Hill sprints are a great way for athletes to train when they are programmed correctly. It may seem simple; find any hill and run up as fast as you can as many times as you can. However, like your weight room training, there are details to consider for proper programming to give you the best success to enhance your athletic ability.
Choose your Hill
It should go without saying that hills are different; some are longer, steeper and have different surface types. If you are new to hill sprint training and want to limit your chance of aggravating your joints and hammering your cardio vascular system I recommend a shorter, moderately inclined hill.
Like weight training, as your fitness increases find a longer and steeper hill and tackle that for a few rounds.
Think About your Technique
Hills sprints are not necessarily going to help your top-end speed out on the field because the running mechanics are slightly different and you will not be training at your top speed potential especially as the hills get longer and steeper.
Hill sprints are good to increase your leg strength, endurance and increase you cardiovascular capacity.
As mentioned above if you are a hill sprinting newbie, take on a smaller hill or else your body will revolt with aches and pains in your ankles and joint like you have never felt before.
Other ways to mitigate these pains is to concentrate on using as much of your foot to strike the ground when you run. It is very easy to get more on the toes, especially when the hill gets steeper. Running too much on your toes adds more stress to the ankles and calves which can make you sore in the ankle and knees and if done too much could lead to strains and injuries including patellar tendinitis and shin splints.
After completing your run to the top, make sure to walk, not, run down the hill back to that start. Not only does this give you a much needed active recovery break to bring your heart rate down and let your muscles recover; running down hill puts a lot of pressure through the knees because of the angle of your shin with causes force to go right through your knee joint and shin which contributes to the injuries mentioned above.
After finding the appropriate hill for your current fitness level you must program accordingly. Start with low volume workouts and build up the number of repetitions throughout the weeks when you body becomes more accustomed to the training. A good rule of thumb is to stop your hill sprints when your legs and/or your heart rate are not recovering as quickly as they have after your first run.
If walking to the start is not enough time to rest and recovery, take more time in between. As you gain fitness you can decrease the time you rest between runs.
When you start or if you are in-season one hill running session a week is sufficient. If you are in your off-season and need to bring your leg strength and fitness up, two times a week will do the trick.
For more information check out the video below:
In my next installment with Prep2Prep, I tackle two different topics in regards to athlete training. In one article I discuss whether athletes should do strength and conditioning training while they are in-season. The second I demonstrate the best upper body mobility exercises for athletes. Check out the articles and videos here:
I was asked to do a guest article for Brandon Richey Fitness where I talk about how to train effectively with minimal equipment. In the article I present how to get back to minimal training and supply you with a program to get you started as well as suggest progressions as you get better.
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