Josh Wharton’s 8 Week Intermediate to Advanced Rock Climbing Training Plan

This eight week training plan is designed to improve intermediate and advanced climbing specific fitness, and create a peak performance period which can be utilized for an upcoming trip, or a specific goal route. It is ideal for climbers operating in the 5.10 to upper 5.12+ range. The plan operates on the assumption of a Monday through Friday work schedule.

Required equipment: Simple notebook to use as a training log, access to a commercial climbing gym or home wall, fingerboard, and TRX kit. Access to outdoor climbing preferred, but not required.

Download the Beastmaker fingerboard app. It’s an excellent way to time your fingerboard workouts (use the custom timer).
The Rock Prodigy Training Logbook has an excellent form for recording your fingerboard workouts.

Trying Hard: A common skill amongst advanced and expert climbers is the ability to try really hard! This is a trained skill, and cannot be underestimated. In order for you to get the most out of this training cycle it’s important that you give everything; particularly during the FBR, FMH, CB, LBC, and PE workouts. Also bring this effort to your ORC sessions. Over time trying hard will become habit, and translate into long term performance gains.

Workout Timing: I have labeled workouts with am or pm when timing is important. The aim of this is to spread the load, maximize rest time, and increase workout quality.  The plan will still work if you are unable to spread the workouts out as prescribed, but will likely be somewhat less effective. Skip optional workouts first whenever time constraints are an issue. Swap Saturday and Sunday workouts to take advantage of better weather for outdoor climbing, but only do this when absolutely necessary.

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Thanks for becoming an #uphillathlete

–Josh Wharton

Sample Workouts

Continuous Climbing (CC), Footwork

4 routes
7 minutes climbing
7 minute rest


Footwork Focus:

Work on placing your feet quietly on the wall. Make sure your foot finds the right position the first time, do not hop or “bat” your foot into place, or “test” the foothold. Practice putting maximum pressure into your feet, and minimum grip into the hand holds. Choose a very easy low angle route as one of your climbs. Practice climbing this route with only palms to the wall. Do the route with only one hand. Do the route with clinched fists.

Continuous Climbing (CC):

This workout is meant to increase aerobic capacity, and an excellent opportunity to work on climbing specific skill acquisition, such as footwork, pacing, and body position. An auto belay, or a Treadwall, are very useful tools for this workout, particularly if you don’t have a training partner. The goal is to generate a very light forearm pump. If you are failing the routes are too hard. You may shake, and rest on route as needed.

Choose X number of routes, six to eight grades below you on-sight level, and no more than fifteen degrees overhanging.

Climb continuously up and down the route for X minutes, and then rest for X minutes. Move to the next route and repeat.

If you don’t have a partner, auto belay, or Treadwall you can accomplish the same workout by climbing loops on a bouldering wall.

In some of the workouts I will note what skill I’d like you to work on while climbing. The key is to be mindful and thoughtful in your approach. Lots of climbing mileage will obviously increase your climbing skill set, but doing mileage with intention, and a practice mindset, will improve that skill set more quickly.


Optional Aerobic Exercise (OAE)

Do this workout in the am.

20 to 30 minutes of easy jogging, or 30 to 40 minutes of brisk walking. In my opinion trail running or walking, on variable terrain causes less wear and tear on the body than running on pavement, and has useful crossover to climbing approaches, so choose to do this workout on trails if possible. Be sure to do these workouts if weight is an issue in your climbing. Keep things very light during these workouts. They should not effect the quality of your climbing specific training.

Optional Yoga for Flexibility (OYFF)

Do this workout in the pm.

This is an important workout if you think flexibility is a limiting factor in your climbing. If you climb at areas with low angle to vertical terrain, and/or lots of stemming be sure to do these workouts. Hip turnout, lower back flexibility, and shoulder mobility, are the most critical elements in climbing related flexibility. There are many free Yoga routines to follow online. Here are two quality examples: