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Building a Better Climber: Phase 2 – Low-Intensity Endurance

Welcome to the Rock and Ice year-long training plan. If you followed phase one, then you’ll be feeling fit and ready to move on to the next phase. You have laid down a base of general strength and fitness, and the next stage will move on to sport-specific endurance.

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Welcome to the Rock and Ice year-long training plan. If you followed phase one, outlined in Rock and Ice issue 208, then you’ll be feeling fit and ready to move on to the
next phase. You have laid down a base of general strength and fitness, and the next stage will move on to sport-specific endurance.

LOW-INTENSITY ENDURANCE PHASE

[6 weeks]

For climbers this means focusing on high-volume, low-intensity training. In this phase you’ll start racking up routes in multiple sets and going for the
burn. You must also keep up your bouldering sessions, at least one a week, but prioritize mileage rather than working projects.

For best results, add a personalized touch by adapting the plan to your goals or weaknesses; for example, by focusing more on specific types of holds or
angles, but the overall effect will still be powerful even if you do exactly what’s set out here.

Be sure to warm-up and cool down, as well as to listen to your body and adjust the workload if you are not recovering.

Weekly Microcycles

Select the appropriate weekly plan for your level. If you are required to train on two consecutive days, boulder on day 1 and do endurance on day 2.  It’s up to you how to fit the sessions into your weekly schedule. The numbers below indicate days per week.


   Beginner   

   Intermediate   

   Advanced/Elite   

1. Low-Intensity Endurance

2

3

3

2. Bouldering – Volume

1

1

2

3. Conditioning and Flexibility     

1

1

1

4. Antagonists and Core  

1

1

2


SESSION-PLAN DETAILS

1. Low-intensity Endurance

Two different structure options are given both for the lead wall and the bouldering wall. Do not attempt more than one in each session, and the best approach
is to alternate between the two.

a) Routes / Option 1  [ 5x3s ]

  • Warm-up first. Select 3 different routes of the same grade that you can climb consecutively, “3 in a row.” See guidelines below for optimum wall angle.
  • Note that the grade will be at least 2 or 3 below your onsight grade for beginner/intermediates and 4 below onsight grade for advanced/elite.
  • Lower off and make the transition to the next route as quickly (and safely) as possible.
  • Climbing 3 routes in a row equals one set. Do 5 sets with rests equal to climbing time.
  • Aim to make subsequent sessions slightly harder by bumping up the grade of the three routes by one letter.

b) Routes / Option 2 [ Up-down-ups ]

The aim is to climb up a route, then back down a route (usually approximately 2 grades easier), and then back up the first route. For beginners and intermediates,
the grade of the up-climb should be at least 2 below your onsight grade and the down-climb will be 3 below. For advanced/elite, the grade of the up-climb
will be at least 3 below your onsight grade and the down-climb will be 5 below. Do this a total of 5 times, with rest times equal to climbing time.
Aim to make subsequent sessions slightly harder using the following target sequence: 1. Make the up-climb a letter grade harder, 2. Make the down-climb
a letter grade harder.

c) Low-Intensity Endurance on the Bouldering Wall [ Random climbing ]

Find an easy and quiet area of the bouldering wall. Warm-up first, then climb around, selecting holds at random for 10 minutes. Go up, down and diagonally, as well as traversing. Try linking color-coded problems together, provided they are easy enough. Aim for a moderate and continuous level of pump . If you get too pumped, find a resting position and work at recovering before continuing. If you have a training partner, take turns pointing each other around the wall using a stick.

[ 5 mins on /5 mins off ] [ 10 mins on /10 mins off ] [ 15 mins on /15 mins off ] [ 10 mins on /10 mins off ] [ 5 mins on ]




NOTE: 

Optimum wall angle for low-intensity endurance training

  • Beginner / Low Intermediate: Vertical
  • Intermediate:  5 – 10 degrees overhanging
  • Advanced: 10 – 20 degrees overhanging
  • Elite: 20 – 30 degrees overhanging

Finish all endurance sessions with sets of pull-ups and straight-leg raises to failure. 

  • Beginners: 2 sets
  • Intermediates: 3 sets
  • Elites: 5 sets 

 

==

2. Bouldering – Volume

Climb the problems in pyramid formation. The hardest problem, at the top of the pyramid, should take 3 or 4 tries. Rest 1 minute between problems at the first two grade levels. Rest 2 mins between problems at the third and fourth levels. Rest 3 to 4 mins between problems at the highest grade level.  Aim to do 1 more problem at the highest or second-highest grade level with each session.

[ Beginner / Low intermediate ] V0 x 4; V1 x 3 ;  V2 x 3 ; V3 x 1 ; V2 x 3; V1 x 3 

[ Intermediate ] V0 x 4; V1 x 3 ; V2 x 2 ; V3 x 2 ; V4 x 2 ; V5 x 1 ; V4 x 2 ; V3 x 2 

[ Advanced ] V1 x 4; V2 x 3 ;V3 x 2 ; V4 x 2 ; V5 x 2 ; V6 x 1 ; V5 x 2 ; V4 x 2 ; V3 x 2 ; V2 x 2 

[ Elite ]   V2 x 3; V3 x 3; V4 x 2; V5 x 2; V6 x 2; V7 x 2;  V8 x 1; V7 x 2; V6 x 2; V5 x 2; V4 x 2; V3 x 2

 

3. Conditioning & Flexibility

This session remains the same as Phase 1.

a) Run (30 mins)—include 3 or 4 intervals

b) Conditioning Circuit (10 mins)—Burpees or rope skipping e.g. [ 1 min on /1 min off ] x 5

c) Flexibility (15 mins)—hold stretches for 20 secs, twice each

 

4. Antagonists & Core

This session remains the same as Phase 1.

a) Antagonists

Do 3 sets of 20 reps of the following exercises with 2 minutes of rest between sets. Don’t go to failure (or, optional, go to failure on last set).

1. Push-ups (kneeling if required)

2. Reverse wrist curls. Use a weight that you  can handle comfortably for 3 sets of 20 reps 

3. Finger extensions (with rubber band)

b) Core

1. Extreme plank [ 10 reps x 3 sets with 2 minutes rest ]

Do an extra rep each session.

2. Iron cross [ 10 reps x 3 sets with 2 minutes rest] – As extreme plank but spread arms/legs wide

Do an extra rep each session.

3. Leg paddles [ 50 reps x 3 with 2 mins. rest]

Lie on your back in a half sit-up position. Hands on temples, crunch-up to mid-way. Stretch legs out straight in front, hold feet just above the ground
and paddle up and down.

Do 5 additional reps each session.

 

Go to Building a Better Climber: Phase 3 – Strength Training 
Revisit Building a Better Climber: Phase 1 – Conditioning Phase

This article was published in Rock and Ice issue 209


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Neil Gresham has been training climbers since 1993. Check out his training DVDs at climbingmasterclass.com