Versión en español
Up to 35 minutes to climb a previously tried route.
In occasions, up to 1 hour to onsight a route.
Most sport climbing routes take between 8 and 25 minutes.
(Data from a study of my own)
in the previous entry, rather than training some particular physical quality, it would be more precise to speak of specific physiological effects from now on. As a reminder, here there are the different aspects or objectives related to local aerobic endurance:
- Capacity (enduring long, low intensity climbs), also known as ARC
- Efficiency or Steady State (negotiating moderate intensity-medium duration sections).
- Quick Recovery.
We can begin by stating that it is the quality that allows us to sustain a long climb (more than 15 minutes) with minimum fatigue. It can be described as the ability to keep our energy and strength, be it because we spend some of our substrates (energy sources) more slowly or we replenish them faster, or because our muscle efficiency at low intensity improves as a result of factors that we are going to learn.
Some activities that demand capacity are multi-pitch routes, onsighting long or technical routes, or sorting out the moves of a hard route.
Beware! Acknowledging its importance does not mean it has to be the only training goal for those activities. It would be like saying that a marathon runner just needs to run, not very fast, for a couple of hours...
In the English-speaking world it is also known as ARC (Aerobic Energy Restoration and Capillarity), from Goddard and Neumann (1993) for reasons that will become clear (**see recommended readings below).
If you are still unclear of the impact of this aspect on your climbs, I suggest you time your next try to a route that you want to climb. If you use more than 15 minutes to do it, or to sort out the moves, or to onsight it, it’s possible you will find useful the rest of this blog post.
Jose Luis Palao "Primo" on "La Planta de Shiva", L1, Villanueva del Rosario, Málaga.Phto by Javipec. Source: Javipec Photo.
At the physiological level, according to the duration, intensity and particularities of the effort (local aerobic endurance of the small muscles in the forearm), the development of Capacity in sport climbing can imply modest central (cardiovascular) development, but the bulk of the adaptations are both peripheral:
They allow for a faster and optimal oxygen supply to the muscle, as well as a better removal, recycling and oxidation of the products of muscle metabolism (*see glossary below) that have an influence on fatigue, like Pi, ADP, AMP, H+,NH4+, etc. These are the main ones:
a) Increased capillarization at the oxidative or slow twitch fibers (type I or ST) due to the creation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis) as well as to the growth in diameter or caliber (arteriogenesis) (Anderson and Henriksson, 1977; Mizumo et col., 1990; Ferguson and Brown, 1997; Laughlin et col, 2006, 2008; Thompson et col., 2014).
These adaptations are among the most important for the development of endurance in climbing according to several authors (MacLeod et col.,2007, Phillipe et col., 2011, Thompson et col., 2014 and Fryer et col., 2014). The explanation lies on the particularities of climbing:
-The big contrast between the long, intermittent, high intensity isometric contractions needed for successive small, difficult holds (8-15 seconds) and the short time between holds (less than 0,5 seconds, 3 seconds if we are clipping or up to 5 second shakes in a good rest) (López, E., 2014, Doctoral Thesis).
- The mixing of high intensity sections among medium and low intensity ones.
- The succession of movement and static positions (rest stops, clippings...) where the climber tries to recover from fatigue.
Some authors think that improved capillarization can positively influence oxygen supply and metabolite removal, resulting in faster recovery and the possibility of more effectively training power endurance (anaerobic endurance) later in the training program; this will be addressed in a future blog post. These statements are supported by the significant positive correlation between # of capillaries per square millimeter and the number of repetitions at 70% of 1RM (Terzis et col., 2008), performance at tests with a duration of 30”-3’ (Iaia et col., 2011), recovery when doing short (40”) pauses between high intensity exercises (Tesch and Wright, 1983), and rate of recovery after 50 repetitions of leg extensions (Wright et col., 1983).b) Elevated threshold for sympathetic activation that promotes vasodilation after and during isometric contractions, and improves tissue perfusion (Sinoway et col., 1987; Ferguson and Brown, 1997, Fryer et col., 2014). During muscle action, the buildup of some metabolites excites nerve endings that induce an activation of the sympathetic system (Sinoway, 1996; Mostoufi, 1998) that can affect efficiency it this response is too strong (this tends to happen when you are undertrained). It’s likely that this nerve excitation is reduced in climbers due to this increased threshold, but also because of lower hormone secretion at a given intensity, better tissue perfusion (Ferguson and Brown, 1997; Fryer et col., 2014 ) and, as we will learn later, an optimized aerobic metabolism.
