How to improve your hill climbing with hill repeats and circuits

Hill climbingHill climbing is definitely one of my weaknesses as a rider and I continue to work on them and slowly improve. I’ve previously written about hill climbing technique and for this post I’ve borrowed the words of the expert on hill climbing drills. Thanks again to Women’s Cycling in Canada for allowing me to reproduce these words of wisdom from Diane Stibbard. Womenscycling.ca is definitely worth a look for a range of interesting articles on technique, products reviews and more. Over to Diane……

Here are some drills to help you gain power and strength.

1. Hill repeats
This is a high-intensity but time-efficient workout. It helps build the confidence and strength to take on any hill. Begin by warming up for a good 20–30 minutes on a fairly flat terrain. Once you’ve done this find a hill that will take you about 3 to 4 minutes to climb.

Start the hill by riding steady but strong. Avoid starting out too hard or you’ll tire out before cresting the hill. Once you reach the top, turn around and spin down in an easy gear to recover.

Begin with 3–4 repeats, and build up to 10 depending on your fitness level and ability.
End the workout with 10–15 minutes of easy spinning to bring your heart rate down, and to flush out your legs.

2. Hill circuits
This is also a high-intensity workout designed to help you attack terrains that have not just one hill, but a series of hills.

Begin by warming up for a good 20–30 minutes on fairly flat terrain. Once you’ve warmed up, select a loop that has two or three hills. The loop should also have flatter and downhill sections.

The key to this workout is to work hard on the climbs while maintaining a strong and steady pace on the flats. On the descents, cycle in a higher cadence (number of times your legs turn over) to help flush your legs out and get ready for the next hill.

Begin with 3–4 circuits, building to 6–8. On completing each circuit, spin out in an easy gear for 2–3 minutes before starting the loop again.

Finish the workout with 10–15 minutes of easy spinning to cool down.

3. Standing hill repeats
This is a very intense hill-repeat workout that builds leg strength and power, hitting the upper zones of heart-rate training.

Begin the workout with 20–30 minutes of easy spinning on flat terrain to warm up.

Choose a hill that takes about 45 seconds to 1 minute to climb. This hill could be a little steeper than the hills you used in the first workout above.

Attack the hill in the big chain ring and in a moderate to hard gear at the back. Stand up as you climb, and stay standing the entire time. Continue working on shifting one gear easier at a time, as needed.

Once you’ve crested the hill, turn around and spin down to recover and start over.

Begin with 5–6 standing hill repeats, and build to 10 depending on your fitness and ability.
Finish the workout with 15–20 minutes of easy spinning to cool down.

Combining the above drills with the “art” of good climbing will help you to stay caught up with your cycling buddies on hills. Who knows, you may even beat them to the top! Be strong, be efficient, and enjoy your hill climbs.