Round 119

Hi Eric, I’m doing some research into climbing specific training and I can’t find a definition (and training guidelines) for “power” or “power endurance”, etc. Can you help me out here? Thanks for your time! –Jake (Australia)

Hey Jack, In rock climbing, power is all about brief explosive movements, as in a campus move or a big, lunging move on a boulder route or burly  crux on a roped route.  “Power endurance” is a bit of a vague term, used in different ways by different people. In my opinion, power endurance describes the ability to sustain near-maximal power moves (as described above) for 15 to 20 seconds—after this point, power output is greatly reduced due to depletion of ATP-CP in the muscles and the consequent dominance of the lactic energy pathway. Sustaining moderately high power output beyond 20 seconds is, therefore, all about anaerobic endurance—this is the type of climbing that makes you get really pumped. Anyway, you train power by doing a series of brief powerful movements with limited rest breaks in between (like 10 campus laps or 10 short boulder problems in just a 10-minute period—approximately 10 – 15 seconds of work followed by 45 – 50 seconds of rest) and train anaerobic endurance by doing longer climbing intervals with at least equally long rest breaks between each interval (for example, 1 to 5 minute climbing burns with a 1:2 or 1:3 work-rest ratio being ideal). Hope this helps!

Hey Eric, First off I just wanted to say that I think all your training advice, especially the stuff concerning mental and physical technique is amazing and works really well! I have never trained specifically for climbing other than just climbing as much as I can and have always considered myself a relatively weak climber (can’t do a one-arm pull-up, can’t hold a one-arm lock-off, max out at about 17 pull-ups etc.) and have always as much as possible relied on good technique to get me through tough routes. Last year I did my first 13a but this was a time in my life where I was unusually thin, I’m 5’10” and normally weigh 150 lbs though at that time I was at 135. Since getting back to 150 I haven’t been able to climb that hard anymore and have been once again maxing out at around 5.12c. Are there other kinds of tricks, tips, or techniques I can learn to get better at climbing or am I at a point where I really just need to start training a bit? –Jesse (Texas)

Hey Jesse, 15 pounds is quite a difference in bodyweight, so perhaps your climbing weight can settle in somewhere in between (~ 143 lb)? Anyway, at your heavier weight the best thing you can do is to start doing some hypergravity training–that is, bouldering and fingerboard training with a weight belt on. For example, training on boulder problems twice a week with a 10 lb belt…and doing brief, intense fingerboard hangs with 30 to 50 lb weight vest. You’ll need to invest in the weights, but it will be worth it. After a few months of such training (twice per week with weights), you’ll start to feel on the rock like you did when you were 135! But ease into the weight belt/vest training carefully and dial back if any usual pains develop (careful on the elbows and shoulders). Hope this helps—let me know how it goes. More 13s are in your future, I’m sure.

Eric, I was taking a recovery day and was ecstatic to find your website due to how well researched and written the material is. I especially appreciate your recovery sections and there description of bioenergetics and its relationship to recovery. I study exercise physiology and do research here at U of I, so therefore my question is about your writing. Do you have citations for the articles–I would love to dig deeper. Good luck to you and thank you for your time with this site. I will be a long time follower from here on out. –Matt (Illinios)

Hey Matt, If you pick up my book, Training for Climbing, you’ll find extensive footnoting and a list of research references. The web articles are meant to be bite-sized practical tips, not long detailed explanations.  Of course, some of the web articles are based on my own experience (37 years climbing, 35 years training for climbing, 25+ years coaching and writing about climbing) and just my opinion—so I could be right or wrong on some of my statements/recommendations! Good luck in school—I hope you can do some unique climbing research in the future! Keep me posted.

Hi Eric, I have a question about nutrition. I read your article about creatine. There are many types of creatine like monohydrate or tri-creatine malate. Do you think that some of them are more beneficial? Or maybe some of them will not increase my weight that much? I’m heavy for a climber 83-84 kg (185 lb) I’m also kind of old for climber at age 30. I would like to avoid additional weight. The target is to increase endurance and strength for 8a overhanging route and drytooling competitions. –Leszek (Poland)

Hi Leszek, I’d save your money and not buy creatine—it only helps with brief busts of energy lasting a few seconds. So for roped endurance climbs it’s of little use…and even a kilogram or two of added weight (a side effect of regular creatine use) would be a bad thing. I suggest you make a long-term training effort that has two different kinds of workouts. Day #1: do hard boulder problems lasting 10 seconds to 30 seconds at most. Also in this workout do some brief weighted hangs on the fingerboard, and perhaps a few sets of campus training. The goal of this workout is to increase maximum strength and power, which will help you climb harder in a submaximal mode on endurance climbs. Day #2: Is an endurance workout. If you are sore/tired from the previous day, you should do low-intensity aerobic climbing—do very easy climbing (3 set of 5 to 15 minutes without getting pumped) on a Treadwall or traversing an indoor gym wall, never getting more than a very slight pump. If on Day #2 you feel fresh, then do an anaerobic endurance workout—this will be 4 to 8 harder interval climbs which get you pumped (climb 1 to 5 minutes with a work:rest ratio of 1:2 or 1:3) Day#3 is a rest day, then you repeat again beginning with the Day#1 workout, Day #2 workout, and then take two rest days (with only running or antagonist training). This schedule takes your through a full week. Then repeat again. Give this a try for 3 months and you should experience improvement! Let me know how it goes.

Eric, During the last four seasons I have been twice sidelined with injuries. My question is regarding how injuries affect a training cycle, such as your 4-3-2-1 program. If I am in the Strength-Power phase of the cycle and am sidelined for a month with an injury at which point in the cycle do I start again? I’m taking the injury seriously (thankfully it’s only minor impingement), but I really don’t want to have to start over with 4 weeks of technique and lower-end climbs at this point in my training plan. Thanks, and best of luck this season. –Andrew (Idaho)

Hi Andrew, I hope you are feeling better. Given your situation, I’d say to focus on outdoor climbing as much as possible and not worry about the training cycle at the moment. Just try to get healed up and get climbing outside for experience and fun! Then when bad weather (or winter) arrives, begin a new 4-3-2-1 cycle. Use the 4-week phase to climb a lot for volume (roped and unroped), but not maximally. The 3-week phase is then your chance to do more bouldering and strength/power exercises, but be aware of any return of pain…and dial it back if needed. The goal is to get healthy first and get strong second; and of course, always have fun and climb your best!