In sports, the domain of our own brand of superheroes, the faster you are, the more successful you tend to be. Along with strength, speed is one of the few characteristics that will allow you to be a bit less developed than others.
Strength and speed can often help you out-perform someone who may be more technically skilled.
And, like strength, speed is one of the few attributes that will have carryover to everything else; increasing speed will also factor into, in varying degrees, qualities like agility and dexterity. It will decrease reaction time, allow you to change directions more quickly, and even hit harder.
No matter what type of action you’re into, speed kills. What else is going to make you better at scoring touchdowns and chasing down a purse-snatching thief?
Like anything else, it’s highly trainable. And it’s a good thing, too.
Some heroes are born with super speed. Guys like Superman have it made—just drink in the delicious rays of Earth’s yellow sun, and you can break Mach 4 without breaking a sweat. Most of us aren’t lucky enough to be born with everything handed to us.
There are other ways to get super speed, though. I mean, even the Flash had to get his powers from a freak accident, during which he was splashed with a chemical mixture that had been struck by lightning. So, if you wanna be fast enough to move at near-light speed and are interested in trying out a little chemistry, there’s that option.
For most of us, though, super speed is only going to come as the result of hard work and some dedicated training. And that is exactly what the Super Sprint workout is all about—making you faster and more powerful while increasing VO2 max and even shredding some fat.
To accomplish all of that, the Super Sprints workout employs one of the simplest yet most effective conditioning tools on the planet: hill sprints.
I love hill sprints for a few reasons, and not just because they’re bad-ass. In fact, although I would never take anything away from a traditional sprint, hill sprints have a few benefits that flat-surface running doesn’t. Let’s go over them before we move on.
Firstly, there’s safety:
Hill sprints are one of the few explosive exercises that allow for maximum effort without maximum velocity; no matter how hard you work, you’ll never reach top speed. This is one of the reasons Super Sprints are done on a hill; this workout is something you can do whenever the mood strikes you, even after a leg day.
In a flat sprint, the average recreational runner is going to be using mostly hamstrings to move; in a hill sprint, however, the incline necessitates increased recruitment of the rest of your posterior chain. Your hamstrings will definitely get a lot of work, but so will your glutes, low back, and calves. Put another way, hill sprints share the load a bit more evenly. Not only does this help prevent injury, but it also allows for easier recovery. This is a huge point: if you can’t recover from your conditioning, your strength work is going to suffer—and so will your results.
As an added bonus, hill sprints allow for optimization of the force-velocity curve. Strength Coach Charles Staley says, “hill sprints are basically a sweet spot” between resistance training and more traditional running, allowing you to get some of the benefits of both. In this case, the strengthening work your posterior chain performs will result in increased power, particularly once you reach top speed. Which means that sprinting on a hill allows you to increase speed, despite the fact that you’re training at sub-max speeds. The force-velocity curve explains how strength training can lead to speed increases, and if you’re interested in learning more, I’d check out Cal Dietz’s Triphasic Training.
Not only do hill sprints make your muscles more effective at physically performing sprints, they also help you perfect your sprint technique, as they encourage you to stay on the balls of your feet.
It’s not hard to see why I love hill sprints and built Super Sprints around them. The “downside” is they make for a brutal workout, and can truly humble you.
More than that, they’ll help reveal weaknesses. If your aerobic or anaerobic recovery is lacking, you’ll find out after a few hill sprints. If you’ve got a general quad dominance, hill sprints will let you know. If you have poor local muscular endurance in a specific part of your posterior chain, hill sprints will make you aware of it.
On the bright side, though, hill sprints are great for shoring up the weaknesses they expose, so whether it’s aerobic capacity or hamstring exhaustion that’s slowing you down, a few weeks of the Super Sprint program will get you sorted.
Oh, and they also make you a better sprinter. The nature of hill sprints requires you to lean forward while you’re running, which is more in line with proper acceleration mechanics. This, coupled with the superior recruitment of the posterior chain actually teaches you how to sprint more effectively when back on a flat surface.
All of that in addition to helping you shred fat while you become faster; much, much faster. And since we know that speed kills, as long as you’re willing to put in the work, you’ll be dominating whatever field or court or ice you choose.
Total Workout Time: ~17 minutes
Difficulty Level: Intermediate
Equipment Needed: Legs, a hill, and nerves of steel
First thing’s first: you need to find a good hill. Some hills are great for building endurance, and others for strength and speed. We’re looking for the latter, so we have to be extra picky.
Your hill for super sprints should allow for a relatively quick but exceptionally difficult run. Ideally, the grade of the incline will be 25-35 degrees. This incline is ideal for both building sprint technique and developing power in the posterior chain.
