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Introduction to Training

So what is “Training”? The Bing Definition of Training[1] is:

  1. Acquiring of skill: the process of teaching or learning a skill or job ( often used before a noun )
  2. Improving of fitness: the process of improving physical fitness by exercise and diet

For a beginner, just going down to your local wall and climbing a couple of times a week constitutes training. At some point though, just going down to the wall and climbing is no longer “training”, as you’re not acquiring new skills nor acquiring greater fitness. This is when the science and art of training really begins.

The science of training in sports other than climbing is well documented across many decades and many different sports/activities, although more recently evidence is gathering that not everyone can expect the same response/benefits from training. The art of training is in understanding how to adapt the scientific findings from other disciplines to climbing and achieving your individual goals. A positive advantage of climbing is that it reduces your risk of injury (Lauersen et al. 2014).

Rockclimbing.com has a great article on training and states :

Training is a pre-meditated routine that is planned intelligently with the hope of attaining some tangible goal. It should be designed deliberately to transform your body towards what ever end you have in mind, then it should draw from the body of knowledge available by using specific exercises to create the gains that are desired.

The bottom line is that training takes work. Correctly planning training takes work as well and is as important as the training itself.

What to Train

Knowing what you're training for (Goals) is key to proper training. Campusing is not going to help you on that gnarly slab any more than an extra pint down the pub (and I know which is more enjoyable to me). A good personal assessment of your current abilities is also important (a good coach can be very helpful in this). This allows you to be aware of the limiting factors in your climbing and attempt to select exercises that address the right needs (Specificity).

Goals

Clearly defining goals helps set up a training program. The more specific the goal the easier it is to set up a program. Think of having a goal of doing a one-arm pullup. You can cut out all of the climbing entirely as it won't really help you to a one-armer. Most climbers have multiple goals, some near-term and some long-term. Using near-term goals to build to a long-term goal is a great way to keep motivation high and know that you're progressing.

Specificity

The principle of specificity basically says that to get better at something, you have to do it. In other words, if you want to be a better climber, you have to climb. No amount of campusing or fingerboarding will make you a better climber if you you don't climb. You may be stronger, but overall you won't be a better climber unless you climb and learn to engage that improved strength or power. That doesn't mean don't campus or fingerboard as a way to get stronger, but it means you have to take the time to learn to enagage the newly developed strength while climbing.

When assessing yourself, think about each aspect of your body in two ways: static and movement. For example, when climbing and you grab a hold, do you fall while engaging the hold, or fall after engaging the hold. When climbing a route do you fail because you can't do a move or because you're too pumped?

Once you identify a weakness, do exercises specific to that weakness.

Power

Campus Boards

Devised and utilised to stunning effect by the late, great Wolfgang Güllich campus boards are great for developing sheer explosive power (BE WARNED its very easy to injure yourself).

There is a good video on Campus Board training from Sean McColl.

Power Endurance

4x4's

Recommended in The Self-Coached Climber.

4 Boulder problems at around your flash limit climbed back-to-back without rests. This is one set - probably adds up to around 25-50 moves - vary depending on what stage of endurance you're working or the specific requirements of your project.

Rest 5-10 mins.

Repeat 3 more times.

4 problems in a row x 4 sets.

Foot-on Campusing

From Steve McClure...

What techniques do you recommend for training Power Endurance?

As a first stage I would suggest the ‘getting really pumped’ method. The key is monitoring the time period. It needs to be about 90 seconds to 120 seconds, from start to failure. The movement needs to be either the same, or on a circuit with absolutely no change in difficulty. This is the problem with circuits, as often it ends up being too easy and then too hard with a fast build-up of fatigue and failure due to being ‘powered out’ rather than pumped.

The campus method has worked very well for me and many others. This must be done with feet on, or it will be too hard and you’ll be bouldering! Feet can be on specific footholds or a chair or whatever. Aim for 3 – 4 reps of this, each taking around 90 – 120 seconds. Rest 5 – 7 minutes in between. The movement should be similar to normal campusing, but with feet on, like rung 1 – rung 4, rung 6 match, then back down again (worth putting in rung 2 on way down to cut out the crux move (dropping 4-1) and so you lead with a different hand each movement)

Anaerobic Capacity

Training to repeatedly endure sequences of hard moves.

An example routine would be:

  • 4 reps of 15 continuously hard moves with 2 minutes rest between reps
  • 3 sets of this with 10 min rest between sets.

Aerobic Capacity (stamina/recovery)

20/10s

Circuits just below onsight limit.

