How to Get a Sprinter’s Body: Is it Possible?

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
October 23, 2022

Out of all the different athletic body types out there, the sprinter’s body is perhaps the most functional in its structure; being both visually appealing due to its impressive muscle mass and low body fat percentage, while also being quite effective in terms of athletic performance.

However, just as functional as the sprinter’s body is, so too is the difficulty in which it is built. 

Doing so will require an entire fitness plan be drafted, as achieving a sprinter’s body will require proper dieting, aerobic and anaerobic training and correct recovery methods all be employed in a beneficial manner.

In order to get a sprinter’s body, you will require a resistance training program that also includes significant cardio training, a diet that allows for low body fat composition via caloric restriction, and effective enough recovery to overcome the high intensity of said training program.

What is a Sprinter’s Body?

The sprinter’s body is characterized by a heavily muscled build and a low amount of body fat, with the muscles of the lower body being of especially large size due to their importance in sprinting or similar athletic activities.

sprinters body

In particular, a sprinter’s body is built specifically for a high rate of force development within a relatively short frame of time. This requires both an impressive amount of muscular strength and a relatively adapted systemic capacity in order to pull off.

When comparing the sprinter’s body to more resistance exercise-focused body types, we can see that though it is indeed muscular, it is not the same in proportion or gross size as bodybuilders and powerlifters.

This is simply because of the fact that training for the sprinter’s body places less focus on muscular hypertrophy, and more on functionality and explosiveness - or what is otherwise known as type 2 (fast twitch) muscle fiber contraction.

Functionality and Explosiveness of the Sprinter’s Body

The sprinter body type places significant importance on athletic prowess over all other aspects of training - equating to a workout routine that will more often feature heavy compound movements and exhausting hill sprints, rather than dozens of isolation exercise repetitions.

Such a high intensity of training will generally equate to greater fatigue, the need for stricter recovery methods and a greater caloric intake due to the sheer level of caloric expenditure taking place.

Furthermore, training for the sprinter’s body will obviously require a significant amount of sprinting be performed, meaning that it is not necessarily produced solely with anaerobic exercise, unlike other highly muscular body types.

Notable Muscles of the Sprinter’s Body

In particular, the sprinter’s body is characterized by muscular calves, powerful quadriceps and core musculature capable of stabilizing the body despite high levels of sustained exertion.

sprinter muscles

From a more biomechanical standpoint, it is the muscles that are recruited to the greatest extent during sudden bouts of running that are the most well developed in a sprinter’s body - although many Olympic level sprinters opt to further their physical development by focusing on other muscle groups as well.

Who Should Build a Sprinter’s Body?

The sprinter’s body is most suitable for individuals that wish to combine athleticism and aesthetics in a manner that favors explosiveness and low bodyweight, rather than aerobic endurance or pure mechanical strength.

It should be noted that, for individuals who do not wish to perform high intensity bouts of cardio, or those that wish to take on a more strength or hypertrophy focused training program, the sprinter’s body is likely the wrong body type to strive for.

How to Get a Sprinter’s Body

Training for a sprinter’s body is somewhat more complicated than a bodybuilder’s or other types of aerobic athletes, as it will require a combination of both resistance and aerobic training in order to master.

For the most part, the training methods employed in the pursuit of a sprinter’s body will focus on sprinting-based workouts, with resistance exercise taking a secondary place as a method of accelerating muscular development.

Apart from the training methodologies used, the sprinter’s body also requires that the exerciser either perform the slower method of bodily recomposition dieting, or otherwise perform what is known as a “lean” or “clean” bulk diet, followed by a bout of caloric restriction.

This will ensure that total body fat percentage is relatively low when compared to non-fat mass, maximizing athletic potential and minimizing body weight.

Sprinting Training Methods

Structuring a sprinter’s training program differs greatly from that of a weight lifter or marathon runner, and will generally take the form of cardio interval training performed on a treadmill or in an outdoor setting.

running on treadmill

For absolute novices, this interval training will consist of a short 100 meter sprint, followed by a light jog until they have sufficiently recovered, and once again another full sprint.

For more advanced sprinters, some level of periodization and sprint volume is meant to be incorporated, ensuring that an adequate amount of training stimulus is induced without placing excessive strain on the cardiovascular or connective tissue systems of the body.

In particular, performing sprints at an incline is especially effective at developing a sprinter’s body, both in terms of muscle mass and in required athletic function, and is generally advised unless one is specifically training for a sprinting competition.

