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5 Reasons to include hill sprints in your training

On your marks, get set, sprint.

If, prior to Covid, you were used to constantly training inside a gym, you might have discovered how fun it can be to train outdoors – rain or shine.  It presents a totally different challenge to your muscles with different terrains, obstacles and gradients – and for many of us, has been the only option for much if the last twelve months.

If you’re looking to really ramp up the intensity of your workout, try throwing some hill sprints into the mix to get your legs and lungs burning.   Yes, they are super tough but if you want to get in shape fast and build muscle then sprints can produce rapid results.

Hill sprints require maximum effort and power over a short distance.  If you find yourself sprinting for anything over 10secs then you’re probably doing hill reps, which means you are running sub maximum.

A word on safety

If you’re just getting back into exercise, then use your common sense and build up a good aerobic base first before adding in sprints.  It’s always better to gradually work your way up than to overdo it and injury yourself.  I’d recommend doing 2-3 sprints at around 75% of your max effort to start with and make sure you add in at least 60-90 secs recovery after each one.  

1.Targets your full body

Sprinting uphill forces your body to recruit more muscle fibres – gravity is the resistance in this case.  All major muscle groups are involved in powering ourselves up that hill, from the quads, glutes, hamstrings, core as well as developing arm and shoulder drive. Because of the intense nature of sprinting, this will also benefit the heart, lungs and skeletal system. 

2.Helps maintain a healthy weight

Adding in hill sprints are going to drastically burn more calories and will have a positive effect on your body composition.  Sprinting can be more time-efficient and leads to significantly greater fat loss than steady-state cardio because of the EPOC effect.  

EPOC stands for excess post-exercise oxygen consumption and can be thought of as the afterburn effect after performing all-out activities.  This elevates your metabolism, just think of how hard your body has to work to repair itself and restore energy stores. 

3.Develops your Anaerobic capacity

Unless you are incorporating sprints into your training then you are missing out on training your anaerobic system.  Put simply, slower-paced jogging is an example of aerobic exercise where your muscles use oxygen and this is great to build up stamina.  Sprinting all-out, requires power and is an example of anaerobic training where your muscles don’t use oxygen.  

This will increase your tolerance to the build-up of lactic acid and help you recover quicker.  It will also increase the size of our fast-twitch muscle fibres which are utilised for powerful movements such as sprinting.

The majority of us just don’t train our anaerobic pathways and are missing out on these physiological benefits.

4.Improves your cardiovascular fitness

Working at a higher intensity strengthens your lungs and of course your heart which is a muscle.  The maximal stroke volume (blood pumped for each heartbeat) will also increase, meaning your heart is more efficient and will result in a lower resting heart rate.   

A lower heart rate is a sign of good health and shows your heart is working well. It can also improve your VO2 max (the ability of your heart and lungs to deliver oxygen to working muscles) meaning your performance will increase.

5.Reduced your chance of injury

Any form of anaerobic training will increase your strength and muscle mass which also translates to connective tissue and joint protection meaning you’re less likely to get injured.  Also, the benefits of hill sprinting mean less impact on your body when compared to ground level sprinting. 

This article was originally published here at ClaireG PT

Claire Greenhouse
Claire is a mobile personal trainer and the founder of Claire G PT. She is passionate about sharing the lessons learned on her own journey to help others become fitter, stronger, happier and healthier.

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