Power vs. Power Endurance vs. Local Endurance: Which Do You Need?
by Christopher Schafenacker
The age-old and best training advice a beginner climber can receive is simply to climb…and climb and climb and climb. There comes a point, however, where you’ve built a large enough fitness base and movement repertoire that a more specific approach is required for continuous improvement. You’ll know this moment has arrived when one of the following three things happens.
You get continually shut down by a crux move, but can otherwise take it to the chains.
You can cruise the crux, but peel off on the easier moves up high.
You’ve got a route dialed, can pull all the moves, but the crux sequence spits you off every time you try it from the ground.
Each of these common roadblocks indicates a deficiency in a different energy system that requires something more specific than simple persistence to overcome. Understanding this means taking a deeper dive into each of the above situations.
Can’t stick that one big crux move? This means you lack power or, more specifically, the muscle fiber density and the requisite type of muscle fiber needed to latch far-off holds. You won’t ever change this by running endless laps and working up a monumental level of pump. Instead, to gain power, you need to get comfortable camped out under either a steep bouldering wall (like this) or your gym’s campus board.
Limit bouldering—trying 3-5 moves at your limit with ample rest in between—and campus board training are tried and true methods for gaining power. This said, they are also tried and true methods for getting injured, so before you start, read up on proper technique—and always, always rest for at least 48 hours between sessions.
Boulderers know all too well the frustration of being duped by sport climber friends into tying in, trying hard, and then punting off the 5.easy moves up high , o matter how good the jugs or how much they shake. The issue, of course, is never before having wrestled anything bigger than a pebble, and therefore lacking local endurance.
Local endurance is referred to as such because it has little to do with your overall cardio and everything to do with the localized cardio-vascular fitness of your forearm muscles. ARC training—which stands for Aerobic, Respiration, and Capillarity—is the best way to train local endurance, and is as simple as climbing easy terrain for between 30 and 45 without coming off the wall.
The goldilocks category of climbing skills, power endurance is a fickle term that is hard to pin down, but which essentially refers to having the right balance of both power and local endurance. It has become common parlance among climbers because it describes a crucial ability for sport routes though, in reality, is not a separate ability but rather a combination of those already discussed. This said, when you’re peeling off a crux during a redpoint attempt despite easily being able to pull the moves when fresh, you don’t care what power endurance is, you only care about how to get more of it.
Power endurance is best trained after a power cycle and functions by converting some of your newly gained strength into endurance. You might lose the ability to do V7 after much projecting, but you’ll gain the ability to climb V5 for days. Four-by-fours are among the best method to improve power endurance, and you can learn how to do them here.
Psyched to train but lack the time or facilities to do so? Consider investing in one of our Rocket Walls and set yourself up to do all of the above at home!
Featured Climbing Training Gear
*NEW* The Rocketeer Wall: our free-standing adjustable solution for those who can’t mount a hangboard anywhere in their home or apartment—or who are limited on space. The Rocketeer gives climbers the additional option to set specific climbing holds. Recreate the crux holds of your proj and get ready to send, bruh.
The Rocket Wall: Available in 6’ and 8’ widths, it’s been tough for us to keep up with the demand for this innovative home climbing wall solution. Slightly overhanging, the Rocket Wall is big enough to set routes on, or to build a systems board.
The Rock-Stah: Our handcrafted version of a traditional hangboard, with curving crimp rails to help alleviate unnecessary strain on your pulleys. Because ain’t no one got time for a finger injury…
Heyman, E., De Geus, B. A. S., Mertens, I., & Meeusen, R. (2009). Effects of four recovery methods on repeated maximal rock climbing performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 41(6), 1303-1310.
Watts, P.B., Daggett, M., Gallagher, P., Wilkins B., Metabolic Response During Sport Rock Climbing and the Effects of Active Versus Passive Recovery (2000). Int J Sports Med, 21:185– 190.
Wilson, J. M., Marin, P. J., Rhea, M. R., Wilson, S. M., Loenneke, J. P., & Anderson, J. C. (2012). Concurrent training: a meta-analysis examining interference of aerobic and resistance exercises. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 26(8), 2293-2307.
Augste, C., Winkler, M., Künzell, S. Entwicklung einer wissenschaftlich fundierten Leistungs-diagnostik im Sportklettern (2020). Augsburg University.