Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Tactics and the Mistakes We Don’t Know We Are Making

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012
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A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to climb with, and observe a climber in his 20’s who is currently working his way through the 5.11 grade. One of the climbs we were on together was a 5.11d, a grade he had not yet successfully climbed. On his first attempt he essentially tried to flash the route and fell at the crux. He hung on the rope for a minute then tried the crux again; and again he fell. After another rest he tried again, and fell again. He repeated this pattern several times before getting through the crux.  Higher on the route he took a large fall because he climbed past the obvious clipping position and attempted to clip from a far less stable position with his feet five or six feet above the last bolt.  He left the crag that day without doing the route, without learning much about the route, and with his cage rattled due to a big fall. (more…)

A Break From Climbing?

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011
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Every year I take the month of December off from climbing, but a hectic holiday schedule (why does everyone wait until December to throw a party?) is not the only reason to break. Overtraining can take a toll both physically and mentally – you might need an extended break if you’re experiencing some or all of these signs: (more…)

Program Design for Climbing Part 5: Efficiency

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011
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by Douglas Hunter

Efficiency can be thought of as addressing the question of what is the minimum amount of work an athlete needs to do in order to achieve the desired performance goals. Efficiency also means how well structured your climbing / training time is, in the short, medium and long term. (more…)

Case Study: Climber X part 3

Thursday, November 17th, 2011
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The goal of our last working session was to piece together a training plan for X. Before launching into our plan, let’s summarize what we discovered the two previous days. First, X’s strengths are

  • Physical: stamina
  • Movement: turning
  • Hold type: crimps
  • Solid route pyramid topping out at 11d

Case Study: Climber X

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011
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I received an email recently from a Canadian who wanted a hands-on assessment and assistance creating an improvement plan. We arranged a visit to my humble facility in central Virginia, and he arrived yesterday. I thought it might be instructive for many of us if I blogged about this real world example of how you might go about assessing your abilities, conjuring a goal, and then putting an improvement plan together. Climber X is here for the week so follow along as I dig into his abilities and desires and then help him plot a course for success. (more…)

Climbing as Fitness

Monday, January 3rd, 2011
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To Climb is Sublime

Do you find “working out” unpleasant? You know you should do it, all the experts say so. Problem is, working out is just that – work. Treadmills, elliptical trainers, weight machines or the latest P90X system can be beneficial if you can stick with them, but therein lays the issue. They’re just downright boring. In addition these one-person-to-a-machine workouts tend to isolate individuals from their friends, each intent on his or her own little workout world. The Mayo Clinic recommends keeping exercise fun and joining forces with friends to maintain a consistent exercise program.1


What if there was a way for you get the fitness workout you need while at the same time being fully engaged mentally and physically. And what if that same activity included social interaction with people like you in a supportive atmosphere? What if there was a great company that could offer you such a service? You’d have to take a look, wouldn’t you?

Climbing to the Rescue!

We’ve been teaching rock climbing indoors for almost 20 years, and we’ve seen the value of a climbing fitness program first hand. Toned physiques are a common result and all the while you’ve had fun getting there! Quite a different picture from how we normally perceive working out, isn’t it? And that’s just what we deliver – a fun workout that will challenge your mental and physical abilities no matter what your climbing level while you socialize with your friends. (more…)

Climbing Improvement: 7 Tips to Move Your Climbing in the Right Direction

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010
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How best to climb like Dave?

What’s the best way to improve? I’m often asked this question by those new to climbing, and the answer can sometimes elicit a look of puzzlement due to its simplicity and lack of sexy exercises. It’s sometimes surprising to learn that you can climb well without ever suffering on climbing specific workout equipment. Here are a few tips for getting your improvement program moving in the right direction.

Tip #1: You’ve got to spend time on the wall practicing the right things. It’s impossible to improve without putting in the time climbing, but it can be unproductive if you practice the wrong things or in the wrong way. Remember that your subconscious will place into motor learning any movement that is repetitively performed. So if you practice poor movement that is what you’ll retain and use.

Tip #2: Practice good movement instead of attempting to build strength. This topic was explored in an earlier blog so we won’t go into detail here. Suffice it to say that as a newer climber the root of your climbing performance issues is not a lack of strength but rather the inability to move well.

Tip #3: Find a good movement program with experienced instructors. This is trickier. How can you know if the movement programs offered at your local gym are first-class? Look for a progression from using your feet well to turning to more advanced topics. Make sure there is plenty of practice time built into the program and that the instructors are at least good climbers (5.12) themselves.

Tip #4: In the beginning spend the majority of your time learning to place and use your feet. We can’t overemphasize this skill. It is foundational in climbing movement and without it you’re left pawing at the wall trying to gain any kind of purchase. Put in the time practicing the silent foot exercise until you can quickly locate and efficiently use the footholds presented.

Tip #5: Learn to turn. Although sometimes thought of as an advanced movement skill, we believe turning should be learned early in a climber’s career. The ability to turn a hip into the wall can greatly improve your leverage and increase your reach. After learning to use your feet, turning is the next skill to acquire. Use the line and flag exercise until you can ascend an easy wall without hesitating.

Tip #6: Build strength through bouldering. The best way to improve your strength is not to do sets of pull ups or follow a weight lifting regimen, but rather to boulder. Bouldering allows you to repeatedly work difficult moves thereby improving not only muscle strength but the refined movement skills required as well. Climbing requires strength to be applied within the context of precise movement, and strength developed without movement skill is wasted.

Tip #7: Build endurance through routes. There’s a theme here – can you catch it? Yep, the best way to improve your climbing is to climb. Gain endurance through long continuous climbing sessions or doing laps on routes.

I read a study years ago conducted by the Nautilus Corporation, the folks who make Nautilus weight lifting equipment. They wanted to test whether cross training was a useful activity for improving performance so they had runners train by bicycling and bicyclists train by running, two similar aerobic endurance sports. The conclusion was that although some improvement was noted for the cross trained athletes, those in the control groups that stuck with their respective sports improved far more. Now if cross training in similar sports is relatively unproductive, I think we can safely say that doing pull-ups or lifting weights will not help you improve as much as simply climbing.

These and many other exercises along with the background theory and practical applications can be found in The Self Coached Climber.

Tape & Sequences: The Art of Route Setting

Sunday, April 4th, 2010
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What trickery awaits you?

To the novice holds may appear randomly placed to be used in more or less the same manner: hands pull straight down and feet stand on the big toe. More advanced climbers know that route setters are devious creatures bent on forcing certain movements and tricking the climber into dead ends. Unraveling these puzzles can be either one of the most satisfying of climbing activities or one of the most frustrating.

So, how do skilled route setters go about setting a route? Step 1 is usually to determine a grade target and, less commonly, a specific movement goal provided by the gym owner or manager. The setter’s job is to establish a new route of that grade that may also include a certain movement sequence on a specific section of climbing wall utilizing holds on hand.

Step 2 is developing a general idea of the route’s character. For example, the setter may decide on a continuous route with no real crux (the section of the route that is obviously most difficult) or a route with all slopers or sequences designed to force heel hooks. He may opt for a crux section high on the route or low, or he might attempt to mimic an outdoor climb with which he’s familiar. (more…)