The Hill Workout

Doing a regular hill workout in your training program is probably one of the best uses of your training time for what you get in return. Run to the Hills! Hmmm, even Iron Maiden understands the value of a regular hill workout. As you’ve probably gathered from many of my other pages, I’m really into workouts that optimize your training time to make sure that when you are out there you get the best bang for your buck!

Here are 3 basic hill variations:

Short Steep Hills (<2 minutes)

While the shorter steeper hills max out your heart rate, offer a nice amount of pain and require more leg lift, they are over quicker. You might consider working more repetitions into short hill workouts. What constitutes ‘short’? As indicated, any hill that takes under 2 minutes to complete would be considered short.

Long Gradual Hills (2-4 minutes)

The longer more gradual hills also offer some discomfort and are a good test of focus and patience and they encourage good running form. Since they take longer to complete, you might consider performing less repeats of longer hills. Long gradual hills also provide another great training benefit for runners training for hilly events. Lightly jogging down long gradual hills is a great way to get some downhill training into your legs without causing too much concentric damage to your quads.

Long AND Steep Hills (>1 minute)

What can I say…you are sadistic and dedicated. You’re going to have a great race!

Hill Tips

  1. Run hills with good posture (see more information below) – don’t lean into the hill but rather you should be more perpendicular. A common mental trick is to picture a rope tied around your waist being pulled up towards the top of the hill. This should actually see you leaning backwards a bit.
  2. Longer hills offer the opportunity to shift different ‘gears’ – start slow for part 1, pick it up during the middle stages of the hill and really exaggerate your arm swing and your knee lift for the final kick to the top
  3. Time your hill repeats, challenging yourself to run the last ascent the fastest, when you might feel least like doing so
  4. Warm up 1 .5 to 2 miles easy before tackling hills – they are particularly taxing on your feet, calves and hamstrings so be sure to take care of them with gentle stretching after you’ve warmed your muscles up. It’s a good idea to do the first couple of repeats slow focussing on good form
  5. Each hill with its unique characteristics offers different training benefits so keep it fresh and mix them up

Stair Climbing

A great alternative method of doing your hill workout is running up stairs. Whether they are in an apartment building or stadium, you can mix up your ascents by hitting every stair which will work on your turn over or bounding 2 or 3 at a time. Watch your heart rate sky rocket!

The only 'down' side to stair climbing is you must come down, and descending stairs is quite hard on the knees and quads, so try to land softly on the balls of your feet and let your feet and calves do what they were designed to do.

Safety Considerations

If you are a driver you know that vehicles cresting a hill cannot see what’s on the other side until it’s too late. So, the side that you choose to come over a hill does matter to keep yourself out of danger. While I typically do my regular road runs against traffic, I always run up hills with traffic to ensure that drivers can see you.

Performing your hill workout where there is little to no traffic is always most ideal. Even if you have to go out of your way to get there. Not to mention, there is probably nothing worse than cranking your way up a hill and having to breath car exhaust.

Good Body Position for Hills

  • Lower abs play a big role in stabilizing on hills
  • Neutral Posture
  • Neutral Pelvis
  • Envision a bowl – tilting forward losing water
  • Tall through the spine
  • Touch forward lean from the ankles not from the waist – body like a board


  • Slumping/Dumping forward going up a hill
  • Too much arching
  • Not engaging core
  • Sitting too far back

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