How to Complete High-Intensity Interval Hill Workouts

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Running is a cardiovascular exercise per excellence. It burns mad calories, boosts metabolism levels through the roof, prevents heart-related problems, and so on. But if you really want to reap the maximum health and calorie-torching benefits, opt for high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Combining HIIT with hill repeats is a great way to boost your fitness, and increase strength. 

Here's why:

Embrace HIIT: Interval hill running is a form of high intensity interval training, which is the best form of training for shedding pounds, building endurance, and scoring high on the fitness and health ladders.

More: Interval Workouts: The Best Way to Get Faster

Boost your VO2 Max: To boost your VO2 max, which measures your body's ability to produce energy and use oxygen efficiently, all you need to do is regular sprints at all-out effort three times a week, according to a study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology. According to the same study, three 20-seconds sprints at max capacity three times a week can increase your aerobic capacity by up to 15 percent.

More: 3 Workouts to Increase VO2 Max

Build Speed: Interval hill sprints are the perfect union between sprints and leg squats. They engage fast-twitch muscles that increase speed and pump legs with lactic acid, which eventually develops fatigue resistance.

More: How to Push Past Your Lactic-Acid Limits

Boost Muscle: Hill sprints are performed in opposition to gravity, so unlike running on flat surfaces, they boost muscle mass—chiefly in the lower body—more efficiently and with less impact.

Getting Started

When starting a hill running workout, you need to keep in mind these four main ingredients: 

  • gradient
  • duration
  • total number of sprints
  • recovery period between each interval

Of course, the length and intensity of each sprint depends for the most part on your fitness level and training goals. No one suit fits all. You need to find the best combo that works best for you.

More: Interval Training Tips


If you're a beginner, start with a hill that has a gradient of four to eight percent before upping the ante. Sharp hills, with a 10- to 15-percent gradient, have better strengthening effects but are more taxing on calves and Achilles tendons. These types of hills aren't for beginners.


The length of each hill run depends on your fitness goal. If you're looking to boost power and speed, aim for sprints of 5 to 15 seconds. To improve fatigue resistance, sprints of 20 to 30 seconds are the way to go. And to improve overall fitness and get killer endurance, shoot for sprints longer than 30 seconds.


To build muscle and lung power, you need to do lots of sprints. Do as many as you can as long as you're keeping good form and feeling in control. When form starts going south, or you no long can sustain the intense activity for one more step, opt for recovery or call it quits for the day.


The recovery period gives you time to rejuvenate and prepare for your next sprint. That's it. Take ample recovery so you can come back strong on your next interval, but don't take so long that you get stiff. Rest for 45 seconds to one full minute for every 10-to-25 seconds of sprinting is a good general rule.

More: 4 Expert Hill Running Tips

How to Perform an Interval Hill Workout

1. Begin with a warm-up. Jog slowly for 5 to 10 minutes. A decent warm-up gets your body ready for the workout, and prevents premature fatigue and possible injury.

2. Choose a hill with a gradient of 4 to 8 percent.

3. Find two natural signposts, like rocks or trees, or leave noticeable objects at the bottom and top of the hill to mark your sprint course.

4. Perform your first sprint at about 80 percent of your maximum effort.

5. Jog slowly to the starting point.

6. Repeat steps four and five 5 to 8 times, depending on your fitness and exertion levels.

7. Cool down with a 5-minute slow jog. Stretch gently afterwards.

To get the most out of these training guidelines, you need to start taking action on what you've just learned. And always remember to stay within your fitness level to prevent injury. Challenge yourself, but remember that fitness gains come gradually. 

More: 7 Hill Running Workouts That Increase Power

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