Improve your speed with hill sprints

One of the simplest sprint training sessions you can do is hill training. The only thing you need to do is find a hill that has a gradient that will give you enough resistance to improve your leg speed and help you develop power.

One of the mistakes beginner athletes make is that they opt for a hill with a very high gradient. (For example, 60 degree angle).

The hills will improve your power, but you want to start off by focusing on improving your speed.

Find a hill that has less than a 15% gradient.

This will allow you to maintain your usual speed, but will force you to get your knees and toes up whilst you focus on leg speed turnover.

If you want to focus on developing your power, opt for a higher gradient.

Once you start attempting to sprint up hills that have a gradient of 30 degrees or more, your body will be forced to execute more power. If you want to improve your stride length, this is good to implement into your training regime from time to time. However, you must always keep in mind that the main focus is speed development.

How long should the sprinting distance be?

You should aim to sprint 20-40m with the focus on speed development. Time your intervals and aim to get faster with each interval so that you can track your speed development.

Focus on quality, not quantity.

This type of training should help you develop your running technique, power and leg speed. It is important that you do them with a high-quality technique. Make sure that you recover well (walk back or timed interval recovery) and do each rep at 100% of your running speed.

Make sure you stretch well and pay attention to how your muscles respond to the exercise.

This type of training can be quite intense on the muscles. (Especially the hamstrings). Pay attention to how your muscles react to avoid any injury. If you feel like your muscles are becoming too tight or sore, stop doing the exercises and recover. You may find that you need to improve your muscle strength before attempting the hill training again.

What muscles do hill sprints work?

Hill sprints work the following muscles.

  • Quadriceps
  • Glutes
  • Calves
  • Hamstrings
  • Hip flexors
  • Abdominals
  • Arms

Due to the intensity of the exercise, your lower back muscles will start to compensate in the exercise if the other muscles fatigue. If this is the case, stop doing the exercise otherwise you will end up with a sore lower back.

If you notice that you do get lower back pain after doing this training session, you will need to improve your core strength. You can easily improve this by doing squats at the gym.

Test the after-effects of your hill training.

In the following days or following week, do a time trial to see what effect the hill training has had on your speed. You should notice that your stride pattern is slightly longer, that you have improved your sprinting power and improved turnover.

How many times a week should you do hill sprints?

Limit the training to 2 times a week maximum. Maximise the recovery days (2) so that your muscles are fresh for the next session.

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