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The 5 Best Hill Sprint Workouts For Explosive Speed

Improve your power and speed with hill running

If you are looking for a running workout that will test your physical and mental toughness to the max, look no further because hill sprint workouts it is! 

Hill sprints are short bursts of an almost all-out effort running uphill, followed by rest. They are a combination of HIIT and strength training workouts, with some plyometrics worked in!

Hill training is an excellent way to improve your strength, power, and overall speed. As a running coach, I ensure it is part of all of my athletes training plans at one point or another, depending on their current objectives.

In this guide, we will discuss the benefits of running hills and why they should be a part of your training program. We will also provide five hill sprint workouts to try out during your next hill work cycle.

A woman running uphill.

What Are Hill Sprint Workouts? 

As the name suggests, hill sprints combine uphill running and all-out sprinting.

Hill sprint workouts are uphill interval training sessions. Depending on your fitness level, the hill gradient is most often between 10% and 15%.

Beginners may start with a lesser incline, more around the 3-8% range, and then work their way up as they improve their fitness level.

If you do not have a hill in the area you train in, never fear; alternative options exist. Most treadmills have an average maximum incline of 15%, which is plenty to perform our workouts.

Of course, if you choose to do these hill sprint workouts on a treadmill, be careful when getting on and off, mainly because these are such high-intensity maximum effort intervals, and the speed of the belt will be pretty fast. 

Follow all treadmill safety tips to protect yourself from any potential harm.

Because these hill repeats are sprints, they are short and high-intensity, landing themselves on the rate of perceived exertion table around 9 +. These should be just about all-out efforts, followed by rest periods. 

A person running uphill.

What Are The Benefits of Hill Sprint Workouts For Runners? 

According to Dr. Brian M Hickey from the International Journal of Physical Education, Sports, and Health,1Hickey, B. (2023). Employing the Alactic Hill Sprint: Aerobic recovery protocol to improve middle distance and distance running performance. ~ 238 ~ International Journal of Physical Education, Sports and Health10(2). https://www.kheljournal.com/archives/2023/vol10issue2/PartD/10-2-31-179.pdf there are numerous benefits to performing hill sprint workouts not only for sprinters but for middle and long-distance runners as well, including the following: 

  • Stronger leg muscles, which in turn increase velocity and decrease the risk of injury
  • Improved running mechanics and running economy 
  • Enhanced force and power due to muscle fiber recruitment while performing this type of workout 
  • Prolonged endurance and time to fatigue 

In my coaching and running experience, I also find that hill sprint workouts train my mental grit to push through longer hills or a final straightaway in a race. 

It trains me to dig deep when I need to and find some extra gas in the tank when I think I’m just about empty. 

How Often Should I Include Hill Sprints In My Training Routine?

Depending on your fitness level, you may add speedwork into your training plan once or twice a week. 

I suggest that hill sprint workouts should be performed once a week, with a recovery jog the day before and the day after for proper recovery. 

Let’s get to the hill sprint workouts you’ve all been waiting for! 

A person running an uphill trail.

5 Hill Sprint Workouts For Explosive Speed 

For the following hill sprint workouts, find a hill with an incline between a 5% and 15% grade, depending on your fitness level and experience with hill work. 

Because hill sprint workouts are short, a longer warm-up and cool-down can be added to increase volume if necessary.

#1: Short Hill Sprints 

The classic, short hill sprint workout may be the most straightforward of them all.

  1. Warm-up: Jog for 10-15 minutes at an easy, comfortable pace.
  2. Dynamic Stretches: Perform 5 minutes of dynamic stretches. 
  3. Sprint 5 seconds uphill at an effort of 9+ on the RPE scale. 
  4. Walk back down to your starting point. 
  5. Rest completely for 1-2 minutes until your heart rate has stabilized and you are ready to go again.
  6. Repeat 8-12 times.
  7. Cool down: Jog for 5-10 minutes.
  8. Stretch your quads, glutes, calves, hamstrings, and hip flexors.

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

A person running uphill on a sidewalk.

#2: Hill Sprint Build Ups

  1. Warm-up: Jog for 10-15 minutes at an easy, comfortable pace.
  2. Dynamic Stretches: Perform 5 minutes of dynamic stretches.
  3. Sprint 5 seconds uphill at an effort of 9+ on the RPE scale. 
  4. Walk back down to your starting point. 
  5. Sprint 7 seconds uphill at an effort of 9+ on the RPE scale. 
  6. Walk back down to your starting point. 
  7. Sprint 10 seconds uphill at an effort of 9+ on the RPE scale. 
  8. Walk back down to your starting point. 
  9. Rest completely for 2-3 minutes until your heart rate has stabilized and you are ready to go again.
  10. Repeat the hill sprint build 3-5 times.
  11. Cool down: Jog for 5-10 minutes.
  12. Stretch your quads, glutes, calves, hamstrings, and hip flexors.
A person running uphill.

