12 Running Uphill Benefits: How It Makes You A Strong Runner

Hill repeats are one of the classic bread-and-butter workouts for distance runners and sprinters alike. Running uphill benefits your cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems, making it an effective and efficient way to combine speed work and strength training into one workout.

Runners can reap unique benefits from running workouts that involve hill repeat sprints as well as running long uphill climbs at an endurance training pace. For example, hill sprints develop strength, speed, and turnover while longer hills develop strength, endurance, and mental toughness.

So, if you find yourself in need of some support to turn your dread of running hills into motivation and excitement, keep reading for a list of 12 awesome running uphill benefits.

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Running Uphill Benefits

12 Running Uphill Benefits

Running uphill confers physical and mental benefits, and hill workouts can be one of the most effective components of your training program, particularly if you struggle on hills during your runs and races. Here are some of the top benefits of running uphill:

#1: Running Uphill Improves Your Cardiovascular Capacity

Running uphill strengthens your heart and lungs, boosting your cardiovascular fitness. If you take on long endurance uphill climbs, either up a long mountain run or on a treadmill set at an incline, you can also boost your endurance by running uphill. 

The oxygen demand from your muscles is higher when you run uphill, so your heart rate naturally rises and you have to breathe deeper and faster than when you run on flat roads. Therefore, over time, hill workouts can strengthen your heart and lungs and increase your stroke volume and tidal volume.

#2: Running Uphill Increases Leg Strength 

Most runners know that strength training is important, but sometimes, we lack the motivation to hit the gym for squats, lunges, and deadlifts.

Running uphill can almost be equated to strength training in disguise. It builds strength and power in the glutes, calves, quads, hamstrings, and hip flexors. Increases in leg strength from hill running can translate to a more powerful running stride.

Running Uphill Benefits

#3: Running Uphill Develops Core and Arm Strength

In addition to building leg strength, running uphill benefits your arms and core. Proper uphill running form requires a strong arm drive. Also, to drive your knees up, you engage your core even more so running uphill than on the flats.

Runners don’t often consider the importance of strong arms, but your arm swing dictates the power and pace of your turnover, so be sure to pump those arms with power and conviction.

#4: Running Uphill Can Help You Run Faster

Hill repeats are one of the best speed workouts for runners of all distances. Attacking each repeat at top speed is a great way to train your body to run faster without doing intervals on the track.

Moreover, the muscles used for running uphill are the same ones recruited for sprinting, so hill repeats can help condition your body for faster paces.

To boost your speed by running uphill, do short hill repeats (100-200m) at near maximal speed.

Running Uphill Benefits

#5: Running Uphill Can Improve Your Running Form

One of the best running uphill benefits is that it’s a more natural way to work on your running form than trying to consciously do a bunch of form drills.

Running uphill forces a strong knee drive, good posture, quick turnover, and a shorter stride such that you land more on the balls of your feet or midfoot rather than your heel. Be sure to keep your chest up, back straight, core tight, and shoulders back as you run uphill. Don’t hunch over.

#6: Running Uphill Improves Your Running Economy

Studies show that running uphill can improve running economy and make you a more efficient runner by increasing your cardiovascular capacity and aerobic energy production.

The better your running economy, the faster and longer you can run before being overcome by fatigue.

Running Uphill Benefits

#7: Running Uphill Can Increase Your Turnover

Your turnover refers to how quickly your feet land when you run, so it’s another way to look at running cadence. Running uphill requires you to shorten your stride and take shorter quicker steps. 

This can help you increase your running cadence, which is one of two factors that determines your running pace (the other being stride length). 

However, unlike increasing your stride length, which has been shown to increase the risk of injuries, increasing your running cadence makes you faster and reduces the risk of injury. Win-win.

#8: Running Uphill Can Improve Your Race Performance

Who doesn’t want to run faster or set a new PR? Studies show that incorporating hill training into your workout program can result in improvements in VO2 max and overall race performance.

Related: What’s a Good VO2 Max? Average VO2 Max By Age And Sex

Running Uphill Benefits

#9: Running Uphill Can Reduce Your Risk of Musculoskeletal Injury

One of the risks of repetitive high-impact running is the development of overuse injuries. Your bones, joints, cartilage, and connective tissues are subjected to lots of pounding, mile after mile.

Running uphill can reduce the risk of certain common running injuries, such as shin splints and knee pain because it recruits large muscles like the glutes and hamstrings and reduces the pounding impact and load on your bones and joints.

#10: Running Uphill Burns a Lot of Calories

If you’re looking to lose weight or boost your metabolism, here’s some good news about running uphill: Running uphill torches calories and can rev your metabolism for hours after the workout, particularly if you run your hill repeats at max effort. 

Running Uphill Benefits

#11: Running Uphill Adds Variety to Your Workouts

Hill workouts break up the monotony of a regular run. For example, running uphill on the treadmill with repeats at an incline is one of the best ways to pass the time and bust boredom.

#12: Running Uphill Makes You Mentally Strong

Let’s face it: hills are hard for any runner. However, running uphill benefits your mental game nearly as much as it does your physical body. Running uphill builds grit and can help you develop the determination and formidable attitude you need to succeed as the runner you want to be.

Focusing on the many benefits of running hills can give you a much-needed boost of willpower to give your hill workout your best effort. Remember, hills feel hard for a reason: they work!

Now that you know the awesome benefits of running uphill, check out these 8 hill workouts to work into your plan.

Running Uphill Benefits
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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, and contributes to several fitness, health, and running websites and publications. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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