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Professional sprinters have great abs.
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Sprinting is one of the best exercises to get a flat, toned stomach. As opposed to traditional ab exercises -- such as crunches -- it incorporates powerful body movements as well as high intensity cardiovascular training, while strengthening core muscles and burning body fat at the same time. When you sprint, you automatically engage your abdominal muscles in order to maintain proper form and posture as you pump your arms and legs. Technically, you can get a six-pack from doing traditional ab exercises; however, you won't see those muscles if you still have excess body fat on top of them. Sprints can help not only build the core muscles, but burn overall body fat, creating more defined muscle tone.
High Intensity Training and Fat Loss
Sprinting is a form of high intensity training. In general, high intensity training is done by performing short bursts of near maximal efforts. Because it requires so much energy, the body can only sustain such efforts for a limited amount of time -- typically around five to 30 seconds. Body fat loss is a benefit of this type of exercise because after high intensity efforts are performed, it takes even more energy for the body to recover from it, elevating metabolism and burning an increased amount of calories. This is referred to as EPOC, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.
A popular way to perform high intensity cardiovascular exercise is by doing interval training, which refers to alternating between periods of high intensity exercise and low intensity rest periods. An example would be sprinting a 50-meter or 100-meter straightaway on a track, and walking the curve. This can be done anywhere from two to 10 times, depending on how conditioned you are. The intensity of the workout is high, so the total time necessary shouldn't be more than about 20 to 30 minutes, including a warm up.
Adding Sprints to Your Exercise Program
Remember, sprinting is a high intensity exercise, and requires not only adequate rest periods in between interval bouts, but recovery between workouts. Combine sprinting with a variety of other exercise modes throughout the week, such as strength training, yoga, and low to moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise. Try adding one to two days of sprinting intervals on non-consecutive days. Avoid sprinting immediately after another workout -- unless you are a highly conditioned athlete -- in order to prevent injury.
Tips and Considerations
Sprinting is a high-level exercise, and may not be appropriate for beginners. Always perform a thorough warm-up before sprinting. Start with a few laps of light jogging, followed by dynamic exercises such as high knees, butt kicks, cariocas, and walking toe touches. Avoid abrupt starts and stops by beginning each sprint with a jog, building up to a sprint, and gradually slowing down when returning to a walk.