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  1. #1
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    Apr 2006
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    Building Climbing Strength

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    I am becoming a fairly strong rider (for my age). My strengths are speed/endurance on the flats, and short steep climbs (max 2:00 minutes, up to 1/2 km long, but best at 200-400m). I can often pass stronger men on short climbs. But my endurance on longer climbs is poor. I fizzle out pretty quickly and can't maintain the speed.

    My question:

    What can I do to improve in this area? I'm thinking I should gradually increase the length of my hill repeats. This past year, I was mostly doing 6-8 X 30-60 seconds of hard climbing with 1-3 minutes rest in between. The longest specific hill repeat training I did was 6X2 minutes.

    Any other suggestions?
    It is never too late to be what you might have been. ~ George Elliot


    My podcast about being a rookie triathlete:Kelownagurl Tris Podcast

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Switzerland
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    2,033
    Yes. Start with 3x10 or 3x5 minutes at a couple gears higher than you would otherwise go up a hill, or on a spinning bike / trainer. You want to be mashing. Your pulse should be about 10 below LT, not really really high if you d o not know your LT. For me, that's 160.

    Work up to 3x20.... you have all winter.... it's a one hour workout and it's one of the best tips i got in coaching.
    It's a little secret you didn't know about us women. We're all closet Visigoths.

    2008 Roy Hinnen O2 - Selle SMP Glider
    2009 Cube Axial WLS - Selle SMP Glider
    2007 Gary Fisher HiFi Plus - Specialized Alias

  3. #3
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    Apr 2006
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    I guess I CAN do that on the trainer, just shift into a harder gear. Good idea. My HR tends to get to LT when I do repeats tho.
    It is never too late to be what you might have been. ~ George Elliot


    My podcast about being a rookie triathlete:Kelownagurl Tris Podcast

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    865
    Quote Originally Posted by alpinerabbit View Post
    Yes. Start with 3x10 or 3x5 minutes at a couple gears higher than you would otherwise go up a hill, or on a spinning bike / trainer. You want to be mashing. Your pulse should be about 10 below LT, not really really high if you d o not know your LT. For me, that's 160.

    Work up to 3x20.... you have all winter.... it's a one hour workout and it's one of the best tips i got in coaching.
    Is this possible for someone with sensitive knees? I have a history of runner's knee issues from all the running I used to do. It flares up from time to time. I have to be satisfied with spinning up the hills, and being slow. Is it ok to be slow? I'm getting pretty good at staying fit within the parameters of my limitations, but I don't want to hold back people I ride with.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Washington, DC
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    1,315
    You're already good on the power climbs, so I'm not sure that pushing a harder gear on shorter hill repeats is going to do you much good on the long climbs. What are your "longer climbs"? If they're only 1-2 miles, then do hill repeats on those. Practice spinning, spinning, spinning until the quads burn. That will help your endurance. Then the next step is to spin up those longer climbs in larger gears. You might be able to get that next step in strength and endurance on the flats with tempo rides (a step below your time trial zone), long time-trial intervals, or hanging on for dear life in faster group rides with lots of surges. I include the latter, because that's the best way I've found to push myself far enough out of my comfort zone. Racing can also do it if you are in a fast group with a lot of surges. I have more success with the hammerhead group rides than my races (they aren't long enough really), and racing definitely isn't necessary. You just need to be able to add matches to your store and recover quickly.

    One thing about the hill repeats on the longer climbs (and not the shorter ones) is that it forces you to look better at pacing yourself. Some people go way too hard at the bottom and then fizzle out. Start out with a slower pace, and you may still find you're spiking your heart rate, but that happens later, and it's just staying in that sustainable zone. Then, you're forcing your legs to keep up (hence the burn from spinning). You will start out slow, but if you work on increasing your overall strength and endurance with the longer intervals and shorter chasing intervals that nearly make you pop, then you'll be able to bring that back to the hills. So you'll have the same steady approach to the longer climb, but you'll be a cog or two harder than when you start.

