And if you’re not doing them you’re missing out on huge benefits.
Don’t waste your time on cardio machines. They suck.
Get outside and find a hill instead.
If you are new to sprinting you need to take it easy when getting started.
I mean reeeeaaaally easy.
If the last time you ran a sprint was the week before senior prom you need to be very cautious or you’ll probably get hurt.
Hill sprints place your body in a safer position than flat ground sprints because of the angle, so there is far less impact.
The risk of pulling a hammy or popping an Achilles or something in your knee is greatly reduced.
That’s one of the main reasons they’re better than flat ground sprints.
And of course, because Walter Payton did them.
Since he was my favorite athlete growing up (along with Michael Jordan) I started running hill sprints way back in the 80’s when I found out that that’s what “Sweetness” did (and that poster, pictured above, was on my bedroom wall for years. You see how ripped Payton was?).
Hill sprints bring out something that you can’t really get in the weight room, something that you really can’t get on the track. All the guys that I know that worked out on a hill, they were a cut above the other competition around the league and they had long careers.” – Mike Singletary
Another great thing about hill sprints versus other fat loss methods is that they also build muscle at the same time.
Can’t really say that for the stairmaster, can you?
Warm Up Properly
Wearing some neoprene knee sleeves might be a good idea just to keep the knees warm.
I recommend starting with about five to ten minutes of low intensity drills to get the body ready for the task at hand.
A good warm up might consist of:
• Jumping jacks
• Seal jumps
• Ali shuffle
• Low pogo jumps
• High pogo jumps
• Prisoner squats
• Gate swings
• Wide outs
• Leg swings- front, back, side to side
• Walking lunges
• High knees
• Butt kicks
• Tuck jumps
• Lateral shuffling
The nice thing about sprinting up a hill is that you don’t require as much of a warm up.
After hitting 5-10 minutes of the drills listed above start with some lower intensity sprints. Do one at about 60%, then 70%, another at 80%, one more at 90% and then you’re ready to go.
Use the Appropriate Intensity
For the most part I recommend that your sprint work be done at around 95-97%. Very rarely should you go all out at 100%. I realize that the difference between 95-97% and 100% may seem very small but an athlete in tuned with his body can tell the difference.
And keeping the intensity just that much lower makes a big difference in overall recovery and CNS fatigue.
Again, if it’s your first sprint session in years you need to start way easier than you think. I recommend no more than FIVE sprints of no more than 20-40 yards the first day.
See how you feel after the first session and give it a go again in about five days. Slowly increase the intensity over time.
Rest periods can be as short or as long as you need them to be. You want to keep your heart rate elevated but you don’t want to rest so little that your form starts getting sloppy and you risk injury.
If you were training for speed you might be resting up to five minutes between each set. But since today’s topic is hill sprints for fat loss try to keep the rest periods a bit lower.
We don’t need complete CNS recovery here.
The next thing we need to discuss is proper running mechanics. This is where most people get it all wrong.
Since this is not a discussion on maximal speed training or mastering the 40 yard or 100 meter dash we won’t concern ourselves with the start so much.
Instead, to be safe, we will use flying starts, meaning you start by running at less than your maximal speed and work your way up to top speed over the course of 15-20 yards.
• Starting from the top down, the face must be relaxed. Do night clench your jaw or make any crazy faces. Relax.
• Keep the chest up and shoulders back and down.
• No side to side rotation of the pelvis, torso, shoulder girdle is allowed.
• Hips remain forward toward the finish line at all times.
• Arms should be bent ninety degrees with the hands open (no clenched fists or flailing, limp wrists).
• When you are running the arms must pump vigorously, forward and backward. NEVER LET THE ARMS CROSS THE MIDLINE OF THE BODY. Only forward and backward.
Little kids run with their arms side to side.
Don’t do that or we will all make fun of you.
• Think of pulling yourself through the air by driving your arms back as fast and hard as you can. The hands come up to a level even with the face and they come down and cross your pocket on the way back (but no further; don’t have them swinging way behind you).
• Drive the knees high and be sure that the foot strikes directly under your body; not out in front of you (although, on a hill this may be slightly different depending on the incline).
• Only the front portion of the foot should strike the ground; the heel should never make contact.
• When the ball of the foot makes contact with the ground think of yourself as an animal pawing at the ground and rapidly pulling it behind you.
• As Charlie Francis said, running takes place on the ground, sprinting takes place above it. If you do it right you should feel minimal impact or stress and should feel like you are flying effortlessly. If you’re taking a lot of pounding and it feels like a lot of work, you’re doing something wrong and should consider having someone watch or video tape you for some feedback.
What I listed above are basically the instructions for flat ground sprints but can easily be applied to the hill.
A few angles will change here and there but for the most part, if you follow those recommendations you’ll be ahead of the pack and your sprints will be a lot safer and faster.
So make like Walter Payton and Jerry Rice and go find yourself a hill to start sprinting up…