Hill Training

by David Mace on November 25, 2014

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Al Kavadlo On A Hill

There is a common misconception that you require heavy weights to strengthen your legs effectively. The counter-argument to this is the mighty pistol squat, but leg training shouldn’t end there. There are many great exercises that require no equipment, and are not possible to perform in a gym.
All you need is a steep hill!

The Workout

I perform this workout once a week. The exercises are split into three different sets, and between sets I train a selection of mid-section / core exercises, such as leg raises, bridges and planks.

Below is a short demonstration video of this workout, along with my training partner Yury. You’ll get the impression that we were knackered afterwards!

Important note – before attempting any of these exercises you should ensure that you can perform them on a level surface.

Sprints

Sprinting is probably the first exercise that many will think of when I mention hill training; it is a great explosive exercise for building strength as well as cardiovascular fitness.

To progress/regress simply adjust your speed or use a hill with a different incline. Backwards sprinting is a good variation that will put more emphasis on the hamstrings.

Lunge Walk

From a standing position, step one leg forward as far as you can. Squat down until the back knee is just above the ground, from here step the back foot up to the front foot. Repeat with the other leg.

For an increased challenge, take your back foot straight through into the next lunge. Leaning forward will place more emphasis on the glutes.

David Mace Lunge

Broad Jumps, Hops, Frog Jumps

Time for some explosive exercises!

Start off with simple broad jumps. Placing your feet shoulder width apart, squat down and jump as far forward as you can. Ensure to land on the ball of your foot and squat as you land to cushion the impact; use your arms to gain extra momentum. It’s important that the knee tracks along the line of the toes as you land. Repeat until you reach the chosen distance.

David Mace Jump

Next, hop up the hill with one leg to get a unilateral workout. Start with your weaker leg, repeat the same distance with your stronger leg; this way you are working both legs equally.

Frog jumps are one of my favorite exercises. Don’t try this exercise until you have a strong deep squat. Go into your squat, balance on the balls of your feet, from here bounce up the hill. The key with this exercise is to bounce low but long, so as not to waste energy.

David Mace Frog Jump

Start out easy with this one, with a handful of jumps. Gradually increase the distance over the following sessions.

Crawls

Crawling is one of our most natural movements. Performing this up-hill turns it into an extremely challenging exercise. This will work your entire Anterior Chain, which are the muscles at the front of your body.

When crawling, your leading arm should be opposite to your leading leg. Try to keep your hips as low as possible, and for increased difficulty keep your knees off the ground.

I could go on and on about the benefits of crawling, but that’s a post for another day.

David Mace Crawling

Crab Walks

We’ve worked the Anterior Chain, let’s get into the Posterior Chain!

With the front of your body facing upwards, balance on your hands and feet with your knees at a 90 degree angle.

This exercise is easier to go backwards as you’ll be driving with your legs then rather than your arms. For an extra glute challenge, try to keep your hips up high. This is harder than it sounds.

David Mace Crab Walk

Taking it Further

All of these exercises can be performed backwards or even sideways to alter the muscles worked, but first ensure you get the basics right.

I plan to progress to more challenging exercises in the future. There are lots of advanced crawling patterns that could be attempted, such as bear crawls, Spiderman crawls and commando crawls. Furthermore, I intend to try partner exercises like wheelbarrows, piggy-backs and fireman’s lifts. So stay tuned.

 

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Dave Mace is a full time programmer and a part time calisthenics enthusiast, who loves to teach PCC to friends and co-workers. Success for him is measured in helping others (and himself) to achieve their maximum potential and doing things that you once thought were impossible. He can be contacted through his website, Maximum Potential Calisthenics, or at his Google+ and Facebook pages.

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  • MikeB

    Great article!
    I like to do lunges, crawling and wheelbarrows up and down a long flight of stairs but you have inspired me to take it outside to the hill or maybe even the football stadium!
    Jaguar crawling head first down the stairs is challenging, and jaguar crawling backwards (feet first) up the stairs is a killer shoulder workout. I can’t wait to try it for distance on the hill. I just have to go early enough to avoid the gawkers. I’m not the extrovert that the Kavadlo brothers seem to be.

