Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Hill workouts are sometimes referred to as “strength training in disguise” because running uphill against gravity is a form of resistance.
Running hills is a great way to strengthen the muscles in your posterior chain — the backside of your body — including your glutes, hamstrings, and calves.
If you run with good posture and vigorously pump your arms, you’ll also strengthen your core, shoulders, and arms.
Given that hill workouts can be seen as a form of strength training, you should run hill repeats faster than training pace, such as at threshold pace, 5k race pace, or at near-maximal effort. In essence, you’re getting a strength and speed workout in one.
Most basic hill repeat workouts just involve running up the hill, turning around, and walking or jogging back down before doing it again. This is a good start, but it’s also good to practice pushing up and over the top and then continuing on the flats. After all, how many races end at the very top of the only hill in the race? You usually need to be able to ascend a hill and then recover as you keep going on whatever terrain follows the hill after you crest the top.
In this workout, you’ll attack each hill repeat as you normally would, but instead of turning around as soon as you’re at the top, you’ll keep running hard for 30 seconds. The good news is you’ll get a longer recovery between each rep as your reward.
The fitter you are, the faster you can take the flat part of the recovery, but if you’re a beginner, don’t be afraid to really lean into the recovery and go easy.
The hills should be run hard and the part at the top should be like the kick at the end of your race — fast!
Try your best to run with good form and only do as many reps as seems appropriate for your fitness level: 6-10 for beginners, 8-12 for intermediate runners, and 12-16 for advanced runners. If you find your form is breaking down, stop. It’s better to do fewer reps right than more reps sloppily.
- Warm up 1-3 miles, depending on your fitness level.
- Find a fairly steep hill that takes 30-45 seconds to run at 5k-10k pace.
- Attack each hill and at the top, continue running for 30 at near top speed.
- Turn around and jog back to the start. Repeat.
- Cool down 1-2 miles.
This is a great workout for preparing for hilly races and to build your leg strength and turnover.
Amber Sayer is a fitness, nutrition, and wellness writer and editor, and contributes to several fitness, health, and running publications. She holds two master’s degrees—one in exercise science and one in prosthetics and orthotics. As a NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer and USATF level 1 running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well.