Training for Climbing: Power Endurance

This past weekend we finished our Power phase and started navigating into the Power Endurance phase, the last few weeks of training before we start trying our projects! (For those interested, you can read about the strength and power phases to get caught up.)

We both ended our campus training on a good note on Saturday. The day was cooler (which helped) and we both pushed ourselves in a really good way. I finally figured out a routine that seemed to add incremental progress “nudges” for me, and Jonty was finally able to skip a ladder wrung on the thin holds, which has taken him almost 18 months to progress to! Like we’ve said before, it takes us months and years before we see some of the gains. It’s a continuous work-in-progress, and we constantly monitor ourselves to find what works and what doesn’t, and what weaknesses we need to work on. So, notes have been made to remind us of our campus session tweaks, until the next time we are back to train for that (probably in another 3 months).

Jonty making easy work of the campus doubles (set #26!!) 🙂

The Power Endurance phase is only a few weeks long and slowly merges into the Performance phase. Climbing endurance is fleeting – you can lose your endurance stamina pretty quickly (try bouldering for 3 months, and see how quickly you lose steam trying to climb anything that requires you to stay on the wall for longer than 2 minutes!!), but the good news is that local endurance comes back pretty quickly! This is why the endurance-training component doesn’t come into play until right before you want to send your hard projects. All the training you have done in the previous few months has been to build up strength and power. After a few sessions of endurance training, you should have gained most of your local endurance back.

There are two ways we’re going to train this over the next few weeks:

  1. Linked Boulder Circuits (LBC)
  2. Outdoor Circuits (OC)


We found that this method of indoor training works pretty well for us; Jonty used to use 4×4’s but didn’t like getting off the wall in between problems and found that the benefits were marginal, at best. The idea behind LBCs is just what the name suggests, essentially you create a long, bouldery route requiring varying degrees of power and repeat it for several sets.

The basic idea:

  • Choose 3 or 4 boulder problems that link up easily. If you can incorporate dynamic moves into your problems, this is good.
  • Time yourself climbing the LBC, then rest twice as long as it takes you to climb (e.g.: If it takes you 2 minutes to climb your LBC, rest for 4 minutes) This is a 1:2 climb/rest ratio; work towards 1:1 over several sessions.
  • Repeat this for 4 to 6 sets.

The key is finding a good pace for yourself to manage the forearm pump and fatigue that will most-definitely set in. Whenever we start this phase, we’re always amazed at how quickly we get bagged by this exercise: done correctly it feels quite savage! It is normal in the beginning to be unable to complete a full LBC after the 4th or 5th set, even with resting twice as long. But, after a few sessions, the body adapts, and you should find yourself able to stay on the wall longer and with less rest.

Choosing the LBC route:

This will involve a bit of trial and error for selecting the correct difficulty. Choose boulder problems that you can easily complete and that are around, or slightly below, your on-sight level. The order in which you do these 4 problems can make a substantial difference.

For example, lets say you choose 4 problems, graded V0, V2, V4, V6:

  • Climbing V6, V4, V2, V0: probably easier
  • Climbing V2, V0, V4, V6: probably harder

So if want to increase the difficulty, just think about the order in which you complete your sets, and progress / modify along the way. | Jonty completing power-endurance route, Cliffhanger Climbing Gym

Jonty might choose to go up the yellow, down the green, up the red, and down the purple, all without resting or getting off the wall.


The idea behind the Outdoor Circuits is similar to Linked Boulder Circuits. Choose a route that is around on-sight level, that you can complete successfully when you’re not tired. You don’t want to spend time figuring out the route on the day you try it, so familiar is best! Make it specific to your “goal route” as possible e.g. terrain, hold-type, angle.

  • Time how long it takes you to climb the route.
  • Start at a 1:2 climb-to-rest ratio and, over the next few sessions, work up to a 1:1 climb-to-rest ratio.
  • Repeat 2 to 4 laps on this route. | Rock climbing at Porteau Cove, Vancouver BC

Choosing the OC route:

We have been climbing at Porteau Cove over the last few weeks and have spent that time figuring out the climbs and choosing a few that we think will work for training power-endurance. The routes are all quite long, some are overhung and/or use thin, crimpy edges. Doing laps on these types of climbs will hopefully get our bodies used to dealing with the fatigue or pump we may experience on our “goal” routes.

Here’s our plan for the next few weeks: