Strength for Climbing

I am planning the Stelvio/Umbral Pass/Stelvio this fall. When I did the Telegraph/Galibier 10 years ago I found doing repeats of low rpm(60 or so) sets and slowing increasing the time(from 5 minutes up to 20 minutes) followed directly by several sets of moderate weight squats and calf raises really helped. I did not have power to train with at the time and just used perceived effort(about 6)for the intervals.

Is that a reasonable way to add climbing strength or should I be working off of a % of FTP. I am new to training with power, so any help would be appreciated.


I’d suggest taking a peek at the training plans in the app, you can add yoga, strength, and mental training to most plans. If the plans don’t have enough of the low cadence stuff you can always supplement with climbing oriented vids from the library. Classic SUF vids that meet that requirement are Power Station and GOAT but with the library expanded there are others too.

Fwiw, your plan would likely work just fine but might not be quite as engaging as using the plans from the app. What distance is your fall event, how many metres of climbing in that. I know the Stelvio (I’ve done it virtually, and it’s ummm, fun :wink: ) but the way you’ve written it, it looks like you might be doing it twice.

Edit: oh, and welcome to the forums @ChipC Don’t be surprised if a coach weighs in here, pardon the pun.

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My calves are screaming just thinking about this. :wink:


Thanks for the quick replies guys. Yeah it is the Stelvio from 2 sides with a descent into Switzerland. 107k with 3600m of vertical so yeah it is a beast of a day. Probably 7+ hours for me-which is why I really need to build some strength. I had not seen either of those videos Glen so thanks.

I’ve got some work to do from your photo :joy:
And I LOVE your photo. One of my favorite moments in cycling history. So many emotions in that face!

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So much of a day like that is gonna be about pacing. There’s a great post on the From the Coaches category here:

The whole category is filled with useful info. I HIGHLY recommend you scope it out when you have some time.


IMO, strength is not what’s needed. Look at skinny pros that are the best climbers. It’s sustained power to weight, W/kg, that you can maintain for the climb. That’s basically Threshold, and MAP to back that up. My 4DP was sprinter but my goal was improving long climbs. MAP and Threshold was what I worked on. Low cadence work can help for short very steep efforts, but with appropriate gearing for climbing, cadence should be your most efficient Threshold cadence, commonly 85-95 rpm.


The gravel grinder plans have quite a lot of low cadence work, as gravel races are typically a lot hillier than regular road races. The other option is perhaps the hilly gran fondo plan. I’d add strength and yoga to yhe plan. Do the yoga, but you could switch out the strength sessions for weighted gym work. Just keep them as a place holder for the optimal day to hit the gym.

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I want quads like that! I’m working on losing those extra kilos as well.

Hey Chip,

The low RPM work increases the torque experienced for the same power level as riding with a higher RPM which will help with improving strength. However it’s also worth bearing in mind that for higher powers, higher RPM is often more efficient, so riding maybe around 80-90RPM. Additionally, riding too low an RPM for extended periods of time can lead to more muscular fatigue which will build up over a 7 hour event especially with the climbs being as long as they are.
Mixing up some high torque sessions like GOAT, some sessions working FTP or MAP with a higher RPM, and also getting in some strength work will be very effective. The strength work will also help with core/trunk strength so that you have a strong platform to deliver the power from and hopefully not experience the wobbly upper body fatigue that comes from a not properly developed core towards the end of longer rides


Maybe this goes without saying but to get 80-90 RPM up the Stelvio, depending on FTP, is also gonna require the right gears :slight_smile:

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Thank you all so much for all the input. I have spent the last 4 months focusing on MAP and FTP workouts like 9 hammers, 14 vice grips and several of the Pro Tour rides that the search function for MAP helped me find. I am also doing the core focus and core yoga videos mixed with some dynamic focus 2-3 times a week. I was looking at trying to add some more strength and had never found the Videos you all suggested. As I move through the process is it reasonable to do GOAT twice before moving to squats, or it that counterproductive? My normal climbing cadence is 75-80 so the low cadence is just for training
Thanks again to all. This forum is fabulous


36 front and 34 rear. I am ready! :grin:


Nice! What bike will you be using? Pics?

36/33 for me if I were to do it on my gravel tires! You’ll be spinning like a madman at times but that helps clear the legs for the next effort.

Oh Glen. You opened up a can of worms there. After an 18 month wait I just got in my custom Firefly. The tall head tube is due to my neck issues but I LOVE this bike!!! It is Ti with the inspiration of a classic steel lugged bike with chromed stays. The gold is from an old threaded Chris King headset I had in a previous bike.


Classic lines! Old meets new meets wireless Di2?

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We’re you Dr Seuss in a previous life? :laughing:


Meh, you can never find pants that fit. I’d take the calves, though. :wink:

Thanks to all who responded. I did GOAT last night and it was exactly what I was looking for. I appreciate your input