Don’t despair! If you only have an hour to train, welcome to the world of most climbers. It can be demoralizing to read about the top climbers and their eight-hour-a-day beast-fests, yet these crazy train-a-thons aren’t part of the real world and for most climbers would do more harm than good. In training, less is often more, and you can make incredible gains with short sessions if you are ruthlessly efficient with your time and planning. Short sessions can be great for focus, motivation and avoiding injury.
Climbers used to believe that certain types of training can’t fit into an hour, but current thinking is that you can do a cut-down version of most sessions. What you can’t do, however, is cut down your warm-up. If you rush that, the least that will happen is a poor, unproductive session, and the worst is that you’ll twang a tendon. Even if you think you are getting away with hasty warm-ups, microtrauma can build up in the muscles, and injury may strike later down the line.
In cherry picking from a huge list of potential sessions, go for the ones that will deliver the most bang for your buck.
You can perform these sessions at home, at the gym or anywhere you can rig up a porta-board. Deadhangs are the key finger-strength exercise for climbing. Make these a priority, and only include exercises—such as pull-ups or lock-offs on jugs, or leg-raises and front levers—for the arms and core if you have time. Warm up progressively using your foot for assistance, either in a stirrup-sling or on a chair. Then do two-armed half-crimped deadhangs, either single max hangs or repeaters (e.g., three or four in a row). Calibrate to hit failure between approximately four and 10 seconds. Stronger climbers can add weight to increase resistance or remove fingers to train the “front three” and “back three” fingers separately. An example would be a 20-minute warm-up, then 20 minutes of deadhanging and 20 minutes of other exercises (pull-ups, etc., per above), taking two to three minutes’ rest between sets.
Hangboard Deadhang repeaters
This is the perfect go-to endurance session when time is short. You can build in the warm-up starting off with feet for assistance and hanging on the larger holds, say, for six seconds on and four off (or seven/three). Do four or five in a row, rest a minute, then six or seven in a row. Go footless for a set or two, switch to smaller holds for a set, and increase to eight to 10 in a row. Then you’ll be ready to start the real session: Do blocks of 10–18 hangs (each 90 seconds to three minutes of work) in a row, with three to five minutes’ rest between each. The warm-up will take 15 minutes, and you should be able to fit five to seven blocks in the remaining 45.
Incorporate the warm-up using the same procedure as per the hangboard. Use your feet on the kick-board, and climb up and down, initially on the largest ladder rungs for only 20–30 seconds. Increase the time to 45 seconds and then to a minute, then switch over to the medium or smaller rungs, and do a set or two to complete the warm-up. For the real session, go for five to seven blocks of one to three minutes of effort, followed by three to five minutes’ rest. Stronger climbers can go footless for strength endurance.
Continuous Boulders or Boulder Intervals
If time is short and you wish to boulder, go for a volume- based session. Warm up on easy problems, then do 30 to 50 problems in an hour. A popular sequence is the pyramid session, where you group the problems in grade bands, such as V1 x eight, V2 x eight, V3 x eight, V2 x eight, V1 x eight. Take 30 seconds’ rest between the easiest problems and 45-60 seconds between harder ones. Alternatively, go for three to six problems in a row, rest three to five minutes, and repeat. Aim to fit four to six blocks in.
Do timed stints of climbing, such as five minutes on and five off. Link easy lines on the auto-belay by climbing up and down, or climb around on an easy part of the bouldering wall. Push harder and get very pumped for four to six minutes if you wish to train aerobic power, or go light and easy for slightly longer, such as eight to 12 minutes, for aerobic capacity.
This article appeared in Gym Climber 1