Program Design for climbing Part 4

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Sport-specific training: Evaluating Climbing Activities

By Douglas Hunter

In the past few posts I’ve given basic theory with only one analysis.  So here is an invitation to more pragmatic analysis that we can do together. Below are links to three videos of activities that are said to be good training for rock climbing. Thinking only in terms of sport-specificity lets all take a look at each video and discuss our various opinions of each. Are they sport-specific (matching all three basic criteria), Quazi-Specific (matching one or two of the criteria, or non-specific, (matching none of the criteria). Describe the reasons behind your thinking, and also any questions or problems that you see in the videos or our three basic criteria.  We will let the readers go first and then Dan and I will describe what we see. Don’t worry this isn’t a test, no one will be graded or flamed!  Have fun! I look forward to seeing what you have to say.

5 Responses to “Program Design for climbing Part 4”

  1. WesNo Gravatar says:

    1. is non specific. There are no climbs that I do that involve a hold like a towel. Wait this will help my boing-up ability! Would that be an OK routine for some non primary, supplemental training? Or no?
    2. same. Might replicate a tufa? if it wasn’t so flexy like a rope. And I would have my feet on.
    3. quazi-specific. Holds are more representative of what you might climb on. I usually have my feet on but I need them! This guy obviously doesn’t!

  2. GupNo Gravatar says:

    1. Non-specific. There are no holds in climbing that require us to hold something soft like a towel and where hand closes like a fist. The orientation of the hand is also wrong, we don’t climb with our fist pointing forward. Usually are palms are facing forward and sometimes facing up (undercling). The movement of the body is also wrong, unless you are campusing when you climb.

    2. Non-specific. We don’t rocks with your hand clinched like that and the orientation is wrong. Also the hands are very close to your abs, chest and face, which doesn’t really happen in climbing. The movement of the body in this one is also wrong, unless you are climbing a rock the shape of a pole and plan to campus it.

    3. Quazi -specific. The orientation and shape of the hold are in the right position. This would stimulate open hand edges, or crimps if you decide to crimp. Its also more isometric as holds don’t flex like videos 1 and 2. While this is systematic and will train that hand grip and movement to failure, it has no variety. You will only train that hold size and movement which would be good if you were doing a problem that requires campusing edges. The movement is off because there are no feet. Training this wall will cause you to only focus on the hands and not your feet. This could prove to be detrimental to your overall body movement if you ingrain this into your mind and forget about your feet. I would only use this training technique in moderation and if I wanted raw finger and pull up strength. I like the idea of training one hold and movement to train it to failure but it doesn’t really provide more than just raw power when transferring over to real climbing.

    Overall, I these 3 videos lack feet, which is very important for climbing. It won’t be climbing specific unless there are feet because we climb with feet. Some say that exercises are not intense enough when feet are used, but I think you can change this by adding weight, changing the angle of the wall or using smaller holds.

  3. Dave SandelNo Gravatar says:

    1. Quazi
    2. Quazi
    3. Specific – but only specific to non-crimped, open edges.

    Anything that is not specific or contra-specific (opposite/antagonist/etc.) is “quazi”. Although the hand positions in the 1st two are not specific to climbing, the joint position of the arms and core, are. At the same time, the hands and fingers are not building specific strength, but they are building general strength.

  4. DouglasNo Gravatar says:

    So sorry for my slow reply here. I went out of town for a shoot and it totally messed up my blogging schedule. I dig the comments you guys. Good stuff, clearly I needed to have used some more challenging examples.

    Wes, I loved your mention of boinging! As for the question of using such techniques as supplemental training, I would use a finger board long before the towel training. The thing about isometric training is that the strength gains are really seen within 15 degrees of the joint angle used in the exercise. The joint angles found in the Proximal Interphangeal Joint in climbing (as an example) seem to me to fall within a roughly 90 degree range, so I think the use of crimpers, slopers, open crimps and pinches on a finger board would be a far more efficient way to train for face climbers. For crack climbers a similar method can be used in home made adjustable “crack machines.”

    Gup your analysis of #3 is really good as is your comment about feet.

    Dave, I think your comments reveal something about the limits of the use of the idea of specificity to climbing. Your comment about the joint position of the arms and core deserves some attention. In essence I agree, but also think that this may be where applying the idea of specificity to climbing becomes as much art as science. In my observations of more advanced boulderers what I see is that in a single move the elbow joint can be seen to flex in the first part of the move and then extend as the COG rises. I also suspect that the triceps, the biceps brachii and the bicep work together to stabilize the elbow joint during climbing moves. But I admit that this depends on the distance between the holds. the closer the holds are together the less likely elbow extension is to occur. The farther apart the holds are its more likely that we will see elbow flexion, followed by extension. Or so my observations suggest. All this is to ask. Is an activity specific if it simulates only part of a climbing move? even if it simulates that part of the move pretty well? I’m open to suggestions. Can an activity be sport-specific for one type of climbing but not others? Yes, this must be the case.

    Really appreciate your analysis guys they all had good points. Any additional thoughts you have are welcome. Its really great to have readers who can do good analysis!

  5. Geoff BrennanNo Gravatar says:

    Recently I came across an interesting series of training article on about training. One idea that they refreshed in my mind was that of doing Lockoffs for 3 seconds, as a way of enhancing training and challenging a climbers sense of balance in workouts.
    My first thought was this would make a great addition to my training regime, as it takes bouldering and makes it slower (and hence more like route climbing). However, after a little more thinking it seemed like a rather arbitrary non-specific point to be attempting to enhance. So my question is how much do you and your readers think lock-offs are sport specific or are they quazi specific.
    Also how about Frenchies? I’d guess that they are considered quisi specific like the hangboard.

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