Need some variety in your workout? Hill runs are a great all-round exercise!
Hill runs and sprints have been the cardio of choice for various athletes, such as NFL legends Jerry Rice and Walter Payton. These uphill monsters are a great way to increase power, build muscle and burn calories!
First things first, let’s face it – hill runs are hard! Unlike running on a flat surface or downhill, uphill runs demand different technique and require you to work against gravity. Similar to resistance training or plyometrics, hill training can help increase your strength and power as you work against the inclination.
Technique for Uphill Runs
While running up an incline, an athlete’s body weight acts as the prime resistance. With proper body positioning and technique you can reduce the risk of injury as you develop maximum strength and speed.
1. Do Not Bend From The Waist
Think “lean from the hips, not the waist”. The tendency when running uphill is to lean forward too much; the result of bending forward from the waist. Too much of a forward lean shortens your hip flexors and does not give them full range of motion. When you “stand tall” it makes it easier for the glutes to extend the supporting leg. The most important idea is that you keep your chest up and open. When bending from the waist your airways become restricted making it harder to breathe deeply.
2. Run Tall
As the head is the heaviest part of the body, its positioning will effect your balance and postural form. Maintain proper balance and posture by keeping your head up and eyes looking forward about 30 meters in front of you. Dropping your head down will restrict oxygen intake. Your arms should keep a 90-degree angle at the elbow, and swing straight back and forth on the side of your body.
3. Foot Work
When advancing uphill, focus on landing on the ball of the foot to promote an effective absorption of kinetic energy. The technique to aim for is somewhat of a “bouncy” style. The athlete should be able to get the knee high enough to have improved range of movement in the ankle.
4. Plantar Flexion
Plantar flexion is when you point your toes towards the ground. Focusing on plantar flexion at the end of your step can really help to propel you forward. Keeping this in mind will help assist you in getting up the hill faster and with less energy.
Start With a Beginner Hill
The best way to start uphill running with short beginner hills. Short hills can be found in many locations. If you are not a beginner, short hills will allow you to practice and become more advanced in form and technique! A beginner hill is a short hill with an inclination between 10 and 20 degrees, which takes no more than 45 seconds to run up. This high intensity exercise will need a walk back down the hill, or a slow jog of 1-2 minutes for recovery time.
Here are some examples of beginner hill sessions:
- 8-10 repetitions over 50 metres (sprinters)
- 8-10 repetitions over 100 metres
- 8-10 repetitions over 150 metres
- 8-10 repetitions over 200 metres (long distance athletes)
Start with 8 repetitions per workout. Repeat 1-2x per week, but not on consecutive days. After 2-3 weeks, build up to 9-10 repetitions with a gradual progression. Workouts should be pain-free. Consult your local physiotherapist if you are having any difficulties with progression.