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Required exercises to move to upper gears in uphills

Old 08-10-20, 03:00 PM
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torony
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Required exercises to move to upper gears in uphills

Hi guys,


I joined recently (around 1 year and a half) the biking sport and i own a hybrid/city bike, Giant Escape 1 fitted with GP5000 700CX28mm clinchers (upgraded from the 32mm Giant stock tires), which im using for touring/exercising. At the beginning, it was very hard to ride on hilly areas and surely after quiet some time, it started to get a bit easier. I currently feel comfortable with a 40 to 60 km uphill ride, where the altitude gain ranges between 1500m and 1800m.

The problem is that im stuck on my lowest gear combination (26 tooth chainring and 34 tooth sprocket) as soon as i hit a climb of 10% gradient or more, whereas im capable to use a 36/34-30 combination when facing a 4 to 8% climb.

So my main question is what exercises will help me use say a 36 tooth chainring with a 34 or 30 tooth rear cog when going into a 10% gradient climb? In other terms, what will help me get out of my slowest gear combination when attacking "steeper" climbs.


P.S.

- The bike is equipped with a Shimano Acera 26/36/48 chainring and with a Shimano HG30 11x34 9 speed cassette.

- The bike weight is around 11kgs and i weigh a hefty 85 kgs (i know loosing weight will help me a lot during biking, especially climbing, but lets omit this option for now )

-Cant switch to road bikes due to lower back pain issues.


Waiting for your valuable inputs.
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Old 08-10-20, 03:21 PM
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Grade makes a huge difference! Your 26 x 34 gear is roughly 64% of your 36 x 34 gear. 64% of a 10% grade is roughly 6% grade. This sounds right in line with physics.

Now, to climb this steep stuff a little more comfortably - a lower gear (I run a 24 in front. I've heard of 22s. You can go as low as 52 in back but that means spending real money on an entire drivetrain upgrade. Do you ride with foot retention? Ie clipless pedals or toestraps? Do you stand on the pedals?

Standing on the pedals while locked in allows you to slow to a lower cadence and "lug" quite effectively. If you have never done this, it probably sounds luny and the idea of riding strapped or clipped in, scary. But it had been done for at least the past 120 years by thousands.

This is a big jump if you haven't already, Many simply won't ever do it. But others feel like they've just walked into the light after that first clipped in hill climb.

Ben
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Old 08-10-20, 03:29 PM
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I know what you mean, there's something about 10%+ that feels harder than it should relative to 7% or 8%. I'd suggest continuing with your 26T chainring but shift to smaller cogs in the rear for part of each climb. When you are comfortable using whatever combo equals your 36-34, then begin starting out in the 36 ring. You want to avoid a front shift while you are climbing a steep grade with low cadence.
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Old 08-10-20, 03:38 PM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
Grade makes a huge difference! Your 26 x 34 gear is roughly 64% of your 36 x 34 gear. 64% of a 10% grade is roughly 6% grade. This sounds right in line with physics.

Now, to climb this steep stuff a little more comfortably - a lower gear (I run a 24 in front. I've heard of 22s. You can go as low as 52 in back but that means spending real money on an entire drivetrain upgrade. Do you ride with foot retention? Ie clipless pedals or toestraps? Do you stand on the pedals?

Standing on the pedals while locked in allows you to slow to a lower cadence and "lug" quite effectively. If you have never done this, it probably sounds luny and the idea of riding strapped or clipped in, scary. But it had been done for at least the past 120 years by thousands.

This is a big jump if you haven't already, Many simply won't ever do it. But others feel like they've just walked into the light after that first clipped in hill climb.

Ben
Thank you 79pmooney for your clarification.

