High Performance Climbing

Logical Progression

It goes like this:

You started out climbing and you were afraid and the movement was hard but it was thrilling. Your forearms were sore for a couple of days after, but you stayed after it, and eventually you started figuring things out. You got better each weekend, started leading some pitches, and eventually you got pretty good.


At some point, you stopped getting better, so you started climbing at the gym on Wednesdays and you got better again. Eventually, that stopped working, too. You bought a book and followed the program as best you could, but those big gains never came back.


Fast forward a few years, and your default mode is either “in shape” or “out of shape” for climbing the same grade you’ve been stuck at for a few seasons. It never seems to change - either your bouldering power is good but you’ve got no juice, your endurance is fine but the crimps are not there, or you just aren’t feeling it.


Here’s a secret: I am you. I have studied, tested, and restudied training program design for 25 years. I have written more articles than I can remember on scheduling, planning, and periodization strategies. It wasn’t until very recently that I understood why most climbers get hung up, even on the most well-designed periodized programs. There are two factors that make climbing a uniquely difficult sport to program for:

  1. It is a skill sport with a fitness component, not a fitness sport. This is why traditional programs designed for weightlifting or endurance sports (most “traditional” periodized programs) don’t work well for climbing.
  2. Climbing relies heavily on all three energy systems. We don’t have the luxury of maximally adapting to one system at a time. A distance runner, for example, can work speed early-season, adapt to more anaerobic activities pre-season, and them go for distance in the competitive season. Our sport requires high (but not maximal) levels of strength, power, and conditioning, and we need to keep them high for several weeks or months at a time in order to do our hardest climbs.


This is where concurrent maintenance and development of strength, power, and endurance become important. This is where a nonlinear approach to training becomes key. Instead of training strength for a month, then power for a month, then anaerobic endurance, we train all the factors at all times. Science shows us that combined sessions (where we train several systems in one workout) can have dubious value, but sequencing targeted sessions through the course of the week can be unbelievably effective.


I started writing nonlinear plans for myself in 2004, and had the best season of my life at the time. I started coaching athletes on the same program the following year. Now, 12 years later, I feel like I have the program to a point where I can offer it to everyone.


In order to assure the program was the best I could make it, I took a big risk (to my ego) last summer. I sent the first draft of this book out to 25 climbers across the globe, and asked them to try the plan. The climbers ranged from novices with less than a year under their belts to 20-year veterans climbing 5.14. I sent it to coaches, to pro climbers, and to average joe weekend warriors. I wanted to be sure I was right - that this program was no fluke and could actually work. Not for just some climbers, but for most of them.


The edit team came back with both a number of suggestions and a lot of good feedback. Overwhelmingly, those who did the program for 6 weeks or more saw improvements.


Fast forward to today: I rewrote the text, clarified the program details, added several example programs, and let Kian Stewart go to work on the layout. I am proud to announce the release of Logical Progression. This book represents the best training I have ever programmed. I believe that the simplicity and flexibility of this program make it the ultimate in real-world planning. We are proud to make this book available to climbers. Pick up a copy here