Climbing Motivation: How to Make a Route Pyramid Poster

I have written about route pyramids before, but up until writing this post my own route pyramid was but a pile of rock climbs randomly strewn about my memory bank. However, after being inspired by a couple of close friends who have done the same, I made my own route pyramid come to life.

Inspiration from a couple of friends.

If you’re climber that “doesn’t care about grades” then you’ll want to step away right now, but if progression interests you or if you just like keeping track of things , then stick around. Here is how to make your own Visual Route Pyramid.

Materials

Photo Frame*
1/2″ sticker dots
A print out of this template**
Thin Marker or Pen
Guide Books
Tape (just in case)

*I went to FedEx to print mine because I don’t have a printer and didn’t have access to one at work. I reccomend either 16″x20″ or 18″x24″.
**If you do happen to download this template, it would be lovely if you subscribed to my monthly climbing training newsletter!

Step 1: Put the template in the frame

Step 2: Begin putting your stickers on.

Put your stickers on the outside of the glass/plastic. You are not going to want to take your poster out every time you get home from a trip. I recommend starting from the bottom and going up, make sure you have your guidebooks with you. Remembering routes from a few years ago can be pretty tricky. Take time to reminisce and reflect (this is a great activity to do with your climbing buddies, if you can).

You’ll notice that 5.10 looks a little barren on mine because I really don’t remember a lot of them…

Step 3: Add pictures that get you psyched

I just slid my pictures of Red River Gorge Nature and cool rock climbs into the frame.
A picture of an amazing rock climb is way more inspiring than this:

5.11d

Step 4: Put it somewhere you will see it

At my old job, I had pictures of routes I wanted to do at my desk. It kept me from bailing on going to the gym after work. “I’m too tired, there’s too much traffic” seemed to dissolve a bit when I was looking my goals straight in the face.

Additionally the poster is a great reminder that you have sent things before and you will send them again. This is a reminder every climber needs throughout their career.

Is this actually helpful for my climbing?

In short, yes. First of all, reflecting on routes you have climbed is an inherently good thing. For example, when I look at my route pyramid, it is glaringly obvious that I put too much time into the “cusp grades” and avoid the 5.11c/ds. I may need to slot in some sub-maximal mini-projects to fill that in next year.

Taking time to reflect on previous experiences is productive for your climbing and other aspects of life, obviously. Additionally, as you go on to add more climbs to your pyramid, you’ll have a moment of thoughtfulness when you write the route name on the sticker and put it on your wall.

Your poster pyramid (hopefully studded with pictures of inspiring rock climbs) will keep you motivated. Perhaps you will put your pyramid somewhere to remind you that getting your ass out of bed before work to hangboard is worth it. If you have to look at your goals when you press snooze, perhaps you won’t hit snooze so often.

While making a poster will not result in increased finger strength, but perhaps it might cause you to be more motivated and intentional with your climbing and training.

If you’re going to hang something on your walls, why not make it inspiring. Plus, I’ve seen your water bottles. You guys love putting stickers on stuff.

Have questions? Suggestions on how you made yours even better? Leave a comment below!

Additionally, please email me pictures at Lauren@senderellastory.com
I would love to see your work.

Want more tips to help you become a better climber? Stay up to date on my latest posts by following me on Instagram, or Facebook, or subscribing to my monthly newsletter!

Please note that the post above contains affiliate links. If you happen to purchase anything from the links above, at no cost to you, senderellastory.com gets a small kickback which helps keep this site free for all to access and supports further content creation. Thank you for your support.

Climbing Training: Self-Coaching During COVID-19

The COVID-19 outbreak has created a media explosion – even within the climbing community. Every climbing trainer is stuck inside wanting nothing more than to give you what you need stay inside and keep up with your training. The breadth of information is invaluable. However, whether or not you navigate it well enough get results is a different story.

As someone that carefully plans their training (I had a training roadmap for all of 2020 figured out in December 2019), losing access to normal climbing facilities threw me for a loop. I found myself overwhelmed with all the training options for my time in isolation. Fortunately I avoided the paralysis by analysis and I crafted myself a training regimen that addresses my weaknesses, utilizes the equipment I have, and that I find enjoyable.