    From how you described your natural style now, it could take some time to build up. You may need to exaggerate spinning up (as easy of a gear as you can, at maybe 100-110rpms). That will help you build your muscular endurance. Then, enlist your natural strength and see what you can do with a harder gear and, say, 85-95 rpms. Then work on sustaining those cadences in an even harder gear (which may mean taking the 2nd gearing and going back to ultra-high cadences again).

    Doing spinups is kind of how I spend a lot of the fall. Then when racing season rolls around and I work on my sprinting strength, I can apply that to hills by being able to hold a gear that requires more strength as well as I could spin a really light gear in the fall. You already have the strength part down, so take a step back and work on moving at pretty low speeds from the start of the climb but pretty high rpms to develop the slow twitch.

    Does that make sense? Sorry, I feel like I was talking in circles.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Switzerland
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    2,033
    The guy who told me to do hill repeats said very low cadence. he actually said 40 rpm but I think that is too low.

    I don't know if this affects a runner's knee, I tended to feel it in places other than the ITB.

    And KG, if you want to learn climbing in the real world, then there's nothing you can do but climb real, long, hills. Like 20-minute-hills. I don't know much about the place where you live but there seem to be hills, go and attack a couple... even if they beat you at first.
    It's a little secret you didn't know about us women. We're all closet Visigoths.

    2008 Roy Hinnen O2 - Selle SMP Glider
    2009 Cube Axial WLS - Selle SMP Glider
    2007 Gary Fisher HiFi Plus - Specialized Alias

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
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    Washington, DC
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    Wow, that cadence is really low! When I hit a mountain that forces me into the 50rpm range, I start debating just hoofing it for a while instead of pedaling that slowly. I did discover that my maximum sustainable mountain climbing effort is 70rmps at 180bpm HR. Below that cadence, I start losing it, and I can't keep the heart rate under control. That's assuming that I've run out of gears by then, given the grade. Higher cadences on an easier grade is my preference. Plus, I think it's more effective. For example, a friend and I were tackling some mountains in WV recently, and we both have the same lowest gear. She got a head start on one of them, because she could descend a bit faster off the previous mountain. This was a relatively easy climb (in terms of grade, not length) compared to other stuff we'd hit. I zoomed past her easily less than half way up, because I was spinning about 85rpms in my easiest gear. I was baffled at why I was passing her so easily, and I look down and see she's 2-3 cogs harder than me, grinding away with a low cadence and suffering. For the really long climbs, it's just hard to use brute strength to get up them. Ideally, if we were to all practice on that terrain regularly, we'd both be able to spin fast in that harder gear. In my experience, it is harder to improve climbing endurance trying to do overgeared strength climbs than it is to work on getting your heart rate and muscles to handle spinning. I started out wanting to power up hills, because my body likes to work that way, but inevitably, I'd blow up, and I'd never get faster. It hurts like mad to work on spinning extra fast uphill, but in the long run, I think it balances out that flatland strength and power in helping the non-climber types like me learn to find some climbing legs.

    That said, I agree with AR that the best way to improve on those types of climbs is to find them and climb them over and over. It is too hard to simulate it on a bunch of short hills or on the trainer, because you need to work on climbing and strength, and, at first, do the two pretty much separately.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Troutdale, OR
    Posts
    2,600
    There is no one way to climb a long mean hill. Lance and Miguel Induran climb using lower gear and more spin.

    Jan Ullrich mashed his gear to climb.

    It depends on the kind of muscle you have...

    If you have a knee problem, its probably a safer bet to learn to spin your way up instead of powering at lower cadence. 40RPM is really low and probably should be used on training only (for those who prefer to power up instead of spinning up the hill)

    There is really no substitute for hill climb except to do hill reps. If your hill takes 20minutes. repeat that hill 3-5 times each time you climb. On a shorter hill you may be able to sprint your way up or push it just hard enough that you creep up to your LT level. You can't do this on a long hill. so it is important to know how to pace yourself up a hill, like TTs. After a while you will know where your limit is and you learn to keep it there for the duration of the climb.

