Boost your climbing strength with these trainer tips from coach Troy Jacobson.
If you’re training for a hilly course in a not-so-hilly environment, don’t worry—you can still tap your inner mountain goat with these tips from Troy Jacobson, head triathlon coach for Life Time Fitness and founder of the “Spinervals” video series.
Set the stage
The trainer can be set up in its usual configuration, but adding a climbing block, phone book or platform under the front wheel can simulate the change to rider position when climbing. “The angle of the bike changes body position ever so slightly on climbs, so it’s important to elevate the front wheel,” says Jacobson.
Plan your work
The biggest mistake people make on the trainer? According to Jacobson, it’s “noodling around.” “Lack of focused training on the bike trainer makes for ineffective training and is a waste of time. The best trainer sessions are done with purposeful intervals.”
Mix it up
Yes, learning how to push a hard gear is important if you want to dominate a climb, but don’t forget to incorporate some high-cadence spin work as well. “Triathletes need to develop all aspects of cycling fitness and technique in order to climb hills faster. A well-rounded trainer workout is best for this.”
You won’t notice it on the trainer, but you will on the road—less weight on your body makes for less work to carry it to the top of a climb. “Athletes should eat a smart diet to cut unneeded body fat,” says Jacobson. “This is necessary in order to improve your critical power-to-weight ratio.”
Hit the weights
Strength training is important for all triathletes, but it’s especially critical for those looking to gain climbing power. One of Jacobson’s favorite exercises for the lower body is the lunge, targeting the quadriceps and glutes. “I recommend that athletes perform strength training after their sport-specific training session, and that strength work is periodized in relation to their season.” He recommends heavy strength training during the off-season, then shifting it to a secondary role when preparing for races.
Sample Workout Hour of Hills
- 10-15 minutes: Warm-up
- 3×30 seconds: At Zone 3–4 with 30 seconds rest
- 2 minutes: Easy spin
- 5 minutes: Steady tempo—85 RPM. Make it hurt, but keep it within your limits.
- 2 minutes: Easy spin
- 8×1 minutes: Grinders: Low cadence, high gears, stay seated. Your heart rate should be near lactate threshold. Recover with 1 minute of soft pedaling after each rep.
- 4×30 seconds: Grinders: Low cadence, high gears, get out of the saddle! Recover with 30 seconds of seated soft pedaling.
- 5-10 minutes: Cool-down
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