Pro Sprinter Harry Aikines-Aryeetey Reveals the Gym and Track Sessions That Built His Body

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I’ve been blessed with good genetics, obviously,’ says Harry Aikines-Aryeetey. That’s an understatement. As proven by an old family photo from a holiday to Ghana, the Team GB 100m sprinter had pecs aged 13. He first beat his dad in a race aged just seven or eight.

Aikines-Aryeetey can pull up with 80kg attached, but doesn’t even lift for his upper body. What he does do, of course, is sprint: pumping his arms, withstanding ground reaction forces up to five times his 84kg mass (on each leg) and stimulating muscle growth all over. Which is something that most people, he says, don’t do past a certain point in their lives. They run or jog and lose the capacity to go at full throttle. ‘It’s a lost skill.’

Sprint training is about gradually building up your speed and pacing yourself – over the season, that is. Aikines-Aryeetey is on the track three or four times a week. A few days before speaking to MH, he ran six rounds of 200m, with three minutes’ rest in between, in 27 seconds – which is way off his personal best of 20.46, but he was just back from holiday and in ‘flats’ rather than ‘spikes’. In a few weeks, he’ll do 200m intervals in 25 seconds, then increase the rest by a minute or two. Eventually, on max velocity days, he’ll hit 11.3 meters per second – over 25 miles per hour – and rest between ‘reps’ for 15 to 20 minutes. Acceleration days are about getting up to his top speed; speed-endurance, staying there.

Twice a week, Aikines-Aryeetey does work in the gym on some key exercises, such as power cleans, squat variations (he likes to do split squats), Romanian deadlifts and step-ups – and progressing from eight to 10 reps earlier in his programme to three to five reps, but not always going heavier. ‘It’s all about the speed of the bar,’ he says. In the weeks before recording his power-clean PB of 170kg, he had been ‘getting comfortable’ at 130kg, whereas most people would’ve tried to squeeze out 135kg. ‘Nah, just get good at lifting that one weight very well,’ he advises.

What Aikines-Aryeetey also doesn’t do is run for longer than five or 10 minutes at the start of a session, or 500m sprint reps. By his own estimate ‘90% muscle’ (seems accurate), he’s not built for distance. Plus, he’s asthmatic. The 33-year-old recently ran his first 5K with CBD brand Puresport’s run club. ‘I was in bits,’ he says.

Harry AA’s Quickest Tips

How to build yourself for speed – beyond actually sprinting.

Unilateral Training

‘Sprinting is about taking a large force single-legged and projecting yourself, control and stability. In the gym, the first thing you want to do is single-leg training, whether that is split squats or step-ups.’

Build Endurance

‘Superset your main power exercises with a weighted step-up or some form of jump, such as depth or dumbbell rocket. You’re learning to control a movement pattern and then move with the force again.’

Photo credit: Mark James
Photo credit: Mark James

Increase Stride Length

‘Bound: hop or leap from leg to leg, taking longer strides each time to build and carry momentum. Keep your chest up and hips square. Drive your knees and land on the balls of your feet.

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