I was away from the barbell since mid-december due to a shoulder injury (no MRI but assumed cuff, ac joint issues).  If the problem persists, then I will get an MRI.  


I have used the past 8 wks to drop weight, actually about 23#s, to my current 5'10" 220#.  I've achieved this weight loss with a combination of elliptical, walks w/ 25# pack, rowing machine and primarily focusing on nutrition.  


I'd like to keep the trend of weightloss (even at the expense of muscle) because I believe my ideal weight is around 205#.  I will continue to focus on nutrition as I think this is extremely important, but I'm ready to get off the machine and back to more functional fitness.  


I don't think I'm quite ready to return to the base fitness program.  One I'm still trying to ease my shoulder back into action.  Two I want to keep dropping weight before I begin to focus on building muscle.  I have been looking at the stamina and bodyweight training programs to achieve this goal.  However, one piece of equipment that I would like to use again is the sandbag.  


To summarize, my primary goal is to keep dropping weight so that I'm lighter and faster before I focus on becoming stronger.  I am somewhat hampered by a shoulder that needs careful attention, as well as chronic calf/achilles issues that I am addressing with PT and switching between running and rowing.  


Let me know what you think.  


– T



I'm not sure I have a plan for you – esp. with your running/calf issue. One you could try to continue to allow your shoulder to heal is the 1-Arm Plan:


Our Sandbag/Weightvest/Dumbbell Training plan on the Military Athlete side ( is sandbag intensive – but also includes plenty of running, etc. – which would impact your calf. 


Your concern about avoiding training to continue losing weight is misplaced. With the exception of our hypertrophy training plan, none of the stuff we have is designed to increase mass on guys. 80% of weight/bodyfat is diet-related. Continue to fix you're diet, and start training. 


– R






I'm looking for a training program that will get me ready to do the JMT in under 4 days(long shot attempt at the unsupported FKT which is about 3.5 days).


I have hiked it in under 7 days in 2012 (going north to south, which is harder), and this past October I started at Whitney Portal and did the first 48 miles (and about 10K feet elevation gain) in about 20 hours, with a 22 lb pack. I was pretty worked after that day so i bailed the next day. I want to be able to do 3-4 days in a row of 50-60 miles with a 20 lb pack and tons of elevation gain/loss. I haven't run many races, but i've done some long days in the mountains over the years.


I'm planning to try again this July/August and have been training kind of sporadically since January, mostly with long trail runs or backcountry skiing on the weekends, and basic weight training/bodyweight excercises and rock climbing in the gym 2-3 days during the week. I have a pretty good base of strength and endurance, but feel like I need more structure and volume. I have a fully functional garage gym and access to a large climbing gym with all the usual equipment. Used to do a lot of crossfit a few years ago so I'm familiar with the moves and intensity. I'm 6' 160 and 41 years old.


Any suggestions on how to plan my training would be much appreciated. I'm not sure which program to start with or if there is something specifically designed for this…




– A




We don't have a perfect training plan for you. But here are my suggestions


First, start our Ultra Pre-Season Training Plan now: All the running prescribed in the plan should be completed with the pack/loading you expect to carry during your JMT attempt. 


This plan includes strength for durability and the pounding you'll take with the elevation gain and drop, and includes running work. 


May 1'ish, you'll want to pull back from the gym work, and really start building daily and weekly mileage. By mid June, you'll want to be working in a weekly 60-65 mile day, and be at 120 mile weeks. All of volume building will be low intensity –  Zone 1-2 mostly. As the event nears, you can get some work in Z3, but too much intensity will overtrain you, even with your training age.


Two weeks out from your attempt, you'll want to start a steep taper – 30 mile, then a 20 mile week directly before your attempt. 


Hope this helps. Good luck!


– Rob





Hi Rob,


A group of friends and I are planning a ~3-week ski mountaineering trip to Alaska in early June, tentatively aimed at the Revelations subrange (but dependent on snow conditions/weather). I was trying to get a general plan together to train for this trip and have been following your programming (base fitness and BC skiing plans) for awhile now. I think the expedition mixed/ice plan would be great given our tentative objectives (nothing super highly technical, but not just walking up slopes either), but I don't have access to a system board I can use my tools on. Would you have another recommendation? Have looked at both the expedition big mountain plan though I imagine I would want to supplement with some upper body work, and the alpine rock plan, though our objectives will likely not include much rock. Just wanted to get your thoughts.



– I



This is a tough one. Here's my suggestions …. 


