Do you feel it is possible to train strength AND endurance "simultaneously"?


By: Gym Jones

Mark, after researching your training methods from Extreme Alpinism vs. the info from your GymJones site, I have a question that has been bugging me in my training efforts for alpine climbing..........Do you feel it is possible to train strength AND endurance "simultaneously" through a training period leading up to a peak climb? Or, do you still believe (as in Extreme Alpinism) that strength and endurance are best improved by working almost exclusively on either one within the training period? Thanks.


The answer depends entirely on the fitness level of the individual. The higher the level of fitness, i.e. the closer to one's maximum capacity, the more linear the progression must be because each individual characteristic must be addressed with great detail and focus to cause adaptation and improvement.

Athletes with basic and intermediate levels of fitness respond well to a more complex method where several characteristics are trained (more or less) simultaneously. This also works during a foundation-building period undertaken by a more advanced athlete.

These general statements deal with capacity and training history but the sport itself affects training emphasis. The more a sport is dominated by technique (one could use bouldering/sport climbing or jiu-jitsu as examples) the more the athlete will train in a complex manner in the gym, i.e. the artificial environment while the sport-specific work will be very specific indeed and may account for more than 50% of the total training volume or load. Sports dominated by "stupid", non-technical movements and repetition (use any endurance sport as an example) seem to benefit from artificial training done in linear progression where artificial methods are used early in the cycle, and the focus shifts to more and more specific movements, duration, intensity as the peak approaches. Using cycling as an example is easy: after the break following a season of racing start by building strength, add limited riding, convert the strength to "artificial" power, reduce gym volume, increase bike volume, convert "artificial" strength/power to specific strength/power, increase bike volume more, add intervals to bike training, address all energy pathways used on bike, reduce gym volume to bare minimum, begin racing season, follow micro-cycles of over-reaching and recovery as the peak or "A race" approaches, do it, recover, repeat as needed until the end of the season. Alpine climbing can't follow this sort of program closely because unless one is living in the mountains most of the endurance and power-endurance training is necessarily "artificial". However, following the general trends is possible.

The definition of intermediate and advanced athletes depends entirely on how much of the population is included in the sample: if you accept the most basic athlete and the world champion in the sample then the best we can ever hope to be is intermediate level athletes. We like to think of ourselves as advanced but we are not so a complex method with a cyclic emphasis will work for most athletes.

Remember too that you are not seeing everything that's done when looking at the site. Most of the top jiu-jitsu guys training here are in the gym 3x90 minutes per week but doing 15-20 hours of sport-specific training. This is true for one of the rock climbers as well. The endurance athletes with us are in the gym two days per week and doing a heavy volume of sport-specific work four days per week. They (including me) are not in the gym at all during the part of the season or year where it doesn't make sense. Where is it more efficient to spend the finite amount of time and energy one has? How does training in the gym affect sport-specific training frequency and intensity? Etc.

Finally, when it comes to training strength and endurance simultaneously the issue of definitions comes up again. If you are willing to accept reaching 70-75% of your potential strength and endurance then simultaneous training is dandy. If you want to achieve higher levels of either capacity (90%) such must be trained specifically. If you want to sharpen the tip of one spear as much as possible all other areas must be sacrificed to some degree. The question of "how strong do I need to be?" or "how much endurance do I really need?" must be answered at some point? Does having a 400-pound squat make me a better alpine climber? If the answer is "no" don't waste time and energy reaching that number. Perhaps the ability to squat 185 pounds for 20 reps transfers to the sport better.

This probably creates more questions than it answers but that's the point of our whole project here at the moment ...

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