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Hill Sprints for Novice Runners

by | In Depth Articles

For those relatively new to regular running, the notion of introducing maximal effort hill sprints is often met with concern over the possibility of over-training and encouraging injury. And yet, including one or two weekly hill sprint sessions into your training may well be safer than just knocking out long distances on flat ground.

The strength training stimulus that hill sprints provide is thought to play a major role in improving performance and may even reduce susceptibility to injury. Hill sprints can increase the power and efficiency of your stride, enabling you to cover more ground with each stride using less energy.

Hill Sprints for Neuromuscular Fitness

In the article Half Marathon Preparation, we looked at the importance of including different types of runs to your training in order to improve pace. We noted that running fitness has three components which although inter-related are stimulated by different types of training: Aerobic Fitness, Neuromuscular Fitness and Specific Endurance.

Hill sprints are an example of a type of training that enhances neuromuscular fitness, in other words communication between the brain and the muscles. Working at maximal or near-maximal levels challenges the nervous system to activate huge numbers of motor units and fire them quick enough to generate high force whilst resisting fatigue. Stride frequency, stride length and resistance to fatigue all depend on the efficiency of communication between the brain and muscles, and are all vital for production of optimum power, efficiency and resistance to fatigue.

Though long runs are important for developing aerobic fitness, without sufficient neuromuscular fitness form can deteriorate, inefficiency and fatigue set in, all of which are often associated with injury.

Hill sprints allow you to push your body and generate high leg turnover (cadence) without actually running that fast. This is of great significance as maximum speed work on flat ground is often associated with injury such as hamstring strains. Running uphill is also thought to stimulate form improvement by imposing demands that flat running does not.

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