Hill Training for Runners

Hill Training for Runners – UPDATED 2021 – Running Uphill Workouts

There is no denying the fact that a hill training for runners ranks right up there with interval training. Hill workouts are a tough, demanding running workout. Yet runners willing to leave the flats to test their strength with inclined running are rewarded with improved leg turnover. Thus making them fitter, faster and stronger.

Benefits Of Hill Running Training

Hill running training is fatiguing and can even hurt. Though running uphill is one place where runners can get the most improvement. Running hills can be a key to improving your performance. Introducing hill workouts into your training provides aerobic, anaerobic, and resistance training all at the same time.

Running hills strengthen the hamstrings, calves, buttocks, and particularly the quadriceps. It does this by forcing the muscles to overcome an incline and the force of gravity. The form required for efficient hill running involves picking up arm swing rhythm to propel the runner forward. Thus helping to strengthen the upper body too.

The way hill running strengthens the quadriceps is of particular benefit to runners. Long-distance races like a marathon quads get fatigued and it becomes difficult to simply lift the feet and continue forward. Hill training effectively strengthens the muscles which get little work on flat surfaces. Thus, running hills translates into improved performance even when running on flat courses.

Along with the physical benefits of hill running comes an important mental benefit as well. Uphill running boosts a runners confidence so that when faced with having to run hills during a race. Making the steepest hills will be less intimidating.

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Hill Training Workouts

Hill Training Workouts For Runners

Runners looking to incorporate hill training workouts into their running training should divide their training into three phases

– Base building
– Hill training
– Speedwork

Your workouts should be included each week during the hill training phase. The length of which (usually between 4 to 6 weeks) varies according to the race distance being trained for. This follows the base building period and should precede adding speed work, like interval training.

For 10k runners start with 4 to 6 hill running repeats. Then begin to add one or two repeats each week.

For marathoners, start off with 4 to 5 repeats. Then begin adding 1 or 2 repeats per week and build up to between 10 and 12 hills per workout. Though this can change depending on the race finish time goal.

Hill Workout #1: Short Reps
Short hill reps are a workout that many runners envision in their plan. Usually 60-90 seconds long and done at 3k-10k pace, these types of efforts help increase V02. Thus helping the body to deliver and process oxygen to hard-working muscles. Make sure the effort is done on a 4-7% gradient with an easy jog down to recover.

There is many varieties of short hill repeats you can do. Here is some examples of some simple sessions:

– 8-10 x 90sec hills at 5k Pace
– 8-10 x 60sec hills at 3k Pace
– Variation: 3x90sec, 4x60sec, 5x45sec beginning at 10k pace and progressively moving down to 3k pace.

Hill Workout #2: Long Reps
Longer hill repeats of 2-4 minutes are particularly challenging. These types of hill repeats can be used for a variety of reasons. They can be used in your early strength building phase or used as a type of tempo workout. Longer hill workouts should be used in the earlier stages since they are more aerobic. Then followed up with the shorter hill repeats later in your plan.

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– 5-6 x 4 minutes hills at 5k Pace
– 8-10 x 2 minutec hills at 3k Pace
– Variation: 1×4 minutes, 2×3 minutes, 3×3 minutes beginning at 10k pace and progressively moving down to 3k pace.

Hill Running Technique

Hill Running Technique

Learning the correct hill running technique can take time. So before beginning any type of hill running workouts is selecting a proper hill to use. Use a hill with a moderate (from 4 to 7 percent) grade over about 150 to 200 meters of distance. Hills that are steeper than that will prevent a runner from developing sustained drive and rhythm in the beginner. As you hill running technique improves you can increase the percentage of the gradient.

An erect posture should be used while running up or down hills. While ascending, stride length during uphill repeats should be shortened and repeats should be run at about 85 percent effort. Arm swing should not be lengthened but the rhythm of arm swing should be increased. On the downhill intervals (rest periods) runners should jog or may even walk in the beginning. When jogging the stride length should be lengthened and a slight forward body lean utilized to take advantage of gravity.

Hill training is harder on the muscles, tendons and the ligaments of the feet. So hill running should be added very gradually to a running training program to prevent injuries. Like interval training, it is a “hard day” and should be sandwiched between easy running training days.

Legendary running coach, Arthur Lydiard frequently used hill training to train his runners. He maintained that “hills are the only beneficial type of resistance training for runners.”

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Whether one agrees with Lydiard’s opinion or not, it is difficult to deny the evidence that adding hill workouts to your training enables a runner to run better on all types of terrain. Hill running produces stronger runners and as many runners know, strength equals speed.


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