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DPS

Endurance vs Power

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I have done some reading on training as it applies to alpine climbing and I have a few questions. Apline climbing requires a balance of power and endurance. As I understand it, training for power and endurance creates competing demands on muscles; any gains made in one area are done so at a cost of the other. It has something to do with converting muscle fibers or something, I can't remember. One effective way of dealing with this is to train in cycles, training power first (it lasts longer) then training endurance.

What I don't understand, and is not made clear in the articles and books I have read, is does this refer to muscle endurance only, or cardiovascular endurance as well. If I train carido (ie long, slow distance running, etc), am I losing muscle power? Are muscle endurance and cardio endurance the same?

Thanks,

Dan

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Well Dan I'm not sure where to start. Napoleon said it best,and I'm sure he was talking about alpine climbing when he said that the best measure of a soldier was his ability to withstand suffering. How can you maximize power if you're whining too much from the effort required to reach the crux? In other words, all my experience in the Physical Therapy field and climbing point to endurance training. I feel that brushing up on your creativity, your ability to aid rough sections, and your mental toughness will get you through the dicey sections more than strength training. Follow Twight's advise and do like 6 sets of twenty when working muscle groups. Get out of the gym and into the mtn's Dan, climb long, light and get used to suffering and being cold and you'll succeed on those alpine routes your slathering over. Anybody have any other thought's?

Barry

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Dan, training for power and endurance DOES create competing demands on muscles, but working with a periodized (cyclical) training program can optimize your training and help you with both. What some people do is separate cardio and strength sessions so that they don't compromise either (in answer to your 2nd question.)

As to your first: [training power first -- it lasts longer -- then training endurance]. In a single training session, whether climbing or strength training, it's best to put the most demanding movements (power) earlier in the workout (after properly warming up) and muscular endurance (lighter weights, higher reps) later in the workout. In terms of a climbing program, it obviously makes more sense to do any of your dyno moves or harder projects earlier (again, warm up properly) when you still have something to give, then finish off with endurance traversing or easier climbing to try to flush out the pump -- and tacking on cardio (or putting it in another session.)

If you're asking about cardio (long run) first or climbing ("power") first, what you might try is one day doing the cardio first and see how it affects your climbing, then another day doing the climbing first and see what effect it has on your run. Also analyze which is more important to you: do you feel your cardio needs work, or your climbing/strength? Priority training means you put that harder thing first while you are fresh.

If you'd like to clarify your question further, feel free to do so here or contact me off list at court@bodyresults.com.

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Courtenay Schurman, CSCS

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Dan, I agree with Barry. One of the single most important characteristics for anyone to enjoy alpine climbing success is the ability to endure inordinate amounts of pain and discomfort. Certainly a high standard of fitness is necessary, but just as important is a strong force of will. All that aside, here's some more food for thought. You're born with a ratio of fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers (power and endurance) that will never change - one does not convert to the other. How you train them will determine which way your fitness level leans: the power side or the endurance side. Some people are genetically predisposed towards bigger more powerful muscles, while others are the opposite, and most of us fall somewhere in between. The ones who are on both sides of the pendulum are in the Olympics sprinting and running the marathon. When training to be in the mountains, identify what you enjoy the most and train accordingly. An ascent of Rainier will require a completely different regimen than if you were going ice climbing around Banff. One thing you can't neglect in either situation is your lactate threshold. This allows your body to exert a higher workload for a longer amount of time without your legs or your forearms flaming out. There are plenty of good articles out there on interval training which you can find that addresses this. Also, when training Courteney is right about doing the hard, powerful stuff first, but think about switching it up every now and again to incorporate the mental game into your workouts. If you're at a climbing gym, do a bunch of laps first to tire yourself out, then hit the hard boulder problems. The crux of climb may not be right off the ground, and if you're mentally prepared to pull a roof while you're at the end of the pitch, cold, tired and hungry, you have a much greater chance of success.

Eddie

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Eddie raises a few interesting points about lactate tolerance and challenging yourself mentally by putting the tough stuff (actual crux) last, but please also remember that when you start to train this way, pay very close attention to your body. If you're not used to flaming your arms before going for a crux or dicey boulder problem, in my opinion and experience, you run more risk of an injury to finger or elbow tendons which can set you off climbing for longer than you'd like. The long and short of it is you need to learn to read your body and determine its weak points, then train them out gradually. The main goal is to be able to keep climbing!