As a matter of fact, im not looking for changing the current chainring/cogs configuration since riding on my lowest combination suits me so far thus im not looking for smaller ratios. On the other hand, my friends are attacking the same climb faster since they are using higher gear combination due to their fitness/muscles. So what im looking for is to improve my climbing "speed" and i believe this will be achieved by being able to use higher gear ratios.
As for clipless pedals, i just got my hands on Shimano PD-M520 SPD Pedals but didnt install them yet, and i heard that they make a significant difference especially when climbing. For the time being, i dont feel comfy when standing since i face some knee pain not to mention that i run out of breath when seated again (kinda weird or im doing something wrong when standing).
Having that said, i was looking for any exercises which will enhance my uphill capabilities, one of which is the speed/higher gear ratios.
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Old 08-10-20, 03:44 PM
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Originally Posted by shelbyfv View Post
I know what you mean, there's something about 10%+ that feels harder than it should relative to 7% or 8%. I'd suggest continuing with your 26T chainring but shift to smaller cogs in the rear for part of each climb. When you are comfortable using whatever combo equals your 36-34, then begin starting out in the 36 ring. You want to avoid a front shift while you are climbing a steep grade with low cadence.
I hear you shelbyfv...i tried this option a couple of times yet im going back to my lowest gear ratios and unable to continue climbing. As a matter of fact, i tried last day to climb a short uphill, around 700-800m with an average gradient of 6% and a peak of 14%, using the 36/34 combination and the live results were not wow. I usually ride this section non stop using the lowest combination but i was forced to stop in the middle of the distance since i run out of breath (when using the 36/34 combo), not to mention that the second day i had some knee pain
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Old 08-10-20, 03:46 PM
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Originally Posted by torony View Post
Thank you 79pmooney for your clarification.

As a matter of fact, im not looking for changing the current chainring/cogs configuration since riding on my lowest combination suits me so far thus im not looking for smaller ratios. On the other hand, my friends are attacking the same climb faster since they are using higher gear combination due to their fitness/muscles. So what im looking for is to improve my climbing "speed" and i believe this will be achieved by being able to use higher gear ratios.
As for clipless pedals, i just got my hands on Shimano PD-M520 SPD Pedals but didnt install them yet, and i heard that they make a significant difference especially when climbing. For the time being, i dont feel comfy when standing since i face some knee pain not to mention that i run out of breath when seated again (kinda weird or im doing something wrong when standing).
Having that said, i was looking for any exercises which will enhance my uphill capabilities, one of which is the speed/higher gear ratios.
Simply going into a higher gear you can't turn - especially if your knees are already bothering you - won't make you any faster. And 10% is a tough slog.

The only really effective training for climbing is...more climbing. You might try doing hill intervals, if you have a hill nearby you can do in 5 minutes going as hard as you can, then rest up a bit. I used to ride a route that had 3 climbs like that separated by just enough distance to let my heart rate fall back a bit before the next one. That seemed to help with climbing, but overall I only got better at going up hills by going up more hills more often.
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Old 08-10-20, 03:48 PM
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Originally Posted by genejockey View Post
Simply going into a higher gear you can't turn - especially if your knees are already bothering you - won't make you any faster. And 10% is a tough slog.

The only really effective training for climbing is...more climbing. You might try doing hill intervals, if you have a hill nearby you can do in 5 minutes going as hard as you can, then rest up a bit. I used to ride a route that had 3 climbs like that separated by just enough distance to let my heart rate fall back a bit before the next one. That seemed to help with climbing, but overall I only got better at going up hills by going up more hills more often.
Re intervals, I have a 5 minute hill workout where I will alternate standing in a big gear with sitting and spinning a small gear.
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Old 08-10-20, 03:50 PM
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Originally Posted by torony View Post
Thank you 79pmooney for your clarification.

As a matter of fact, im not looking for changing the current chainring/cogs configuration since riding on my lowest combination suits me so far thus im not looking for smaller ratios. On the other hand, my friends are attacking the same climb faster since they are using higher gear combination due to their fitness/muscles. So what im looking for is to improve my climbing "speed" and i believe this will be achieved by being able to use higher gear ratios.
As for clipless pedals, i just got my hands on Shimano PD-M520 SPD Pedals but didnt install them yet, and i heard that they make a significant difference especially when climbing. For the time being, i dont feel comfy when standing since i face some knee pain not to mention that i run out of breath when seated again (kinda weird or im doing something wrong when standing).
Having that said, i was looking for any exercises which will enhance my uphill capabilities, one of which is the speed/higher gear ratios.
I wouldn't worry about what your friends are doing. Standing up on your pedals and lugging uphill by exerting brute force is good anaerobic exercise, but it is probably stressful for your knees. It's good to condition them by climbing in your lowest gear, slipping into the next higher gear occasionally when the grade mellows a bit, and back to the lowest gear when it's steeper. Abuse your knees and you will regret it.
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Old 08-10-20, 03:50 PM
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Improve your climbing technique. While waiting for improvement continue to use whatever gear works. Being able to climb in a bigger gear means nothing. All that matters is how fast you are going. Same speed in 26x34 and 36x34 is same speed.