2.1) Morphological adaptations
These consist of structural changes in muscle fibers:
a) Increase in the mitochondrial* content of skeletal muscle, i. e., # of mitochondria per mm2 of fiber (Hoppeler et col., 1985; Befroy et col., 2008).
|Muscle fibre structure.|
|Rannveig Aamodt, Red River Gorge, Kentucky. Picture by Carter Agency. Source: dailymail.co.uk|
2.2) Metabolic adaptations
Related to the improvement in glycogen and fat aerobic metabolism (especially in slow twitch fibers) that offsets the activation of the anaerobic pathway (lactate production) (Holloszy and Coyle, 1984); also to an increase in lactate clearance (lactate is continuously formed in some tissues like muscle and released from them, and its buildup is mitigated by lactate oxidation).
a) Increased oxidative enzyme* levels; these are involved in the aerobic metabolism (Krebs cycle and electron transport) (Henrikson and Hickner 1993; Burgomaster et col., 2005), especially in type I (slow) fibers and type IIa or mixed fibers (that play a role in anaerobic endurance or power endurance). This elevation, together with greater vasodilation and capillary density (tissue perfusion) has been shown to be very important for isometric grip endurance (Fryer et col., 2014).
b) Increase in lactate transport proteins (MCT1) that move lactate in and out of muscle fibers in order to oxidize it (lactate shuttle) (McCullagh et col., 1997; Everstsen et col., 2001, Thomson et col., 2005; Gladden 2008). This is part of the already mentioned lactate clearance.
|Alex Honnold climbing in Devil's Bay, NewFoundland. Photo: North Face. Source: Gripped Canada's Climbing magazine facebook page|
d) Elevated fat oxidation at intensities that previously would have required glycogen (greater reliance on fat oxidation), resulting in “savings” of the latter (Kiens et col., 1993; Hawley et col., 1998; Burke et col., 2001). As we already know we need our glycogen for the hardest sections, because fat metabolism is not fast enough to cover the rate of energy consumption that are demanded (Brooks and Mercier, 1994); fat metabolism is ideal for long, low intensity tasks.
Ok, this is all fine, but by now some of you will be growing impatient, just wondering: How do I have to train to achieve these effects? Well, this will be the topic of the next two entries (Load Variables, Training Methods and Planning), soon to be published.
ATP or adenosine triphosphate: It is the foremost energy transporter in the body. It acts as a kind of “energy currency”, transferring energy to other molecules by losing a phosphate group (adenosine diphosphate or ADP). ADP in turn can accept chemical energy in the form of a phosphate group to transform back into ATP (oxidative phosphorylation). Structurally it’s a nucleotide formed by adenosine (one adenine molecule bonded to a five-carbon sugar: ribose) combined with three inorganic phosphates (Pi) through high-energy bonds; that’s why breaking those bonds releases a big amount of energy.
Enzymes: Proteins that facilitate decomposition of chemicals (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) to obtain energy for bodily functions like muscle contraction.
Glycogen: The way the body stores its glucose. Structurally is a glucose polysaccharide stored in the liver and muscles until it is needed. The process by which it gets degraded (oxidized) to obtain energy is called glycolysis. The inverse, when it is resynthesized from several glucose molecules is called glycogenesis.
H+: Hydrogen protons, product of ATP hydrolysis. Its buildup along with other metabolites’ is related to one type of muscle fatigue. It usually accretes when there is a high power demand (energy per time unit), when the aerobic metabolic pathway is underdeveloped or when the energy substrates are depleted.
Mitochondria: It’s the organelle responsible for energy production inside the cell using the aerobic pathway (aerobic oxidative metabolism).
Metabolism: Set of physical and chemical processes that take place in the body with two functions: a) obtaining energy from food and storing it in ATP form and b) producing compounds and creating or replacing structures. When the generation of ATP (energy acquisition) is done without using oxygen it is called anaerobic metabolism; when oxygen is used it is aerobic or oxidative metabolism.
NH4+: Ammonium. Product from the metabolism of phosphagens (ATP and phosphocreatine).
