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Climbing Question
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Joined: 06 Oct 2006
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Location: Bartalishire

PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2012 11:07 pm    Post subject:  Reply with quote

"Zen and the Art of Climbing"- The Five Training Elements You Need to Make Climbing Your Greatest Strength


Focus On Developing Your Muscular Endurance (ME)

If there is one key ingredient to becoming a better climber it is your ability to maintain increasingly higher levels of power output for extended durations otherwise known as Muscular Endurance(ME).

The ability to maintain increasingly higher levels of power without passing too far into your lactate threshold takes practice and discipline and in my eyes is one of the most underused forms of training. Why? Because it's really *#$@# hard that's why.

Holding a steady pace of 400+ watts for 3 minutes or more can take a tremendous amount of self-discipline, physical ability, and most importantly muscular endurance and thus must be practiced repeatedly so that when we're climbing for performance we have a reserve of muscular endurance left to draw from.

Let's face it, climbing is something that any good cyclist worth his/her salt strives to improve. It's the pinnacle form of satisfaction to climb with greater confidence and fluidity. To do this you must be able to maintain a rhythmic cadence and have our muscles under constant duress without fatiguing. You must be able to control your effort and judge your abilities as you're climbing if you are to reach the top without losing steam.

You must master various levels of your Muscular Endurance!

How can you develop this key ingredient for improved climbing?

Let's briefly discuss two tactics both on-the-bike and off-the-bike that you can use to increase your muscular endurance.

1. ME Intervals on your indoor trainer or out on your bike with various levels of gradients on hills. The basic premise with ME Intervals is simple, repeatability! Climbing a hill or mountain once doesn't. In fact to truly increase muscular endurance we must master various levels of hills for various lengths of time to improve performance. How many times do you think Lance practiced going up Alp Du'ez?

I like intervals that range from 3 minutes at higher watts to as long as
15 minutes at moderate high watts. The key is to keep your cadence consistent (I prefer 80+ RPM--more on cadence in element 5) and stay at or just below your lactate threshold so that you can last the whole set.

Out on the bike my favorite ME repeats are done on a road with two different style climbs that I repeat 4-10 times each depending on my goals and training objectives. The first is short and steep and when performed well I can complete in about 90 seconds with a lower, more powerful gearing and spin at 65-80 RPM.

The other is longer and more gradual, but still really tough and takes me about 15 minutes to complete. I use lighter gearing and spin high (85+ RPM). I use these two style hills to generate two different forms of ME. One is shorter and more explosive and the other is longer and more controlling. My objective is still the same however, control my cadence, and maintain my HR just at or below my AT.

Over time I will choose 1-3 intervals to focus on increasing cadence or lower the gearing to produce higher watts and help to condition my body to maintain higher levels of power output while maintaining my heart rate and exertion level, thus improving my ME.

During these specific intervals I will also try to keep my HR 4-10 beats above my lactate threshold to condition my body and hopefully create a new level of sustained muscular endurance at my AT.

2. One of my other tactics to increase your ME is to utilize Power Yoga.
Out of all the various forms of training I use and teach to others, nothing is more challenging than Power Yoga. Don't let the pony tails and hairy chests mislead you, Power Yoga will challenge you more than your average Alp, I promise you that!

In relation to improving ME, Power Yoga is perfect because it forces you to hold and maintain poses and positions that directly effect your climbing muscles, such as your low back, your core, your hamstrings, hip flexors, and quads for extended periods just as in climbing repeats.

Power Yoga will teach control and add a new layer of strength that classic weight training and even cycling can't match. I try to use it in my training at least once every other week and sometimes I use it just before or just after a ME Interval for added difficulty and a new challenge.

Combine these two muscular endurance challenging tactics together in as many ways as you can imagine and you will greatly improve not only your ME, but your climbing skills and lactate threshold at the same time.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2012 11:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


Improve Your Low Back Strength and Durability

The centerpiece for improved climbing begins and ends with the
strength and durability of your low back. Climb any extended,
steep hill or mountain and you'll know exactly what I mean. Focus
on making it stronger and you will have the primary tool you need
to improve your climbing--Guaranteed!

The low back represents the centerpiece from which the large
muscles of the hamstrings and glutes can create leverage from
which to climb with. If the low back is weak, fatigued, rigid and
inflexible, the entire body during a climb will begin to crack and
break down and ultimately lead to a complete loss of power and

We all know instinctively that we need to condition and work on
the physical conditioning of our low backs, but because it seems
so simple and innocuous, many of us never do the little things to
keep it strong and conditioned. And all the while we're working on
other elements such as ME, Power, and Endurance, it is our low
back durability that will determine long term improvement.

