Improve Your Sport Climbing (10): Power Endurance, Part 5 (HARD)


No matter your potential in the power-endurance department, one of the fastest ways to run out of power endurance prematurely is to lack efficiency in movement – to have poor technical proficiency and execution (yeah, I do plan to talk about technique more specifically in  a few of these entries…soon).

This is the part of redpointing that involves smoothing out the lumps and working on the delivery of precise movements with no wasted effort. As we train this, we develop greater and greater neuromuscular coordination, meaning that through repetition of specific sequences of movements, we become smoother and smoother with fewer and fewer movement errors, because our body learns how to recruit and coordinate motor units more accurately. Depending on how long we work a route, we may/can also actually build more physical power for specific moves, and we can and do definitely improve our power endurance and endurance (in terms of pure physical gains), for sure.

However, a good portion of the improvement we see comes also from our improved neuromuscular capabilities – from us taking the time to mold our strength into usable skills on the rock. It’s similar to a dancer perfecting a dance, really – it looks beautiful and effortless when all the steps flow together seamlessly, when the neuromuscular adaptations have occurred and the performance is flawlessly executed.

Did the dancer start out being strong enough to perform all of the steps by themselves? Probably – or at least strong enough for most of them, and close to strong enough for the possible few that he or she wasn’t quite strong enough for at first. But molding that strength through repetition is what makes for near-perfection in movement — and building up the power endurance to sustain that fluid, technical precision and consistent power output through a series of difficult movements is a part of that process of gaining near-perfection.

This touches upon another facet of power endurance training — the facet that involves training the mind to maintain control of the body when the body is being taxed near its limits. I’ll talk more about mental aspects of climbing in another entry, but I wanted to mention this here – you have to have the ability to push hard and stay in control of your movements even when your brain screams, “I can’t!” because your body so often can do more moves even when your mind tells you it can’t on some level.

Being able to intelligently override those messages of premature failure/fatigue is a key part of really capitalizing on your full capability of power endurance (and endurance) potential. You don’t want to push to injury, of course. However, my experience has been that if I can quell the voices of doubt and just let my body climb, I can often do way more moves than my mind thinks I can. I still hear the doubting voice, but I just choose to ignore it and keep climbing. It’s always (still) a wild experience for me, as I more often than not do way more moves than my mind thinks I’m going to be able to complete.

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.

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