Program Design for Climbing Part 1

No Gravatar

Aspects of Program Design
By Douglas Hunter

Dan has been working single handed on the blog for a while but with the publication of Redpoint this month I figure that I have been slacking long enough and am going to start regular contributions. I plan on doing something each week, I’ll be using text, audio and video. I will also look for ways to include readers as well.

The very first topic I want to address is one that is important to everyone who engages in any sort of training, it’s called program design. In a nutshell, program design is determining what training activities to use, how to best use them and when to use them, thus creating a training schedule crafted to meet performance goals in the short, mid and long term. Program design is something that Dan and I have written about, as have Neuman and Goddard among others, it’s a bread and butter issue for climbing coaches, professional climbers, climbing team managers, and its essential for climbers working on their own to improve. Despite its central importance, program design is an area that has been ignored by the sport scientists that study climbing, and it’s an issues that is poorly understood in the coaching and climbing communities.

Its common that when the issue of training, that is program design, comes up two ideas are expressed. There are those who say “just climb” and there are others for whom “training” means weight lifting, finger board work, campusing and so on. Both of these are very crude ways of thinking about program design, and both are examples of long standing ideological positions within the climbing community but neither reflects a good understanding of program design and how it works.

Good program design does the following:
1) Understands the proper uses of, and difference between training activities and how to organize them into primary and supplemental activities; between sport specific and more general activities, and conditioning.
2) Develops and refine the essential skills that are the basis of performance in the sport.
3) Is efficient, it should produce the largest possible performance gains with as little effort as possible. This might seem counter intuitive, after all we are supposed to work hard when training, right? Yes, working hard is essential to training but the question is, how much work is needed to make a specific gain? You shouldn’t work any longer or harder than necessary at each step of your training program.
4) Is as simple as possible; this is especially true for programs designed for climbers new to training. As a general rule complexity is harder to manage day to day, can take longer to provide results, and can be confusing. It’s often difficult to tell what part, or parts of a complex program are working and which are not. This is not a call to over simplify, it’s a call to only make things as complex as they need to be.
5) Treats the whole athlete- training programs for climbing need to address all aspects of the climbing experience, and all aspects of the fitness and movement demands necessary to meet the climber’s goals. As an example, just training for conditioning would be to ignore many skills involved in climbing that are central to performance.
6) Provides enough rest and minimize the likelihood of injury. While it may not be possible to actually prevent injuries, the amount of rest and when that rest is provided is a central consideration for the climber’s health. Other considerations include the quality and duration of warm-ups and cool downs, and stretching programs, among others.
7) Uses methods that are measurable in terms of climbing performance level. This is important because most of what is mentioned in the first five points can’t be done without measuring progress in a way that relates to climbing performance. Since we measure climbing achievement in terms of the grade a climber can flash or red point then the training methods we use must be measureable in those terms. If they aren’t we have no way of knowing if, how or why a program is or is not creating results.

Now that these seven points are laid out I’ll go into each in more detail in the next few posts. Starting with several posts on the idea of Sport-Specific training.

Tags: , , , , ,

One Response to “Program Design for Climbing Part 1”

  1. DouglasNo Gravatar says:

    Sorry about the formatting folks we are working on fixing it.

Leave a Reply