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Warm Up For Sprinters

Stretching muscles warming up

Sprinting is one of the most difficult exercises that you can perform. This may seem surprising – everyone assumes that they can still sprint – but like most things it is a skill. If you haven’t learned how to do it, or haven’t done it properly in years then you could cause yourself injury. One of the best ways to avoid potential injury is to properly warm up. In this article we are going to look at a dynamic warm up for sprinters, we’ll discuss how to warm up for a 400m race, and other issues.

Dynamic Warm Up for Sprinters

Sprinting is a short, intense exercise that can be over in just a few seconds. So your sprint warm up needs to be very thorough. You should also have a little more time available to fit one in.

The general rule of thumb is the shorter the event, the longer the warm up. A dynamic warm up is one that involves high energy movements, and active stretches of the muscles. A good dynamic warm up for sprinting will use movements similar to those that you’ll be using during the session.

We will create a small dynamic warm up for you to follow now, using easy exercises. We will also include a description of each exercise so that you know what you’re doing. The warm up will mostly concentrate on the lower body as this is the most worked part during a sprint, but there will be one or two exercises for the upper body too.

Before doing anything, you can do a 5-10 minute jog as a pre warm up for your sprint.

Sprint Warm Up #1 – Bodyweight Squats

Nice glute and hip flexor warm up, that will also target the quadriceps. You don’t need to do many, just a set of 10-20 reps.

Place feet shoulder width apart with toes pointed out slightly, squat down (keeping heels flat on floor) until your thighs are at least parallel (lower if you can manage it) and then drive back upwards.

Watch this video to learn how to do bodyweight squats correctly:

Sprint Warm Up #2 – Jump Squats

Add in 10 reps of jump squats next to really warm up those muscles.

Performed exactly the same as a bodyweight squat but instead of driving back up you spring up into the air, land (in the shoulder width apart stance) and immediately drop into your next squat.

Watch this video to learn how to do jump squats correctly:

Sprint Warm Up #3 – Walking Lunges

Lunges recreate sprinting but in an exaggerated way, you really don’t want to perform too many of these. A few reps (10-12) should be fine.

Stand upright with feet together, take a large stride forward with your front foot flat on the ground and your back foot on tip toe. Drop your back knee down towards the ground, this should bring your front leg parallel with the ground. Then drive your back foot forward into a second lunge, keeping your front foot in place.

Watch this video to learn how to do walking lunges correctly. For your sprint warm up you can do it without weights:

Sprint Warm Up #4 – Leg Swings

A really good warm up for the hip flexors and glutes, you will need a wall or fence, or something to hold onto.

Stand facing a wall with your hands holding it for support. Place your feet shoulder width apart and then bring one foot slightly forward and raised off the ground. Swing the foot inwards so that it crosses your other foot and then swing it out wide, swing it back in and out for a set number of reps (e.g. 10). Swap legs. You can also swing it slightly forward and backwards while swinging left to right.

Watch this video to learn how to do leg swings correctly:

Sprint Warm Up #5 – High Knees

This is just running but bringing your knees up nice and high, ideally your thighs should reach parallel with the floor.

You can either do this on the spot or you can run up and down the track performing them.

Watch this video to learn how to do high knees correctly:

Sprint Warm Up #6 – High Knees With Sprint Arm Action

This sprint warm up exercise may sound similar to the previous one, but it is actually quite different.

The movement here is more of a bound, taking large steps (almost skipping) so that your knees are high in the air. As you do so, you will bring your arms up and down in a sprinting motion. You’re trying to recreate the sprinting movement, but in slow motion.

Watch this video to learn how to do high knees with sprint arm action correctly:

Sprint Warm Up #7 – Butt Kicks

This is basically just running but while you do so you will bring your heels up until they hit your butt. Many people do this with their hands behind as a target to hit.

Watch this video to learn how to do butt kicks correctly:

Sprint Warm Up #8 – A Skips

A really good sprinting warm up exercise, basically you use one leg to jump upwards while keeping the other straight.

The initial leg should aim to get the knee as high as possible. Land and then swap legs.

Watch this video to learn how to do A skips correctly:

Putting It All Together

Now to put all of these exercises into a quick warm up for sprinters. Feel free to move some exercises around, or drop ones completely, remember that every sprinter will use a different routine and it is about what is best for you personally.

  • Jogging 5-10 minutes
  • High Knees 30 seconds
  • Butt Kicks 30 seconds
  • High Knees With Sprint Arm Action 30 seconds
  • Bodyweight Squats 10-20 reps
  • Jump Squats 10 reps
  • Walking Lunges 10 reps
  • A Skips 10 reps each
  • Leg Swings 2 sets of 10 reps each

How to Warm Up for a 400m Race

A 400m race can be warmed up for in a similar way to the dynamic warm up for sprinters we just mentioned.

But what you have to remember is that a 400m race will last much longer than a regular sprint. 400m is right at the end of the sprint spectrum. Depending on your abilities a 400m race can last for up to 2 minutes.

So following our rule of “the shorter the event, the longer the warm up” means that our warm up should be slightly shorter. It can still be long, but you want every bit of energy for this race.

400m Warm Up Excercises

For this sprint warm up we will perform the same exercises in the same order, but instead of jogging for up to 10 minutes we’ll stick to 5. We’ll drop bodyweight squats from a maximum of 20 to around 10. Other than that it should be exactly the same.

Dynamic Stretches For Sprinters

Our sprinting warm up section has already covered a lot of the most common dynamic stretches for sprinting, a dynamic stretch is any movement that actively stretches the muscles required. So a quadricep stretch will stretch the quads (obviously) but this is static. To make it dynamic you can perform a walking quad stretch, or deep lunge. Kings Sports Training.com has a really good article that describes these movements. You’ll also see the butt kick and high knees demonstrated, which we mentioned earlier in this article.

Heel Toe Drills

One of the most important part of sprinting correctly is establishing a correct running gait. Unlike regular runners, sprinters try to avoid landing on your heels and instead try to land on the toes.

So a sprinters running drills will vary slightly from a middle or long distance runner. Whereas most runners follow heel toe drills to get them the perfect running gait, sprinters have to adapt this to suit their sport.

If you watch this video from Shane Paul Neil [2], you will see the way a sprinters’ foot should land on the front pad of the foot with the toes pushed upwards.

You can improve this with a toe walking drill, this is where you get up onto your tip toes and walk like that for 20 meters, then you turn your toes out slightly and walk another 20 meters, then you turn your toes in slightly (still on your tip toes) and walk a final 20 meters, before dropping into a normal sprint position and finishing the last 40 meters with high knees.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it, a sprinting warm up that you can easily adapt to suit your needs and follow before any form of sprinting. Just keep in mind that sprinting and running are two very different exercises with separate skills required. If you try to run a 100m race you won’t go very fast, and if you try to sprint a 1500m you won’t go very far!

Try to avoid static stretching as much as possible. It won’t do you much good, and current scientific consensus seems to indicate that static stretching can actually have a negative effect on performance. Tiring out your muscles rather than activating them.

Once you have performed this warm up a few times it should become second nature to you. This means that you will be able to let the movements flow into each other.

Performing your 10 minute jog and then going seamlessly into high knees for 30 seconds, before switching to butt kicks, then finishing off with some high knees with sprint arm action. Before having a quick break and embarking on the other exercises.