The funny thing is that the power, strength, and endurance of
the low back is the net result of just about every other muscle
and joint that revolves around it. From the alignment of the hips
and spine to the strength and flexibility of the hamstrings and
abdomen. The low back is truly part of a larger network that
must all be well balanced and maintained if it is to improve.

Let's discuss three issues one needs to address to develop a
strong, fluid, stable low back for improved climbing skills.

1. You MUST keep the hamstrings flexible! One of the key
issues for chronic low back fatigue isn't just a weak back,
but tight hamstrings. Especially for the cyclist who's repeated
actions never really places the knee through a full range of
motion and as a result has a tendency for tight hamstrings.
Unfortunately most people do a tug here and a pull
there on these vital climbing muscles and leave it at that.

The hamstrings require deep, well organized stretches in order
to truly open them and keep them strong and recovered.
From using yoga positions to more classic stretching with a
stability ball, one must have a well put together hamstring
stretching agenda to stay on top of the potential problem. Not
only will it improve the strength of your low back, but it will help
improve your climbing position and posture both in and out of
the saddle. If you can't stay aero or in the drops very long
your hamstrings are most definitely one of your limiters.

2. You must BALANCE strength and flexibility in all of the core
muscles. Cyclists unfortunately have a "quad only" vantage point
in relation to training. We overdue the training and focus
on the quads and not enough on the hamstrings, hip flexors,
glutes and low back. This imbalance can create a forward
pitch in the posture of cyclists that will result in a loss of potential

power on the bike while climbing.

A good low back conditioning routine is perfectly balanced with
strength and flexibility exercise for both the front side as well
as the back side off the body. You can't just do squats and hope
to build low back and climbing strength, you must do the little things
that make the low back complete.

3. You must CONSISTENTLY train and condition your low back
OFF THE BIKE, not just while you're on it. Yes, you can train the
muscles of the back to improve while on the bike by doing more
climbing, but to maintain improvement and add the flexibility
element, you must do more and you must do it consistently.

Many of us start a low back conditioning program, but either never
do it enough or get caught in the same routine and never add new
elements or keep it too simple and not place enough priority on
low back training.

I guarantee that if you put just 15 minutes of direct strength
conditioning and 15 minutes of flexibility for the low back and
hamstrings into your regular routine, YEAR ROUND you will boost
your climbing skills faster than any other training program there
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2012 11:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


Methodically and Diligently Boost Your Climbing Cadence

There has been a complete paradigm shift in the thinking of climbing cadence due in large part to our friend Lance Armstrong. His unique ability to spin at higher RPMs of 100+ has allowed him to climb harder and faster than his body type should allow him to do.

It has been his dedication to devloping the mental and physical skills needed to maintain high RPMs up mountains that has allowed him to stay strenger and fresher than the competition and is probably the single largest contributing factor to his 6 years of climbing domination.

If you want to be a better climber, you may want to learn some lessons from the higher climbing cadence techniques. Now, that's not to say that you need to spin at 90+ RPMs for climbing, but maybe find new techniques to increase your "natural" climbing cadence 3-10 RPM for improved efficiency and increased climbing speed and power for longer periods of time.

Let's discuss some ways of helping you increase your natural climbing RPM and improve your overall cadence and efficiency on the bike.

1. Add at least one to two higher cadence ME training sessions to you bike training schedule and focus on increasing your cadence by 1-3% to start. Don't make the mistake of jumping from 75 RPM to 100 RPM overnight. It takes time and discipline for your body to make this physiological adjustment and could result in overuse injuries and overtraining if you're not careful.

Start with 3-5 minute intervals spaced out over a 75-90 minute ride and pick various gradient hills to practice the increased cadence. Now to accomplish this at first you're going to have to gear down to spin higher. Once you've focused and mastered the higher spin rate work on gradually gearing back up at the same RPM for improved power and climbing speeds.

2. Utilize Power Yoga to help you to aquire contralateral reflexes to get more power out of your muscles and increase body control. What??

Simply put, teach your body to contract opposing muscles to create more power and stability. For instance learning to contract your right quad and your left hamstring focefully at the same time just as you need to on the bike, espescially for climbing.

