Training power endurance

It’s Tuesday already? Oh yes it is!

Times flying by when you’ve got a lot on your plate.

Nevermind, I promised a longer post last week and I am not one to disappoint my dear readers.

I would like to start of with some good news on the injured finger front: It hasn’t returned to full strength yet but it feels really f*cking good! I can climb relatively hard, hang from relatively small edges and don’t feel any pain in most grip positions. At times it still feels a bit insecure but I guess that’s just the name of the game.

I was able to prove how good my finger is when I was able to onsight 6c (5.11a) last Friday! This is my first onsight of the grade and I almost topped it with a redpoint of a nice 7a+ (5.12a) but botched a delicate sequence right before the top after breezing through the lower crux. I hope I will return soon and finally get my first 5.12-route.

Ok, so that’s about it on the climbing side of things. Time to talk some training!

 

Power endurance

I’m heading to Céüse in about 6 weeks and I know from experience that I will get incredibly pumped on those long, immaculate limestone routes. Thus, it is time for some power endurance (or strength endurance) training.

My approach towards this quality includes two components. The first component is frequent outdoor climbing, trying to get flashes or quick redpoints. This works power endurance and specific rock-skills (footwork, reading rock, clipping, lead-head…) at the same time and will hopefully shorten the time that I need to reacquaint myself with the climbing in Céüse.

The second component is some serious training on the steep board at my local climbing wall. You should always train specifically for your objectives in order to get optimal results. So at the start of my thought process, I figured out what type of routes I want to climb in Céüse. I came to the conclusion that I will climb routes in the 25 to 35 metre range which will be slightly overhanging, very pocketed and generally quite pumpy and sustained.

This would mean you should climb on similar terrain and on problems of similar length in order to have the perfect preparation.

I admit that a 45°-board might be a bit steeper than the walls in Céüse but that is the only option I have. Regarding grip type, I am somewhat limited because I can’t really use 2-finger pockets with my injured finger, so I decided to go for large open-hand holds instead and hope that I’ll be able to use pockets soon. I also train the index/middle-finger combo on the hangboard. An advantage of this approach is that the bigger jugs are not as friction dependend as smaller holds. At my wall, it has become unbearably hot again and I tend to grease off every hold that needs at least some amount of friction.

On the board, I set a 20 move circuit which is consistently difficult and has no distinct crux sections. If you want to get your power endurance up, it is important that you complete a certain number of moves rather than falling at some arbitrary point because a crux move was too difficult for you. The plan is to do that 20 move circuit 3 times with a certain amount of rest in between tries. This constitutes one series. After the series you take a longer rest of 10 to 15 minutes and do another series afterwards.

Initially, I will start with a 2 minute rest between sets and then gradually decrease rest times every week until I can hopefully link the circuit 3 times with no rest, making it a 60-move pump fest.

The reasoning behind eventually doing a 60 move circuit is that routes in Céüse tend to be longer climbs (from 25 metres all the way up to 60 metre monster pitches) and 60 moves roughly falls into the length of 25-35 metres.

If you want to do similar training, I’d advise you to set a very good circuit first. Spend some time on this, as it will greatly influence how effective your training will be. I took about 2 sessions to finalize my circuit and I chased multiple dead-ends in the process. Actually, I wanted to have 3 different circuits but made 2 circuits which were too hard and ended up deciding to use only the one circuit.

Another trick is to use small screw-on foot-jibs only, as this will slow down your climbing and make your pace more similar to outdoor climbing. Small footholds on a steep board also train core strength and are, in my opinion, the best way to replicate insecure foot placements outdoors.

During your sessions, pay attention to where you fall on your circuit. If you fall after only a few moves, you shouldn’t consider this attempt as a proper repetition. Take a small rest instead and try to link the circuit again. You don’t have to ‘send’ the circuit every time but you should get far enough to feel a burning pump in your forearms. If you’re sending every time, your circuit may have become too easy and you should decrease rest times. If you can link your circuit 3 times back-to-back, you should change it to make it harder.

You can increase the number of series you do in a session as you get better. This will increase work capacity and give you more quality attempts when it comes to actual outdoor climbing. My goal is to eventually do 6 series in a session, so that I can have 4 to 5 good goes on my outdoor projects in a day.