Here is the process that I followed to create my own quarantraining plan. It may help you with yours. I recommend getting out a piece of paper and a pen before continuing on.

Step 1: Brainstorm

For the days following the closure of my gym, my head was a junk pile of ideas. I had so many thoughts about my weaknesses, exercises I wanted to do, and “fun stuff” that was not super climbing specific, but that I enjoyed. Always wanted to learn handstands? Want to finally do a pistol squat? At last have the time to consistently follow a hangboard protocol? Awesome. Write it down.

Here is what my sheet looked like:

I may have set my coffee cup down on this after I finished scribbling.

Step 2: Assessment

In addition to brainstorming on what you might want to work on, it is also advisable to give yourself some kind of assessment to point you in the right direction. My baseline for training this season is an assessment I took in December ahead of the Power Company Empowered event. Though I don’t have the tools to completely repeat the assessment right now, I was able to at least complete some of it.

You can read the blog post here about how to do a minimal at-home climbing assessment. It does require a pull-up bar and a hangboard.

I repeated the assessment and compared to my previous results and the benchmarks for my goals. This gave me some direction for my training priorities.

See below for my results.

Figure 1: Endurance well within range of 2020 objective. Max weight hang and pull-ups are on par as well, but need work to ensure I maintain these qualities.

Some Background on my December Assessment

Based on some additional campus board testing and help from the Power Company coaches, I know that my biggest weaknesses are my maximal pulling power and explosive reach, so that was the focus of my December through March training. In broad terms, I didn’t need to work on being able to pull more weight. I needed to work on being able to pull that weight faster and farther.

A Note for those with Minimal Training Equipment:
Now is the time to get creative. Perhaps your door frame is your hangboard now. Perhaps the only thing you have to press overhead is a bag of rice. If you do not have a lot of training equipment, create your own assessment based on what you have available. For example, working towards doing 25 push-ups in a row is an admirable goal for general strength and conditioning and requires no equipment. Find something to assess and create something to work toward.

What to do with these results?

Seeing that my forearm endurance is not an issue and knowing that endurance is a quality that can be trained up quickly (2-4 weeks), I am not concerning myself too much with trying to keep my endurance up. Training endurance on a hangboard sucks anyway.

What I can see is that I still have some room for improvement in my overall finger strength and my pulling power, though according to these metrics, I am well within the ballpark of my goals for the year. At minimum, I need to maintain these qualities.

Pinches are also a weakness of mine. I was in the middle of a pinch training protocol when COVID-19 started impacting my life, so I will continue my pinch training with my new homemade pinch blocks.

Between the exercises I find enjoyable, an understanding of my weaknesses, and the types of training I am interested in learning about, I put together some training goals.

Step 3: Make Some Training Goals

Since the end date of this crisis is unknown, it is hard to determine what I want the end result to be. Because of this, my goals are somewhat generic. If you have more specific goals like “do 10 pull ups” that is great and probably better than my generic list. I simply do not feel the need to make overly specific goals since I have no idea how much time I have to complete them. My goals are as follows, in no particular order.

  • Improve maximal finger strength and pinch strength by hangboarding and using pinch blocks
  • Increase pulling power by performing pull workouts
  • Maintain work capacity by performing kettlebell workouts.
  • Increase abdominal strength by doing ab workouts and practicing front levers
  • Maintain pushing strength
  • Maintain mobility by performing 10 minutes of a mobility warm-up prior to any training session.

After I realized what my goals were, I looked at how I wanted to structure it into a schedule.

Step 4: Make a Schedule and Execute

Get a calendar our and based on what your week looks like, carve out blocks where training can happen. Keep in mind that you do not need 90 minutes for a good training session. You can do a lot of good work in 30-45 minutes. Some excellent ab workouts only take four minutes. Now, more than ever, you hardly have the excuse of time as to why you cannot get some training done. If you care about it, you will make time for it.

After you have your buckets of time, figure out what you can fit into these buckets. Maybe this is where some of your original ideas get eliminated. Have a favorite abs video you like doing? Perfect. Slot it in every other morning 30 minutes before you start your day.

