Hill Running: 4 Hill Workouts to Boost Speed & Power

Hill Running: 4 Hill Workouts to Boost Speed & Power

You want to be a strong, fast runner, right?

And you don’t mind putting in a little work to make that happen?

Then meet your new best friend: hill running!

Runners experience varied reactions to the thought of hills – from fright, to intimidation, and even excitement…it really just depends on your prior experience with hill running.

But let me promise you this: try hill running for a month, and you will get faster.

You’ll feel stronger.

Flat runs will start to feel easier.

There are many benefits to hill workouts that runners don’t even realize!

I’ll explain those benefits, as well as exactly how to do hill workouts for maximum benefit.

Keep reading and you’ll find some hidden hill running secrets that will improve your training immensely!


What is Hill Running?

Benefits of Hill Running Workouts

Hill running is simply defined as running on an incline instead of on a flat surface.

Whether done on hills outside or on a treadmill indoors (by increasing the incline), runners gain so many benefits from integrating hill running into their training schedule.


The Benefits of Hill Running

As with most speed work, the benefits go beyond what you’d initially imagine.

Hill workouts aren’t for lazy runners.

You have to show up.

But, if you’re willing to tie up the running sneakers and give it the old college try, you’ll be gifted with some incredible running improvements!

Here are the top benefits of running hills.


Hill Running Workouts and Benefits


Increase Endurance

Hills add intensity, and even walking up them at a quick clip gets the heart rate climbing and provides great aerobic training.

Aerobic training is what increases endurance.

In addition, because of the extra effort required, you’ll likely also boost your anaerobic capacity as well.


Increase Strength

Your hamstrings, glutes, quads and calves LOVE hills. And by that, I mean they’ll be screaming after (but in a good way..the “good way” that only runners understand).

Running up an incline requires more muscle strength to produce force than running on flat ground.

That’s why it’s a wonderful leg (and arm) strength workout too!


Get Faster

It takes more effort to go the same distance on a hill than it would on a flat surface.

And as discussed above, you’ll be increasing endurance and leg strength while running hills.

That means (and here’s the magic part of hill training) when you go back to running on flat surfaces…it’s easier, and you’ll go faster without additional effort!

I didn’t expect this benefit when I first started running hills during half marathon training, but then I ‘accidentally’ shaved (over) a minute per mile off my average 5K pace within the span of 10 weeks!

I was ECSTATIC and immediately stopped hating hills after that.


Reduce the Risk of Injuries

Since hill workouts provide strength training in disguise, you activate and work many ancillary muscles too.

This makes you less susceptible to injuries because your muscles are primed and ready for variances in terrain.

Also, for those runners who suffer from shin splints, running uphill helps alleviate those symptoms and strengthen the muscles to be better prepared for downhill and flat running too.


Improve Running Economy & Form

You inadvertently get running form practice when doing hills (it’s a fab fringe benefit).

By lifting your knees higher, your feet should (correctly) land under you as opposed to behind or in front of your core.

Hills help you practice shorter strides and increased cadence (because taking smaller steps uphill help maintain an even effort).

Also, your body naturally leans forward a tad, and arms swing to drive more forward force.

You’ll notice that you begin to follow this natural flow when running on flat surfaces too. Yay form practice in disguise!


Torch Calories

Running to lose weight? Or simply hoping weight loss is a fringe benefit of training?

Then you’ll love the calorie-burning goodness of hill runs!



You’re killin’ hills and takin’ names!

You’re feeling stronger.


And more confident.

Like when you crush your personal record after training really hard.

It’s confidence-boosting, right?

We gain confidence when our bodies feel strong. And also when we conquer challenges once thought of as “too hard”, like hill workouts.

As if you didn’t already have enough reasons to do hill running…this benefit should push you over the edge!


When to Do Hill Workouts

How to Do Hill Running Workouts

Hill workouts are an alternative to other speed workouts and can be done in place of a tempo, interval or fartlek session.

However, you don’t want to do more than 1 per week (just like interval workouts or tempo runs).

Depending on your goals, it may be good to alternate hills/tempo/interval workouts (1 of any per week), with a focus on hills in the base building or early training phase.


Laura, an RRCA certified running coach blogging at Thisrunnersrecipes.com, recommends doing hill running in the following scenarios:

  • During the base phase, in lieu of speed work: hills place less stress on the body than speed work, so you can focus on building your mileage while maintaining some speed and power.
  • When you’re training for hilly race: specificity should be the number one priority in planning your workouts.
  • When you want to lose weight: running hills burns more calories than flat ground running.
  • When you’re in a plateau: running hills will help you get faster, even when you’re already doing speed work.

However, StrengthRunning.com has an awesome graphic that I found very helpful:

Hill Running Workout Timing


Now that you know WHEN to do the hill workouts, let’s look at 3 specific workouts (that will boost your speed)!


4 Hill Workouts to Boost Speed

4 Hill Workouts
Image credit: blog.mapmyrun.com/6-tips-to-master-hill-running/

Integrate these 4 hill running workouts into your training plan (according to the handy chart above) for optimal endurance and speed-building.

Always warm up properly for at least 5-10 minutes, and cool down after too.

Some runners prefer to do these workouts after a run or strength session (but you can do them solo too).


#1 The Long Rep

Increase your aerobic capacity in the early base-building phase with this longer-interval hill workout.

How to Do It: Run 5X2-4min at a tempo pace (make sure to keep the pace tempo..don’t go all-out) and walk back down the hill for a full recovery.


#2 The Basic Short Rep Hill Workout

Short reps, not to be confused with hill sprints, are perfect for mid to late training cycle.

How to Do It: Pick a 4-10% hill grade and do 60-90 seconds 8-10 times, with a very easy jog back down the hill to recover.


#3 Hill Sprints

Explosive bursts followed by a full recovery make this staple workout incredibly effective at increasing endurance.

How to Do It: Pick a 4-6% hill grade and run up it at (just about) max effort for 8-15 seconds. Start with 4 repeats for 8 seconds each, making sure to fully rest in between (no matter how long it takes to get your breathing and heart rate back under control) and then increase time and repeats from there as you gain endurance.


#4 The Biomechanic Hill Workout

To improve biomechanics (aka improving form). Best done after a 3-4 mile run.

How to Do It: 10- to 15-second hill repeats at a 5% to 15% grade, walking downhill to fully recover. X5 to start, adding a repeats when it starts to feel easier.

Source: inspired by a Runnersworld.com workout.

5 Hill Running Tips

Hill Running Tips

Don’t make common mistakes when running hills (especially if you’re new to hills) or you’ll risk injury or fatigue.

Instead, follow these 5 simple tips to get the most out of your hill workout:

  1. Focus on Good Form – do not bend at the waist (run tall). Form over pace (always).
  2. Go By Effort, Not Pace – ignore your fitness tracker (especially the first few times you run a hill) and go purely by feel
  3. Look Forward, Not Down – I know it’s hard but looking down messes with your form, try not to do it!
  4. Reduce Cadence – take smaller steps to maintain effort (don’t over-stride, especially on a hill)
  5. Use Your Arms – swing those arms, baby!

Ok, now that we know that, let’s talk about WHEN to do these hill workouts.


3 Other Types of Speed Work To Try

So you love hills now, and want to mix up your speedwork?


Try these 3 other speed workouts too:

The Tempo Run: Every Runner’s Solution to a Faster Pace

The Definitive Guide to Fartleks: How to Use Fartleks to Boost Speed & Endurance

Complete Guide to Running Intervals: 5 Running Interval Workouts to Build Speed & Fitness Quickly


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A hill running guide for runners who are new to speed work. Learn how to get faster and increase endurance without injuries. Hills for beginners, let's go!

A hill running guide for runners who are new to speed work. Learn how to get faster and increase endurance without injuring yourself! Get faster & fitter by conquering the hills! Learn how hill running makes a huge impact on your running. Get faster & fitter by conquering the hills! Learn how hill running makes a huge impact on your running. Hill workouts for beginners that quickly increase speed & endurance. Be fitter, faster and stronger with hill running workouts!

2 Replies to “Hill Running: 4 Hill Workouts to Boost Speed & Power”

  1. I got really depressed, well it was more like angry. Trouble breathing, couldn’t handle life after helping my husband through a mental breakdown and had 2 friends attempt suicide in a few months. My brain couldn’t handle it. So I found this dirt road close to home that was straight up hill and I took my dogs and ran as hard as I could then walked and repeat. I got up to 4 miles up hill (intervals of course). I felt better immediately and brain healed after a few months. I then tried running on a flat part of the PCT. 10 miles the first time! It was easy and impowering! Now I’m trying to run with a plan instead of going until I puke. I love this article and I’ll be referring to it through my training. Thank you

    1. Wow, thanks for sharing Becky, that is a very inspiring story of recovery through running! And it’s amazing that you ran 10 miles your first time, congrats! I’m glad you found this article helpful 🙂 Happy running!

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