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The Sprint Ninja Training System

Overview

The Sprint Ninja Training system is a fitness and sports performance regimen designed over the past 20 years by sprint coach Chris Lyons. Sprint Ninja is an organic, growing process. The training system has been developed through a combination of academic research and through trial and error training athletes and individuals of all levels.

Sprint Ninja is designed to facilitate high level fitness and sports performance across all domains. However, as the name suggests, the primary objective is the development of sprint speed, explosive power, multi-directional speed (agility), strength and work capacity.

Sprint Ninja Primary Training Objectives

Explosive Power

Explosive power is a high level of force exerted at a high velocity. Examples include the Olympic power snatch, a maximum effort vertical jump, the first explosive stride at the start of a sprint etc. Force x velocity = explosive power.

Work Capacity

Volume of work x duration = work capacity. Work capacity is the ability to exert near-maximal (90% effort+) work over a prolonged period of time. Other terms for it are power output and anaerobic capacity. The more work you can do in less time, the higher your work capacity. Examples include 400m – 800m sprint, 50m-100m swimming sprint or the ability to go from one intense task to another with no rest.

Strength

Strength is simply the ability to produce force, independent of speed. Strength is the foundation of all other athletic ability. Without strength you can’t have explosive power or work capacity. Examples of strength are a maximal squat or maximal deadlift.

Speed

Speed is the ability of a muscle to contract quickly and the ability to go rapidly from one movement to the next. The obvious example is sprinting speed.

Agility/Multi-directional Speed

Agility is the ability to change direction at high speed.

Sprint Ninja Training Principles

The guiding principles of the Sprint Ninja Training System.

Adaptability

All Sprint Ninja Training is flexible and adaptable. Training is designed in such a way that you can continue training regardless of the tools, equipment and facilities you have access to. The system is designed with built-in substitutions for everything. This allows people to train around injury and to train when equipment and facilities are restricted, by using effective substitutions.

Specificity

In order to accomplish any training objective, training must be specific to that task. For example, a sprinter will need strength, explosive power, speed and mobility. Training should be structured to develop these skills in a manner that is consistent with sprint performance.

Avocation

70-90% of training should be specific to an athlete's primary training/performance goal. The other 10-30% is cross-training. Avocation is the development of skills and fitness that is not specific to the primary goal, as long as the cross-training is not to the detriment of the main training objective.

Consistency

Training results are the adaptations acquired from all training sessions over a prolonged period of time. Very little improvements are made from an individual workout. In order to progress and produce training adaptations, training needs to be consistent and frequent.

Progression

The purpose of any form of training is progression. That is to improve one's performance over time. Training is structured in a way that ensures one is always progressing. Conscious attention is given during each training session to increase either volume, duration or intensity. Progression is not linear, but rather happens intermittently in a 3 steps forward, 1 step back pattern, or 3 steps forward then levelling off before progressing again.

Recovery

Improvements in performance are stimulated through training. The adaptive response to that training happens during recovery. Recovery includes short blocks of time off training, consisting of 4-7 days every 8 weeks; adequate daily sleep; adequate nutrition and taking rest days when performance is suffering or there is excess soreness and fatigue.

Test, Measure, Challenge

In order to track progress, the Sprint Ninja Training System advocates highly frequent fitness testing. Tests are standardised and should be conducted in a controlled manner with results being recorded each time. In addition to testing as an individual, Sprint Ninja encourages competition, whether formal or informal. Competition provides a more accurate comparison to other athletes and helps to highlight weaknesses and provide perspective that is otherwise not seen through individual testing.

Minimalism

Minimalism means simplifying a training session/programme to only include that which is necessary to accomplish an aim. Anything that is superfluous and not entirely necessary is omitted. This approach ensures athletes get maximum use for their time.

Sprint Ninja Training Methods

Sprint Ninja makes use of a broad range of training tools and equipment. Having a broad variety of tools available means that there are a greater number of training options available.

Tools and methods used

Short sprint drills - Short sprint drills are maximum explosive effort sprints designed to improve speed off the mark.

Long sprint drills - Long sprint drills involves sprints that last longer than 5-7 seconds. These are designed to develop maximum acceleration, top-end speed and the ability to maintain maximal or near-maximal speed for a longer distance. Long sprint drills also improve work capacity.

Plyometrics - Plyometrics involve very short, very rapid maximal intensity muscle contractions. A plyometrics drill involves absorbing impact and then rebounding into the next movement as fast as possible. Examples include depth jumps and single-leg and double-leg bounding.

Barbell strength training - Barbell strength training involves a variety of key barbell lifts including power snatch, power clean, deadlift, squat, single leg deadlift, explosive barbell rows and other big compound movements.

Non-plyometric power drills - Plyometrics are dependent on fast rebound times. Where there is no rapid rebound, the exercise is not considered plyometric in nature. Examples include squat jumps, standing long jump, scissor jump (lunge jump), clap push-ups (borderline), burpees and burpee variations etc.

Callisthenics - Callisthenics refers to body weight strength training. From basic movements such as the standard push-up or pull-up, to more complex movements such as single arm push-ups, pistol squats, gymnastics style strength movements etc.

Bodybuilding Isolation Training - Includes isolation exercises designed to target a specific muscle or a small number of specific muscles. Things such as lateral dumbbell raises, dumbbell curls, tricep extensions, dumbbell flies etc.

