Sprinting for fat loss and muscle development

I had a look at photos of sprinters on Google image search - they are very muscular - including their abs and arms. They have a better looking body than marathon runners who are typically very thin. Appearing muscular including well-defined abs also means a low body fat percentage. It counts as anaerobic exercise as opposed to cardio - as long as it is less than 2 minutes.

I started walking a lot recently and then started short sprints along the way. I am skinny except for a fairly big belly and some man boobs. My aim is to lose that without losing muscle mass.

I think that sprinting can’t really be done in a gym on a machine - well maybe on a rowing machine… otherwise it could be done sprinting from one side of a gym hall to the other and back repeatedly.

When I sprint it is interesting how the wind blows past my ears. It is a lot more enjoyable than using machines or weights. A benefit of sprinting is that I’d be better at running if I was late for something or if there is some kind of emergency or I need to run away from someone.

Any other fans of sprinting?

BTW in school I was bad at sprinting. Maybe being the skinniest guy had something to do with it.

But which way does the cause and effect go?
I know that many (maybe all) sprinters do weight training to give them the kind of fast twitch muscles that will give them “explosive” power on the track.
I’m not sure how feasible it is to get that physique just from practicing sprinting.

And I’m sure that long distance running doesn’t make you skinny; I do a mix of weight training and running and look pretty muscular (if I do say so myself).
Maybe if I stopped weight training and ate less I might get a body shape that would give me better marathon times. But I’m happy with the status quo.

Sounds good, but I think you should also consider running.
If you’re just doing short sprints your body will be relying on glucose stores and not getting an opportunity to burn fat.
The walking will help with burning fat, but may not be as efficient as jogging / running.


I wonder if she does weights too? My point is about her very low body fat percentage - I’m not so worried about excessive muscle development - well her legs are big. Doing weights doesn’t sound like it would be good for “twitch” muscles. I mean weights are a slow thing. Also look at the bodies of some of the best weightlifters:


Many of them have a large body fat percentage. I think the difference between the body fat percentage of sprinters and weight-lifters is due to the sprinting the sprinters do.

I want a skinnier version of what they have. I’m not expecting to get the same size muscles.

Pics of some good marathon runners:

BTW also this:


“He thinks it’s such a damn shame that so few bodybuilders actually sprint anymore. It’s one of the few fat burning activities that can actually build muscle tissue instead of catabolizing it, and it’s easy to do; just find a track and run!”

I haven’t read much about it but what I plan to do is “interval training”. I want to sprint and than continue walking while I’m recovering.

Yeah you’re right…


“You’ll sprint twice a week, and weight-train three days a week.” That includes upper body training.
“Trainees sprinting for cosmetic purposes (fat loss, glute hamstring hypertrophy) should focus on effort more so than time.”

That’s me… so far I enjoy putting effort into sprinting. On the other hand I really don’t like putting effort into weight training.

“Getting off the stationary bike and onto the track may seem a little scary to some bodybuilders. Don’t be afraid. Some of the finest built bodies of yesterday and today consider sprinting to be an essential part of their training toolbox. Remember, you have only stubborn body fat to lose and rock-hard quads, hamstrings, and glutes to gain.”

I can agree with that…I weight train regularly but to me, it’s a chore. I can only do it if I have music to listen to and something to read when I need to rest.

Walking + sprinting is not something I’m trying to dissuade you from, I’m sure it will do lots of good.
But if your primary goal is burning fat, then cardio with higher intensity than walking may be more efficient e.g. jogging, swimming, cycling.
If your primary goal is gaining muscle then bodybuilding is hands down the best way.

My reasoning is this - if abs are good for sprinters then sprinting should lead to good abs. If abs aren’t good for sprinting then why are they wasting their time getting them through weight training, etc?

The idea that you have to be moving fast to train fast-twitch muscles isn’t quite on the money. Weight work can absolutely help improve fast-twitch muscles, and fast-twitch muscles aren’t just involved in speed sports like sprinting: weight lifters use fast-twitch muscles too.

How do I target fast-twitch muscle fibres?

And those sprinters whose photographs you’ve included up there? Yeah, they weight train–a lot. Australian Institute of Sport fact sheet about sprinter training gives some info–considerable commitment to weight training, because it improves a sprinter’s power to weight ratio.

Abs are good for sprinting (good for most things, really). But you develop them to improve your sprinting, you don’t sprint to develop your abs.

