Homemade Hill Sprints

I’ve been a fan of hill sprints for as long as I can remember. I grew up watching athletes like Walter Payton and Marvin Hagler who were both known for brutal hill workouts. If you’ve followed this blog a while, you’ve likely seen the Walter Payton video below. If not, it is well worth a look.

I once had someone ask me what my favorite piece of equipment was and I jokingly responded by saying a steep hill. They then changed the question by asking about my favorite piece of homemade equipment. I hadn’t built any hills so I had to change my answer.

Fortunately, if I am ever asked that question again, a steep hill will be a fair response. Yesterday I took to the woods to clear an area for hill sprints. Technically I may not have built the hill, but I did enough to call it my own.

I started the morning with the image below.

By early afternoon I had a clear section for hill sprints which is approximately 50 yards long.

The incline is moderately steep at the beginning, then levels off slightly, and closes out with a steep finish.

I will soon build additional exercise stations at both the bottom and top of the hill. My immediate plans include a pull-up bar, a partially buried tire for a sledgehammer, and a climbing rope.

Now, as for why I’m sharing these additions to my gym, there are a few reasons. I’ll be the first to admit that you can do well with little or nothing in terms of equipment. Over the years, I’ve put together my share of homemade exercise equipment. I certainly don’t need a new hill to train successfully. With that said, I’m always looking for new or different ways to challenge myself and those I train. A change of scenery is often all that is necessary to spark up new interest. It is also nice to get outside and enjoy the fresh air while pushing through a challenging workout.

It’s also worth restating the obvious. I wouldn’t have bothered clearing several small trees and downed limbs if I didn’t truly value the benefits of hill sprints. I’ve run hills for many years. I’ve run long hills, short hills, and everything in between. From a conditioning standpoint, hill work is tough to beat. Yes, I already have access to several local hills, but adding another right outside my home was something I couldn’t resist.

In summary, it can be useful to spice up your workout with something that is new or different. This simple idea holds true for athletes of all levels. I’ve trained consistently for over 20 years and I’m still eager to mix things up. And lastly, if you can access a nearby hill, I strongly suggest it. Hill work may be difficult, but the benefits are impossible to deny. Whether long or short, fast or slow, regular work on the hills will benefit you significantly.


“The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps – we must step up the stairs.” – Vance Havner


  1. Great stuff!!
    I’m a MASSIVE fan of hill sprints, I don’t think there is a better cardio workout.

    My hills look similar to yours as I live on the edge of a nature reserve and was wondering if that’s your garden or a heathland?

  2. Love thge hills Ross. I used to have a very steep driveway that was my hill workout. I’ve since moved but still love doing hills, and am very fortunate to live in a hilly area. Can’t beat doing them out in the woods either, no traffic concerns and running on trails is always easier on the joints.

  3. Great post Ross!

    I agree with Jimmy and am a huge fan of hills as well. You can’t match the Bang for your Buck that a hill offers. If a client says they don’t have time to train I just tell them to find a hill. A few minutes is all you need.

    I’m currently living in Maui at the moment and my home is at 1200ft above sea level. Pair up the mild elevation, super steep incline of the volcano itself and the extreme heat and humidity and I can tell you that the hills here having been kicking my ass!
    We’ve also got a sand dune hill we run that has a pullup bar and dip station at the top. Good instincts to add one of your own, makes for a great set up.

    Keep up the good work.

  4. At 42 years old, I just started working sprinting back into my training, and I am loving it. Excellent article Ross. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Also, I was a huge fan of both Walter Payton and Marvin Hagler. As a matter of fact, Hagler was by far my favorite boxer as I was growing up. I followed the links from this article and wound up watching the Hagler-Hearns match. My step-father, who died in 2011, took me to watch that on a big screen at the University of Tennessee’s basketball arena. That fight blew me AWAY! Watching the video you posted brought back some great memories.

    Be blessed, and keep up the great work.

  5. Quote: ” A change of scenery is often all that is necessary to spark up new interest. “, “In summary, it can be useful to spice up your workout with something that is new or different.” I have found out that this true for ANY area of life, from toothbrushing to time management to work etc. As Einstein said “the definition of madness is doing the same thing all the time and expecting a different result. It is impossible to progress if you stay in the rut, an infinite number of variations is always available, we just need to be flexible enough to see them.

  6. I’ve been running, sprinting and walking hills on and off for about 30 years now and nothing builds stamina like it. I remember I used to live near some sand dunes and there was a large hill out there. That was brutal. Running in sand is one thing, running up a a steep sand dune in combat boots is taking it to another level. I would also to suggest running up hills backwards. Talk about a burn in the quads, calves and arse. Running or jogging up hills backwards can also spike up your workouts. The combat boots and running in sand thingy I picked up from watching a clip of Tampa Bay Buc running back Ricky Bell in the late Seventies. Walking lunges uphill are also great. Farmers walks or pushing loaded wheel barrows uphill incorporate the upper body into the workout.

  7. Ross this is another good post my friend. I’ve always enjoyed doing both hill sprints and reserving the steps of a football stadium as well when possible. The level of effort required to conquer either is incredibly demanding and it no doubt builds superior leg power and overall conditioning for both fitness and sport. The beauty of this as you pointed out in your article is that it’s a great change of scenery. That is all that is required to get results much of the time! Thanks again for sharing.

  8. George Foreman took it a step further during his “second” career. Remember the clip of Foreman with a harness around his upper body and hooked to a truck or SUV pulling the monstrous vehicle uphill.

  9. Hi Ross great article I love the way you turn the simple things run in front of us all into simple and brutally effective workouts ! There is no need for expensive machines in stuffy gyms, fresh air and hard work are an unbeatable combination .
    Running hills is without a doubt one of the toughest things you can do , I have also ridden my 30 pound mountain bike up some very steep hills all out , give that a try for some variety . Also wind sprints followed by pushups are very effective in driving your heart rate past oblivion ! But the main thing is KEEP MOVING !

    As an old time strongman once said do the most amount of work in the shortest amount of time .
    Thanks Ross you ROCK

  10. I’d love to run up hills but no hills are near by. But I have tall buildings in the city. Could you compare running up hill and running up stares (15 floors lets say)

    Thank you for the motivation.

  11. Great article.I need to get back to doing these. My conditioning has mostly centred around heavy bag and kettlebell work in recent years. I havent done hill sprints for a long while but remember how tough they are. Whats your opinion on running stairs ? ie multi storey car parks/ stadiums

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