Best possible exercise for climbing is climbing. No shortcuts.

Gravity is a constant. An interruption in power to pedals that lasts 0.01 second is immediately detected by gravity. No escaping gravity. Most good climbers pedal at a higher cadence than slower climbers. Higher cadence means lower gears. But use what works for you.
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Old 08-10-20, 03:55 PM
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Will surely try this approach !!
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Old 08-10-20, 03:57 PM
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Originally Posted by 63rickert View Post
Improve your climbing technique. While waiting for improvement continue to use whatever gear works. Being able to climb in a bigger gear means nothing. All that matters is how fast you are going. Same speed in 26x34 and 36x34 is same speed.

Best possible exercise for climbing is climbing. No shortcuts.

Gravity is a constant. An interruption in power to pedals that lasts 0.01 second is immediately detected by gravity. No escaping gravity. Most good climbers pedal at a higher cadence than slower climbers. Higher cadence means lower gears. But use what works for you.
And as I was reminded this weekend, doing a couple 5 minute climbs on each ride STILL doesn't prepare you for a 30 minute climb. I got humbled by that this weekend. Now I realize/remember that if I want to be able to do that particular climb, I have to go do that climb a lot more!
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Old 08-10-20, 03:58 PM
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Originally Posted by shelbyfv View Post
I'd suggest continuing with your 26T chainring but shift to smaller cogs in the rear for part of each climb.
Since we're not entertaining weight loss at the moment, this probably the next best thing to improve climbing. Try the same hill, but climb it using your second smallest gear. Once that feels comfortable, go to your third smallest gear, etc.

Of course, since OP mentioned knee pain the day after using a 36x34t, I would give a word of caution: to save your knees, focus on using a higher cadence and avoid "grinding" in a big gear.
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Old 08-10-20, 04:20 PM
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Originally Posted by torony View Post
Having that said, i was looking for any exercises which will enhance my uphill capabilities, one of which is the speed/higher gear ratios.
The best exercise to enhance your climbing capabilities is to ride more hills more often.
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Old 08-10-20, 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by torony View Post
Thank you 79pmooney for your clarification.

As a matter of fact, im not looking for changing the current chainring/cogs configuration since riding on my lowest combination suits me so far thus im not looking for smaller ratios. On the other hand, my friends are attacking the same climb faster since they are using higher gear combination due to their fitness/muscles. So what im looking for is to improve my climbing "speed" and i believe this will be achieved by being able to use higher gear ratios.
As for clipless pedals, i just got my hands on Shimano PD-M520 SPD Pedals but didnt install them yet, and i heard that they make a significant difference especially when climbing. For the time being, i dont feel comfy when standing since i face some knee pain not to mention that i run out of breath when seated again (kinda weird or im doing something wrong when standing).
Having that said, i was looking for any exercises which will enhance my uphill capabilities, one of which is the speed/higher gear ratios.
Climbing standing may not be harder on your knees. If it is a wear issue between the patella and bone under, the angular motion of your knee is just as much a culprit as the raw force. When you stand, you can rock the bike and lessen the movement of your knee. I have had chondromalcia patellae the past 40 years and have ridden fix gear including hill the entire time. The big rocking of the bike is a knee-saver for me Now the .trick is to be efficient while doing all that rocking. Keep your front wheel pointed straight up the hill, not wavering. I keep my head "quiet" with my eyes not moving except a small rotation about the bridge of my nose. I was taught this as a budding racer a million years ago. Took some real practice and concentration, but so worth it! When you get it down it becomes "the dance". Get it down and you can do it (at the appropriate speed - I watch my breathing) for a long time.

Now on the breathing - the dynamics are different seated to standing, Standing gives you access to more power for a given oxygen level. But when you sit down, you both go to a higher breathing mode and need to play catch-up for the debt you incurred standing. Don't give up. Keep doing it and watching what happens, Get a feel for what you can do. Standing is a very useful tool. For some, a few moments here and there. Others can park themselves there all day. (Me) For some it's an even 50-50. What standing does very well is open up the range of gradients you know you can handle. Standing also gives you far more full body exercise than seating. For those of us who just ride, a real blessing!