That’s everything I have to say about training power endurance for climbing right now and I’m excited to see how my plan will work out.

 

Wish me luck, have a great week and feel the pump!

 

Cheers!

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My Current Weekly Routine

This is what I currently do for my training. My mid-term goal is to be fit for a sport climbing trip in the end of July. My main focus at this time is on improving my finger strength. I will move on to a power phase in about a month and I will do strength endurance after that. The most important tool I currently use in training is the 45° board (also known as a ‘woody’). It is a steep board that is scattered with lots of holds that come in different shapes and sizes. There are no pre-set problems on it and you have to create your own problems to train on it. Climbing on a steep angle really Continue reading “My Current Weekly Routine”

A training week

I thought I’d do something a little bit different today and I’m not going to ramble on about my training in general or my progress. Instead, I’m gonna give you my last week of training, workout by workout, so that you can see how my actual training looks like. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to comment.

 

This was the last week of my power endurance phase. The next two weeks are a tapering phase before I go on my trip to Siurana, to tackle that 7a.

1. Monday
Rotator Cuff Rehab Program

2. Tuesday
Light bouldering to warm-up.
Steep board climbing (45 degrees) – roughly 20 single moves with ample rest  (max strength), then 3 x 10 moves / 2 minutes rest x 3 (maximal strength endurance)

3. Wednesday
Light bouldering to warm-up.
3 x 60 moves (linking boulders) / 7 minute rest
Spanish workout: Climb one problem three times with no rest, then take a minute rest, then repeat x 20. This was very hard (a lot of moves in a short time).

4. Thursday
Autobelay:
3 routes for a light warm-up.
3 x redpoint burns on a project.
laps – 5 routes with no rest x 2

5. Friday
rest

6. Saturday
PE on a fingerboard:
20 seconds on / 10 seconds off (feet on chair) x 20 x 2

7. Sunday
Bouldering for an hour.
Foot-on campusing:
90 seconds on / 60 seconds off x 6 (larger rungs, open hand)
5 minute rest
45 seconds on / 60 seconds off x 6 (smaller rungs, full crimp)

Rotator Cuff Rehab Program
Elbow rehab

 

So this was my week. It was pretty heavy but still manageable. I’ll now take it a bit easier and hope I’ll be able to reap the benefits of my training once I’m in Spain!

Endurance Training for Climbing

I started climbing at an indoor bouldering wall but not long afterwards I went sport climbing outside for the first time and I instantly fell in love. Rock climbing just has it all. It’s a sport that is competitive enough, has a great community, you get to hang out with good friends and on top of that you go to beautiful places outside. Indoors however, I seldomly took to roped climbing. Only this year I started to do roped indoor climbing more regularly. Not surprisingly, I always lacked endurance when I went outside for climbing. I was simply not training for more than 5 to 15 moves. Structured training is something new to me, so usually, when I went on a climbing trip I’d exclusively bouldered before. It was only at the end of extended trips that I’d build some sort of climbing endurance and that I was able to send some longer and harder routes. This season however, I started to do some structured training and I also figured out how to train endurance on a bouldering wall. I read a lot of stuff by different authors on endurance training for climbing and there seems to be an abundance of different systems and exercises. Energy systems, power endurance, strength endurance, ARC… it’s all quite confusing to be honest. I can’t say that I don’t understand the theoretical side, I just think it could be described in bit more simplistic terms. This post shows the way in which I break down the whole field of endurance training for climbing.

 

What do we do when rock climbing?

Outdoor rock climbing is incredibly varied. Routes and styles are so different that it’s hard to make general claims about the characteristics of climbing. There are short powerful routes, sustained power endurance routes and there are uber long pitches with difficult sections followed by easier sections and rests. The possibilities are endless.

For the sake of simplicity I’ll rule out super short routes here, because I don’t do those very often. Most of my climbing is at limestone crags in Austria, France and Spain. The routes are usually vertical to slightly overhanging and they mostly feature edges and pockets. The length varies but I’d guess that most of them fall between 15 and 35 metres. So what do I need to do to send those routes?

