Hill Sprint Benefits for Athletic Performance (Sprinting, Jumping, Kicking)

By on October 16, 2020

If you want to improve your sprinting speed, jump height, and all-round athletic performance, you should consider adding hill sprints to your program. In this post, we will examine the top hill sprint benefits and just why they’re so effective.

Hill sprints benefits

Why Hill Sprints Are Highly Functional

While squats are great for building leg strength and power in the posterior chain, this won’t necessarily translate to faster sprinting or higher jumping. That’s because the biomechanics involved in a squat are entirely different from those seen when sprinting. Sprinting is a single leg movement, meaning that it requires you to stabilize the hips. It is a rotational movement as you rotate around the trunk to drive yourself forward. And it is a highly explosive movement.

That single leg position is also the one we use to jump off from: whether in a long jump or a layup. In a real-world scenario, there is not time to stop and get into a nice squat ready for a standing vertical jump! As JC Santana told me: athletic performance is as much about transferring momentum and kinetic energy as it is about producing it.

It far more closely emulates the skill we’re training for.

So the squat doesn’t really compare from a biomechanical standpoint and is working entirely different things. That’s the first hill sprint benefit: it far more closely emulates the skill we’re training for. And of course, running uphill is also a skill in itself that could one day be necessary in an emergency.

Reduced Injury Risk

So, why not just practice sprinting then? Well, that’s another of the most impressive hill sprint benefits: it allows you to exert maximum effort without going at maximum speed. What that means is that you can go all out – thus improving that rate of force development, muscle fiber recruitment, and fast-twitch ratio – but without risking injury.

Because that’s the problem with adding sprints to an already-packed program: they are very high impact, very explosive, and surprisingly technical. Thus they are a common cause of injury: whether that’s due to a fall, a twisted ankle, stress fracture, or shin splints. Any of these things could put you out of action for a long time!

Sprint training

Running up hill makes all those things less likely because the speed and the impact are naturally lower. But you’re still able to give it 110% and ramp your heartrate sky-high, making this perfect for interval training and other anaerobic strategies designed to burn calories and improve max output.

Resistance Cardio

Resistance cardio is cardiovascular training that includes a resistance element. This allows you to burn calories while also training muscle, reducing the likelihood of reducing muscle mass and increasing overall metabolic activity. One of the simplest hill sprints benefits is that they are extremely taxing and a great option for weight loss!

Hill sprint benefits for weight loss

But what this also means is that you’re adding resistance to the movement you want to build power in. If you want to build more explosive pecs, you do so by bench pressing heavy weight. By adding resistance, you introduce “overload” and thus see a physiological response. Hill sprints offer a way to add resistance to your sprints, thus allowing you to build more strength, power, and explosiveness in that range of motion.

See also: Run Like Sonic – Sprint Faster With Overspeed Training, Speed Drills, and Biomechanics

Increasing the roll of gravity adds resistance. That added resistance means more strength and explosiveness. That, in turn, means more athletic performance AND a reduced chance of injury going forward.

More Hill Sprint Benefits

There’s another reason that hill sprints reduce injury risk compared with regular sprints too! That’s that

Hill sprints are one of the best options for training calves. Too many of us have lagging calves, but most calf-specific exercises are time-consuming, dull, and bear little resemblance to any real-world activities. Not so with hill sprints, which will get your calves burning in no time.

Hill sprints also force you to land on the ball of your foot, which allows you to better utilize the natural shock-absorption of your legs. This is closer to the way we evolved to run.

Running up hill also forces you to produce more power per-stride to launch you higher in the air, it requires you to raise your knees more, and it reduces your stride length. In short, you practice using your legs like the powerful pistons they should be!

Hill Sprints Benefits: A Recap

To summarize then, here are the top hill sprint benefits:

  • Sprints train the same muscles used in actual sprinting
  • They add resistance to sprinting
  • Reduce stride length
  • Burns more calories
  • Improve hip stabilization
  • Build stronger calves
  • Increase power output
  • Are less likely to cause injury vs regular sprints

And no: wearing a weighted vest would not offer the same benefits. That’s because the resistance would not match the direction of the force, and you would be increasing the amount of impact on the joints. Combining hill sprints with a weighted vest though? Now that’s a different story. Theoretically, this could have a similar effect to making the hill steeper (without completely ruining the biomechanics of running).

(There’s actually a study looking at the use of weighted vests on non-inclined treadmills, but it is methodologically flawed IMO.)

Benefits of hill sprints

Did I miss any hill sprint benefits? Is this something you will be incorporating into your training?

About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

One Comment

  1. Karol says:

    Great post! I will definitely add hill sprints into my routine, but I’m wondering if that exercise could replace bounding. What do you think? Which exercise is better?

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