Hill Sprinting for Speed

Hill Sprinting for Speed

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Hill sprints provide light resistance.

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Hill sprints are a technique of sprint loading which is designed to improve your running speed and acceleration. The challenge can be compared to a set of Olympic weightlifting exercises requiring explosive force to complete, according to coach Brad Hudson's article, “ Run Faster: 6 Adaptive Running Methods” in “Running Times.” Running hills is also a form of interval training because after you sprint up a hill, you have to get back down.

The Advantages

When you run short hill sprints at maximal effort, you can strengthen the entire spectrum of running muscles as well as lower risk of injury, according to Hudson. You can also boost the power and economy of your stride. You need to lean forward - the required posture for correct sprinting form - and move closer to the ground. As well, you have to bend the hips, knees and ankles to a greater degree to achieve enough of a push-off with your back foot and clear the ground with the front toe. The exaggerated stride on an uphill sprint enables you to cover more ground with increased efficiency when running a race.

Use of Arm Swing

Using your arm swing in hill sprints is an effective way to learn how to keep your core stable while accelerating as well as maintaining a balance of power between your lower and upper body. By increasing arm speed, you can boost stride speed, according to Gray Cook's book “Athletic Body in Balance.” If you use weights, such as 2-pound dumbbells, you can focus on pumping your arms to improve your running form and not just swing them in an arbitrary way.

Training Progression

You should sprint a 10- to 30-yard incline of anywhere from eight to 10 degrees in 2.5 to 3.5 seconds, according to “High Performance Sports Conditioning” by Bill Foran. After completing the initial short sprint, you should sprint another 20 to 80 yards at the same incline. If you're training for a race over a period of weeks, you can progressively increase the distance of the intervals as well as use less-steep inclines. The gains you experience in power and strength can be made more specific to the intensity and duration of race conditions, according to Hudson.


The best hills for sprint loading are those with closely mowed grass or packed turf. They should as free of obstacles as possible. Other options include a paved incline or ramp clear of traffic. Avoid an incline treadmill as a substitute. This machine fails to simulate the correct conditions of uphill sprints. When using a treadmill, you can't achieve a natural arm swing or stride, according to Cook.

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