Having wound the clocks forward for the start of the spring season the UK, it’s time to seriously consider getting some outdoor training in.
My first port of call is always a steep grassy slope, less than a minutes jog from my home. The gradient stretches roughly 30-metres, from a children’s play area up to a public footpath. And from a standing start at the bottom, it takes about 6-seconds to hit the top with a maximal sprint.
This is perfect for one of my favourite conditioning drills, hill sprints.
ENERGY SYSTEM DEVELOPMENT
This high resistance interval method builds both the explosive anaerobic alactic energy system along with aerobic power.
Without a good aerobic system, you can’t recover sufficiently to repeat the hill sprints. The greater the number of sprints, the greater the aerobic demand — about three hill sprints into the session, you’ll certainly experience this yourself.
The high-resistance uphill sprints also heavily tax the central nervous system, affecting the same recovery system as strength and power training. Hill sprints are the perfect way to train aerobically on the same day as weights room sessions.
Uphill sprints encourage acceleration mechanics, explosive triple-extension of the ankle, knee and hip – which has great transfer to Muay Thai.
The unilateral (1-legged) loading along with the diagonal opposite swing of the arm (serape effect) also transfer well to Muay Thai.
The high knee lift needed to drive up an incline loads the hip flexors, something also of great benefit to a Thai boxer.
Despite the high loading on the hips and calves, this is all posterior chain, sparing the knee as you climb. Hill sprints are in fact low impact on the knees, and suitable even for heavyweight fighters – just be careful on your way back down the hill, go slowly (it’s your rest period anyway) as this will aggressively load the knee joints.
HILL SPRINT PROGRESSION
Regardless how fit you are, it’s important start small and progressively build up.
Resist the urge to max out the number of sets from the first session… instead, incrementally up-the-ante, creating long-term adaptation that continues way beyond 6-weeks or so.
We’re seeking the minimum dose to create the desired training effect, so that we don’t prematurely suffer from accommodation. You can read more on this in a previous blog post, Muay Thai & The Law of Accommodation.
I recommend using the following structure once or twice a week:
In week 1, sprint for between 5 to 6 seconds up the hill a total of 8-times. Between sprints, rest until your heart rate drops to between 130 and 140 bpm or for 1-min. The number of sprint repeats in each session increases every week.
So there you have it, simple and effective. Find yourself a steep slope and go for it.
Just be prepared for the confused looks from passers by!
Founder of Heatrick Strength and Conditioning
Don Heatrick is a family man from the UK, former mechanical design engineer, European Muay Thai silver medallist, former pro Thai boxer (ranked 4th in UK while aged 40-years), a Muay Thai coach, podcast host, and the go-to expert on Muay Thai performance training with over 25 years of coaching experience.
Don helps ambitious fighters and coaches take their game to the next level by bridging the gap between Strength & Conditioning, Performance Science, and Muay Thai.
Follow Don Heatrick on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/donheatrick/
1) For someone who has limited access to weights can hill sprints be used to develop adequate levels of leg strength/explosiveness? Maybe coupled with agility drills (ex.-shuttle sprints or other sprints with cutting and lateral movement, like playing football). And if it is possible, if the goal is leg development (as opposed to energy system) what would the work:rest ratio be?
2) Is their any difference between hill sprints and stair sprints?
Hi Sam, great question.
I’ve posted an answer for you on the questions & answers forum:
Is it possible to do this in conjunction with the stiff ankling after a weights session?
Yes, stiff-ankling is a compatible training method with both weight training and hill sprints (neuro muscular recovery system). However, I’d caution you to be very careful with how you progressively build volume of both methods or you’ll fry your calves! A calf injury is likely if you increase volume too quickly.
For others reading this wondering what ‘stiff-ankling’ is, check out this video ;)
[…] anaerobic conditioning such as sprints should also be implemented. This hill sprint protocol from Don Heatrick helped me prepare for my last few fights in […]
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Hi don, great article.
I usually do hill sprints in the lead up to a fight but lately have been wondering if its more sport specific to do bag sprints instead i.e 40-45 secs slow pace on the bag and then 15-20 secs all out and then just do a few sprints with on my normal runs. Would love to know what you think.
Using bag work ‘sprints’ on a lead up to a fight is a good idea. Although, for me it depends on the volume of Muay Thai specific training already in your programme. If the volume of Muay Thai is already high, I like to use hill sprints to break things up a bit, while still getting the energy systems adaptation.
If the amount of Muay Thai isn’t already high, then bag or pad work sprints is the way to go approaching a fight for sure. :)
Great response as always, thank you.
Keep up the great work that you’re doing :-)
Hi Don, I think I read somewhere it is good to do hill sprints the day before a fight to charge your nevous system or something.. but this contradicts a lot of other information out there.
What did you think?
Hi Max, thanks for posting your question.
For me, if the pre fight prep has gone right, then the day before the fight is just a weigh in and rest. You can do what I refer to as a short, sharp “vanity” session if you want – but this is just a psychological booster, and won’t improve your physical fitness. Actually, it can easily be over done.
Regarding “charging your nervous system”… any CNS type stimulation (potentiation) won’t carry over into the next day, but fatigue might if you over do it! ;)
What block are you using this in? Power, because it hits the general aerobic system for aerobic power and also local alactic power?
Power and speed because it’s an 8-week progression?
Yes, you’ve got it. I introduce Hills Sprints or “High Resistance Intervals” in the first training Phase of my programming in the Power Block, and continue it into the first Speed Block too.