Power Endurance

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Often, a crag's most striking lines - the "dream routes" - require completing numerous difficult moves without rest.  This "power-endurance" can be developed with the right training. Paul Nelson climbs 8 Ball at the RRG.

Often, a crag’s most striking lines – the “dream routes” – require completing numerous difficult moves without rest. This “power-endurance” can be developed with the right training. Paul Nelson climbs 8 Ball (5.12d) at the RRG, KY. ©Janelle Anderson

Strong, powerful muscles and expert technique will only get a climber so far. Eventually a dream route will come along that demands the ability to string together a series of difficult moves in order to claim success. The ultimate routes — those that hold the highest place of honor at each crag and occupy our dreams — all demand sustained, intense effort. These routes demand the very best from those who seek to climb them, making them the most sought-after routes, and the most rewarding.

This type of climbing is unsustainable, and climbers know it. Entering into this realm is akin to playing chicken with the muscles’ metabolic systems. Climbers know that once they cross the threshold, it is a race against an incapacitating forearm pump. Fortunately, with training, it is possible to “add time” to the proverbial “pump clock,” and turn those dream routes into sends.

This brand of climbing is known to climbers as power-endurance (PE). It is the ability to perform multiple near-maximal climbing moves without rest (in bouts lasting 30 to 180 seconds). It refers to sequences of moves that are so continuous they afford no opportunities to shake (even quickly) or chalk up. Well-executed PE training will improve the metabolic energy pathways of both slow- and fast-twitch muscle fibers, adding precious time to the pump clock and granting a temporary stay of execution when it comes time to go for the redpoint of that dream route.

Power-Endurance Training Methods

The various forms of endurance training create a spectrum that encompasses many training activities, from low-intensity and long-duration sessions (like ARCing), right up to high-intensity, short-duration exercises that border on strength training. The key is to design the training protocol based on strengths, weaknesses, and goals to stimulate the desired improvement.

A treadwall is a great tool for endurance training, but any tool is only as effective as how it is used.

A treadwall is a great tool for endurance training, but any tool is only as effective as how it is used. ©Mike Anderson

Learn more in The Rock Climber’s Training Manual . Power-Endurance training topics include:
• The physiology of muscle fatigue and the forearm pump
• Physiological effects of endurance training
Specificity and endurance training
• Step-by-step descriptions of several power-endurance training exercises
• Detailed PE training routines
• How to incorporate skill development into your PE training
• How to properly quantify and document your PE training
• How to schedule PE Training into a comprehensive training program

RCTM.com Articles related to Power Endurance Training:

  • The Most Important Phase …if you climb at a crag like the Red, where virtually all of your projects are long enduro pump-fests with cruxes few and far between, the Base Fitness and Power Endurance Phases will likely be the most important for you, because (from a purely physiological standpoint) you will almost always be limited by your body’s ability to supply energy to tiring muscles. Your Power Phase will probably be minimized, and so the Power Endurance Phase may serve as your transition phase (in my case, by the time I begin my PE Phase I’m almost always neck-deep in my season’s project… Read more…
  • Designing a Transition Phase  …In this example, Power Endurance (PE) training is also introduced in Week 3.  During the first PE workout (on Day 17), the climber begins with a slightly abbreviated Limit Bouldering workout, and then performs a short PE session with a 10-15 minute break in between.  Chapter 8 of The Rock Climber’s Training Manual describes how to blend these two types of training into a single effective workout.  By Week 4, the climber is more focused on attempting his or her goal route and less on training, but some amount of Limit Bouldering training is still important to maintain your power throughout the rest of the season….  Read more…
  • On A Mission  I’m heading out to Smith Rock in a few days for a two-week trip. The climbing at Smith is extremely thin and technical — and difficult to prepare for. I believe strongly in taining and I generally feel that using indoor tools is superior to “just climbing” outside (for building strength, power, and endurance). That said, indoor training is far from ideal for developing or polishing technique. For highly technique-dependent climbing, like that at Smith, some amount of outdoor skill practice is essential. Outdoor training can also help prepare your finger skin if its done wisely (in moderation).  Read more…
  • Passing the Time  I spent the latter half of October working a route in Clear Creek Canyon called “Primetime to Shine”.  This is a linkup of two popular Peter Beal 14a’s, “Primeval” and “Shine”.  I’m usually not a big fan of linkups but this one is a rare example of a linkup that actually improves on the piece parts.  The Primo Wall is fairly short (maybe 35 feet tall?) and the geometry is such that the ‘straight up’ lines are really only continuous for a little over half the height of the wall.  The ‘Primetime’ linkup traverses left and up through the middle of a steep shield of stone, keeping the line hard for a good 30 or so hand moves.  The result is one of the most continuous hard lines on the Front Range.  Read more…

If you have a question or comment related to Power Endurance Training, please post it on the RCTM Forum.  We will try to respond as soon as possible.


2 thoughts on “Power Endurance

  1. Pingback: Designing a Home Training Wall | The Rock Climber's Training Manual

  2. Pingback: Training Takeover: 8-Weeks to Rock Prodigy Status | The Rock Climber's Training Manual

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