Building a Better Climber: Phase 1 – Conditioning Phase

Welcome to the Rock and Ice yearlong training plan. This seven-phase series will present specific workouts based on the principles of periodization, a proven approach to training that results in peak performance. Each six-week segment will build upon the previous with the end result being a better, stronger climbing machine—you.

By Rock and Ice | June 7th, 2013

Welcome to the Rock and Ice yearlong training plan. This seven-phase series will present specific workouts based on the principles of periodization, a proven approach to training that results in peak performance. Each six-week segment will build upon the previous with the end result being a better, stronger climbing machine—you.

Most training articles give you the theory and leave the planning to you, but this time the only hard work will be at the climbing gym. The plan will work for climbers of all levels.

 

CONDITIONING PHASE

[6 weeks]

You must develop a good base of fitness first. Skip this step and you will risk burning out later in the program. The first few weeks of conditioning target general fitness, and the amount of climbing gradually increases as the phase progresses. These four main work-outs target different areas of fitness. It’s up to you to choose what days during the week you perform these exercises.

 

Weekly Microcycles

Weeks 1 & 2

    1. Aerobic / anaerobic conditioning & flexibility: [ x 4 per week ]

    2. Low-intensity endurance:[ x 1 per week ]

    3. Bouldering – volume / easy problems: [ x 1 per week ]

    4. Antagonists & core: [ x 3 per week ]

Weeks 3 & 4

    1. Aerobic / anaerobic conditioning & flexibility: [ x 4 per week ]

    2. Low-intensity endurance: [ x 2 per week ]

    3. Bouldering – volume / easy problems: [ x 1 per week ]

    4. Antagonists & core: [ x 3 per week ]

Weeks 5 & 6

    1. Aerobic / anaerobic conditioning & flexibility: [ x 3 per week ]

    2. Low-intensity endurance: [ x 3 per week ]

    3. Bouldering – volume / easy problems: [ x 1 per week ]

    4. Antagonists & core: [ x 3 per week ]

 

SESSION-PLAN DETAILS

 

1. Aerobic / Anaerobic Conditioning & Flexibility

a) Run [ 30 minutes ]

Running is preferable to cycling in order to avoid bulking up the leg muscles. Go at a slow steady pace to warm-up for the first 5 minutes. Then do 5 intervals of 1 min. on at 90 to 95 percent effort followed by 1 min. slow jog to recover. Then run at a steady pace to finish. Each session make the intervals 10 seconds longer, until eventually you are doing 2 mins. on / 1 min. off x 5, then 5 mins. to warm down.

b) Burpee [ 10 minutes ] x 8 (on 1st session). 1 min. rest. Repeat x 4.

Do 1 more rep per set each session (i.e., by session 10 you’ll be doing 18 reps per set).

c) Flexibility [ 15 minutes ]

Hold stretches for 20 seconds, release for 10 seconds, then repeat again for 20 seconds.

1. Hamstrings

2. Thigh / quadriceps

3. Calf

4. Groin

5. Lats

6. Shoulders

7. Chest

8. Forearms (flexors & extensors)

 

2. Low-Intensity Endurance

You have two options: one for the bouldering wall and one for the lead wall. Don’t do both in one session! Warm up first.

a) Routes: 4 x 4s

Select four different routes of the same grade that you can climb consecutively. The grades should be at least two notches below your onsight grade for beginner/intermediates and four below for advanced/elite.

Lower off and move to the next route as quickly as possible. Do this four times with rests equal to climbing time. Pick wall angles based on abilities:

Beginner / Low Intermediate: Vertical

Intermediate: 5- to 10-degrees overhanging

Advanced: 10- to 20-degrees overhanging

Elite: 20- to 30-degrees overhanging

b) Bouldering Wall: Random climbing [ 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off x 4 ]

If you don’t have a belayer, 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, provided they are easy enough. Aim for a moderate and continuous level of pump. If you get too pumped, then find a resting position and work at recovering before continuing.

Remember that injuries can still strike at any time, so it’s vital to warm up and cool down, as well as to listen to your body and adjust the workload if you’re not recovering.

You don’t need to be a slave to the plan. It’s fine to swap sessions around and substitute training indoors with climbing outside at any opportunity.

 

3. Bouldering [ Volume / Easy Problems ]

Climb problems in ascending/descending grade order. Rest 1 minute between problems at first two levels. Rest 2 minutes between harder grades. Aim to do one more problem at each grade with each session.

[ Beginner / Low intermediate ] 5 x V0;  5 x V1;  5 x V2;  5 x V1;  5 x VO

[ Intermediate ] 4 x V0; 4 x V1; 4 x V2;  4 x V3; 4 x V4; 4 x V3 ;4 x V2; 4 x V1

[ Advanced ] 4 x V1; 4 x V2; 4 x V3; 4 x V4;  4 x V5; 4 x V4; 4 x V3; 4 x V2

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

 

4. Antagonists & Core

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 min. 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 2 – Low-Intensity Endurance Phase 

 

This article was published in Rock and Ice issue 208


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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

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