I’ve done a lot of research on climbing training programmes, both on the internet and in magazines, and through chatting with friends, and it seems the definitive choice is a periodization programme. But within that global approach the question still remains between the benefits of a strict periodization programme versus one which consists of smaller microcycles. When writing my own training programme I was faced with this decision, and it was hard to find any source which could conclusively say which approach worked better. I doubt there is a “one fits all” plan anyway, as factors such as age, experience, available training hours, injuries, and other activities would all need to be taken into account to determine what would suit the individual best.
Whilst building up to the GB Team Trails in March this year I wrote myself a short 3 month periodization programme, following the most common macrocycles of general endurance, strength, power, and finally power endurance. I followed the “strict” approach, where each facet was isolated to the corresponding macrocycle, with the exception of general endurance which I continued to maintain throughout all phases. This worked very well for me, but much of the success I think had to do with the fact that I was building from a fairly low level of fitness, with this being my first proper training since my back surgery. Up until then I was focused mainly on building up my base level of strength and fitness, and with the training I then got some decent results in a fairly short period of time.
After the Team Trails I had only 3 months until the World Champs, so I made some slight adjustments to my training programme but stuck with it more or less that same. This worked fairly well, and I felt it gave me an extra nudge above where I was before, but the gains were certainly not as spectacular as the previous phase.
I’ve definitely found when I reach a certain level the improvement gains are subtle and very gradual. Improving on a single grade takes a lot of time and effort. Not that I mind the time and effort ... its climbing after all so it’s all good! After the World Champs I took a moment to try to identify some of my weaknesses, and to then write a programme that would hopefully address these weaknesses and enable me to see some progress by the end of the programme.
This time I was limited to only 8 weeks until the BLCCs (British Lead Climbing Champs), plus it fell over the summer months so my higher priority was to get out on rock and do some real routes! I decided to try a microcycle approach instead this time, firstly because of the time constraints that I had, but also because I felt that I was starting to plateau with my old programme and it is always good to shake things up a bit, and add variety to keep both your mind and muscles stimulated.
My programme had two overall macrocycles – strength and power endurance – which overlapped by a couple of weeks, but each macrocycle really consisted of weekly microcycles in which I would incorporate a bit of everything in various proportions and intensity. This programme has gone well – the competition benefits are still to be seen, but on rock I’m feeling really good and I think I am now at PB (Personal Best) strength! Unfortunately winter is fast approaching, BUT I have a trip to Turkey (Antalya region) coming up in 1 weeks time, and I have other plans afoot too ... :)
To help you spice things up with your own training programme, here are some training techniques that I used for the various facets of climbing:
If you have any training techniques that you have found to be beneficial and you’d like to share them, then add your comments below!