Hill Sprints For Fat Loss - Cube Dweller Fitness

Hill Sprints For Fat Loss

Sprint training with new gadgets keeps getting lots of press. Run with a sled, sprint with a parachute, sprint with bungees attached, push a Prowler, etc. But I say, “who needs a Prowler?” Sure having a sled (or other sprinting gadget) is great, but I don’t have space to store it or use it. So how can you do sprint training for fat loss, explosive strength, and power in your legs? Hill sprints while hiking. Hill sprints will help you burn fat fast, so find ways to build them into your training; even if that means adding some side-adventures to life.

Look a Hill

I’ve been a long time fan of running hills. Who knows why, but every time we are out hiking I see hillsides and wonder what’s up there? and find myself longing to sprint up to find out. Most of the time I resist so our hiking adventures don’t end up like a Family Circus comic.

Family Circus Adventure by Bil Keane
Family Circus Cartoon for Apr/15/2012

Copyright 2012 Bil Keane Inc. Dist. by King Features Syndicate.

So what can I say I’m easily distracted. But sometimes I can come up with good excuses to be distracted. Like running hill sprints while hiking. Running hill sprints is a must-have in your fitness regimen – especially if you want to burn fat. We were recently out for a hike in the Cheyenne Canyon trail system. It was a beautiful day and amazing countryside. Just hiking was a good form of low impact cardio training, but then I saw it. I just had to take time to run a few hill sprints, check out the video:

[Warning: don your shades so you don’t get blinded by my pasty white skin. I thought I would never post a shirtless video, but I couldn’t pass up this hill, nor the chance to share creative hill training ideas. So … I apologize ahead of time. You were warned.]

But if you’ve been trapped in your cube for more decades than you are willing to admit, be sure to read on and start slowly. Don’t just bust out and start sprinting the closest hill to the office. Be smart about it.

Why Sprint Hills? Top 5 Answers

The first question I started asking to "be smart about hill sprints" was … Why Sprint Hills?

Answer #1 – Tried and True

Hill sprints have been around longer than me, I know that’s hard to believe. The San Francisco 49ers were renowned for training with hill sprints though out the 80’s and early 90s – and it works. Dig into Jerry Rice – he is still training on “The Hill”.

Roger Craig and Raymond Ferris got Jerry Rice into training The Hill. 2.5 miles up and they ran it for time. Jerry says that by training on the Hill it helped him build the mental stamina to keep going. Check out this video where Jerry Rice talks about “the Hill”.

Start digging into Walter Payton’s training and you will find “the Hill”. 50-60 yards of dirt that wracks your mind and keeps you coming back to beat your own records. His conditioning was, and is, phenomenal and hill sprints was a core element of his training.

Answer #2 – High Intensity

Training in the midst of busy life leads me to search for ways to get in, get down to work, and be done. That means cranking the intensity up. Hill training doesn’t leave me pounding pavement for hours to cover miles like an endurance runner. Instead hill training lets you hit it hard with high intensity then get on living life.

Answer #3 – Boosts Metabolism

By combining aerobic and anaerobic training together running hill sprints kicks up your metabolism. By boosting your metabolism hill sprints will continue to burn fat hours after you leave the hill. You metabolism just keeps the fire burning; burning off fat.

Answer #4 – Speed and Power

Most of us aren’t training to compete like Jerry Rice or Walter Payton, but we do compete in life. Being able to train to improve speed and power helps in any adventure it doesn’t have to be on a playing field.

A recent example is my adventure to try paragliding. I went flying with Adventure Paragliding in Glenwood Springs, CO. The adventure included a tandem flight where I jumped off a mountain and time learning some of the ground handling skills needed to launch and land a paraglider. Pine from Adventure Paragliding said that when people are in better physical condition it is easier and quicker to teach them how to fly. I will most likely never win any track and field events, but hill training build my speed and power enough that Pine said I would learn how to fly in half the time it normally took.

Check out my Ostrich run with a paraglider. The form feels so odd since you need to keep the brake lines of the glider slack when running forward.

Regardless of you goals, hill sprints will increase your speed and power.

Answer #5 – Safety

When compared to running sprints on flat-land, running sprints on hills is safer. Simply adding the incline teaches your body the proper mechanics to run faster with less risk of injury.

But sprinting hills is more beneficial than satisfying your inner-child. Sprinting hills is an excellent way to train explosive strength and power in your legs.

Visual Impact Cardio

If you are looking for state of the art information on aerobic training to add to your workouts, check out Visual Impact Cardio.

Rusty rocks the conventional boat again with this program and challenges conventional wisdom with info like…

How Stubborn Body Fat is more sensitive to insulin, less sensitive to adrenaline, and has less blood flow compared to “regular” body fat.

Hill Sprint Form

When running sprints take time to focus on your form. While training on the hill you are building muscle memory that will help you run faster on the flat-lands.

  1. Relax Already – your life is undoubtedly stressful enough, don’t add tension while hill sprinting. Consciously think about relaxing your body from head to toe. Don’t clench or strain as you sprint.
  2. Pump In Line – think like a locomotive and pump in line with the hill. Your arms and your legs should be driving up to cover more ground then rapidly pumping back down and back. Do not swing side to side, or twist. Pump.
  3. Tippy Toes – if you read my review of the Ultimate Tough Mudder Footwear you know I’m venturing down the minimalist running road and landing with your mid-sole is foundational, but on the hill that changes. With the incline your sprint should be done on your toes, stay on your tippy toes. While sprinting up the hill your heel shouldn’t even make contact with the ground. Just keep pumping and moving from one set of toes to the other.
  4. Hover – okay so if you really figure out how to hover the entire internet will want proof, but … running hill sprints should feel like you are hovering above the ground. Each contact should be light, then drive back. Your legs pumping, almost spinning, should keep your momentum. Much of your effort will keep you moving up the hill with little impact, or pounding, as if you were hovering.

Hill Sprint Workouts

Find a hill, sprint up, come down, and repeat.

Okay that is an over simplification, but really it shouldn’t be that difficult (see Ross’s post below). Start off by adding one session of hill sprints per week into your training. Find a hill that is 30 degrees (or more) that has a section roughly 12-20 meters long you can sprint.

Start off with no more than 5 sprints per session. Sprint up the hill going nearly all out – shoot just short of 100% intensity. By sprinting at 95-97% intensity your body will recover better and will keep from suffering from fatigue. Push hard, then walk down to recover.

If you are just starting take all the time you need to recover. Time your overall workout and the number of trips up the hill. Your goal should be to increase the amount of work done in each session. Either run more times, or reduce the amount of time it takes to complete the session.

If you are running hill sprints for fat loss then work on keeping your rest periods shorter, but if you want to train for speed then rest completely with your recovery period reaching 5 minutes between sprints.

As you progress add another session per week, increase the length of your sprint (remember Jerry Rice’s hill was 2.5 miles long), and increase the amount of work done each session.

Start running hills and you will see a difference, a difference in your body composition, your energy levels, your performance, and your strength. Get your there and run some hills.

Read More on Hill Sprints

Hill sprinting is not new and there is much more you could read. Here are a few articles that you should take time to read. They include excellent information on adding hill sprints to your training.

Get Out there and Hit the Hills

Running hills should be part of your training, so get out there and hit the hills. Also keep an eye out for side adventures where you can stop and hit the hills as well.

Let’s hear how you mix hill sprints into your training.


Troy is the founder of Cube.Dweller.Fitness. He's an innovation catalyst in several areas of life including business, marketing, and process improvement. Outside of work he's actively involved in fitness, health, and living vibrantly in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

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