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Courtenay Schurman, CSCS

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While I appreciate everyone's responses, I don't think anyone understood my question. I know how to suffer and be creative and aid through tough sections etc. I get out alpine climbing enough to realize what it is all about.

My question was theoretical and, I thought, was rather simple. Perhaps I was not being clear. So here it is again:

Will training cardiovascular endurance (ie long slow distance) inhibit gains made by training for power (lifting weights)?

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Oops, sorry Dan. Here's the quick and easy answer: no. The problem we all face is what kind of time are we going to devote to either. If we only have one and a half hours to spend working out per day, do we lift or do we run? If you want to climb Rainier via DC, the answer is to spend more time logging in miles - at the expense of strength training or climbing gym time. This is what will affect your power and strength. The physiological changes that occur when doing strength training and cardiovascular training at the same time are completely seperate and won't affect each other. Hope that answers your question.

Eddie

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Actually, if you're training primarily for maximum STRENGTH, doing excessive cardio CAN compromise strength gains -- which is why people like Olympic-style lifters, powerlifters, Strong-man competitors and the like (who are going for 1-rep max or 1RM lifts) do very little cardiovascular training. It's been shown that for "heart benefits", you need merely 20 minutes 2-3x/week of gentle rhythmic activity such as walking. But for those of us going out in the mountains, that paltry recommendation would mean we'd never last the first hour with a heavy pack.

That having been said, nobody coming to this site is a "casual exerciser" -- we're all heavily into climbing!! So indeed you DO need to look at the big picture of what you are training for, and alpine climbers doing any vertical stuff will need a mixture of strength, power, cardio endurance, AND muscular endurance, as well as skill (for any of you who haven't checked out the Climbing Fitness Polygon, this will help: www.bodyresults.com/E3fitnesspolygon.htm). Many people will opt to train strength and cardio on different days in order not to compromise either.

Try it yourself; when you put strength training first, you may find that the last thing you want to do is go for a run or hop on the stairmaster--hence, cardio will be compromised. Vice versa, if you put cardio first, you will likely find that you just don't have the energy or strength needed to make progress on the strength workouts. Identify what needs the most work or help, and put it early in your workouts.

Whew, enough said -- perhaps it's time to start another thread?

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Courtenay Schurman, CSCS

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I may be getting off-thread here, and likely to be pounced upon as a heretic for stating my beliefs, but I find only minor climbing benefits from cardio training.

I'll preface this by saying that you'll never catch me on a stairmaster with a pack on--so I can't say how much that sort of drudgery might help--for me cardio means running or maybe mountain biking. In my personal experience, lots of pavement time translates to a bit less discomfort on the trail and maybe a slightly faster pace, but it doesn't make a huge difference in my overall speed.

I think for the recreational climber you're going to see much bigger gains from (1) improving your technical climbing abilities (2) honing your system for maximum efficiency, and (3) attitude, than you will from hours on the stairmaster. Put another way, the hour you save on the approach grind isn't go to save you from getting benighted if you taggle the ropes at every belay and otherwise doddle around on the route, place too much pro because you're wigged and spend 15 minutes at every hard move trying to get psyched up.

My personal "training regime", such as it is, basically amounts climbing every weekend I can (2-3 weekends a month; maybe 2/3 cragging and 1/3 bigger routes/long days); hitting the gym a couple nights a week for a mix of bouldering, routes and occasional weights; and maybe, maybe a 5-7 mile run once or twice a week. If I'm short on time, the running is the 1st thing I drop. Even when I haven't done cardio in weeks, I've still had no problem on the "big route/long days", including doing multi-day routes car to car in what I feel are satisfactory times.

FWIW,

Jonathan

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I'm privledged to say that Jon is one of my regular climbing partners. I've often found myself waitng for him to catch up on the approach and can vouch for the fact that he does no cardio training whatsoever. smile.gif

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You wrote:

Will training cardiovascular endurance (ie long slow distance) inhibit gains made by training for power (lifting weights)?

[/b]

Dan,

I'll try straight to your point. For the last 12 months I have very closely monitored my workout program and results three ways, for cardio, muscle strength and how its all shaped up for climbing. During that time my muscular strength and cardio strenght have both increased, "measurably", my relative grades in the climbing gym have gone up measurably and I have managed the hardest and longest of my personal alpine climbs. I have not noticed any trade offs between the two, absolutely none. My weight has remained constant. Any drop in cardio has always been traceable to schedule variations in my cardio workout and any drop in strength has always been traceable to schedule variations in my strenght workout. I have kept the same excerciese format for 12 months without changes and noted every excercise, weight and number of reps for a year. I do not believe there are any interdependent drawbacks whatsoever to becomming stong in both cardio and strenght with regards to climbing only gains.

