Tackle tough hills—minus the huffing and puffing—with running drills and strength exercises that'll improve your stamina and speed, no matter the incline
Every time you tackle the uphill of your jogging loop you’re conditioning your heart and sculpting your muscles double time. Runners who did a dozen 30-second sprints on a 10 percent incline twice weekly for six weeks significantly improved their running economy when they later exercised on level ground, a study at the Avera Sports Institute in South Dakota revealed. Translation: They didn’t huff and puff as much on their regular runs. “If you’re trying to get faster, hill sprints can also increase the length of time you can sprint at your top speed,” says lead researcher Derek Ferley, Ph.D., a strength and conditioning specialist. (Can't make it outside? Reap the benefits of incline running with this Exclusive Treadmill Workout from Mile High Run Club.)
Hill workouts can make you stronger, too. A study from the University of Colorado found that walking on a nine-degree incline strengthens the glutes, quads, and calves more than hoofing it on a flat surface, thanks to the extra effort the lower body needs to exert to lift your weight. That incline—and decline—also works as a secret weapon for sculpting your upper body. “Doing crunches with your head pointing downhill will cause your abs to work harder in order to resist gravity,” says Greg Bianchi, a track coach for the City College of San Francisco who leads boot camps on the city’s hilly terrain. “Turn around so that your head is uphill during a lying leg raise; the decline makes it much more challenging.”
So don’t dread those hills on your route. Take them on with this routine.
How it Works
1. Seek out a steep 90-foot-long hill, Bianchi suggests. It’s a good length for building speed and strength, because you’ll need to accelerate to get to the top.
2. Do a quick scan of the entire hill surface you plan to use, Bianchi says, so there are no surprise holes and bumps.
3. Bring a towel along if you choose a paved hill, Bianchi says: It will make placing your palms down for certain strength moves a little more comfortable.
0 to 3 minutes
Warm up by jogging at the base of the hill.
3 to 8 minutes
Sprint up and walk down as many times as you can.
8 to 13 minutes
Go up and down the hill once for each move below. Repeat the entire circuit as many times as you can.
Sit with back to hill, knees bent, palms by hips. Press hips up to reverse tabletop. Walk hands and feet backward to ascend and forward to descend. (FYI, crab walks are one of the 25 Most Deceiving Exercises out there—they tone more than you think!)
Stand facing hill. Fold forward, plant palms, walk hands out until body is in plank. Walk feet up to hands, then stand. Continue. Face forward to descend.
Step right leg forward and bend both knees to 90 degrees, then repeat with left leg. Continue, alternating sides. Face forward to descend.
13 to 14 minutes
Decline Spider-Man Pushup
Start in the middle of hill in plank on palms with head downhill. Bend elbows to lower chest toward ground, bending right knee up to touch right elbow. Push back up to start. Continue, alternating sides.
14 to 15 minutes
Lie faceup in the middle of hill with feet uphill, legs and arms in an X position. Curl shoulders and left arm, lifting right leg to meet in center. Lower until leg and arm hover above ground. That’s 1 rep. Do 5 reps. Switch sides; repeat.
15 to 16 minutes
Lie on left side in middle of hill with head uphill, feet stacked, left arm curled around and under chest, and right palm on ground in front of chest with elbow bent up to start. Press into right palm to straighten arm, lifting head and shoulders off ground. Lower. Continue for 30 seconds. Switch sides; repeat.
16 to 17 minutes
Sit in the middle of hill with feet uphill, legs long, and arms extended forward at chest height. Pull belly in, rounding spine so lower back touches ground. Continue until you’re lying flat. Reverse motion and repeat.
17 to 18 minutes
Start in the middle of hill in plank on palms with head uphill. Alternate quickly pulling right knee toward chest between arms, then left knee. (Can't get enough of interval training? Then try this Barry's Bootcamp-Inspired Abs, Butt, and Core Workout.)
18 to 23 minutes
Sprint up and walk down as many times as you can.
23 to 24 minutes
Stand in the middle of hill facing uphill with left leg forward and right leg back, hands on hips to start. Bend knees until right hovers 2 inches above ground. Return to start. Repeat for 30 seconds. Switch sides; repeat.
24 to 25 minutes
Lie faceup in middle of hill with feet uphill and knees bent, feet flat. Lift hips so body forms a line from shoulders to knees. Extend right leg straight up [shown] to start. Keep hips lifted and lower leg to hover above ground. Continue for 30 seconds. Switch sides; repeat.
25 to 27 minutes
Cool down by jogging at the base of the hill.