This program features a three week alternating cycle, aimed at keeping you close to top form for long cycles. Motivated athletes are more successful; if you need some down-time between phases, this is not the plan for you.For years, a large percentage of my emails from the climbers on this site have been about periodization (periodisation if you speak King’s English, but you have to admit that Zs are cooler than Ss) and planning. In all these conversations and in studying the stuff for the past several years, I figured out two things:

  1. Organized training plans always work better than random workouts.
  2. Most people would rather not follow an organized training plan.

With these two truths in mind, I present a real-world redpoint training plan that really works. Many dedicated climbing training enthusiasts would rather stick to a traditional “linear” periodized plan as popularized by Bompa* and Matveyev. There are clearly defined phases where one works on strength, hypertrophy, power, etcetera. It’s very organized, but maybe too organized – my suspicion is that about one in a hundred climbers could actually follow such a plan completely. This plan is not that organized, and that’s why it’s better.

Most climbers fall on the other side of the organization fence. They’re the boulder-until-tired-and-repeat type. This isn’t the worst kind of training for climbing, but it fails these climbers in a couple of major ways. This plan fixes these problems.

Taking a step back into the periodization stuff, remember that linear periodization is based on focusing one’s efforts on one or two facets of training for a short time (usually a month to 6 weeks) and then switching to another facet. More popular, and probably easier to follow is a non-linear plan, where one alternates between several different styles of workouts on a weekly basis.

Research shows:

  • That repeated overload with similar stressors causes adaptation.
  • That adaptation to these stressors plateaus after 3-4 weeks.
  • That exposure to too many stressors suppresses adaptation.

Are you ready? The simplest (effective) training plan I could come up with goes like this: Train three weeks of intensity-focused bouldering, followed by three weeks of volume-focused strength-endurance climbing. Repeat.

The bouldering is progressed by adding harder problems or more, hard problems with each training session. The strength-endurance (call it power-endurance if you want) is progressed by adding more total medium-difficulty mileage to a fixed time-frame. This is represented by a simple formula: number of problems (or links) x difficulty of problems / minutes in workout. This number should increase slightly each workout for all 3 weeks before switching back to intensity-focused training.

Intensity Phase:

Workout 1: V4 V5 V5 V4 V5 V4 V6 V4 V5 (total v-sum:42, avg. difficulty:4.5)

Workout 2: V5 V5 V5 V4 V5 V4 V6 V4 V6 (total v-sum:44, avg. difficulty:4.9)

Workout 3: V5 V6 V5 V4 V5 V4 V6 V4 V5 V6 (total v-sum:50, avg. difficulty:5.0)

Workout 4: V5 V6 V5 V4 V6 V4 V6 V4 V5 V6 (total v-sum:51, avg. difficulty:5.1)

Workout 5: V5 V6 V7 V4 V5 V4 V6 V4 V5 V7 (total v-sum:53, avg. difficulty:5.3)

Workout 6: V6 V6 V5 V5 V6 V7 V6 V7  (total v-sum:48, avg. difficulty:5.3)

Workout 7: V6 V6 V5 V5 V6 V7 V6 V7 V6  (total v-sum:54, avg. difficulty:5.4)


Strength-Endurance Phase (using 2 sets of 4x4s) :

Workout 1: V3-V3-V4-V4 / V3-V3-V4-V4 (48 minutes). Total difficulty (28/48)=.583

Workout 2: V3-V4-V4-V4 / V3-V4-V4-V4 (46 minutes). Total difficulty (30/46)=.652

Workout 3: V3-V4-V4-V4 / V3-V4-V4-V4 (44 minutes). Total difficulty (30/44)=.681

Workout 4: V3-V4-V4-V5 / V3-V4-V4-V5 (46 minutes). Total difficulty (32/46)=.695

Workout 5: V3-V4-V4-V5 / V3-V4-V4-V5 (43 minutes). Total difficulty (32/43)=.744

Workout 6: V3-V4-V4-V5 / V3-V4-V4-V5 (41 minutes). Total difficulty (32/41)=.780

Workout 7: V3-V4-V4-V5 / V3-V4-V4-V5 (40 minutes). Total difficulty (32/40)=.800

Workout 8: V4-V4-V4-V5 / V4-V4-V4-V5 (42 minutes). Total difficulty (34/42)=.809


That’s it. You don’t even have to keep this kind of notes – just go hard in one direction 3 weeks, then switch. Don’t let yourself try to over-control this one. How many days should I train? It doesn’t matter. Push yourself. How does “real” climbing fit in? Whenever and wherever you’d like. What about ARCing, and hangboarding? Don’t waste your time with the former and put the latter in with your other sessions if you’d like.

Keep it simple. Overload the system, then switch the type of overload before you go “flat.”


*Ironically, although Bompa’s book Periodization-5th Edition: Theory and Methodology of Training contains 12 pages of citations, none of the studies actually look at the effectiveness of traditional linear periodization.

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