Q+A: Longer Duration Intervals As A Sustainable Part of Base Training?

Q: Anaerobic Capacity. Do you think longer duration anaerobic intervals at a 1:4 work/ rest ratio can be a sustainable part of a ‘base phase’? Alex Barrows suggests 45 seconds work interval with a 1:4 work rest. In the PCC we used 10 seconds work interval with a 1:5 work to rest. Is the 45 second interval too glycolytic/damaging or a way to build long term adaptation for AnCap?

Thanks Steve, Joel


A: Hey Joel,

Over the long term, I think the longer intervals are less effective. This is not because the intervals are too damaging in their own right, it’s mostly that this type of training is prohibitively hard to recover from, and thus fit with the required strength and power gains needed in a base phase. From the PCC Manual:

“Endurance traditionally has been associated with the necessity to fight fatigue and with increasing the athletes tolerance to unfavorable changes in the internal environment. It was thought that endurance is developed only when athletes reached the desired degrees of fatigue… Such views linked endurance to a fatalistically inevitable decrease in work capacity… And lead to a passive attitude toward endurance development. ‘Tolerate’ and put up with the unavoidable unpleasant sensations rather than actively search for training means that reduce fatigue, postpone it, and make it less severe…

“Yet the goal is not taking the athlete to exhaustion to accustom him to metabolic acidosis, as it is often understood in athletic practice, but just the opposite… To develop alactic power and to couple it with oxidative phosphorylation to increase the muscles’ oxidative qualities, that is to develop the LME (local muscular endurance).

“So another training principle was proposed to improve endurance: improving the capacity in avoiding the factors which provoked fatigue instead of improving the capacity in tolerating it. This training principle was named anti-glycolytic, minimization of the glycolytic mechanism involvement in the energy supply of the competition event. In short distance sport disciplines it may be obtained by increasing the athletes level of maximal anaerobic power. In long distance endurance sport disciplines it may be obtained by increasing the speed of locomotion or power output, at the level of anaerobic threshold, which is related to the improvement in local muscular endurance.“ – Verkhoshansky, 1988, 2011


Alex is absolutely brilliant, and I love how much work he has put into his training. He’ll be the first to add, however, that he desperately needs more strength and power. I think the time to add longer intervals would be for a couple of 4-6 week “capacity builds” a couple of times a year, while pulling back to minimal levels of bouldering and finger strength maintenance. You could then add in a few 2-week periods of glycolytic peaking right before travel or when you are getting ready to redpoint, to bring that capacity to top levels.


Hope this helps!