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7 Advantages of hill/mountain running training

At the words ‘running uphill’ the first thoughts that come to mind are fatigue, sweat, lactic acid, lungs bursting, heart pounding. In short, not exactly encouraging elements for running up hills or mountains!

Nevertheless, running uphill is a practical and useful training method for runners. It may be challenging, but there are many benefits to be gained. In this article, we list the 7 main advantages of running uphill.

1. Muscle strengthening

First of all, running uphill increases muscle strength. Running on hilly terrain or in the mountains requires greater effort in the quadriceps, glutes, calves, hamstrings and trunk. The hip flexors and Achilles tendons are also strengthened. All this occurs because running uphill demands a different body position, and thus a new training stimulus is created. As these muscles are strengthened and toned, the body mechanics adapt and become stronger.

Another secondary but no less important effect is that, in order to run uphill, the legs ‘squeeze’ the ground more and the core (in the trunk area) must, by contrast, balance this effort with more energy. Consequently, running uphill also trains the core very efficiently.

In addition, if the track is uneven, the entire musculoskeletal system is involved, because with each step the foot touches the ground differently, and therefore more stabilization is needed. The demands of the stride change constantly, and the arms also have to push harder than in a flat run. This results in greater versatility and coordination, especially in the case of trail running.

If you don’t feel like lifting weights in the gym, then running uphill is a great way to strengthen muscles in different areas of the body.

2. Speed and endurance

A direct consequence of what we explained in the first point is the following: running uphill increases speed and endurance.

With regard to speed, the muscles used for running uphill are the same as those used for sprinting. Intervals on sloping terrain are therefore a very advantageous training method for runners.

Try to run as fast as possible for 100 or 200 metres up a hill, then recover by slowing the pace downhill and repeat the exercise several times. It will be exhausting at first, but afterwards your body will thank you!

Of course, endurance also benefits from this type of training. Running uphill stresses the cardiovascular system and improves anaerobic capacity as well as effort tolerance. This results in an increase in maximum oxygen volume (VO2max), i.e. your body’s capacity to consume oxygen. The higher the VO2max value, the more your body will be able to take in and supply oxygen to your muscles, and the better you will be able to run!

Have a look at our article on VO2max if you are looking for more information.

3. Injuries

Running uphill can also be beneficial in terms of injuries, for two main reasons:

  • Prevention – As explained above, running on inclines allows you to strengthen your muscles, and consequently the risk of injury is reduced. Be careful, however, you need to have done a good warm-up before tackling the hills, otherwise if you start off too strong you risk suffering the opposite effect, i.e. running into an injury.
  • Post-injury – A further advantage of running uphill is the decrease in the force acting on the musculoskeletal system as the gradient increases: the height of the fall at each stride and therefore the force on the foot landing are reduced. Mountain running for example is a gentle way of running and is ideal especially after injuries or as an additional unit in the running training plan.

P.S : Beware of downhill running, as the risk of injury increases due to the eccentric strain on the muscles (braking force).

4. Psyche

If you have run uphill several times during training, a race on flat terrain will certainly not frighten you! Running on an incline develops the stamina and mental toughness to cope better with flat courses. You will certainly be more confident and secure in your athletic abilities.

5. Intensity

Running on hills or mountains obviously also allows you to increase your intensity. This is reflected in an increased heart rate and calories burned. The latter also depends on other factors, but by adding uphill sections to your training plan, you can expect an increase in fat-burning potential.

6. Training routines

To avoid boredom caused by monotonous training on flat routes, implementing climbs into your routine can be ideal. In this way, you can achieve new results in terms of physical performance, new challenges to overcome and increased motivation! Running uphill makes your routine more interesting and challenging and breaks your body’s habit of training on the flat.

7. Attractive environment

Finally, we would like to emphasise the benefits that running uphill can provide in terms of experience. When looking for climbs to run on, you most likely also have to change context and environment. Especially in the mountains, one can take advantage of the magnificent views offered by the high altitudes, as well as the lower temperatures. Particularly in the summer months, this makes a big difference, because we can escape the heat trapped in the city asphalt.

In addition, you will probably also be immersed in the silence of nature, away from the deafening noise of the city. Mountain trails, streams, forests, fresh air, mild temperatures, breathtaking views, silence and no stress: all these aspects should not be underestimated! Especially in the case of trail running, the goal becomes experience, fun and adventure. In such a frenetic world, running far from civilisation and immersed in nature results in an almost meditative activity.


We have established that running uphill has numerous benefits, physically, psychologically and in terms of training experience. But is it also beneficial for performance on flat terrain? The answer is yes, training on trails with gradients helps to improve one’s performance on the flat. Strength, power, intensity, speed: all these factors benefit.

However, you have to find the right balance. If you only train on hills or mountains, it does not necessarily mean that your performance improves in the marathon. Even if uphill exercises help to increase speed and power, it is still essential to do flat sessions, as well as specific exercises focused on your goals.

If you want to run a marathon, flat terrain remains ideal for training, because you can exercise endurance, breathing, control and pace, the key to success for long distances. By implementing uphill sections into your training, you will find the perfect mix to achieve optimal shape!

Create with running.COACH a tailor-made and dynamic running training plan that prepares you optimally for your running goals, based on your current fitness level. Try running.COACH for free for two weeks after your first login!



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