I am often asked why the sprinters I coach look like bodybuilders. I think these inquisitive folks want to know if I employ bodybuilding training tactics with my sprinters. Let’s first differentiate who we are referring to when we say “sprinter.” I define sprinters as anywhere from 100m to 400m runners. One of the reasons why these speedsters may look like iron slingers is because a sprinter needs more muscle than the average runner. With such a quick-burst event, they simply do not have adequate time to draw from their body’s energy reserves. For example, if you can run 100m in 11 seconds, that's not even enough time for the oxygen you’re inhaling to reach the muscles. Consequently, the muscles themselves must already have the energy they need to function anaerobically for that short burst of time.
This results in a large buildup of type IIb muscle fibers, which are fast-twitch. They are bigger and denser, hence the muscular (bodybuilder) appearance, because they contain phosphocreatine and ATP at the ready; they don't waste time drawing glycogen from other sources, breaking it into glucose, breaking the glucose down, and finally using the resultant ATP. There's no time for that in a 10-12(or sub-10 Bolt) second race. As we get up near 400m distances, there will be a different distribution, with type IIa muscles mixing in fairly evenly with the IIb muscles. Both are fast-twitch, but the IIa muscles store energy as glycogen within the muscle. Since a typical 400m run lasts ~50 seconds, the muscles have enough time to break down a bit of that glycogen and create some ATP.
Due to the larger muscle mass in sprinters as well as other strength/power athletes, new modalities are being investigated to help expedite muscle repair and recovery. One modality that I have had significant results with lately is what I call “Deep Tissue Percussive Body Work”. It is a warmup and recovery tactic in which we use percussive therapy to break tissue out of its adhesive state by being placed under significant tissue pressure. This muscle tissue prep and recovery can help prevent injury, protect against trauma and expedite the recovery process.
This strategy has not been scientifically proven as of yet and is just one coach’s experience. But it stands to reason that if you build a monster engine, you better upgrade the brakes and radiator. That’s what we’re doing here. A sprinter’s body must hold up to the trauma of maximum effort while mitigating injury risk.
Here’s how to put percussive body work into action: use the Muscle Blaster on the highest setting before training or competition and run it over the anterior (front) side of the body. Then, turn over and have your training partner hit your posterior chain. Done correctly, the whole process takes approximately 5-10 minutes. Then I suggest for post-training that you spend 20 minutes on deep tissue percussive body work. Focus on every major muscle on the body i.e. quads, hammys, glutes, adductors, IT-bands, erectors, traps, abs, obliques, pecs, biceps, triceps, tibialis, forearm extensors/flexors and hands and bottoms of feet.
Try it and experience the results for yourself. Without doubt, deep tissue percussive therapy is going to be the next breakthrough for strength and power athletes like sprinters!
– Coach Michael Cummings
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