Improve Your Sport Climbing (10): Power Endurance, Part 7 (HARD)


In my last entry, I mentioned that your power endurance depends ultimately not only on how much absolute power you have but also on a few other factors – including the following second major one discussed below.

The second factor ties into what I discussed in the previous entry (genetic potential), in that no matter who you are and where you lie on the continuum of power endurance, you have to put the appropriate amount of time and consistency into power endurance training (again, molding those strength gains into something usable in your climbing world) to fully take advantage of any strength or power gains you’ve made.

It always takes time to do this, even if you’re naturally good at power endurance. It also takes lots of specificity – meaning that if you train your power endurance up for only one style or angle or type of holds or number of moves or even a set of moves for only one repetition (as opposed to doing a set of power-sapping moves, resting, then repeating another similar set of power-sapping moves), you’ll be more likely than not to find that you won’t develop a high level of power endurance for whatever you don’t train.

Real-world translation: Your power endurance could be absolutely stellar on vertical crimpy faces but virtually nonexistent for steep thuggy roof climbing, and vice versa. Because these place very different demands on your body and require different sets of strengths and technical skill sets as well, developing great power endurance relative to your maximal power level on different types of terrain generally requires spending time training/climbing consistently on those types of terrain.

How much time does it take to train up to your power endurance potential? This depends on each person’s individual makeup – back to genetic potential again. I’d venture that it takes way longer than most of us want to believe or think it might take to truly hit that peak, and it depends where the training starts from, i.e. is it after months away from any power endurance training/focus at all? Or are you starting from a small base of strength training that followed a year of sport climbing? And so forth.

One way you’ll know you’re at the limit or close to it of your current power endurance potential (relative to your current power level) if you encounter a route(s)/series of moves that you simply cannot put together after months of effort. If you can link all of the sequences together, and then one-hang the route a bunch of times, and the route involves power-endurance efforts (8ish to 30ish moves of consistent power output for you, possibly multiple times), and you just can’t seem to put it together (or you high point then make negative progress), you may have pushed your power endurance close to its absolute potential — as close to your maximal power level as its going to get right now.

You might sneak away with the climb, still — but you might also do better (and have more fun) by leaving it for now, aiming to get stronger in relevant areas and then come back at it for another go in a subsequent season, with the idea that you’ll gain enough strength/power to have this particular route not dig so deeply into your power base, as your power base will (with the right training plan addressing the correct weaknesses) be higher the next time around. If the route’s at your limit now, it will probably still take some effort to build that power endurance back up — your goal is to have it take LESS effort than before.

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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