Lab Rats Needed to Test Biking’s Ability to Improve Loaded Uphill Movement Performance

*** UPDATE July 6, 2020**** We’ve received enough lab rats for this mini study and won’t be accepting any new applications.


By Rob Shaul

MTI is calling for remote lab rats for an upcoming, narrow, focused, 3.5 weeks, 3-day/week Mini-Study testing the ability of cycling to increase uphill hiking performance.

This will be a focused study, involving either loaded step ups or biking/spinning, and can be completed simultaneously with your current training.

This mini-study will begin Monday, July 13 and end Monday, August 3. 


Anecdotally, we’ve read that biking/spinning can improve uphill movement under load, but we’ve never tested this.

In our experience, the best way to improve a specific fitness attribute is to simply train that attribute. So, the best way to improve uphill hiking under load is to hike uphill with a loaded pack.

However, we are interested to see if other modes can transfer. In some cases, weather, geography, injury and/or equipment restrictions can limit an athlete’s ability to hike uphill or do step ups in the gym. Having an alternative training mode that has good transfer to loaded uphill hiking gives us and our athletes another tool in the toolbox to work with.


Lab Rats will be broken into 2 groups: Group A, and Group B. Both groups will complete a max rep 30 Minute Max Rep Step Up effort wearing a 35# Backpack and using a 16-20″ bench or box.

In past research we have found that loaded step ups transfer well to uphill hiking under load, and because step ups can be so easily controlled, we will use step ups as the assessment for both groups and the training for Group A in this mini study.

Group A (control group) will complete a time based progression of 35-pound step ups two times per week at a moderate pace.

Group B (study group) will complete a time-based progression of spinning or flat cycling two times per week at a moderate pace.

Each group will perform its individual progression for 3 weeks, then on the Monday of week 4, each will re-assess the 30-minute Max Rep Step Up effort and we’ll compare results.

Lab Rats will be able to complete these progressions on top or in addition to their regular current training, we just ask that for the duration of the study, they not complete any additional steps ups or cycling work (depending on your assigned group).

Required Equipment: 

  • Both Groups A & B: 35-pound back pack, 16-20″ step up bench, and stopwatch (smart phone will work).
  • Group B – Stationary bike or bicycle and a relatively flat course for 30-40 minute moderate paced efforts.

Cycle Duration and Schedule:
This MTI Mini-Study will take 3.5 weeks and athletes will train two times per week. It will begin Monday, July 13, 2020 with the initial step up assessment.  On the Monday of Week 4, August 3, 2020, lab rats will re-assess the step up effort and the results between the two groups will be compared.

To Participate

  • You’ll need to commit to training Step Ups or Cycling for 3.5 weeks, and follow the program as prescribed.
  • You’ll need to commit to only do this training for uphill hiking/step ups or cycling. No other step up/uphill hiking or cycling training is allowed during the study period as it may skew the results.
  • You’ll need the required equipment (see above)
  • You’ll need to be an experienced, fit athlete.

This is a focused mini-study which only involves step ups and/or cycling. You’ll be able to do other training as well, just no additional push up or pull up work.

Want to be an MTI Lab Rat?

Please email, and put “Bike/Step Up Lab Rat” in the subject line.

Please include:

  • your age, height and weight
  • training experience (this mini study isn’t appropriate for unfit or deconditioned athletes)
  • Verify you have a backpack, 35-pounds of load, a 16-20″ bench or box for step ups.
  • Verify you have access to a stationary bike or bicycle.
  • Finally, please verify you can commit to the 3.5 weeks, 2 day/week training cycle.

You’ll be assigned to a Group, and provided with further instructions. Training will start on July 13, 2020.


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