If getting healthy and fit feels like an uphill battle, then you just might be on the right path to the body of your dreams. That’s because, physically speaking, using hills in your workout can sometimes be all the resistance you need to strength train your body like a beast and take your cardio up to insane levels–two very good things when fat burning is part of your goal.
More specifically, incline workouts such as hill running, uphill cycling, and trail climbing create constant variety that doesn’t allow your body to fall into a rhythm that can often lead to loss in intensity. With hills, your body will be forced to adapt on the fly, which can over time help you develop muscle tone, increase your aerobic level, and build up endurance.
When adding hills to your workout, look to the low rolling kind at your local park, the steeper climbs that come on roadways, the huge hikers that requires trails to traverse, or the more man-made variety that comes with the aid of rising treadmill. No matter which you choose, you’re in for a serious sweat session if used to their fullest. Not sure how to work hills into your fitness plan? Let us be your guide!
Keep it short: For these workouts, look for hills that take less than 30 seconds to run up.
- Newbies: If your fitness has been mostly flat-land based, ease into incline training with hills that are smaller in size. Whether hiking, running, or cycling, pick a path that is mostly flat, but includes a few smaller hills to climb for variety.
- Sprints: For runners looking to build leg strength, seek out small, steep hills. Your workout will be focused on running full-out sprints up the hill while walking or jogging back down for about 60 seconds in between sets. Aim for eight to ten sprints. This can also be done on a bike with hills that take about 30 seconds or less to climb.
- Distance: Looking to increase endurance for long runs? Take the same approach as with sprints, but slow down the sprint to a fast run up the hill, and decrease the resting walk/jog in between to about 30 to 45 seconds. Up the rounds of runs to 20 to 25. Again, try it on a bike for a different workout completely.
Bound uphill: Add leaping strides to walking or running for a bounding workout that develops leg strength and a better stride.
- Forward: Think of taking giant strides forward, using your arms to help give you momentum as you climb up the hill.
- Side-to-side: Strengthen stabilizer muscles by changing your uphill stride. Drive off of your toes and jump out high and wide to each side, making your way to the top of the hill.
- Bunny bounding: Increase your vertical by jumping with two feet together and landing in a squat position. Use your arms to help you gain height, and hop your way to the hilltop.
Switch directions: Engage your muscles in different ways by turning the direction of your run.
- Reverse: Fire up your quads by running uphill backward. Best done on hills with no obstacles, face your back to the top of the hill and sprint your way up. Walk or jog back down for 45 to 60 seconds. Complete eight to 10 rounds.
- Side crossover: Turn your body perpendicular to the hilltop. With the foot closest to the bottom, crossover the opposite leg and step toward the top of the hill. From behind, step the lower leg up the hill. Keep the criss-cross pattern all the way up. Walk or jog back down for 45 to 60 seconds, and repeat this run pattern on the other leg. Complete four to five rounds on each side.
- Downhill: It’s easy to think of hill training as only going up, but going down has benefits in the way of creating more microtears in the muscles, which can help to quickly build strength. With your gaze out slightly ahead of you (instead of down at your feet), lean forward a bit so that your upper body is just ahead of your lower body. Tighten your core and take off down the hill using shorter steps and landing on the middle of your feet instead of on your heels. Be sure to land with soft knees to keep your joints protected. Do ten sprints down, and walk back to the top in between each.
Ready to make hills part of your next workout? Tell us what you have planned for your inclines!