Best exercise for hill climbing, especially very steep hills? Ride them! It's all about the heart, the lungs, the legs and the small muscle train from quads to fingers and from glutes to fingers, Nothing targets that stuff like climbing.

Ben
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Old 08-10-20, 08:45 PM
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Things that can make you stronger uphills / use higher gears:

- Good breathing technique
- Go over hills more
- Brief moments pedaling out of the saddle (standing on the pedals). Watch GCN (Global Cycling Network) youtube channel for tips. Attacking short steep grades out of the saddle entirely
.....
and/or (if you can't find enough hills to train on, riding in mostly flat terrain):

- Sustain higher speeds in higher gear
- Deliberately add aerodynamic drag on the bike (full fenders with large mudflaps, very loose quick dry shirt, look for headwinds, etc). You'll actually love having full fenders and large mudflaps if you don't mind pedaling harder with the drag because it keeps the drivetrain very clean for much longer even when riding over wet roads.

Ironically, the most important factor in climbing better is keeping your weight to the optimal BMI (Body Mass Index). It's even more important than reducing weight of your bike.

Pedaling "out-of-the-saddle" (standing on the pedals) is one of the key element of uphill performance. Brief moments going out of the saddle will make a significant difference and it's a lot easier to do that if you're light.
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Old 08-10-20, 09:31 PM
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torony : It almost seems that you want to climb in bigger gears because your friends are able to do so. But that's a lousy reason. My advice is to stop worrying about the gearing; if you want to get up hills faster, focus on hill repeats and other forms of intervals, as several other riders have suggested. I've climbed grades as steep as 37% on a 34-32 gear, but plenty of other people have done it on higher gears as well as on lower gears -- the only thing that matters is just doing it.
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Old 08-11-20, 07:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Koyote View Post
torony : It almost seems that you want to climb in bigger gears because your friends are able to do so. But that's a lousy reason. My advice is to stop worrying about the gearing; if you want to get up hills faster, focus on hill repeats and other forms of intervals, as several other riders have suggested. I've climbed grades as steep as 37% on a 34-32 gear, but plenty of other people have done it on higher gears as well as on lower gears -- the only thing that matters is just doing it.
Thanks for your input.
My actual concern is working on exercises that will help me ride in higher ratios, so when there, i will be able to upgrade my bike/drive terrain.
So will be working on the shared ideas via this thread to improve my hill climbimg ability/speed
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Old 08-11-20, 07:32 PM
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It is simple physics. Your uphill speed is limited by the wattage you can put out no matter what gear you use. A lower gear will require a certain cadence to maintain speed. If you cannot put out enough power to maintain that cadence in a higher gear you cannot go faster, and you will probably bog down and go slower. Training is the magic bullet that will allow you to climb faster, it will make it possible for you to put out more power and turn that higher gear at the same cadence allowing you to go faster uphill
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Old 08-12-20, 03:59 AM
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Originally Posted by alcjphil View Post
It is simple physics. Your uphill speed is limited by the wattage you can put out no matter what gear you use. A lower gear will require a certain cadence to maintain speed. If you cannot put out enough power to maintain that cadence in a higher gear you cannot go faster, and you will probably bog down and go slower. Training is the magic bullet that will allow you to climb faster, it will make it possible for you to put out more power and turn that higher gear at the same cadence allowing you to go faster uphill
This is why im asking for suggested exercises to achieve that. Can you add any on the ones listed above?
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Old 08-12-20, 09:33 AM
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Originally Posted by torony View Post
This is why im asking for suggested exercises to achieve that. Can you add any on the ones listed above?
The suggested exercise to gain strength for hill climbing is more hill climbing. Work on spinning your pedals faster in the lower gears. If you spin too fast, switch to the next higher gear on the cassette, don't worry yet about using the next bigger chainring. Learn to climb out of the saddle for brief periods. If you see a steeper section, climb it standing and get back into the saddle when the grade decreases. Use a heart rate monitor to follow your heart rate a nd to learn what heart rate you can maintain for longer periods. Losing weight and buying a lighter bike will allow you to climb faster, again, simple physics. Your current bike isn't doing you any favours when it comes to uphill speed.
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Old 08-12-20, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by alcjphil View Post
The suggested exercise to gain strength for hill climbing is more hill climbing. Work on spinning your pedals faster in the lower gears. If you spin too fast, switch to the next higher gear on the cassette, don't worry yet about using the next bigger chainring. Learn to climb out of the saddle for brief periods. If you see a steeper section, climb it standing and get back into the saddle when the grade decreases. Use a heart rate monitor to follow your heart rate a nd to learn what heart rate you can maintain for longer periods. Losing weight and buying a lighter bike will allow you to climb faster, again, simple physics. Your current bike isn't doing you any favours when it comes to uphill speed.
To borrow a line from another program of self-improvement, this is simple but not easy.
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Old 08-12-20, 11:12 AM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
Climbing standing may not be harder on your knees. If it is a wear issue between the patella and bone under, the angular motion of your knee is just as much a culprit as the raw force. When you stand, you can rock the bike and lessen the movement of your knee. I have had chondromalcia patellae the past 40 years and have ridden fix gear including hill the entire time. The big rocking of the bike is a knee-saver for me Now the .trick is to be efficient while doing all that rocking. Keep your front wheel pointed straight up the hill, not wavering. I keep my head "quiet" with my eyes not moving except a small rotation about the bridge of my nose. I was taught this as a budding racer a million years ago. Took some real practice and concentration, but so worth it! When you get it down it becomes "the dance". Get it down and you can do it (at the appropriate speed - I watch my breathing) for a long time.