Why we need to train Local Aerobic Endurance: Let the Numbers Talk
Objectives and Bases for Designing an Endurance Training Program in Sport Climbing
**RECOMMENDED READINGS TO EXPAND AND IMPROVE YOUR KNOWLEDGE
- Goddard, D., and Neumann, U. (1993). Performance rock climbing. Stackpole Books. (pp. 105-106; 121-124)
- MacLeod, D. (2010). 9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes: navigation through the maze of advice for the self-coached climber. Rare Breed Productions. (pp. 87-88)
- McArdle, W., Katch, F. I., y Katch, V. L. (1990). Exercise Physiology: Nutrition, Energy and Human Performance. LWW. (chapters 6, 7, 15, 16, 18)
- Randall, T. Tricks of the endurance training trade, website "Tom Randall Climbing" Entry from July 9th, 2012. Available at: https://tomrandallclimbing.wordpress.com/2012/07/09/tricks-of-the-endurance-training-trade/
- Wilmore, J. H., and Costill, D. L. (2004). Physiology of Sport and Exercise. Human Kinetics. (chapters 4, 5, 6 and 9)
- Allison, B., Desai, A., Murphy, R., and Sarwary, R.M. (2004). Human potential of applying static force as measured by grip strength: Validation of Rohmert´s formula. San Jose University
- Andersen, P., and Henriksson, J. (1977). Capillary supply of the quadriceps femoris muscle of man: adaptive response to exercise. The Journal of physiology, 270(3), 677-690.
- Arnold, A. S., Gill, J., Christe, M., Ruiz, R., McGuirk, S., St-Pierre, J., ... & Handschin, C. (2014). Morphological and functional remodelling of the neuromuscular junction by skeletal muscle PGC-1α. Nature communications, 5.
- Brooks and Mercier, J. (1994). Balance of carbohydrate and lipid utilization during exercise: the" crossover" concept. Journal of Applied Physiology, 76, 2253-2253.
- Burgomaster, K. A., Hughes, S. C., Heigenhauser, G. J., Bradwell, S. N., and Gibala, M. J. (2005). Six sessions of sprint interval training increases muscle oxidative potential and cycle endurance capacity in humans. Journal of applied physiology, 98(6), 1985-1990.
- Costill, D. L., Daniels, J., Evans, W., Fink, W., Krahenbuhl, G., and Saltin, B. (1976). Skeletal muscle enzymes and fiber composition in male and female track athletes. J Appl Physiol, 40(2), 149-154.
- Befroy, D. E., Petersen, K. F., Dufour, S., Mason, G. F., Rothman, D. L., and Shulman, G. I. (2008). Increased substrate oxidation and mitochondrial uncoupling in skeletal muscle of endurance-trained individuals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(43), 16701-16706.
- Evertsen, F., Medbø, J. I., and Bonen, A. (2001). Effect of training intensity on muscle lactate transporters and lactate threshold of cross‐country skiers. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, 173(2), 195-205.
- Ferguson, R. A., & Brown, M. D. (1997). Arterial blood pressure and forearm vascular conductance responses to sustained and rhythmic isometric exercise and arterial occlusion in trained rock climbers and untrained sedentary subjects. European journal of applied physiology and occupational physiology, 76(2), 174-180.
- Frey Law, L. A., and Avin, K. G. (2010). Endurance time is joint-specific: a modelling and meta-analysis investigation. Ergonomics, 53(1), 109-129.
- Fryer, S., Stoner, L., Scarrott, C., Lucero, A., Witter, T., Love, R., ...and Draper, N. (2014). Forearm oxygenation and blood flow kinetics during a sustained contraction in multiple ability groups of rock climbers. Journal of sports sciences, (ahead-of-print), 1-9.
- García Manso, JM; Vitoria Ortiz, M; Navarro Valdivielso, F; Legido Arce, JC (2006). La resistencia desde la óptica de las ciencias aplicadas al entrenamiento deportivo. Grada Sport Books.
- Gladden, L. B. (2008). A lactatic perspective on metabolism. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 40(3), 477-485.
- Goddard, D., and Neumann, U. (1993). Performance rock climbing. Stackpole Books.
- Greiwe, J. S., Hickner, R. C., Hansen, P. A., Racette, S. B., Chen, M. M., and Holloszy, J. O. (1999). Effects of endurance exercise training on muscle glycogen accumulation in humans. Journal of Applied Physiology, 87(1), 222-226.
- Hawley, J. A., Brouns, F., and Jeukendrup, A. (1998). Strategies to enhance fat utilisation during exercise. Sports Medicine, 25(4), 241-257.
- Hawley, J. A., & Stepto, N. K. (2001). Adaptations to training in endurance cyclists. Sports Medicine, 31(7), 511-520.
