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Home arrow Fitness arrow Running arrow Hill Repeat Running: 5 Workouts for Explosiveness and Speed

Hill Repeat Running: 5 Workouts for Explosiveness and Speed

Written by Isabel Mayfield
Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: November 30, 2022
8 min read 1426 Views 0 Comments
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Runners see hill repeats as one of the most stressful workouts in existence. Still, do the benefits trump the burn? Stick with us as we run over the details.

hill repeats running

Running up a hill is one way to log into your routine cardiovascular exercise. However, how beneficial is this workout routine?

Today, we take a dive into hill repeats, seeing how these exercises will help improve your pace, especially when transitioning from the hilly part to flat land.

Many runners see hills as an unkind obstacle that stands in their way when pursuing specific goals. The burn they experience going up and down an incline is something they wish to bypass. 

However, most coaches make this routine mandatory for their athletes. That is because the science behind hill workouts shows that consecutive hill sessions are genuinely worth the burn and exhaustion. Still, you may wonder why that is?

Well, we have done the research for that purpose and have all the information necessary to satisfy your questions. So, today, we dive into the facts concerning how hill workouts will boost your explosiveness, overall speed, and even running form.

Let us get into the details, shall we?

What Is Hill Repeat Running?

In the most basic of explanations, hill repeats are a type of high-intensity interval training where runners run faster up a hilly course, slowly jog or walk down the hill, and repeat. Irrespective of the nature of the hill, the principles remain the same.

Hill workouts are a form of resistance training, and this exercise aims to build muscular strength, speed, stamina, and endurance. This exercise also improves overall running performance by boosting your aerobic capacity.

How Often Should I Run Hills?

Unlike many other race types that require specific fitness levels to carry you toward the finish line, anybody can partake in hill training. Hill training is great when you plan to run a hilly race, marathon, or half-marathon.

If you are new to running or are injury-prone, we suggest doing hill repeats once a week. On the other hand, more advanced runners can take on more workload (doing hill repeats 2–3 times weekly), as they have the tools required.

Nonetheless, you need to listen to your body when doing any sort of exercise. Everybody has their physical limits, and overexerting yourself can lead to overuse injuries. That is why you need to pencil in rest days between your workout to allow your body to recover.

We recommend that runners and other athletes try recovery supplements

Are Hill Workouts Any Good? 5 Benefits of Hill Workouts

Undoubtedly, any form of running will give you a plethora of health benefits. Whether that involves calorie burning and weight loss, cardiovascular fitness, improved energy levels, etc., there are many reasons why running should be a part of your training plans.

However, let us look into specific benefits linked with running hills.

#1 Builds muscle strength

Hill running is an excellent example of strength training, providing an abundance of stimulation for your muscles. 

However, since running is a leg-dominant physical activity, the primary benefactors of this strength increase are your leg muscles, such as your quads, calves, and glutes. Then again, hill repeats also engage your core and back muscles.

This exercise actually provides the most specific strength workout for many runners.

Running hills target both fast and slow-twitch muscle fibers. Simply put, your slow-twitch muscles are great for anaerobic activities since they go more extended periods before failing to fatigue.

On the other hand, your fast-twitch muscles are great for anaerobic activities, as they account for speed.

Again, it is essential to note that cardiovascular training will not give you the muscle gains and strength you see with pro athletes. These people build their physique by spending countless hours in the gym. That is why adding supplementary training to your regimen should be a top priority. 

#2 Reduces injury risk

When it comes to injury prevention, running uphill creates less impact than running on a flat surface, putting less stress on your musculoskeletal system, especially your joints and connective tissues.

In addition to being low impact, running uphill forces you to use the correct running form,  enabling you to develop quicker and longer strides.

These effects stem from increased muscular strength and a vast range of motion linked with running up and down hills.

Still, it would be best if you were cautious about how fast you make your descent. Like we said earlier, you should slowly jog or even walk when coming down a hill. 

That is because, at high speeds, you could quickly lose balance, resulting in ankle sprain and fractures, shin splints, runner’s knee, Achilles tendonitis, and other severe injuries. Overuse injuries could put you out for weeks and set back your progress even further.

#3 Promotes weight loss

Hill repeats are akin to weight training, making them a great way to promote calorie burning and weight loss.

Working your muscles hard can increase your heart rate and metabolism, leading to calorie burn even after exercise.

Studies show that a combination of aerobic and resistance training works well for weight loss and weight management, and this is what hill repeats embody.

Moreover, you can shed even more weight when you pair your hill sessions with a healthy diet. Overall, the more calories you burn, the more weight you lose.

#4 Improves VO2 max and running economy

VO2 max is the maximum rate of oxygen your body uses during incremental exercises. Therefore, a higher VO2 max level translates to higher oxygen utilization. Being able to use oxygen effectively allows you to generate ATP energy and perform aerobic exercises at the highest level.

In that regard, your VO2 max level is a testament to your running economy and overall running performance.

