I was asked by a friend recently in the gym a rather difficult question – if you could only ever do one exercise which one would you choose?
Initially I found this question difficult to answer and I struggled to choose. I said the exercise would probably need to offer both cardio and strength benefits to even be considered. I thought long and hard about the possibilities – Squats maybe?, then Deadlifts, possibly?, but decided that although they were the best all round weight training exercises their main benefit was increasing static strength. I thought about heavy Kettlebell Swings which tick most of the boxes, as the best single exercise but eventually decided on repeat Hill Sprints.
If I could only do one exercise I think it would be this one. The benefits Hill Sprints confer when performed regularly are immense. These include cardio-metabolic benefits and even gains in muscle mass. If you don’t believe me look at the physique of any sprinter. They are always jacked. I started doing Hill Sprints years ago and noticed benefits almost immediately. At first I could only do 3 all out sprints in succession but built up do doing 6.
How to perform Hill Sprints
The way I perform these are as follows. I use a gym boss timer to time my runs and have a favourite hill a few miles from my house.
I set the timer on 20 secs then press start and run up the hill as fast as I can until the timer bleeps after 20 secs. I then walk back down the hill to the bottom original start position.
Depending on your level of conditioning you may have to wait a short time before commencing your next sprint. If you go balls out on each sprint they will wipe you out in short order. These actually increased the size of my thighs and helped lower my resting pulse to the high forties. They also increased my power output.
As you continue training Hill Sprints, your rest intervals become progressively shorter .
Soon, your rest intervals are no longer than your sprint intervals and as soon as you’ve sauntered down the hill you’re ready to sprint back up it again.
Hill Sprints are much kinder to the knee joints than when performed on a flat surface. If you do not have a hill to utilise however you can still do sprints on the flat and derive the majority of the same benefits.
Sprinting also targets fat far better than traditional steady state cardio and when repeated is actually a form of high intensity interval training (HIIT). It requires a certain level of ankle mobility however and puts a lot of stress on your central nervous system (CNS) due to its high intensity. Dont overdo the sprints however.Too much hill training can put a strain on certain body parts, especially the calves and achilles so use this modality sparingly.
If your already a sprinter and your objective is to increase your sprint speed find a hill that has less than a 15% gradient which more closely mimics actual sprinting. If you want to focus on developing your power, I would advise that you opt for a higher gradient if one is available. Ensure you stretch well and as always be attentive to your body and the muscles response to the exercise.
Hill sprints require a great deal of self-discipline and intestinal fortitude. Without a coach, be in no doubt you’ll need extreme mental toughness to run up and down steep hills.
But you get out of it exactly what you invest in terms of effort.
In addition to reducing your risk of injury, improving your form, and boosting your stamina, hill sprints make you stronger and better equipped , in most capacities.
Although they have multiple benefits, as previously stated they reqire strict discipline to perform and incorporate into your training regime annd are not for the fain’t hearted.
But that’s what separates the athletes from the also rans.
Get out there and give them a try