Hills (also known as “bridges” in the flatlands) are an incredible avenue for building speed and strength in the human body. Although performed in very short bursts, hill sprints can promote significant improvements in metabolic conditioning and muscular strength without the risk of injury that usually accompanies sprinting. Because of the inclined surface, maximum limb speed cannot be attained which self-regulates your body from overworking and getting injured (like pulling a muscle.) Also, the incline of the hill forces you to lean forward and not overextend your stride, promoting proper form and limiting the impact on your joints. (Uhh, double winning!)
Hill sprints are also an incredible way to burn fat because of the intensity it takes to perform the workout. As you read in How to Get Fit and Lose Fat, the greater the intensity, the higher the EPOC that is generated, and the more fat we burn at rest post-workout (we’re talking hundreds of calories here.) Once you begin incorporating hill sprints into your routine, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you see improvement in your fitness and body composition. And don’t be intimidated – if this is your first time, just focus on having fun and feeling like a rockstar as you conquer the hills.
Ladder-Style Hill Sprints
Instructions: Find a hill that is relatively “steep” and is at least 50 yards long. You want the hill to make it hard to get to the top, but not too hard that you lose form and “steam” throughout the sprint. Your hill can be on the road, a bridge, or a grassy hill in a park. Give each sprint your all – you should feel the “burn” halfway through each sprint.
Warm Up: Perform 10-15 minutes of Dynamic Range of Motion movements and running easy. Include 3 x :30 seconds hard “pick ups” followed by :30 seconds rest to get heart rate up.
Perform the following sprint set: :10 seconds, :15 seconds, :20 seconds, :25 seconds, :30 seconds, :30 seconds, :25 seconds, :20 seconds, :15 seconds, :10 seconds
After each sprint, recover by walking/lightly jogging down the hill. Once you reach the bottom of the hill, actively rest an additional :30 seconds. Make sure you go HARD on each sprint. You should feel a “burn” halfway through each sprint.
Kick it up a notch: Perform 5 burpees + 5 push ups at the top of the hill after each hill sprint.
Cool Down: Walk/run easy for 5-10 minutes.
Newbie to the Workout Scene? Start here!
First timers (new athletes): Perform 4 x :20 seconds “steady” sprints up the hill (an effort of 6-7 on a scale of 1-10.) After each sprint, recover by walking/lightly jogging down the hill. Once you reach the bottom of the hill, actively rest an additional :30 seconds.
The Scaled Workout (intermediate athletes): Perform the following sprint set: :10 seconds, :15 seconds, :20 seconds, :20 seconds, :15 seconds, :10 seconds. After each sprint, recover by walking/lightly jogging down the hill. Once you reach the bottom of the hill, actively rest an additional :30 seconds.
If you’re a beginner to sprint training – try incorporating this type of workout into your life at least once a week. For experienced and expert athletes, always give yourself at least 72 hours rest in between sprint workouts to let your central nervous system and muscles/connective tissue recover. Depending on your goals, it’s a good idea to incorporate 1-3 “sprint” workouts per week utilizing various sports.
Active Rest: Resting, but continuing to move your body. For example, if you’re doing a running workout, continue to walk during your rest intervals. It helps to flush the lactic acid you’ve built up and promotes circulation… so you’re better prepared for the next interval.
Burn (Lactate or Lactic Acid build-up): When we exercise, our breathing increases because our muscles need oxygen to operate and create energy. When we sprint or lift heavy weights, our muscles needs oxygen faster than our body can deliver it. When this happens – a substrate called “lactate” is produced, and can usually last in the muscles in high doses for up to 3 minutes. It creates a burning sensation in the muscles being used, and will eventually result in you stopping or slowing. It hurts to push through, but the rewards can be huge if you do.
Cool Down: A “cool down” is used to describe the way you begin to bring your body back to homeostasis after a work out. You generally don’t want to stop cold from intense exercise – rather gradually bring your heart rate down with movement at a “comfortable” pace which will flush out the lactic acid and promote mobility in your joints and muscles. Also, consider deep breathing and stretching. Cooling down is very personal – so find what works for you.
Want more workouts like the one above? Check out my other sprint workouts, or functional fitness workouts.
Keepin’ it human,