Lactate Threshold Improvement Tactic 1: High-intensity interval training (HIIT) in the gym. In HIIT, you train your body to climb hard at a relatively quick pace without losing your ability to maintain solid technical and tactical maneuvering (i.e. maintaining control while pushing at your limit). If you have route goals outside (and you know the routes or can obtain information about them), this can help you structure these workouts more specifically (recall the SAID principle of training – specific adaptations to imposed demands) to your advantage.
Step 1: Create several boulder problems or routes inside that have roughly the same amount and types of moves you have to perform between rests/shakes on the route(s) you wish to redpoint. If you don’t have any projects in mind, then try to create problems (or routes made up of several “problems,” as so many routes are outside) ranging from 10 to 30+ moves, focusing on the types of moves or sequences of movements that you routinely struggle with. One way to do this is to create problems with themes, such as dynamic movement, slopers, small holds, lots of one-foot-only on moves, etc. You want these problems to be challenging, but not ridiculous. For known projects, you may start with moves that are slightly easier than the moves that challenge you outside. You can also start with slightly harder sequences or moves than those you encounter on the route(s) – so long as you can do them inside without falling at least one time per session.
Your aim is to be able to climb several of these problems per session cleanly, with no shaking out or resting as you climb them (anywhere from 4 to 20 laps total per session, depending on the intensity/difficulty/length of each problem), taking timed rests in between the problems. I usually start with 5 minutes and work down from there. As you improve at sending each problem multiple times, you’ll want to start decreasing the rest times between efforts, which will eventually lead to you to Step 2.
Step 2: Linkage with shakes on the wall. Once you’re able to handily send all the sections of your redpoint route project recreated indoors (or your imaginary route project made up of several long boulder problems created to target all of the areas of your climbing that need the most work), you’ll ideally want to start trying to sew it together without rests off the wall. So you’ll climb the first part of the route (the first boulder problem) to a rest – preferably one that mimics the rest you’ll get outside – and shake out there until you feel ready to move into part two, and so forth, until you send.
Step 3: Take it to the project outside (see next week’s entry for details). Or, if the moves were slightly easier to start with, now you’ll incorporate harder moves into your HIIT training routine, perhaps ending up sending a route that is even harder than your outdoor project.
Note that it’s important to not fall into a “too-specific” training rut here – you want specificity, but not to the point that you forgo all other types of climbing-related movements that challenge you because of training for a single project (unless that’s all that’s really important to you right now and you don’t care if you lose some ability in other areas). The simple solution to this is to have more than one mix of problems you can try (i.e. more than one full boulder-problem route that you’ll eventually link), or even more simply, to change the order of problems (if it’s not a specific route you’re training for) from session to session.
Also note that this is high-intensity training, meaning that quality and intensity of the sessions count for more than volume/frequency. If you’re training at a hard enough level to elicit training gains, you should aim to do this type of training two or three times a week, tops. If you have other training elements in your training program right now (such as power-focused bouldering/training or weight/strength/resistance training, for example), once or twice a week will likely be more effective and efficient in helping you see quicker gains while avoiding overtraining or “plateau-area” training, in which you can’t truly push hard because you’re never recovered enough to truly push hard.
Up Next Week: Climbing & Training Helpful Hints and Suggestions (1): Lactate Threshold Training (C)
This multipart series of articles starts here, in case you have to catch up – you’ll also find a full table of contents, complete with links, in that entry. This information and advice is based on my 20+ years of climbing along with observations I’ve made as a climbing coach/certified personal trainer. You 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 and training!