This is also known as agility or the ability to contract several opposing muscles simultaniously. Power Yoga is ideal for this dicipline due to
it's necessity for your body to balance and oppose itself for stability.
Several Power Yoga poses can not be achieved without your body and your mind contracting opposite muscles. This adds new level of muscular control that is vital to you increasing your cadence and efficiency on the bike.

3. Use high cadence hill repeats that average 5-10 RPMs over your ideal cadence that you're trying to achieve. For instance, if your natural climbing cadence is 80 RPM and you hope to increase it to 85 RPM for improved climbing speeds, then practice intervals of 3-10 minutes at 90-95 RPM at a slightly lower gearing. Repeat this 2-4 times in a wokout every week to begin to overshoot your cadence marker and lay the foundation for improved climbing speed.

This technique works really, really well and has helped me move my natural climbing cadence of 75 all the way up to 94 over the course of the past two years. As a result my climbing skills have improved 10 fold and I have turned my climbing into my greatest strength on the bike.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2012 11:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


Boost the Power and Lighten the Load

Climbing is all about gravity and mass. It's simple really.
The more mass an object has the more work needs to be done
to move that mass against the force of gravity. In our case as
aspiring climbers we need to have less mass and more
potential for work or power in this case.

We call it our strength to weight ratio and it is the direct
determinant of how fast we can go up a hill or mountain. If we can
lighten our mass and increase our power we will move faster and
with less effort needed to produce the same outcome.

This is good, because of any limitation due to genetics we can
deal with this issue head on through several tactics and techniques
both on and off the bike.

Let's discuss two elements needed to increase our power and lower
our mass so that we may climb faster and with greater ease.

1. The first is obvious and probably the element we should focus on
the most, developing more power at the same weight or mass.
If you're not big on losing weight or removing those sticky buns
before a ride, then this is the tactic for you.

There are two kinds of power in relation to climbing, the first is one
that we've already talked about in element one, muscular endurance
or the ability to sustain consistent power for extended periods of time.

We can use ME Intervals, hill repeats, and power yoga to help us
develop this type of power as it I the most used power mode in climbing.

The second is explosive power or short bursts of high power for
much shorter lengths of time. This type of power is actually very
important as well as it addresses the issues of changes in incline on a
hill or maybe an acceleration from a competitor.

This explosive power is best worked on with shorter, steeper climbs
that only last 60 seconds or less. You can also work on this explosive
power with short, intense cross-training exercises such as hindu squats,

hindu push-ups, plyometrics and other power provoking exercises
performed off the bike.

You can also use longer duration ME intervals layered with short
intense power bursts every few minutes to practice changes in
power demand.

2. The second component of an improved power to weight
ratio is to lose mass. Real brain trust on this one, but one that
can not be undersold. If you really want to improve your climbing
the most profound way to do it is to lighten the load and keep the
same or slightly higher power potential.

Right away most cyclists revert to calorie deprivation or excessive
training to achieve this change in mass. Let me caution you,
although it is tempting to drop calories and train more it can come
back to hurt you in the end with fatigue and a lack of recoverability.
Not only that, but restrictive diets and over training do nothing more
than lower your metabolism and catabolise muscle tissue which will
ultimately reduce your power potential.

That being said we can lower calories slightly over time
(no more than 250/day) and gradually increase our mileage to produce
a leaner, lighter frame. The best advice is to eat high energy, low
weight foods like lean meats and fish, beans, lentils, and high fiber
cereals and grains. Avoid all the crap and artificial foods that rob us
our natural energy.

The best scenario is to focus on both and let them work together.
Focus on improving your sustainable power and explosive power while
watching what you eat and controlling your portions to lighten your
Put them both together and you'll be topping 3000 foot climbs before
with confidence and ease before you know it!
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2012 11:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


Bolster Your Mental Toughness and Focus Your Breath

Watch any good climber and you will see someone with a stone
face and a mastery of breath and body control. No energy is
wasted and no breath is underutilized. To them it's not a physical
obstacle, but a mental one. A test of mettle and mental toughness
to endure extreme discomfort.

Lance is a great example of someone who inherently is not built
to be a great climber, but has turned it into one of his most
powerful strengths as a result of harnessing his mental toughness
and focusing on his breath and body control. he has practiced and
mastered the ability to deal with the pain. Granted, overcoming
cancer was probably his single greatest teacher. We can learn a lot
from this lesson of mental toughness and focus.

