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Old 03-06-07, 09:34 AM   #1
superslomo
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Building muscle climbing stairs?

In the past I've done some work to prepare for a backpacking trip where I did sets of stairs (not stairmaster... actual flights of stairs) with a fully loaded pack on my back for a while in anticipation of the climbing uphill that was coming.

At the time I did about ninety flights up, ninety flights down with a seventy pound pack on (followed by some flat walking for about four miles) and could barely walk for a few days afterwards

How effective would something similar be in building leg strength for cycling?

We have six flights of stairs in the building in which I live... and I hate the gym, so I dropped the membership. How useful a method might that be to get some added leg condition?
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Old 03-06-07, 09:38 AM   #2
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when combined with a good amount of cycling to train new muscle how to work on a bike, ANY method of building muscle will have good effects. Your body just has to re-learn how to use it.

So it wouldn't matter whether it's stairs, deadlifts, sprinting...whatever. New muscle is new muscle. \

However, if you're asking "will stair walking have direct sport performance carryover to cycling?" the answer is an emphatic no.
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Old 03-06-07, 10:18 AM   #3
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Well, in that case leg presses wouldn't have a "direct" carryover either... but they would give you more strength to recruit into your form, I would think.
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Old 03-06-07, 10:23 AM   #4
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Well, the leg muscles might not make a difference, but the cardio workout probably would help. I know the other is true. I walked and ran up a hill this morning (3/4 of a kilometer) that in the past I would have walked and rested. The only think that changed was my cycling. Not sure why it wouldn't work in reverse.
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Old 03-06-07, 10:27 AM   #5
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There are times where I feel like it's not just a lack of aerobic capacity, but also that a bit more "grunt" would be useful. You can spin to get more output, but having more force to put into the equation seems like it couldn't hurt...
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Old 03-06-07, 11:29 AM   #6
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I was training on stairs for an adventure race I competed in. Climbing stairs definitely made me faster on my bike.

I actually prefer to use a stairmaster(the escalator type). This type of stairmaster works best because they simulate real stairs, and you never have to go down. To me, running back down the stairs is wasted time.
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Old 03-06-07, 11:41 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by superslomo
Well, in that case leg presses wouldn't have a "direct" carryover either... but they would give you more strength to recruit into your form, I would think.
exactly. Unfortunately, new muscle will actually make the activity harder until the CNS figures out how to integrate the new muscle tissue, but adaptation doesn't take too long.
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Old 03-07-07, 12:10 AM   #8
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In the winter I use the StairMill (that's the reverse escalator thing) a lot. I'll do up to 1:20 on it in zone 3 on a Wednesday and then 1:00 on it in zone 2 on Friday. It stimulates the aerobic systems without sitting on a saddle, so that's good in its own way. Climbing out of the saddle is one of my weaknesses and I think it helps a little with that. It also improves my push-the-foot-forward thing at 12:00 in the pedal stroke while seated. Maybe it strengthens the knees a bit. I don't think it builds much muscle. Endurance, yes. I quit using it about March 1. Time to pedal now.

When weather and snow permit, I hike one day a week, zone 1, all spring and summer. 6-10 mile hikes in the mountains. That seems to give me extra kick late in a long ride, when most folks have faded.
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Old 03-07-07, 01:02 AM   #9
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Actually, the way to build strength and power is to use quick, explosive movements. Who are the strongest and most powerful men... powerlifters. If you want to use resistance to build power and strength then do squats, deadlifts, leg presses, leg curls, and leg extensions with heavy, heavy weight. If you would rather do it without resistance, then I suggest plyometrics, jumping (explosively) up onto different levels of boxes with many repititions. The plyometrics will give you some what of an aerobic work out too. Climbing stairs, using a stairmaster, etc. may build muscle...but extremely slowly because these are not the quick explosive movements. I think that those exercises are building stamina alot more than strength. The only way to test your strength gain is by seeing how much more force you can exhort with your legs or how much more quickly you can sprint away from the paceline.
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Old 03-13-07, 07:13 PM   #10
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how is there no explosive movements in stairclimbing? Its nothing but short explosive movements, or maybe thats just because i do 4 stairs at a time.
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Old 03-14-07, 09:46 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by ivegotabike
how is there no explosive movements in stairclimbing? Its nothing but short explosive movements, or maybe thats just because i do 4 stairs at a time.
It's got to be explosive under load. You can't get new muscle without load-bearing and load progressing activities.
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Old 03-14-07, 11:42 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by aikigreg
It's got to be explosive under load. You can't get new muscle without load-bearing and load progressing activities.
Correct.
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Old 03-15-07, 10:27 AM   #13
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Thanks for the plyometric, explosive load tips. Good stuff.

Is it true that posture similarity under load tends to better facilitate the muscle work you're trying improve? While cycling load-vis-posture is tough to mimic with explosive strength training and improving strength of lesser, supporting muscle would be generally beneficial, one would expect exercise postures mimicking real-life conditions would better translate to improved cycling power. There's a bit of research on this but most of the commentary seems to rely on the common sensical, i.e. a push-up improves it's own movement more than a military press exercise.
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Old 03-15-07, 10:59 AM   #14
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Hmm. I don't know about leg strength, but I have used stair workouts as interval training. My building has 13 floors and I'll run up them two at a time and push my HR into the redzone. Then when I get to the top I'll immediately come down. This seems to mimic the sprint and recover at speed effect of crit racing.
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Old 03-15-07, 11:55 AM   #15
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I'm sorry, but I'll have to disagree and say that I think stair climbing will be functionally useless for cycling. There is a lot of sports physiology literature out there, and one thing there is agreement on, is that the angle and type of muscle force is sport specific. In other words, specificity should be your paramount goal. If you want to get stronger on the bike, you will have to do it on the bike.

Also, strength doesn't equal power. Some people have been confusing it above.

But, to reiterate, specificity is key, and you are more likely to see benefits to cycling if you actually do the work on the bike. It's hard to mimic the same force requirements off the bike, and climbing stairs is really no where close to what you are doing on the bike.
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Old 03-15-07, 12:11 PM   #16
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It would be great to see our posters here citing the literature. This stuff is very interesting. I know studies here in some areas related to strength training and cycling are inconclusive while other paths are fairly well-worn, it'd help to see citations so we can have some idea of the veracity behind the various ideas.

I know most of you are synthesizing conclusions from expansive reading and experience that might be difficult to boil down into a citation or two or more, but please the more the merrier!
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Old 03-16-07, 10:59 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trace22clawson
Actually, the way to build strength and power is to use quick, explosive movements.
I don't believe that the speed of movement has a direct impact on muscle growth. The important factor is getting the muscle effort close to its maximum, one-repetition effort.

Walking up stairs, for example, uses only a fraction of your leg muscle capacity. Walking up stairs with a heavy backpack would be better.

On the bike, short sprints in a big gear is a good way to build leg strength. Sprinting away from every traffic light makes for a good leg workout.
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