Hill Repeats For Runners: 10 Workouts To Boost Performance 

If you are looking for a way to build strength, speed, and power as a runner, look no further because we have the perfect workout for you! 

Hill repeats.  

Hill repeats are a versatile type of running workout where you can focus on a wide variety of objectives, such as endurance and speed, physical and mental toughness, and strength and power, to name a few. 

As your lungs and legs will be burning from the challenging effort level, hill repeats are like an interval workout and strength training session all in one!

This guide will discuss hill repeats and the benefits of adding hill repeats to your training program. We will also provide you with ten excellent hill repeat workouts that you can schedule into your plan based on your fitness level and training objectives. 

We will discuss: 

  • What Are Hill Repeats? 
  • The Benefits of Hill Repeats
  • 10 Hill Repeat Workouts To Boost Performance

Ready? Let’s climb!

A person running uphill.

What Are Hill Repeats?

Hill repeats are an interval running workout involving running or sprinting uphill and then jogging or walking back down to your starting point. 

Several variables can be adjusted in your hill repeat workouts to achieve different training objectives, such as the distance or time running uphill, the repeat intensity, the rest, and the number of repeats done. 

As a coach, I adjust these workout variables according to each athlete, depending on their current objective, whether it be speed, power, strength, or endurance.

Now hill repeats are not a walk in the park and take a lot of will and mental toughness to perform. So, to help us get motivated, let’s take a peek at the top benefits of running hills:

The Benefits of Hill Repeats

#1: Hill Repeats Can Increase Speed 

Hill repeats can increase your speed and anaerobic capacity, as these workouts are similar to running intervals on a track but without as much pounding!

As Jack Daniels stated, “Hill running is ‘speedwork in disguise.’ It can be used in place of grueling track workouts to improve your anaerobic efficiency.”

Two people running uphill on gravel terrain.

#2: Hill Repeats Can Develop An Explosive Running Stride 

Hill repeats can help power up your running stride, as there is a high percentage of muscle activation and muscle fiber recruitment when running uphill.

These workouts will strengthen your leg muscles, including your glutes, quads, hip flexors, hamstrings, and calves, making for a strength and cardio session all in one. 

#3: Hill Repeats Can Improve Endurance

By running hills, you can improve your lactate threshold and train yourself to tolerate more strenuous efforts for more extended periods of time.

#4: Hill Repeats Can Improve Running Form 

When running hills, you are forced to be more efficient with your running mechanics, needing to use short, quick, powerful strides and good upright posture. You also will want to pump those arms for a strong arm swing to propel yourself up!

A person running uphill in grass.

#5: Hill Repeats Can Improve Mental Toughness

Let’s face it, running hills is tough! Getting through a hill workout takes not only a strong body but a strong mind. This mental toughness will come in handy during those difficult moments in races and long runs when you need to be able to push through.

10 Hill Repeat Workouts To Boost Performance

Before we list off our best hill repeat workouts, let’s go over a few of my top tips for performing these sessions:

  • Find a hill: You will want to choose a hill with a 5-15 % incline, depending on the specific workout, your fitness level, and what you have available to you. The incline should be challenging but doable. The idea is that you can advance at the effort level instructed in each interval while still challenging yourself with a “runnable” incline. You can also use a treadmill, as most have the option of up to a 15% incline.
  • Warm up: Warm up before each hill session with 5-20 minutes of easy jogging, followed by 5 minutes of dynamic stretches such as leg swings, hip openers, scoops, and goblet squats.
  • Use RPE for effort levels: As you can’t count on hitting any specific paces as you would on a track, focus on your rate of perceived exertion as your effort level measurement tool.
  • Focus on your form: Maintain an upright posture with a slight lean toward the hill and use a short, quick, powerful stride with a strong knee and arm drive.
  • Strive for consistency: Notice where on the hill you end up after your first repeat of each session. Try to reach that point or surpass it with each following repeat.
  • Tread lightly downhill: Do not pound as you run downhill during your recovery intervals. Land softly to minimize the impact of downhill running. 
A person running uphill in the snow.

Let’s get to those repeats!

Remember to warm up before each session with your 5-20 minute easy jog and dynamic stretches. You can also add a cool-down if you want to add volume to your workout or gradually bring your body back down to a resting state.

#1: Short Hill Sprints

Let’s work on that power with some short sprints to start.

  1. Sprint 5 seconds uphill at an effort of 9+ on the RPE scale. 
  2. Walk back down to your starting point. 
  3. Rest completely for 1-2 minutes at the starting point until you are ready to go again.
  4. Repeat 8-12 times, depending on your fitness level.

As your fitness improves, increase the sprint time to 10 seconds.

#2: Medium Uphill Bursts 

  1. Run 30-45 seconds uphill at an effort of 9 on the RPE scale.
  2. Walk back down to your starting point. 
  3. Rest completely for 1-2 minutes at the starting point until you are ready to go again.
  4. Repeat 5-10 times, depending on your fitness level.
A person running uphill.