Diet

Much like any other athletic body type, proper development must be fuelled through the consumption of adequate calories, and the correct macronutrients with which the body will use to achieve said development.

While sprinters are not as in-need of protein as a bodybuilder or powerlifter per se, they are still participating in intense exercise, and also make use of resistance training - meaning that it is recommended that they intake at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. 

In terms of energy, the ideal level of caloric intake is one that allows for muscular growth to still occur while minimizing fat gain - either at what is termed as “maintenance” calories, or approximately 200-300 calories greater than the exerciser’s daily energy expenditure.

Incorporating Resistance Exercise

Those seeking to develop the sprinter’s body will be best served training their quadriceps femoris, calves, and whatever other upper body muscles that they may wish to grow.

As such, while a sprinter’s body training program can vary widely between individuals, they almost always include the barbell back squat - a classic exercise that will train the muscles of the legs at an unparalleled level of effectiveness.

olympic squat

Many sprinters will also wish to incorporate the calf raise or some variation of calf resistance exercises, as this will greatly carry-over to their sprinting potential.

Resistance Workout Programming for a Sprinter’s Body

Programming the workout plan for a sprinter’s body is a balancing act, wherein the exerciser will wish to retain their frequent sprint training sessions while managing fatigue enough to also perform resistance exercise training on succeeding workout days.

This will somewhat limit the sort of training programs that the exerciser will employ, with the most frequent training program compatible with their sprint training being a full body workout thrice a week - something that lifters beyond a novice level cannot sustain due to issues with recovery.

As such, we instead advise that exercisers seeking to develop the sprinter’s body instead make use of the ever-popular upper/lower training program, of which should have just the right amount of lower body training frequency to allow recovery at nearly any level of ability.

Body Composition of a Sprinter’s Body

The sprinter’s physique is all about efficiency and maximizing your sprinting potential, meaning that excess weight that doesn’t contribute to rate of force production should generally be minimized.

The easiest method of doing this is to simply reduce the total body fat percentage relative to your lean mass, with the majority of elite level sprinters hovering somewhere between 11 and 15% bodyfat. 

This is achieved through a combination of frequent aerobic exercise and caloric restriction during certain blocks of their training.

Even if you are not a sprinter, replicating this body composition ratio is quite important for achieving the general aesthetic of the sprinter’s body - and is reached in much the same manner as the sprinters themselves, through cardio and dieting.

One caveat to this is that exercisers with a relatively small amount of muscle mass will be better served by first bulking up through a caloric surplus, as this will accelerate their growth and ensure their body is supplied with sufficient energy to develop properly.

Once this phase has been completed, they may then reduce their body fat composition through a caloric restriction.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Sprinter’s Body?

Achieving the muscle mass and body fat percentage needed for the appearance of the sprinter’s body can take as little as six months, especially for novices that are starting from a relatively low body fat percentage.

However, it is an entirely different story when speaking of the conditioning and athleticism of most sprinters. Achieving such a level of aerobic endurance and explosiveness can take up to a year or longer of serious training, as there is more to these capabilities than simple muscle mass and low body weight.

In short - for those that simply want to look like the sprinter’s body, achieving their goal is entirely doable within less than a year. 

Otherwise, those seeking the athletic prowess associated with the sprinter’s body may need to chase their goals for a longer period of time.

Final Thoughts

For those that want it, the sprinter’s body is among one of the most effective athletic body type goals out there - combining naturally attainable aesthetics with versatile athleticism and power. A sound goal with a challenging path to take.

Though we have covered the more important aspects of training for the sprinter’s body, we recommend that all individuals perform a deeper delve into the minute factors that play into athletic training and development, as factors like adequate sleep and macronutrient partitioning play an important role in achieving the sprinter’s body as well.

References

1. Haugen T, Seiler S, Sandbakk Ø, Tønnessen E. The Training and Development of Elite Sprint Performance: an Integration of Scientific and Best Practice Literature. Sports Med Open. 2019 Nov 21;5(1):44. doi: 10.1186/s40798-019-0221-0. PMID: 31754845; PMCID: PMC6872694.

2. Rumpf MC, Lockie RG, Cronin JB, Jalilvand F. Effect of Different Sprint Training Methods on Sprint Performance Over Various Distances: A Brief Review. J Strength Cond Res. 2016 Jun;30(6):1767-85. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001245. PMID: 26492101.

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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