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3 Reasons Why Trackies Ride Hills

Whether you love or hate riding hills, they have a purpose for not only endurance track cyclists, but also sprinters.

We're going to explain the 3 main reasons why we incorporate hill training into our athletes programs:

  1. Strength & Technical Development
  2. Efficiency & Coordination
  3. Pacing and Mental Preparation

Strength & Technical Development

Whilst strength & conditioning programs are usually associated with weight training and exercises in the gym, getting on your bike and riding hills is another excellent way to develop strength that compliments in-the-gym work.

Don’t fear the low gear!

There is a time and a place to incorporate low gear hill repetitions and exercises into your program. When they are included they’re an excellent way to gain not only leg strength, but also glute, core and stability strength.

When you are riding hills in low or big gears, it’s important to focus on switching on all muscle fibres and maintaining a good body position on the bike to avoid injury, and to get the best strength development outcomes.

Efficiency & Coordination

What goes up, must come down!

Whilst riding up hills will assist with strength and technical development, riding down the hills also has it’s advantages!

Utilising down-hills enables you to develop pedal efficiency in a similar way that utilising the rollers does - by taking away the resistance, and allowing you to focus on your spinning!

We encourage our athletes to:

  1. Click their bikes into a small or high gear
  2. Get themselves into a stable body position (whilst having your hands hovering the brakes - very important!)
  3. Complete spin out efforts for a few hundred meters at a time.

At first, downhill spin outs are a fairly uncomfortable activity and can feel completely unnatural, BUT they are a great way of developing neural coordination and efficiency.  

And... they're also great for unloading the lactic acid accumulation from the legs from the previous up hill effort.

Pacing and Mental Preparation

Hills are challenging for the larger population of cyclists in general, not just track cyclists (and minus a few tour-de-France athletes who are the real mountain goats of hill climbing).

The challenge is physical, but it’s also mental.

Whilst you’re riding up a hill, maintaining good body position and focusing on the task at hand, a lot of other things are happening to you...

For example: breathing - your breathing will be laboured and require you to focus on pacing to maintain pedal revolutions.

Or fatigue might set in and challenge your mind to work with it to achieve your hill training goals for the session.

Regardless of the circumstance, hills can present real mental challenges which should be seen as opportunities to build mental strength and to work on positive self talk.

(For more about overcoming mental challenges, check out our videos on Mindset Secrets to Riding Faster from our Olympic Mindset Coach Georgia Ridler.

Riding longer hills will also present an opportunity to get into a rhythm and challenge you to pace yourself whilst still achieving personal best times or distance goals.

This can assist with not only strength & technical development, but also pacing and mental preparation for longer track events, such as the Individual or Teams Pursuit events.

To get the most out of hill training for track cycling, keep the following in mind:

  1. Make sure you work hill training into your periodised programs at a time that works in with your overall macrocycle/mesocycle (here's a blog we did on Periodised Programming for Cyclists). 
  2. Ensure you factor in the right cadences and gears to achieve the goal of the session (e.g. if you’re working on strength, consider the gear you’ll use and the cadence you’ll need to hold for the duration of the effort).
  3. Ensure you have the right work to rest ratio incorporated into the session to allow for maximal quality efforts. Quality means ensuring you maintain good technique and body position for the entire effort.

Are you currently riding hills?

Are you getting the right benefits and transfers into your strength development on the bike?

Leave us a comment below, and don't forget to share this with your cycling friends :)

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