#3: Hill Sprint Build Ups

  1. Sprint 5 seconds uphill at an effort of 9+ on the RPE scale. 
  2. Walk back down to your starting point. 
  3. Sprint 7 seconds uphill at an effort of 9+ on the RPE scale. 
  4. Walk back down to your starting point. 
  5. Sprint 10 seconds uphill at an effort of 9+ on the RPE scale. 
  6. Walk back down to your starting point. 
  7. Rest completely for 2-3 minutes until you are ready to go again.
  8. Repeat the hill sprint build-up 3-5 times, depending on your fitness level.

#4: Double Pump Hills 

This challenging hill repeat workout is geared more towards experienced athletes as the rest is shortened between the two consecutive sprints. 

  1. Sprint 10 seconds uphill at an effort of 9+ on the RPE scale. 
  2. Rest 30 seconds in place.
  3. Sprint 10 seconds uphill at an effort of 9+ on the RPE scale. 
  4. Jog slowly back down to your starting point. 
  5. Repeat 8-12 times, depending on your fitness level.
A person running uphill.

#5: Hill Repeat Ladder

  1. Run 10 seconds uphill at an effort of 7 on the RPE scale. 
  2. Run 10 seconds uphill at an effort of 8 on the RPE scale. 
  3. Sprint 10 seconds uphill at an effort of 9+ on the RPE scale. 
  4. Jog slowly back down to your starting point. 
  5. Rest completely for 2-3 minutes until you are ready to go again.
  6. Repeat 4-8 times, depending on your fitness level.

#6: Uphill Bounds 

We have added an extra explosive component, bounds, for this hill sprint workout. Check out this video to learn how to perform bounds correctly.

  1. Do Uphill Bounds for 10 seconds. 
  2. Run 10 seconds uphill at an effort of 9+ on the RPE scale. 
  3. Walk back down to your starting point. 
  4. Rest completely for 1-2 minutes until you are ready to go again.
  5. Repeat 4-8 times, depending on your fitness level.
A person running uphill.

#7: Long Hill Repeats 

These intervals are going to get even longer than our medium hill repeats. Therefore, we will need to reduce the effort level a bit.

The other variable change in this workout is no complete rest between intervals. This is because the running interval is more extended. So, the recovery jog interval will also be longer and give you a chance to catch your breath. 

However, if you are a beginner and feel you need to take a full recovery when you reach your starting point, go right ahead. 

  1. Run 60-90 seconds uphill at an effort of 8 on the RPE scale. 
  2. Jog back down to the starting point
  3. Repeat between 4-10 times, depending on your fitness level.

#8: Uphill Endurance Repeats

Here we will switch it up and work more on our endurance and mental grit rather than explosive speed.

  1. Run uphill for 3-10 minutes at an effort level of 7-8 on the RPE scale. (the interval length and effort level will depend on your fitness level and uphill running capacity).
  2. Recover, walking uphill for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Repeat intervals for 30 minutes.

If you are running outside, you must plan accordingly for time, as your cooldown will be jogging all the way back down to your starting point after running and walking uphill for 30 minutes.

A person running uphill.

#9: Power Hike Repeats 

This hill workout will benefit trail runners more than anyone else, as there is a lot of walking on challenging trail running race courses. This skill is often overlooked and underworked, so here, we’ll explain how to sneak it into your training.

  1. Perform the following 5-8 times throughout your long run: 
  2. When you reach a steep uphill, power hike for 1-3 minutes or until you reach the top. 
  3. Be sure there are at least 10 minutes of recovery hiking or light jogging between each power hiking interval.

#10: Downhill Stride Repeats

For the most part, you can work in downhill work into your long runs and don’t often need to pull out time specifically to work on it, as there are a lot of impact stressors and pounding when running downhill.

However, if you find you can’t work downhills efficiently into your long runs, we have a short workout just for you: 

If possible, perform this or any downhill workout on soft terrain to decrease the impact.

  1. Jog uphill at an easy effort for 2 minutes.
  2. Run back down to the starting point at an effort of 6-7 on the RPE scale. 
  3. Repeat 4-8 times, depending on your fitness level.

There you have it! Our 10 best hill repeats that you can work into your training program depending on your training goals.  

If you are unfamiliar with the Rate of Perceived Exertion chart to manage your effort level, click here for a complete guide.

Have fun!

A person running uphill.
Photo of author
Katelyn is an experienced ultra-marathoner and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for the trails. In the running community, she is known for her ear-to-ear smile, even under the toughest racing conditions. She is a UESCA-certified running coach and loves sharing her knowledge and experience to help people reach their goals and become the best runners they can be. Her biggest passion is to motivate others to hit the trails or road alongside her, have a blast, and run for fun!

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