Short Steep Hills to Increase Power

What is the opinion for short steep hill sprints as part of strength conditioning?

For example up a steep bank of about 15m, same gradient as a flight of stairs. If olympic lifts/med ball work is not available, can this be a useful method to increase power and acceleration?

eg. 4-6 reps following the speed workout at any time during the year as a substitute for medball/o-lifts (not just for GPP).

I use steep hills for starting speed.
I also feel they develop glute and ham strength very well also and also help with aspects of form - knee drive etc.
But since the speed and angle of movement is different than normal flat sprinting, I always finish a hill session with some flat sprints (and I do a good H/string stretch just before the flat sprints - as the ham isn’t being fully stretched on hillwork.)

How do you work steep hill sprints into the overall plan?

I’m thinking of using them as a substitute for med-ball power work, so I will probably do 4-6 reps after my speed sessions during the max-strength phase.

Do you reduce the number of reps during the maintenance phase? Or do you cut out this kind of work altogether during maintenance while speed is being intensified.

I use hills for with two aims in mind …

  1. Speed
  2. Endurance (while it’s not the best way, and fartlek etc might be better - I find it a great way to mix low and high intensity training)

Speed -
Once a week max
Sprint is 90% and full rest (at top of hill)

I’ve started recently to jog down concentrating on the eccentric phase and loading as I jog down the hill. This should probably come with a severe health warning, but I want to try it and see if the eccentric benefits will help with reactive and eccentric/absorbtion strength.
I have also been experimenting with slow jog/walk downs and then when reaching a mark react, turn and sprint back up the hill. This is obviously is demending. This needs alot of slow practice before I’d reccomend it to anyone else.
Rest at the bottom and go again.
I vary between

  1. a short run to the hill and then driving up it and
  2. starting from a standing start, both feet together, ON the hill - for starting/explosive speed.
    Finish with a few flat sprint starts after good hamstring stretching and a few strides to widen the stride length again after the hills.

Once a week max
Simply Sprint up, jog down and repeat for 5 reps
After a sets Jog 1 mins recovery and go again.
As you get tired watch the form
(… when you get to a total of 100 - you can call it a night!)

My normal plan currently is …

During a 3-1-3 cycle -
Speed Hills once early* in Week1, once early in Week5
Endurance Hills (just like Tempo) once on Week2, once Week6
No Hills weeks 3 and 4.

For Off Season, more than once a week is possible.
Pre season once is enough
During the season - Reccomended - Once every two weeks

Watch for the extra stress that will be placed on the achilles and calf.
Develop good Hip flexor ROM before hill work to benefit from the hip drive work and high knees.
Stretch the hip flexors post session so ROM is maintained
Same for Hamstrings

I’ll be reviewing this hill plan soon though to improve on it.

*Speed Hills - early in the week because they are so stressful

Do you find them that stressfull? I think from a muscular perspective, you may be right, but you are not really moving that fast…from a CNS perspective I would think that they are less stressful. Perhaps they are in the same category as SE work.

Since the strength required to overcome is greater than on the flat they are marginally more stressful. (- no?)
Also as the week progresses I find fatigue more and issue and would rather do flat-work toward the end of the week and hillwork earlier when fresher.
Perhaps it’s not a hugely significant issue - but that was the reasoning.

Just to add … for speed work I would use very steep hills for endurance hills - slower gradients.

shouldn’t flat/spacific done when you’re least fatigued?
Rather then towards the end of the training weak?

The variability of hill work by week is going to cause stiffness and adaptation problems. What do you want from the hills and your phase? If it’s long to short, the hills can have more of an endurance componant. If it’s short to long, then a larger no ofshort fast hills moving to a lower no of fast, slightly longer hills. Thoughts anyone?

I use hills 1x a week during GPP.

I have a hill that is about 15m long, but very steep, grassy, and I do GS type work up the hill like lunges, bounds, High Knees, things like that. Then, there is a hill about 25m long and fairly steep, but with a gradual incline into the steepness, dirt surface, but great for sprints. I usually do 3 “circuits” up the GS hill and then some sprints up the dirt hill. I use them for general conditioning and for the knee drive component of sprinting early on to kind of help “re-teach” the body that mechanic. I also follow up the session with some strides and maybe a couple of grass sprints as well.

Any comments?

It’s for team sports Charlie -

  • where in week one of a 3-week cycle I would use it (instead) of a speed session and in week two I would use it instead of a Tempo-type session.

I think I understand your point of short to long - but does this carry through to team sports?

In that type of a team-sport-scenario would stiffness and adaptation still be such an issue?

I think it can help teach good technique, especially high knee drive and develop strength in both calf/achilles and hip flexors in a manner that few other types of training can - teaching good drive and fast recovery.

Am I using it incorrectly in that regard?
Perhaps it is incorrect to use hills in place of speed work at all as the speed is too slow - or does that matter if the forces are maximal?
Or would I be best use hills for just one or the other - either speed or tempo?

Just trying to use hills as best as possible - I think they’re a really great training resource - (and free too!!)

When I did hill runs last winter (I haven’t done hills since I went to uni and haven’t found any decent one’s, my coach had 3 hills sessions on a 3 week cycle. For example, there was 1 session which was up a very steep-quite muddy (right pain when it had been raining, or was raining)- hill about 35/40m long and we had to do 3 sets of 4 runs with around 90 seconds between each run.

Another session we did was slightly longer, ideally suited to 4/800 guys, but it was a figure of 8 loop with 2 very short, but steep hills in and you really had to dig in to get up them. The real pain here was that we had to do 2 laps, and that is 1 run! So a typical session would have been 3*3 runs.

The other session we did was up a long, sandy hill that got steeper the further you went up it. The idea behind this 1 is coach blows whistle to go and you’ve got to get as far as you can in 30 seconds. Then the for the rest of the set you have to hit that mark. Then in the second set you have to beat the mark of the first set and then get the rest in the second set the same as the new mark. This was a horrible session-way too much lactic for my liking!!!

The sessions would rotate in the order i’ve described them. We only did them once a week, usually on a sunday morning as that’s when everyone can get to the various places that the sessions were held at at the same time.

Having done these sessions over winter I found that my lactic tolerance increased, though I wouldn’t have said that my power increased as a result of doing hills, it just put emphasis on driving correctly because if you don’t you end up falling over and landing with your face in the mud!!

As a coach who trains other sports besides track…it is a great way to work maximal effort without getting to 100% speed. This lowers the risk of hamstring pulls but keeps the workload high.

This week is my second week of GPP and i will be starting hills. The hills will be done 1x a week. Ands will be 30 meters. (concrete) What would you guys suggest as far as steepness goes?

I think we will be starting with 6-8 30 meter hills and then maybee eventually going up to 12. We will be running them at about 85% will almost full recovery.


What do hills provide that a good set of stairs do not?
The advantages of a hill is that you don’t have to conform your stride. But the advantage of stairs is that you have to keep your stride long and “boundy” the whole workout.

That’s exactly it - you don’t have to confrom your stride
With stairs/steps - head (and as a result posture) must be kept facing down to watch steps rather than concentrating on other elements
Re: bounding - that can be done on a hill also!!
Fall/trip on a hill is not the same as falling on stadium steps!

I have found that I can run stairs whithout watching where my feet goes. Just superior body awarness I guess. :wink:

What about when you run up stairs as fast as possible with as little knee-drive as possible - what could this be for? I believe this is typically done in team sports.

Ok it can be done Thor.
The low knee drive is used to develop fast twitch fibres and faster turnover.
I guess the idea is that after running 40 laps of the field enough slow work has been done and fast low knee work will balance that.

This is interesting.