QUESTION: “Graeme, I noticed in your climbing video yesterday you mentioned pushing and pulling on the bars and hoods while climbing. Isn’t the best climbing technique to RELAX the upper body?” –Simon H.
ANSWER: In an ideal world, YES the ability to relax the upper while climbing and riding in general is an asset. The last thing we want is more stress on a hard climb. However, I can say that for many of us more UPPER BODY MUSCLED riders, like myself, the upper body strength and core function can be a very useful tool, if used correctly and conditioned correctly–especially while climbing.
I see the upper body as a source of LEVERAGE and POSITION relative to the bike and grade, and when you position and grip correctly based on YOU and the GRADE, you can see a noticeable increase in CLIMBING POWER.
This is why I incorporate both Upper Body Strength, Core Function and On the Bike CLIMBING TECHNIQUES into CYCLO90. Not to have you build “rippling pecks” and “mountainous shoulders”, but to help you build the FUNCTIONAL STRENGTH one needs to climb with more power and control. For you Mountain Bikers and Triathletes, EVEN MORE IMPORTANT.
BAR POSITION EXAMPLES:
LOW GRADE CLIMBS: Usually, during these longer, low pitch climbs, I recommend being in the hoods or tops of your bars with a slight PUSH FORWARD, allowing you to engage more of your core and glutes while climbing. This can be augmented based on speed or the use of more HIP STRENGTH, allowing you to back the pressure OFF if you are feeling strong. If an acceleration should occur from another rider OR the pitch changes, then either use more forward pressure OR, switch to the suggestions below…
STEEP CLIMBS, SEATED: Although still a good idea to push the bars in general on steeper climbs while seated, if the pitch tilts above 6%, there are some advantages to LOWERING your torso to the top tube and switch to PULLING on the hoods or TOPS towards your core. This allows a better position for PULLING yourself up the hill with little more upper body. It almost looks like you’re trying to climb aero, but the real benefit is the LEVERAGE you gain by dropping the torso, allowing your BUTT to get more potential into the pedal stroke. Give it a try, one of my secret weapons as a heavier rider.
STEEP, OUT OF THE SADDLE: Obviously, when you’re out of the saddle, using your upper body is a necessity to balance and maneuver the bike. More importantly, on very steep climbs over 8% grade, there are advantages to upper body use to “snake the bike” up the climb and alleviate too much demand on the larger muscles of the lower body. Many struggle with out of the saddle climbs because they 1) have a weak core and 2) have a weak or low functioning upper body related to the core. Once you begin to build these weaknesses into strength, not only will you climb better out of the saddle, but you will have a new TOOL to select from and rotate through climbs as you ride on. A missed asset for many cyclists that think you should only climb in the saddle or should never get out of the saddle for fear of too much energy output. You should have a TOOL CHEST of uses for climbing and riding, not just ONE METHOD.
BOTTOM LINE: Your upper body is there to stay my friend and any way you slice it, it is connected to the bike and can be used as an asset while you climb or it can be a liability. The most important thing to focus on, is “how are you using your upper body as an ADVANTAGE based on the circumstance given?”
I hope these tips are helpful. PLEASE SHARE WITH FRIENDS.
Stomping The Big Power Riders on the Climbs!
Graeme: Just wanted to let you know that after a month on CYCLO90, a group of some guys with a lot of testosterone went to the Hocking Hills in southern Ohio where the grades can exceed 20% for a mile or more. There were 5 major climbs and I practiced your roll over techniques on every climb. I know I am only 145 pounds but normally these power riders can beat me to the top— NOT TODAY! I was patient and let them surge in the beginning and on EVERY climb I took off on the last 100 yards and all they could do was watch my helmet get smaller. WOW! This program works! I LOVE IT! –Steve Nelson
Now that’s something I can smile about!
Ride Hard. Push and Pull. Climb Faster!
P.S. If you have a “big upper body” like me, and want to make it more functional for cycling power OR you have a “weak upper body” and struggle with steep climbs, please refer to using my CYCLO90 Day H.I.T Training System as it will attack your upper body in a CYCLING FUNCTIONAL WAY that will help you use your upper body as an ASSET, not a LIABILITY!
QUESTIONS? POST BELOW.