By Steve Bechtel
There are a hundred methods of training endurance for climbing. Rather than going on a rant and bashing all the bad ways people use to get some more juice, let me tell you about one good one that even a boulderer can get his head around. If you don’t relish the idea of doing endless laps for 30 or 40 or 50 minutes at a time, it might be time to try to get rhythm with some rhythm intervals.
Over the past dozen year, we’ve messed with several different types of interval training workouts in order to help our athletes redpoint harder grades. These have ranged from lapping routes, to 4x4s to 5x2s to timed splits to countdown recovery sets. This one is easy, can be done somewhat quickly (12 minutes), and it yields real results. The basic setup is like this: Get two sets of 4 matching holds, preferably a set of large edges and a set of slopers or cobbles. Set both groups of these up with two about shoulder-width apart and the other two about 2-2.5 feet above, also at shoulder-width apart. In the middle, about halfway between the holds, place a nice big rest jug (imagine making an X with the holds, this would be at the center.)
On the wall below your interval holds, place enough big foot holds to avoid having to think about footwork – this is a forearm-only workout.
The workout goes like this:
Set a timer to chime every 30 seconds. Get on the wall using the large edges and start your clock. Move your left hand up to the higher edge, then back down, right hand up, then back down. Repeat this slowly and deliberately (usually we’ll see 4-6 moves per hand in 30 seconds) until the timer beeps. At this point, switch to your rest jug and shake out for 30 seconds. Repeat this sequence three more times, for a total of 4 minutes.
After this first 4 minute bout, rest passively for 4 minutes, followed by another 4 minute work bout on the other set of holds.
You can make this harder as you improve by:
-Making the holds smaller (if you need to improve endurance on small holds)
-Spacing the holds further apart ( if reaching / locking off is a weakness)
-Decreasing the size of the rest hold (if your climbing area doesn’t provide many rest jugs)
-Increasing the work time to 5 rounds rather than 4. (And so on, as your particular circumstances require.)
Our athletes do this as a part of their workouts 2-3 times per week as we go into route-climbing season. This is easy to tag onto a regular bouldering session, at the end of another interval/endurance workout, or best of all, alongside a hangboard workout. We’ll schedule these for 4 weeks before backing off to 1 session per week for about a month. Then, we take a good 8-10 weeks off before building again for fall redpoints.
Rhythm intervals are a fast and utterly effective tool in building strength-endurance and endurance for hard rock climbing. This might be the best thing going for a climber that’s got limited space and limited time, but still wants to be able to hit the high grades at the crag.