Sit ups? Nope, although I do them because I enjoy them.
Planks? Up there when done correctly and not for a million minutes, but nope.
The answer, my friends, is SPRINTING.
Of course we all know that abs are made in the kitchen and that our nutrition plays a huuuuuge piece of the puzzle when it comes to how our midsection looks, but there’s nothing that quite makes my abs feel (and look!) as tight and visibly defined as sprinting does. When I added consistent track sprints to my fitness routine last summer, holy moly I’ve never felt better about my core. It’s actually one of the only exercises that gets my abs feeling sore anymore!
Aside from this physique focused benefit, I consider sprints to be the king of cardio (and your core) for several other reasons as well:
Sprints are efficient.
If you want a killer workout, but you don’t have a lot of time, sprints are for you. When you sprint, you are going all out as fast you can for a very short time or distance: somewhere between 50-200 meters, as once you get beyond that distance, you aren’t really in true sprint mode any longer. If you don’t have a track to measure your distance, you can use time for about 20-30 seconds. Say you do eight 100 meter sprints with rest periods in between, your workout isn’t going to be very long at all (win!), but it’s still going to be super effective and target your entire body.
Sprints are empowering.
Sprints are to cardio as chinups and deadlifts are to lifting. I think that there is nothing quite like the feeling of pulling your own body over the bar in a chinup or pulling a loaded bar up from the floor in a deadlift. If I had to pick something in the cardio realm that equates to that feeling of strength, sprints are it. When you finish a sprint, you simply feel badass! I know whenever I complete a sprint workout, I feel like I can tackle anything, and this mindset most definitely carries into my life. Whenever I am dealing with something tough, or if I’m faced with a new challenge, I am able to channel that “I can handle” this feeling. Sprints train not only the entire body, but also the mind! Empowered strength, both inside and out.
Sprints get you out of your comfort zone.
I won’t lie to you, sprints are TOUGH. You are going all out, and by the end of a sprint, you should feel breathless and your muscles should be burning. But it’s precisely BECAUSE of this that sprints get us out of our comfort zones. They teach us to push past a place of discomfort. If you are in a fitness plateau, adding sprints WILL help you get unstuck. They’ll help you break out of that rut and completely change your body in no time. If you already sprint, try sprinting on a hill or changing up your typical sprinting distance. You’ll notice a difference.
And my personal favorite…
When you sprint, you eliminate the need to do long, boring cardio!!
Seriously, if you are spending even over 30 minutes on a cardio machine, unless it’s for either stress relief, enjoyment, active recovery, or you are training specifically for an endurance event, stop. If you are spending that much time plugging away so that you can tone or lose fat, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. I find that long cardio sessions really actually drain my energy instead of adding to it like sprints do, and long cardio actually always leaves me feeling fatigued, exhausted, and a LOT hungrier than when I stick to the short and sweet stuff. Again, nothing inherently wrong with longer cardio sessions if you truly enjoy them or are training for a race, but if you are looking to get a lean physique or are focusing on fat loss, try sprinting at least once a week combined with strength workouts and metcon instead. Then sprinkle the other cardio in as you crave it.
There is really no other training modality like sprints!
I often hear from women that they feel nervous to sprint, but the beauty is: you start where you are. It doesn’t matter how fast you are compared to somebody else, what matters is you push out of YOUR comfort zone and challenge yourself. You go all out for you.
Plus, unlike when you run on a treadmill where the force is exerted on you, you are actually the one in control when you sprint! You don’t have to keep up with the settings of a machine, which is why I prefer to sprint on an indoor or outdoor track, or just outside anywhere that allows for it.
So before you write off sprints as not for you, remember that sometimes the things we are most reluctant or hesitant to try are just the things we need the most.
And it’s really when you push your intensity that your body (read: abs!) will respond.