Power vs strength in a nutshell : how to train them ?

power vs strength bouldering training for climbing

Power vs Strength: What They Are and How to Train Them ? These two terms are commonly, and incorrectly, used interchangeably in the climbing community. This is a very clear cut, simple explanation about what each is and how best to train them.

Strength Defined

Strength is defined as the maximal force that you can apply in a given exercise. For instance, if you were to do a biceps curl, the maximal weight that you can curl one time would be a rough approximation of your strength in that exercise. In climbing, one aspect of strength (perhaps the most important one) would be measured in finger strength.

When we talk about finger strength we are talking about an isometric (static) display of strength, which is very dependent on the angle of the joint relative to the force. However, to abstract the idea we can say that finger strength in climbing is a measure of how much force you can apply to a given hold with your fingers.

bouldering power vs strength finger

Power Defined

Power is defined as the speed at which you can achieve your maximal force (i.e. the speed of recruitment). But what does that mean?

To conceptualize power you can look at a dynamic jump to an edge. Let’s say that grabbing the edge requires the application of 100 lbs of force and that you only have .05 seconds to apply the required force before falling. If you are capable of exerting 200 lbs of force, but it takes you .3 seconds to recruit that strength, then despite being strong enough to grab the hold you won’t be able to exert enough force quickly enough to stick the hold during the dynamic movement.

dynamic moove climbing power vs strength

Power vs strength

So, we can say that there are many people out there who are very strong climbers (i.e. they can grab very small holds and exert a lot of force on the hold), but they wouldn’t necessarily be powerful climbers.

For example, a very controlled static climber might be able to do very difficult static movements where speed of recruitment is not an issue, however when that climber is given the task of jumping to and grabbing a hold he/she lacks the coordination and ability to recruit the required strength before falling.

Power vs strength : How to Train Power ?

In climbing, power is best trained by progressing through a power cycle immediately following a strength cycle. A power cycle consists of campusing, dynamic move training, and jump training on boulders and on the ground. You’re trying to train recruitment of your muscles and tendons, so you’d do quick and explosive movements with a lot of rest between efforts. You want to have excellent form when you’re training power, which means you need to be well-rested before an exercise.

resting during training for climbing power

You might pick a very difficult boulder problem (for you) with a dynamic crux on it, and climb up to the crux using easier holds, and then do that crux a few times in a row with rest in between efforts. It’s not power endurance you’re trying to improve, so just those few moves in a row is all you need.

You could also train power using the campus board, as mentioned. The campus board gives you a very consistent way to train maximal efforts while also allowing you to track your progress and make incremental improvements. Again, you want to make sure you give yourself plenty of rest between efforts so you can recruit as much power and strength as possible with the best form possible.

power vs strength climbing

Power vs strength : How to Train Strength ?

In climbing, strength is best trained before a power cycle, and you will generally want to work on both finger strength, as well as larger muscle groups that support the core, arms, shoulders, and back. Finger strength is best trained by using a fingerboard/hangboard and a pulley system so you can subtract and add weight to your body as you’re hanging on the holds. This allows you to make definite and recordable gains over time.

In terms of lifting weights, you’d do low reps with high weights, using your one-rep max or a repetition range (i.e. 2-4 reps) to figure out how much weight you should be lifting. Low reps with high weight has been shown in many other sports to be the most effective way of training strength, as opposed to high reps and low weights.

“Low reps” is defined as between 1 and 9 for a given exercise, and high weight is defined as between 80-100% of your 1-rep max.


You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.