Hill sprints. Hall of Fame football players have been running them for years. Jerry Rice, Walter Payton, and Mike Singletary all come to mind when I think of hill sprints. They were the best at their respective positions during their time, and it’s no surprise that they also possessed unwavering work ethic. It’s been rumored that Jerry Rice wouldn’t even take a full week off from training after the final game of the season before he started to prepare for the following year. Bottom line, hill sprints have been used for many years to get top- level athletes in excellent shape, and you should too. Many athletes shy away from running them for a few reasons:
- They’re hard, and they get you breathing really heavy, and
- When you start to gas out, they get Really hard because you don’t want to fall back down the hill (or stairs)………. which would suck.
However don’t let the above reasons give you an excuse to go for some leisurely jog or some p*ssy shit like that. Find a hill, or toboggan chute with stairs alongside it, and start sprinting up it. Find one with an incline that allows you to get to the top in anywhere from 10-25 seconds. The hill I used to run took about 20-25 seconds to get to the top, and I found this to be ideal. Anything longer than that and it takes away from the explosive aspect of the workout, which is what you want to avoid if you are a competitive athlete.
When implementing hill sprints into your existing routine, there are a few things you need to keep in mind if your a newbie:
- Start with a low number of total sprints, say 2-3, if you have never done them before.
- Don’t run them all out at 100% intensity. Stay somewhere in the 90-95% range. Stay just below an all-out sprint. This way, you’ll still reap the benefits while recovering faster the following day.
- If you regularly perform squats and Deadlifts in your existing routine, don’t run hills the day before a heavy lifting session. Your legs will be rubber and you’ll be shot for the rest of the week.
- As your body starts to adapt to hill sprints, you can increase the total number of reps. I found that 8-10 seems to good number to shoot for if it takes you about 20-25 seconds to get to the top. This is a good rep range because it pushes you just enough to improve your level of conditioning, while still allowing you to recover and train hard the rest of the week.
- If you only have access to a smaller hill in your area, and it only takes about 8-12 seconds to get to the top, then I would recommend doubling the total number of reps. 20 would be a respectable number to shoot for.
Once you feel that you have a good handle on these, you can make a few modifications to increase the difficulty. When running sprints at a closed down toboggan chute by my house, there was a steep set of stairs running alongside it leading to the top. I found that by taking the steps two at time made the workout significantly more difficult. Also, I started to mix in a set of push-ups (maybe 25-30 at a fast pace) at the top of the hill. Be forewarned though, don’t attempt these modifications until you are sure you’re ready for them. I found that out the hard way, with an ambulance having to be called because I wasn’t quite ready to step it up to the next level. For your sake, don’t make this mistake. So again, it’s:
- Progress slowly. Start with a few warm-ups. Stretch out a little. Then hit it hard for a couple of trips up. Wrap it up early your first couple times out….. You’ll thank me the next day.
- Run them with intensity, but stay just below 100%. Leave some in the tank for the rest of your training sessions during the week.
- Your goal should be 8-10 sprints with minimal rest periods. This could be anywhere from 30 seconds to 1-min., depending on the size of the hill, or however long it takes you to get back down to the bottom.
- Once you get up to 8-10, you can increase the difficulty by adding in some type of strength exercise when you reach the top. This could be push-ups, any type of bodyweight exercise for that matter, or even leave a set of dumbells at the top for presses or hammer curls if you’re a real trooper.
- If you only have access to a smaller hill with less of an incline, you can increase the total number of reps. If it takes you about 8-12 seconds to negotiate the hill, then a good rule of thumb would be to shoot for 20 total sprints.
- Make sure you do something active the following day,( i.e. foam rolling, stretching, light calisthenics), to help speed up recovery. Don’t just sit on the couch, although it may be your first inclination to do so because your legs are sore as hell. You must get some blood flowing in order to speed up the healing process.
Bottom line. If your looking for an workout that will increase your explosive leg drive, improve your stamina, and build unrelenting mental fortitude all at the same time, then find a way to implement hill sprints into your existing program. Your overall conditioning will be rewarded if you do.