Should Be Able To vs. Should: My Recommendations for Sprinting
Do I recommend the 30-Day No-Warmup Sprint Challenge? Probably not as anything other than textbook body mechanics and sound running form would likely cause issues. Yes, it’s something you should be able to do if necessary but probably not something you should do on a consistent basis. Now, if you do decide to try it be prepared as this truly is the ultimate diagnostic test of body mechanics and neuromuscular efficiency.
With that said I’d recommend something similar to what I’ve been doing the last 8-9 years i.e. several sprints 2-4x per week. You may also want to play it safe and perform 30-60 seconds of bodyweight eccentric isometrics beforehand such as RDL’s, lunges, and squats. A few reps of each, 1-3 minutes or so, before you sprint, should suffice if your body is functioning properly. Additionally, you will likely want to start your sprints at 75-90% speed rather than immediately jumping into 100% speed although as previously mentioned you should be able to go right into 100% speed/effort if needed.
Should You Stop Warming Up?
Am I suggesting that people should not warmup or that warmups are useless? Absolutely not!! On the contrary I think they’re important and optimal. I’m simply trying to show what should be possible under non-warmed conditions if in fact any human were required or needed to sprint or perform an aggressive physical movement under cold conditions.
Simply I’m not trying to show what’s optimal I’m simply trying to show what’s possible under suboptimal conditions if in fact muscle function is sound. Yes, 100%, without a doubt, warmups will help improve neuromuscular efficiency, technique, mechanics, power, speed, etc (although the need for excessive warmup is likely unnecessary if muscle function is sound). However just because an individual doesn’t perform their warmup doesn’t mean he or she should lose the ability to perform their task or skill at a moderately high level because of imminent injury.
What about the time period Before My Eccentric Isometrics Studies?
I honestly can’t tell you exactly when or how it started, but probably sometime while I was in high school, at 14 or 15, I came to the realization that I had to start warming up before I did any form of aggressive sports or sprinting. Ironically, that’s also the age I began lifting weights using “traditional” training methods. From around the age of 15-25 the thought of sprinting without a warmup would have made me cringe. In fact, back in my undergraduate physiology and biomechanics classes, during labs or practical tests, I was always very concerned about pulling something and would spend at least 10 minutes before any type of sprint test or running test to make sure my body was warmed up.
What’s more, by the time I completed my Master’s at Indiana University I pretty much stopped sprinting altogether as my body was a complete wreck. In fact, I probably had a several year period where I never broke beyond the 10mph mark if, in fact, I did decide to push my body and run or jog. Even going for walks would often hurt my hips, knees, and back as I had so many imbalances and forms of dysfunction simply from following the “current trends in strength and conditioning” espoused by all the “performance experts”.
It wasn’t until I started experimenting with 90 degree eccentric isometrics during my PhD at UGA that my ability to sprint gradually returned. As I continued to refine the 90 degree eccentric isometrics protocol and improve my body mechanics, my sprinting ability become more and more dialed in to the point that I was eventually able to sprint without warming up mostly pain-free. I say mostly pain free because it really wasn’t until the last 5-6 years that I truly have been pain free during my sprinting or training as it took me several years to truly refine my eccentric isometric training protocols to the point where there were no obvious flaws in the system. Those methods are laid out in my book MOVEMENT REDEFINED.
Who’s to Blame?
As previously alluded to, mainstream fitness is largely to blame for this debacle as many of the concepts currently espoused by “experts” actually degrade body mechanics more than they help. In fact, trends dealing with mobility, flexibility, corrective exercise, deep squats, and gaining greater range of motion have all created scenarios where individuals have negatively impacted their muscle function and sacrificed motor control. It’s these elements, along with other similar trends, that are likely to blame for why most individuals who participate in traditional training methods are unable to function at a high level without injury (i.e. sprinting under cold conditions).
In fact, it’s almost guaranteed that any individual who has been strength training with current methods and using modern day training protocols (including deep ATG squats, powerlifting methods, and or Olympic lifting) has likely degraded their body mechanics to the point that performing tasks such as no-warmup sprints without injury is a physical impossibility. Simply put, the fitness industry is ruining people’s bodies. This mini experiment gives further credence to that. Read more about the consequences of faulty body mechanics here.
I’m Not A Freak!!
At this point you’re probably thinking that perhaps I’m just a rare anomaly and my body is an exception to the rule. However, I can assure you that has nothing to do with my body, genetics, or the physical attributes that I was born with but instead everything to do with my training. In fact, at almost 36 years of age I can more easily sprint without risk of injury than I could when I was in my teenage years playing sports in high school when I routinely had to take at least 10-15 minutes to warmup my hips, knees, hamstrings, and low back before playing sports or there would be consequences.