Going to the gym and having a sesh with your friends is always fun but that’s not really going to take your climbing up a notch. If you want to improve you must train, meaning that every climbing session needs to have a purpose. No matter which discipline you plan to compete in, separating your training into cycles or phases is always a good idea. The four phases are strength, power, power endurance and endurance. If you are just starting out, try doing three to four weeks of each cycle. Here’s a description of each stage and examples of exercises to go with it. Remember you can always change the amount of time you spend on each stage depending on what you think your body needs.
This first stage will build your pulling power and ability to recruit large muscle groups. This is an imperative first stage. Moving into the next phase, which is power, you will be able to translate your pure strength into physical literacy of movement. Try working on big muscle strength and finger strength. Try to to do eight sets of three pullups in two minutes and increase the number of sets if this gets too easy. For finger strength try to hang on a crimp open hand for five seconds on five seconds rest and repeat for 20 to 30 seconds.
The third stage combines power and endurance training. This phase is equally important for training in both bouldering and lead. After the power phase you may find that you are running out of juice towards the top of longer boulder problems or you may be having trouble with that crux sequence after many moves on a route. The power endurance phase will allow you to embrace that pump and fatigue at the end of your finals route and power through for a send. Try working on threeby-threes – choose three problems on the bouldering wall that you can climb three times in a row without falling; then do each problem three times without stopping then take a three-minute rest and do this three more times. If you find you are falling off low on the second round either increase the rest time or choose easier problems.
Last but not least is endurance training. This really applies to training for rope competitions. Depending on the gym you will train or compete at, you may find endurance to be the key factor between success and failure. Often, qualifying routes in competitions showcase a more sustained style of climbing. Although there are cruxes, the moves are not at your limit, but as you move through the route, you feel lactic acid build in your forearms. The following exercise will allow you build up that base endurance to mitigate the pump all climbers have come to know far too well in competition. Choose a route well below your f lash level. If you can f lash 5.11a try this exercise on a 5.8 or 5.9 and work up from there if it gets too easy. Try to do three laps of the chosen route up and down and back up (one lap being just up). This will increase your ability to climb longer without getting as tired and pumped.