• Coming Back From Injury
  • Get Trip-Fit Fast
  • Systems Wall and Symmetrical Training
  • Coaching Climbing - How To Train Juniors with Care and Caution
  • Grip Trainers - Gimmicks, or Worth the Money?
  • Hangboarding for Endurance: Not Just for Power
  • Simulation Training: How to Do a Move You Can't Do
  • Planning a Year's Climbing
  • Portable Training Rigs - How to Stay Fit on the Go
  • How to Keep Your Job and Family and Still Climb at Your Limit
  • Suspension Training for Rock Climbing
  • Eat Fat, Climb Harder - The Ketogenic Diet
  • Witness the Mental Fitness: Set Thought Aside to Improve Performance
  • Mental Training Made Simple
  • Counterintuitive Climbing Tips to Change Your Game - Part 2
  • Endurance Training Tips for Winter
  • Five Counterintuitive Climbing Tips to Change Your Game - Part 1
  • Staying Power - How to Last All Day at the Crag
  • Attack and Defend - Tips for Effective Resting
  • Change Up - Plug the Gaps In Your Strength Training This Winter
  • Training While Injured
  • The Hard Way, Easier: How to Cope with Redpoint Nerves
  • Climbing Literacy - Get Better Instantly by Reading Routes
  • The Numbers Game - How to Use Your Age to Your Advantage
  • Injury-Free Bouldering: 15 Tips to Keep You Healthy and Strong
  • Injury-Free Boarding: 14 Training Tips to Save Your Fingers
  • The Truth About Caffeine and Climbing
  • Pushing Past Your Training Plateau
  • Five Strategies to Sharpen Concentration and Climb Better
  • Five Ways to Get Better Without Training
  • Beat the Burnout: Only Ondra Should Train Like Ondra
  • Effective Gym Training Strategies (for Route Climbing)
  • Should You Add Weight or Use Smaller Holds on a Hangboard?
  • Map Out a Plan with the Radar System
  • Managing the Fear of Falling
  • Projecting 101 – 6 Tips For Sending
  • Slowing the Pump Clock - Three Strategies to Prevent the Pump
  • Training on the Go
  • How to Train for Compression
  • Nutrition: Eating Your Way to Better Climbing
  • How to Dyno
  • General Conditioning for Climbers
  • Transitioning from Gym to Crag
  • Staying Strong to Perform Your Best All Season
  • How to Lose Weight for Climbing
  • Building a Better Climber: Final Phase - Peaking
  • Building a Better Climber: Phase 7 - Power Endurance Training
  • Building a Better Climber: Phase 6 - Endurance II
  • Building a Better Climber: Phase 5 - Strength and Power II
  • The Training Effect - Steve House and Scott Johnston
  • Training for Climbing: Injured? Train Your Core!
  • Building a Better Climber: Phase 4 - Power Endurance
  • Building a Better Climber: Phase 3 - Strength Training
  • Building a Better Climber: Phase 2 - Low-Intensity Endurance
  • Building a Better Climber: Phase 1 - Conditioning Phase
  • Gain Confidence by Learning Not to Fear Falling
  • Get Better When You Are Scared and Pumped
  • Never Get Pumped Again
  • Gutbusters - Core Exercises for Rock Climbing
  • Rest ... or Else
  • The Intuitive Approach to Training
  • Free Climbing Tips: Why Get Stronger When You Can Get Better?
  • Crank Like a Russian - How to Power Train for Climbing
  • How to Mentally Train
  • Boost Power With Eccentric Training
  • Tips for Better Onsighting
  • Should You Lose Weight or Get Stronger?
  • Is Protein Important?
  • Getting Strong After a Layoff
  • Does Running or Biking Improve Your Climbing?
  • Training While Hungry
  • How To Use Microcycles
  • How to Improve Slab Technique
  • How to Unlock a Crux
  • How to Use a Hangboard
  • Using a Weight Belt For Training
  • Training During Pregnancy
  • Maximizing a Small Home Wall
  • How to Stay Psyched
  • How to Prevent Bonking
  • Best Ratio of Resting to Bouldering
  • The Importance of Finger Strength
  • Regaining Confidence After a Fall
  • Overcome Anxiety and Send!
  • Maximum Training in Minimum Time
  • Dynamic vs. Static Stretching
  • Do Forearm Trainers Work?
  • Ultimate Strength
  • The Secrets of Warming Up
  • Periodized Training For the Year-round Approach
  • Resting the Perfect Amount
  • How To Recover On Route
  • Does Creatine Work?
  • Recovery Supplement Truths
  • Euro Training Secrets
  • Can Old Guys Get Stronger?
  • Training With an Injury
  • How to Beat Fear
  • How Often Should You Rest?
  • Warming Up Without Warm-Ups
  • How to Develop Sloper Strength
  • Beating the Lactic Acid Pump
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    Building a Better Climber: Phase 1 - Conditioning Phase


    Welcome to the Rock and Ice yearlong training plan. This seven-phase series will present specific workouts based on the principles of periodization, a proven approach to training that results in peak performance. Each six-week segment will build upon the previous with the end result being a better, stronger climbing machine—you.

    Most training articles give you the theory and leave the planning to you, but this time the only hard work will be at the climbing gym. The plan will work for climbers of all levels. 



    [6 weeks]

    You must develop a good base of fitness first. Skip this step and you will risk burning out later in the program. The first few weeks of conditioning target general fitness, and the amount of climbing gradually increases as the phase progresses. These four main work-outs target different areas of fitness. It’s up to you to choose what days during the week you perform these exercises.


