Would You Like to Have the Body of a Marathon Runner or a Sprinter


Good day and welcome to another great edition of About Lifting specials; again your host for this evening; Iron Thumb.

On today’s episode we will examine two photo specimens. I want you to be honest with yourselves and make a grown up decision of which you would prefer: the marathon-runner’s (or any runner who competes for 1000 meters or more) body or the Sprinter’s body.

Half of our agenda here is with regard to the past article about High intensity interval training; as we all know High intensity interval training was originally copied from the sprinter’s training regimen.

Now will you take a look at exhibit A; the marathon/long distance guys. This is the type of body that could withstand miles and miles of sustained moderate intensity; heck these bodies could even withstand hours!

long distance runners

Now let us take a look at exhibit B; the sprinters. These bodies may not last for 30 minutes in marathons but these are designed to have the power to summon a great burst of high-intensity effort at a moment’s notice. These bodies are capable of lightning speeds but of course-tire out quickly and use up more energy (calories) in the process.

sprinters

Now this is the part where I ask you guys for your honest vote; which of the two bodies exhibited above would you like to have? (Disclaimer we are not condemning any side here)

What Body do you wish to have?

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Now I know I am asking an obvious question here; but forget about this site’s main theme for this moment and consider the pros and the cons of each body-type. You are also free to consider how they look.
Note: we have chosen world-level athletes here as specimens since to reach world level they must have trained in accordance to what is required in their chosen specialty.

Now you must look carefully because I know that most of you would also get the impression that sprinters would look the same as marathon runners; NO they DON’T! That is the other point I would like to build up on this article.

Now I know that most of you would be bodybuilders or weightlifters looking to create some extra growth or strength and you came to the right place; so why the hell are we talking about these “runners”. I tell you why; because you need to learn how to properly do your cardio.

You see most bodybuilders would just decide to do cardio, and then they’d just go out run their hearts out, without any plan at all. Most of us never really considerer the roadwork part as a science but we treat our time in the gym with science. I tell you straight: if you want results- fast results (fast not effortless; with fast we mean: practical and precise) you need to apply science to everything you do from now on- including the running part.

If you haven’t gotten the point yet consider this: why the heck do these sprinters have such muscular bodies when all they do is run and train how to run? Well for one not ALL they do is run; they also need to lift and do explosive moves (similar with how you train to improve your vertical jump) in the gym; and second the nature of how they run (whenever they do) requires the participation of larger muscle fibers- the fast twitch or the  type2 muscle fibers.

You do know that there are two types, right? The slow and the fast; type 1 and type 2 respectively. The type 1 can sustain a longer period of movements. But this is specifically for slow movements –like what their name implies “slow twitch” , so the force generated by slow twitch fibers will be low but they can last longer. On the other hand you have your fast twitch fivers that can generate forceful contractions on a higher level but of course they cannot do that forever; they will tire out quickly and use more energy in the process.

Now one thing about these two types is that the fast-twitch muscle fibers tend to be bigger than their slow twitch counterpart. Obviously since they are required to exert more force in a shorter burst- they will need to be bigger; and they also consume more calories for maintenance.

Now I am sure you can deduct from above the most likely dominant muscular distribution of type2 and type 1 fibers among the two: the marathon runners and the sprinters. Of course the marathon runner would have more type 1 muscles on the other hand the sprinters would have more type 2 fibers as a result of their training in their respective fields. As a consequence the marathon runners would be thinner since their body needs to make the most out of its stored energy since it will be taxed for a longer period of time during their performance; not to mention that bigger muscles tend to use up more oxygen which will hinder their long-distance runs therefore the body adjusts accordingly; the sprinter on the other hand would have larger more defined musculature since they need the force generated by the fibers and they need the most fibers that they can get to get the job done. The body will not worry about energy stores since it only needs to exert as much force as it can at a single quick burst. Also, not to mention of course that fast twitch muscles are bigger therefore having more of them developed will make you look bigger.

But I sure do hope that no idiot would question why sprinters would not be as big as throwers such as shot put players, and hammer throwers.

Shot put

Sprinters’ bodies of course develop in a manner wherein they will be lighter but still contain as much fast twitch muscle composition as possible as to not get in the way of their running. Throwers wouldn’t mind having some bulky and extra fats of course.

So what can you learn from the sprinter as a bodybuilder or a weight-lifter? You can conclude that unless you are training for a marathon or a boxing match which will require you to last for 12 rounds; you can forget about running long distances for the sake of cardio. The most effective cardio for you would be the method used by sprinters, which is of course high intensity interval training.

Do so and you will burn more fat while your body will adapt accordingly making you bigger and stronger; making it less and less concerned about conserving energy source which is GOOD if you want to BURN FAT as well. Therefore the HIIT method is a sure win method for you.

Till next time, don’t forget your eggs, people!

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11 thoughts on “Would You Like to Have the Body of a Marathon Runner or a Sprinter

  1. I would rather have the marathon runners body. To me this is the way man is supposed to look. Early man took advantage of the fact that we have the greatest endurance of all land animals to use persistence hunting to bring meat home. These hunts would last up to 10 hours until the prey collapses from sheer exhaustion. On the other hand, we are no where near the fastest sprinters in the animal kingdom nor was sprinting ever used to catch prey. Man was meant to run long distances. But to each his own; for the sake of bodybuilding, sprinting is superior.

    1. for the sake of bodybuilding, sprinting is superior.

      I agree, and that is exactly what I meant when I say that your training must be specific to the ends that you desire

  2. You are using some basic science to make conclusions about your thoughts – though that does not mean your conclusions are right.

    I suggest you read about LISS cardio and its benefits to strength athletes. You can check Alex viadas research on LISS cardio on strength athletes. LISS cardio if done right can actually improve your strength through a lot of different mechanisms.

    Also sprinters have such bulky bodies thanks to the different type of training and anabolics they need to take in comparison to a marathon runner . Also as you already mentioned, having a huge bulky body would not really help a marathon runner.

    HIIT can actually be very bad for someone doing strength training (note, i said STRENGTH training, not the classic bodybuilding training) because HIIT uses the same energy stores strength training uses, which means that if for example you do a set of squats on monday, and the next day you do HIIT , you will interfere with your recovery and the adaptations your muscles will take. That ofcourse does not mean that HIIT is garbage, but it needs very good programming and it should be used sparingly and obviously not as the only form of cardio

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