To recap, the takeaways from Part 1 and 2 make the point that sprints build muscle and burn fat simultaneously. They are time efficient, have great long term health implications and can be done anywhere. Steady-state jogging on the other hand does not burn much fat, nor does it build muscle and over the long haul it will actually hinder both based on negative hormone responses. So we have left a bit of a vacuum to fill here. I have provided you with a lot of information regarding the why, but not the how. So let’s get started.
For the beginner who has little to no experience with sprints, you need to proceed slowly regardless of what mode you choose. A 4 minute warm up at an intensity of approximately 2 out of 10 is required to get your blood flowing and warm up your central nervous system for the more intense work to follow. Once you have completed the warm up, you want to be working at an intensity of 6 out of 10 for one minute. When taking into consideration what a 2 or a 6 out of 10 is, a 10 out of 10 is running for your life. You never want to work that hard. By the time you have completed the first minute you should be sufficiently fatigued and ready to catch your breath. You will retreat back down to a 2 out of 10 intensity and recover for a minute and then repeat. So you will be working at a 1:1 work to rest ratio. Continue this pattern for 6 to 8 intervals, finish with a 4 minute cool down, and try to add an extra sprint in each session until you reach 12. Once you get to that point, you will need to up the intensity
For the intermediate trainee, I have found that shorter more intense work periods followed by slightly longer recovery periods are more effective. I would favour a 1:2 work to rest ratio. Working at 20 seconds on followed by 40 off seconds is typically very effective on a treadmill or a stationary bike. You are going to need to get your intensity up to an 8 out of 10 once you have completed a sufficient warm up. Start with 6 to 8 sprints and try to work yourself up to the point where you are performing 12 or 13. This could take some time. So you will need to be patient. Cardiovascular adaptations are initially quick, but they will slow down. Progress is not linear.
For the advanced trainee who is looking to improve athletic performance or just wants to get rid of that last bit of fat, I would favour the Tabata Protocol. It is brutally hard and equally as effective when executed properly. A Tabata session lasts for 4 minutes and consists of 20 seconds of very intense effort followed by a 10 second recovery period. Each sprint needs to be performed at a 9 out of 10 intensity level. If by the end of the 4 minutes you are not lying on the ground in a pool of sweat, then you are not working hard enough. Your body should be vibrating for hours upon completion. This protocol epitomizes the benefits of EPOC that I discussed in Part 2. If you are already fit and you want to improve your overall fitness and body composition, then this is for you.
I know the examples that I have used (e.g., treadmills, stationary bikes, elliptical trainers) are not feasible for everyone. Never fear. These workouts can be done in your basement or outside in a park on the grass or on pavement depending on the mode you plan on using. Bodyweight exercises can be just as effective if you have limited room. Jumping jacks, seal jacks, mountain climbers, high knees and duck unders to name a few, are all excellent alternatives and will provide great results assuming you are working at a high enough intensity.