- Holloszy, J. O., and Coyle, E. F. (1984). Adaptations of skeletal muscle to endurance exercise and their metabolic consequences. Journal of applied physiology, 56(4), 831-838.
- Hoppeler H., Howald H., Conley K., Lindstedt S.L., Claasen H., Vock P. and Weibel E.R. (1985). Endurance training in humans: aerobic capacity and structure of skeletal muscle. J Appl Physiol; 59(2):320-7.
- Iaia, F. M., Perez-Gomez, J., Thomassen, M., Nordsborg, N. B., Hellsten, Y., and Bangsbo, J. (2011). Relationship between performance at different exercise intensities and skeletal muscle characteristics. Journal of applied physiology, 110(6), 1555-1563.
- Karpp, J.R. (2000). Interval Training for the Fitness Professional. National Strength & Conditioning Association, 4(22), 64–69
- Kiens, B., Essen-Gustavsson, B., Christensen, N. J., and Saltin, B. (1993). Skeletal muscle substrate utilization during submaximal exercise in man: effect of endurance training. The Journal of Physiology, 469(1), 459-478.
- Laughlin, M. H., Cook, J. D., Tremble, R., Ingram, D., Colleran, P. N., and Turk, J. R. (2006). Exercise training produces nonuniform increases in arteriolar density of rat soleus and gastrocnemius muscle. Microcirculation, 13(3), 175-186.
- López-Rivera, E. (2014): Efectos de Diferentes Métodos de Entrenamiento de Fuerza y Resistencia de Agarre en Escaladores Deportivos de distintos Niveles (Tesis Doctoral). Programa de Doctorado en Rendimiento Deportivo, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, Toledo, España.
- MacLeod, D., Sutherland, D. L., Buntin, L., Whitaker, A., Aitchison, T., Watt, I., ... and Grant, S. (2007). Physiological determinants of climbing-specific finger endurance and sport rock climbing performance. Journal of sports sciences, 25(12), 1433-1443.
- Mitchell, C. J., Churchward-Venne, T. A., West, D. W., Burd, N. A., Breen, L., Baker, S. K., and Phillips, S. M. (2012). Resistance exercise load does not determine training-mediated hypertrophic gains in young men. Journal of applied physiology, 113(1), 71-77.
- Mostoufi-Moab, S., Widmaier, E. J., Cornett, J. A., Gray, K., and Sinoway, L. I. (1998). Forearm training reduces the exercise pressor reflex during ischemic rhythmic handgrip. Journal of applied physiology, 84(1), 277-283.
- Philippe, M., Wegst, D., Müller, T., Raschner, C., & Burtscher, M. (2012). Climbing-specific finger flexor performance and forearm muscle oxygenation in elite male and female sport climbers. European journal of applied physiology, 112(8), 2839-2847.
- Ryder J. W., Kawano Y., Galuska, D., Fahlman R., Wallberg-Henriksson H.T., Charron M. J., and Zierath J. R. (1999). Postexercise glucose uptake and glycogen synthesis in skeletal muscle from GLUT4-deficient mice. The FASEB Journal, 13(15), 2246-2256.
- Sinoway, L., Shenberger, J., Leaman, G., Zelis, R., Gray, K., Baily, R., and Leuenberger, U. (1996). Forearm training attenuates sympathetic responses to prolonged rhythmic forearm exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, 81(4), 1778-1784.
- Stanula, A., Roczniok, R., Maszczyk, A., Pietraszewski, P., and Zając, A. (2014). Te role of aerobic capacity in high-intensity intermittent efforts in ice-hockey. Biology of Sport, 31(3), 193.
- Terzis, G., Spengos, K., Manta, P., Sarris, N., and Georgiadis, G. (2008). Fiber type composition and capillary density in relation to submaximal number of repetitions in resistance exercise. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 22(3), 845-850.
- Tesch P., Wright J.E. (1983). Recovery from short term intense exercise; its relation to capillary supply and blood lactate concentration. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol.;52:98-103
- Thomas, C., Perrey, S., Lambert, K., Hugon, G., Mornet, D., and Mercier, J. (2005). Monocarboxylate transporters, blood lactate removal after supramaximal exercise, and fatigue indexes in humans. Journal of Applied Physiology, 98(3), 804-809
- Thompson, E. B., Farrow, L., Hunt, J. E., Lewis, M. P., and Ferguson, R. A. (2014). Brachial artery characteristics and micro-vascular filtration capacity in rock climbers. European journal of sport science, (ahead-of-print), 1-9. Published online: 28 Jul 2014