For centuries, athletes have suffered while running hill sprints. Not because their athletic trainers were sadistic (although you know some are), but because they’re tried-and-true effective. All you need is a steep enough hill (6% grade or over) or access to stairs or bleachers and you can perform a workout that will improve endurance as well as build muscle and power.

Easier on Your Joints

Running uphill produces less force on your ankles, knees, and hips. Although your heart is pounding, take some solace that your joints are not. This is mostly because running uphill places your body in a better position that reduces bouncing.

That’s not to say those knees won’t take a pounding if you run downhill though. There are benefits to running downhill, such as over-speed training, but know there is an increased risk of injury. Walk downhill and use it as recovery time.

Improved Running Economy

A 2015 study in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance had runners perform uphill intervals for six weeks. In the end, it found they were not only two percent faster on a 5k time trial, but their running economy improved. It goes back to why running uphill is easier on your joints – you automatically place your body in a much better position.

In other words, your breathing, posture, cadence and efficiency improve to the extent it transfers to flat-road running. Remember, you want a forward lean with a straight line from the ear to ankle, so don’t lean from the hips.

Increased Speed and Strength

This one is a no-brainer – you obviously have to work harder running uphill to beat gravity, so your legs and hips have to produce more force to get you up that hill.

Over time, that means stronger glutes, hamstrings, and quads. Running uphill is not only time efficient, giving you more bang for your buck, but a proven method to improve sports performance.

Uphill Drills

  • 8-10 sets of maximum 10-second efforts. Walk downhill for a 2-3 minute recovery.
  • Bear crawl up for 30 seconds. Take 2-3 minutes to recover. Repeat 6-10 times.
  • Bound uphill (bounce foot to foot while brining your knees high). 10 bounds each leg. Rest 3-5 minutes between efforts. Repeat 4-6 times.

Bonus Drill