The 5 Greatest Hill Sprint Workouts For Explosive Speed

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 sprint workouts are an excellent way to improve your strength, power, and overall speed, with short bursts of just about an all-out effort running uphill followed by rest. They should be a part of every runner’s arsenal.

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

More specifically, we will discuss the following: 

  • What Are Hill Sprint Workouts? 
  • Benefits of Hill Sprint Workouts 
  • 5 Hill Sprint Workouts For Explosive Speed 
  • Tips For Hill Sprint Workouts 
A woman running uphill.

What Are Hill Sprint Workouts? 

As the name suggests, hill sprint workouts are a combination of uphill running and all-out sprinting.

Hill sprint workouts are uphill interval training sessions, where the incline is most often between a 10-15% gradient, depending on your fitness level.

Beginners may start with a lesser incline, more around the 6-8% 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 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 intervals 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 quite a bit of rest. 

A person running uphill.

Benefits of Hill Sprint Workouts 

According to Dr. Brian M Hickey from the International Journal of Physical Education, Sports, and Health, there are numerous benefits to performing hill sprint workouts for middle and long-distance runners, 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 be able to push through that last hill or final straightaway on a race. 

It trains me to dig deep when I need to and find some extra gas in the tank when I thought I was just about on empty. 

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 6-15% 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 a maximum of 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 Greatest 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 Greatest 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 while performing 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. What will matter is that you are sprinting at just about an all-out effort. 

#2: Watch Your Technique 

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 and lean slightly into the hill as you power upward. Use a powerful stride with a strong knee drive that propels you up the 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 least number of 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 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 our article, The 6 Best Sprint Workouts For Beginners.

A runner sprinting on a track.
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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