You’re above your bolt gunning for the chains on your project. But wait! Your forearms are getting pumped, your elbows start to chicken wing, you start to panic, and before you know it your hanging from the end of your rope. No send this time.  We all know the feeling, we’ve all been there, and we’ve all thought to ourselves “If only my endurance was better!’.

It’s no secret that if you want to progress as a route climber you need to train your endurance. The question isn’t if you should train endurance, but how you most effectively train climbing endurance and how should you fit it into your overall training program.

To help you answer these questions, here’s an excerpt from TrainingBeta Podcast Episode 110 with Steve Bechtel of Climb Strong. Bechtel has been on the show before, but in this episode, he digs specifically into endurance training, how we’ve all been training endurance ineffectively for a long time, and how we can be more effective with our efforts moving forward. The new approach Steve outlines is based on a better understanding of the energy systems involved in climbing and, as always, Steve does a great job breaking down these complex topics in an easy to understand way. Even if you don’t know the first thing about energy systems, this episode is a great place to start and will change the way you think about climbing endurance and endurance training.

This particular part of the episode focuses on how we’ve all been misguided in our endurance training efforts. To dig into how Steve thinks we can train endurance more effectively, be sure to check out the full episode/transcript. If you’re a route climber, this is one you don’t want to miss!

route climbing training program


Steve Bechtel on New Endurance Training Methods:

Neely Quinn: Okay. This might be one of my last questions because in the beginning of this you basically said that some of us have been doing this all wrong for a long time. I just want to be really clear about what you’re saying we should not be doing.

Steve Bechtel: Sure thing. What we should not be doing is chasing the pump. A couple of years ago Jonathan Siegrist lived here for the summer and I got to climb with him a bit. I was really psyched because he’s clearly a motivated guy, but he would finish the day with a couple of laps on this 5.13 at Wolf Point. I was like, ‘Oh, yeah man. I should do that but I’ll do it on a different route.’ It was maybe 12c. Jonathan is climbing 14+ and finishing up the day on 13a, right? This is very similar to the endurance recommendation I just gave but I’m climbing on 5.13 and then I’m trying to finish the day at a really high skill level for me. I should have been finishing the day on an 11a or 11c, where I’m at a comfortable enough level that I can climb well, that’s not near my skill limit, and that I’m going to be successful.

Neely Quinn: He would do it a couple or three times or something?

Steve Bechtel: Right, because at 5.13a he’s still very much in his aerobic zone, he’s very much in a low skill level, so you just have to look at where that would be relative to your current ability. What can I realistically do lots and lots of volume on and not have bad skill based on my fatigue?

We used to do burnouts. We’d get on 5.12 in the Killer Cave at Sinks Canyon and do many, many laps at the end of the day until you just fell off and you were pumped crazy. You know what happens when you’re there is you get so pumped that tomorrow has to be a rest day, your climbing goes to shit and so you learn bad skills, and what’s really interesting about skill development is you learn the last things very, very well. You learn bad beta on these routes. Your body also learns that when I get to this section I start to flail, even though it’s something that should be very, very easy for you. Climbing deep into that state of fatigue is probably not the best advice.

Full Episode/Transcript: TBP 110 :: Steve Bechtel on Training Endurance for Climbing

route climbing training program


climbing training programs

(photo: Dan Mirsky climbing Terror Dome 5.14a | courtesy of Matt Pincus | @mpincus87)

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TrainingBeta is a site dedicated to training for rock climbing. We provide resources and information about training for routes, bouldering, finger strength, mental training, nutrition for climbers, and everything in between. We offer climbing training programs, a blog, interviews on the TrainingBeta Podcast, personal training for climbing, and nutrition for climbers.

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