Tension intervals

Aim of Session

Low cadence blocks performed on a gradual climb or in a big gear (road or turbo trainer)

Session description

WARM UP: At least 10 minutes of zone 2, included in session duration

MAIN SET: 6 min blocks at 50 to 55rpm performed on a long, gradual climb or in a big gear. 10 mins easy spinning between blocks

COOL DOWN: Ease off with zone 1/2, included in session duration


As with the low cadence block in the 'high / low revs' session, working at 50 to 55rpm will predominantly target the slow twitch muscle fibres if intensity is kept low. However, if the aim is given to climb the hill at a pace (e.g. zone 4, as with the 'climbing repeats' session) we can also impart recruitment of the fast twitch fibres: remember that these fibres are recruited not only at high contraction speeds, but also when high muscle force is required. Sometimes, over-geared work on a climb is referred to as strength work on the bike. Its technically NOT strength, but muscle torque. In theory if we develop torque in our training, and in another session work on high cadences, we could see generation of higher powers (given power = torque x cadence).

Application for the Rider

As well as providing a 'strength' workout and developing the first seeds of higher powers, using a bigger gear on a climb will give a rider the confidence to race on terrain with known high gradients. Again, it comes down to increasing the tools available to us. Many climbs necessitate a 'minimum' power to climb them - whilst the arrival of compact chainsets (or indeed the more traditional triple arrangement) has opened up accessibility to climbing, the very steepest climbs might need lower cadence ability. Its also the case that situations arise where a rider comes off a steep descent into a steep climb - shifting across gears might be time limited, so a rider could be faced with climbing in a less than desirable gear setting. This might affect the mountain biker in particular.

Practicalities and tips!

  • Find a hill which takes 8 to 10 mins to climb as the progression is normally one of extending the time
  • Be sure to maintain your form, watching that your knees travel directly forward, and your legs remain parallel to the top tube

Evaluation of the session

  • Were you able to maintain the power levels for the 8 / 10 minute blocks?
  • If you have done a similar session a) on the flat ('high / low revs') and / or b) on a climb with higher cadences ('climbing repeats') how did the power and heart rate relationships compare?
More in this category: « One legged drills