Hill sprints

hill-sprintsAim of Session

Uphill sprints at full speed

Session description

WU: 15 minutes steady ride out to your climb, not included in session time

MS: All out uphill sprints for 12s. 4 reps, with 4 mins between each. 8 mins easy pedalling between mulitple sets

CD: Spin home for 10 to 15 minutes, not included in session time




Another sprint session that will require a huge amount of muscle torque (remember, power = torque x cadence) unlike the big gear bursts, this time the resistance comes from the hill climb you are using. Again, the body will need to fire as many muscle fibres as possible to develop enough torque to accelerate on the climb. More muscle fibres recruited = more power capability (when peak power is the priority) but also more fibres to share the same power load (less fatigue when sustainable efforts are needed). This is a session totally reliant on the anaerobic capacity (i.e. 4 minutes recovery is ample to replenish the anaerobic energy stores used in each sprint). The muscle fibres recruited will be very specific to climbing.

Application for the Rider

There are many variations on a theme to exploit when it comes to enhancing the sprint ability of an athlete: and this hill sprint session gives a subtle shift in the physiology taxed by using the hill climb as the resistance.  Mountain bikers in particular will be best staying seated in the sprint, as there are times they need to prioritise maintaining traction of the rear wheel. For all riders, it is a chance to appreciate the need for a good power to weight ratio: the more mass carried by the rider, the slower the acceleration.

Practicalities and tips!

  • Choose a hill that you can repeat the sprint up for each rep. You might like to sprint at the bottom of the climb, continue for 2 minutes to help recovery and then turn back down the hill to repeat the effort on the same part of the climb
  • Take time to find the right gear - one that will allow you to accelerate most rapidly - do not grind the gear
  • Sit behind the bottom bracket and 'push up and over' the crank to accelerate
  • A variation of the session is to choose to sprint out of the saddle

Evaluation of the session

  • How were your peak powers?
  • Are they different to sessions you have done on the flat?
  • How did the peak values change over the reps? over the multiple sets?
  • How quickly were you able to accelerate the bike? (look at your change in speed pre and post the 12s rep)
  • Which gear helps you to maximise the speed change?
  • Was 4 minutes long enough for recovery?
  • Calculate your power to weight ratio. How does this compare to other riders in your race category?