HI(LL)IT Sprints

hill-sprintHigh Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a proven way to develop your conditioning. They're also excellent for fat-burning. And one of the best exercises for doing both is hill sprints.

Now, for those of you who think sprinting up a hill is too much for you, let's use our own definition of "sprint" here. While it's normally considered to be running at (or near) full speed, we'll consider it to be moving at (or near) your full speed. So a "sprint" might be a fast walk for some people; that's OK. The important part is the intensity, which must, obviously, be high. So moving at (or near) full speed uphill for a short time constitutes a hill sprint. See? I knew you could do it!

There are several variables to consider in your hill sprints.

  1. The steepness (or "grade") of the hill. Steeper is harder (obviously) but you don't need a very steep hill to get a good workout. Just move faster!
  2. The distance (or time) you sprint. You can sprint a fixed distance (e.g., 50 yards) or a fixed time (e.g., 15 seconds). Just be consistent for each interval.
  3. The time you rest between sprints (including getting back down the hill). Again, be consistent. You don't want to be fully rested for each sprint, but don't be so exhausted that your form breaks down (or you fall down). A good estimate is a 1:3 work:rest ratio; that is, rest for three times as long as you run. But again, if you need to rest longer, do so!
  4. The number of sprints you do. Aim for 3-10. If you can do more than 10, you need more intensity, shorter rest periods, or a steeper hill! Don't sacrifice intensity for more intervals.

Note that "intensity" is not one of the variables: it's always high!

Here are some tips on your hill sprint form:

  • Lean forward. This is a natural tendency; don't fight it! The steeper the hill, the more the lean. But don't lean too far; your torso should not be in front of your knees.
  • Don't land on your heels. Aim for a mid-foot landing, although the steeper the hill the closer the landing will be to the ball of the foot. This is true for both running and walking.
  • Pump your arms to improve your leg drive and build momentum.
  • Raise your knees for the same reasons: leg drive and momentum.
  • Take short steps. The steeper the hill, the shorter the steps. You'll need to do this to land on your mid-foot or fore-foot anyway.

And here's a short video to help:

You can also do "hill" sprints on a treadmill, but that's a topic for another post!

Be seeing you.


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