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Improve Your Climbing - Even If You Live in the Flats

By Kelly Wissolik

In order to become a better climber, you must first focus on muscular endurance. You need to build sufficient force and strength through Functional Sport Specific Training before you can effectively take your climbing to the next level.

Hit the weight room or get some other tools for your home such as a bench, ball and good workout shoes. A triathlon coach with functional sport-specific knowledge can help develop an effective functional strength training program to increase your leg strength and reduce injury. Be sure you invest the time to build your strength prior to hitting the open road.

The muscular endurance training needed to improve your climbing skills focuses on strengthening your quads, glutes, and hamstrings. In terms of your periodization schedule, these workouts are most effective in the non-competitive season when you can spend 2-3 days a week doing functional strength work. The workouts should specifically build your quadriceps stability and power, glute stability and strength and hamstring strength and control.

Strength building can be accomplished on your bike as well. Using a combination of functional sport specific strength and strength focused bike workouts will lead to increased performance in the climbs! The Base 2 phase of training is a great time to hone in on your power and climbing strength on the bike.

Here are a couple great bike workouts to improve your climbing:

Workout 1: Base Phase

  • Warm up for 20 minutes in the small chain ring
  • Main set: ride on the trainer using a big gear (60-70 rpm) 
  • 4x5 minute intervals at Heart Rate Zones 2 to 3 – Aerobic efforts
  • Stay in saddle for all but the last minute of each interval
  • Stand, shift down one bigger gear (dropping cadence) and come out of the saddle. Focus on good climbing form.
  • 2 minutes easy recovery between each interval (easy spin, fast cadence 90 to 100 rpm) 
  • Cool down: Gradually bring the HR down with an easy gear and quick cadence for at least 10 minutes

* Please note, by Base 3 in your periodization, you will be ready for longer muscular endurance intervals that incorporate low and high cadence segments

Workout 2:  Build Phase

  • Warm up for 20 minutes in the small chain ring
  • Main set: ride on the trainer for 30 minutes nonstop at Heart Rate Zone 3 (higher aerobic). Simulate a slight grade increase or headwind by keeping tension higher with cadence 75 to 85 rpms.
  • Then perform strength intervals 5x1 minute in the big ring 12. Efforts are hard and powerful with 1 min easy in between. Efforts should be near, at or slightly over threshold.
  • Pedal steady for 5 minutes with easier gear and higher cadence.
  • Then perform one more power interval of 3x30 second sprints with one minute recovery. Use a big gear and power through the sprint coming out of the saddle for about the last 10 seconds or so. 
  • Cool Down: Gradually bring the Heart Rate down with easier gear and higher cadence for last 10 minutes or so.

* Main set can gradually be increased in duration to 50 minutes

Coach Kelly Wissolik is an elite triathlete and professional triathlon coach (USAT Level II Certified).  After becoming a top age group cyclist in the sport of triathlon, Coach Kelly has created several cycling DVDs that emphasize proper cycling technique in rigorous workout routines. For more information and other great workouts, checkout EFCs 100 percent personalized, customized coaching plans