Summit intervals

summit-intervalAim of Session

Climbing session, with a build in intensity towards the summit of each repetition

Session description

WARM UP: Take at least 15 to 20 minutes to warm-up, ideally progressing through zones 2 and 3

MAIN SET: Find a climb of 4 to 10 mins in length. Start the climb in zone 4 before building upto zone 5 / 6 from halfway up. You should be maxing out at the summit. 3 x 4 - 5 mins, 10 mins easy spinning between reps

COOL DOWN: Spin home for 15 to 20 minutes


This is a mixed intensity workout that challenges all of the body's energy systems. Moving to maximum effort from the higher baseline (which is already taxing the balance between lactate production and clearance) will make sure your aerobic system is fully switched on. This makes the session more about upping the aerobic ability than the anaerobic systems. 

Application for the Rider

This is a very demanding session that will usually be used in your schedule once you have a good level of fitness. Typically this session is used to mimic the demands of a hilly road race, or to develop the ability to vary your pacing strategy in hilly time trials. The ability to lift your pace from an already hard effort is an advanced ability so make sure this session is only attempted after a solid period building up to sustained efforts in zone 4. The effort required for this workout necessitates a day of easy training before and after the session in all but the most advanced athletes.

Practicalities and tips!

  • This session relies heavily on glycogen utilisation so ensure you keep your stores topped up by sipping a carbohydrate drink throughout the session
  • The success of this session can depend on your choice of hill - a hill that steepens towards the top allows for a natural build in intensity as you reach the summit 
  • Keep a close eye on the 'quality' of the session - if you're power output begins to drop rapidly between intervals, or it takes considerably longer to climb the same hill then abort the session and try again when fully recovered.

Evaluation of the session

  • Make sure you are hitting mid zone 4 in the early part of the climb
  • See how close to maximum values you reach by the summit. You may find it difficult to obtain very high heart rate values in your first few attempts at this session. The better you become at this session the closer to your maximum heart rate you will be able to hit.
  • Compare your maximum power values between this session and the VO2max intervals - you may find you improve with the harder start or equally are disadvantaged. There is no right or wrong effect - it migh just help inform you of your own physiological strengths
  • Look for consistency across each interval. As you fatigue you will see a drop in power and possibly changes in your heart rate response. Tracking this over a number of sessions is a great way of measuring your progression.


More in this category: « Pyramid intervals Mixed bag »