Hill running is often thought of by weightlifters as an activity for those cardio freaks who pound the treadmill instead of sweating on the squat rack. But hill running has great benefits for strength sports enthusiasts too, being a top workout for all the main muscle groups in the lower body.
Running up and down hills is tough on the thighs. Quads, hamstrings, calves and glutes can all get a great workout from this simple exercise. It is also good for strengthening the gastrocnemius and hip flexors.
How to build leg strength with hill running
For heavy athletes, running might seem tough on the knees, but if you stick to grassy areas or a treadmill where there is extra support and a softer surface, this shouldn’t be a problem. Plus, running uphill is easier on the legs in some ways – it greatly reduces the risk of shin splints.
If you live near hills, great – but there are ways to improvise without a real life hill in sight. Running up and down stairs can be a good substitute for the serious leg workout of a good hill.
There’s no harm in combining cardio workouts with weights either as increased fitness can help your weightlifting.
If you don’t live near a hill and don’t fancy pounding up and down the stairs, try setting the treadmill at the gym to a steep incline.
Benefits of running downhill
The benefits of hill running don’t end when you get to the top of the hill. Running downhill puts a lot of emphasis on the quads and engages your core, so this part of the run also exercises your abs as you are forced to hold your body upright.
You engage more synergist or ‘helper’ muscles to keep your steady as you run downhill, as this takes a lot of control to prevent increasing your speed.
Not only does running up and down hills work out your legs it also works your arms as they naturally swing more when running on a hill.
How to avoid quad fatigue when hill running
To eliminate the soreness in the quads from a heavy hill workout, focus on strengthening the hamstrings which will help avoid a muscle imbalance.
While running up hill, keep your strides short. Lift your foot up behind you after each step using those hamstrings and glutes to help drive the leg forward for the next stride – don’t rely solely on the quads and hip flexors to do all the work.
One last tip: Remember to keep posture upright – don’t lean too far forward going uphill or backward going downhill.
Leaning too far can put extra pressure on joints and increase the risk of injury. Leaning also contributes to quad fatigue when running uphill.