#3: Double Pump Hills 

This hill sprint workout is a doozy for more experienced athletes as the rest is shortened between the two consecutive sprints. 

  1. Warm-up: Jog for 10-15 minutes at an easy, comfortable pace.
  2. Dynamic Stretches: Perform 5 minutes of dynamic stretches.
  3. Sprint 10 seconds uphill at an effort of 9+ on the RPE scale. 
  4. Rest 30 seconds in your place.
  5. Sprint 10 seconds uphill at an effort of 9+ on the RPE scale. 
  6. Jog slowly back down to your starting point. 
  7. Repeat 8-12 times.
  8. Cool down: Jog for 5-10 minutes.
  9. Stretch your quads, glutes, calves, hamstrings, and hip flexors.

If you need to take a complete rest after jogging back down to your starting point, by all means, add one in. The most important aspect is that the sprints are consistent and strong, so you must be rested to perform the following reps.

The 5 Best Hill Sprint Workouts For Explosive Speed 1

#4: Hill Sprint Ladder

In this sprint ladder, each interval increases in intensity, instead of time.

  1. Warm-up: Jog for 10-15 minutes at an easy, comfortable pace.
  2. Dynamic Stretches: Perform 5 minutes of dynamic stretches.
  3. Run 10 seconds uphill at an effort of 7 on the RPE scale. 
  4. Run 10 seconds uphill at an effort of 8 on the RPE scale. 
  5. Run 10 seconds uphill at an effort of 9+ on the RPE scale. 
  6. Jog slowly back down to your starting point. 
  7. Rest completely for 2-3 minutes until your heart rate has stabilized and you are ready to go again.
  8. Repeat 4-8 times.
  9. Cool down: Jog for 5-10 minutes.
  10. Stretch your quads, glutes, calves, hamstrings, and hip flexors.
The 5 Best Hill Sprint Workouts For Explosive Speed 2

#5: Uphill Bounds 

We have added an extra explosive component, bounds, to this hill sprint workout to give you an extra power boost.

Check out this video to learn how to perform bounds correctly.

  1. Warm-up: Jog for 10-15 minutes at an easy, comfortable pace.
  2. Dynamic Stretches: Perform 5 minutes of dynamic stretches.
  3. Do Uphill Bounds for 10 seconds. 
  4. Run 10 seconds uphill at an effort of 9+ on the RPE scale. 
  5. Walk back down to your starting point. 
  6. Rest completely for 1-2 minutes until your heart rate has stabilized and you are ready to go again.
  7. Repeat 4-8 times.
  8. Cool down: Jog for 5-10 minutes.
  9. Stretch your quads, glutes, calves, hamstrings, and hip flexors.
A person running uphill.

Tips For Hill Sprint Workouts 

Now that you have five new hill sprint workouts to add to your training plan, let’s review some helpful tips for while you perform them. 

#1: Don’t Worry About Pace 

As you can see, in the hill sprint workout instructions, I have indicated levels on the rate of perceived exertion table, not specific paces. 

You will be running uphill, so your pace per kilometer or pace per mile won’t matter as if you were training on flat ground. What will matter is that you are sprinting or running at the indicated effort level. 

#2: Focus On Running Form

Use proper running technique during your uphill sprints. 

Keep your shoulder back and relaxed, arms pumping, and a quick foot turnover pushing through the balls of your feet.

Focus on maintaining an upright posture. Lean slightly into the hill as you power upward. Use a powerful stride with a strong knee drive to propel you up the steep hill.

A person sprinting uphill.

#3 Reduce Downhill Impact 

Be careful not to pound as you jog or walk down the hill during your rest intervals. 

Land softly with each step to decrease the intensity of the impact forces that come along with going downhill

#4 Start Out Slow

Hill sprint workouts are very demanding when done correctly and can really wipe you out. 

If you are not experienced with these types of workouts, start slowly, with the fewest repetitions, and work your way up as you progress. 

The goal is that each of the hill sprints is executed similarly. 

Take note of where you end up after each sprint, and ensure you are reaching the same point on the hill each time, if not reaching even a bit further ahead. 

If you feel you are not reaching the same spot anymore and are struggling to come even close, call it and begin your easy run cooldown. 

Hill sprint workouts should definitely be part of your database of running workouts for when you want to work on your power, speed, and overall strength to improve your running. 

For more sprinting workouts that do not involve hills, check out this next guide:

References

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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