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.



3 thoughts on “Tricks of the Endurance Training Trade

    • Apart from a muscle biopsy, I’m afraid there’s not! If you work with a coach or can find the time to do some reading around the subject area you may be able to get an idea of where you lie. It’s a tricky area, and one that’s not obvious, when you have to take into account current training practice. Good luck.

      • Cheers dude, I’ve always thought I had slow twitch muscles as I’m generally better at endurance than short bursts of intense power! I’m goona follow the advice in your post as I really need to get training. Need to start powering through the trad grades!

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