T Nation

Hill Sprinting vs Mile Run


Ive got to the point where I need to lose some weight. I ran a mile last wk, and it just beats my feet and knees up. So im thinking of running hill sprints, and adding a sprint every few days.. Im thinking this will burn as many or more cals then jogging a mile. What is some of yall experience with this?


I lost a ton of fat back in highschool doing hill sprints, varied from 50 meters to around 200 uphill. Only thing that didn't kill my knees as well! I got fasted, more explosive, and lost some fat :slightly_smiling:

I always hear people suggest them on the forums too. Hill sprints that is, not distance running.


have you actually tried hill sprinting yet?

IMO hill sprints are much better for fat burning than jogging a mile... as long as it doesnt beat up your feet and knees like the jogging did then I say thats an obvious choice for your fatloss protocol. if you have access to a prowler or similar type sled you could do pushs/pulls with that... killer

Good luck OP.


roughly a hundred calories you're burning jogging a mile slow or running a mile fast.

the recovery part of hill sprints, the jog back down, is what will be hard on you if you have bad knees.

seems like all out of shape overweight people that start running have bad knees.. how do they all get bad knees?? were they all world class athletes for 20 years and slowly developed bad knees?? or are they overweight people that are carrying too much weight for their joints to handle??

they should all take up a non impact sport for a few years to loose weight before they start running. swim or bike first ..

i ran for 19 years, and ran hard with no knee problems..

most over do the training, like all of a sudden the want to be a runner with no previous running experience, then set a goal for the marathon... doing way too much... or they just start out and do hill repeats, when all their running muscles need to be developed first by jogging slow , and slowly building from there. tons of running posts on this forum over the years and they are all the same. out of shape non runners all of a sudden want to be a world class marathoner, or jump right into doing hill sprints.. terrible way to go about a new exercise..

good luck


I pretty much disagree with this post.
1. People typically walk back down the hill when doing hill sprints. Much less impact.
2. Not all energy systems are equally effecient. Counting the post-exercise increase in metabolic rate, 1 mile of sprints will burn far more energy than 1 mile of slow jogging.
3. Slow jogging isn't really going to be that beneficial for "developing" running muscles. The stride mechanics are very different between a slow jog and a hill sprint. Muscles are used in different ratios for each.

Doing hill sprints is lower impact and requires the person to cover far less distance (and thus has far fewer impacts) than typical jogging.


do hill sprints because they leave your hormonal profile in a more favorable state afterwards than does running for distance


Hill Sprints are much more effective. As long as your knees can take it, go for it. The steeper the hill, the better. If you don't feel like puking your guts out on the first two rounds, find yourself a more challenging hill.


I can't prove this or anything..but if you jog back down for recovery...I always ran down zig zag style. That way I wasn't pounding my knees....worked for 4 years for me, just a thought.


yeah bro hill sprints, also sprints in a wash or other thick sand, and or sprinting with a tire sled. made me more explosive and also improved my clean numbers


Sprinting is the way to go. Give it a try and slowly build up the volume.


Might sound a bit strange given the either/or question but have you considered doing simply a lot more walking every day. Sound very non-exercise i know but i initially shifted a lot of weight just by walking more...in the range of 3-4 miles a day, no pain apart from some early stiffness.

Nowadays although i can run again and even crack a decent pace (for a 53 year old) it's the morning fasted walk that is a consistent part of my routine.

Just a thought.

For pain and conditioning i would take the sprints..


Mr. Ed,

Whether you switch to hills, or continue distance, for your knee's sake, make sure your running on GRASS.
NOT concrete
NOT Asphalt
NOT a synthetic track.

Your feet and knees evolved for 10 million years on dirt, grass, sand etc. They are designed for optimal use and optimal health on these surfaces. Pavement ain't been around very long in the big picture. And if all you need to make running on pavement healthy is fancy ass $200 shoes, then why are all the college/pro baseball and football teams switching back to grass???