1. I have to do all the moves

Doing all the moves is of course necessary to send a route. This means I need to be strong enough to do them. If I don’t have enough strength for the crux I’ll never climb the route. This article however is not about strength training, so I’ll assume I’m strong enough.

 

2. I have to link all the moves

When I know that I can do all the moves I can start to link them. This means I need to retain enough strength to always be able to do the next move. This may cause a few problems:

  • There is a short sequence of moves – seperated by good rests/easier terrain – and while I can do all the moves individually, I can’t link them because I power out very quickly. I am not pumped, my strength just fades very quickly and I fall off. This is what some people call anaerobic capacity. It’s the ability to do 8 – 15 moves just below your maximum strength level. It’s different from being pumped but it’s quite hard to make the difference. British climber Alex Barrows explains the concept in this PDF (there is also a recent Trainingbeta episode with Tom Randall who talks about this stuff). German climbing trainer Guido Köstermeyer calls this quality maximum strength endurance and that term is quite close to what it is. It’s the ability to sustain a high percentage of your maximum strength for about 10 – 30 seconds.

 

  • There is a longer sequence of sustained moves without a rest inbetween. This can be a short sustained route or a longer sequence in a route. It typically features about 20 to 30 moves. The moves are mid-intensity individually but the link-up requires a very high effort. My forearms get increasingly pumped and at some point I just can’t hold on anymore. This is what people usually refer to as power endurance. Actually, strength endurance would be a more accurate term and I’m gonna use it instead of power endurance. Strength endurance is the ability to sustain mid-intensity moves for 30 to 180 seconds.

 

  • I climbed a strenuous passage and arrive at a larger hold. There is more strenuous climbing ahead and I need to recover on the big hold. If I fail to reduce the pump in my forearms I won’t be able to make it through the next section. Quick recovery is essential on most climbs. Your ability to recover depends on your aerobic metabolism. Your aerobic metabolism uses oxygen to recycle the waste products accumulated in your forearms and to provide new energy to your forearm muscles. You can train this quality by increasing the volume of moves you do in a session. You’ll have to climb easier stuff to do as many moves as possible though. Training this quality will also increase your all-day stamina, which means you’ll get more quality attempts in a day, before your strength starts to fade.

 

The different attributes broken down by moves and intensity:

 

Attribute Number of Moves Intensity
maximal strength 1 to 5 very high
maximal strength endurance

 

8 to 15 high
strength endurance

 

20 to 40 medium
aerobic endurance

 

many low

 

The exercises I do

Aerobic training

There are a few training sessions which allow you to do a lot of moves. The classical example for base endurance training is ARCing. ARC training is basically open traversing for an extended period of time (10 – 60 minutes). I did this kind of training in September but I feel like training at a slightly higher intensity could yield additional benefits. My new favourite exercise for this is called spanish workout

You pick a boulder problem well within your abilities (flash level minus 2 to 4) and complete 3 laps on it. This means you climb to the top, jump off and immediately get back on. After you completed the laps you rest a minute, pick another boulder and do the same again. Do this until you rested for 10 minutes (10 sets). This means you’ll have completed 30 boulders in a little more than 10 minutes. You should finish all of your sets. If you get too pumped choose an easier problem as the next one. It shouldn’t be too easy either. Aim for a slight pump. You can extend the workout to 15 or 20 minutes (45 – 60 attempts) when you get used to 10.

Strength endurance

There are a lot of ways to train for strength endurance. Your training actually depends on the type of routes you want to do. You want to climb crimpy routes? Set yourself a crimpy circuit in the length of the route you want to do! Wanna climb an overhanging jug fest? Make sure you lap routes on the steep overhangs at the wall. Strength endurance training has so many facets. Mostly though it involves intervals of pretty hard sustained climbing for a set period of time and a rest period. Just think about what you want to do and try to make your training as specific as possible. I’ve found that linked bouldering circuits work quite well if you’re at a bouldering wall. Just pick a few boulder problems that are set close to each other and climb them successively without coming off the wall.

Maximal strength endurance

This quality is best trained on a steep bouldering wall plastered with holds. Set yourself a problem featuring 8 to 15 moves. You should come off at the end of the sequence because you just can’t grab that next hold. It can be quite tricky to get the intensity right. You may have to experiment a little bit. After you’ve set yourself a nice boulder, climb it and rest for about 90 – 120 seconds afterwards. You shouldn’t carry a pump to the next set. In fact, you shouldn’t get pumped at all really. Do about 6 sets of this, then rest for 15 to 20 minutes and do another 6 sets.