Most of us aren't built to be great climbers, but many of us can
be if we can toughen our resolve and learn how to get the maximum
out of our bodies while conserving our energy. We can improve
our climbing and our tolerance of pain by practicing, focusing and
developing our mental toughness both on and off the bike.

How can you toughen up and teach yourself to deal with the
discomfort of climbing a challenging hill or mountain on your bike?

Let's discuss three things you can do to practice developing your
mental toughness:

1. Incorporate power yoga into your training routine frequently.
Yes, I already mentioned this in secret 1 as we discussed muscular
endurance. I think you will recall that I described muscular endurance
as a true test of mental toughness. So, by using power yoga as
a tool to teach your body to overcome discomfort and pain while
maintaining breath and focus is pivotal to increasing your climbing
skills and performance.

Hold a yoga chair position for 90 seconds or maybe repeat an
asana (several yoga poses in a row) 4 to 5 times without break and
tell me if it doesn't test your mental toughness and breath just like a
hard steep climb.

2. Pick one or two workouts a week on or off the bike that you
really don't enjoy. Yes, that's right, don't enjoy! Maybe it's a route

with endless difficult climbs or strong headwinds or maybe continuous
gradual up hills with no reprieves. Pick sections and really hammer it
out and don't stop. Teach your body to look past the physical and
absolve the pain. Teach it to overcome fear and trepidation and push
yourself past what you think is possible even if it's only for a few

Use this technique sparingly to avoid over-training and most
importantly go into these workouts with the sole intent to push
mentally. You must recognize and embrace the mental pain if you
are to improve your mental toughness and resolve. Focus on your
breath and teach yourself to channel your energy efficiently to the

3. Incorporate a "mantra" or "positive affirmation" along with the
tactics above to get through the pain and the fear. You must align
yourself with something strong and magical if you want to break
barriers of physical and mental performance. Pick a word, saying,
or image or moment in time that will help propel you past your
mountain of pain. It may sound corny, but it may be the single
most important part of developing your mental toughness and
ultimately your climbing skills.
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Location: Salt Lake City

PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2012 11:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


I appreciate your input and don't for one second doubt the validity of anything you pasted here, but my sole problem with climbing seems to be my breathing...What I really wanna find is the quickest way to improve the breathing and cardio fitness?  Is it simply attacking steeper hills and pushing the envelope or just doing slower, grinds that keep me pedaling longer durations?  

My back and leg indurance hasn't been a problem.  In fact, my legs are like a machine compared to my cardio...I too prefer to maintain 85-90(rpm's)...when the gradient goes up over 7% my breathing becomes difficult within the first 500m.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2012 11:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

more nuggets than a KFC bucket in that lot...

i like the idea of a circuit with a 90 second sharp steep climb and a 15 minute longer effort. This is exactly what can be achieved in Bratislava with a 10km loop around Koliba (main hill behind the city). By exactly, i mean, it really is exactly 90 seconds and 15 minutes at lactacte threshold
Has the new Boogie arrived??
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2012 11:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

SM are you climbing in or out of the saddle?
Has the new Boogie arrived??
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2012 11:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lets go with Lucian van Impe ... he new a thing or two about climbing.

He talks about how important it was for him to synchronize his breath and pedal stroke on a climb so he would become one with his machine. He calls it “souplesse” in French, which translates to “suppleness”.

Try it next time you’re out riding. Slowly ramp up to a steady effort and you’ll hit a point where you automatically start breathing through your mouth. Four pedal strokes while you breathe in, four more while you breathe out. It’s going to be difficult at first, and those might not be the numbers that work for you, but listen to your body and you’ll find your way. In simple terms, more air in your lungs means better oxygen exchange with your bloodstream. More oxygen in your blood means your muscles work better, which means your go faster and/or longer.

How do you go about improving your breathing technique?  Try yoga or even just sitting at your desk and breathing mindfully.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 02, 2012 2:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Boogerd_Fan wrote:
SM are you climbing in or out of the saddle?

In the saddle...I'm too damn big right now to ride outta the saddle and not have something catastrophic happen to my machine...its stressed enough with me just sitting.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 05, 2012 3:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you want to get your aerobic capacity improved quickly, trying running for 20-30 minutes on the days you don't ride.
Do, or do not. There is no try.
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2012 6:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

berck wrote:
If you want to get your aerobic capacity improved quickly, trying running for 20-30 minutes on the days you don't ride.

I can't run anymore...Not enough cartilage in either knee...But I can climb on my bike one handed while shooting photos...Smile

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