Now on the breathing - the dynamics are different seated to standing, Standing gives you access to more power for a given oxygen level. But when you sit down, you both go to a higher breathing mode and need to play catch-up for the debt you incurred standing. Don't give up. Keep doing it and watching what happens, Get a feel for what you can do. Standing is a very useful tool. For some, a few moments here and there. Others can park themselves there all day. (Me) For some it's an even 50-50. What standing does very well is open up the range of gradients you know you can handle. Standing also gives you far more full body exercise than seating. For those of us who just ride, a real blessing!

Best exercise for hill climbing, especially very steep hills? Ride them! It's all about the heart, the lungs, the legs and the small muscle train from quads to fingers and from glutes to fingers, Nothing targets that stuff like climbing.

Ben
And if the OP needs, you can build up strength to climb out of the saddle...by climbing out of the saddle. When I first started riding I couldn't crank standing up for more than a couple of revolutions. Partly because it felt weird since I hadn't ridden in 30 years or more and partly because I generally did it going up hill and it was hard! So I started by doing 10 cranks out of the saddle. I'd do that on a couple of smaller grades on my ride. Next ride, I'd add about 20%, so I'd do 12 cranks out of the saddle on those same hills. Next ride 15, and so on. Resist the urge to double or triple the reps...your knees will pay for it. Also resist the urge to do this on every hill on your ride. Maybe start with two or three hills on a given ride. Then throw in an extra hill on each ride.

Riding every day (and often twice a day) this technique made a huge difference to my riding in about a month to six weeks. And the nice thing is that I saw measurable improvements on every ride. Riding less often, maybe you'd want to increase more than 20% on the reps, I don't know.
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Old 08-13-20, 01:45 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by torony View Post
This is why im asking for suggested exercises to achieve that. Can you add any on the ones listed above?
Simply by riding faster on the bike whether you're in the flats or hills, you'll train your body to sustain higher power output which will also make you faster uphill. As you get faster as your legs build muscles, using higher gears will come naturally.

The hard part is motivating yourself to pedal harder. It is quite painful at the beginning but as the wise ant folks say, "no pain, no gain!". And the gains may not come after many days or weeks of pushing yourself to go faster and pedal harder.
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Old 08-13-20, 04:11 AM
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Usually at this time of the season I'm much lighter, in fact I'm just as heavy now as if I'm in the off season however I'm climbing well despite the extra weight. The equalizer for me has been squats. I now do 3 minute rounds of them. Has made a good difference. I hadn't done them in the past but the current times has changed my work and workout schedule. In a 30 minute workout session twice a week, led by my wife, I'll go through at least two 3 minute rounds of squats. The basic order is, squat take a step squat. I do this the circumference of the workout area for three minutes. It should be noted that I had a knee issue/injury that requires me to wear a knee brace. However I would not have been able to do any squatting at all if it wasn't for the exercises my wife put me on, Mainly quad extensions. They helped strengthen the muscles surrounding my knee and allowed me to stabilize enough for almost complete healing but I still wear the brace when running or other impact exercises.
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Old 08-13-20, 05:11 AM
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Elliptical machine training helps if you have one available.
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