Does Climbing training help?

Hi I was wondering if anyone has done weeks/ months of climb trainings from Trainer road (without wahoo kickr climb or grade simulator) and does it help to improve your climbing skill?
Days are getting shorter and colder and there is no hill near where I live (too flat).

Thanks!

Honestly I’ve never really found there to be much in the way of climbing skill. It’s just physics - more watts and/or fewer kgs means faster up the hill! TR takes care of the watts, discipline with what you eat takes care of the kgs. After that it’s mainly just making sure you have appropriate gearing and then pacing yourself well for the length of the climb. If you’re going to be doing some really steep stuff where gearing is an issue then maybe worth doing some low cadence work but these days there are enough gearing options to be able to spin up most hills. Some planks and core work are also a good idea, especially for really long climbs which can put a bit of a toll on your lower back.

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I think are benefits to be gained by working on climbing (beyond just improved overall fitness). The steeper the climbs, I think the more it matters. I don’t think it’s just a cadence/gearing thing.

I hear some people say “watts are watts”, but there is definitely a difference in biomechanics when climbing an 8% grade vs riding on the flats at the same power and cadence. Some call it momentum or inertia and you often hear it discussed in the context of a trainer having a big heavy flywheel (more like riding the flats) vs. a smaller flywheel (more like climbing).

Riding in the flats, I always feel like I’m “on top of the gear” and my cadence feels smooth and efficient even spinning well over 90 rpm. Contrast that with a 10% climb and my cadence feels frantic at 90 rpm and much harder for me to maintain power for an extended period. I feel like on steep hills, you really need to apply force more constantly throughout the pedal stroke because you have the constant resistance of gravity to fight with. On the flats, I’m guessing that there are bigger “dead spots” in my pedal stroke, but the big power quadrants more than make up for it for overall wattage.

I hear about people struggling to hold power on a downhill or tailwind section and that’s where I excel. Holding it on a steep hill, much harder for me. Cadence certainly plays into that, but I think it’s the different biomechanics of climbing that actually results in the lower cadence.

I also think this is somewhat trainable. I’ve always been able to do my best power on the flats, probably because I love training/riding this way with long SS and Z4 work on the flats. The climbs around here are short and I tend to avoid them, so I just don’t think my legs are as efficient when they have to fight the entire pedal stroke. I’ve worked on climbing quite a bit this year and forced myself to do a lot of steep climbing and I’ve seen some improvement in my climbing endurance and efficiency.

I don’t think climb-specific training is going to make a huge difference compared to just boosting your fitness, but I do think you need good mechanics and efficiency to get the best possible climbing performance out of whatever fitness you have.

I’ve got zero science to back any of this up, just personal observation.

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This resonates for me. I have a good friend with whom I’m a very compatible rider and we have good competitive fun trying to beat each other up on climbs. I tend to excel on any climb where I can spin, but when the grade really tilts up and it becomes a grind, that’s his jam. Noticing this recently got me thinking about what I could work into my training to improve my climbing overall and in the steeps in particular. I’m optimistic that the strength training I am integrating into my training will help me in both endeavors.

Agreed and to me it feels like the workload between hip flexors and quads is redistributed in some way on steep (5%+) climbs. Not that 5% is actually steep, it’s just the point that I start to notice a difference. Maybe that’s due to having to overcome dead spots or being tilted more towards the bars, but my legs definitely feel like they are engaging differently on climbs vs. flats.

Hi all,

Thanks for all the comments. It’s helpful

  1. Im not sure if i can lose more weight, Im at 110LBS at 5ft. but ill try.
  2. Last weekend, I did a 5% grade climb over 4 days of total 18000 ft and was not feeling sore/muscle ache. But in one month time, im going for another camp (5days, total 350000ft climb) that has 3-10 miles with grades 7% and some sections of 8-15%. I am not confident with sections of 8-15% sections during those 3-10 miles of 7% grade.
  3. I am gambling on trainner road now since days are getting short and colder and I have no access to mountains/hills. I was hoping to focus on some helpful trainings that helps power/force on pedal that you guys mentioned. Are (Fang Mountian/Mills/Avalanche Spire/Clark/Baird/Ebbetts/Wilhelm/Kosciuszko) best? Or should I focus on others

I would not focus here. If you said you were 160 at 5ft then I would say you could focus on that but you are already pretty light. Unless weight loss comes as a “happy accident” due to training and maybe better nutrition (if your current diet isn’t great) I wouldn’t make that a main goal.

It sounds like you ride a lot but you haven’t mentioned anything about how structured your training is. I would gamble that if you haven’t done anything structured until now and have just been riding a lot then you should see a decent fitness jump by following a TR plan.

These are all totally different workouts with different energy system focuses. Off the top of my head they are (over-under/VO2/over-under/sweet spot/VO2/Sweet spot/?/VO2). The specific workouts matter much less than how they fit into the overall progression and plan. I wouldn’t focus too much on the super steep sections of climbs because even though those are the parts of rides that stick out in your head they are also a pretty small percentage of the riding that you do. So I would probably just do my training at a normal cadence and then selectively add in low cadence/high force efforts.

You don’t necessarily need a kickr climb or anything like that to get better at steep grades but you do use slightly different muscles as your front wheel starts to tip up. If you feel the need to then you could do a couple (I would do this extremely rarely) workouts with your wheel lifted up onto a bench or something at an angle that simulates a 10ish% grade.

Also, if you have a smart trainer then I would do these ‘climbing’ workouts in your easiest gear available to simulate the low inertia of climbing. Again, I would only do this maybe every other week starting with easier workouts to get used to it and then progressing as I got closer to my goal (maybe a mountainous race or training camp) to doing it at higher power.

In summary: climbing specific training probably makes a difference. And a larger difference the steeper the grades get. But you will see a much bigger benefit by just getting fitter overall

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