My goal is to lose belly fat with NO muscle loss. That site said “It’s one of the few fat burning activities that can actually build muscle tissue instead of catabolizing it”. My primary goal is to have an enjoyable life. Walking while listening to music fits that goal. Sprinting seems to fit it too. I think interval training is a good method. Getting good at marathon running (jogging) seems to give a skinnier body than getting good at sprinting. Note that the body pictures of the best at those things are overwhelmingly showing skinny vs muscular bodies. And people good at lifting weights are commonly quite fat. I like simple methods too. I just want to be good at sprinting. I don’t want to worry about complex techniques. Well I’ll look into how to sprint properly though.

BTW Greek athletes also had a muscular low body fat body. I don’t think they typically did weight training…

BTW look at this photo of Louis Cyr, the strongest man in history:


Look at his belly!!! So he would be the ultimate person at weight training… I’m not saying weight training is worthless but I’m just not interested in it, mostly because I find it very unpleasant to do.

If you want to be healthy, and lose fat, you can do that with just cardio. But for muscle tone, bodybuilding is absolutely the fastest route there.
People’s expectations of what a healthy body should look like has become much more cut in recent decades with plenty of muscle tone, and i think you can thank whey protein, creatine and improved techniques for a lot of that.

You can choose not to go the bodybuilding route but i don’t think you should kid yourself that bodybuilding = bloated body.

Everyone is born with a fixed % of fast twitch/slow twitch.
Sprinters are naturally fast though some tend to be naturally muscular. Weight training is a standard part of training.
Remember, their speed is largely inherent, training is mostly technique by the time they’re out of high school.
Jeff Demps holds the U.S. high school record of 10.07, the world record is 9.58.

The reason (most) marathon runners are skinny is because the sport selects for small, light runners.
They do some weight training though mass gain is not the goal and heavy aerobic training burns muscle tissue.
5% of energy burned during aerobic exercise comes from muscle tissue. Depletion of glycogen can raise that as high as 15%.

It is possible to maintain muscle mass during heavy aerobic work but you have to strength train and have a solid diet with good protein intake.

Sprinting alone won’t build muscle or burn much fat. What is often ignored by the “high intensity” fans is that you get aerobic work during the warm-up, cool-down and the recovery periods between sprints(you don’t just stop and stand around, you need to keep moving/jogging).

There happens to be an article in today’s Buzzfeed about a sprinter and her daily routine. Says 40% of her training is weight lifting. She also eats very well. And hates sprint workouts.

Interesting though my current plan is to rely on exercises I find enjoyable such as sprinting and walking to lose fat while not losing muscle (and possibly regaining muscle I used to have). I think my diet might cause me to lose some muscle.

Well my current plan is not to do much aerobic exercise anyway. I want to focus on explosive strength which I think would also include shotput, etc.

I’m skinny with a belly. I don’t have that much fat to lose.


“It’s one of the few fat burning activities that can actually build muscle tissue instead of catabolizing it”
“Trainees sprinting for cosmetic purposes (fat loss, glute hamstring hypertrophy [muscle gain]) should focus on effort more so than time”
I think it would build some muscle… and I’m talking about very short explosive sprints here.

Well I continue to walk when I’m not sprinting… perhaps in the future I’ll jog while I’m resting?

Pretty much any diet will cause muscle loss due to the calorie deficiency.

When you exercise, you damage the muscle slightly. You actually gain the benefits of exercise in the recovery phase. The body builds back the muscle slightly larger and stronger but you need a good protein intake otherwise the body just steals protein from other muscles.

You really need to do weight/strength training. Sprinting alone does not build the muscle you see in sprinters.

My focus is what I find enjoyable. I’m starting off doing 10,000 steps per day and having a high protein low carb (esp sugar) diet. Apparently cardio can cause muscle loss.

But body-building has a lot to do with diet as far as I know. I think getting good at weight-lifting alone doesn’t mean much fat loss. (see http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showpost.php?p=19076855&postcount=12 )

Yes see body building isn’t just about exercise.

My point is that weight-lifting alone doesn’t seem to target fat loss. My primary goal is targeted belly fat loss. I’d rather have a flat stomach and be quite thin than have big muscles and still have a belly like the world’s strongest man, Louis Cyr, or this elite weight-lifter:

So then I need to gain some muscle - just to get back what I had though - I don’t need to put on a lot of muscle.

Well I’m having heaps of eggs, bacon, fish, seafood, meat, etc. Even the diet jelly I have has a couple grams of protein.

I can’t stand weight/strength training though. Like I said I just want to increase my muscle a little bit - I’m not aiming to get a six pack and muscular arms at this point in time.