Raise that Intensity! Setting Up your Session

You’ve got the week all planned. You’re ready to hit the speed wall! But wait, what should my warm up be? Am I lifting today? Should I lift first or last?
I actually don’t know how to set up my session, help!!

Don’t worry. I’ve got you. Want the TL:DR? Shoot to the bottom of the post for a handy chart. Interested in not stunting your own progression and learning the why? Keep reading.

When setting up a high intensity session, you’re going to have quite a few common training units. Typically your day will look something like this
  • General Warm up
  • Specific Warm up
  • Competition/route specific workout
  • Specific skill and strength work
  • General strength work
Each one of these units are going to look similar yet different depending the time of year, specific skills you’re working for the day, place in your training cycle, available equipment, etc. It’s beyond the scope of this post to dive deeply into all of these, but for this beginner level post we’re going to be touching on all of these training units to base understanding. We’re painting in broad strokes here so you can start to see the bigger picture, but remember: there are layers of nuance to training design. With that in mind, if you want to check out the two warm up parts, general and specific, follow this way

Now that your warm up has left you perfectly ready to practice, what do we start with? Repeat after me.
You Guessed It

Most specific to the sport first.


Whats the most specific to speed climbing?


So we start off with our specific practice of the route. The volume for how much you are doing is going to change radically throughout the year, but as a rule of thumb you should be progressing from lower volume to higher volume throughout your training cycles. Intensity will always be high. Intensity is not really a variable for our training on high intensity days. We change the stimulus by changing the volume, the duration of each repetition, the velocity/load of the movement, or the complexity of the movement.

Intent is always over 90%.

So you've just done 5 full attempts at the wall. Now you’re feeling a little burnt out. Dis-coordination is setting in. Do we keep up the speed wall?

Nope. Now is a great time to work specific skill that will enhance our speed climbing ability. Remember, speed climbing requires high rates of force development from both the leg legs through hip, knee and ankle extension as well as the upperbody through combined flexion and extension of the the elbow and shoulder. As such, we need to use specific strength and RFD work that is less coordinatively demanding than the actual course, but more specific than simple weight lifting.

Example of this specific skill work for the lower body would be short acceleration sprints, short resisted sprints such as sled pulls or hill sprints, skips, jumps, bounds, or plyometrics. Examples of this specific skill work for the upper body would be muscle ups, rope climbs, and assisted rate of force development pullups. This would also encompass specific finger and grips strength

Yes, this is crucial even for speed climbing. Without adequate finger strength, you will not be able to apply the force needed to climb anything with speed, especially since the climbing holds are not nearly as much of a jug as people like to make them out to be.

These exercises are performed with maximal intent, for short distances or times, with long rest to provide the recovery needed to maintain high levels of power. These are very high intensity exercises, but as they are derivative movements from speed climbing, they come after speed climbing the majority of the time. And since we're focused on developing a program for beginners/intermediates, we will continue to focus on the bigger picture and try not to get lost in the minutia.

Following these specific skill exercises, we would move to strength and conditioning. This lifting matches the theme of the day. No repping out bicep curls today. If you are in your prep phase, this may be focused on low end maximal strength (strength absent of speed/maximal weight). If you are nearing your competitive phase these exercises may be focused on rate of force development or single leg power (dumbbell squat jumps or split squat jumps)

So what does an example speed day look like? Let’s take a look at an example for an athlete who is in their specific prep phase. We’ll be touching on the phases in an upcoming post, but for now I'll simply label them.

1: Warm Up

2: Specific Warm Up and Potentiation
3x6 alternate leg bounds
3x6 speed skate bounds
3x3 weighted pull up

3:Specific Skills
3x4x Bottom 5m of route with start from pad with 2-3 minutes between attempts

4:Thematically Similar/Coordinatively Less Demanding Auxiliary Work
6x3 explosive medicine ball throws

5:Finger Strength
 6x5 second maximal crimp pull from floor, each hand

6:Strength & Conditioning
 Heavy Kettlebell Swings 4x5
 Dumbbell Jump Split Squats 4x3 each leg
 Pull complex- 5x
 3 maximal strength pullups
 5 assisted rapid pullups

As you can see, we have a general and specific warm up that allows the body to not only increase in temperature, but rehearse skills that will be used while speed climbing while escalating the intensity of the exercises.

Next we move into our specific skill work, as we are the freshest and this gives us the best chance to learn and improve our motor abilities.

Once fatigue begins to set in (CNS, not metabolic) we move to our less-specific-than-speed-climbing-but-more-specific-than-just-lifting-weights section of training. We are taking speed-climbing and breaking it into component parts, but working those components at high intensities to continue to train the body for high performance.

Then we move into our more general strength and conditioning. Notice this is still high intensity. It is not easy. Nor is it creating a pump or high levels of fatigue.

The themes all match. And on a speed day, that theme is intensity of the highest order.

For help setting up your own beginner speed climbing session, reference the chart below.

Post a Comment