7 benefits you can get out of Hill Training

Hills may seem intimidating to run, at first, but if runners take on the challenge of hill training, they’ll surely be rewarded, in the end. Indeed, hill workouts are a great way to level up a training program and get great results. If anything, hills will help improve an athlete’s cardiovascular fitness; whether they’re novice runners, elite triathletes or seasoned marathoners.

What is Hill training, aka Hill repeats?

Hill training is nothing but running workouts that athletes execute at an incline on a moderate to fast pace; either at an actual hill or a treadmill. In the case of the treadmill, they just need to adjust the incline for uphill and downhill.

As one can gather, athletes can perform hills aerobically or anaerobically, depending on the hill grade and the intensity of the workout; but also according to their fitness level and training goals. Many endurance coaches use hill training to improve the running economy and speed of their athletes; that is, among other things, of course.

That said, let’s see why coaches include hill workouts in their athletes’ training plans, in more detail.

Why do coaches include Hill Training in their athletes’ programs?

No, not to torture them 😂. There are many reasons, as we’ll see below, but, mostly, because hill training improves:

But why don’t we expound a bit more on some of the advantages of hill training, to get a better idea?

7 benefits of Hill Training

So, as one can gather, there are many benefits of including hill training in athletes’ programs. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be writing this article 😊.

From a physiological standpoint, hill repeats can improve strength, and endurance; but also, form, stride length and frequency, cadence, and overall performance. This is essentially why hill workouts are an integral part of any endurance training plan. 

1. Improves muscle strength

That’s a no-brainer. Running up a hill forces your muscles to work harder. The steeper the incline, the harder they’ll work. Naturally, this means that the muscles engaged in hill training will become stronger, with time. As these muscles strengthen and tone, your body mechanics become better adapted and prepared for demanding races. Also, your stride becomes more efficient, and your speed improves.

2. Increases speed

That said, you can’t run fast if you don’t have good strong muscles to support such an intense activity. Plus, not only do hill repeats strengthen your muscles, but they also improve your cardiovascular system. Thus, your body gradually adapts to the stress hill training places on it. By incorporating hill repeats into your training, you develop a good running technique, coordination, rhythm, and cadence; which, ultimately, improves your speed.

3. Prevents injuries

With strong running muscles, you automatically decrease the risk of incurring injuries from hill training. However, as we’ll see below, you need to be extra careful when going downhill, as the risk of injury increases; due to the eccentric stress on the muscles (braking force). 

What’s more, try not to run hills too often, because it can also increase the risk of injuries. Take a few days off of hill training, every once in a while. Give your body time to recover, and adjust to the training stimuli. Consult with your coach on this. 

4. Helps build mental stamina 

Well, you run hills, no race can scare you! Conquering a hill gives you confidence in a race. Think about it, your muscles get stronger and you improve your speed, stride, cadence, and form. What does that all mean? It means that a race, even a challenging one, will be easier to run; both physiologically and psychologically. Your mind will not ‘play tricks’ on you, it’s had worse days running uphill, you know 😉?

5. Helps sustain a rhythm

As a runner, you already know that achieving and sustaining a good rhythm (cadence) is essential. A good steady rhythm can get you very far in a challenging race. For all the reasons we mentioned so far, hill training helps you find your rhythm and keep at it. 

6. Makes the training routine more interesting

Hill repeats will certainly spice things up in your training program, as they present a new challenge for you to overcome. It’s a bet you place with yourself. This is really important, especially if you feel too used to your training program — which might, as well, lead to demotivation. Hill training will be a refreshing twist in your routine.

7. Boosts overall performance and training efficiency

This last benefit, of course, works in conjunction with the previous ones. Hill running sessions improve your VO2 max, HR, strength, and speed. Along with these indices, your time-to-fatigue and oxygen utilization also improve. Simply incorporating hill repeats in your training regime will have a positive impact on your overall performance; thus, making your training program more efficient. 

Now, all that sounds great. But, what types of workouts can you use? How can you turn this new knowledge into something of practical value?

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3 Types of Hill Training

Naturally, there are many types of hill repeat — and each one serves a different purpose. Commonly, hill training can vary from short to long hill repeats. Again, the coach should have a say as to which hill training workouts you should include in your training. 

Without further ado, here are 3 common types of hill workouts that most runners usually perform.

1. Short hill repeats

A short hill repeat, as its name denotes, is performed on a hill with a relatively gentle slope. This type of workout is ideal if you want to develop speed and strength for short distances. As you might have gathered, the focus here is on speed and maximum effort. In other words, to make the most of short hill repeats, you should run uphill like a sprinter — at full speed.

2. Long hill repeats

Long hill repeats are a whole different story. Unlike the short hill workouts, the long hill run workout doesn’t focus on speed and power, but on running economy; as well as improving the LT. That’s why it’s a great workout for long-distance runners; or any other sport that requires high levels of endurance.

3. Hill bounds

Hill bounds are another great type of workout for improving strength, power, and speed. What are Hill bounds? They’re actually a type of plyometric workout targeting running muscles. In this regard, hill bounding helps you improve your running form and build strength, without using weights. 

Building a proper form for uphill running

By all means, be careful not to apply too much exercise intensity to your muscles when you’re running uphill. Find a hill that’s not too steep, nor too easy. Because, if you choose one that’s too steep, you won’t be able to develop a good rhythm; it will also increase the chances of injury. If it’s too easy, well, it won’t do much. Try to pick something in the range of the happy medium. 

What’s more, build your form before engaging in hill training. To explain, develop a technique that will help you, on one hand, to keep the right posture; and on the other, to engage the right muscles. By the way, bonus tip, the same ‘rules’ apply to trail training, as well.

Minding the eccentric phase, when going downhill

While going downhill certainly is aerobically easier, it does have its challenges. When you’re descending, you’re applying a lot of eccentric stress, aka braking effect, on your engaging leg muscles. No wonder why most injuries happen in downhill running! 

So, do mind the eccentric phase, and go down the hill with care, to avoid damaging your muscles and straining/spraining your ankles. Jog or walk, to give your muscles a chance to restore and feel less sore after your hill training session.

Running up that hill

Hill training is an essential component of a runner’s workout program. One can understand why since it offers an effective way to improve on all physiological bases: strength, speed, endurance, and efficiency. But, if you don’t have access to a hill, don’t worry, a treadmill will do just fine. You see, there’s no excuse for not running up that hill; even if it’s at the gym or at home 😉.

7 benefits you can get out of Hill Training was last modified: April 7th, 2023 by Eleni Konstantinidou