What is endurance training in climbing?
Endurance training is probably one of the most misunderstood aspects of training for climbing.
We think that, because we fall off when we’re ‘pumped’, we need to get pumped more often to improve this aspect of our climbing. But is this true?
Training needs to be specific
For training to be specific, it does not need to look or feel like the climb you are training for. The training should be specific to the adaptation you’re trying to improve. Therefore, training endurance needs to target the right ‘energy system’, which we don’t necessarily achieve just by training to the point where we feel pump.
The Energy Systems
Generally speaking, there are two energy systems: the aerobic energy system and the anaerobic energy system (although maddy goes into way more detail in the video below).
The anaerobic energy system is used for short bursts of energy, producing energy rapidly but only for a short period of time.
The aerobic energy system creates energy slowly but has a large capacity to do so. If we’re using this energy system when we climb, it allows us to climb at a low intensity for a sustained period of time. This is because it doesn’t have the same byproducts associated with it as the anaerobic energy system that cause muscle fatigue.
If you want even more detail on the energy systems, check out this blog post.
Why just ‘getting pumped’ isn’t enough…
Volume is key for developing our aerobic energy system. Intensity is key for developing our anaerobic energy system.
Just getting really pumped hits the middle ground between volume and intensity. It’s not really an effective strategy, as it targets neither systems effectively.
Pump is also associated with high levels of fatigue because these efforts are exhaustive. You’ll therefore take longer to recover from this session which may not be the best use of your time or energy.
How can we train endurance?
We have three options:
- Short intervals
- Long intervals
Short Intervals: 1 ON, 1 OFF
- Climb for 1 minute
- 1 minute rest off the wall
- Complete 10 times
- During the 1 minute climbing, you should build a pump
- During 1 minute rest, you should fully recover
Intense way to train aerobic energy system. You shouldn’t be near failure, even though you’re pumped.
Long intervals: 5 ON, 3 OFF
- Climb for 5 minute
- 3 minute rest off the wall
- Complete 3 times
- During the 5 minute climbing, you should only build a light pump that should always feel manageable
- During 3 minute rest, you should fully recover
Lower intensity of climbing than 1 ON, 1 OFF. You should always be able to shake on the holds you’re on.
Continuous climbing: ARCing (Aerobic Recruitment Capilarisation)
10-30 minutes of continuous climbing at a very low intensity. You should be able to climb almost indefinitely, building no pump on the wall. The final minute should feel the same as the first minute.
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