"Ski Mountaineering" and Ski-accessed mountaineering are two different things. Here in Jackson, I think of Ski Mountaineering as a bunch of skinning, bunch of bootpacking, perhaps a little technical work, then ski down. The bulk of the fitness demand is leg focused, on the uphill. For this, I'd recommend our Backcountry Ski Plan: However, this assumes you aren't skinning, and backcountry skiing now. If you are, focusing on the technical climbing work would be appropriate. 


If your are skinning/bootpacking fit already, working on your technical climbing fitness is what I'd recommend. However, we've found grip and finger training to be mode specific – in other works, the finger/grip strength needed for rock climbing is different than the finger/grip strength needed for ice climbing. You'd think they'd be the same, but we've found they are different – the transfer from one type of fitness isn't direct to the other. If you can find a way to use your tools on a system board, I'd recommend our Expedition Ice/Mixed Training Plan:


If you can't figure out a way to use your tools on a system board, I'd recommend our Alpine Rock Plan:, supplemented with dead hangs on your tools and bunches of figure 4's. The finger/grip fitness from the Alpine Rock plan won't transfer directly to the tools, but there will be some transfer. 


– Rob




To Rob Shaul 


First off I just want to say how incredible Mountain Athlete truly is for Mountain Sport Conditioning. Keep up the great work. 


In coming to write my own periodized plan to the tune of the new mountain fitness model I was stumped. I was wondering if you could provide definitions/ differences for: 



Work Capacity 



I figured that its potentially "classic aerobic" fitness , muscular endurance and some sort of anaerobic/ interval fitness ? 


But truth be told I haven't the foggiest. 


Many Thanks and Happy Adventuring 


– J



Stamina – We use Stamina sessions to train recovery for long mountain events. What we've found is relatively short (5-30 minute) intense work capacity efforts can actually get us fit enough to perform reasonably well for a long mountain event (8-16 hours), but the next day, we are trashed. Our muscles, legs and core especially, simply aren't used to that much volume and can't recover from it. This can be a problem if you have more than one long day in a row. We see that the mountain guides we work with, during the busy summer guiding season here in the Tetons, develop the stamina to do multiple Grand Teton trips in a row, day after day – each trip is a 10 mile or so round trip with around 6,500 feet of vertical gain and loss. The guides develop stamina for long mountain days by doing long mountain days, but this doesn't work for those of us who have to can't simply dedicate 8-10 hours a day to training. So a few years ago we began experimenting with the idea of using the intensity and efficiency of gym training to replicate the volume an athlete suffers during a long mountain day – the goal being to train recovery from this long event. Stamina sessions are our answer – these are the most intense training we do. We use loading and intensity to pack incredible volume onto the body, in relatively short training sessions – 60-120 minutes long. 


Work Capacity – Relatively short (5-30 minute) often multi-modal events designed to train athletes for the most dangerous or crucial times on the mountain. When you're digging out a partner from an avalanche, sprinting down hill to avoid a lightening storm, or sprinting uphill through timber with your rifle to get ahead of a herd bull – it's a work capacity effort. 


Endurance – same definition in the traditional sense, but with a mountain sport accent. We limit our endurance training to step ups or hiking uphill under load, and trail running – the same modes a mountain athlete will likely use in his or her mountain pursuit. 


– Rob





Hey Rob,


I am a professional arborist (tree worker/climber) and I have been interested in your site for some time.


My work involves extensive tree climbing; on ropes, ascenders, climbing spurs and natural features of the trees. We also engage in extensive carrying/throwing/dragging/hauling of brush and logs/firewood over all types of terrain. Climbing and tool operation demand significant grip strength and endurance and the daily demands of the job require a high level of durability and core strength.


I also recently registered with our local volunteer ground Search and Rescue agency and have aspirations to work as a police officer and as such will need to prepare for both my entrance physical readiness test and the fitness demands of the academy and ultimately the job itself should I be successful in my application. I am also interested in technical rope, confined space and swiftwater rescue as well as a variety of outdoor recreation activities and I generally enjoy maintaining a high state of physical preparedness.


I am a 35 year old male, 6’4” 215lbs and reasonably fit and very healthy with a decent background in general athletics including climbing, hiking, swimming, martial arts and various team sports. However for the past year I have not engaged in too much physical activity outside the (often extensive but inconsistent) demands of my work and general low intensity activities such as walking/hiking etc.


I have access to a fully equipped gym, however the idea of a program that could be completed largely from home with minimal equipment is extremely appealing as it seems more likely that I will be able to follow it more consistently. The Hotshot/Smoke Jumper and/or Wildland Firefighter programs both seem like they might fit the bill. Would you agree? Also, are these programs fairly entry level for a healthy, active adult or would I be better served by doing a Base cycle first? Any advice is welcome.


