Training to Ride The Wave

Have you ever noticed that when you’ve taken on new forms of training or new methods of training over the years, that you follow a similar pattern of performance? I certainly know I have, and it’s been a long and painful process to try and push myself out of the following bad pathway. My training method for a particular exercise used to take 4 steps:

1. Start with being utterly rubbish (very hard on the ego, but you push on)

2. Get quite good (reward the dented ego)

3. Get even better, but then suffer from ever decreasing returns

4. Get frustrated and obsesses with this certain manner of training and hit your head against the proverbial brick wall until you either give up or get injured.


The core can be trained harder than almost any other muscle group.

There is one (amongst others) fairly sound method of staying away from this pathway decreased performance potential, and I’ll call it “Riding the Wave.” The wave principal in training is used to ensure that there is a continuous improvement in bodily conditioning. As we all know, it’s amazing to get the initial gains, but we can stagnate after just a couple of months. Common sports science literature suggests that we change the training load after just 6 weeks of training effort, and importantly, supplement it with periods of regeneration training to promote super-compensation.

So, in essence:

1. Alter your training load (factor of intensity or volume) after approx 6 weeks

2. Don’t forget periods of regeneration training to allow your body to realise its gains. Most people love to forget this part!!

When you’ve done your 6 weeks of a new regime and you’ve passed through the lows of being totally rubbish and moved onto the highs of burning off your mates at said exercise (or your own PB) then reassess and ramp it up! Don’t go too mad for too long though; make sure you drop the load right down at regular intervals during the season, so that if you were to graph the “line of load” then it’d look like a slowly growing wave.


Crack training is no different from any other. Change it up, or lose out.

Tricks of the Endurance Training Trade

Endurance training is easy right? You just put your earphones in, get on the wall and plod around on jugs for hours and hours and hours…. Or, do you get down the wall and start a beastly regime of 4×4 laps on routes a couple of grades below your regular onsight? Or do you plug into a TENS machine?? One or more of these might be familiar to you, but which is the best? What’s the real secret?


Firstly, you have to think about what you want to achieve by training endurance. What is the effect going to be?

1. Increase in aerobic capacity

2. Increase in capillarity (density of capillary bed in forearms)

3. Increase in mitochondrial density

4. Increase in climbing efficiency.

Increase in Aerobic Capacity

This can also be known as an increase in “endurance capacity” and is simply the maximum amount of oxygen that can be consumed and utilised in a given time period. If you have a low aerobic capacity, you will be using little of your available oxygen for metabolism and vice versa, if it is high. The key to increasing this capacity, lies in the next two sections – mitochondrial density & capillary density.


The muscles in our forearms are extremely dependent on the supply of oxygenated blood and also on the removal of waste products. It has been found in a number of sports that the limit of the performance of an athlete is dictated not by the metabolic processes within the muscle itself, but by the oxygen supply arriving at the muscle. Increasing the capillary bed size in our forearms is one way in which we can fight this battle.

What does the research say?

1. Adaptation occurs at high intensities of training

2. Adaptation does not occur at low intensities of training

What does this mean for you?

Get off that wall and stop wasting hours and hours traversing around on jugs, just for your capillarisation session. There are of course other benefits to traversing around for hours, but there’s evidence to suggest that capillarisation isn’t one of them.

Mitochondrial Density

These are protein structures within your cells that produce aerobic energy, and as such, pretty useful things to have plenty of! If you can increase your mitochondrial density (and hence oxygen consumption) you will increase the rate of aerobic energy supply = better endurance capacity.


What does the research say?

1. We have mitochondria in both slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibres.

2. Training intensity will relate to the stimulation on certain types of muscle fibre and consequently effect mitochrondial density in those fibres.

What does this mean for you?

You’ll be able to increase the mitochondrial density in fast twitch muscle fibres by doing high intensity, low volume work and in type I (slow twitch) fibres, you work at low to medium intensities at high volumes. You should be aware that the balance of this training is dictated by your fast/slow twitch make up and maximum efficiency will be gained by working with your genetic make up and not against it!

Climbing Efficiency

Finally the effect of doing a huge volume of climbing, is extremely beneficial on the efficiency of your climbing. You will learn to not over-grip, your footwork will improve and you’ll improve your movement skills no end – especially if you vary the angle at which you carry out your endurance training.

All of the above of course, is just a part of the whole equation and there are always more factors to consider. It does however, get very complicated and even the more intricate training programme can never work to perfection. As a final note of caution – don’t forget if something works for you, and you’re happy with it, then there’s probably no need to change. Probably.


A reality check

This year was going to be big. I was so psyched from last year, so motivated to make changes and up the game a notch.

I got stuck into a grit project that was really hard for me, I started finger boarding properly, I wrote myself a 2 year programme and my lattice board was trained on at all hours of the night and day. It all went really well actually and then…… I went on a slabby 7b and “POP!” game over. I kind of knew it at the time, but for the last 2-3 months I’ve been trying to ignore it. Well, it’s time for a reality check. The finger is doomed. I’m cutting it off and abandoning.

No more ring for me. It was useless anyway.

No problem. Crack Time!!!!!!!

Much that I hate to admit it, I’m a totally crap face climber, so whilst this finger is deciding to hate life, I’m back to cracks. I’ve dug out the old project book, found the key to my cellar and hitting Millstone on a regular basis for some reacquainting.

Mr Turtle and I, remember how it used to be.

Trying to get back into training down the cellar has been a bit of a rough ride. It’s kind of shocked me how good I got at stuff down there, so 12 months later, it’s a bit a rude awakening! On my first session I couldn’t even do the hand crack roof (about 7b?) and the 45deg finger crack was off limits.

No chance. Up the game slacker.

It’s ok though, the training and specificity is coming through now and I’m back above my previous peak, so happy days. I’ve got the replica moves on my South Wales project sorted, so that’s all good. Some core, less rain and some time off from building my new boulder wall in Loughborough and things could be looking up.

No more splitter tips. Just these.