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Any thoughts on weight training to help with climbs

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Any thoughts on weight training to help with climbs

Old 03-14-11, 07:41 PM
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Any thoughts on weight training to help with climbs

I ride 20-40 miles on most days (commuting on flat terrain). In 2-months I'm doing a 110 mile charity bike ride over 2-days that will involve
some significant and long climbs. My preparation includes weekend rides, similar to the terrain I will experience on the charity ride. I'm still struggling on hills (often having to walk my bike). I'm considering adding upper body weight training and even lower body weight training. Has anyone found that either upper and/or lower body weight training helps with preparation for climbs? My main concern with adding lower-body weight lifting is that the resulting soreness on my legs could negatively effect my daily rides and even my weekend training rides Please share you experience on how upper and lower body weight training has helped your rides.
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Old 03-15-11, 06:31 AM
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The soreness you're talking is DOMS - delayed onset muscle soreness. I used to take it for granted, but it's a sign of upping intensity too quickly and poor cool-down (other sins can cause it, but those are mine):


Rather than weights I'd suggest hill repeats - find a hill, attack it hard for say 1 to 5 minutes, rest by pedalling slowly for 1 to 5 minutes, repeat half a dozen times. You'll still get DOMs if you don't follow the guidelines in the article. So don't make the hard periods VERY hard the first time you do this - work your way up in intensity and back off if you get DOMS.
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Old 03-15-11, 10:48 AM
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There are several ways to look at your question. One is that muscle soreness is a good thing. You can't build muscle without soreness. DOMS results from microtears in muscle tissue. Repairing those tears creates a stonger muscle. Excessive DOMS which prevents one from moving about easily is another matter and means you are working too hard. You should look into how you can rebuild that tissue more quickly.

Upper body weight lifting does pretty much nothing or is contraindicated to improve climbing.

If you have to walk your bike up hills, you need to improve some aspect of your strength or conditioning. So the question is: Why do you have to walk your bike? You can't turn the cranks or you run out of breath? If you run out of breath, you just need to ride more hills. If you can't turn the cranks, either your legs can't produce the necessary force, or your legs get tired too easily. If your legs get tired too easily, you just need to ride more hills. If you can't produce the necessary force, you need lower gears.

Weight training can help, but riding your bike up hills helps more. Another question is: How's your motivation? How much pain can you tolerate in pursuit of your goal? I have walked our tandem a couple times when we were touring loaded and encountered hills of over 20%. I have never walked my single, even when encountering grades of over 20% over 200 miles into a ride. You just have to gut it out. One becomes stronger through the principle of overload. You have to do more than you think you are capable of. Make yourself do it. Again and again. When you are sore, ride anyway, but ride very easily. Don't ride hard again until the soreness has passed. You won't believe how quickly you'll get stronger.

A very simple drill to make your legs stronger is one-legged pedaling. Prop one foot in the frame triangle and pedal with the other foot until it won't anymore. Force yourself to keep a tight chain. Switch feet and repeat. Then pedal with both legs for a little bit. Repeat until exhausted. Ride home easily. This is best done on a short ride of an hour or less, so you don't have to bring water bottles.
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Old 03-15-11, 11:04 AM
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Well, about building upper body strength on a bike, you ride a bike you don't carry it. Climbing hills is all about power to weight ratio. Light, aerobically fit riders make good hill climbers. Big riders do not.

As an illustration, I recall one ride. I came across a couple of ladies. We were riding the same route (which was rather hilly). I offered to pull them. After a bit, another rider came along. He was very fit, lean and big from all of his muscles. He wanted me to go ahead with him and drop the ladies. I told him that I was going to stick with them. He would go ahead some of the time. On one of his breaks, I told the ladies that we would drop him at the third big hill. The ladies were fit and thin. The great big strong guy just could not hang with them on the hills. He was off the back.

Also, I do not think that weight lifting helps riding much. Weight lifting tends to be an anaerobic activity. Cycling tends to be aerobic. Also, it is very difficult to mimic the cycling motion by lifting weights.

Riding out of the saddle with a high intensity on a spin bike would help hill climbing assuming you don't have hills to practice on. Nothing is better to practice climbing than climbing. Another thing would be working out on a stair climbing machine. Also, a third thing would be losing weight. Getting your body weight reasonably low will improve hill climbing assuming you don't do it too quickly and eliminate muscle in the process.

