You need to build strength first before building hill climbing speed
All too often, cyclists head out for the hills, hoping to simply climb and get stronger. Unfortunately, this rarely happens.
Why? Simple, if the underlying strength foundation is not there, then you have nothing to leverage off and nothing to improve from.
Think of a house. What is the most critical part of any well built house? The Foundation.
Doesn’t really matter how well everything else is produced, if the foundation is weak, the house will crumble!
Same thing with you. Focus on your underlying foundation of strength first and foremost during your off-the-bike training and you will be rewarded in the hills!
How much strength work and what type do you need to build for hill climbing?
How much strength work do you need? Only about 2-3, short 15 to 20 minute sessions off the bike per week will do it.
But, the strength work you need to do needs to be specific to cycling to ensure that it translates over to the bike. It’s not about hitting the gym like a bodybuilder and smashing your legs so you can’t back up your rides over the following days. That will also only build unnecessary bulk that will slow you down on hills… that is unless you want to be a sprinter.
It’s about a progressive load of functional strength workouts that are specifically designed to building strength on the bike. And the great thing about this strength work if built properly, is that it will be easily maintained throughout the season with just one session a week.
So that is why we always do strength work once we have conditioned the body with the proper base fitness. That way we ensure that when we start loading the body up, it’s able to take the strain of the workouts without becoming injured.
I spent a year working with Matt Brindle in 2006. He is a leading functional strength and conditioning coach in Melbourne. During that time we developed a strength and conditioning program specifically for cyclists. I did this because I needed to get results fast from the time poor cyclists that I was coaching at the time. I knew that a good functional strength and conditioning program would enable me to fast-track the process of building strength in our cyclists so that they quickly got really good. It was the underpinning foundation that made our remote coaching program really successful across all disciplines of cycling. We incorporated it into all our coaching programs and also our self managed 12 week training programs.
When you get off the bike and get strong, you will get back on the bike and be stronger! All you have to do is a little work and get big results. And you can take that to the hills and ride up them faster than you have before!
Check out this article on functional strength training vs traditional muscle isolation exercises