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Alright, not going to lie, this is my first article that I’ve written in about 2 months. So if I’m a little rusty… oh who cares, the only people reading this are my parents lol hi mom!! I have no shame. 

But the topic of this article today is the importance of hill sprints for athletes. Typically, when we hear hill sprints, we just think hours of horrible conditioning that coaches make us do because they think it’s benefiting us somehow. They aren’t sure how it’s benefiting you, other than the fact it’s so exhausting it makes you want to die. That’s what I’m here to talk about today. There is a very beneficial reason, actually multiple reasons, why hill sprints might just be your best bet when it comes to cardio. 

As I touched on earlier, these hill sprints are truly exhausting. Running while on an incline works your legs much harder than running on a flat surface, so for that reason, you’ll find your heart pumping a little extra after doing these bad boys. So while hill sprints provide unique metabolic, muscular, and neuromuscular gains, that’s not the main benefit I will be discussing. 

The main topic of this article is why hill sprints are the #1 explosive drill to do when trying to improve acceleration. Acceleration is a product of strength, so naturally, the stronger you are, the more potential you’ll have at accelerating quickly. Now I had to clarify that statement about acceleration as a product of strength by saying “potential” because it’s not 1+1=2. Many things play into acceleration in addition to relative strength, such as body position, mechanics, joint range of motion, hip power, etc. Fortunately, however, hill sprints are one exercise that works on all of these areas, including building relative strength. This makes hill sprints my go to sprinting exercise when I’m trying to improve an athlete’s acceleration. The combo of strength and speed you get from hill sprints, plus the position it forces your body into, makes it the gold standard. And you don’t need any fancy equipment to do them! 

Let’s talk about body position. When we are accelerating, we want to make sure our shoulders are in front of our knees, our knees are in front of our toes, we have our ankles dorsiflexed, and our eyes are looking down because our eyes dictate torso positioning. The minute we bring our eyes up, our torso will follow and become upright. That’s what we want when we get into top speed, however, when we are accelerating, we need our torso to be leaning. This is due to the fact that acceleration depends on horizontal force production. All of the force and power we are producing needs to propel us horizontally; in other words, the forces we produce need to be driving us forward. Hill sprints force our body into this leaning position, getting your body used to driving forward at this angle.

It has actually been recorded that the propulsive forces with our foot strike, stance, and toe off are increased 75% when we perform hill sprints. Those 3 factors, foot strike, stance, and toe off, are crucial elements to acceleration, so being able to increase their ability to produce force is a huge benefit of hill sprints.

Body Position/Lean From Hill Sprints
Foot Strike, Toe Off, and Stance

Next up, hill sprints work to increase muscular power, muscle activity, and joint range of motion more than flat ground sprinting. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning reported improvements in the 9 meter and 18.3 meter sprint times in those who perform hill sprints. This can be credited to numerous benefits of hill sprinting, but one thing in particular is the greater hip range of motion and joint angular velocity we get. During the push off, our ankles, knees, and hips are able to produce a much more forceful triple extension because of the range of motion hill sprints allow. Increased range of motion during triple extension leads to greater muscle contractions, plus with the increased joint angular velocity, this leads to increased hip muscle power. As I stated earlier, hip muscle power is another important element for acceleration. The more power we have in our hips, the more force we can send to our knees, our ankles, and thus, the ground, ultimately, propelling us forward a much further distance than we’d go without all this power. Just remember, our body is one giant chain. So if we can produce a great amount of power at the top of the chain, and if our body is efficient at keeping that power high, then by the time we get to the bottom of the chain, we’ll still have a damn lot of power. That’s one of the keys to acceleration – producing enough force to propel you forward as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

Hip Range of Motion

All in all, hill sprints should have a part in training programs for those of you trying to improve acceleration. Do not stop doing flat ground running and just do hill sprints 24/7 either though. Flat ground running is essential for sports training, as it truly is the most sport specific activity we can do. So make sure to keep flat sprinting in there too. Additionally, if your goal is to increase top speed, then hill sprints are not going to be your best option. These are great at promoting improvements in acceleration for all the reasons listed above, however, in order to improve top speed, you want to be running at max speeds or above max speeds. Therefore, hill sprints will not help you much with increasing your top speed alone. 

Regarding programming hill sprints, I like to run anywhere from 5 to 30 seconds at an incline of 5-30%. It doesn’t have to be so steep that you feel like you’re climbing the face of Mount Everest, but you do want it to have some incline so you get all the associated benefits. I hope this was able to help you out if you’re on the fence about whether you should put yourself through hill sprints. They aren’t just a way for coaches to torture athletes anymore lol they actually have quite a lot to offer! Make sure you’re checking out our instagram, @powerlux_fitness, and our YouTube Channel for more sports performance workouts and athletic lifestyle workouts! If you’re interested in working with PowerLux Fitness, if you want programming, training, or a consultant, don’t hesitate to reach out! We have top of the line trainers with experience training professional athletes ready to help you!

Until next time, stay rad ??