7 Exercises to Improve Your Hill Running

hill exercise

The best way to get good at running hills is…is to do more hill running.

The key is practice, consistent training.

I know, I know, hills suck and they are tough.

But as a runner, you have to do them if you are serious about reaching your full running potential.

Hills bring so many benefits.

If you do them regularly, you will increase your running economy, prevent injury, lessen impact forces on your legs, and boost your stride power.

In fact, adding hills runs into your training program is one of the best ways to build your endurance, increase your speed, and sculpt your lower body—something running on the smooth terrain just won’t do.

Well, if you are really serious about becoming the best on the hill, without running more hills, then you might consider adding a strength workout session into your training program.

Nonetheless, there is another thing you can do to make running hills easier without running more hills…

Enter strength training.

Don’t get me wrong.

Strength training will not make you a hill running god, but it will surely help you build a lot of power and strength in your running muscles.

Truth be told, to tackle the hills, you will need strong glutes, hamstring, quads, and calves.

You will also need a powerful core to maintain proper uphill running form and rhythm.

So if you always struggled with the hills, then today I’m going to share with you a set of exercises that you can do at home or in the gym to help you improve your hill running.

The exercises below target and strengthen the key muscles that will help you ascend and descend the hills with much more power and speed.

runner running uphill

7 Exercises to Improve Your Hill Running Speed & Endurance

Here are seven strength exercises you should include in your strength routines to help become more proficient at running hills.

1. Step-Ups

Targeted Muscles: Quadriceps, glutes.

Begin by placing your right foot on an elevated platform, whether it’s a sturdy chair or bench for this quadriceps strengthening move.

Make sure that your right knee bent at a 90-degree angle while the left leg is straight and firmly planted on the floor.

Next, while keeping your chest up and core engaged, bring your left foot up, and lift it to a 90-degre angle.

Then, bring your left foot down leg by flexing the hip and knee of the right leg, tapping the floor to complete one rep.

Make sure to keep your right foot firm and unmoved as you bend and straighten your left knee.

Aim for 12 to 16 reps on each side to complete one set.

2. Squat

Targeted Muscles: Quads, hamstrings, and glutes.

Begin by assuming an athletic position with feet hip distance apart, back straight, and toes facing forward.

Next, shift your weight to your heels as you bend your knees and sit back like you are about to sit in a chair behind you.

Sit back until your knees are bent at about 90-degree angle and you feel your hamstrings, quads and glutes fire up, then while pressing through the heels, come back up to standing.

Please keep your core engaged, chest up and knees tracking over the toes the entire time.

And for added challenge, perform the weighted squat version while holding dumbbells or a resting a loaded bar on the upper back.

Aim for 12 to 16 reps to complete one set.

3. Lunge with a Kickback

Muscles Targeted: Glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps.

Hold a set of dumbbells at your sides and assume an athletic position, then step forward with your left leg and bend both knees to 90-degree angles, lowering into the lunge position.

Next, lift up, and push off with your right leg, using the momentum to lift the right leg straight up behind you, hold for a moment squeezing the glutes, then lower it down slowly.

Then, bring your right leg forward and repeat the lunge with a glute kick with your left leg.

Please make sure to keep your back straight and torso upright the entire time.

4. Calf Raises

Muscles targeted: The calves.

Stand with balls of your feet on the edge of a step with feet about three to four feet apart, toes turned out.

Next, raise your heels a few inches above the edge of the step, and begin to pulse the hips up and down, to isolate and feeling a stretch in the calf muscles.

Continue pulsing for 45-second to one minute to complete one set.

For more challenge, you can always use a weighted calf machine, a leg press machine, or simply hold dumbbells or a barbell in your hands.

5. Split-Stance Jumps

Muscles Targeted: Glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps.

Begin by standing in a split stance with your right foot a half-step ahead of the left.

Next, bend down and jump as high as you can off both off feet, switching legs in mind air.

Perform 12 to 16 jumps to complete one set.

6. Straight Arm Planks Row

Muscles targeted: Upper back and core muscles.


Assume a straight arm plank with the weight and hands under the chest, arms directly beneath the shoulders, and body forming a straight line from the head to the ankles.

This is the starting position.

Next, while engaging your core to keep you stable and steady, lift one dumbbell at a time up to your ribcage, hold for a moment, then slowly lower it down to the floor, then repeat on the other side to complete one rep.

7. Deadlift

Muscles Targeted: Core, glutes, hamstrings and calves.

Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing slightly outward, and balls of the feet lined up under the bar.

Next, squat down and grasp the bar with shoulders width, then while keeping the bar close to your body the entire time, lift the bar as you work to straighten the legs to full extension.

Then, hold for a moment, lower the bar down to the floor by bending your knees forward, tapping the weight on the floor before standing back up.

Please make sure to keep your back straight and knees pointed same direction as the feet throughout the exercise.

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Image Credit – Dusty International via Flickr


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