Strength training: hill running to increase power

Hill running for strength training - Uphill sprints boost hip power

Hill running is often used by runners as a specific form of strength training. And now its benefits have been confirmed and quantified in a new study comparing the effects of running on the level with those of running at a steep 30% incline. The study involved 12 male athletes, whose joint mechanics and muscular activity were compared while they ran in three different situations: at 4.5 metres per second on a 30% incline; at the same speed on the level; at 7.6 m/s on the level.

The following key differences were observed:

* Inclined sprints involved a much shorter stride and slightly longer ground contact time than level sprints;
* The knee, hip and ankle joints are more flexed during inclined sprinting;
* Leg muscles appear to work harder during inclined sprinting, with greater activity in the gastrocnemius, soleus, vastus lateralis and gluteus maximus muscles.

These observations suggest that hill sprinting does indeed offer strength training for runners. Although the running action is basically the same, the muscles must work harder to maintain the speed.

The main benefit of hill sprinting is likely to be seen in the hip area, as the hip extensors produce a great deal of power during stance and the hip flexors must drive the leg through more rapidly during swing. The high knee lift and the shorter swing time in hill sprinting place extra demands on the hip musculature, providing a positive training benefit. Hip flexor power has been championed as a major influence on maximum sprinting speed, and hill sprinting seems likely to develop this power very effectively. The message is that regular hill sprint workouts at fast speed up a steep slope should boost your maximum speed.

Med Sci Sports Exerc 2000 32(4) 1146-1155

Raphael Brandon

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