I’ve done hill sprints off and on many times over the years and I can say without a doubt they are one of my favorite exercises. This is because they give you some outstanding benefits.
- Build Muscle
- Shed Fat
- Make You Faster and More Explosive
- They’re even Safer than flat land sprints
- Trigger the Release of Human Growth Hormone
- Take Far Less Time than Long Slow Distance Running
How to Get Started with Hill Sprinting
Let me start by saying how to do hill sprints. First, if you haven’t done any sort of running recently you don’t want to jump in and start sprinting all out. If you are in shape, do at least one session jogging or running the hills, but not going all out.
For those, not in great shape already, jogging may be all you can muster. Even for sedentary folks just walking the hill may be optimal.
Keep in mind why easing into this intense exercise is important. For one, you’ll be less sore the next day, but also you will dramatically lessen the chances of injury.
Also you should warmup before sprinting. I don’t recommend any static stretching. Instead just do a short jog. For me all it takes is jogging to the hill to begin my sprints.
How to do Hill Sprints
What sort of hill should you use? Virtually any level of incline will work. Obviously, the steeper the hill the harder the exercise will be. If you have no nearby hills, steps can be a valid substitute, though I must say I don’t like stairs as much.
What is important is length. I find the optimal length is whatever you can sprint in about 30 seconds. Go longer and you won’t be sprinting all out. Shorter and you don’t have enough time to even run out of breath. If you have a large hill you can always just run a portion of it.
In all your training you must keep it progressive. This way you know you are doing better. For this reason you should run the same length every time. Have a starting and a finish line. And time yourself for each one. Race yourself trying to beat your best time each and every time. It is satisfying to see over the course of a couple weeks how what took you 30 seconds before now only takes you 27. In this video you can see an example of this in action. You’ll notice me starting and stopping my watch to time.
Conditioning and Mental Toughness
Hill sprints are one of the best conditioning exercises. For every single step you want to force yourself to go faster. This gets you out of breath quick. With many other conditioning exercises (like bodyweight squats or kettlebell swings) there is time in the move to relax. Even going at a fast pace its really not all out like hill sprints can be at every moment. With a steep hill you will get out of breath fast. The steeper the hill the more true this becomes. That’s what makes this one of the best exercises.
In addition hill sprints build mental toughness. With each step your CAN go a little faster. When your lungs are burning and your legs are about to collapse you can keep going and you can go faster. But its hard. You can force yourself to do it…and that takes toughness. The fact is you can always push yourself a little bit harder. Just a tiny bit faster. This is why hill sprints are in my opinion one of the best ways to build this trait.
How to do a Hill Sprint Workout
I find the four to eight sprints is enough for the workout. This will depend on if you do any other training, especially leg training activities.
After you finish the sprint walk down to the bottom and start again. Your only rest is in the walk down. (In the beginning you may need more than this. As you advance you may be able to jog down then sprint once again.)
You know you are in condition when your last sprint is not more than a second or two in time off of the first. But when you’re starting out don’t be surprised to find yourself taking five to eight seconds longer on that last sprint.
Doing hill sprints one or two times a week will make you tougher, better conditioned, stronger, and faster. Well worth the effort.
Want more information on hill sprints and other exercises? Grab my book The Ultimate Guide to Bodyweight Conditioning.