Endurance – The different types and how to improve

Basic Endurance
In climbing, endurance is key to be able to simply reach the top of a route – this is called basic endurance.
The best way to improve basic endurance is at a boulder gym. You don’t need to ‘warm up’ as it is a low intensity exercise but if you prefer then you can do a few stretches.
You need to look for a reasonably easy, not too steep wall, with good holds. The bigger the area…the better. This exercise consists of climbing/staying on the wall for 30 minutes but climbing up and down, back and forth and doing circles.
This shouldn’t make you really pumped but you should be a little bit tired in your forearms, so remember to shake them out frequently but always try to hang on your arms. Do not cheat by resting, even for a minute. Once you’ve done 30 minutes, take a 10 minute break and repeat.
This exercise is great for beginners or climbers on easier grades that feel they lack endurance when they get to upper parts of routes and struggle to finish.
The best way to approach this is to come up with a 3 week plan where you specifically set time aside for this exercise and stick to it 3-4 times a week. Or if you struggle for time do it once a week for more weeks and build up slowly.
Be warned, it’s not the most exciting exercise in the world but with some good music in the background and a bit of focus, time will fly by. Plus you don’t need to search for a climbing partner and you can get some really good, efficient training done in as little as 1 hour.
Training in the Boulder gym
Training in the boulder gym

Volume Endurance
Endurance is an absolute necessity if you want to climb more than one route in a day, without getting too tired – this is called volume endurance.
To increase your capable climbing volume, a good exercise is to climb routes at a medium difficulty, which means you get pumped arms but can still climb the routes to the top.
After every route, you immediately top rope the same or a slightly different route. In total you should reach at least 10 routes.
This training can be done in the climbing gym or on the rock outdoors. Before you start with the medium intensity routes, you should warm up by climbing two or three easy routes and if you prefer, do some stretching.

Power Endurance
Power endurance comes into play when you need to fight against yourself to keep climbing when you’re already exhausted.
You can train in or outdoors using interval training. Interval training, as in other sports disciplines, consists of a series of workouts followed by a precise time of rest.
In climbing you can do different intensities by varying time and difficulty of the routes, for example; 10 minutes climbing on a route (the route should be long enough so that you don’t reach the top much before the 10 minutes time and you should get very tired in those 10 minutes), then you do 5 minutes rest for about 5 series. For this type of training, you do need to remember to warm up.
You can then begin increasing the intensity to the point where you can get to 1.5 minutes climbing and 1 minute rest on routes on your limit, repeating this for 6 to 8 series.
If you would like to train for ice climbing or DryTooling, you can do all 3 of these exercises with ice axes on special drytooling holds in a gym or wall or in drytooling crags.

DryTooling training on an artificial wall
DryTooling training on an artifical wall
Hopefully this will help you understand and build your endurance so that you can push yourself further and harder. Have fun!
Angelika Rainer