  • One rep consists of 20 moves and then 20 seconds rest followed by 10 moves then 10 secs rest (30 moves).
  • One set normally consists of 4 reps back to back (120 moves).
  • Take 10 min rests between sets and aim for 4 sets in a session.

An obvious tweak would be to take the 10/20 sec rest on the wall by shaking out on jugs.

Technique

Often over-looked as something that you can train, it will however offer the greatest benefits/rewards.

Many have tried to define technique... "Good climbing technique is about moving over the rock economically" The Aaronator "Making the moves as easy as possible" Shark "For me technique encompasses being able to identify and execute the most efficient series of movements to ascend any given configuration of holds." rocksteady

Silent Feet

Easily practiced while warming up (or down) the principles of this training are pretty simple; place your feet on the footholds with as little sound as possible. Nice article here "As your main points of weighted contact, your feet matter. Placing them silently forces you to be deliberate and aware with your choice, placement, and movement onto and off each foothold."

Sticky Hands

Not as rude as it sounds. When you take a hold you are not allowed to re-adjust, your hand must 'stick' in the position you first take the hold in. Again this is aimed at making you think about how you take a hold in advance of moving to the hold. Easily incorporated into warm-up/down.

Other Resources

John Kettle wrote an article for UKC on training technique which can be read here.

Finger-boarding

The hangboard (aka fingerboard) is a popular training tool for climbers, as it addresses the weakest link to the rock: the fingers. Unfortunately, this simple training tool can be misused (or overused) and lead to finger tendon and elbow injuries. You can best avoid this outcome by utilizing a fingerboard as just one part of a good training program, not the cornerstone.

While the large holds of a fingerboard offer an ideal platform for pull-up and lock-off exercises, the focus of this article is use of the board to train grip strength. The genius of a good fingerboard is the multitude of finger positions and grips that it enables you to train. This is especially useful if you are unable to regularly boulder or climb at a commercial gym--why not install at home a fingerboard for some substitute training?

Warming Up for "Board"

Before you engage in any serious training, it's imperative that you perform a progressive warm-up. Begin with a few minutes of light exercise such as jogging around the block or doing fifty jumping jacks. This might seem like a funny way to begin a finger workout, yet it's absolutely vital for elevating your heart rate and core temperature (warm muscles are less likely to be injured). Next, perform a few sub-maximal sets of pull-ups as well as several arm and upper-body stretches. Complete the warm-up with some self-massage of the fingers and forearms muscles--this will further loosen the muscles and enhance blood flow for a great workout. Finally, consider reinforcing the tendons at the base of your fingers with a few tight turns of athletic tape [needs citation].

A thread in the forums asked about how to warm up and there are various suggestions in the replies. One common thing to do is stand on some scales as this provides an accurate indication of the amount of weight you are loading on your fingers during your warm up and you can incrementally increase to full hangs allowing a gradual progression rather than jumping straight into hangs.

Following are two hangboard workouts.

Training Contact Strength with "Repeaters"

Repeaters may be the single best fingerboard regimen as they will build contact strength (i.e. maximum grip strength). One set of repeaters involves a series of ten, maximum-intensity hangs on the same pair of holds. Each hang should last just three to ten seconds each, so you may need to wear a 10-pound weight belt (or use smaller holds) to make this a difficult task. Rest just a five-seconds between each of the ten hangs. The complete set of repeaters should take around two minutes and, of course, lead to a growing forearm pump.

Take a two-minute rest before launching into your next set of ten repeaters. Use a different pair of holds for each set of ten repeaters, beginning with your most "problem" or difficult grips, and then gradually progress to larger holds as you fatigue. It's also good to vary the grip positions trained to spread out the neuromuscular stimulus. For instance, you might begin with shallow two-finger pockets, then progress to small crimps, narrow pinches, small slopers, shallow three-finger pockets, medium crimps, deep two-finger pockets, medium slopers, medium crimps, and large slopers. Therefore, performing one set of repeaters (ten repetitions) for each of these ten grip positions would result in a total of 100 near-maximal contractions--a pretty good finger workout!

This is in essence the Beastmaker.co.uk Fingerboard Workout

Maximum Hangs - The Lopez Protocol

Max Hangs: Maximum hang training is pretty much as simple as it sounds. Warm-up, then do fingerboard hangs that are at your maximum with enough rest between hangs for full recovery. Many different versions of this have been done, and the key is to create a structured, repeatable and measurable program. One such structured protocol for this was espoused by Mrs. Eva Lopez and been dubbed The Lopez Protocol. Cobbled together from various posts on her blog, the following protocol seems to be what she espouses.


