Building A Training Plan

The Rock Climber’s Training Manual is now available order yours here!

Mark Anderson cruising Kaleidoscope, RRG, KY.

Mark Anderson cruising Kaleidoscope (5.13c), RRG, KY. ©Mike Anderson

To truly benefit from the Rock Prodigy training method, the many exercises shown on should be combined into a comprehensive, integrated program, executed on a daily basis. Your training plan should describe specifically which exercises to perform on each day of the season, from day one of the Base-Fitness Phase, through the last day of the Rest Phase. A well-conceived schedule will guide you through each phase of your training cycle, maximizing improvement opportunities, while ensuring sufficient recovery to optimize progression and reduce injury risk. Aditionally, a detailed Seasonal Training Plan can provide encouragement when motivation is lacking. Think of this plan as a coach, unphased by the discomfort of daily training efforts, and stubbornly demanding your maximum commitment.

Ideally, an individualized Seasonal Training Plan should be sculpted to fit your specific needs. If you’re new to training, start with a generic training plan, and then make adjustments to tailor it to your goals and desires (several generic Seasonal Training Plans, designed for climbers of various abilities, are provided in The Rock Climber’s Training Manual). After using a generic plan for a season, make further adjustments as experience dictates and as your strengths, weakness, and goals change. Continue iteratively adjusting your program from season to season, experimenting with different training volume, recovery periods, phase lengths, and phase timing to develop the optimal personal-training program.

Through careful planning, periodization creates a synergistic fitness effect that raises your overall performance to an all-time high.

Through careful planning, periodization creates a synergistic fitness effect that raises your overall performance to an all-time high.

Periodization is a strategy for physical training in which different training activities are performed in accordance with a carefully designed schedule. The purpose of this timing is to achieve a synergistic effect on overall performance that results in a performance peak at a predictable time. The Rock Prodigy Training Program is designed to be implemented within the framework of a three-to-four-month periodic training plan. This means that each calendar year will typically consist of three or four deliberately defined seasons, with each season consisting of several multiweek phases, including a Training Phase, Performance Phase, and a Rest Phase. Each phase will emphasize a particular type of physical training. The basic framework of this program is a linearly periodic macro-cycle consisting of six phases.

The Rock Prodigy Training Program arranges each training phase as shown.

The Rock Prodigy Training Program arranges each training phase as shown.

The length of each phase is defied to promote adaptation continuously up to the verge of plateau, at which time the phase ends and a new phase begins. Phases can be varied to individualize the program in order to address specific goals or weaknesses.

Learn more in The Rock Climber’s Training Manual. Topics on building a comprehensive training plan include:
• The power of setting long-term goals
Self evaluation and climbing ability gap analysis
• The process for long-term improvement and setting progressive intermediate goals
• Theory and benefits of training periodization
• How to assemble a periodic training schedule
Detailed training schedules for all abilities that are specific to sport climbing, bouldering and trad climbing
• How to schedule progressive practice and weight management into your training season
• Detailed instructions on personalizing your plan to meet your climbing goals Articles related to Building A Training Plan:

