The Power-endurance myth

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The Power-endurance myth

Post by Don » Thu Sep 05, 2013 8:18 pm

I'm not a biochemist, but I have been during a fair bit of reading on biochemistry, muscle structure and sport psychology. Of course with the final aim to get fit on rock - what does it mean to get fit on rock? How did some athletes naturally start climbing 7b's of the bat, early on in their climbing development? I have come to believe in my humble experience that there are two modes: power and endurance. Either one is switched on at any moment, but not both at the same time. Also, you can increase the calibre of one mode so that it can become the second mode (That is, power can become endurance as you build up enough experience). My point: "power-endurance" is the grey middle. In climbing you're ON or you're OFF. Black or white. Power or endurance.

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Re: The Power-endurance myth

Post by GlennM » Fri Sep 06, 2013 9:50 am

I have always viewed 'endurance' as the ability to climb at, or near, your maximum for the whole day. ie climbing at your limit on pitch 1 and still being able to climb that grade on pitch 10 or 20. Power endurance to me means not getting pumped on a 40m sport climb, and power is obviously cranking a single hard move. These distinctions seem real to me.

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Re: The Power-endurance myth

Post by Justin » Fri Sep 06, 2013 9:59 am

Where does stamina fit in (along with power and endurance)?
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Re: The Power-endurance myth

Post by proze » Fri Sep 06, 2013 10:26 am

Stamina = endurance, innit?

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Re: The Power-endurance myth

Post by Chris F » Fri Sep 06, 2013 10:42 am


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Re: The Power-endurance myth

Post by garvinj » Fri Sep 06, 2013 10:53 am

Get out of the books and go climbing.
Climb for long and you gain endurance.
Climb hard and you get power.
Climb long and hard and you get....

But mostly just go climb.


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Re: The Power-endurance myth

Post by brianweaver » Fri Sep 06, 2013 11:12 am

For me I've always looked at power as the ability to do up to 1-4 moves at my max. These are purely anaerobic cell respiration.

Endurance is the ability to climb at a sustained difficulty for a prolonged period, 40+ moves for me when I've training. Often this will be done with recovery on holds in the middle of the sequence. Pure aerobic cell respiration and maximum capillary dilatation so that the most blood can be circulated. Usually you try to avoid pump for Endurance training.

Power-Endurance is climbing at near to maximum power for 15 moves (for me). The idea with this is to increase my max power to such a point that one is able to do sequential hard moves with limited or controlled pump. The trick with this is to be able to manage the pump, so essentially prolong the aerobic cycles due to high levels of endurance and power so that the transition to anaerobic is slow thus allowing you to climb at your max for longer.

From the reading I've done about competition climbing, one generally wants a massive endurance training cycle (12 weeks) initially, then you move into PE cycles (6 weeks), then a Power cycle (3 weeks) and finally a rest period (1 weeks) before you peak. You'll have miles of endurance but might struggle with the bouldery cruxes in top end power lines.

The other option (for boulders) is to train power all the time till you're capable of bouldering at your limit; then you start lengthening your problems while maintaining the difficulty. This also builds maximum Power-Endurance but isn't conducive to maximum difficulty on top-end endurance sport lines. You'll end up being able to do all the moves really easily but struggle with linking the cruxes and recovering.
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Re: The Power-endurance myth

Post by mokganjetsi » Fri Sep 06, 2013 11:54 am

Is that first post even real? There are a million modes between pure power and slow endurance.....
Interesting to compare to athletics - there is a massive decrease in power as you start to add endurance; and then the power decrease slows down as you add distance.... I would expect it to be similar for similar for climbing:
power endurance 2.png
power endurance 2.png (6.1 KiB) Viewed 2500 times

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Re: The Power-endurance myth

Post by Don » Fri Sep 06, 2013 4:14 pm

I hate to quote wiki(for which it is not gospel!), but for our general conversation it is a useful primer :

"Skeletal (voluntary) muscle is further divided into two broad types: slow twitch and fast twitch:
Type I, slow twitch, or "red" muscle, is dense with capillaries and is rich in mitochondria and myoglobin, giving the muscle tissue its characteristic red color. It can carry more oxygen and sustain aerobic activity using fats or carbohydrates as fuel.[4] Slow twitch fibers contract for long periods of time but with little force.
Type II, fast twitch muscle, has three major subtypes (IIa, IIx, and IIb) that vary in both contractile speed[5] and force generated.[4] Fast twitch fibers contract quickly and powerfully but fatigue very rapidly, sustaining only short, anaerobic bursts of activity before muscle contraction becomes painful. They contribute most to muscle strength and have greater potential for increase in mass. Type IIb is anaerobic, glycolytic, "white" muscle that is least dense in mitochondria and myoglobin. In small animals (e.g., rodents) this is the major fast muscle type, explaining the pale color of their flesh."

Given a set D={1,2,3,4,5} 1 being very hard, 5 being very easy. I think the capacity of power or endurance is measured in levels defined by the difficulty set. For example: an endurance level of 1, would probably feel like "power-endurance", but endurance it still is!

I think "..Just climbing.." all the time doesn't necessarily shift your climbing limit. Although I believe training is essential, mindless training will do the following:
1)Create bad engrams
3)Set the bar

Which of course no one wants.

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Re: The Power-endurance myth

Post by Old Smelly » Mon Sep 09, 2013 10:49 am

There are books on this stuff & endless opinions but I agree with the last comment. Randomly climbing like most of us do brings about neither power nor endurance in the true sense, besides which the longer you climb the easier ways you find of doing the same moves (laziness is a prime motivator in humans). So some form of concerted effort & program is required but for most weekend warriors there is too little time to do this truly well.

I do like Brian's approach though! It is a good way to approach things as opposed to a random "just climb" method. Of course your goals drive what form of training you should take & we see this in other sports. Look at those crazy off width crack climbers - their training may have been quite specific but no one could argue that they did not improve overall...
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