Cycling: how to use hills to build a strong winter base

Including hill sessions in your winter-base training phase is key for building off-season strength…

Credit: Remy Whiting

One of the best ways to include strength and activation work in your off-season sessions is by taking your training to the hills for longs reps or strength blocks. And the winter months are the ideal time to work on any weaknesses you might have in this area. 

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In this session, you’ll need a climb of around 4mins, alternating sitting and standing for 30secs each until the effort is completed, while also changing down the cassette on each interval to alter the cadence. Once done, there’s then 20mins at moderate pace to finish the session off. 

This is a great session to help increase your strength ready for the 2020 race season. I’d complete it once a week, adding one extra interval to a maximum of 10 reps every second week. 

If you don’t have a climb near you, use a turbo trainer and resistance to alter the intensity, but still incorporate the seating and standing drills as prescribed.

Top Winter training Tip

Set your goals

List three goals you’re aiming for this off-season. If you have clear goals you’ll have a reason to push through the winter and are more likely to stick to your plan. 



30mins easy @90-100rpm

Main set

5 x 4mins hill reps 

Keep power moderate. Start at 70rpm, then each minute drop the gear by 1 sprocket until you hit 50-55rpm. Alternate sitting for 30secs with standing for 30secs until you complete the 4min effort.

Re-descend the climb 

3mins recovery before repeat

20mins moderate 80-90rpm 


15mins easy @90-100rpm


Adapt for beginners

Keep the 5 x 4mins within the sessions as this is the activation work we need to make neuromuscular change. Swap
the 20mins at moderate pace for 20mins easy. 

Adapt for Ironman

Start the first week with 5 x 4mins, but each week increase the session by one rep and the moderate pace by 10mins until you’re able to sustain 10 reps and 70mins at moderate pace.

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Find out more about Matt and his coaching at his website