      • Training Efficiently I think if people realized how little I train (and climb) they would be shocked.  I often joke with my wife that I should be quarranteened in a plastic bubble and studied by teams of cruel government scientists (ala E.T.). There is certainly a trend among top climbers to perform massive quantities of training (like, 6+ hours per day, 5 or 6 days per week).  That’s not me.  First of all, I don’t have that much time, between work and my family. Second (and foremost), I truly believe “less is more” when it comes to climbing training. Even if I had more time to train, I would probably spend much of that time resting anyway.  Read more…
      • The Most Important Phase …In the end, it may be appropriate to take the Zen approach, that the most important phase is the phase you’re in right now. Each phase is important in its own way, and included in the program for specific reasons. If a phase is worth doing at all, then it is worth doing well, with maximum focus, optimal intensity during training, and proper attention to preparation and recovery…  Read more…
      • Designing a Transition Phase  In this post I introduced the concept of the Transition Phase.  This is the several-week period during each training cycle in which you shift your focus from primarily indoor training to primarily outdoor climbing (and sending!).  Chapter 10: Building a Seasonal Training Plan from the forthcoming  “The Rock Climber’s Training Manual” thoroughly describes how to build a training plan, and it provides numerous sample plans to get you started.  These plans include these transitions, but we’ll talk about some of the “how and why” in more detail here, to help you build your own plan…   Read more… 
      • Where There’s A Will, There’s a Way to Weigh Less  …Excessive, persistent dieting can lead to injury and illness.  Most serious athletes will “cycle” their weight management on and off, as with physical training.  That’s great news for people like me who love food!  That means you can have periods of enjoying life’s many treats, and periods where you buckle down and send (that said, “yo-yo dieting” can wreak havoc on your metabolism, making weight loss extremely difficult, so keep your variations within reason).  Read more…
      • Sport Alpine Climbing and Siege Sport Climbing  …Generally, if I’m not on the verge of sending a project after 5 days or so, I select another, shorter-term objective, then when the season has run its course I retreat to the gym for more training.  When I feel I’ve improved enough that the objective is within my 5-or-so-day target window, I plan for a block of time to try it again.  Part of this is simply personal preference; I prefer not to spend an entire season at the same crag, doing the same warmups over and over, etc.  But I also think it’s a better approach for improving.  It allows me to keep the ‘send train’ rolling even if my eyes are too big for my stomach, it keeps me moving over more terrain, and it makes my training cycles laser-focused on tangible, motivating goals.  Read more…
      • Whole-Body Strength Training  …I introduce these exercises at the start of each Strength Phase.  I will select about 4 or 5 exercises from the assortment provided below, and I perform one set of each initially, building up to three sets of each exercise by mid-Strength Phase.  These exercises are always performed on the same day as my climbing workout, at the end of each workout (so, on a hangboard day, I finish my hangboard workout, rest 5-10 minutes, and then perform these exercises).  I do these in a “circuit” fashion (completing one set of each exercise before performing the second set, and so on), but they could also be done in serial fashion.  Read more…
      • Campus Training Part 2: Frequency & Exercise Overview  The next order of business is to discuss frequency.  Of all training activities, this one has the highest Gab-to-Grab ratio of them all.  That is, far more time is spent talking about Campusing than actually doing it, and that is how it should be.  This training is used sparingly because it is extremely high intensity, and has very limited specificity to rock climbing compared to other mutually exclusive activities like limit bouldering.  In other words, limit bouldering offers a lot more upside than Campusing, and its not safe to do large amounts of both, so err on the side of too much limit bouldering.   Read more…
      • What’s Right For You?  …Write Down Your Training Plan.  Once you’ve settled on a training program, write it down, in detail.  Do this at a time of rest, when you are far-removed from the pain of training.  Just like shopping for groceries on an empty stomach, if you try to make your plan while you are training, you will be fighting a constant battle against cutting corners.  Even if you have a tremendous work ethic, the problem persists, although the symptoms may present in the form of biting off more than you can chew, thus resulting in injury.  If you have a coach by correspondence, this is the time to get his or her insight on your plan.  Read more…
      • Goal Setting for Climbing Follow-Up  …Setting up intermediate goals is a great way to work your way towards a “big hairy goal”.   The great thing about having the big goal in mind, is that it can help determine what those intermediate goals should be.  In this case, I would recommend selecting some project routes that you can use as stepping stones.  Ideally these routes would be at the same crag as your big hairy goal, and of similar style (steepness, hold type, length, continuity).  Read more…
      • The No-Effort Plan to Improved Performance  …If you currently engage in some form of leg-training (such as running, biking, tele-skiing, step aerobics, speed skating, rowing, weight-lifting, P90X, Crossfit, etc) several times a week, I recommend you stop, at least for a couple of months to see what happens.  You might be pleasantly surprised by the results.  Maybe you will find the cross-training is vital to your over-all happiness and well-being, and eliminating it is not worth the extra gains in climbing performance.  For those that want the best of both worlds, you can resume your aerobic passion from time-to-time and still reap the benefits of skinny legs.  You just need to plan your cross-training in phases that allow plenty of time to slim-down for peak climbing phases.  Read more…
      • Goal-Setting for Climbing (Part II)  …The next step is to identify the ideal time of year to attempt this specific route, arrange for partners, request vaction time from work and construct a training schedule that will maximize fitness at the perfect time. All of these critical items would have been nearly impossible to plan properly without a specific route in mind.  Read more…
      • Goal-Setting for Climbing (Part I)  Goal-setting has been an essential tool in all athletic pursuits for decades. You could make the argument that it is an essential tool in all human endeavors. Even chipmunks set out every Fall with the intention of gathering enough acorns to make it through the winter. Goal-setting is just as important in climbing. Goals create focus, steer the training plan, and provide motivation when the going gets tough.  Read more…

If you have questions or comments about Building A Training Plan, please post them on the RCTM Forum. We will try to respond as soon as possible.


7 thoughts on “Building A Training Plan

  1. Hi. First of all – great book, the best on training I have read. My top 2 books on climbing improvement include this one and Espresso Lessons.

    You seem to be focusing a lot on linear periodisation. I am in a position to climb once or twice weekly (mostly once) all through the year. What is your opinion on non-linear in this case, would it be preferable?

    I am now close to finishing the first cycle of linear periodisation so it is a good time to ask this question.

    Thanks for a great book.


    • Roko,
      Many of us have the option to climb year round, myself included. I still think the best approach for long term improvement is a schedule skewed more toward the linear side of the fence. The Rock Prodigy program is a bit of a hybrid in my opinion, but it’s closer to LP than NLP. Some describe it as Block Periodization. If you must climb outside, I would recommend following the RP method of periodization, but replacing a few workouts with outdoor climbing as described in chapter 10.


  2. Hi and thanks for the quick reply. I do exactly that, I replace some of the training days with similar effect outdoor climbing. It is not that I must climb outside, it is that I want to do it. For me, it is the only purpose of training, to be better on real rock.


  3. I am a novice trainee who just read the book and is ready to train. My plan is to use the plan for novices laid out in the book. The one thing I am confused about though, are the boxes in the plan that don’t have any training exercises. I was wondering if these are “rest” days or if we repeat the exercises in the pervious box?


  4. Pingback: Van camping with a baby – with a little bouldering with a baby thrown in | ascensusfamilia

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