Improve Your Climbing Without Hills

Believe me, I’m talking about an issue I faced a lot growing up in the flat lands.
I had no hills, only bridges!
Here are some of the things I found helped me prepare well for those events I couldn’t simulate terrain wise.

Threshold is just threshold, right?

I here this all the time.
The answer is no, it’s not.
Climbing means lower speeds and cadence values and most often significantly higher torque values.
Riding in an aero position is not as important here and you want to hold a position that requires the least amount of effort.
So if you’re training for hills be specific and do your training efforts in the position you will ride on the day.


I’ll touch on torque more in a subsequent blog post, but a huge difficulty with climbing are the changes in gradient.
Most articles and research papers spit out a figure of the “optimal cadence for cycling”.
“Froome rides at 96 Rpm so that must be best for me” kind of attitude.
The answer is – there is no optimal cadence that research can advocate!
The mechanisms are not yet fully clear, but it does appear to be highly individual, so don’t compare yourself to Froomey!
The fact is we are all at times forced to push against a bigger resistance than we’d like, specifically when the gradient goes up or we run out of gears.
Torque is basically rotational force and along with speed (cadence) you get your power figures.

Hey presto!

To combat the increase in torque (which zaps the legs of glycogen a whole lot quicker than the lower torque work) we need to train our strength endurance (SE).
Depending on the demands of the event I would look at both short and longer intervals.

What does the science tell us?

Performance measures have been taken off professional cyclists across the length of a full season in the past.
The data is conclusive that higher toque intervals improved subsequent performance.
Another key finding from the study was that the higher torque (SE) training was completed at a very high intensity.

Demands of the event?

If you have a lot of short and severely high gradient climbs, you need to replicate that with shorter and more intense intervals.
For example, without hills you can easily complete the following session at high resistance on your turbo trainer.
Warm up: 15 – 20 min in zone 2 with progressive ramp up to zone 4 for 1 minute, then back down to zone 2.
Main set: 6 x 4 minutes strength endurance (SE) intervals.
Use a gear which you can only just turn over.
Keep your cadence at 40 – 50 during the high gear efforts and at 90 during the rest periods.
Rest for 4 min in zone 2 between each interval.
Warm down: 15- 20 min zone 2 at 90 – 100 rpm.

Upper body and core strength

In 2010 I went to a stage race in Italy, I had a lot of preparation done for the climbing I was about to endure.
Or so I thought.
I was performing well but found my upper body was absolutely wrecked after a few stages.
Yes my upper body!
My shoulders and triceps weren’t getting anywhere near the same grilling at home over the bridges or on the turbo trainer!
A little conditioning over the winter really helped and you can do this anywhere with little or no equipment.
Tricep dips and press ups for breakfast!
Work on your stability, upper body and core strength you will notice a huge difference as a result.
Again guys it all comes down to training for the ‘demands of your event’.
To train for those demands either you or your coach should understand the underlying mechanisms behind those demands.
Note of caution: If it’s the first time you have ever completed bigger gear work, ease into it and lower your cadence gradually over the course of a couple of weeks to avoid any injuries.
Get up the yard!
Aaron Buggle

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