Because despite the fancy shoes, their biggest investment,their players, were dropping like flies due to knee and feet problems.

I haven't found a good grass hill in my new home in Nashville, so i run 40's on a nearby high school grass football field.
You may want to give flat sprints on grass a go, then try hills. Twenty 40's is a decent workout if ya run'em all out.

Stay on the grass.

Your knees will thank you.




Excellent post. Many sprinters from the Caribbean nations do much of their training on grass.

big nurse makes a good point about walking, it is more beneficial than most give it credit for as well as stress relieving.

As for the OP's question, it is not the calories burned during exercise that are important, it is what your body will burn afterward in the recovery and adaption phase.

Sprinting will have more of an affect on your hormones as fatassbob points out, and this is where you will reap the benefits from, both in fat loss and fitness improvements. Not to mention your longer distance running will likely improve at a faster pace focusing on sprints, sounds strange but even many distance runners are doing a lot of shorter workouts and only doing full distance runs once every two to four weeks.


What is difference in the hormonal profile of sprints vs distance running? Is it because your working at a greater intense and thus have greater EPOC?


Walking down the hill backwards really helps the knees. Take big strides when you do it. A physical therapist told me about this and it feels good after a hard sprint.


Thanks Maym,

i've never heard of this and will give it a go.



Why not just do both to prevent your cardio days from getting too repetitive and boring?


there was a popular study many years ago that followed seasoned runners and categorized them only by how much they paid for their shoes. the under $40 shoe crowd had the least injuries. over $100 the most. the point is that more cushioning is not better. Running on your toes is better. Thats how people ran until the 60's when the running shoe came about. So in general it can be said that sprinting is better for the knees than jogging. This is also the basis for the barefoot running.


I really don't think this is that big of a deal. Particularly if you are running up hill which already greatly reduces the amount of impact. Lots of people have been jogging on pavement for years with no problems.

I'll agree grass is better, but I wouldn't worry too much if there isn't a good grass hill around.


For me it is.
I use to box since my teens, got old, then coach'd kids, and when i coached i sparred which required stayin in shape. Miles and miles of early AM roadwork and evenings skipping rope took its toll. I was scheduled for knee miniscus surgery (in the fall 4 years ago) after an exam but asked my surgeon to wait till January because i had used all my medical pre-pay dollars that year. Came across an article talking about evolution, knee's and ankles and pavement and shoes. I couldn't just sit on my ass waitng for January so i found a softball field and started running circles around it in the grass. By January i had no pain at all. I had the knee's re-scoped and the tears in both knees had healed themselves. And sparring was no longer painful, except for when i caught a good left hook.

I don't do any running period on anything but grass.

I'll guess and say your not in your mid 50's yet. Yeah?

And i don't do distance anymore period either for the same evolutionary reasoning.

Ask yourself, aside from being better than doing no exercise at all, where is the evolutionary advantage to running long distance slowly (i.e. jogging) or for that matter running a marathon at WR pace????
10,000 years ago you had to be fast enough to catch the deer you wounded, and fast enough to get away from the bear or tiger. Sprints have evolutionary function. As a man, ask yourself, would you rather look like the olympic winner of the marathon or the 100 metre's. Or better yet go ask an 18 co-ed which one she thinks is hotter. Selection of the fittest.

Still think thats crap, go to a daycare and watch kids under 5 when they are free to play without rules. They do what comes natural. You NEVER see one running slowly around the playground. They will all run their tails off as fast as they can till they're out of breath, stop, catch they're breath, and do it all over again. Sprints. Just like a baby tiger that attacks it's mother's neck, or it's brother's neck when its playing. It ain't by accident.
We don't "learn" to jog until we get "old" cause its easy. And we ain't got to physically survive like our great great great grandad's did. But thats where are genes are from.

If you don't think running on pavement is problem go see an orthopedic surgeon and ask him/her how's business.