Pre-requisites:

1. You've been climbing for more than 2 years

2. You can hang an 18mm edge for at least 35 seconds


If you meet these pre-requisites, then the next step is to test how much weight you can add to reach a maximum hang time of 13 seconds on a 14-20mm edge (choose based on your ability).


The workout:

Warm-up 10-15min

  • Warm up Moving the joints of upper body, shoulders, elbows, neck and fingers.
  • Following with 2-3 easy traverses for 2 to 5 minutes.
  • Followed by 2-3 boulder problems with increasing difficulty; or several progressive sets on easy holds of the hangboard if you are at home


Progressive sets: 10-15min

  • Hang 10 sec with 40-50% of the total added weight. 3-4 min rest.
  • Hang 10 sec with 80% of the total added weight. 3-4 min rest.
  • Hang 10 sec with 90% of the total added weight. 3-4 min rest.


Main Workout: 10-20min

  • Hang 10 sec with max weight. 3-4 min rest.
  • Repeat 2-4 more times.


That’s all – This workout takes in general 30-45 minutes total from start to finish.

The day before is always a rest day for fingers and pulling muscles. It is OK to climb or train other aspects than max finger strength later that day, or the next day.

Core

Core in this context refers to the trunk of your body and is an area that is key to climbing steep ground since it holds the arms and legs together. Whilst some activities (e.g. fingerboarding) will engage the muscles within your core (noticeable when starting a finger-board routine) its not specific enough to target the muscle groups in isolation.

Core Exercises

To begin with conduct all exercises from a pull-up bar or large jugs that can be held easily.

  • Leg raises - Hang from the bar and raise your legs, ideally with them straight, but if you can manage that at first bend your knees. Aim to achieve leg raises with your legs straight though. If you struggle even with bent knees then start by lying on the ground with your body straight and raise your legs 12-16" off the ground and hold for as long as possible, gradually increasing the length of time as you improve.
  • Windscreen Wipers - Do a pull up, raise your legs up to level with your face (keeping them straight) then rotate your feet 90 degrees to one side, then 180 degrees to the other.


On Steep Boards

  • Work feet down - One suggestion made by UKB user dunnyg was to hang on a steep board with your feet high then gradually move them down, trying to keep them in contact with the footholds. If your feet don't come off use smaller holds and work/fight to keep your feet on when they come off.



Flexibility

Being flexible will certainly help your climbing as it increases the range of movement available so if you are finding flexibility is a draw-back to your climbing then consider spending some time stretching or perhaps yoga classes (several world class climbers advocate yoga, including Chris Sharma see also a more recent videohere). However, be wary of stretching right before climbing or training as recent evidence (Gregley 2013; Simic et al. 2013) demonstrates that pre-exercise stretching is actually counter-productive.

A couple of links, one from Ned Feehally of Beastmaker renown and one from Rich Simpson, on training flexibility are provided below (see Links - Flexibility).


Systems Training

System training utilises very specific holds/movements, often with symmetrical set-ups so that both sides of the body can be trained evenly.

Recovery

One relatively small study on muscle-soreness showed that there is no benefit to warming down to this aspect of recovery (Law and Herbery 2007). However a different small study (Watts et al 2000) showed that active rest (gentle cycling) significantly reduced lactate after 20 minutes compared to passive rest after climbing, although no assessment was made as to whether this had any impact on subsequent climbing performance.

Diaries

When training it is useful to keep a diary of your activities so that you can record what you have done, tally it against what you had planned to do and see how it affects your overall performance. There are many ways of keeping a diary, book & pen works for many, but then when it comes to summarising and reviewing your diary it can be rather tedious. In this day and age with computers being so pervasive the sensible solution would be to use a database to collate the information and then analyse it using various graphs, and tables of summary statistics.

Klimb

A tweaked version of this wikipedia:Java based application can be downloaded here, note that you must already have the original version installed, this can be found here. For some information on how to use it see this thread.


UKBenchmarking

UKB user rich d asked Would there be any value in trying to benchmark feats of strength etc against worked grade and in response slackline set up a survey (for discussion see this thread). Whilst analysis is not yet complete interim results, along with some background information from the literature, the intended analysis and some thoughts on improving the survey are available here. This file will be updated in the future when all described analyses are complete

Full-size copies of all images are available here (although these are a snapshot and there have been additional respondents, so if you want the complete picture look at the PDF).

Home Training Facilities

Building a Woody

Many with limited time find it more convenient to build a small training facility at home than spend time travelling to a wall. This was very popular in Sheffield in the 1980s where the basements of terraces were utilised to great effect. Lots of advice abounds, and there is even a dedicated sub-forum on UKB where others have asked for advice (and received it). A good starting point are the threads there and also this article.