These are just some ideas on how to train endurance for climbing. There are tons of other exercises that you could try. Programming of these depends on the periodization model you follow. You could organize your training in 4-week blocks, where you’d train aerobic endurance first, then maximal strength endurance, power and then strength endurance. I like to train all of these qualities at once. However, I still put more emphasis on one quality at a time and just do a little to maintain the others.

To sum this post up:

Climbing endurance is highly specific. Look at what you want to do in climbing and at what point you might fail. Tailor your training around your observations and find exercises that mimic the climbing you want to do. Have fun!

My new favourite workout: Forearm hell!

I like to try new things with my training, especially when it’s about grip strength and forearm training. We all know, that the fingerboard (hangboard) is one oft the best, if not the best tool for finger strength training. Even the best tool can be improved upon though. This is why I decided to experiment a little during this fingerboard cycle and try to add a more general forearm workout after my fingerboard hangs. The reasoning behind this is that I want to add size to my forearms and while isometric training is great for building strength, it’s not that great for achieving hypertrophy. This makes it difficult to achieve serious forearm growth through fingerboarding. For building pure finger strength and conditioning the finger tendons however, the fingerboard is an invaluable piece of training equipment. Isotonic exercises (exercises where you’re muscle actually moves weight) are known to be good for achieving hypertrophy, so my new workout mostly consists of isotonic exercises.

Another reason for adding in a forearm workout after fingerboarding is my hope to increase blood-flow in the forearms and fingers, thus increasing nutrient transport, facilitating muscle adaptations and speeding up recovery. I also want to strengthen my wrists using these exercises and I keep an eye on stressing the forearm flexor as well as the forearm extensor muscles.

The workout

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Heavy grippers with 100, 150 and 200 lbs of resistance

I do a circuit of 4 forearm exercises without rest. After I completed the circuit, I rest for 3 to 5 minutes and then repeat the whole circuit again. You’ll need a wrist roller, heavy grippers, a towel and 2 dumbbells to complete the workout. Your arms will get really pumped during the workout and that’s what you want to achieve. If the exercises get too easy for you, you can increase weight or reps.

Exercises

Wrist roller: perform 4 reps in each direction (I use 10 kg)

Heavy grippers: perform reps to failure with both hands (alternate hands and choose a gripper that lets you complete about 10 reps), then take a harder gripper and do reps to failure again (should be about five). Afterwards, take a gripper that you can’t close yet and try to close it. Squeeze as hard as you can.

Towel hang: hang a towel over a pull-up bar, grip it and hang from it with both hands. Keep your elbows slightly bent and your shoulders engaged. Try to hang for at least 30 seconds.

Curls: Take two dumbbells, they shouldn’t be very heavy, it’s not your goal to train your biceps here. I use 5 kg dumbbells for this exercise. Perform 10 normal biceps curls, then, without rest, perform 10 hammer curls and immediately afterwards perform 10 pronated curls (palms facing away from you). Your forearms should feel like they’ll explode during the last few reps.

Now take a 3 to 5 minute rest and repeat the whole circuit. Your forearms will be swollen and they’ll hurt after this workout. It feels just great! A forearm massage might be a good idea in order to get rid of the pump and to increase blood-flow.

Programming

I do 2 fingerboard workouts a week, but I only perform the Forearm hell workout after one of them. The reason for this is quite simple. One of my fingerboard workouts is performed on a climbing day. I fingerboard in the morning and climb in the afternoon. If I’d do additional work on my forearms on that day, my climbing session would go to shit. And that’s not what I want. My other fingerboard workout is always followed by a restday, so I perform the forearm workout immediately after fingerboarding and the restday leaves me with enough time to recover for my next climbing session. As I said, this is still in experimentation phase. I don’t know if it will benefit my finger or grip strength yet, but it certainly feels great. You might be able to perform the workout more than once a week, but I’m gonna be careful here because I don’t want to overdo it.

Have fun trying this and post a comment if you’d like to share any thoughts about it!