How to Make a Training Plan Part 3: Block vs. Nonlinear Periodization

To quicly re-cap:

The first part of making a training program is to set attainable, inspiring, goals.
The second is to know what components of your climbing need to be improved in order achieve your goals. 

In part three we review two types of training structures. There are different ways to set up your training on a day-to-day, week-to-week and month-to-month basis. These are block and non-linear periodization. They both have their pros and cons and either training structure is only as good as the climber’s adherence to the program.

What is periodization?

Generically speaking, periodization is the idea that training is more effective if you train certain attributes in a time-specific way. Periodization is an idea that is employed in many athletic fields, climbing included. See scholarly definition below.

Periodization is an organized approach to training that involves progressive cycling of various aspects of a training program during a specific period of time.

(Frankel, C.C. & Kravitz, L. (2000). Periodization: Latest Studies and Practical Applications. IDEA Personal Trainer, 11(1), 15-16)

Comparison of Block and. Non-Linear Periodization

I have personal experience with both styles. I have completed multiple macrocycles of what is essentially a block periodization program and it was very effective. This is what made up the first year or so of my training.

Currently, I am in the middle of my first non-linear program and I am really enjoying the change—the results are not yet in in terms of improvement in my climbing as I have not yet completed it, but at minimum certain measurable aspects of my climbing have definitely improved (finger strength, completion/improvement on some indoor boulders, etc.).

I could explain each style of program with some lengthy post, but the comparison of the two can be nicely summed up using the table below.


Block

Non-Linear
Structure
Breaks up your training into 3-4 distinct phases where you focus on one attribute of climbing at a time for 4-6 weeks.*

  • Endurance
  • Strength
  • Power
  • Power Endurance
  • Performance

*Note that although the focus is on one attribute per phase—there are other attributes being worked on simultaneously in the background. No block training program is purely one component at a time.

 Rotation throughout the program, working on all critical attributes concurrently over the course of 7-10 days (depending on how much rest you need).

The schedule would look some thing like this:

Mon – Strength
Weds – Power
Thurs – Endurance
Saturday – Power Endurance

Performance &
Outdoor Climbing
Reach a performance peak at the end of the training plan. During some periods of the training, outdoor climbing may need to be ommitted for adherence to the program . Outdoor climbing can be de-coupled with training. You can go climb outside and project on the weekends—no specific performance “peak”.
Specific Literature
Rock Prodigy Program
How to Climb 5.12
Logical Progression
Pros
Strong performance peak, effective. You can, in theory, be performing all throughout the program. Flexible and engaging because you rotate through different workouts (strength, limit bouldering, etc.) in addition to working different aspects in one single training session.
Cons
Training must be planned around trip outside to work on goal route. Potential omission of outdoor climbing to focus on training. Can be daunting to focus on one attribute for a month at a time. Certain aspects decline while focusing on other aspects. No specific performance peak. May develop certain aspects (finger strength, power) more slowly than if you focused on one aspect at a time.

After evaluating my own goals for the season and my schedule, I have chosen a nonlinear periodization program for this training season. I am currently following the Logical Progression program laid out by Steve Bechtel and I am really enjoying it so far. I chose this program because I think it works well for the time frame in which I need to be in tip top shape. I will be trying to hit some personal bests on a couple of trips in October and November, so a very targeted performance peak does not work for me this year in terms of timing. I also thought it might be time to change it up a bit, which has been really fun so far!

UPCOMING TRIPS

I am headed to Mallorca, Spain for a week in October (1 month out!). I am also headed to the Red River Gorge for a long weekend as well. I will have just three days to try and take down my first 12b (ahh!).

My first go at Super Best Friends (5.12b). I got rained out of working on it more on my last trip to the Red. This route is the goal for my next trip down there in November!

Once you have your own goals and your time frame nailed down, you can choose which will work best for you too!

Which style of training appeals to you and your goals? If you’ve tried both, which do you like better?

Leave a comment or shoot me and email, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Happy climbing,

Senderella

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