Since I am a fan of training twice in one day and my body is accustomed to this, I am keeping this schedule for my quarantraining program. I am going training every other day, twice a day. Here are the three training days I am rotating through. The other days are for rest and maybe some walking around, though I am trying my best to limit my exposure to the outdoors in light of the current situation.

Vertical Pulling Days

pistol squat

Morning:
Power Pull-ups,
Repeaters (various grips)
Pistol Squats
1 arm isometric hangs

Evening:
Kettlebell Work Capacity
(Power Company Quarantraining), Pinches

Horizontal Pulling Day

hangboard senderellastory

Morning
One Arm Bent Over Rows
Single arm inverted rows
Pinches

Evening
Kettlebell Complexes
(Power Company Quarantraining), Repeaters

Pushing & Abs Day

Order of Operations

Though there are no absolute rules to this, I like to put my high intensity/low rep work in the morning and strength endurance work in the evening. Most coaches recommend that if you are doing maximal strength work and endurance work in the same day or in the span of a couple of days, strength comes first before endurance-type work. You may have to experiment to figure out what order works best for you and your schedule. The order that yields measurably better results is the one you will want to go with.

If you need help with this, I really like this youtube video from Lattice Training. It gives a lot of examples to help you grasp the concept of how to best shuffle your training activities.

Everything Should Have a Reason

For everything you decide to do during your time of isolation, make sure there is a good reason why you are doing it. This check alone will help you get rid of “junk” that might slip in with the onslaught of training information coming your way.

Forget About Perfection

I could list a lot of things about this situation that are less than ideal. The training program I have made here is no exception. However, it is good enough. I can point to every single thing I am doing and give a reason why I am doing it. Good enough now is better than perfection after two weeks of thinking about it.

Have questions about what I’m doing? Need help coaching yourself? I am more than happy to help. If you need someone to talk to or bounce ideas off of, shoot me an email at lauren@senderellastory.com or leave a comment below.
I am more than happy to help.

Resources

Home Self-Assessment and Relevant Data Sets – Power Company Climbing

Training for Climbing Website: Rotator Cuff and 4 minute plank circuits

Power Company Quarantraining Group

Rock Climbers Training Manual – a variation on their intermediate repeater protocol

Logical Progression for integrated strength training and other general goodness- Climb Strong

Unstoppable Force – Bible of resistance training and mobility for climbers

Troubleshooting your Climbing Training – Lattice Team

Photos by Teagan Maddux

Equipment I’m Using

Want more tips to help you become a better climber? Stay up to date on my latest posts by following me on Instagram, or Facebook, or subscribing to my monthly newsletter!

Please note that the post above contains affiliate links. If you happen to purchase anything from the links above, at no cost to you, senderellastory.com gets a small kickback which helps keep this site free for all to access and supports further content creation. Thank you for your support.

How to Make a Pinch Block

You love crimps. You fold your thumb over your index finger whenever you get the chance. Your little mitts fit into pockets like two dirtbags in a sprinter van. But Lord help you as soon as your tiny paws have to pinch something. You eventually realize that pinch strength is an unavoidable necessity and decided to attack this weakness.

Then, as soon as you start regularly programming pinchy boulders into your climbing sessions — a global heath crisis strikes. Forced to stay out of the climbing gyms, the climbing community at large buys Tension completely out of portable pinch blocks. You proceed to check every other retailer to no avail. Pinch blocks were wiped out as fast as the toilet paper supply.

But not to worry, there is a solution. All you need is some scrap wood, some screws, and the determination to stop sucking at pinches so much.

This tutorial teaches you how to make yourself a set of pinch blocks: a wide one and a narrow one. Let’s get started.

Materials

Here is what you will need.

  • 6″ chunks of 2×4″ lumber
    (2 for the wide, 1 for the narrow)
  • 3″ wood screws (4)
  • 3.25″ eye screw (1 per block)
  • Drill
  • Screw Driver
  • Masking Tape/Clamp
  • Sand paper

The wide pinch is two 2×4 chunks screwed together. The narrow is simply one chunk of a 2×4.

You can use scrap wood you have at your house. If you need to go to a hardware store, pick out a 2″x4″ piece of lumber. Then, have an associate cut it into chunks for you. We were informed that the minimum size per chunk is 6″ — but you can go down to 4″ or 5″ if you choose.

