Over the years I’ve discovered that the faster I want to burn fat the shorter I want my workouts to be. It is this philosophy that drove me to Hill Training. I stumbled upon Hill training when I was boxing in my youth. I was running nearly 10 miles a day and was bored out of my mind, not to mention I was putting so much time in an not getting the desired result: fat loss. I wanted to shorten my workouts and still get the same benefits or better. I tried experimenting with sprint work and interval training which worked wonders but a track coach at my school suggested I incorporate Hills into my workout. You’re probably not familiar with Ridgefield, NJ or Ridgefield Memorial High School but it sits at the foot of a beautiful winding hill called “Major Stocum Drive”. This hill would become my unrelenting nemesis for years to come. The more I trained on it the more it would mock me. I had been running everyday at least 10 miles a day on average and one set of “Interval Hills” kicked my ass. My legs felt like they were going to explode, my lungs where no longer inside my chest cavity (or so I thought) and I think my heart escaped while I was puking.
Although I did a bunch of strength related exercises at the gym such as squats, leg presses, leg extensions and curls I never felt the power that I was able to get from contracting my muscles against gravity in a sustained fashion. What seemed magical was with this Hill Training I was able to take some time off and still not lose my fitness gains and it helped to make my tendons and ligaments stronger as well. The side effect of this intense training was an extreme drop in body fat. With the increased workload in shorter spurts I was actually expended more calories than during my many hours of running. As I later found out my body had adapted to the sustained repetitive workload of the running and became efficient at using the energy required to propel me on my journey. Hill Training created “chaos” in my energy systems and the increased workload expended more calories. It was totally win-win.
Some workouts that I did to incorporate Hill Training into my program:
Interval Hills: This is pretty basic but it kicks your ass all the same. Warm up for about six – eight minutes either on a bike or take a short jog before you hit the hills. Try a small degree incline at first and gradually make your way to a steeper one. Each hill climb interval should be minimum 45 seconds in length. Stop at 45 turn around and make your way back down the hill walking. Rest about 30 or so seconds and run that hill again. Repeat until you feel you can’t continue or you puke.
Treadmill Hills: In the unfortunate circumstance that you live in a place like Indiana where I think the only hills you will encounter are speed bumps, than you may have to resort to using a treadmill. Warm-up for six to eight minutes. When you’re sufficiently warmed up set the grade of incline at between 10 and 15 degrees. Run at 45 second bursts on the incline and lower for 90 seconds and increase the incline. Repeat until your body tells you to stop.
Downhill Training: Most individuals place emphasis on the uphill workouts for power and strength but Downhill Training helps to build stability at the knee and hip joints. Just the act of keeping your balance while running down a hill will place great demands on your legs. This also increases stress on your lower quads and calf muscles (specifically, the gastrocnemius).
You don’t want to sprint down the hill but run with the natural pace of the hill. Your strides should always be smooth and not choppy (as if you were braking with your feet). Braking can cause impact injuries to your quads and knee joints. Walk up the hill for about 100 or so yards turn around and run down the hill. Walk back up and repeat this 5 times. Increase as you see fit. Downhill training should be done once a week.
Overloading your body with this type of exercise places great demands on your energy and fat stores which in turn burns more fat and calories. Add this training into your workout when you have the need to cut your body fat exponentially. Until next time, Attitude is everything.
Rocco Castellano is the founder of askROCCO Media, which provides boot camps, seminars, media content and online fitness services at askROCCO.com. He is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine and has written “askROCCO Uncensored v1,” available at bookstores everywhere.