Walter “Sweetness” Payton is an NFL legend. He’s also somewhat of a legend in the strength and conditioning community. If you never heard about “Sweetness” it’s about time you did.
See “Sweetness” used to absolutely destroy himself in the off season, and just like me his favorite way to kill him self was by doing hill sprints. Very few things I’ve tried in my life sucked as hard as doing hill sprints on a snowy morning in February. Hill sprints are just brutal, but the results are well worth the effort. Nothing will burn fat and build iron lungs as fast. On top of that, they come with a relatively low risk of injury due to the incline, and thanks to the short overall working time, wont steal your precious muscle.
What’s not to like? Well, they suck. Seriously – they suck. 🙂
Obviously we’re not talking jogging up 3% incline. We’re talking sprints in the 90%+ range up the biggest, baddest hill you can find. After that you walk back down and go again. Somewhere around 5-10 sprints (depending on length of hill and your cardiovascular fitness) should do the trick. You could possibly throw in some bodyweight stuff (pushups/abs) after each run if you’re a freak.
Clearly you need to start out easy and build yourself up. Rome wasn’t build on a Sunday morning and rushing into things can be risky. Make sure you warm up properly and start out with ~5 sprints of increasing intensity. If at all possible, bring a couple of friends as it’ll be fun in a sadistic way to race your buddies to the top.
I probably don’t need to tell you this, but you can stop halfway up if you want to do shorter sprints. The big hill I use is pretty long (~100m) and unless you’re very well conditioned, it’s simply too long to go all out. What I do if I’ve let myself scare away from the hill for a bit is that I’ll ease my way back by either doing half reps or by using various other hills. I have about a handful different hills I use regularly.
How often? Depending on goals and time anywhere from one to three times a week, though for me personally two would be absolutely max. It all depends on what you’re trying to achieve.
Three quick points to take home:
- Start out easy
- Warmup properly
- Keep the distance sensible, so you’re sprinting.
“Sweetness” talks about his conditioning in this short clip:
Why aren’t you out looking for a hill already? Need more reason to go? Well here’s one: fucking Rocky did them… Wearing a headband… He was the champion of the world – if that’s not enough, then I don’t know what is.
If you don’t have a decent hill anywhere near you, think out of the box. Stairs, stadiums and beaches have pretty much the same effect – they slow you down a bit while forcing you to lean a bit more into it – that’ll decrease the risk of hamstring pulls which is good. Treadmills can also work – I use a 10% incline and stand on the rails during rests.
Obviously you can also sprint on flat ground though I’d recommend starting out even easier and not going all out for at least the first couple of months. Also sprinting mechanics become much more important when running with no incline, so the learning curve is a bit steeper.