“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness” – OPRAH WINFREY.
Sprinting, a movement pattern that has ensured the survival of our species and one that is a favourite past-time of the female althletic elite. Aside form this it is a definitive way for women to change their bodies. Sprint training has a potent effect on reducing body fat, while increasing lean muscle meaning women raise the amount of calories they burn every day.
The result is that if you do it right and put in a strong effort, sprinting will radically improve both your health and physique.
Most of the recommended sprint protocols are based on research that has been done on men. Because women’s bodies differ in terms of metabolism and exercise response, what works best for men doesn’t always work best for women. So, what is the secret to female sprint training?
Fortunately, scientists have begun to identify which protocols produce the greatest reward for women’s efforts. This article will review the sprinting research and provide guidelines for females to effectively maximize sprinting results.
1: 30-sec maximal sprints to lose body fat and build lean muscle.
Target Individuals? Physically active women who want to reduce body fat and improve conditioning.
The Wingate protocol is a popular sprint workout that comproses of four all-out 30-second sprints with 4 minutes rest between each sprint done 3 times per week. Trainees increase their repeats progressively so that they eventually do 6 sprint repeats.
A new Wingate study done on normal-weight, college-age women that used running intervals on a self-propelled treadmill found that the women lost an average 1.4 kg of fat, reduced body fat by 8 percent, and decreased waist circumference by 3.5 percent. They also gained 1.3 percent lean muscle and improved conditioning and running speed by 5 percent.
Researchers concluded that the Wingate protocol may not be the best method for all women. Rather, training should be individualized. Women who have lower body fat, or who have trouble recovering effectively due to outside stressors may benefit from high- but not maximal-intensity sprints.
Use It: Build up your conditioning and time your recovery when using a Wingate protocol. Do four 30-second sprints with 4 minutes rest the first week, five sprints the second week, and then six sprints the next week. Try training against resistance.
Pay attention to what you eat. This protocol can help you lose fat without dieting. But watch out that you aren’t eating more calories than normal, either as a “reward” to yourself, or because you’re not recovering optimally and stress hormones are remaining elevated, leading to cravings and increased hunger.
Remember that the best sprint protocol will be unique to the individual, so if you’ve given it your best effort and Wingate’s not working for, try one of these…
2: Moderately high-intensity intervals to improve metabolism and get lean.
Target Individuals? Anyone who wants to lose body fat but feels they are under enough “maximal” stress in their daily life. Also beneficial for women who have endurance goals along with a desire for a lean and lovely physique.
High-intensity intervals take a little longer than all-out training, but they’re highly effective and provide mental relief if you’re not finding yourself able to generate the focus and drive required for maximal efforts.
One reason that submaximal sprints are useful for women is that comparison studies of how men and women respond to interval training show that men achieve higher peak power, which is partly due to the fact that women tend to have less muscle than men.
In simple terms, this means that men go harder at the start of a sprint. As sprinting duration progresses, their performance drops off rapidly. Women maintain their pace. This allows them to achieve higher heart rate maximum values, which they are able to maintain over the course of a workout.
Women also burn more fat during exercise and deplete ATP more slowly than men (whose bodies rely more on glucose), which contributes to women being able to recover faster than men. This makes exercise that enhances fat burning absolutely essential for women because of the unfortunate fact that women burn much less fat at rest.
Use It: Try submaximal intervals of 1 minute or longer. This will allow women to increase their body’s ability to burn fat and enhance the cells sensitivity to insulin for better energy use.
For example, a study found that fat burning increased by as much as 25 percent in response to high-intensity cycle ergometer training using ten 60-second intervals at 80 to 90 percent of maximal with 60 seconds active rest.
If you’re a novice, start with a 1:1 work-to rest ratio to improve your body’s ability to burn fat for energy.
If you’re active, use a larger work-to-rest ratio to produce greater metabolic stress. Try a 2:1 or 3:1 work-to-rest ratio. A place to start is with 1-minute intervals with 30 seconds active rest.
3: Build conditioning and lose body fat with short all-out sprints.
Target Individuals? Overweight and novice women who want to change their bodies and fix metabolism.
Very short all-out sprints can help women who are fairly new to exercise to lose body fat and improve health. For instance, a study of 45 young women found that bike sprints done 3 days a week produced an impressive average loss of 2.5 kg of body fat and increase in lean muscle of 0.6 kg. The women also lost 0.15 kg of belly fat, which looks like a small amount but is significant due to its location around the organs.
This study revealed some eye-catching points:
The interval cycle sprints (8-second resisted sprints followed by 12 seconds of low-intensity cycling, repeated 60 times for a total of 20 minutes) were compared with steady-state “cardio” cycling for 40 minutes. In half the training time, the interval group dramatically improved body composition, whereas the cardio group gained an average of 0.4 kg, or about a pound.
The sprint group lost most of their fat from the thighs and trunk. This is an area that is considered “tricky” for women. Researchers write that sprint training with the lower body musculature is a valuable tool for producing fat loss in the lower body in females.
The interval trainees’ metabolism was also improved by the end of the study as seen by lower fasting insulin levels and decreases in concentration of the hormone leptin.
Use It: An 8-seconds on, 12-seconds off interval protocol done three times a week is ideal for women who are new to interval training or have not engaged in intense training recently. Longer intervals are indicated for trained women and athletes, although that doesn’t mean they couldn’t use this protocol for a few weeks for variety.
CONSISTENCY IN TRACKING YOUR SESSIONS IS ALWAYS THE KEY!
Make sure your intervals during your chosen training session are in line with the recommended guidelines.
You should always consult a Exercise Professional before considering undertaking new exercise programs.
If you would like to learn more about sprint training, please contact us here at PulseFit Physiology and we can answer any of your burning questions.
Keep working hard everyday to be the best version of yourself!
Accredited Exercise Physiologist & Exercise Scientist
ESSAM, AEP, AES, MCLExPhys., BExSc., BBus