    You also need to larn how to change your style on climb so your muscle groups can take a break on a long climb. Shift up or down one gear every once in a while to change rhythm, again to help with recovery during climb. That 10 second to 20 second break can make a difference when you are climbing long hills.

    enjoy your climbing reps.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Switzerland
    Posts
    2,033
    Coach guy told me to do these "mashing" hills to build up watts. In real life I spin, but in practice it is supposed to help.

    Bottom line of this season - I did that a few times, probably too few. I climbed other stuff. Not enough. Heck, I didn't ride enough - although I rode more than last year...
    It's a little secret you didn't know about us women. We're all closet Visigoths.

    2008 Roy Hinnen O2 - Selle SMP Glider
    2009 Cube Axial WLS - Selle SMP Glider
    2007 Gary Fisher HiFi Plus - Specialized Alias

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Kelowna, BC, Canada
    Posts
    2,737
    Quote Originally Posted by aicabsolut View Post
    You're already good on the power climbs, so I'm not sure that pushing a harder gear on shorter hill repeats is going to do you much good on the long climbs. What are your "longer climbs"? If they're only 1-2 miles, then do hill repeats on those. Practice spinning, spinning, spinning until the quads burn. That will help your endurance. Then the next step is to spin up those longer climbs in larger gears. You might be able to get that next step in strength and endurance on the flats with tempo rides (a step below your time trial zone), long time-trial intervals, or hanging on for dear life in faster group rides with lots of surges. I include the latter, because that's the best way I've found to push myself far enough out of my comfort zone. Racing can also do it if you are in a fast group with a lot of surges. I have more success with the hammerhead group rides than my races (they aren't long enough really), and racing definitely isn't necessary. You just need to be able to add matches to your store and recover quickly.

    One thing about the hill repeats on the longer climbs (and not the shorter ones) is that it forces you to look better at pacing yourself. Some people go way too hard at the bottom and then fizzle out. Start out with a slower pace, and you may still find you're spiking your heart rate, but that happens later, and it's just staying in that sustainable zone. Then, you're forcing your legs to keep up (hence the burn from spinning). You will start out slow, but if you work on increasing your overall strength and endurance with the longer intervals and shorter chasing intervals that nearly make you pop, then you'll be able to bring that back to the hills. So you'll have the same steady approach to the longer climb, but you'll be a cog or two harder than when you start.

    From how you described your natural style now, it could take some time to build up. You may need to exaggerate spinning up (as easy of a gear as you can, at maybe 100-110rpms). That will help you build your muscular endurance. Then, enlist your natural strength and see what you can do with a harder gear and, say, 85-95 rpms. Then work on sustaining those cadences in an even harder gear (which may mean taking the 2nd gearing and going back to ultra-high cadences again).

    Doing spinups is kind of how I spend a lot of the fall. Then when racing season rolls around and I work on my sprinting strength, I can apply that to hills by being able to hold a gear that requires more strength as well as I could spin a really light gear in the fall. You already have the strength part down, so take a step back and work on moving at pretty low speeds from the start of the climb but pretty high rpms to develop the slow twitch.

    Does that make sense? Sorry, I feel like I was talking in circles.
    My longer climbs can be anywhere from 1/2 km to 4 km. We have nothing but hills here. I have a tough time keeping the RPMs high when I'm climbing though. I'll be in my granny gear by the time it hits 8% or steeper and still have to slow down to 60 rpm.

    I did do spinups on the trainer last year and I generally keep my cadence in the 90-100 rpm on the flats. I am a spinner more than a masher.
    It is never too late to be what you might have been. ~ George Elliot


    My podcast about being a rookie triathlete:Kelownagurl Tris Podcast

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Kelowna, BC, Canada
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    2,737
    Quote Originally Posted by alpinerabbit View Post
    The guy who told me to do hill repeats said very low cadence. he actually said 40 rpm but I think that is too low.

    I don't know if this affects a runner's knee, I tended to feel it in places other than the ITB.