    • I definitely know the feeling of awkwardness when doing our cool but weird looking moves in public! Get a workout buddy. Make a race up the hill while crawling, that will make you forget about the gawkers.

      • Oh yes, I’m very familiar with that too. Just yesterday Yury and I were frog jumping up the hill and all we could hear was some guy in hysterics behind us haha. You get used to it.

        • Rodolfo Oliveira

          Great people always have fool’s laughter to fuel their drive. Great article mate! Will use the exercises in a modest hill near my home. Will also need to find a steeper hill (like the one in your brilliant video) to keep progressing. Cheers!

          • Haha, that’s a great saying, will have to use that one in the future. Thanks mate, glad you liked it and good luck with the training.

    • Thanks mate. Jaguar Crawls, I’ll have to look that one up. The crab walk one above is also a really good shoulder workout.

  • Stewie

    Ooh, definitely make that article about crawling!

    • Yep perhaps one day. There’s already some really good articles on the web, but if I feel like I have anything to add to these then I’ll look into it.

  • An incredible article from the man who, in my book, is the greatest calisthenics coach in Australia–a true expert in progressive calisthenics. Thanks Dave.

    Awesome to see a leg training article–and fantastic too to see the animal-type movements getting some coverage…I include a bunch of those in CC3.

    • Wow, thanks Coach. That’s an incredible compliment, especially coming from you. Yeah, I thought if I was going to write something else for the PCC that it should be very different to my last one, and hill training is something that hasn’t been written about yet. Glad you liked it.

      • martymonster

        Hi Davo, I just knew you were an Ozzie from the way the article was written!
        I’ve been thinking of extending my Solitary Confinement by adding a week with explosive drills such as broad jumps. So its good to see some extra work here.
        BTW. I can recommend wheel barrows for the shoulders.

        • Hi mate, I’m a pommie (English) living in Sydney, but I’ve lived here a few years so have certainly picked up a lot on the Aussie culture.

          Sounds like a good plan mate, I work explosive exercises twice a week. It’s improved my power no end, my jumping height and distance is as good as it’s ever been.

          Yeah I sometimes perform wheelbarrows in my movement circuit that I run every Friday. They’re an awesome exercise for your shoulders. I plan to do them uphill one of these days!

  • Laurel Blackburn

    Great article. Now to find a hill.

    • Thanks mate. Haha, yeah I’m sure you’ll be able to find a good one

  • i live on a very steep street. Thanks for the variety of exercises. I mostly used the hills for HIIT 30 sec all out up then 30 sec to 1min walk down repeat 8 times. Once in a while do high steps and butt kicks as well. I also like farmers walks with heavy kettlebells up hill too.

    i think doing the workouts with a friend helps alleviate the embarrassment.

    • No worries mate, always good to mix it up a bit sometimes and these will really help your strength. Uphill farmer walk, can imagine that’s pretty tough going. Yeah, doing it with a partner or all my students certainly helps with any embarrassment, but once you’ve done it a few times you don’t really worry about it too much.

  • Dan Earthquake

    I used to carry a friend up & down some steps late at night twice a week. Ten sets each, I weighed 110kg, he weighed 140kg. It was tough, but all the little muscles got a workout alongside the main ones on the balance. Going down the steps was harder than going up. When he moved away I switched to pushing my car up a hill instead. Variety is what keeps it fresh. Lots of ideas in this article I’d never considered that are obvious now. Thanks Dave.

    • Nice, that sounds like a great workout. I plan to try partner carries in the not so distant future. If you’re pushing your car up a hill, I’m not sure how challenging you’ll find these, but worth giving them a go. The explosive exercises will possibly offer the most variation to what you’re use to.

      • Dan Earthquake

        It’s been a while now since I pushed the car, but I’m thinking of starting it again. Things change, people stop training & new ones join in. The challenge is always doing something productive. Thanks.

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