Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Training FUBAR

This is a rant. You're warned. There is so, so, so much shit regarding training for climbing. One could argue that most people think they are training for climbing when they go climb, but mostly this activity has more social and entertainment components than athletic.

I want to talk about supplemental strength training for climbing. To define what I mean, I'm discussing non-climbing, supplemental training that is done in periods in addition to climbing specific training. The goal of this training is to 1) increase raw strength, 2) gain muscle mass (ideally while loosing body fat), 3) deal with personal mobility issues, and 4) re-hab and/or prevent injuries.

This is the work out I did this morning:

1. Warm up with mobility & movement: free-form of pvc complex, pvc presses, shoulder dislocates, kettle bell & sand bag carries, dumb bell waiter walks, air squats, pvc overhead squats, kettle bell dead lifts, round-the-world, & goblet squats - about ten to fifteen minutes of continuous movement

2. Strength: 10 sets of 3 pull ups with 25kg. additional weight
Metabolic conditioning: 20 kettle bell swings @ 24kg - 3 weighted pull ups @ 5kg (5 rounds)

3. Strength: 20 weighted push ups @ 15kg - 12 goblet squats with 2X25kg dumb bells (5 rounds)
Metabolic conditioning: 25 kettle bell swings @ 24kg - 5 pull ups (four rounds)

4. Cool down: 10 dumb bell power cleans @ 2X20kg - waiter walks with 24kg kettle bell (3 rounds)

In between the work sets (those written above) I did some "warm up" moves at a lighter weight, or played around a bit with weighted step ups, snatches, sand bag hinges, etc., whatever came to mind and seemed appropriate.

Total volume of the working sets reads at 65 pull ups, 100 push ups, 60 squats, 200 kettle bell swings. I did all of the body movements on pulling, squatting, hinging and pushing. The focus of this strength work out was obviously pulling. I was finished in about an hour and fifteen minutes. I will do a second bouldering session later in the day.

The work out addresses the four points I noted at the beginning of the post. I focused on pulling strength on this work out. My next supplemental strength workout will focus more on pressing movements. Kettle bell swings create powerful hip-hinge and drive movements that are essential for dynamic movement in climbing. Push ups are very important for me because they stress the chest and shoulder girdle, counter act the overuse of all the pulling while climbing, and are at a relatively high amount of reps so I don't add too much bulk on my chest. Goblet squats with dumbbells are a great for stressing the core, and done at full range of motion, are great for hip flexibility under load. The finishing movements of power cleans and waiter walks are power movements and stability work for the shoulders.

Most people, or the common beliefs are, to go to a fitness studio and do the various machines to work your biceps, quadriceps, pectorals, hamstrings, etc. This is the body-part, train muscles in isolation, poor imitation of body builder-type training that does not work for an athlete that climbs. There are so many things wrong with this style of training: the body is one piece - so train the whole body. Muscles do not work in isolation. There is no transference to climbing. Lastly, this style of training with machines does not address the four reasons of doing supplemental training in the first place.

It is FUBAR that this is what the fitness industry is selling us.

Train smart
Train hard.
Don't train like everyone else.
You want to be better then everyone else, don't you?


  1. Sounds really interesting, hopefully you will write some more training blogs.

    Would you recommend to do such training even if you´re new to climbing and haven´t much experience with it?

    Lg Harry

  2. Hi Harry, thanks for your comment. I am planning on writing more about training. I want to write more on sport climbing specific training while I am in Kalymnos this summer.

    I am assuming that you maybe new to climbing but want to get better as a climber. If this is so, then just climbing three to four times a week is just what you need. Supplemental training for climbing makes sense once you are climbing at 7a+/7b level.

    Climbing is such a movement and technique specific sport that a beginner needs a lot of time catalogue various movements and refine technique by practicing on lots of different styles of climbs.