Thanks for your help.


Best regards,





You're case is a tough one. None of the current plans fit you perfectly. I would suggest you focus on preparing now for your work as an Arborist. I agree and think the Wildland Firefighter Plan is the best fit:


Here's the equipment required for this plan: 


 • 25# Dumbbells – men, 15# dumbbells – women

 • 45# Dumbbells for Farmer’s Carry

 • 45# Barbell with two 10# plates.

 • 80# and 60# Sandbag for men, and 60# and 40# Sandbag for women).

Watch this to build one –

 • 16-19” Box, bench, stool or whatever for step ups

 • Watch with second hand or countdown timer (Timex Ironman is best)

 • Pull-up and Dip Bars

 • 5# Ankle weight for Jane Fondas

 • 8-10# Sledgehammer and a tire or log to hit with it.

 • 2.5# Plate for Shoulder Hand Jobs

 • 5’ long 1” PVC pipe for Shoulder Dislocates and Lat + Pec Stretch


If/when you move to Law Enforcement, pls see the plans on my sister site,


– Rob



Hi Rob,


It is very likely I will have to build free-standing system boards in my backyard for the Expedition Mixed/Ice program I recently purchased.


Do you have any advice or designs for this type of board?  I have space for 2-3 boards, which is a plus, but nothing to hang or strap them to.


Also, what is the recommended frequency of training with this program if I want to climb both days on weekends?  I am at the point in my climbing career where learning, training, and pushing my limits on weekend trips is still invaluable.



– S



I'm not a carpenter, but I'm thinking you'll need to plant some posts into the ground, and hang the boards from those – unless your wife allows you to use 2×4's and hang them from the side of your house. 


Weekends – couple things to consider.


1) In general, the gym is an inefficient place to train technique, and the actual rock/ice is an inefficient place to train fitness. Best is to train fitness in the gym, then use it to train technique on the mountain.


2) We use artificial gym training so athletes can perform better outside. If you're tired or sore from gym training when you get outside it defeats the purpose …. so – if you've got a big climbing weekend planned, stay off your tools Friday for sure, and maybe Thursday also. 


– Rob




Our Rock Climbing plan is a focused, short, intense train up designed to prepare an athlete for a week or more of full on climbing – for the climbers here in Jackson – usually a trip to the desert. Because of the relatively short duration, we train climbing specific strength, work capacity and stamina (my terms), concurrently, with equal weight (usually) throughout the plan – and each with it's own progression. 


We've experimented the traditional linear periodization approach to climbing training, and it didn't work for us. One problem with the linear approach is that you can lose all the strength you built up during the strength cycle, as you're working through the 2-3 weeks of the work capacity cycle. Then you can lose the work capacity you built, during the 2-3 weeks of stamina-only work. 


In the past I used to design on-going day to day training sessions for rock climbers – but even then I didn't have success with the strict linear periodization you describe above. I applied my Fluid Periodization in a sport-specific manner for rock climbing, and had success with it. This is training strength, work capacity and stamina concurrently, but with cyclic emphasis. 


Another difference between my approach and Horst's approach is how we determine what is strength, and what its work capacity, etc. Horst uses number of hand movements. I found this very difficult to work with, and instead use time under tension. 


– Rob




I've purchased your rock climbing workout.  I was hoping you might share some thoughts on how your program works differently from others.  I'm not questioning the efficacy of your programs (I've done a few and can attest to the results), but I'm wondering what you've found from having examined the differences between your approach and the approach of others and if you've made any conclusions.  I'm just a guy with limited time, trying to make sense of it all, and I'm not married to any particular approach – I just want to train efficiently with the time I have, and reduce the chance of injuring myself from overtraining.


Most of the other training plans I've examined for rock climbing tend to have separate phases for endurance, strength, power, and power-endurance (or some variation on that theme) usually in that order, with each phase lasting some number of weeks (3-4wks for strength, 2-3 wks for power, and 1-2 wks for power endurance seems to be common).  I've done them this way for a few cycles.  The rationale seems to be: build strength (low reps) over a time period, and then use that added strength to increase the endurance level (higher reps) in subsequent time periods.


Your program seems to hit all, if not most, of these aspects each week, but with a bias toward power and power endurance (work capacity and stamina).  This seems consistent, because I note the same sort of thing in the 357 strength program.  


So, some plans separate strength and endurance, and yours seems to combine them more.  Any thoughts on that? Or have I missed what's really going on?


I realize this might involve a complicated answer, and I'm sure your busy, but I thought I'd ask anyway.


Thanks in advance,

– M


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