Dynamic Throws and Slams - Includes the throwing or slamming of moderately heavy objects. Examples include medicine ball slams, overhead medicine ball throws, shot put throws, heavy weight toss etc.

Anaerobic Cross-Training - Performing intervals or short bouts of high intensity training that is not specific to one's goal. Things like a 5 minute max effort time trial at high resistance on an indoor bike, 1 minute intervals on an indoor rower, 1-3 minute swimming sprints etc.

Banded Resistance - Strength training using either rubber resistance bands or springs.

Max-Strength Isometrics - Isometrics involve holding a muscle contraction for a given length of time. Sprint Ninja makes use of max strength isometrics, which involves holding a maximum effort muscle contraction. Examples include; gripping a towel rolled length-ways with both hands and pulling outwards as hard as possible like you're trying to rip the towel, lying on your back with a bent knee and driving your heel downwards and towards you as hard as you can, causing a maximum contraction of the hamstring, or pushing or pulling as hard as possible against an immovable object.

Strongman training - Lifting and moving awkward, non-standard heavy objects. Examples include atlas stone lifts, farmers walk, weighted carries with large irregular objects etc. Mainly used for cross-training.

Endurance Training - Endurance training is not used for everyone. It applies only to athletes that require endurance as an end-goal. Endurance training includes continuous, long duration training such as a distance run or distance swim. It can also be a continuous effort involving multiple activities back to back for a prolonged period.

Session types

Every training session is designed for a specific outcome. In almost all athletes and individuals, multiple different types of training sessions are required within a training programme. Sprint Ninja makes use of several different classifications and types of training sessions, each designed for a specific aim.

Strength

Strength training is any training to increase strength. This includes maximal strength as well as strength endurance. Strength sessions can involve heavy barbell training, callisthenics, bodybuilding style dumbbell training, isometrics, strongman training or Olympic style weightlifting.

Explosive Speed & Power

Explosive speed and power are the main cornerstone of the Sprint Ninja Training System. Explosive power involves high intensity, explosive movements performed at low volume with adequate recovery between efforts. Examples include plyometrics and maximum pace sprints. Explosive power and speed also encompasses agility training.

Density

Density training involves performing as much volume as possible in the shortest time. There are two versions of density training; time based, which involves performing as many reps of something as possible in a pre-set period of time. Example, as many scissor jumps as possible in 15 minutes. And secondly, volume based, which involves doing a preset number of reps or rounds in the fastest time possible. Example, doing 250 scissor jumps in the shortest time.

Conditioning

Conditioning sessions are designed to broadly improve work capacity, also known as power output and anaerobic capacity. Conditioning sessions involve 2 or more exercises or drills, performed at a fast, high intensity pace back to back. Examples: As many rounds as possible in 20 minutes of burpees x 10, squat jumps x 10 and air squats x 10; or a 20 minute run, stopping after 5 minutes to do 25 burpees, then after a further 5 minutes to do 30 scissor jumps and finish the run with a maximum pace sprint for 200m.

Programming Guidelines

The programme structure is the overall outline. It includes the workouts that need to be done over a given length of time. Err on the side of loosely structured programming over a relatively short duration.

Example: You can start with an 8 week programme. Break those 8 weeks down into cycles, which are usually a week, but can be structured to be shorter or longer. Give a brief description of the workouts that will be done on each day of the cycle. So for an 8 week programme with cycles being 1 week each....

Day One: Max strength - Heavy barbell exercises, including deadlift variations and Olympic lifts.

Day Two: Explosive Speed & Power - Plyometrics, non-plyometric power drills, short and fast sprint.

Day Three: Conditioning - 20-40 minute conditioning circuit against the clock.

Day Four: Rest Day.

Day Five: Explosive Speed & Power - Plyometrics and longer sprints, emphasising top-end speed.

Day Six: Density - Pick 3 different movements, choosing between strength and power exercises. Each for as many reps as possible in 7 minutes.

Day Seven: Rest Day.

Session Structure

The programme structure above and the example gives a good indication of the broadness of a training programme, while still providing a sturdy, guiding structure. The session structure should take into account what specifically needs work and what has already been done recently.

Structuring individual training sessions should be kept relatively simple, never over-complicating things. Below is an example of a training session for each session type:

Strength - Sets of 7-5-3-1 reps with ascending weight on front squats, straight leg deadlift and push press.

Explosive Speed & Power - Single leg bounding for 7 sets of 5 reps each leg. Max pace sprints for 5 x 25m, 5 x 50 and 2 x 100m. Standing long jump x 10 total jumps.

Conditioning - Standing long jumps for a distance of 200m. Every 5 jumps, stop and do 5 burpees then continue on. Perform as fast as possible against a stopwatch.

Density - Scissor jumps (aka lunge jumps) for as many reps as possible in 7 minutes. Then squat jumps for as many reps as possible in 7 minutes. Then push-ups for as many reps as possible in 7 minutes. Rest 2 minutes after each 7 minute block.

In a Nutshell

Sprint Ninja is a training designed for athletes and individuals alike. The primary goal is the development of speed, explosive power and improved work capacity. Overall translating to a faster, leaner, stronger and more explosive athlete.

Return to our home page from The Sprint Ninja Training System.

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