I have loads of theories on why it works this way but I think a year of consistent results speak for themselves.

Hope this helps.

Dave Reid

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Dave Reid and Dan,

I think it would be helpful to me to see a brief outline of what your regimen consists of. I have known Dan for quite some time and know what his training is like in general, but I am curious what both of you are doing specifically for various things. I am not interested in wieghts and number of reps so much as the excercises themselves.

I know Twight goes into in in depth and there is alot of literature, so I am just finshing for ideas and examples.

I am a person who 1) HATES training, 2) believes climbing is the best training for climbing and 3) HATES training, so I am trying to break my habitual hatred of training by taking small steps and finding things I like to do.

Might be something to post on a seperate thread.

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When I first started rock climbing about 3 years ago, I was lifting weights fairly intensely 3 or 4 times a week. I haven't lifted weights in at least 2 years. I have seen some decrease in muscular size and strength, but this has not seemed to make any difference whatsoever to me in terms of rock climbing. I think hand strength and forearm strength are the most important factors in rock climbing, specific strength training for other body parts probably isn't necessary. I also agree with the "best training for climbing is climbing" school of thought. Have you ever noticed most great climbers, whether you're talking strictly rock or more generally alpine climbing and mountaineering, tend to be wiry and strong but not particularly big? Having a large body works against you in the mountains (ie. more weight to move upwards), so taking a lot of time to train for power (which tends to develop large muscles) doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

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Dan’s specific question is:

What I don't understand, and is not made clear in the articles and books I have read, is does this refer to muscle endurance only, or cardiovascular endurance as well. If I train carido (ie long, slow distance running, etc), am I losing muscle power? Are muscle endurance and cardio endurance the same?

Based on my experience as an exercise junkie the answer, with examples based on my experience is a follows:

1) It does refer to muscle endurance, and it sounds like you already know that. If you focus on training muscle endurance over strength training in any group of muscles you will lose some of strength in that muscle group.

Example: When training to increase the numbers of pull-ups I could do, I alternated between 8 week session of training pure power by doing 3 to 5 pull-ups with a 35-50lb weight belt, and 8 week sessions of training pure endurance by doing unweighted pull-ups to failure followed by lat pulldowns at 70% of my weight until failure. I pursued this regimen for a little short of one year.

My observation was that after each 8 week endurance session I had lost some strength. If I had been doing 5 reps with a 50 lb weight belt at the end of my last strength session, I could only do 2 or 3 reps with that weight following an 8 week endurance session. I would quickly get that strength back though and this program worked well for me in trying to maximize the number of pull-ups I could do.

2) It DOES NOT refer to cardio endurance. Training cardio-endurance has absolutely no impact on strength training gains.

Example: I have been an avid runner for the past 22 years, averaging between 20 to 40 miles per week during different times of the year. 7 years ago I started weight training and over that 7 years made regular strength gains (at first big gains and later more modest ones). During that time I continued to train cardio just as I always had. I would boost my mileage at times to prepare for various races and never once noticed an impact on my weight training, even when training for a marathon and running big mileage weeks.

In fact, I find that by alternating strength training days with running/cardio days I actually feel more loose and fully recovered after my run . The pattern I follow is to climb and lift on the same day ( climb on my lunch hour, weights after work) and then run the next day, taking full rest days whenever they naturally occur. A 5 to 8 mile run at a comfortable pace seems to be the best for promoting recovery.

3) Muscle endurance and cardio endurance is not the same. They require different training methods to improve one or the other and the training of either one or the other has different effects on your ability to maintain strength gains.

I hope this helps answer your question, these are my personal observations, not based on any reading or scientifically supported therories. My experiences are similar to those noted by Dave Reid, cardio training does not effect strength gains.

 

Regards

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I'm privileged to say that Mark is one of my regular climbing partners. I can vouch for the fact that he can talk endlessly about his extensive training and always makes me feel guilty about what a candy-ass I am. I can also vouch for the fact that he has a tendency to take off down the trail leaving me with both the rack and the ropes, so he seems to have mastered the more tactical elements of climbing as well.

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Both fit and smart.. hey thanks Jon. smile.gif If I only had some natural ability, I wouldn't have to resort to such low life practices as, training and using my partner as a porter. At least I never made you carry bike shoes.

