Developing a training plan or cycle for the year or an extended amount of time can be extremely difficult. Periodisation is a planned cycle of specific training which is planned well in advance. A periodisation plan takes into account many things which may have an impact on your climbing, from where and when you want to peak to trips you have planned and scheduled time off. Whilst I no longer use periodisation plans, I do come up with shortened versions depending on projects I want to succeed on or trips I have planned (see my recording & you article). For me periodisation plans tend to burn me out a little as I am (at times) pushing myself to train or do something when I am not wanting to. I find by doing so the “fun” is taken out of it and I tend to become agitated.
However, I know the benefits of such plans and have witnessed how valuable they can be if you can stick with it. There are many variations of periodisation plans, some go into massive amounts of detail and some are merely an outline of training focuses. All I can do is describe what I have done in the past or when I get super psyched on climbing (usually winter).
It is very important if you are going to start a big plan, to start at this time of the year, especially if you have been climbing for a while and really want to vamp up your climbing for the coming season. Firstly, you need to write down all your main goals which you want to achieve. Remember they need to be S.M.A.R.T goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. See my other article). This is what you are working your butt off for so make sure you REALLY want them! Don’t write too many, for example I would only come up with say a max of 5 goals.
Remember you aren’t ONLY going to attempt or send your goals, there will be plenty of other routes or boulders you will send which aren’t on your list. It’s just a motivational base your working towards, the bigger picture if you like.
Next is you need to figure out when you are able to really try your projects and potentially send them. What time of the year do you want to send them and where are they located? Maybe they are in the Grampians and can only get the once or twice a year (Easter, & Christmas Holidays). Write it all down.
You now have to start looking and potentially modifying in which order you are going to send your goals depending on what “type” of climb they are, (ie, power based, power endurance, endurance, etc) and when you are planning on going to try your projects. The idea would be to slot the climbs in which match up to your training focus and leave the super stout ones for when your peaking. For example, if you are in your power phase and you have a route or bloc suited to power which isn’t at your max, you may want to try it in your power phase.
If you’re a beginner/intermediate and really want to vamp your climbing for the first time its important you get “climb” fit. Usually within Australia this starts about NOW! It’s a period where you are often climbing. During this period you would climb as much as you can, 5-6 days a week just to give you a good foundation. During this phase, you shouldn’t be trying to push the limits, it’s just pure mileage to get you ready for the season.
Typically periodisation (marcocycle) includes mesocycles which are the bigger periods within, ie) endurance (foundation, as above), power, power endurance, etc. These usually last no longer than 6 – 8 weeks, any more than that and you will likely start to level off and cease improving. Within mesocycles are microcycles, these are the weekly training you plan to do. I have heard of some plans consisting of simply a preparation phase, competition phase and lastly a transition phase but I do prefer the more complex model.
When training a specific type of speciality you will obviously improve in that domain, however you will additionally decline in other areas. For example, if you are training power, your power will improve, however whilst training this you are neglecting endurance so you will decline in that area. You will gradually improve in all domains though this will be a lengthy process. Below is a bit of an example of how things may go. If you then repeat another periodisation cycle after this, initial levels would be higher and therefore improvement would build on it. So over time (years) you gradually get better in all domains, however you cannot be the best at all three styles. You will also likely get a good idea as to what type of climbing you are suited to and what your weaknesses are. For example, I can recover when I have a good resting position though power is my weakness compared to some. For this reason I concentrate more so on power rather than endurance. From here you can break down further your weaknesses and work on them within your focus phase to become a more rounded climber. Again, mine is finger strength particularly a closed crimp. When I am working power, I would therefore do more closed crimp bouldering and more fingerboarding to lift my levels.
From the above picture you probably can guess how a cycle goes in terms of what your overall focus is. Lets have a look at an example, this may clear up any questions you have.
As mentioned above, the first phase would consist of a foundation or endurance phase (especially if you haven’t done this before). This can just be plenty of easy climbing, however do it often. Climb, climb, climb, climb. 4 weeks should do the trick, up to you. I have heard the length of time you spend on this phase is the length of time you will peak but I am uncertain of this.
Second phase would be a more power based phase. Coming off an endurance phase your power will likely be terrible, don’t stress it will build. Within this phase you should be doing short hard bouldering initially. Keep the moves from 1-8. Personally, I would do this for a few weeks before implementing hangboarding or campusing. After a week or 2 depending on past experience, start to include hangboarding and campusing. Continue with your bouldering as well. During this phase you should be really trying so it is important you get A LOT of rest! Each session you should be nice and fresh and you don’t want to leave with nothing in your tank, always walk away with some juice left. After a few more weeks I would move towards more 5-12 move boulder problems as well as including campusing and hangboarding. By doing this your leading your body up to your power endurance phase. All together personally I’d say this phase should last around 8 weeks.
The third phase is power endurance. During this phase you want to start to link the power you now have with the endurance you had in the past. By the end of this phase all three specifics (endurance, power, power endurance) should be around a similar level. Within this phase you want to replicate stout climbing where you can’t rest. To do this the best way is to do circuits at a gym. Find or make a problem or two around 15 moves long. I call this low end power endurance. You want to basically run laps on this thing but there can’t be any resting points. You need to keep chugging along. Even if you have big holds in it, DON”T pause on them! If you fall off, get back on it as soon as you can and finish it off. I normally have two circuits which I repeat five times each with a rest of around 3min in-between. By the last couple you should only just be completing your circuit, its ok if you fail, you will see improvement quickly. However, if you get through your problems easily without falling they are too easy and need to be modified. I would do this twice a week, sometimes three times depending if I am climbing on the weekend. Once you have done this for two weeks or so I would bump up the problems to up to 25 moves, repeat as above. I call this high end power endurance. Again, I would do this for probably two weeks. All together around 4 weeks.
The next step is to REST! You’ve done the hard yards now rest and let your body heal and get stronger. I would normally rest around a week/week & a half but would do other non-climbing things to stay feeling fit.
Hopefully now you are at your peak and your projects will go down with ease.
The above information has been purely what I have picked up along the way and I have no doubt EVERYONE’S idea and training would be very different. I am not saying this will work for you but if your keen and motivated I am sure you will learn a lot about yourself and your climbing.
Lastly, remember to rest and recover when you feel your body is sore or at risk. It is not worth punching through pain only to be injured. This will only hinder your chance at becoming the best you can.
Hope it helps,