Finally, you might need lower gearing. I like high RPMs so I tend to take hills in lower gear than other riders. I climb just as fast and often faster but I am still in a lower gear.

Carbonfiberboy has a point. If you are riding and you hit a really, really steep hill, you can walk it. It isn't illegal. Also walking the hill is better than burning up your muscles and seriously impairing your ability to ride the rest of the ride. I have not had to do it. I can do a 20% grade as long as it is not too long (and I have never seen a long one). I have also never had the opportunity to climb anything steeper than 20%.
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Old 03-15-11, 11:16 AM
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How are you geared?
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Old 03-15-11, 12:12 PM
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I do not care what anybody says about weight training and cycling. My personal experience is that my 3x a week weight training has made me a better athlete, which by extension, has translated into being a better cyclist. I keep my weight training sessions short, while hitting all the big muscle groups,and I also do a 30minute stepping session before the weights.

It just works for my stamina/endurance , recovery and overall fitness.

And I found out this routine works even better, the older I get.

I really think weight training (not weight lifting) is vastly underrated as a fitness component.
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Old 03-15-11, 12:23 PM
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I do weight training for general conditioning and to work on imbalances I'd have if I did nothing but cycling. But I don't think it does much for climbing. Maybe some upper body work would help for long sessions of climbing out of the saddle. Core work can help stabilize you and provide a platform for pedalling but it's not going to make you fly up hills that you are walking now. Soreness can impact riding for a couple days. It doesn't mean I can't ride, I'm just a little slower when my legs are sore from weight lifting.

I usually quit lifting for 4-6 weeks before the Everest Challenge as I'm saving all my energy for mountain climb repeats. I often do over 20k' of climbing a week then.

The best way to get better at climbing is to do a lot of it. And get lower gears if you can't make it up climbs on the gearing you have now. When you do think you're running out of gearing, try to go as far as you can. When I was less fit I'd stop partway up a really tough climb, let my HR go down, then start up again. I refuse to walk my bike up a road climb.
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Old 03-15-11, 12:41 PM
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If you have the time you'll be far better off riding than weight lifting. Provided you have done an adequate amount of base training, interval work targeted at threshold power will be more useful. Weight lifting during the base period probably won't hurt you but once you start doing intervals, weight lifting, and the subsequent recovery required, will limit the amount of cycling you can do.

For climbing at reasonable cadences your legs are already strong enough. The amount of force you apply to the pedals for anything other than an all-out sprint is quite low and making your legs or arms stronger won't result in any extra power going up the hills. Cycling is an aerobic sport and the best training is generally more riding.
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Old 03-17-11, 07:58 AM
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My preparation includes weekend rides, similar to the terrain I will experience on the charity ride. I'm still struggling on hills (often having to walk my bike).
You need to go find an experienced cyclist, or maybe go to s "real" bike shop and asked what they think you should do.

Talk about walking up hills and century riding are not usually in the same thread.
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Old 03-17-11, 12:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Jed19
My personal experience is that my 3x a week weight training has made me a better athlete, which by extension, has translated into being a better cyclist.
What specifically do you do, if I may ask?
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Old 03-17-11, 06:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
There are several ways to look at your question. One is that muscle soreness is a good thing. You can't build muscle without soreness. DOMS results from microtears in muscle tissue. Repairing those tears creates a stonger muscle. Excessive DOMS which prevents one from moving about easily is another matter and means you are working too hard. You should look into how you can rebuild that tissue more quickly.
Yes, that's what I used to believe. It's wrong.
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Old 05-02-11, 08:10 AM
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I'm also having trouble with climbs while on the trail. I'm set myself a goal of riding Monday, Wednesday, Friday on mix of flat and trail w/gradual inclines for at least 5-7 miles, then going to the trail that has some hard climbs on the weekend (Sunday morning). On the off days, I'll use two 20lb dumbbells and exercise the upper body while the legs take a break. Although that really doesn't constitute as "weight training for climbs", I see it has since I'm overweight (50+lbs), I will use my own body weight on the climbs as "weight training."
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Old 05-02-11, 10:42 AM
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I'm with Jed19. My club's strongest rider is an amazing dude who lifts quite a bit.
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Old 05-02-11, 01:39 PM
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I agree with pat. On yesterdays ride, some rather large legged folk passed me up, but behold, 10 minutes later I was passing them on the hills. I was taking it easy, they were hanging on for dear life. I don't do any weight training, though I did do squats and lunges weightless during the winter to stay in shape.

