I would always hope for four of us in the gym on “Endurance Day.” The gym was a bedroom-sized room in the back of Todd Skinner’s garage, and it acted as the local climbing gym in the early days of climbing in Lander, Wyoming. The gym featured holds on all walls and across the ceiling, with the now-famous “woody” wall at one end. Most days the sessions would just be bouldering on the woody, but we inherently recognized the need to deal with longer, more fatiguing efforts.
To address “endurance,” we’d get together once every 10-14 days for a burner of a circuit. The idea was to have one person climbing at all times, and your hands could never touch the sidewalls of the gym – only the 60 degree wall of the woody and the jug-covered roof of the gym. Climber one would start up a problem on the 60 degree wall and then climb on across the roof for 20 or so feet to the end wall of the room, and then back, going until failure. MEanwhile the others would rest.
If there were just two of us, the session was terrible and somewhat short. Climber one would climb for 2 minutes, then climber two would hopefully make it as long, then climber one, then climber two… each effort getting more difficult and usually shorter until each could only climb a few moves – always holding to the rule that one of us must be climbing.
With three climbers, you got more rest and could go longer. With four, the sessions were relatively fun – you’d climb 1-2 minutes, then rest for 5 or more minutes while the others took their turns. The thing that was strange is that the less-difficult 4-person sessions ended up seeing us do more total climbing, ended up leaving us less sore, and, if we did these 4-person sessions for a few in a row, left us with a much better feeling of improved fatigue resistance.
A few years later, the 4×4 workout gained popularity, as did other high “power endurance” sessions. There is no doubt that this style of training worked, but it came with a cost: much like Mad Max turning up the nitrous, the engine can take only so much. Ramping up your power endurance, or what sports science would call building a glycolytic peak, results in a great deal of performance improvement for a very short time.
With this in mind, you’ll see us advocate for a tremendous amount of capacity training – submaximal endurance efforts, as well as continuing to build high levels of strength and power. This equates to training above and below the damaging glycolytic energy zone. We build up ability on both ends, and then peak gylcolysis right before a desired performance period. This plan outlines a useful 3-week peak, and should be placed right after a big power and strength build.
This plan features high-level bouldering (high muscular intensity, low metabolic intensity), some strength maintenance (high muscular intensity, medium/low metabolic intensity), and interval-based glycolytic (PE) efforts (medium muscular intensity, high metabolic intensity).
|Hard Bouldering||Boulder Intervals 1||Strength + Alactic Ladders||Boulder Intervals 2||Climbing RP|
|Hard Bouldering||Boulder Intervals 3||Strength + Alactic Ladders||Climbing RP|
|Boulder Intervals 4||Hard Bouldering||Boulder Intervals 5||Strength + Alactic Ladders||Boulder Intervals 6|
This session should be 60-90 minutes for most climbers (after warm-up), and should feature powerful and technically demanding efforts. Intensity should be at one harder than your onsight limit or above. Don’t go quite to a Limit Bouldering level, but rather look to focus on problems you can send in 2-6 tries. Track these sessions and make sure to maintain or increase your output each session.
Strength + Alactic Ladders
In this session, you’ll do a normal warm-up followed by a 20 minute strength circuit. Don’t worry about the total rounds, just move through the exercises as tolerated, looking for quality work rather than trying to get fatigued. Your goal over these weeks is to maintain strength, so don’t get in a rush. The strength circuit is as follows:
Ab Wheel Roll-Out x5
Small Edge Hang x10 seconds
Single Leg Box Jump x5+5
Front Lever x2
This circuit is followed by Alactic Ladders. These are performed on a campus board with a foot rail or box placed underneath for the feet. You’ll simply ladder up and down with the hands while leaving the feet in place, looking to do 10 seconds of movement (roughly 8-12 hand moves) each minute. In session one, do 5 minutes of work (10 seconds on, 50 seconds rest) followed by 2 minutes rest, followed by 5 more minutes of work. In session 2, go to 6:2:6. In session 3, go to 6:1:6.
These sessions are going to feature two parts. Part one will be linked problems: do one problem at a medium level (OS-1 or OS-2) followed by an easy downclimb, and then linked into a problem 1-2 grades harder. For example, if your OS grade is V5, you might do a V3 linked into a V4. These pairs should be 20-25 moves in length. Rest as noted in the chart below.
The second part of the session will be triple laps on easy to medium boulders, at a level of OS-3 to OS-5). In this group, you’ll do a problem, jump down (or quickly downclimb) and then repeat it again immediately. This is followed by a third lap on the same problem. After completing all three problems, rest as indicated in the chart below. Work to maintain pace and form on each lap, and stop the effort if you can’t maintain good climbing form.
|SESSION #||LINK SETS||REST BETWEEN SETS||REST BETWEEN LINKS AND TRIPLES||TRIPLE LAP SETS||REST BETWEEN SETS|
|1||5||5 minutes||10 minutes||4||5 minutes|
|2||6||5 minutes||10 minutes||4||4 minutes|
|3||6||5 minutes||10 minutes||5||4 minutes|
|4||7||5 minutes||10 minutes||5||4 minutes|
|5||7||5 minutes||10 minutes||6||4 minutes|
|6||7||5 minutes||10 minutes||7||3 minutes|
After completing this 3-week cycle, you should go on to a performance-based climbing phase of 2-4 weeks, where redpointing or working projects is the focus and training is defocused…might I suggest Leonidio? Once you send all your projects, head back to the gym and get strong again for 8-12 weeks before coming back to this cycle.