Hill training: the new speed?

Just when we’ve boasted that we’re “all over” interval training, there’s a new trend on the horizon: hill training. Hill training (or hill climbing) is a highly effective way of working out as it involves a lot of gluteal and thigh work, which activates many muscle fibres. All this muscle activation makes your body work hard, drastically increasing your cardio capacity – as well as improving your strength and tone. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Here are a few ways to incorporate hill training into your fitness routine, along with some tips to keep you injury free.


Start gently
Hill climbing involves a lot of hip and knee flexion. If you’re not used to this activity then it’s advisable not to commence too quickly or you may put yourself at risk of developing bursitis in the hip or knee (bursitis is inflammation of the bursa, a sac filled with lubricating fluid, located between tissues such as bone, muscle, tendons, and skin, that decreases rubbing, friction, and irritation). Try no more than 15 minutes a couple of times per week, interspersed with your normal walking or running and build up slowly, week by week.

Remember to stretch afterwards
Due to the extensive amount of knee and hip flexion, you will need to adequately stretch your muscles afterwards. Your hamstrings and adductors will require attention to avoid bursitis of the knee; your gluteal muscles will need to be stretched to avoid hip bursitis, and your iliopsoas will need to be kept in check to avoid nasty tightening in the lower back.

Engage your gluteal muscles
Your gluteal muscles are some of the most powerful muscles in your body. They are important stabilisers of the pelvis and lower back and should be doing most of the work when you climb. Concentrating on engaging this muscle group is important; however, it’s important to remember not to get too excited when engaging a muscle group. There’s no need to be overly conscious, and therefore contriving your movement patterns. However, being aware of your gluteal muscles and being mindful of engaging them is a good idea. Your glutes will become more engaged by simply leaning forward slightly going uphill. Try to push off from your heel rather than the ball of your foot, the latter of which will put too much stress on your knees. Generally speaking, pressing your heels into the ground is a good way of firing up your gluteals.


At the gym: jump on the Stairclimber/Stairmill
You may have noticed an increase in popularity in the old Stairclimber at the gym, and this new hill training trend could be the reason! The Stairclimber is a great way of engaging your glutes and quads. But again, don’t overdo it. Perhaps try no more than a 10 minute interval and slowly work your way up over time. You may be surprised at the powerful effects it has on your body, both with muscle tone and recovery time.

At the gym: turn off your treadmill
At your local gym, if allowable, try turning off your treadmill. Manually running on your treadmill has unique benefits. Although working out on the treadmill in the usual way is extremely beneficial, your movement chain is different to what it would be when walking or running up a hill. With the treadmill, the belt automatically pulls your foot underneath and behind you, giving you a lesser workout compared to running naturally. To obtain the same benefits as hill climbing, turn off the treadmill and run manually, pushing the belt behind you. Try doing this at a steady pace for 20 seconds, and then have a rest interval for the following 20 seconds, then repeat. Run strongly again for 20 seconds, then rest for a whole minute. Repeat this entire circuit two more times.

On the road: start climbing hills
Yes, it has to be said that if you want to incorporate hill training the easiest way to do it is find yourself a hill and start training. For those who are keen, there are many training patterns to explore, but today we’re going to keep it simple and show you a way of introducing yourself to this method by doing the following exercise.

uphill training techniquesRun up a hill at a reasonable pace that is moderate in intensity, so that you can hear your breath (in other words, not too hard). Once you have reached the top of the hill, you should feel challenged, but not depleted. As you will not be completely spent, you will be in a good condition to take advantage of your downhill run. While running downhill, focus on letting go, opening up your stride slightly, and making sure that you are hitting the ground lightly. Let the hill take you down. Once again, this run shouldn’t be at full intensity. Keep your body in control to avoid injury and remember that downhill running increases impact on the body. Stay with this program for no more than 10 to 15 minutes and finish off your workout with either a light run or walk to cool down for a further 10 minutes. You’ll be an expert hill runner in no time!

Sage Institute of Fitness – it’s more than a job, it’s a rewarding career.

Vicki Tuchtan

Vicki Tuchtan

Vicki Tuchtan is the Academic Director at Sage Institute of Education. She oversees learning processes, teaching outcomes, resources and course development. A passionate advocate for bettering standards of training in Australia, she is currently writing her PhD thesis on defining quality training in the Australian vocational education sector.
Vicki Tuchtan

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