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Building bike-specific strength and power can be done in a number of ways, but perhaps one of the most fun methods—and most effective—is hill repeats. While they might hurt at the time, the benefits you’ll reap later will be well worth it. This one-hour workout gives you some flexibility in choosing how long you make each repeat, from 30 seconds to two minutes. It can be done on the same hill or, if you have a route that includes multiple inclines, then you could work in your repeats that way, hitting one hill after another.
Begin with a 20-minute gradual warm-up, building to 6-7/10 RPE (rate of perceived exertion) by the end of the warm-up. You can add in a few short and sharp out-of-the-saddle 20 to 30-second efforts toward the end of your warm-up, just to make sure your legs are firing well ahead of the main set.
The main set is where the fun begins. You’ll be hitting 10 hill repeats in total—and it’s your choice how long each one is, the only “rule” being that each one has to be a minimum of 30 seconds and no longer than two minutes. Take two to three minutes recovery between each rep, which if you’re doing these on the same hill can simply be you “rolling down” back to the start.
Each hill repeat should be a solid effort, think 8-9/10 RPE—or maybe even 9-10/10 RPE if you’re feeling particularly fresh and strong. By the time you reach the end of each rep your legs (and lungs) should be burning! It’s your choice whether you choose to get up out of the saddle or stay seated, and, in part, this will be dictated by the gradient of the hill (e.g. if very steep, you’ll certainly want to get out of the saddle). Be sure to spin your legs to recover between reps so you can get the most from each effort.
Wrap it up with a 15 to 20-minute cool-down, focusing on flushing your legs with some higher cadence recovery riding. And don’t be surprised if you have heavy legs for a day or two following this workout. Avoid any further hard sessions until the muscle soreness subsides.
One-Hour Workout: Bike Hill Repeats
15-20 min. smooth riding 6-7/10 RPE, with a few 20-30 sec. harder efforts toward the end
10 x 30 sec. – 2 min. hill repeats with 2-3 min. rest between each
15-20 min. recovery riding @ higher cadence