    And KG, if you want to learn climbing in the real world, then there's nothing you can do but climb real, long, hills. Like 20-minute-hills. I don't know much about the place where you live but there seem to be hills, go and attack a couple... even if they beat you at first.
    Yup, lots of real hills, I do them all the time. We have everything from short steep (10 %) to long and shallow (4-5%) to rollers of varying height. That's how I know I'm slowish on them (at least compared to my husband ). I guess I'm looking for some specific workouts to do to build my strength in a systematic way so that when we go out to ride, I can attack the hills with more power.
    It is never too late to be what you might have been. ~ George Elliot


    My podcast about being a rookie triathlete:Kelownagurl Tris Podcast

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Posts
    2,609
    Lord knows I'm awful at climbing, but one of the most effective workouts I had was to do hill repeats/intervals in this pattern -- 3 x 3 minutes, with three minutes in between, 3 x 2 minutes, recover for 5, then 3 x 1 minute. By doing the long one three times, you get to see what type of gearing works best for you -- I would do one in a big gear/low cadence, the next one spinning, and the last one a combination. It helped to see which way i could maintain for the whole 3 minutes.

    Hmmm. I haven't done these in a while. It might be time to start up again.
    For 3 days, I get to part of a thousand other journeys.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Washington, DC
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    1,315
    Quote Originally Posted by kelownagirl View Post
    Yup, lots of real hills, I do them all the time. We have everything from short steep (10 %) to long and shallow (4-5%) to rollers of varying height. That's how I know I'm slowish on them (at least compared to my husband ). I guess I'm looking for some specific workouts to do to build my strength in a systematic way so that when we go out to ride, I can attack the hills with more power.
    Racing and the kind of stress it puts on the body (especially crit racing--having to "jump" several times and then recover) made me stronger, which helped me on hills in that I could climb the same 1-2mi hill in a gear a couple cogs harder than I used to and still spin about as fast. Those may be hills that are around 8-10% at their max but are more like 6% for most of the way. Strength and just improved fitness from other types of riding helped me improve on these hills because I had plenty of gears.

    Practicing long climbs averaging 8-10% in the mountains led me to conclude that 180bpm at 70rpms was sustainable mentally and physically for a couple of miles. When the inclines started getting in the 13-22% range and my cadence started dropping down into the 50s and 60s, I would start to fall apart. My legs wanted to spin, but my heart rate would get way out of control. I needed a couple more gears. So, I know what you mean when you get to the point where you can't spin anymore. Ideally, I'd say find some more gears somehow and practice. But otherwise, when the climbs get that difficult, I don't think there's any real way to get better at them other than to just keep climbing them, and work on your pacing. Watch your HR or do whatever you need to keep yourself below the red zone. Don't attack at the bottom trying to keep up with your DH but pick a sustainable pace for you. Too many people I've ridden and raced with who are not good climbers try to attack the bottom and then they blow up (and then I blow past them). You will not be able to keep up with the good climbers while you're training to get better, so don't let that mess up your system. Just ask him to wait for you at the top . The more you ride them and the more you try to improve your cadence to your more comfortable level, the more you'll improve.

    You can try working on sprint intervals and long tempo intervals to build more strength so that you'd have the strength to spin in the gears that are hard now, but you really can't simulate those climbing muscles so much in other workouts.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
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    Middle Earth
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    3,997
    Quote Originally Posted by alpinerabbit View Post
    The guy who told me to do hill repeats said very low cadence. he actually said 40 rpm but I think that is too low.
    My partner has a cadence of about 40 when he climbs; he gets in a big gear and just rolls along. He races in the top grade in our club and won gold last year at the Nationals.

    I get in a low gear and have a cadence of 50-60 (until the climb gets over 12% and then I start to slow riiiiight down.

    Try different things and find what works for you.
    Some people in the racing/training/coaching world have become a tad obsessed with high cadence cause thats what Lance could do. But unless you had a heart / VO2max like Lance, then maybe they shouldn't recommend that people ride like Lance did in the mountains in France.


    Courage does not always roar. Sometimes, it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying,
    "I will try again tomorrow".


  15. #15
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Posts
    1
    I am new to spinning and am in the process of getting certified through Mad Dogg spin. I just stumbled upon this forum and find it very useful... I love reading what everyone has to say about my new passion

 

 

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