Training Ideas: Hill Starts

Sprinters need to apply metric tonnes of force to beat the competition, especially in the starts. Bad starts suck up a lot of the potential in a race, since they have to work even harder throughout the rest of the race just to catch up. This means that making sure you have a strong, powerful start is essential for your performance. One way to build tremendous power is to practice starts on an incline.

Our Running Idea:

Coaches tout hill training as being one of the most important parts of any running regime. This is because a lot of runners can handle the distance – they can go for hours. When it comes to hills though, people falter. They require a lot of leg strength, endurance, and willpower, all in one neat package. To get better, logic says that hill training can help you get better, and it does.

Our running idea is hill starts. As hills require such a large amount of power to climb, sprinters can take a lot out of this training. Not only that, but runners interested in longer distances can get the benefit of knowing that their legs will become strong enough to handle any incline.

Hill Starts:

The idea is to simply run up a hill with as much drive behind every footstep as possible. Because this is all about practicing your starts, a short incline of only 20-50m is needed. Your calves will burn and your quads will strain, but it will lead to you developing more fast-twitch muscles to use in an upcoming race.

Try this: run your warm-up. Do strides, stretch, and make sure you’re hydrated. Find an incline – it could be gentle, it could be a nightmare. As long as it requires climbing, it will help. Of course, you will get more from a steeper slope than a gentle slope, so bear that in mind. When beginning, a gentler slope would be better before you progress onto tougher training.

Run a couple practice strides up the hill to get your bearing. These don’t have to be fast, you’re watching your form and how your body feels going up the hill. Then we start the hard stuff.

Do 6×20-50m with as much force as you can muster for the distance. Give yourself a minute or two between each to let your legs rest and recover, then go for the next rep. These will be tough, so pay attention to your body. If it proves too much, stop and rest. A pulled muscle will lead to a worse start than what you began with.

Take Note:

As with most of the training ideas posted here, it’s suggested to rest up the day after. Sprint training is tough on the body, and your body needs time to repair. Your calves will need a break, because this training will force you up onto the balls of your feet. Similarly, your quads and hamstrings will be weaker simply because of having to climb up an incline in such short amount of time.

Proper rest can grow you as a runner much faster than by running too much in the hopes that more training = more growth. There’s only so much your body can handle.

Bonus Idea:

Take your shoes off! Try barefoot running, if the hill has soft grass then you can develop better foot control and grow the muscles in your feet and calves even more. Running barefoot can help you improve your form and grow the stabilizers in your muscles.

Barefoot running is known to:

  • Running Form
  • Muscle Growth
  • Foot Control
  • Improve Power and Leg Stiffness
  • Reduce Injury (During Barefoot Running)

Final Notes:

Sprints need so much power to start strong, so training your starts is vital to building up to your top performance. You’ll be able to hit new PB’s and show up your competition. This training idea doesn’t only apply to sprinter though, as training on a hill will develop fast-twitch muscles that can help you climb hills faster, reach new top speeds, and give stronger calves that will prop you up with better form.

Training on hills is not easy. Taking in the proper protein and rest will be absolutely necessary after this. One way to help recovery is to take a walk – this gets the blood flowing throughout the legs which decreases the amount of time needed to regrow.

Train hard and you’ll come out strong. Take advantage of the inclines in your neighbourhood, they can revolutionize your training. Good luck!


Caleb Thompson is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, and other Amazon stores worldwide.

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