The Optimal Downhill Slope for Acute Overspeed Running

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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This study evaluated a variety of downhill slopes in an effort to determine the optimal slope for overspeed running.


Thirteen NCAA Division III college athletes who participated in soccer, track, and football ran 40-yd (36.6-m) sprints, on downhill slopes of 2.1°, 3.3°, 4.7°, 5.8°, and 6.9° in random order. All sprints were timed using the Brower Timing System Speedtrap II. Data were analyzed with SSPS 15.0. A 1-way repeated-measures analysis of variance revealed significant main effects for the test slopes (P = .000). Bonferroni-adjusted pairwise comparisons determined that there were a number of differences between the hill slopes.


Analysis reveals that 40-yd sprints performed on hill slopes of approximately 5.8° were optimal compared with flatland running and the other slopes assessed (P < .05). Sprinting on a 5.8° slope increased the subjects’ maximal speed by an average of 0.35 s, resulting in a 6.5% ± 4.0% decrease in 40-yd sprint time compared with fatland running. Compared with the 4.7° slope, the 5.8° slope yielded a 0.10-s faster 40-yd sprint time, resulting in a 1.9% increase in speed.


Those who train athletes for speed should use or develop overspeed hills with slopes of approximately 5.8° to maximize acute sprinting speed. The results of this study bring into question previous recommendations to use hills of 3° downhill slope for this form of overspeed training.

The author is with the Dept of Physical Therapy, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI 53201.

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