The problem with getting good at bouldering is that getting even better gets even harder. An avid boulderer has a pretty steady improvement in strength and ability over the first year or two, and then often falls into a rhythm of getting in and out of shape for basically the same grades over and over. To combat this we can get stronger, travel to more areas, lose some weight, or spend a winter on the Moon Board. Even these tactics start to play out, though, and at this point the smart boulderer gets disciplined about manipulating the stress and recovery cycle in his training program.
Most of us understand the basics of work and recovery weeks. You go harder some weeks and go easier on others. Years ago, eastern bloc strength coaches really went deep into the details of these cycles and found that there were optimal volume distributions for most athletes across any given 4-week period. What they found worked best, and what we’ve seen good results with is a three-steps-forward plan followed by a rest week. If you look at a 4-week cycle, and distribute the volume across the weeks, week one would see you do 22% of the cycle’s training, then 28% in week 2, 35% in week 3, and then just 15% in week 4.
For our athletes, the heavy 35% week was not the hardest, but the 15% week that followed it. Going easy isn’t that easy. Understand, though, that this is the key to the whole plan. Depending on how much training time you normally put in each week, your weeks in this plan would look something like this:
|Total Training Hours per Month||Week 1||Week 2||Week 3||Week 4|
The training is distributed across three sessions each week. These sessions, too, are programmed to manipulate total training volume. For our purposes, we’ll call the days high, medium, and low volume days. The high volume days will see you do 42% of the week’s bouldering, the medium days will be 34% and the low volume days will be 24%.
Thus, a week’s total training time (based on the 20 hours per month model, above) would be distributed like this:
|Training Hours Per Week||Session 1 (medium)||Session 2 (high)||Session 3 (low)|
|4.4||90 minutes||111 minutes||63 minutes|
|5.6||114 minutes||141 minutes||81 minutes|
|7.0||143 minutes||176 minutes||101 minutes|
|3.0||61 minutes||76 minutes||43 minutes|
Once you have figured out your weekly volume (based on historical numbers, not on your hopes and dreams), you can figure out the durations of each of the sessions. The sessions will follow a somewhat fixed sequence of exercises. The actual durations of each of the blocks will have to be subject to your own facility, pacing, and recovery needs. However, each of the sessions should be as follows:
Warm-Up: 10-15 minutes of tissue work, movement preparation exercises, and easy bouldering, ramping up to about your OS level by the end. This time DOES NOT count toward the calculated totals above.
Medium and Hard Boulders: 15-25 minutes. We classify medium boulders as anywhere from onsight -3 up to onsight -1. Enough to keep you interested, but probably won’t see you fall off. Hard boulders are from onsight level up to about onsight +2. This range (os-3 to os+2) is where most of us spend most bouldering sessions. On low volume days, this section of the session would be closer to 15 minutes, on high days, maybe 25.
Limit Boulders: 25-40 minutes. Limit boulders are onsight +3 or harder. Work these in sections, look for victory in linkage, not in sending, and pay attention to micro details that will help you improve.
Rest: A 5-15 minute rest after Limit Bouldering will help you recover from strength and power work at the end.
Strength and Power: (on the low volume days, there will occasionally be no time for this part of the session)
B: Campus Laddering: 5-8 rounds of straightforward laddering with large rests between.
C: Alactic Intervals: On the minute, do 8 seconds full sprint on the Air Bike or Rowing Machine, easy active rest between. High volume days: 12 rounds. Medium days: 8 rounds. Low days: 4 rounds.
- Yes, you can implement the undulating platform with other sessions. You don’t need to email and ask if it is ok.
- No, this isn’t license to add all new levels of intensity and volume to your program. In order for this to work, the plan needs to step into higher AND lower volumes than you are used to.