Step 1: Clamp two chunks together

I used masking tape. If you have a clamp, that works as well.

Step 2: Drill starter holes in the wood

Don’t want to split it when you put the screws in. I would get the sturdiest screws you can – these brass ones broke on me a couple of times.

Step 3: Put in the screws

You can use your power tools for this. I recommend hand tightening the screws down at the end so you don’t split the wood.

Step 4: Drill a Starter Hole and Insert the Eye Bolt

Drill a starter hole in the center of the block. You can then hand tighten the eye bolt into the middle of the block. Carrabiner can be used for assistance in hand-tightening if needed.

Step 5: Sand it Down

Climbing is hard enough on your hands. Don’t give yourself a pinch splinter.

Step 6: Add resistance and use your new pinch blocks to get stronger

pinch block training

And there you have it, a homemade set of pinch blocks that doesn’t break the bank. If you have any questions, please be sure to leave a comment below.

Happy training!

Want more tips to help you become a better climber? Stay up to date on my latest posts by following me on Instagram, or Facebook, or subscribing to my monthly newsletter!

Quarantraining: At Home Climbing Training Resources for COVID-19

hangboard senderellastory

Unless you live near an outdoor climbing area or you already have a home climbing gym set-up, the precautions surrounding the coronavirus have probably impacted your climbing plans in some way.

Personally, I have a trip to the Red River Gorge coming up in two weeks and my gym just shut down. Right now would be a really good time to be doing power endurance on ropes and boulders. Alas, I have no gym. The nearest sport climbing is too far for after work climbing and I am succumbing to reality. The rest of my training block before the Red will primarily be spent in my apartment.

My condolences if you are in a similar situation. I am grateful to be healthy and have resources to build out a teeny tiny home “gym”. This definitely sucks, but we have to move on.

There is no time for whining. It’s time to make do and train through it.

For those of you who “just climb to train” this is a great opportunity to learn about the supplemental training options that can also benefit your climbing. So if you feel frustrated or trapped, here are some ideas and resources to keep getting better at climbing while being socially responsible.

Note that what you do with your home workouts should still be in line with your goals and your training plan. Please, please send me an email or a DM on instagram or whatever if you need to. I am more than happy to help you sort through all the information and help you train through the chaos. With that, here are some free resources and tips to make the best of these interesting times.

Coaches Offering Free At Home Training Sessions

Because climbers are all part of the same community, these coaches are offering free resources for your quaran-training. Make sure to give them a like or a follow since they are sharing their years of training, hard work, and expertise for free.

Power Company

The team over at the Power Company have put together a blog post with some tips for training during the Covid-19 outbreak. Additionally, they have a free quaran-training group that you can join for more details and support. Simply scroll to the bottom of the post for details. You will provide your email, then you will need to download and yourself up with the Power Company app. It is very, very easy.

Facebook: Power Company Climbing
Instagram: @powercompanyclimbing

LadyBeta Coaching

Chelsea Murn over at Lady Beta has also been putting in work to help you stay on top of your training during the Covid-19 outbreak. Click here for some free at-home workouts.

Facebook: Lady Beta
Instagram @ladybeta.coaching

Lattice Training

The guys over at lattice training, based out of the UK are also doing their best to help you with training at home. They have put a couple of home-based workouts on their youtube channel.

I can also see from their facebook page that they are giving advice where they can and it sounds like they will be putting out more resources.

Facebook: Lattice Training
Instagram: @LatticeTraining

The Tools: At Home Training Equipment

I have not urgently purchased toilet paper recently. However, I just panic bought kettlebells and a doorframe pull-up bar this morning. My current home gym set-up is two 8lb dumbells, a flash board, really light therabands, and some random free weights. I have been meaning to upgrade for a while, so here is my new minimalist apartment training equipment list:

  • Flashboard by Tension Climbing
  • Door frame pull up bar – I’m going to hang my flashboard from this with carabiners and slings.
  • Two kettlebells a “light one” and a “heavy one”
    If you need to know how to pick your kettlebell sizes, listen to this Power Company podcast about kettlebell training.
  • Slings and carabiners (You need these for outdoor sport climbing anyway, so get some if you do not already have them).
  • Therabands I love these for warming up my shoulders. I take mine with me outdoors as well. These are a good investment even if there isn’t a pandemic going on.

