Everything about training for climbing is complicated. It is an exercise in compromise – focus on power and you lose endurance, too much time getting your fingers strong, and your redpoint grade drops.
Over the years, there have been many creative solutions proposed to solve this problem. Many programs are more or less stolen from training plans for other sports, which presents a whole host of issues.
Strength training takes time, both to execute and to recover from. The recovery is the biggest issue. In fact, people who stall out strength training frequently get everything else right – load, volume, frequency – but they under-recover.
Why? Because the overload we experience in strength doesn’t “feel” like hard exercise. The sets are short, the cardiovascular component almost nonexistent, and there is never any nausea. In order to get stronger you need to really overload your system. If you really overload your system you need to rest a lot between efforts. If you rest a lot between efforts, you get bored and start the next set too soon.
The solution? Find something productive to do between sets. Heavy strength training and finger strength training are almost an ideal marriage. The high total body loads of the strength sets tend not to affect the finger strength sets and vice versa.
However, simply alternating between the two can still result in too little rest. In order to address this issue, we add much-needed mobility work between these activities, and the result is an ideal mixture of effective training and an efficient use of time. We call this Integrated Strength.
The Integrated Strength template consists of three exercises done in short “circuit” fashion: a finger strength set, a heavy resistance set, and a mobility exercise. These circuits take about 5 minutes each. We have found that three rounds of this circuit, about 15 minutes, is the ideal training duration. By building three different circuits, you can create an effective and quick training session that clocks in under an hour.
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