Building Endurance – Part 1


Strength is the best, but it’s not everything. At LCC, we love training strength and power. It’s one of the reasons we built a bouldering gym—bouldering is strength and power. We went all-out on this: Kilter board, Tension board, systems board, campus board, hangboards…the finest tools available for getting climbers outrageously strong. Strength is the master quality of fitness. Increased strength will generally improve other attributes of fitness, while the reverse is not true. So, get strong. (Much more on this in the future).  But what happens if you take your fingers of steel out for a field trip up Boulder Canyon, and they crap out on you halfway up the second pitch of the day? More hangboard and deadlift! Just kidding. The truth is that climbing demands a uniquely well-rounded set of attributes from the athlete. Endurance is one of them. Here are two straightforward ways to improve.

ARCing = Jogging for Climbers

ARC Training…you may have heard of it. ARC stands for “Aerobic Restoration and Capillarity.” I could ramble about the science of this for at least a couple paragraphs, but I’ll put it simply: ARCing is the “jogging” of rock climbing. In short, it will improve your low-end endurance, and make your forearms more veiny, which will increase blood flow, which is definitely a good thing.  Traditionally, you would ARC for multiple sets of 20-45 minutes. This will no doubt work wonders for your endurance, but the downside is that it’s so boring you’ll never do it. Here’s a suggestion that you might actually try.

What to do:

  • Use the big training board in the back of the gym. If you’ve never tried ARCing before, then start with the wall set at vertical.
  • Climb continuously at a fairly easy pace. A slight slight pump in the forearms is okay, but don’t push it to the point of failure.
  • Don’t try to climb specific routes on the training board, just climb around on all the holds.
  • ARCing is a great chance to work on specific climbing technique: flagging, silent feet, etc. Also, this is a great time to practice the very important skill of “not grippingholds any harder than you have to.”

When to do it:

  • Employ ARCing during your warmup or cooldown. One set of 15 minutes to warm up, or one set of 15 minutes to cool down. If you have time, ARC in your warmup and your cooldown.

How to progress:

  • Work toward 15 minutes of continuous climbing. If 15 minutes is too much for you at first, that’s fine. Start by ARCing for whatever length of time you can manage without getting pumped, and strive to add a minute or so per week, until you’ve reached 15 minutes.
  • Once you can climb for 15 minutes with the board set at vertical, increase the board angle by 5 degrees and build back up.

Linked Boulder Problems = Sprinting for Climbers

ARCing will cover your base endurance, but we all know that “other” type of endurance. It’s the deep burn type of endurance. It’s the “I don’t know if I can make this move, but I’m going to try anyway” type of endurance. It’s called Power Endurance.

Power endurance happens at a higher intensity than aerobic endurance. That means that the sets are shorter, but more difficult. Unlike ARCing, you should expect to feel hideously pumped during this session. Because of the increased intensity, you should only do linked boulder problems 1-2 times per week.

What to do:

  • Use slightly-overhanging terrain. The Prow is a great section of the gym for this type of session.
  • Pick 2-3 boulder problems that are close to each other on the wall.
  • Choosing the right problems is a bit of an art, and you’ll have to experiment, but here’s a general guideline: 1 easy problem, 1 hard problem and 1 medium problem.
  • Get out your phone and open the stopwatch app. Start the stopwatch when you begin climbing.
    Climb up Problem 1, traverse over and climb Problem 2, traverse over and climb Problem 3.
  • Get off the wall and check the stopwatch. Rest for 2x the amount of time you were on the wall.
    Repeat the circuit 3 times total, then rest 5 minutes while you make up another circuit.
    Repeat the same process with the second circuit. Build up to doing 4 circuits.

When to do it:

  • You will be tired and sore after a session like this, so don’t do it the day before you go climbing outside.
  • Generally speaking, work on power endurance a couple of days after a strength session.

How to progress:

  • Start by resting 2x the amount of time you were on the wall.
  • Over the course of a few weeks, gradually reduce this rest time until your rest period is equal to the amount of time you were on the wall.
  • Finally, increase the difficulty of the problems in the circuit.

As always, if you have any questions about training, ask The Guy With The Beard (a.k.a. Taylor)

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