What is Best? Vertical or Horizontal Training?

I’m going to give you the answer right away: Vertical Training (VT) wins hands down over Horizontal Training (HT). It’s not even a contest. In fact, HT is downright LAME when compared to VT.


Because when you add the vertical component to human locomotion, the endurance and strength systems freak out. This is good, because when these systems freak out, they change fast. REAL fast.


Because your body is used to moving across flat surfaces. That’s what we do most of the time. In fact, if our surroundings aren’t flat, we rent a bulldozer and make them flat. We love flat.

FAT loves flat too though, and that’s one of the reasons why our country is so huge. Moving across flat is easy. It requires very little energy and efficiency is maximized rapidly among our internal and skeletal systems to adapt and make it even easier. Heck, even going DOWN something is harder than flat. To go down, you have to put on the breaks so you don’t build speed and careen out of control. Brakes take work. When you are on flat, you just coast to a stop and sit down. And then because you’re on your butt so much, it feels like it deserves more attention, so the body says OK and makes it the BIG cheese.

When you go UP something however, it’s a different story.


Because going up, or VT, is exponentially more work – the kind of work that strengthens your heart and lungs (endurance) faster than any HT you could think of.

VT also improves muscular strength and tone, because your muscles are working harder and are using a greater range of motion. HT only requires endurance.

Additionally, VT is safer, lower impact, is more fun and it allows you escape from bad guys (seriously, what hoodlum would want to chase you up a steep hill or a staircase?).

VT also makes you leaner. There are no world-class tower runners with an ounce of fat on them.


Because when you push hard running up something steep, it activates your fight or flight mechanism and that releases lipase, a hormone that pulls fat out of your cells so you can be lighter to run up stuff faster in the future. HT on the other hand, is easy to adapt to and that makes lipase get lazy over time. This is why you see so many fast endurance runners with saddlebags on their hips, or a remaining spare tire around their waist they just can’t seem to get rid of. You won’t see that on any fast tower runner.

Oh, and it makes you better looking too. Justin Stewart (pictured top), the current #1 tower runner in the world, gets all the chicks. Actually, he only needs one chick – his girlfriend – and she’s super hot – ‘nuf said.



Thomas Dold (pictured right) is the guy who usually wins the #1 world Tower Running spot each year (and also gets the chicks). He scoffs at HT to such an extent, he holds numerous world records in BACKWARDS running. Yep, forwards running isn’t enough of a challenge for this VT champ. He beats the pants off most forward runners with his lightning fast backwards pace. Not many people can run sub 41 minutes in a 10k. Tommy boy did that backwards. 

For even more ways VT kicks HT’s butt, check out Kathy Gillespie Smith’s article, “Vertical Training VS. Horizontal Training” on Active.com below: