Improve Your Sport Climbing/Bouldering (9): Building Power, Part 3 (MEDIUM-HARD)

Precision power delivery can help improve your vertical technique as well.

As you get stronger from strength training, your potential power level rises, too, but as with all strength-related athletic capabilities, you will need to dedicate some time – often more than you might expect, as usual – to training your muscles to recruit more explosively and generate power; in other words, it will take time to add speed and specificity to that strength. But you want to condition your body for climbing movements specifically – to coordinate your body’s muscles to respond to climbing situations correctly and efficiently, by recruiting all of the muscle groups needed to execute powerful movements in a technically proficient and precise manner.

How do you accomplish this? Simply use repetition within reason. I suggest 3 to 10 times per difficult (power-sapping) move or sequence per session, total. Stop for the day either a) after you’ve performed the move or sequence correctly 1 to 5 times (perhaps doing it up to 2 or 3 times per effort on a given route, with a lot of rest in between your actual attempts on the whole route) or b) whenever you start to lose your form or ability to perform the move/sequence correctly, as you definitely don’t want to train the motion incorrectly or encourage overuse injuries.

Just like is true in weight training, an overabundance of volume (frequency and duration) may not be the quickest path toward mastering the movement(s). This means that training specific, powerful moves or sequences with a limited number of high-quality, high-intensity efforts during each training day can actually yield quicker results in the long run, particularly if the issue at stake truly has more to do with your precision delivery of power (i.e. molding your strength to the technical demands, which requires that you refine the movements in play by teaching your body how to execute them efficiently and explosively, if needed) rather than deficiencies in your power endurance or endurance. (Of course, sometimes it can be a little bit or a lot of each area that holds you back – oh, the complexities of climbing).

Allow your body to rest, integrate and recover, and then try again the next day/session – whenever you’re recovered enough to execute the moves better than last time. If you come out and you do worse, check it up to not being recovered and not resting enough — and if this begins to happen repeatedly and consistently, you’re probably on the brink of diving into the potentially deep well of overtraining. Remember, too, that the best training plan doesn’t result in a consistent linear upward progression — it always undulates in waves. Your aim is for the crest of each subsequent wave to be higher than the last crest, and to be rational and accepting of the troughs when they happen, instead of training even harder when you see “negative progress” on a specific move, sequence or route.

(to be continued)

This multipart series of blogs and articles starts here, in case you have to catch up. Remember that my designation of each area as “easy,” “medium” or “hard” is purely subjective. I’ve arrived at the designations from my personal experience garnered from 20 years of climbing along with my observations from climbing coaching throughout the past four years. You may find some of the areas harder or easier to change than I do/did. You also might not agree with me or my take on things. That’s fine – feel free to take it or leave it as you wish! Also, remember that the information I provide here is purely offered as advice and that no exercises or training program should be undertaken without receiving medical clearance from a healthcare professional.

One other caveat: As will be true for all of the entries and articles in this series, if you’ve already mastered or maxed out the topic at hand to the best of your ability level, you’ll reap far fewer benefits or none at all from my suggestions – good for you that you figured it out, but sorry I couldn’t help you out more. Happy climbing, bouldering and training!

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