In addition, VO2 max stands as an indicator of cardio-respiratory fitness, as stated in a 2016 scientific statement published by the American Heart Association.

The released statement was in line with growing concerns about the number of people suffering from cardiovascular disease. Clinics use VO2 measurements to validate exercise prescription and physical activity counseling.

#5 Increases speed and stamina

Tempo runs have become increasingly common among runners trying to increase their max speed. Unfortunately, a large number of runners underestimate the power of hill repeats in increasing speed, but they are helpful when seeking to attain a faster pace.

An abundance of lactic acid in your muscles will prevent them from working optimally, thus reducing your athletic performance. Conversely, engaging in hill workouts develops your fast-twitch muscle fibers and increases your lactate threshold, allowing you to better transition to running at a fast pace. 

One study reveals that engaging in hill workouts will lead to increased speed and running performance irrespective of the intensity of your hill sessions. Thus, we recommend opting for hill repeats instead of regular speed work if you have just started.

Similarly, hill workouts increase your stamina and endurance, enabling you to sustain physical activities for extended periods. But, again, this would take you longer to achieve if you stick to running at an easy pace.

5 Hill Workouts for Explosiveness and Speed

One of the hardest things to do when creating a training plan is picturing how each piece of the workout puzzle fits well together in the long term. That is especially true when you have a myriad of workouts to pick from each time you decide to exercise. 

In that regard, we have sourced 5 variations of the hill workout that will surely give you that desired speed and explosiveness. 

Granted, you do not have to limit yourself to only one variation – mixing and mashing different hill workouts will create a dynamic training plan, which is obviously the better option. Let us have a look, shall we?

#1 Hill sprints

Hill sprints are the shortest variation on this list. These hill sprints will have you working out for 15 seconds with each repetition.

Run up the hill for 15 seconds at full burst, jog back down, and repeat 20 more times. 

#2 Short hill repeats

Short hill repeats will have you working out between 15–30 seconds per repetition. 

To get started, find a hill of about 4–6% grade. There, you will be running at hard effort for the stipulated time and then jogging down to recover.

Carry out this hill repeat for 10 repetitions, going at 2 miles per hour or 8 repetitions at 4 miles per hour.

#3 Long hill repeats

Your long hill repeats will last between 60–90 seconds per repetition. To get started on your long hill repeat, first find a hill with a grade of about 4–6%. 

Then again, just like short hill repeats, run up the hill with hard effort (2 miles per hour) for 60–90 seconds, jogging or walking back down as your recovery period, and repeat 10 more times. 

#4 Rolling hills

Unlike long hill repeats, rolling hill involves running up and down a hill for prolonged periods with the same effort. 

So, find a hill with a grade range of about 4–6%, run up and down the hill at 2 miles per hour, and repeat for 10 reps.  

#5 Treadmill hill workout

This variation is sort of like rolling hills (going at a steady pace), but it is meant for those who do not have a hill where they live. Each phase of this workout will last for one minute, albeit there will be changes to the incline.

Start with 3 minutes of warm-up to get your muscles ready. Then begin the hill workout with 2 x 1-minute runs at 4% incline (1-minute recovery run at 0% incline between each rep). 

Increase the intensity by doing 2 x 1-minute runs at a 6% incline while maintaining the same criteria for a recovery run. Then finish with 2 x 1-minute runs at 8% incline (still maintaining the criteria for the recovery run.

Repeat the exercise in reverse order and finish off with 2 minutes of cool-down. 

Word From Our Coach

Hill repeats are great exercises for runners seeking to improve their power and speed. The benefits of partaking in this exercise are anything but subtle.

However, it does come with a fair share of drawbacks, especially when you are not smart about how you exercise. Therefore, it would be best to exercise caution when exercising your hill running skills.

For starters, warm-up and cool-down sessions are extremely important in loosening your muscle fibers, getting you ready for the challenge, and reducing injury risks. Also, you should avoid running on a very steep hill. Going up a steep hill burns your muscles fast, and navigating down one is increasingly dangerous.

Furthermore, it would be best if you always listened to your body. For example, suppose you are starting to experience discomfort, especially in your joints, switch to a better form, tone down the intensity, and, if need be, reevaluate your training schedule.

Overall, we suggest that you seek help from an experienced coach. They have the tools and knowledge to ensure that you exercise right.


Now that you are well informed on hill running, all that is left is to put the knowledge into practice. 

Completing your hill training will have you running faster for longer distances on flat surfaces. In addition, these runs are excellent for improving VO2 max, cardiovascular health, weight management, and race time.

So, go over your doubt phase, find a preferred hilly course close by, and stick to any of the schedules mentioned above. Yes, let us prepare you for your next hilly race!

Written by Isabel Mayfield
Isabel Mayfield is a certified yoga instructor with over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry. She is passionate about self-improvement and loves to help people improve their sense of self-worth through education and support in meeting their fitness goals.
The article was fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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Written by Isabel Mayfield
Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: November 30, 2022
8 min read 1426 Views 0 Comments

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