Hit The Hills, Reap The Benefits

  • By Jeff Gaudette
  • Published Nov. 22, 2013
  • Updated Nov. 22, 2013 at 8:26 AM UTC
If you're racing on a hilly course, or just want to become a more well-rounded runners, you need to work different types of hill workouts into your training. Photo:

Short, Explosive Sprints

Short, explosive hill sprints have become popular in today’s training programs thanks to the work of coaches such as Renato Caonova and Brad Hudson, but they are something elite athletes have been performing for decades. They are NOT a primary fitness-building workout, but rather a great ancillary training component.

WORKOUT OF THE WEEK: Steep Hill Sprints

The idea is to run for 10-15 seconds up a steep hill (7-10% grade) at maximum effort. They’re called explosive hill sprints because you power up the hill like a sprinter coming out of the blocks. After each repeat, you take a full (2-3 minute) rest so that you’re fully recovered before starting again.

These types of hill sprints are designed to activate and improve the function of the neuromuscular system and increase maximal stroke volume in the heart.

The neuromuscular system is the communication vehicle between your brain and your muscles. A boost of “fitness” to the neuromuscular system allows your brain to increase the speed at which it sends signals to the muscles and, more importantly, allows your body to activate a greater percentage of muscle fibers and fire them more forcefully.

Enhancing maximal stroke volume increases the amount of blood your heart can pump with each stroke. A greater stroke volume decreases the heart rate and makes the heart more efficient.

As a reminder, these types of hill sprints are not a fitness-building workout, but more an ancillary training component, much like strides and form drills. Likewise, the physiological benefits won’t make you a better hill runner, even though they can help you improve as an overall runner.

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Jeff Gaudette

Jeff Gaudette

Jeff has been running for 13 years, at all levels of the sport. He was a two time Division-I All-American in Cross Country while at Brown University and competed professionally for 4 years after college for the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project. Jeff's writing has been featured in Running Times magazine, Endurance Magazine, as well as numerous local magazine fitness columns.

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