Welcome to Climbing's yearlong Training Bible. This complete eight-phase training series will coach you through specific workouts based on periodization, a proven approach to training that results in peak climbing performance on the rock and in the gym. 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 but then leave the hard part--i.e. actually laying out and following a structured, day-to-day plan--up to you. Not this time. Our plan, which works for climbers of all levels, gives you a drill-by-drill outline of every session. It begins with a six-week Conditioning block, which is followed by Low-Intensity Endurance, Strength Training, Power Endurance, Strength/Power, Endurance, Power Endurance, and Peaking.
PHASE ONE: GENERAL CONDITIONING
Before you can safely tackle the high training loads recommended in later stages of this plan, you must first develop a good base of fitness. 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.
PHASE TWO: LOW-INTENSITY ENDURANCE
For this six-week period you'll be focusing on high-volume, low-intensity training. 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 this kind of specializing on weaknesses is in no way necessary; you'll still feel big gains by just doing this cycle as it's laid out.
PHASE THREE: STRENGTH TRAINIING
With spring in full swing, try to substitute sessions on the crag for indoor training. For example, boulder on rock or work the moves on a redpoint project. For an endurance session, simply go and tick off more moderate routes. If you go on a major climbing trip (for longer than five days), rest at least three full days before you leave and three days afterward before resuming training. Also, taper down seven to 10 days before the trip by gradually reducing the intensity and frequency of sessions. After your trip, build back up again over a week rather than jumping straight in with hard training.
PHASE FOUR: POWER ENDURANCE TRAINING
Power endurance is the type of fitness required for sustained sequences of between 15 and 40 moves and will be the main focus of the phase, although I've included a small amount of strength work to prevent performance losses. Take four full rest days after finishing the previous phase and then commence. At the end of the phase, take another four rest days and see No. 213 for the next phase. People with limited access to a climbing gym should simply substitute bouldering sessions with home hangboard sessions.
PHASE FIVE: STRENGTH AND POWER TRAINING
As the second strength phase of the overall training program, Phase Five is similar in nature to Phase Three. The main focus is bouldering, with a small amount of supporting hangboard work. The bouldering session is the same as in Phase three, but the hangboard session has changed slightly. There is also a small amount of low-intensity endurance work. Take three or four rest days after the first three weeks and then resume. At the end of the phase, take four rest days before progressing to the next phase. Those who have limited access to a climbing gym can substitute bouldering sessions with a home hangboard session.
PHASE SIX: ENDURANCE
For the sixth phase we're returning to low-intensity endurance to top up our fitness levels for longer routes. This phase will also give the body a chance to recover from the stresses of the previous strength/power and power-endurance phases. If you're joining in for the first time, low-intensity endurance represents a great starting point for any training program, so there's no need for any preparatory work.
PHASE SEVEN: POWER ENDURANCE TRAINING
Power-endurance conditioning will give you the fitness required for sustained climbing sequences of between 15 and 40 moves, typically encountered on sport routes. This is the main focus of this phase, although it includes a small amount of bouldering to keep your strength topped up. After finishing the previous phase, take four full rest days and then commence. At the end of this cycle, take another four rest days before moving to the final phase in the series. Those of you who have limited access to a climbing gym should simply swap the bouldering sessions with a home hangboard session.
If you are required to train on two consecutive days, then go bouldering or use a hangboard on day one and do power endurance on day two. It's up to you how to fit the sessions into your weekly schedule.
PHASE EIGHT: PEAKING
A year has passed since we embarked on the "Building a Better Climber" training series. Those of you who have followed the routines from the start should be noticing serious improvements by now. I hope that most who have come this far will be keen to incorporate the positive aspects of these programs into your future climbing plans.
If you wish to write your own programs, I suggest using the same principles of periodization to guide you. Divide your training into blocks, with allocated themes. Make subtle changes and maintain variety. A good training program should be flexible and accommodate minor whims, so that you can actually go rock climbing!