Rgds

[This message has been edited by mark (edited 02-08-2001).]

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On a more serious note, and back to the topic, Udo Neumann's "Performance Rock Climbing" makes an interesting correlation b/t strength and endurance. The basic argument: there is some threshold below your 100% strength mark (call it 80%) below which you can keep going pretty much forever but above which the clock is ticking and you will flame out eventually (I'm not sure I'm using the term right, but lets call this the anaerobic threshold). By training maximum strength, you raise the bar on that 80% level and thus effectively increase your endurance; but training endurance will never increase your maximum strength.

My personal experience to back this up is mixed. Under this theory, if you do lots of hard bouldering (say 12- moves) but few routes for a long time, you should still be able to jump on an 11- route and do OK. In my experience this does not hold up. I intially figured this meant the theory was flawed, but it's just as likely that if your max is 12-, then 80% of that is more like 10+, and on an 11- route I'm still in the anaerobic/"clock is ticking" zone. And since all that bouldering did nothing to increase anaerobic endurance I'll flail.

My experience strongly supports the notion that endurance gains come more slowly and dissipate faster than strength gains. This, combined with the fact that most harder rock climbs--especially the good ones--seem to be exercises in anaerobic endurance (lots of moves a couple notches below your limit), lead me to focus my gym time on routes if I've got the option.

For me at least, I don't think it's matter strength training cannibalizing endurance, or vice versa, so much as it is very difficult to train to maximize both without over training and/or getting injured. Which may be the same thing in practice.

Cheers

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Just to clear up a commonly held but misconstrued idea that NolanR shared earlier in this thread:

<< ...so taking a lot of time to train for power (which tends to develop large muscles) doesn't make a lot of sense to me. >>

Actually, training for POWER does NOT develop large muscles -- training for HYPERTROPHY (muscle growth and development) does. When you look at the opposite extremes on the scale from bodybuilders to power or Olympic style lifters (simply as an example), the most powerful people (Oly lifters) are NOT necessarily the biggest, and they can move weight VERY quickly. They also train for max effort, max weight, minimum reps. Bodybuilders, on the other hand, will go for light weight, hundreds of reps in a workout, and in essence train for "the pump."

So how does this all relate to Power vs. Endurance? You really need BOTH to succeed in the alpine environment. I think most of the people in this thread are probably alpine or sport climbers -- so endurance (of legs) won't be as important as endurance of calves, forearms, core, and fingers. You have to determine what your goals are, what the climbs you like to do involve, and train accordingly -- but I'm of the firm belief that EVERYONE can benefit from being stronger. smile.gif Even the wiry guys in the gym who climb 12's. In fact, the harder routes you climb, the more strength plays an important role -- beginners can get by on climbs without being able to do a pullup because the learning curve is so steep w/r to technique-- but as technique improves and you learn all the ways to do sport or alpine climbs, muscular endurance and strength start to factor in... BTW, good discussion here!

------------------

Courtenay Schurman, CSCS

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I beg to differ re: bodybuilders. I knew several in college. They rarely did light weights for high reps. Most of them spent most of their time throwing around insanely heavy weights for low reps. This has nothing to do with the original climbing training thread, so please forgive me. In fact, the training regimens of power lifters and bodybuilders in some cases is fairly similar. The difference is power lifters are training for a functional purpose (ie: a 1 rep max for a given lift) whereas body builders are training for an aesthetic purpose. Getting stronger is not their primary focus, but it is a byproduct as they develop larger muscles. And I also disagree about the size of power lifters. Someone competing in a 140 lb. class obviously wouldn't be very big, but someone in a unlimited weight class would probably be at least 250 to 300 lbs. Power lifters don't have the classic Arnold type of physique, but they usually have large muscles just the same. Look at the "World's Strongest Man" type of competitions they have on TV. Those guys are ridiculously strong, have relatively poor endurance, and are massive, muscular individuals. And now I'm done with that tangent.

I totally agree, climbing is done at an intensity level below your absolute threshold for strength. Otherwise, you would do one move, then you would be finished, would have to be lowered off, and grovel on the ground for several minutes while trying to regain your breath while fighting off that urge to vomit and/or pass out. Anyone doubt me, load up a bar and try a one rep squat max and see how you feel afterwards.

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Hey there Nolan, no worries on straying -- that's one of the problems we get when we only have one extremely active thread at a time. Anyone care to start another?

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