Power phase: how to literally climb the figurative ladder of success

What better motivational training session could there be than “Power Phase”. It implies it will improve your power, I can only assume with climbing, women, and politics. Last week marked the end of the Power Phase of Mark Anderson’s Rock Climbing Training Manual. During this phase Matt and I diverted in both methodology and geography. Given our different strengths and weaknesses we needed our own approach to safely build power. Even though a work trip left me out of my regular training facility, I was luckily surprised in what I found at Texas Rock Gym to be more than sufficient keeping me happily on schedule.

One of my long wrongly held beliefs in climbing has been that static climbing is the most efficient / “correct” way to climb. After reading 9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes my eyes were opened to the folly of my ways. My goal for this power phase was to build not only build power but break bad habits and move dynamically. It is the perfect way relearn techniques that put excess strain on my shoulders and did not take advantage of the efficiencies and benefits of deadpoints and dynamic movement.

This phase of the program consists of 3 weeks of campus boarding and Limit Bouldering sessions:


Campus boarding:

  • Matching Ladders (one rung at a time, matching each) on both sides
  • Basic Ladders (one run after the other, climb the ladder with your hands) on both sides
  • Max Ladders (Skipping one rung on each side, two moves, finish with match) on both sides

This was my first time doing any campus training so I selected the beginner program and went in extremely intimidated. Turns out it was a blast and I finished each set excited for the next one to begin. I must be doing something wrong – in the next cycle I will be moving up in difficulty to an intermediate program.

Limit Bouldering is fairly close to a regular every day session of bouldering at the gym. Warm up on easy things – climb hard things. The difference being it is far more structured and lengthy warm up (Bonus points for being an old guy), and you track how and what you flail on an attempt.

You’re also supposed to conduct Skin Care which I have not yet attempted but have noticed notice my skin getting beat up.

How have I gone this long learning to climb without campus or hangboarding?! If strength is your issue it may be time to consider adding these into your cycles. These sessions are legit fun and super applicable to becoming a stronger climber. However if your biggest hurdle (like mine) is an unchecked fear of falling go read Dave McLeod’s book. Good thing we’ve begun the Power Endurance Phase with lots of whips!

More to come on this in a few weeks!


Matt’s Take

I didn’t do any campusing since I can barely deadhang off the rungs at the gym. I instead focused on what the RCTM calls ‘Limit Bouldering.’ This is kind of how I approach bouldering anyway with a few twists in focus. The sessions have you warm up for 60 minutes with progressively harder boulder problems up to your flash level. You then spend a bit of time projecting problems that should go down in ~4 burns. Then, the limit section is where you’re supposed to pick a problem that you’re likely not able to complete at all – say one or two grades harder than your hardest send.

The idea is that you’re training yourself how to try REALLY hard and work to hold on to holds that are way shittier than you normally would try. One of our local gyms uses a color coded system of grade ranges so it makes being objective difficult, so I just kind of guessed. This is how the colors break out for me:

Gray (V0-) – starts with G because your G-mom could do it

Yellow (V0-1) – the classic warm-up problem you get your non-climber girlfriend to try so she’ll have lots of fun and decide to become a dirty trad climber and you’ll quit your jobs and sell your house and travel to the American desert together to climb crumbling towers and basejump and laugh in the sunset together. She won’t, but at least she didn’t get scared or hurt her hands or go wait in the car with her arms crossed after saying ‘stay! Have fun, I don’t mind at all. I’ll be in the car…’

Green (V1-3) – it’s pretty standard that on any random set I’ll eventually be able to climb them all but will fall off one or two that are set on the 45 degree wall.

Brown (V2-4) – I’ll normally get one of these right away, have to work on two more and get them eventually, then there’s two others where I secretly think the route setters are colorblind

Blue (V3-V5) – I got a blue once. It was awesome. It was almost certainly soft for a blue, like a Viagra that makes you better at getting her to take her pants off but doesn’t help once you get there.

Purple (Vhard) – I tried the start to a purple but I, like, literally didn’t even care that I couldn’t get off the ground and moved on because it was a bad set and there was a lineup and my girlfriend was waiting in the car

Black (Vharder) – the cool kids at the gym, like James, have climbed these successfully on occasion

White (VPuccio) – I saw someone climb a white once. I’m pretty sure it was Adam Ondra or maybe that 90s climber who had long hair in the back and nothing in the front and now maintains a weird art/climbing Instagram.

Limit bouldering sessions had me projecting problems with no expectation of any success . Then a funny thing happened. After three sessions of working on an ‘impossible for ever’ blue problem, I topped it. There were two others that I was able to non-jokingly see them as possible if they hadn’t been lost to the purgatory of project resets. The training, and probably more importantly, the mindset of TRYING REALLY HARD got me to the top of some seemingly impossible problems. It kind of sucks though if you think about it, because trying hard is, well…hard.

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