How Hill Running Benefits Your Speed, Mechanics, and Power?

I have always been an athlete and have loved football since I can remember. As a kid, one of my favorite training stories from the mainstream media was about famous running back

Walter Payton’s off-season conditioning hill. Look around the internet for stories of Payton’s great conditioning, how he would bring people from various sports to train with him, and how they’d all eventually pass out from exhaustion.

He’s one of the best runners in the NFL, if not the best of all time, and the hill was his secret.

I’ve been coaching for nearly two decades and am entirely crazy with hill running. Because speed is the ultimate goal in all of my programs, hills (or stairs for those of you who don’t live near a suitable hill) are an absolute must in any speed or conditioning program.

Cal Poly and San Jose State are where I’ve spent most of my coaching career, and both campuses feature large hill/stadium inclines that are ideal for hammering my guys.

What is the significance of Hills?

Speed, strength, and power are crucial, especially during acceleration. The rapid burst of speed is essential in forty-yard races: excellent running backs through a seam, a batter racing down the first base line trying to beat out a throw, or a forward blasting to the hole. The first three to five steps determine the success of the attempt.

Keep an eye on the NFL combine. When you watch athletes in their 40s run, the start is the most critical factor in determining a decent time.

On the other hand, if you see a guy fall out of the gate or take a clumsy step, you can bet his time will be less than stellar.

Nothing prepares you for the driving phase of a sprint like hill running. Because of the incline, the runner must climb with his forefoot.

The front of the foot is for speed, while the heels are for braking, which is one of the essential speed training signals we use. Even huge males are forced into an “acceptable” sprinting position because of their size and propensity to land on their heels first when running on flat ground.

Consider the lean used by world-class sprinters in the opening 50-70 meters of a 100-meter dash; this is the stance we want to teach, and the hill will accomplish it for us automatically.

The load that hill running places on the legs is the most obvious advantage. I’ve always thought parachute pulling, banded running, and partner towing were ridiculous, considering that all of the equipment or routines maximize the benefits of spending time in the hills.

Sprinting up a hill will build leg strength and explosiveness like nothing else, aside from squats, Olympic lifting, and kettlebell training.

For Lateral Applications, Use Hills

We spend nearly all of our time working on change of direction training because most of the teams I train for speed don’t have opportunities in their sports to run straight ahead where track workouts would help them (think top-end speed).

Many children have little or no idea how to turn. They have no concept of where their body is in space, insist on slowing down with their toes, and frequently lose control of their momentum when running.

Because of the hill’s incline, the runner must naturally place their drive foot in a “toe-in” position when climbing laterally. If they don’t, their efficiency will plummet, and they will feel compelled to make changes almost intuitively.

One of the big takeaways in footing that I teach on flat terrain is a modest toe-in on the outside leg. This accomplishes two goals. For starters, it gives the runner complete access to their big toe while driving. Second, it points in the same direction as to where they want to go.

This, believe it or not, is something that many of these kids lack when they first arrive. When they don’t know how to use this approach, they make a slow, powerless attempt to reorient themselves.

Gravity, on the other hand, is a bully. The hill’s inherent inclination necessitates a strong push. One is required when the athlete is attempting to accelerate on flat ground.

I can obtain that type of comprehension on flat ground if I can persuade a kid to haul up the hill, either laterally or straight ahead.

Backward Hill Sprints Have a Lot of Advantages

Hill running backward is an excellent technique for pounding your athletes. The hill I use is about a 35-yard climb with a 14 percent slope behind our Cal Poly sports complex. Steep.

Backward running has been incorporated into the final phase of our hill workouts. Part of it is because I want my kids to feel very uncomfortable, part of it is because I want my defensive backs and linebackers to acquire some speed, and the other part is because I want them to build some toughness.

We used to backpedal around the outside of the Begley Building at EKU while I was in college. It was a deliberate attempt to make us uncomfortable.

Outside, there were continual changes in incline, and we had a close relationship with misery because we were told to continue this for 15 minutes or longer without stopping.

It was a complete jerk move, but it taught us a valuable lesson: how to persevere in the face of adversity. There was nothing reckless about it; it was just a leg burn that made you almost gag on your vomit.

Backward hill running provides a unique type of foot drive that can’t be found anyplace else. It teaches the students how to push off the forefoot with everything they’ve got.

Remember that acceleration occurs in the forefoot, and braking occurs in the heel. This teaches the runner the proper pressures to apply, where to put them, and how to use their feet efficiently.

Running Efficiency is Taught by the Hills

The gradient puts the runner in a position where they have no choice but to give everything. Because of the distance, they must walk up a hill; careless leaping or hopping will only take them ten times longer to reach the top. You receive a total natural effort since they want it to be over quickly.

Bounding has proven to be the most challenging task for my students. Other things may be more painful, but bounding forces them to work as hard as possible, coordinate their motions to be as efficient as possible, and burn their anaerobic energy systems. It’s a lot of fun to see.

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