Stair Climbing to Improve Bicycling

healthy lifestyle sports woman running up on stone stairs

If you want to take your cycling to the next level, you can benefit from stair climbing to improve aerobic fitness and build strong cycling muscles. If you live in a cool-weather climate, finding time or motivation to get outside and bicycle can be tough, particularly in sub 40-degree temperatures. You can substitute these cycling sessions with stair climbing workouts to reap similar muscular benefits.

Build Cycling Strength

Both bicycling and stair climbing utilize similar muscle groups, so the activities complement each other well. Hip extension, knee extension and ankle flexion are involved in both disciplines, meaning you are engaging your buttocks, thighs and hips. Stair climbing mimics the muscles you use when you push down on the pedals during a cycling workout, engaging your core and improving pedaling power and strength. Strengthening these muscles will help propel you up tough hills during a cycling session. Moreover, stair climbing is an excellent option if you want a break from your routine cycling workout. Cross-training, which is alternating your workout routine to improve performance in a specific sport, increases your likeliness to stick with an exercise regimen. Mixing up your routine can also reduce your risk of injury, speed calorie burn and develop lesser-used muscles.

Improve Endurance

A study published in the "British Journal of Sports Medicine" found sedentary young women who incorporated stair climbing into their routine increased VO2 max, or maximum aerobic capacity, by 17.1 percent. Improving your VO2 max allows your heart to work at a higher intensity, longer. Those with a lower fitness level will show signs of improved VO2 max more quickly. Activities that involve the largest muscle groups over a long period of time show the biggest improvements in endurance and VO2 max. Stair climbing utilizes these large muscle groups so, over time, you will see an improvement in stamina on your bicycle. As your cycling and stair climbing abilities improve, you can increase the number of stairs you climb and the duration of your workouts to take your cardiovascular fitness to the next level.

Stair-Climbing Workout

Find a set of stairs with at least 30 steps or more. Begin your workout with a warm-up by walking up and down the stairs for five minutes. For an intermediate workout, run one flight of stairs, then walk down. Run two flights of stairs, then walk down. Run three flights of stairs, then walk down. Repeat this cycle for 20 minutes and complete your workout with a five-minute cooldown. Beginner exercisers can reduce the duration of the workout set or lower the intensity by walking for the entirety of the workout. More advanced athletes can sprint up the stairs or increase the duration of their workout for a greater challenge.

Stair-Climbing Circuit

A stair-climbing circuit, which incorporates short bursts of resistance exercises into the workout, will build cardiovascular and muscular strength. After you complete your warm-up, incorporate two-foot hops up the stairs for five minutes to feel the burn. Then, up the intensity with three sets of two-minute stair intervals, running up the stairs and jogging on the descent. After each two-minute set, complete one of the following strength exercises: 20 lunges, 20 squats or 15 push-ups on an incline. You can knock out the entire routine and get an effective workout that builds cycling strength in about 21 minutes.