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 Reallyhard 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.
Here’s a brief but effective workout for building up your arm and shoulder muscular endurance. For those of you involved in combat sports, you’ll find that this drill will increase your punching power by strengthening the tendons and ligaments deep within the joints. Gone are the days of your arms being dead at the end of the round. For the ladies, you can use this workout to get rid of the ‘Olive Oil’ arms, and you don’t have to worry about getting to “bulky” ( As most women do). Since you will be working at a high intensity for 30-second bursts, there is an automatic conditioning element built into it. Like other forms of interval training, you are not counting repetitions; just try to get as much work in as possible in the 30-second block. Oh Yeah, Don’t be half-rep McGee either, use good form with a full range of motion.
For those of you who are not familiar with Jeff Fenech, he is a retired Australian boxer, a three-weight World Champion, and currently, a trainer. His most notable fight came against Azumah Nelson in ’91, which was the featured undercard bout on the Mike Tyson/Razor Ruddock card. After twelve grueling rounds, the fight was declared a draw. Non-stop action, Fenech just kept comin’ at him. Pull it up on Youtube, good stuff. Ironically, the then-retired Fenech became Tyson’s trainer in 2005, trying to resurrect the ex-champion’s career. This guy’s been in the game for many,many years and knows what works as far as training goes. The only thing he might not be too up on is athletic apparel, as is evident by the spandex pants in the video. Wouldn’t be my first choice, but hey….. whatever blows your hair back right? Well, getting back to the task at hand, this is the way that I like to put it together for a brief and intense workout:
Bas Rutten MMA all-around fighting CD, 4-8 rounds. Then…
Boxing Arm and Shoulder workout, 4-8 rounds. Then…
Core work. Usually the P90X ab ripper.
That’s it. 25-30 minutes continuous work with minimal rest peroids. Hit it hard and fast and be done. Simple as that.
Here’s a treadmill routine that I use to improve lung capacity, endurance, and to flush the lactic acid out of the system that gets built up from other workouts. It’s a routine that MMA fighter Rich Franklin uses in the morning five times a week when he’s in training, and I think that it’s a great way to start your day and open the lungs up. He adds some sprint work in at the end to increase his anaerobic conditioning (which is just another name for that “burst” wind you need when you need to react quickly and powerfully) and improve the quick flinch muscle fibers in the legs. Depending on your conditioning level, you might have to dial it down a little when you first try this routine. Keep in mind, this guy’s a top level fighter and has been training for many, many years. Whatever level you may be at, just keep the principles of this workout in place. Start off at a moderate pace, increase the speed every few minutes, and finish strong. You should be cranking out a good clip at the end of the session; I try to think of it as staying in the 80-85% range of my lung capacity towards the end. In other words, it should less then a sprint but definitely more than a jog. Don’t fall into the trap of pacing yourself: your goal is to build up your wind and mental toughness. If you have gas left in the tank, feel free to try to add the sprints in at the end.
Bonus: Rachelle Leah at the beginning of the video…..enough said.
In order to get the most out of this style of training, there are two things you need to do.
1). Buy an interval timer that you can break down into 30-second increments. It would also help if you have a timer that can automatically do this for multiple rounds. I recommend the gymboss timer. It can be found at gymboss.com.
2). Try to get as much work in as possible in the 30-second increment.Don’t pace yourself. 100% effort. You won’t get as much benefit out of the drill if you pace yourself.
I usually use this as a stand-alone workout, then throw in some core work afterwards. 30-second intervals will greatly increase your work capacity, allowing you to train longer and with greater intensity during the week. These type of interval workouts are effective because they are short, intense, and allow you to increase your cardio without sacrificing muscle. (Long distance, slow paced cardio workouts can actually make you lose muscle.) The interval that I most frequently use is as follows:
Burpees x 30-sec
Jumping Jacks x 30-sec
Split Jumps x 30-sec
Burpees x 30-sec
Jumping Jacks x 30-sec
Mountain climbers x 30-sec
That is one round. It will last for three minutes. You will work through the six calisthenic exercises with no rest. (You will find that the jumping jacks and split jumps actually give you a little rest since they are not as intense as burpees and mountain climbers.) You can either set the rest period in between rounds from anywhere to 30 sec. up to a minute. This will depend on your conditioning level. Try to complete 4-6 rounds. Be forewarned…..the burpees and mountain climbers will jack up your heart rate like crazy, so start with longer rest periods in between rounds. As you continue to practice this drill, your work capacity will greatly improve and you can then shoot for shorter rest periods. Notice I said Practice. I found that by thinking about it in this way takes away some of the pre-stress workout and allows you to just jump right in. You will make rapid conditioning gains by adding this to your existing routine 1-2 per week, not to mention feel lighter on your feet and,believe it or not, increase your flexibility. I can’t say scientifically how it does it, but it just does. Try it and see for yourself. The great thing about interval training is that it can be done almost anywhere, provided you have a timer and about 15 minutes to spare. It’s easy, start the timer, work your ass off for 15 minutes and your done. Simple and effective.