Hill Sprints

How high should the hill be/what should the length of the hill be for hill sprints?

I have a hill that I run sprints on and it is several hundred feet in length. It’s impossible to sprint the whole thing.

What’s the max distance we should do?

I am an avid Fell Runner (one who runs up and down hills and mountains for fun) so hill sprinting, as well as stair running/climbing, is very much a part of my weekly training regiment. I am sprinting and running hills or stairs nearly every other day now as I have really cut back on the long distance runs due to age, time, avoiding muscle loss, and for injury prevention. I also prefer the shorter brisk runs. I have a number of short hill circuits ranging from 25 meters to 3,000 meters that I sprint/run regularly.

Some Advice for Hill Sprinting:

Don’t focus on the distance and/or run times yet. Work on your sprinting technique, hills are preferct for that.

I recommend 10 to 40-second all-out sprint intervals with varying walking (crawling) rests of 10-seconds to 3-minutes in between each sprint. Aim for a good 10-20 intervals per session; somedays you’ll be able to run twenty times other days barely ten. So you pretty much sprint-rest/walk your way to the top the hill.

If the hill has varying slopes/grades maybe sprint different percentage of grades as well. Or…

If there happens to be a very good spot on the hill that you prefer… has a very steep slope, maybe has grass, a safer section/area to run, etc. then just run your intervals on that section only by sprinting up, catching your breath, turning around, walking back down (preferably zig-zagging your way down) to your starting point, turning around, and then sprinting up that same hill section again.

You could also just make it one long sprint/run/walk circuit by using the full length of the hill by first sprinting all out until you are running than jogging than finally only walking/staggering/crawling. If you recover after walking and still have some distance to go try sprinting or running again. Long distance hill sprinting takes time to develop but you can do it if you learn to be efficient and use good running technique.

Some Running Technique Advice:

For shorter hill sprint distances remember to drive your arms and hands high with high knee drive, lean far forward, and stay on the balls of your feet.

For the longer hill sprint/run distances you still need to stay on the balls of your feet and drive the arms but not as excessive or as high (keep a good swing cadence to encourage a faster stride rate), the knee height will drop some with shorter strides/steps as the slope steepness increases. Try not to lean forward but remain more upright with shoulders back and relaxed… we call it “running tall”. As the steepness increases you may even begin jumping your way up that is normal and it is a good technique to get up a difficult slope.

Many Fell Runners may even use their hands to assist their leg drive by pressing their palms (heel of the hand) against the lower guads at just above the knee with the thumb on the inside and the middle finger on the outside with the index finger somewhere in the middle on the front of the knee… Don’t press on the mid or upper thigh area of the leg as this downward pressure actually stops the quads from straightening your leg and will actually brake you. Press the top of the knee very quickly and release immediately; don’t leave your hand on the knee this is very important.


Try some weighted runs or climbs up a steep hill or stairs. My Thai wife weighs only 40kg so she is on my back for some of my shorter sprints and when going up the stairs. For the sprints I sprint until my speed drops, I drop my wife, and finish the sprint distance without the weight. On the stairs I sprint until I am literally grunting up each and every step still holding my wife on my back until I am at the top. You could use a backpack or weight training vest instead.