How can I improve when riding uphill?

Endurance on the mountain for racing bikes and MTBs

If you want to cycle fast over a longer distance in competition, you need good strength endurance. You can either improve this in the weight room or you can train your bike-specific strength while going uphill.

Strength endurance for cyclists on the mountain

Strength endurance on the mountain, also known as KA training, is a classic that can be found in almost all cycling training plans. KA training is an intensive interval training in which you crank up an incline several times in a row with high gear ratios and low cadence.

For ambitious cyclists, this form of training is an important component in building up their shape early in the season. It is crucial in KA training that only the legs work. The force intervals are therefore only driven while sitting, with the upper body being kept as still as possible. In the early season it is less important that you climb the mountain top as quickly and out of breath as possible, but that your legs turn the pedal slowly and evenly. In the basic posture, the abdominal muscles are tense, while shoulders and arms are held loosely.

Only with firm core muscles can you transfer the power from your legs fully to the pedals. To do this, pull yourself firmly into the seat with your arms. The intensity should be selected so that the pulse remains in the basic range so that the working muscles can absorb enough oxygen. Only in the further course of the season will the load and the route length increase.

Also read: What can you do about a sore bum in cycling?

A typical beginner strength endurance program looks like this:

  • 10 minutes of easy retraction at 80-100 rpm (pulse: GA1 range)
  • 3 × 5 minute CA intervals at 50-60 rpm (pulse: max. GA2 area) with a 5-minute break in the Recom / GA1 area
  • 15 minutes extension at 80-100 rpm (pulse: GA1 range)

The total duration is 60 minutes. After a few training units, you can then slowly increase the load by shortening the breaks, lengthening the intervals or increasing their intensity.

Note: Beginners should not ride with a cadence of less than 50 rpm, as this will significantly increase the strain on the knees.

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For example, a program for advanced cyclists in the specific preparatory phase looks like this:

  • 30 minutes of easy retraction at 80-100 rpm (pulse: GA1 range)
  • 3 × 15 minute strength endurance intervals at 40-50 rpm (pulse: max. GA2 / EB area) with each 4min break in the GA1 area
  • 45 minutes extension at 80-100 rpm (pulse: GA1 range)

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Cadence for amateur athletes

Some professionals ride with extremely low cadences of less than 40 rpm, but this is not advisable in popular sports, as the knee load increases significantly with the decrease in cadence.

KA training has become a hotly debated topic among sports scientists. Critics are of the opinion that, strictly speaking, it is not real strength training, since the strength output to be applied would not be sufficient for neuro-muscular adaptation. This is only the case from 50 percent of the maximum output.

However, studies have shown early on that even submaximal training loads of around 30 percent can lead to an increase in maximum strength. In addition, after regular training, a measurable muscle gain can be observed on the thighs of cyclists who are new to cycling.


It remains to be seen whether KA training is real strength training or just strength-based interval training. In any case, success proves that many cyclists are right. Endurance training on the mountain is therefore rightly part of the training plan of ambitious cyclists and triathletes. An additional power dream training does not hurt either, but is absolutely recommended.

Author: Jörg Birkel

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