Improve Your Sport Climbing (10): Power Endurance, Part 3 (HARD)

PE3

SAID and the overload principle work best (meaning they’re both efficient and effective) for training my power endurance, much in the same way that climbing-specific conversion-to-power training helps to build up climbing-specific power. To train power endurance, I work on long, challenging sequences that don’t involve any real rests or shake outs for me, series of consistently powerful and often technical movements on climbs that require constant or near constant movements that fall into the power-endurance range I described in the last two entries (8ish to 30ish moves that last from less than 30 seconds to 2 or 3 minutes).

So, for example, one power-endurance project might involve 17 extremely powerful moves with no shake, followed by some easier climbing to the anchors where I can shake out on pretty much every other move. Another route could have 30 moves, then a shake, then 15, then a shake, then 10, then some miscellaneous climbing that is much easier and has a bunch of shakes. And yet another might feature 20 steep, explosive and powerful moves with no real shake, then 8, then 10. During the “counted” sequences of moves on all of these routes (which would all ideally be on different angles with different types of holds and styles of movement), I’d be putting out really powerful efforts for me on nearly every single move, with no pausing or stopping during the sequences to shake out while moving through these sections – even the clips are part of the movements.

These routes would all require power endurance – and if they’re my redpoint projects, they’ll serve me well both for training purposes and for performance, actually. Working on power endurance hurts physically, it’s hard mentally (I often feel like I’m falling off for much of each sequence but have to just force my body to continue putting forth the effort for each unbelievable move in the sequence), and it takes time to build up – as in, if I add one or two moves a day to each sequence, that’s real progress. I also have to make sure to take enough rest between days of climbing to effect positive changes in my body. Too much quantity, volume or frequency can all sabotage the efforts to build power endurance up to a high level – as with all training efforts. Quality and intensity count for way more.

If I were stronger and therefor able to generate more power, would these routes dig into my power endurance so much? No way…of course not. At some higher level of strength and power, my projects would be gentle warm-ups, maybe giving a slight pump in the body or forearms or both. If I were much stronger and more powerful, so long as I had decent endurance for that higher power/strength level, I’d probably also not feel so pushed to keep moving consistently through these sequences – i.e. not on the clock so much. I might be able to shake out each hand in between the moves or even shake on a hold that would never serve me as a rest now. More likely, though, I’d find the climbing so easy that I’d just walk through it without noticing any real power output – in other words, it’d be so far from taking any real portion of my power that it’d just be a vague endurance drain.

Nonetheless, could someone stronger/more powerful than me fail on these routes due to a) a lack of power endurance or b) a lack of endurance or c) another issue? Of course! I’ve actually seen this happen – and it’s usually a clear indicator (so long as mental issues aren’t in play) that a person lacks either power endurance or endurance or a bit (or more!) of both…plus they may possibly have less efficiency of movement, too (technical issues), particularly when tiredness sets in.

Again, this illustrates how sport climbing is so individual that it’s really hard to be precise for everyone about where the point of failure is. This is why I’d encourage you, if you care about training your weaknesses and want to see improvements, to really pay attention to why you fall and what the point of failure is right after it happens – and to ask your partners for feedback, too, on this. It’s not always what you think, especially if you’ve never paid close attention before. When I fall, I try to always feel pleased if I tried my hardest – as it’s a really depressing game if you’re constantly po’ed about falling (and you’ll never push your limits, besides) – but I also always try to immediately do a body scan and an instant replay of the failure in my brain, to try to sort out what went wrong. I also always ask my partner what it looked like, just to double-check my own assessment.

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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