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Hills Make It Happen

HIIT Methods: Hill Sprints

Hills sprints are an amazingly effective method of improving fitness and keeping the lower extremities strong.  Sprinting up a hill reduces impact on the joints, improves running mechanics, creates a profound metabolic disruption, and your training session is over in twelve minutes.  Walter Peyton was a huge believer in hill sprints and no one could argue with his results.

Hill sprints are safer than flat surface sprints because the ground rises up to meet the foot.  Maximal lower limb speed and impact is reduced when you sprint up a hill.  Hill sprints make you lean forward into the posture of acceleration.  In order to produce more of the force that lifts the body up the hill, the athlete must pump the arms and drive back through the hips.  Hill sprints are arguably one of the most functional training activities you can perform.

Hill sprints are not for everyone.  They are not appropriate for the physically deconditioned population.  If you have a history of lower extremity orthopedic issues, you want to use another, less aggressive form of HIIT.  Hill sprints take some discipline to complete.  They are not the same as running uphill on an inclined treadmill.  I would argue that hill sprints are the most effective method of disrupting physiological homeostasis–you will get leaner and fitter faster.

The ideal hill is a five to seven percent grade and 100 to 150 yards long.  Most of the hill sprints you will perform are for distances sixty yards or less.  Listed below are some of my favorite hill sprint routines.

20 Yard Hill Sprints

Sprint up the hill for twenty yards.  Walk back down and rest.  Beginners start with three sprints and work your way up to eight sprints.

20 – 40 – 60 – 40 – 20 Yard Hill Sprints

Sprint 20 yards and then rest, 40 yards, rest, 60 yards, rest 40 yards, rest, 20 yards and you are finished.  Recover sufficiently so the next hill sprint does not suffer a breakdown in performance.

40 Yard Hill Sprints

Warm up and perform a 40 yard hill sprint at 80% of full effort.  Walk back down the hill and then perform another 40 yard hill sprint at 85% full effort.  Perform the next three hill sprints at 90-95% full effort.  Five good sprints are all you need.

Watch Mike explain hill sprinting on his favorite hill: https://youtu.be/AHJjmT87g7g

For more information on the many benefits of HIIT read the The One Minute Workout by Dr. Martin Gibala.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

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