Organizing Training

You’ve tried the route. Hell, maybe you’ve even put in enough time to start feeling good about it.

But you’ve also watched the competitions and have been left wondering “How do I get to there, from here?”

In today’s post we will be discussing the basics of organizing your training to maximize the benefit of your time spent training.

If you’ve ever put in a solid day of hitting the speed wall, you know fully well how dead you feel the next day. Not necessarily sore, but generally dis-coordinated
and tired… as if you’re unable to fire on all cylinders like you were the day before. This feeling is not unusual and is the main reason we need to cycle or undulate our training from day to day.

Speed climbing is by definition a high intensity exercise, but how are we defining high intensity? For this and future articles, you can be safe to assume that I am talking about working at greater than 90% of maximal effort. This effort can be maximal strength, maximal velocity, or anything that rides the force velocity curve (picture of curve). If it isn't some combination of maximal strength or velocity, then it falls short of hitting the curve and isn't a stimuli that will result in speed or strength gains.

This rapid and coordinated maximal firing of muscles at high rate of speed creates a tremendous drain on the body’s resources, but specifically what we care about is it’s impact on the central nervous system.

Keeping it simple: it’s tough on the CNS.

And that's ok. In fact, the primary training adaptation we will be shooting for is nervous system adaptation. We need our muscles to fire faster, harder, and in a more coordinated manner to make absolute best use of our bodies.

Because we are fighting gravity the entire time excess body weight does not fly and this excessive mass is going to make us much more attractive to gravity. This includes excessive muscle. And while the average speed climber does carry more muscle than your average climber, this additional muscle is highly tuned, unlike a body builder that carries loads of bulk without function.

Our muscles and nervous system need to be 100% tuned to the event. But training at the intensity required to cause adaptation to the nervous system is tough, and not something that we are able to do every day of the week.

In fact, we can’t even do it most days of the week. Standard recovery protocol from a full high intensity session puts required recovery between high intensity days at 48-72 hours. At most, we can hit high intensity 2-3 times per week safely. Advanced training methods will play with those numbers and may cram more into a week, but that’s a topic for another day.

So what can the week look like? Let’s first fill in our high intensity days. We will use two examples: one with two days per week of high intensity, and one with three days per week of high intensity.

If high intensity is over 90% effort, is low intensity anything under? In a word, no. We’re going to define low intensity as anything under 70% of maximal ability. The 70-90 zone is what we will call middle intensity and we stay away from that area for speed training. It was put best by Boo Schexnayder. Paraphrased, he only drinks water or he drinks whiskey. He doesn’t drink beer. Beer doesn’t hydrate like water and doesn’t get you drunk as well as whiskey.

Medium intensity doesn’t develop speed or power. Medium intensity doesn’t facilitate recovery.

So generally we leave it out.

Our high intensity days will develop speed, strength, coordination, and specific work capacity (the ability to do quality repeated efforts)

Our low intensity days are going develop mobility, general fitness, capillary density (more on this later, but important for recovery between sets as well as other key things), and serve as a means to enhance recovery between high intensity sessions.

So we have 2-3 days per week that we can train specifically for speed climbing and 2-3 sessions per week that we can use to facilitate recovery, maintain general strength and fitness, and promote balance within the body by working other key skills that do not fit under the high intensity umbrella. What does each session look like? That’s the topic for the next post: Organizing the High Intensity Session.

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