November 10, 2009 posted by

Short Cycle

Yesterday I explained training cycles (muscle confusion) in general. Today I’ll lay out my plan for a short cycle designed to help me send a route in the next couple of weeks.

I’ll begin with an anecdote from the shed days. Back then we were really into training—and I mean really into it. Some would say that I still am but, though smarter (I hope), I don’t train with near the fervor that I did back then. We trained for climbing but, compared to a lot of people, we didn’t actually climb that much because we lived in an area that didn’t have much rock. So we trained like maniacs in long cycles and would only peak a couple of times per year. In fact, each year I would do almost all of my hard climbing during a couple of few-week-long peak phases. The rest of the year I’d kind of suck because I’d always be in the middle of some phase of training.

Contrary to us our friend Hans climbed all year around. He loved training, too, but because he made his living by traveling and climbing he was forced to climb more and train less. So he made up amalgams of what we were doing into more targeted short cycles, designed to give him mini peaks for events or competitions. As I began traveling more I began using these as well to try and peak for various objectives on the road.

Move ahead 15 years, give or take, and things really haven’t changed that much. You’ve got the Simpson types, who put in countless hours of training designed around peaking for a few weeks a year. You’ve got Sharma types, who “wake up, have breakfast, and go climbing…everyday.” And you’ve got people in between, like Salt Lake climber Steve Maisch.

Ben sent me an article titled Steve Maisch’s 4 Not-so-easy Steps to More Power (unfortunately no longer available on the web but check this pic to see how it works) that’s a great explanation of what short cycles are. Maisch begins the article stating that he has no background in exercise physiology but a lot of experience in trial and error. I’ll take this over someone with a lot of schooling and no experience any day, especially since Maisch climbs harder than any of us every dreamed of.

Essentially, Maisch came up with a system using 8-day training cycles that combine, on different days, campus boarding, system wall training, hangboarding, and bouldering using 4 by 4s. It’s a lot like what we used to do but more refined. To train for my route, I’m going to use this system, tailored to fit my goals.

Essentially, this system combines power and power-endurance training into one block. The more stressful power work happens on day one, followed by PE work the next day, followed by rest. To maximize gains you’d want to train these systems separately but, sans time, I’ll compromise maximal improvement for smaller gains.

I can climb the route now from the bottom to the last boulder problem. I can do the last boulder problem but it’s right at my limit. My goal is therefore to increase my power so that I can use lower threshold muscle cell motor units for the last section, while increasing my power endurance so that I’m less tired when I get there. Also, there’s a difficult boulder problem at the start, so increasing power will make this easier and leave more reserves for later.

Day 1 boulder for about an hour, campus
Day 2 4-by-4, 2 sets
Day 3 rest
Day 4 system wall, 2 sets, fingerboard 1 set
Day 5 4-by-4, 1 set
Day 6 rest
Day 7 rest
Day 8 do route

If one cycle doesn’t work I’ll revamp based on where I fail and keep trying until the weather craps out. But I’ve only got a couple of shots at it because these are very intense cycles of training and can’t be duplicated too long without a break. But that’s okay, because in a month (or less) I won’t be able to get to the route anyway.

As Johan Bruyneel said about Armstrong’s plan to win the Tour de France, “The plan was very simple. Making it happen was not so simple.” Now comes the fun part, the training.
vid: one of my favorite training videos showing an absolutely ridiculous training session with sonnie trotter. my old shoulders and elbows will never be able to take this kind of abuse but i find this absurdly inspiring nonetheless.


  • That was roughly my previous cycle and saw lots of gains. However, I broke PE into short, medium, and long. I tended to skip long PE. I would do lots of "pre-fatigues", i.e. traverses into high-end boulder problems.

  • Thanks, Brian. And thanks for the Patxi vid. I've done the traverse pre-fatigue as well. Seems like the project in mind should dictate this structure. I've got a 4+ by 4 schedule where I do 4 problems followed by a few move simulation of the upper crux of my route. I'd like to be doing this with weight by my second time through, but that remains to be seen.

  • Merci, Jean-Paul. It that the two hours of calistenics you've been doing before bed? I'm sure that by now your wife is very anxious to see you climb the mountain.

  • Christ that training routine link was so long and boring I drank a six pack of brew and 2 Wild Turkeys on the rocks before I finished. But then I can't climb much more than a pissant could hop over these days.

  • Gentlemen,If we want to up the ante, Justin Wood invited us to train with he and Maisch at the Crimp Shrine. They're starting a two month cycle in Dec targeting a trip to Font in Feb. I'm sure this will be the perfect plan to get me ready for the Copper Cyn Ultra in March.

  • Dios mio, man, after training with those guys at the Crimp Shrine for two months, you'll be able to campus that race. !A Muerte!

  • Do you know what an epiphany is? From now on we train all day. Every day.

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