further and works leg and core muscles much harder.

To start, find a steep hill that you think you can conquer. At the base of the hill, take a few deep breaths and remember to keep an upright posture at all times. Keep your feet and knees pointing forward, and sprint as hard and fast as you can until you reach the top of the hill. 

Hill sprints are best done on a dry surface to avoid slipping and possible injury. Depending on the steepness and size of the hill, three to eight climbs should be enough.

Workout #2 – Endurance sprints

An endurance sprint workout aims to sustain maximum velocity sprinting for as long as possible before easing back down to a steady jogging pace. Eventually, as stamina and strength build, the body will be able to hold a max sprint cycle for longer. 

It is best to start with a sustained full sprint for 30 seconds before easing down and then repeating the intense sprint for 30 seconds again up to five times a session.

Workout #3 – Sprint intervals

If a full-on 100-meter sprint isn’t for you, you can incorporate sprinting into a general cardio workout using the sprint interval method. Alternate between 30 seconds of sprinting and 60 seconds of walking or jogging for recovery. Repeat for 15 to 30 minutes for a great total-body routine.

How often should you include sprinting in your routine?

Man doing sprints.
Chris / Unsplash

Ideally, you should aim to incorporate sprinting into your workout routine two to four times per week. This frequency allows for adequate recovery between sprint sessions while still reaping the muscle-building benefits of this high-intensity exercise. 

Remember to listen to your body and adjust the frequency based on your individual fitness level and recovery abilities. For even better results, you can build sprinting around weight training to increase core and leg power further.

Tips for maximizing sprinting performance

A man in gray shorts stretching on sidewalk
RDNE Stock project / Pexels

To maximize your sprinting performance and achieve optimal muscle gains, consider the following tips:

  • Warm-up properly: Always start your sprint workouts with a thorough warm-up to prepare your muscles for the intense effort ahead.
  • Progress slowly: Gradually increase the intensity and duration of your sprints over time to continue challenging your muscles and promoting growth.
  • Rest and recover: Allow for adequate rest and recovery between sprint sessions to prevent overtraining and support muscle repair and growth.
  • Mix things up: For maximum benefit, combine sprinting exercises with other gym routines, such as weight training.

Eat right: Don’t forget the importance of diet in muscle building. Make sure to eat plenty of quality protein and other foods that support muscle development.

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Christine VanDoren
Christine is a certified personal trainer and nutritionist with an undergraduate degree from Missouri State University. Her…
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