“The Austrian Protocols: Strength vs. Endurance for Rope Climbing”

Research > Experimental Training > “The Austrian Protocols”

Header image: Charlie Osborne honoring the colors of Austria. Picture by Jennie Jariel.

Two Austrian National Team Experimental Training Protocols go head-to-head

DANGER: these are protocols described in research experiments. Extreme care should be taken before following these protocols.

Below is an experimental training protocol used in the following study:

  • “The Effects of 8 weeks of two different training methods on on-sight lead climbing performance” by M. Philippe, I. Filzwieser, V. Leichtfried, C. Blank, S. Haslinger, J. Fleckenstein, W. Schobersberger (2018)

Context: Study used two separate protocols developed by coaches from the Austrian National team.  Climbers averaged between 5.12b – 5.13b.  Training lasted 8 weeks and involved either: Muscular Strength (Hypertrophy – MH) or Muscular Endurance (ME).  The two groups were tested on an onsight route (roughly 13b) before training, after training, and after a 2-week “taper” period.  Tests included: # of moves, climbing difficulty, climbing time (s), climbing moves per time, Lactate 1 minute after, Lactate 6 minutes after, Heartrate 1 minute after, Heartrate 6 minutes after.

Result: Neither group was superior to one another, but both groups showed significant improvements at the second and third tests.

The protocols – Experimental Training (MH vs. ME)

“MH” (Muscular Hypertrophy) Training – 5 days per week

Charlie Osborne honoring Austria while Arabella Jariel honors France. Image by Jennie Jariel
  1. Warm-up: mobilization of all joints, 3×10 squats, 3×8 push-ups, 3×25 sit-ups, a side plank with 3×10 knee tucks and 1 hour of self-chosen sub-maximal bouldering.
  2. Bouldering Exercise (three times per week): Three sets of exercises based on hold type (Crimp; Pinch; Sloper) with 10 or fewer moves (designed to fall at or before 10) and 8 sets (per exercise).  2 minutes of rest between sets.  12 minutes between exercise.
  3. Campus Board Exercise (combined on Bouldering Days): First exercise à Ten sets (5 per starting hand) of 1-4-7.  Second exercise à Called the “pull up ABC” which appears to be 5 sets of lock-offs until failure.  Each lock-off appeared to consist of (1) pull-up and (2) lock-off (bend- at the elbow) at 120°, then a second pull up and lock at 90°, and a third at 60°.  Each lock lasted 7 seconds.  Not mentioned: Length of rest between hands and exercises. 
  4. Lead Project Exercise (two times per week): 4 lead routes of 30 moves designed so that the athletes couldn’t do more than 10-12 moves without resting.  Approximately 2 rests per route.  20 minutes of rest between routes.  Not mentioned: length of rest after the 10-12 moves and HOW the rest occurred (e.g. taking on rope; resting on a good or bad hold, etc.).

“ME” (Muscular Endurance) Training – 5 days per week

Arabella Jariel and Taylor Reed fresh back from climbing and coaching in Austria. Arabella traded for hers fair and square. Taylor had to buy his. Image by Jennie Jariel.
  1. Warm-up: mobilization of all joints, 3×10 squats, 3×8 push-ups,3×25 sit-ups, a side plank with 3×10 knee tucks and 3 self-chosen lead routes, preceded training sessions 1-4.  No warm-up on Training session 5.
  2. Hard Lead Projects (Sessions 1 and 3 each week): 3-4 sets of 15-30 moves in a row with 20 minutes of rest between routes.
  3. Extensive Intervals (Session 3 each week, weeks 1-2):  1 lead route, 10 times in a row (no break except to rope-up/rappel) OR
  4. Intensive Intervals (Session 3 each week, weeks 3-8):  Used Driller et al Rower protocol (2009), 2 blocks of top rope climbing involving 8 sets of 25 moves.  Difficulty was intended for climber to reach top on sets 1-5, but not on sets 6-8.  Rest times were: 40-50 minutes between blocks.  Rest between sets = 2/3rds time to climb first set.
  5. Easy Lead Projects (Sessions 2 and 4 each week): 30-50 move lead projects, 3-4 times with 20 minutes of rest in between sets. Not mentioned: states that these are projects, but unknown difficulty other than being “easy”.
  6. Basic Lead climbing (Session 5 each week): No Warm-up, climb eight sub-maximal, equally graded routes.  Not mentioned: rest times or level of sub-maximal climbing.

Note1: We’ve e-mailed the authors to try to answer some of the questions we have about resting and the level of difficulty.