The other factor is the length of the hill, which really translates into to total sprint distance. Because of the steep angle, we want each individual sprint to be fairly short. Rather than have you measure a hill, which would be difficult and look strange, I’ll just have you measure by strides.
You want a hill you can crest by taking between ~15 and ~25 strides. Don’t worry if it’s a bit shorter or a bit longer. The important thing is that you should be able to clear the hill from bottom to top in less than 10 seconds.
You’re going to be doing a lot of sprints, which will mean a lot of total work time, so we don’t want any single sprint to be too draining. On the other hand, if you can get from the bottom of the hill to the top in 10 steps or less, find a different hill. If there isn’t one that’s suitable, you can start your sprint about 8-10 strides away from the hill, “in the flat.” Make that part of your sprint.
Obviously, the only way to measure the number of strides it takes to conquer a particular hill is to test it.
Once you’ve tested a few and settled the right hill, it’s time to get to work.
Sprint to the top of the hill and jog back down three times in a row, with no rest in between. After your third sprint, rest 30-60 seconds and proceed to set 2.
A) Short Stride Sprint – sprint up the hill taking short, choppy steps; almost as though you’re treating the hill like stairs. Get up as fast as you can, but try to make contact with the hill as many times as possible. Walk to the bottom of the hill.
B) Long Stride Sprint – sprint up the hill taking the longest stride that feels comfortable. You should feel like a gazelle. For reference, look up bounding for track athletes. Try to look like that. Your goal is to get up the hill with roughly 10% fewer strides than you have normally been taking. Walk to the bottom of the hill.
C) Short Stride Sprint – sprint up the hill taking short, choppy steps; almost as though you’re treating the hill like stairs. Get up as fast as you can, but try to beat your number of steps from set A. Walk to the bottom of the hill.
D) Mid-Stride Sprint – sprint up the hill using your typical stride length; however, try to increase your turnover rate. With the same stride length you normally use, focus on trying to increase your stride speed. Walk to the bottom of the hill.
Procedure: Perform A-D with minimal rest between. Take your time walking down the hill between sprints, allowing that to act as your rest period. After your last sprint (D), rest 30 seconds and proceed to set 3.
Sprint to the top of the hill while leaning forward as much as possible. Your stride should be slightly longer than average. When you get to the top of the hill, walk back down. Rest until you feel completely recovered. Repeat for a total of 5 sprints. After your fifth sprint, rest 30 seconds and proceed to set 4.
A) Sprint to the top of the hill and jog back down four times in a row, with no rest in between. After your fourth sprint, rest 60 seconds.
B) Sprint to the top of the hill and jog back three times in a row, with no rest in between. After your third sprint, rest 45 seconds.
C) Sprint to the top of the hill and job back down twice in a row, with no rest in between. After your second sprint, rest 30 seconds.
D) Sprint to the top of the hill and jog back down. After your sprint, rest 60-90 seconds, and proceed to set 5.
A) 10 push-ups
B) Sprint to the top of the hill
C) 10 push-ups
D) Jog to the bottom of the hill
E) 30-second push-up hold (at the midpoint)
F) Sprint to the top of the hill
G) 30-second plank
H) Jog to the bottom of the hill
I) 10 push-ups
Procedure: perform A-I sequentially, resting 10-15 seconds between each. After your last set of push-ups (I), rest 90-120 seconds and repeat set 5 a second time.
All told, this conditioning workout will take just 17 minutes out of your day. But, just because the workout is quick and you’ll finish feeling relatively fresh, don’t go crazy and double the volume.
While this is truly difficult, if you’re not pushing beyond your capacity, this is a great stacker workout. That is, it’ll help make whatever you’re doing better—without interfering.
As a result, this workout is designed in a such a way that you’ll be able to do these whenever you want or need, and still be able to make tremendous progress in your other programming—because training for super speed doesn’t have to mean you can’t build super strength, or even build a massive physique.
Okay, okay—it probably won’t make you as fast as the Last Son of a dying alien planet, but Super Sprints will definitely help you gain a step or two, all while getting you in the best shape of your life.
And if you need a little extra help, I’m here to be your guide; the Robin to your Batman, the Alfred to your Batman, and yes, the Vicki Vale to your Batman.
You see, if you’re anything like me, once summer is just around the corner, you really want to kick your training into high gear so you look your absolute best this year.
And that’s why we created the SUPERHERO workout.
We made this workout in order to look like a superhero and perform like one (or, as close to one without a superphysiological biochemical enhancement).
We’re really excited about this. Check out the program here.