Timed Circuits for volume training

by Dan Crossdale
Posted: 17th Sep 2013
Tags: Scarpa


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Hi and welcome to my new blog. I’ll be blogging for The Depot and producing regular content throughout the training season. ‘Training season’ I hear you ask, well yes there is a training season. We’ve all been busy through the summer sending our outside projects, having great climbing holidays and hopefully improving.

So, summer is nearly over and I was at the Leeds Depot the other day when I got chatting to Rob, we both chatted about how important it was to prepare for training. So that’s what I was doing – have a short easy session indoors to prepare for the coming indoor season.

I’ve been really busy this summer and the outdoor season has followed a similar pattern for several years now.

The pattern goes like this: I train quite hard, but with no real plan. I gain several niggling injuries but survive; I then start outdoors quite well and make good progress but start to steadily decline as the season progresses.

This year I have finally recovered from a dreadful family tragedy that meant I didn’t climb at all in 2012 to cranking out some 7b’s and ready for 7b+. Then as the summer progresses life gets in the way and I begin a slow decline until October when I start training again. This has become a familiar pattern for several years now, especially as the family and job demands more from my precious time. Does this sound familiar…?

I know what the formula is: more training, less climbing. But this is hard for an old school climber like myself. I need to find that sweet spot between training hard and climbing lot’s and staying injury free. I have made the decision to begin a search for it, that elusive Valhalla – I don’t even know if it’s possible. But one thing for sure, things can’t carry on as they are and I have to try.

But of course, how rude of me. Many of you won’t even know me (although I’ve been around on the Yorkshire scene for well over 20 years). I’m Dave, I’m 52 years old, I’m married with 2 children. I have climbed lot’s over the years and have climbed quite hard – for me. Now I’m beginning a new journey.

The destination is to regain some of that energy and motivation I had in my early climbing days, I’m not in search of climbing super hard, although if opportunities come my way I’ll grab them. I’m in search of climbing well. Many of us want to climb hard, but are happiest when we are climbing well, the subject of climbing well and how that feels will be covered in a future blog. But for now my searchlight is still roaming.

What it's all for - the awesome Cabaret, Goredale.


So back to my original point: preparing to train. The transition from indoors to outdoors and vice versa needs some planning and time. A friend of mine is an advocate of climbing indoors some of the time all year round, this he says keeps him in training mode. But I can’t quite bring myself to be indoors when the sun is shining! I propose a more gradual transition so this lately I’ve been going for a couple of hours once a week throughout August to do some easy circuits.

I am, however, training so the circuits have to have a purpose; that being volume. Volume training is very different to power training; ‘volume’ says it all – lots of easy climbing. The secret to keep the problems easy so I’m beginning on Blue and Black circuits. In fact this week I’m only doing the blue so the session is nice and stress free – except to add some purpose I’m timing them. Timing the circuit turns it from a playful session into a serious volume workout as you are against the clock. When you can’t make any more progress on time double the circuit. So here is a suggested 4 week progression for using circuits to ramp up the volume of climbing you do indoors. Remember – you should be getting pumped but you should feel that you’ve done something at the end of the session.

Choose a circuit that is very easy for you – I like to choose blue as my current on sight grade outside is 6c+ and redpoint 7b (I can’t boulder hard yet but I’m not that bothered about that just now – that will come later). Doing timed circuits is a perfect indoor activity, all the problems are concentrated and are easy to get round. If you climb at the Leeds Depot, I suggest you climb around the perimeter and then the middle sections. If you climb at the Depot Nottingham I suggest down one side, up the other and then see off the middle sections. It doesn’t matter what the time is in week one – but complete the circuit with purpose (not a sprint). Make a note of the time and next session try to beat it and so on. Do not get distracted and move on after three tries.

Week one – timed blue circuit (1 circuit, once or twice a week)
Week two - timed blue circuit (2 circuits- twice a week)
Week three - timed blue and black circuit (1 blue, 1 black, twice a week)
Week four – time blue and black circuit (2 blue, 1 black, twice a week)

Stop after four weeks as you’ll be ready to move on. You can complete these circuits with any other activity you are doing. If you are going on to socialise with friends on other problems, take at least 45 minutes rest before you start that. If you are climbing outside maybe boulder for a while and then do them after. Don’t do them after a full day of routing as you’ll get injured and they are supposed to be an easy, rest day type of activity.

Keep that up for four weeks and you’ll arrive ready to crank circuits and have the endurance to keep that training going through the winter season. Whenever you feel you are lacking in a little endurance then you can return to this.

I’ll also leave you this week with a simple flexibility exercise than you can do watching TV or sitting at your desk (well maybe not the wrist one as you’ll get strange looks). Ankle and wrist flexibility becomes a real issue as your muscles tighten up after training so do these whenever you remember to do them, preferably every day. Write the alphabet in the air with each foot, repeat with your wrists- nice and simple.

Thanks for reading and hopefully we’ll all learn and improve together. I have no idea what the journey will be like but I have a firm destination in my mind. Next time I’ll be looking at staying focussed and not getting distracted and continuing the prepare to train ethos with begintervals.

Bye for now and ‘climb like a pro’


3 comments so far. Add yours!

09.09.2013 11:06:49
"6c+ and redpoint 7b " you mean French grades right, you're not talking about font grades?


09.09.2013 12:39:53
In my experience route climbers will usually find volume the easy thing to come by when climbing outside lots in summer, and will thus likely benefit more from keeping their indoor work to high intensity strength or PE work.Just saying...

Dave Sarkar

15.09.2013 11:19:50
Just been trialling the new black circuit set by Rob this weekend in readiness for timing it next week. I would like to congratulate Rob on producing an excellent Black circuit that I've found quite taxing! I'll be interested to see what my time will be. Best time on the blue circuit so far has been 26mins. What's yours...? Dave