Archive for the ‘Physical training’ Category

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…)

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

Program Design for climbing Part 4

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011
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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. (more…)

Program Design for Climbing Part 3

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011
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Sport-Specific Training continued / Handgrip Exercisers

By Douglas Hunter

In part 2 I listed three basic criteria for specificity: (more…)

Training for Trad

Monday, October 10th, 2011
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I received this email last week asking for help in putting together a program for trad climbers. Here’s the inquiry:

“I have found your SCC book to be a clear and powerful resource for improving my gym and sport climbing.  However, when it comes to adapting the training to trad climbing, I find myself guessing. (more…)

Anaerobic Endurance inquiry

Thursday, September 29th, 2011
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I received this email today:

A site visitor has submitted an inquiry from the Contact page:

Dan and Doug,
I’m using your book Self Coached Climber to plan some anaerobic workouts at my local gym and was wondering if you provide me with some additional details on Activity 34, Roped Laps.
1. You start off describing three ways to incorporate roped laps (warm up, cool down, anaerobic training)followed by a recommendation of 6 laps for lapping down (which I assume is cool down). What number of laps do you recommend for the anaerobic training?
2. You outline a guideline of 2-2.5 minutes for short route laps and 3-5 minutes for long route laps. Are these durations just for the climbing or for the climbing AND the resting? How do you determine the duration of the rest?
3. We tried to do a roped lap workout earlier this week, choosing a 5.9 on a 25 foot wall, aiming to stay on the wall for 2.5 minutes (it ended up being two laps up two laps down without touching the ground), then a rest roughly 30 seconds less than how long the climb ended up being. We did six laps of this and found it pretty difficult (we ended up down climbing a 5.7 on the same wall). Did we follow the exercise as you outlined? What would you suggest we do differently?
PS – Loved your book. Already purchased your latest. (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…)

Physical Training for Climbing

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010
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Many of you are familiar with our philosophy of climbing performance improvement, namely that movement skill is at least as important, and probably more so for most of us, as increasing strength and endurance. Strength and endurance are important, but without the proper use of improved physical conditioning through efficient movement the effect on your climbing performance can be minimal. It is the application of strength and endurance to refined movement which produces optimal performance. The point here is that you ignore movement skill at your peril; I’ll lay out the basics for physical conditioning in this entry but ask that you not turn your back on refining movement as you pursue improvements to your conditioning.

There are three distinct areas of physical conditioning: maximum strength, endurance, and stamina. To improve each requires specific exercises that tax and improve particular aspects of our muscle structure. I’ll examine each and give you the basic exercise for improvement. Details, of course, are available in The Self Coached Climber. (more…)

How Can I Improve My Finger Strength?

Friday, March 5th, 2010
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This common refrain can be heard at all ability levels in the climbing community, but it’s not really the question that should be asked. As any climber will be happy to tell you, the reason they fall off is typically that their fingers no longer have enough strength to maintain a position on the wall. And although finger strength and endurance are the easiest culprit to point a finger (pun intended) at, they are not necessarily the proximate cause of failure.

Why? Because climbing is not purely a strength sport. Imagine this: You don’t know how to swim so you take yourself to the pool to learn. At your first lesson you get in waist deep water and your instructor tells you to swim across the pool which you dutifully attempt to do. At the other side your shoulders burn from the effort yet for all your work you only made it a few yards. Is the problem that your shoulders aren’t strong enough? Clearly they’re tired. It’d be easy to place the blame on those overworked muscles, but are they really the underlying reason for your (lack of) performance?

Of course not. Any six year old with a decent stroke will out swim you and do so with seemingly no effort. Your problem is not with your aching shoulders but with your movement technique, called a stroke in swimming. The inefficiency of your stroke is what causes your shoulders to tire. Now you can bet that Michael Phelps’ shoulders are well developed and that they tire during a workout or race, but underlying Mr. Phelps prowess is a super efficient stroke that allows every bit effort to be translated into forward motion.

So what’s the real question climbers, and especially new climbers, should be asking? It’s not how can I increase my finger strength but rather how can I improve my movement skills??!! And that, my friends, is the basic premise behind our philosophy of climbing performance improvement. Work on movement first and even at the upper levels of our sport where strength training has its place, movement efficiency is paramount to climbing to your potential.

Of course, improving your movements skills is easier said than done primarily because there are so few places in which it’s taught or, if it is offered, taught properly. Climbers typically learn movement by emulating others, a sometimes dubious and counterproductive activity depending on who and what is being emulated. Emulation is usually what’s available, but someone else’s habits may not work productively for you.

So, how would you go about learning effective and efficient climbing movement skills? Skilled instructors are one method if available or they can be learned on your own by way of text, photos, and video which, of course, is what we hoped to accomplish by writing The Self Coached Climber. We’ll be discussing some of these skills in upcoming installments so stay tuned. For now, change your mindset from “My fingers are weak” to “My movement needs improvement.”


Tuesday, September 1st, 2009
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In 1999 I was a fit and focused climber. I was bouldering well and redpointing at a high level but I was frustrated by one aspect of my climbing. I couldn’t improve my on-sight. While I had enough power endurance for short durations of difficult moves, I was poorly trained to handle the much longer durations of difficult climbing necessary to on-sight above my limit. To amp up my on-sight, I needed to raise my anaerobic threshold.

Two separate systems, the aerobic and the anaerobic, produce all the energy muscles consume. The system that predominates at any moment is determined by movement intensity. With easier climbing, all muscular energy is produced using oxygen.

As intensity increases (the climbing becomes more difficult), your body cannot supply oxygen fast enough to sustain the workload. Above this point, the anaerobic system kicks in. Your “anaerobic threshold” defines the intensity level at which the production of lactic acid, by the anaerobic system, is greater than its removal.

Climbing above your threshold brings about an accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles, which causes your forearms to burn and feel pumped. Lactic acid limits the time you can continue climbing before muscle failure—the more difficult the climbing relative to your maximum contraction, the faster you pump out.

The good news is that both the aerobic and anaerobic systems can be improved with proper training. You can raise the intensity of climbing at which you begin to get a pump with aerobic conditioning, and you can climb longer after a pump sets in with anaerobic training.

Next installment: Continuous Climbing Training