Maniac Monday Workout: Hill Hell

Wanna build some mud run muscle in your legs without hitting the leg press or squat machine? Try steep hill sprints for a short and intense max-effort workout.

The Benefits of Steep Hill Sprints:

  • Strengthen running muscles
  • Prevent running injuries
  • Increase running efficiency
  • Shed fat
  • Increase overall running speed
  • More fun that flat land sprints

Getting Started with Steep Hill Sprints:

Be sure to get in a decent warm-up run prior to your first set of hill sprints. This might be anywhere from 1 mile to a 5K or more depending on your conditioning. Find a hill that has a grade between 5-8%. You can get the feel for this incline on a treadmill. Sprint for about 8-10 seconds, walk down the hill and repeat 2-3 times. That’s it! Your first session is done.

Wait at least 3-4 days before you begin your next set of hill sprints. Ideally, you should be able to increase your repetitions of 8-10 second sprints by 2-3 sprints. Once you work-up to 10 of these, find a steeper hill and increase your sprint time to 12-15 seconds. Again, once you advance to 10 of these 12-15 second sprints, find a slightly steeper hill and increase your sprint time to 15-20 seconds. Once you can complete 10 of these, you are ready to move on to the workout.

The Workout: Hill Hell

Rest 2 min between each set. The sprints, bear crawls and burpees are for time. 

  • Jog to hill
  • Complete 10 steep hill sprints (sprint up/walk or jog down)
  • Complete 10 steep hill bear crawls (bear crawl up & down)
  • Complete 10 burpees while facing uphill
  • Complete 10 burpees while facing downhill
  • Jog home

A few things to keep in mind when completing this workout:

  • Be careful on the declines, especially on the bear crawls and downhill burpees. You’ll be placing a lot of force on your shoulders, so those with shoulder concerns may wish to avoid the decline portion.
  • When crawling, pay attention to form and keep your hips low. If you are barely touching your hands to the ground, readjust so that
  • Sprinting uphill might feel like you are running through quicksand. In other words, your effort should be max, but your progress from point-to-point will be short and difficult. Don’t let the lack of ground covered discourage you.
  • Try to stay upright and balanced when running uphill. Fight the tendency to lean forward.
  • Push as hard as you can. This is one of those workouts where you want to go all out for the duration and improve your overall time with each session.
  • To avoid injury, do not complete more than 1-2 times per week. both on the Since your shoulders will be accepting the brunt of the force, if you have existing shoulder injuries, I would advise that you simply walk to back, rather than crawl it back.

More maniacal:

  • Complete the workout on a steep beach hill.
  • Complete with weighted vest or rucksack.

Mud Run Maniac wants your feedback…

Like this workout? Do me a solid and hit one of those share buttons above? Got something to say about it? Leave it in the comments below! Keep mudding! – Paul

Meet the Author

Mud Run Maniac
Mud Run Maniac

I'm the proud owner of, specializing in mud run training and tips! The mud run community is growing fast and I’ve made it my responsibility to keep you up-to-date on the latest and greatest mud running topics.

3 comments… add one
  • @MichaelDRico Dec 12, 2011, 6:23 pm

    Great article on a obstacle that killed my legs at Tough Mudder. I can’t stress enough how much I underestimated the hills of Tough Mudder. There is a hill near my neighborhood that is PERFECT for these workouts. I have recently been including this hill twice in my 5 mile runs, and it makes a difference.
    Looking forward to including this workout on my next run!

    • Mud Run Maniac Mud Run Maniac Dec 12, 2011, 6:37 pm

      Hey Mike,

      I think a lot of people underestimate the hill portions of mud runs, which seem to be the biggest cause of injuries and cramping. Practicing hill sprints is a great way to prevent this kind of misfortune. Also, staying hydrated is real important to avoid cramping and help you endure the difficult distance of a Tough Mudder event. Keep up the great training and let me know if there’s anything else I can help with.

  • John Hughes Dec 16, 2011, 12:29 am

    Great topic Paul, since hills are something many avoid. Almost every NFL team has added these to their training camp. They payoff late in games and the season. Google ‘Jerry Rice’ and you will see why he is the all-time record holder for receivers. He still runs “The Hill” today.

    You will develop better running mechanics since you need to pump your arms. Your foot strike is forced to the ball of the foot instead of the incorrect heal strike. It also helps to be relaxed when you sprint. Avoid clenched fists, make sure arm pump doesn’t cross your body’s midline and don’t clench your teeth which makes it hard to breath. You can also try walking down the hill backwards as you catch your breath.

    If you live in Toms River/Brick area, Ocean County College has hills perfect for this on the south side of the campus. You can run the roller coaster hills before and/or after. Also Central Ave in Island Heights has a paved hill on both the north and south side. The north side is a longer incline. If you live in Monmouth County, try Holmdel Park. Avoid Saturday mornings in the fall since it is a high school cross country race standard. The start is a long slow incline and the 5K course will expose you to an experience you won’t forget. “The Bowl” is perfect for sprints and is about halfway through the course. Hopefully you can find some hills near you and reap the benefits.

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