Standing Challenge, Take 2: Compare Standing With Seated Efforts

Two months ago I wrote a post about the wisdom (or lack of it) of standing for long periods out of the saddle. You can read that post here. It was based on an instructor who bragged about doing a 40-minute climb out of the saddle. This wasn’t the first time I had heard about an instructor doing that, but it’s never been a good idea anywhere.

In my post, I challenged anyone in the indoor cycling world to perform my standing climb challenge. You need a bike with a power meter that you can record average wattage, a cadence meter, as well as a heart rate monitor. This is so you can see the actual results of standing up on your output (power) and the physical response (your heart rate). The goal was to stand up for as long as you could—up to 40 minutes, but even 15 to 20 would prove my point that power would drop over time as fatigue likely negatively impacted form and reduced cadence while increasing heart rate. Read my post for the full description of the standing challenge.

I had planned on doing it myself (and I still might). But things like life got in the way. So, I have come up with a new challenge, which I describe in the following video:

Again, here is a link to that original post.

While I still think a challenge to try to stand as long as you can while measuring your power, heart rate, and cadence will still be an eye-opening experience for many, it is just too much for many people. The new climbing comparison challenge will also require recording power, heart rate, and cadence averages, but for shorter periods. It will compare 5 minutes of standing and seated efforts at the same cadence. You’ll need songs that are 6 to 8 minutes in length, allowing time to raise intensity and then capture 5 minutes of data. Cadence should be the same for each, somewhere between 64 and 70 rpm (128–140 bpm). Give yourself ample time to recover so you can attain the required effort for subsequent intervals. 

The protocol consists of the following:

The Standing vs. Seated Climb Challenge

Warm up
5 minutes easy, Zone 1
3–4 minutes with 30-second leg surges to “somewhat hard”

Climb 1
Start seated, first dialing in a resistance that brings you somewhere just below your FTP. Then stand, making any adjustments in resistance to stabilize wattage. Allow heart rate to increase. Once it levels off, stay standing and record data for 5 minutes. (This is why you need a longer song, since it may take 1–2 minutes to stabilize.)
Record average wattage, heart rate, and cadence.

Recover. 80–90 rpm, 4–5 minutes

Climb 2
You will be seated the whole time. Start by dialing in the average power you achieved in the standing climb. Give heart rate about a minute to increase, but focus more on a stabilized power output. Collect 5 minutes of data.
Record average wattage, heart rate, and cadence.

Recover. 80–90 rpm, 4–5 minutes

Climb 3
You will be seated the whole time. This time your goal will be to ignore your power (except at the beginning) and try to reach the same heart rate average you attained for the standing climb. You may need 1 or 2 minutes to reach that point. Start by first dialing in enough resistance to bring your power to approximately your average for the first climb. But then ignore the power and only focus on heart rate (you may have to cover up the power line of your console with tape to do this if you will be influenced by your power). Watch your heart rate; you may have to continually add more resistance to bring your heart rate up to your standing climb effort. Once you see it level off, then start collecting the data for 5 minutes. This one will take the most focus; when you see your heart rate drop, add small amounts of resistance. If it rises above your previous average, then reduce resistance slightly. Focus very intently on smooth pedaling, as erratic pedaling may affect both power and heart rate.
Record average wattage, heart rate, and cadence.

Recover/cool down.

This should be totally within every instructor’s abilities, as well as most riders’. Beginners will have a tough time with even 5 minutes out of the saddle, so be careful.

Will you take on this challenge? What do you expect to happen? Why? 

Do it yourself first before asking your riders to do it so you know exactly what to expect. Perhaps bring a group of your instructor peers together to try it together. I do see this as being a very effective and eye-opening class profile.

After I have a chance to do this myself, I will write this up as a profile with some fun songs for you to do it with your riders. I’ll be sure to include helpful cues so you’ll know how to explain this to your class. It may end up being what I like to call a “lightbulb moment” for your riders (and for you as well)!

NOTE: Looks like my heart rate monitor is kaput. I tried a new battery and it still doesn’t work, so I ordered a new one that arrives Monday. So darn it…I can’t do it this weekend. Stay tuned, this one will be good training for my bike tour, so not to worry, it’s coming soon! =) 



  1. I agree with you Jennifer. I can’t imagine doing this and we would probably empty our classes if we attempted to do this. Keep it Real who would ride like this indoors or out.

    1. Author

      I know right?

      The ones who do super long standing segments (up to 40 minutes) claim their riders love it. I believe that is because they teach their students the incorrect definition of challenge. Just because something is hard, doesn’t mean that doing it makes it worthwhile. But those riders believe that they just did something groundbreaking.

      More like back, hip, and foot breaking! 😉

  2. Hi Jennifer, thanks for posting this. I agree with you on all points. One issue is that we also put stress on the feet, and for those with any kind of arthritis issues, it becomes very uncomfortable.
    I have 2 questions and sorry to include in the post.
    Do you sell the ICA jerseys? Also are you on a Stages indoor cycling bike?

    1. Author

      oh yes, so true! It hurts my feet to stand that long, and Nobuko, the instructor I mention who did 30 minutes of the previous challenge, said her feet went numb after 5 minutes and it just got worse and worse. I can’t imagine someone doing this without stiff cycling shoes, or someone who actually has arthritis! Good point.

      Yes, that’s a Stages bike.

      That jersey is not for sale, but I will be creating some new ones this summer that we will put up for sale. We are rebranding with a new logo (exciting!!) so the images will change. Keep your eyes open!

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