My advice is the same as pat's: Spin, don't hammer, and it is not the end of the world if you have to walk, I did once on a particularly nasty hill, there's no shame in it.
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Old 05-03-11, 07:22 PM
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One key factor on doing hills is to have a strong heart, you can easily reach max heart rate on climbs.

Some friends who like to train long climbs when prepping for centuries etc, they gear the bike with a MTB cassette and derailleur.

In fact I got a MTB set for my road bike, but since I moved from CA to FL it is still on the box. Once I move back to Cali will practice those long climbs.

The weight training will help, but try to cycle it with the road bike exercises so you do not over-load. In my experience doing weight training in super sets to maintain the heart rate up has helped on the hills.

Here in FL there is no hills at all, I always look for windy days on accuweather, and those are my hill days. Ride against the wind, stay between 65 to 75 on your cadence and do intervals to strengthen your cardiovacular system.

Just as an example:

Here is a routine I do at the gym, enough weight on the squat to make 7 reps, then quickly 100 reps on the jump rope, then leg presses 7 reps, rest for 30 seconds and back again to the squat/ jump rope/ leg press. I would stop right at the point when I am breathing heavily, never ever to max out to maximum exhausion when doing weights. Have a belt to protect your lower back.

Like Oban says, spin easily. If possible gear the bike with MTb components. My buddy who is a monster on hills has had the same MTB setup on his road bike for years.

Last edited by oneofpr; 05-04-11 at 11:36 AM.
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Old 05-04-11, 07:05 AM
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I'm no expert but in my opinion with only a couple of months to train, you would benifit more from riding than weight training. I have taken up weight training in the "off" season primarily to strenghten my core, but I do leg and upper body strenghtening some also. At least for me, I have found doing "hill repeats" improved my hill climbing the fastest.
I would also recommend looking at gearing set-up. If you need assistance, go to a good LBS.
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Old 05-04-11, 07:50 AM
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you're better of sticking to those climbs. try getting out of the saddle for some. reduce your overall mileage and let those muscles rest; recover and GROW maybe stop commuting for a while and just do those hills. when you hit them hit them aggressively and get out of the saddle. then rest for 48 hrs with plenty of protein to recover w/ (other nutrients too - do your recovery research) yes, rest for 48 hrs. then hit those hills again hard getting out of the saddle when you can. then rest 48 hrs with nutrients. yes 48 hrs. then hit those hills hard again. every two days hit 'em hard. (not every other day) 48 hrs of rest then have an intense workout.
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Old 05-04-11, 08:11 AM
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Deadlifts, step ups, planks, etc

For most of us, a few exercises not only gets the bod ready, it
helps keep you out of the Doc's office.

The older you are, the more important it becomes.
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Old 05-05-11, 07:36 AM
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1. What is your starting weight? Sometimes weight training for climbing means breaking off some pounds. All I can think about when the road turns up is all that beer and pizza I am carrying around.
2. If you are going to lift, I would suggest lower weight and high reps (maybe 65% of your 5 rep max in 4 sets of 12 reps). Between sets hit the bike, treadmill or ergometer( a decent leg workout itself) and work towards lean muscle and aerobic superhumanness.

Look at the legs of Chris Hoy (extreme example), Theo Bos, Cav or any other sprinter/trackster and then look at the Brothers Grimpeur (FrAndy Schleck) and Clenbutador. Those trunks are built on flat tracks and weight racks - the climbers are forged on the side of mountains.
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Old 05-05-11, 08:09 AM
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I've noticed that after riding some terrain with lots of climbs (easy to hard) for at least 1 hour and then taking the next day off and resting, then riding similar terrain the following day, my climbing abilities have increased by a small amount. It's going to take me at least 3 more weeks of riding on that schedule to be able to climb more of the harder hills, but I feel that it will be worth it.
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Old 05-05-11, 08:32 AM
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I do a lot of weight training in the winter when I can't ride, including heavy squats and deadlifts. I believe it has given me a head start when the weather lets me get on the bike. But once the riding season starts, the best training for riding is riding. As others have said, look at your gearing and seek out some hills to train on.
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Old 05-05-11, 08:34 AM
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Don't forget to work your core as well. It really helps when you are out of the saddle climbing...
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