Low levels of body fat increase your speed.

Body Composition of a Female Sprinter

by Mike Samuels

The physique of a female sprinter may be one you aspire to. It can take years to get to this level of conditioning; sprinters have a low body fat percentage and high levels of muscle tone and definition. You can make great strides toward achieving such a physique by following a structured training and diet plan, however. Female sprinters don't just sprint -- to get to the right body composition, they include resistance training and follow a strict diet plan, too.

1. Fat Mass

One key element of body composition is how much fat you carry. One consistent trait shared by successful female runners is that they all have low levels of body fat, according to Ron Maughan, professor of sport and exercise sciences at Loughborough University. Carrying excess fat can slow you down and lead to decreased performance. The average woman has between 25 and 31 percent body fat, while a fit female has between 21 and 24 percent. A female athlete, on the other hand, will carry only 14 to 20 percent body fat.

2. Muscle Mass

Adding muscle mass typically helps athletic performance, notes strength coach Marc Perry. While adding muscle mass might mean increasing your body weight slightly, the advantage of having more muscle to generate more speed and power greatly outweighs the negatives of being a little heavier. Your legs are the most important muscles when sprinting, so female sprinters have a higher proportion of lower-body muscle mass, but you still need a strong muscular upper body to help with your arm swing and keeping your torso upright.

3. Training Plan

Increasing speed and power should be the main aim of your training program, according to John M. Cissik of Human Performance Services. This means basing your workouts around strength moves such as squats, deadlifts and bench presses along with explosive plyometric exercises such as the Olympic lifts. This type of training will build the muscle mass needed to achieve the body composition of a female sprinter. For the low body fat levels, along with the fitness aspect, combine two to three weekly weight sessions with two or three sprint sessions on the track, mixing up your distances.

4. Considerations

Female sprinters are in peak physical condition and can dedicate every hour of the day to their training, so achieving the same type of physique may not be practical. This doesn't mean you can't increase muscle mass and reduce your fat percentages with a sprint-style training program, though. Another huge consideration is diet -- you need to consume fewer calories than you burn to lose fat, but still eat enough to sustain you through tough workouts. If you're new to training, don't jump straight into a full-on sprint program; check with your doctor first, then have a few sessions with an athletics coach or a strength coach to help design a workout tailored to your level.

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