Climbers typ­i­cally gen­er­ate the most watts per kilo­gram of body weight

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - FEATURES -


Pro­fes­sional cy­clists vary dra­mat­i­cally in their abil­i­ties – typ­i­cally you have those who ex­cel as climbers, sprint­ers or time trial spe­cial­ists. Climbers typ­i­cally gen­er­ate the most watts per kilo­gram of body weight, whereas time-tri­al­ists and strong flat-ter­rain riders are usu­ally the ones who can gen­er­ate the most ab­so­lute wattage or power.

From a train­ing per­spec­tive, this is im­por­tant be­cause as soon as you start go­ing up­hill, your ab­so­lute wattage is less of a fac­tor and your watts per kilo­gram be­come the pri­mary in­di­ca­tor of per­for­mance. Watts per kilo­gram gives a clearer in­di­ca­tion of an ath­lete’s fit­ness rel­a­tive to their size. Train­ing on hills is one of the best ways to ad­dress, and in­crease, an ath­lete’s watts per kilo­gram.


Per­haps the most ob­vi­ous out­come, when you com­bine con­stant re­sis­tance and weight-de­pen­dence, is the abil­ity to at­tain and main­tain higher lev­els of in­ten­sity. Hills pro­vide an en­vi­ron­ment that is favourable for pro­duc­ing more watts, more con­sis­tently, for longer pe­ri­ods of time. This trans­lates di­rectly to the abil­ity to ride at a higher in­ten­sity for longer. Of course it’s pos­si­ble to do this on flat­ter ter­rain, but hills just make it eas­ier.


One of the most ef­fec­tive ways to get stronger on the bike is to in­crease mus­cu­lar re­cruit­ment. The goal in en­durance sport is not nec­es­sar­ily to cre­ate more mus­cle mass, but to en­cour­age the body to use more of the mus­cu­lar mass it al­ready has. For ex­am­ple (and in very sim­plis­tic terms), if you have 100 mus­cle fi­bres in your leg and you are only us­ing 40 of them, it’s bet­ter to learn how to use 50 than to make 40 of them big­ger. Mus­cle is heavy and it’s not very ef­fi­cient to carry around when you are do­ing an en­durance sport. Train­ing sets that in­clude lower cadence with more re­sis­tance teach the body to use more of what it al­ready has. Low RPM sets re­quire more torque, and more torque re­quires more mus­cu­lar re­cruit­ment. Hills pro­vide the per­fect en­vi­ron­ment for this type of stim­u­lus.


One of the best ways to learn proper ped­alling me­chan­ics is to use a harder gear and slow the pedal rev­o­lu­tion down. Power is gen­er­ated most ef­fec­tively in the push phase of the pedal stroke (if you imag­ine the crank arm is the hand of a clock the push phase would be from about 1 to 5) with smaller amounts of power be­ing gen­er­ated at other points in the rev­o­lu­tion. When you climb, you are forced to gen­er­ate more power, which usu­ally means you have to work harder dur­ing the push phase. The other phases of the pedal stroke are still im­por­tant, but the push phase be­comes ex­ag­ger­ated, par­tic­u­larly on very steep grades, be­cause it is the place where you can gen­er­ate the most power. Ul­ti­mately the goal is to achieve a smooth pedal stroke where you gen­er­ate power all the way around, but this power need not be cre­ated equally dur­ing all 360 de­grees of the cy­cle.

It’s im­por­tant to note that if you only ride on hills you will get bet­ter at rid­ing on hills, but will not nec­es­sar­ily be bet­ter at rid­ing on flat­ter ter­rain. Mus­cle re­cruit­ment and ped­alling me­chan­ics are not fixed, but rather change as your cadence changes. Hills, or lower RPM rid­ing, al­lows you to ex­ag­ger­ate a part of the pedal stroke where you can gen­er­ate the most amount of power.

Iron­man cham­pion Jasper Blake is the head coach of B78 Coach­ing; visit

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