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Home / Training / Bike / Off-road hill climbs to improve fitness in 1hr

Off-road hill climbs to improve fitness in 1hr

Now the foul weather's here, it's time to hit the MTB trails

Looking to improve your bike fitness and strength this winter? This off-road session will test your aerobic and anaerobic tolerance, and provide some fun along the way.

Equipment needed: mountain bike, gloves, shades, shorts, jersey, shoes and a hydration pack or bottle.

To get the most from this workout, hit it with relatively fresh legs. Avoid doing hard runs or rides the day before and schedule it on a day when you won’t be doing any other intense workouts. Your legs will likely be sore the next day, so don’t be afraid to do a recovery swim or spin.

Hard in the hills


10mins steady ride, building the pace and riding hilly terrain.

Main session

On a hilly trail, choose a track that’ll allow you to work a hill for 6-8mins at a hard but sustainable pace.

Recover for 2-3mins (ideally on a downhill stretch), then push the pace for another 6-8mins.

Do a total of 4 x 6-8min intervals.


5-10mins steady ride.

Main benefits

Performance benefits

This session is ideal for getting your body used to working at, or near to, its maximum. If done consistently, benefits will translate to your aerobic and anaerobic bike fitness, with improved ability to ride for extended periods at race pace.

Stay seated throughout each hill for added strength gains and keep your weight over the rear tyre for traction on the trail.

Mental benefits

If done correctly this session will hurt – and it’s supposed to. This teaches both your body and your mind about consistently working hard.

It’s great practice for racing when you need to have plenty of mental coping strategies in place.

Physiological benefits

Riding through hilly terrain provides a fun and challenging workout to tax you both aerobically and anaerobically.

Pushing the pace for 6-8mins will boost both your aerobic endurance and anaerobic tolerance, as well as bike-specific strength.

Ride each interval hard, but not so hard that you’re not able to maintain the same effort throughout each.

Pacing each effort will ensure you gain maximum benefits from this session. Ride hard right over the top of each hill and then recover as you descend.

Adapt for Ironman

Do this session in the latter stages of a longer rides so your legs already have a few miles in them when it comes to increasing the pace.

Or try a double-ride day: a longer ride in the morning then this session later in the day.

Need more tips for improving bike speed and fitness? Try these five turbo trainer drills here

Profile image of Jamie Beach Jamie Beach Former digital editor


Jamie was 220 Triathlon's digital editor between 2013 and 2015.