    Weekly Microcycles

    Weeks 1 & 2

        1. Aerobic / anaerobic conditioning & flexibility: [ x 4 per week ]

        2. Low-intensity endurance:[ x 1 per week ]

        3. Bouldering - volume / easy problems: [ x 1 per week ]

        4. Antagonists & core: [ x 3 per week ]

    Weeks 3 & 4

        1. Aerobic / anaerobic conditioning & flexibility: [ x 4 per week ]

        2. Low-intensity endurance: [ x 2 per week ]

        3. Bouldering - volume / easy problems: [ x 1 per week ]

        4. Antagonists & core: [ x 3 per week ]

    Weeks 5 & 6

        1. Aerobic / anaerobic conditioning & flexibility: [ x 3 per week ]

        2. Low-intensity endurance: [ x 3 per week ]

        3. Bouldering - volume / easy problems: [ x 1 per week ]

        4. Antagonists & core: [ x 3 per week ]




    1. Aerobic / Anaerobic Conditioning & Flexibility

    a) Run [ 30 minutes ]

    Running is preferable to cycling in order to avoid bulking up the leg muscles. Go at a slow steady pace to warm-up for the first 5 minutes. Then do 5 intervals of 1 min. on at 90 to 95 percent effort followed by 1 min. slow jog to recover. Then run at a steady pace to finish. Each session make the intervals 10 seconds longer, until eventually you are doing 2 mins. on / 1 min. off x 5, then 5 mins. to warm down.

    b) Burpee [ 10 minutes ] x 8 (on 1st session). 1 min. rest. Repeat x 4.

    Do 1 more rep per set each session (i.e., by session 10 you’ll be doing 18 reps per set).

    c) Flexibility [ 15 minutes ]

    Hold stretches for 20 seconds, release for 10 seconds, then repeat again for 20 seconds.

    1. Hamstrings

    2. Thigh / quadriceps

    3. Calf

    4. Groin

    5. Lats

    6. Shoulders

    7. Chest

    8. Forearms (flexors & extensors)


    2. Low-Intensity Endurance

    You have two options: one for the bouldering wall and one for the lead wall. Don’t do both in one session! Warm up first.

    a) Routes: 4 x 4s

    Select four different routes of the same grade that you can climb consecutively. The grades should be at least two notches below your onsight grade for beginner/intermediates and four below for advanced/elite.

    Lower off and move to the next route as quickly as possible. Do this four times with rests equal to climbing time. Pick wall angles based on abilities:

    Beginner / Low Intermediate: Vertical

    Intermediate: 5- to 10-degrees overhanging

    Advanced: 10- to 20-degrees overhanging

    Elite: 20- to 30-degrees overhanging

    b) Bouldering Wall: Random climbing [ 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off x 4 ]

    If you don’t have a belayer, find an easy and quiet area of the bouldering wall. Warm up first then climb around, selecting holds at random for 10 minutes. Go up, down and diagonally as well as traversing. Try linking color-coded problems, provided they are easy enough. Aim for a moderate and continuous level of pump. If you get too pumped, then find a resting position and work at recovering before continuing.

    Remember that injuries can still strike at any time, so it’s vital to warm up and cool down, as well as to listen to your body and adjust the workload if you’re not recovering.

    You don’t need to be a slave to the plan. It’s fine to swap sessions around and substitute training indoors with climbing outside at any opportunity. 


    3. Bouldering [ Volume / Easy Problems ]

    Climb problems in ascending/descending grade order. Rest 1 minute between problems at first two levels. Rest 2 minutes between harder grades. Aim to do one more problem at each grade with each session.

    [ Beginner / Low intermediate ] 5 x V0;  5 x V1;  5 x V2;  5 x V1;  5 x VO

    [ Intermediate ] 4 x V0; 4 x V1; 4 x V2;  4 x V3; 4 x V4; 4 x V3 ;4 x V2; 4 x V1

    [ Advanced ] 4 x V1; 4 x V2; 4 x V3; 4 x V4;  4 x V5; 4 x V4; 4 x V3; 4 x V2

    [ Elite ] 3 x V2; 3 x V3; 3 x V4; 3 x V5; 3 x V6; 3 x V7; 3 x V6; 3 x V5; 3 x V4; 3 x V3; 3 x V2


    4. Antagonists & Core

    a) Antagonists

    Do 3 sets of 20 reps of the following exercises with 2 minutes of rest between sets. Don’t go to failure (or, optional, go to failure on last set).

    1. Push-ups (kneeling if required)

    2. Reverse wrist curls [Use a weight that you can handle comfortably for 3 sets of 20 reps.] 

    3. Finger extensions (with rubber band)

    b) Core

    1. Extreme plank [ 10 reps x 3 sets with 2 minutes rest ]

    Do an extra rep each session.

    2. Iron cross [ 10 reps x 3 sets with 2 min. rest ] - As extreme plank but spread arms/legs wide

    Do an extra rep each session.

    3. Leg paddles [ 50 reps x 3 with 2 mins. rest ]

    Lie on your back in a half sit-up position. Hands on temples, crunch-up to mid-way. Stretch legs out straight in front, hold feet just above the ground and paddle up and down.

    Do 5 additional reps each session.


    Go to Building a Better Climber: Phase 2 - Low-Intensity Endurance Phase 

    This article was published in Rock and Ice issue 208


    Neil Gresham has been training climbers since 1993. Check out his training DVDs at climbingmasterclass.com.

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