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How Hill Training Works

The Hill Training Method

When beginning a hill training program, start with a short slope of about a 2 to 3 percent grade, working up to an ideal of about 5 to 10 percent. Initially, you'll want to run on gentler surfaces, such as grass or dirt, which have less of a jarring effect on the muscular and skeletal system.

Strenuous hill running once or twice a week is enough to stimulate adaptation. It will build up the quadriceps fibers, the necessary base muscles you'll need for advanced hill training [source: Cooper]. And no matter which hill training program you pick, make sure that each individual hill charge takes you at least a minute to complete. Shorter charges are less effective muscle- and endurance-building tools.

Run with your knees lifted higher than they would be in flat running, and pump your arms higher and more vigorously. The exaggerated movements help propel the body forward like a sprinter. Keep the arms and elbows at a 90 degree angle, and instead of swinging them across the body and wasting energy, swing them back and forth as you run [source: Bloom]. Lean slightly forward for momentum, but keep the body straight and aligned. It's easier to maintain this form if you keep your eyes fixed directly in front of you instead of looking at the ground. Pressing forward with your hips will prevent you from bending at the waist [source: Bloom].

It's also best to stay as relaxed as possible. For example, don't clench your fists but keep them loose (this will also eat up less energy as you pump your arms) [source: Bloom]. If you feel tenseness in your shoulders as you charge a hill, rapidly roll them forward and back for relief. If your quads feel tight -- and they probably will -- a form trick to get them feeling better is to kick the leg back slightly at the end of each stride on the incline [source: Wharton].

Read on to find out how a hill training program can help you reach your running goals.