Fingerboard

For those who don't have the luxury of a basement/loft/garage in which to build a training facility mounting a fingerboard over a door frame provides somewhere that simple yet effective training can be performed.


Links

General

Online Climbing Coach (Dave MacLeod)

The Depot Training Blog

Arran Deakin - Principles of Training

The Ideal Gym (Part 1) Details equipment (but not how to use it).

Training for Climbing by Eric Horst A wealth of articles.

Metolious How To Guides - Range of articles on training.


Climbing - Training Articles Series of articles from the US magazine.

Training for Sport Climbing by Alex Barrows

RC UK Articles

RockClimbingUK have kindly shared some of the articles from their archives with UKBouldering. There are more on their site though, so its worth checking out the site yourself.

Nacho Sanchez on his Bouldering Training

Magnus Midtbo on Climbing Training

Steve McClure on Training Power Endurance

Alex Megos on Hard Onsights

James McHaffie on Training for 9a

Mina Leslie-Wujastyk on her Bouldering Training

Tom Randall on his Crack Climbing Training

Pete Robins on Hard Redpointing

Fingerboarding

Beastmaker Training Guides

Beastmaker Fingerboard Article (hosted at ClimbingWorks)

Richard Simpsons Moon Fingerboard Training

Crusher Holds Handout

Neil Greshams Guide to Finger Boarding

Ned Feehally - Fingerboard Training - Beginner

Ned Feehally - Fingerboard Training - Advanced

Eva Lopez Maximum Hangs

System Training

Moon Climbing

Articles by Alex Huber & Neil Gresham

Strength

Wrist Strengthening Exercises (commercial, but contains exercises and instructional videos).

Arran Deakin - Strength and Power

Arran Deakin - How we Get Stronger

Neil Gresham - Body Tension Training

Endurance

Arran Deakin - Endurance (Part 1)

Arran Deakin - Endurance (Part 2)

Technique

Movement Improvement

7 Simple Drills to Improve Footwork and Technique

Flexibility

Ned Feehally - Flexy Madness

Rich Simpson - Flexibility and Stretching Intro


Building a Woody

Backcountry : How To Build your own Basement Boulderin Wall in 10-steps

Pregnancy

A series of blog-posts from Beth Rodden about climbing and pregnancy.

Climbing past my pregnancy Stigma

Climbing Pregnant Month One : How To Listen to your Body

Climbing Pregnant : Robyn Erbesfield-Raboutou Interview

Climbing Pregnant Month 2: Sickness, Heartbeats and a Nikon Photo Shoot

Climbing Pregnant : Lynn Hill Interview

References

  • Draper N, Jones GA, Fryer S, Hodgson C Blackwell1 G (2008) Effect of an on-sight lead on the physiological and psychological responses to rock climbing J Sports Sci Med 7:492-498
  • Draper N, Bird EL, Coleman I, Hodgson C (2006) Effects of active recovery on lactate concentration, heart rate and RPE in climbing J Sports Sci Med 5:97-105
  • Gergley JC. Acute effect of passive static stretching on lower-body strength in moderately trained men. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Apr;27(4):973-7. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318260b7ce. Abstract on PubMed
  • Lauersen JB, Bertelsen DM, Andersen LB (2014) The effectiveness of exercise interventions to prevent sports injuries: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials Br J Sports Med 48:871-877
  • Law RYW, Herbert RD (2007) Warm-up reduces delayed-onset muscle soreness but cool-down does not: a randomised control trial. Aust J Phys Therpay 53:91-95
  • MacLeod D, Sutherland DL, Buntin L, Whitaker A, Aitchison T, Watt I, Bradley J, Grant S. (2007) Physiological determinants of climbing-specific finger endurance and sport rock climbing performance. J Sports Sci 25:1433-43
  • Mermier CM, Jeffrey M Janot1 JM, Parker DL, Swan JG (2000) Physiological and anthropometric determinants of sport climbing performance Br J Sports Med 34:359-365
  • Simic L, Sarabon N, Markovic G. Does pre-exercise static stretching inhibit maximal muscular performance? A meta-analytical review. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2013 Mar;23(2):131-48. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2012.01444.x. Abstract on PubMed
  • Vigouroux L, Quaine F, Labarre-Vila A, Moutet F Estimation of finger muscle tendon tensions and pulley forces during specific sport-climbing grip techniques Journal of Biomechanics 39:2583–2592 doi:10.1016/j.jbiomech.2005.08.027
  • Watts PB, Daggett M, Gallagher P, Wilkins B. (2000) Metabolic response during sport rock climbing and the effects of active versus passive recovery. Int J Sports Med 21:185-90

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