The blog for serious cyclist

March 29, 2021
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5 Tips for Cyclists to Get Better on Short Climbs

The beauty of indoor cycling is that you can tailor your training and workouts to ensure that you are in peak performance once the season starts again and you are back out on the road. Rather than shy away from your weaknesses, using a home trainer to work on areas you are not confident in will help your performance on race day.

There is often a temptation to overlook climbing, especially if you live in a relatively flat area, where you will only need to contend with relatively short climbs. However, by tailoring your workouts on your home trainer, you can improve your VO2 max and make sure that short climbs do not slow you down.

5 tips to be stronger on short climbs

Know yourself and track your power and heart rate thresholds

Using structured workouts in your training plan that tracks your power and heart rate, you will be able to understand your body's abilities enough so that when it matters, you can take some calculated risks. At the foot of the climb, you need to get into a gear that you can maintain and exert enough power without falling into the red. So that when you do reach the top of the climb, you can push on and not lose out time on the flat. Even if you have a slight descent on the other side, that is no excuse for letting yourself burnout on the way up.

High Cadence Workouts

Climbing is not all about power. You need to maintain a steady pace without relying too heavily on your fast-twitch muscle fibres. The fast-twitch muscle fibres are responsible for explosive efforts, but can only be relied on for short, high-intensity efforts. To avoid fatigue too early, you should resist the urge to start the climb, pushing a high resistance gear even on a short climb. For that reason, you should be aiming to climb at a cadence of roughly 90 RPM.

Although high cadence climbing is recommended for longer, more drawn out climbs, you can also use high cadence workouts to improve your performance on shorter climbs. By getting your legs used to spinning at 110 - 125 RPM for short periods, you are conditioning your legs and cardiovascular system to maintain an effort that will decrease muscle tension. This results in a reduction in fatigue, allowing you to go faster for longer, during and after a short climb.

Improve your VO2 Max

With the VO2 max workouts on Wattrainer, you can improve your VO2 max so that you are able to absorb enough oxygen during short and intense climbs. Your VO2 max is the maximum volume of oxygen your lungs can inhale and absorb into your body. Improving your VO2 max helps to fuel your muscles during longer rides, in addition to reducing the amount of lactic acid your muscles produce during more intense efforts.

Wattrainers VO2 max workout for your home trainer will push you into power zone 5 (106% - 120% FTP) for intervals of 3 - 6 minutes, with some rest periods in between. The length of the intervals are longer than any time spent on short climbs, so when you are next up against undulating terrain on the road, your lungs will be able to absorb enough oxygen to your muscles (reducing the build-up of lactic acid).

Lose weight to improve your power to weight ratio

No doubt you will already be aware, but your power to weight ratio significantly influences your cycling performance, particularly when climbing. By focusing on maintaining a healthy weight all year round, you can go into spring confident that you can make the most of all that power you have built using Wattrainers workouts.

It is important to be realistic with any weight loss goals and prioritise sustainable and healthy diets and training, rather than losing too much weight too fast. It comes to a point when weight loss comes from your muscles, and you risk losing some of the power you have worked so hard to build up. While losing weight or reducing any excess body fat will help you power up short climbs, you will also need to build up your functional threshold power (FTP).

Anaerobic Workout on Wattrainer

Push your body one step further with the Anaerobic workouts from Wattrainer. The anaerobic workouts on Wattrainer require you to enter zone 6 (or 120%+ of your FTP). Due to the increased effort required, the full gas effort intervals are shorter than the VO2 max workouts mentioned above. These workouts are crucial for cyclists looking to be able to deliver short bursts of acceleration.

For you to be at peak performance when you next come to tackle a short climb, you need to condition your muscles and body to deliver power anaerobically. When you are training in zone 6 (Anaerobic), your body breaks down glucose as fuel rather than oxygen. That is why you are not able to maintain this intense effort for too long. However, if you are looking to attack a short climb and maintain a high amount of power (without burning out), training using Wattrainers Anaerobic workout gets your legs ready for race day.

Structured workout for cyclist in Wattrainer

Tailor-made training


Using a home trainer is one of the best ways for you to level up your fitness and reach peak performance in time for the season to kick off. In order to be able to power up short sharp climbs, it is essential that you have a varied training program. With Wattrainer, you can use power zone training to improve your VO2 max and anaerobic capacity, so you can go full gas up a short climb without being burnt out when you reach the summit.