The Training Bible Phase 4: Power Endurance

Welcome to the Climbing's yearlong training plan. This eight-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.

Welcome to the Climbing’s year-long training plan. If you stuck with the first three phases in this ongoing series—Phase 1: Conditioning, Phase 2: Low-Intensity Endurance, and Phase 3: Strength Trainingyou should be feeling fit and ready to start phase four: power-endurance. If you’re just joining in, we recommend starting from the beginning, though you could alternatively do two weeks of the low-intensity endurance phase, then commence with the Power Endurance phase outlined below. This plan works for climbers of all levels.


Next up we’ll focus on power endurance to get you ready for your late-summer projects. Aim to climb outside as much as possible, and tie your crag sessions in with the program. For example, for power-endurance sessions, do hard onsights or redpoints, and for strength simply boulder or work a hard project. If you go away on a major climbing trip (for longer than five days), take at least three full rest days beforehand and three days afterward before
resuming training.


Power endurance is the type of fitness required for sustained sequences of between 15 and 40 moves and will be the main focus of the phase, although I’ve included a small amount of strength work to prevent performance losses. Take four full rest days after finishing the previous phase and then commence. At the end of the phase, take another four rest days and see No. 213 for the next phase. People with limited access to a climbing gym should simply substitute bouldering sessions with home hangboard sessions.

Weekly Microcycle Calendar

Select the appropriate weekly plan for your level. If you must train on two consecutive days, do a bouldering or hangboard session on day one and power endurance on day two. It’s up to you how to fit the sessions into your weekly schedule.


     Intermediate            Advanced/Elite  
1. Power Endurance  2 3
2. Bouldering 1 1
3. Conditioning & Flexibility  1 1
4. Antagonists & Core 1 2


1. Power Endurance

Here are four different structure options, two for the lead wall and two for the bouldering wall. Do not attempt more than one option per session. The best approach is to alternate between options.


Option 1: 6 x 2s Warm up first. Select two different routes of the same grade that you can climb consecutively. (See guidelines below for optimum wall angle). The grade should be approximately two or three below your current  maximum onsight grade. Lower off, pull the rope and do the next route as quickly as possible.

Do this six times with rests equal to climbing time.

Aim to complete the first four sets and to fail on the fifth or sixth. Try to use a selection of different routes rather than sticking to one or two. Climb them in different combinations or in a different order for variety. Increase the difficulty each session—first by making the first route a grade harder, and then by making the second route harder. 

Option 2: 8 x 1s Follow the guidelines for option 1, but climb slightly harder routes eight in
a row. The grade should be approximately one or two below your current maximum onsight grade. Rests are equal to climbing time. Aim to reach failure
on the seventh or eighth climb.


Option 1: 4 x 6s Select four different boulder problems of approximately the same grade that
you can climb consecutively. The grade should be approximately one below the level that you can flash. Move between problems as quickly as possible.

Rest for eight minutes and attempt the series six times.

Aim to complete the first four sets and to fail on the fifth or sixth set. If you start training and realize that the problems are too hard or too easy,
then adjust accordingly. Make the sessions slightly harder by gradually adding harder problems.

Option 2: 30 moves x 6 To warm up, work out a sustained 30-move circuit on a bouldering wall. Ideally this circuit should include upward, downward and diagonal climbing as well as traversing. Always finish by climbing up for the last few moves. One option is to link together some of the set, color-coded boulder problems by climbing up one and down the next and so on. (Down climbs will need to be easier than ups.) Avoid hard single cruxes or good rest positions. Go for six repeats with eight minutes rest. If you fail on the fifth or sixth, you’ve judged it perfectly. If you start training and realize that the problems are too hard or too easy, adjust. You can train on the same circuit the next session, but after that, scrap it and set a new and slightly harder one. 

2. Strength / Power 

Use the same boulder and hangboard sessions from the previous training phase [No. 211]. To summarize: For bouldering, advanced/elite-level climbers should work hard projects and beginner/intermediates should go for problems they can do within three or four tries.  Projects should be overhanging, but don’t forget to do slabs and vertical problems during your warm-up. Vary the holds and style of projects and work your weaknesses.


Rest two to three minutes between all exercises. Calibrate exercises using a weight belt or selecting smaller holds, or switching from two arms to one arm.

a) Dead Hangs (one or both arms, subject to ability)

Hang to failure three times in a row, with a two-second rest  between each hang. Aim to reach failure before 10 seconds on the first hang. Intermediates do three sets per grip and advanced/elite do four sets.

Grips: 1) Half crimp. 2) Hang/open-hand. 3) Full crimp (two sets only).

b)  Campus Ladders (advanced/elite only) 

Use medium/first-joint campus rungs with half-crimp grips. Submaximal set (e.g. rung spacing you can just complete at your limit) x one set. Maximal set x three attempts.  

c) Fingertip Pull-Ups (or campus offset pull-ups)

  With half-crimp grips on a campus rung or first-joint, flat-finger holds. All sets to failure, using a
pyramid structure: Set 1) Six to eight reps. Set 2) Three to four reps. Set 3) One to two reps. Repeat in reverse.

d) 90-degree lock-offs (on bar or hangboard jugs)

Four sets, aiming to reach failure before eight seconds.

e) Pull-ups (on bar or jugs)

Four sets of approximately six to eight reps to failure.

f) Straight-leg raises (intermediate) or front lever (elite)

Straight leg raises: Four sets to failure.Front lever: Four attempts, hold for four to six seconds.

3. Conditioning & Flexibility

a) Run [30 minutes]

Run instead of bike to avoid bulky legs. Go at a slow, steady pace to warm up for the first five minutes. Then do five intervals of one minute on at 90 to 95 percent effort, followed by jogging for one minute to recover.  Then run at a steady pace to finish. Make the intervals 10 seconds longer each session, until eventually you are doing two minutes on/one minute off x five, then five minutes to warm down.

b) Burpee [10 minutes] x eight (on first

One minute rest. Repeat x four. Do one 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)

4. Antagonists & Core

This session remains the same as introduced in the conditioning phase. 



Phase One: General Conditioning

Phase Two: Low-Intensity Endurance

Phase Three: Strength Training

Phase Four: Power Endurance

Phase Five: Strength/Power

Phase Six: Endurance

Phase Seven: Power Endurance

Phase Eight: Peaking


Neil Gresham has been training climbers since 1993. Check out his training website