Here are some other portable hangboard options if the flashboard
is not your taste:

Mike using our flashboard in New Hampshire last fall.

However, if you are free to bolt things into your wall, just get a hangboard and do it. Alternatively, the cheaper option is to go buy some strips of wood and nail them somewhere. Details in the Power Company Covid-19 post.

Watching Climbing Can Make You Better At Climbing

In a facebook post from ClimbStrong coach Steve Bechtel, he points out that watching pros climb can make you better at climbing. I can’t say it better myself, so I’ll put the text here:

“One of my favorite books of late is The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle. In it, Coyle visited and analyzed “talent hotbeds” – places that were churning out more than their fair share of high performers. One common trait among those performers: they intently studied the elites in their field day after day. I remember watching a video of Marc LeMenestrel climbing back in the late 80s and picking up two or three great movement tips just from watching him climb one pitch! With the wide variety of videos available there’s no excuse not to focus your internet surf time into something useful. Want to get better at crack climbing? Spend 15-20 minutes a day watching and studying the elite crack climbers of today. Same goes for bouldering, for hard sport climbing, you name it. Watch for pacing, time the rests, look at body position and the way they hold the holds. I recommend studying video until you find a “nugget” then write it down. Once you’ve found your nugget for the day, shut the videos off and plan on exploring that nugget on your next climbing or training day. “

I’ll be watching videos of my future project at the Red River Gorge for the next couple of weeks and taking notes. There are a million climbing videos out there. So hop on youtube and study the pros.

Mental Training Materials and Books

Fortunately for us, there is a lot to be gained from improving our mental game for climbing. Here are two of my favorite books that cover this subject.

9 out of 10 Climbers Make the Same Mistakes by Dave MacLeod
A great book that every climber should read. I would highly recommend putting this on your list for a variety of reasons. There are some great mental fortitude tips in here as well.

The Rock Warrior’s Way by Arno Ilgner
I have written a little about this book before, but it was the first book of its kind and it is an absolute classic. If you have not already, add this to your quarantine reading list.

Stay Strong and Make a Difference

There are many variables in life that make training for climbing difficult. A pandemic shutting down your climbing gym, cancelling your trip you have been training for, or causing you to lose exceptional amounts of income is unprecedented. These are strange times and we have to adapt. So be kind to one another, be responsible, and shoot me a note if you want help sifting through resources your quaran-training.

I leave you with this, because we all can make a difference.

If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”

Dalai Lama

Want more tips to help you become a better climber? Stay up to date on my latest posts by following me on Instagram, or Facebook, or subscribing to my monthly newsletter!

Please note that the post above contains affiliate links. If you happen to purchase anything from the links above, at no cost to you, senderellastory.com gets a small kickback which helps keep this site free for all to access and supports further content creation. Thank you for your support.

How I Dealt with Tennis Elbow

hangboarding

At some point in your climbing career, the act of cranking out a set of pull-ups becomes a mundane task. So it came as a surprise to me at 6:15 on a Monday morning, while doing a bodyweight pull-up, the familiar sensation of fatigue was replaced by an unfamiliar shooting pain in both my elbows. My arms lit up like Christmas trees.

This was the first time I had ever experienced this kind of elbow pain. And it seemed to come out of nowhere.

For one week I proceeded to pretend it was not a problem. The week following I started trying to figure out what to do. This resulted in the plan you see below. Between February 9 and 25, 2020 I changed how I was climbing and the exercises I was doing. I also had a five day stretch away from climbing during this period for a ski trip which may have contributed to reducing the severity of the injury as well. Over the course of February, I continued climbing, training, and largely resolved my elbow pain. In this post, I give the details on how I did it.

First, let’s start with the basics.

What is Tennis Elbow?

Tennis elbow is the inflammation of the tissues surrounding your lateral epicondyle – the bony notch on the outside of your elbow. It is commonly referred to, in medical terms, as lateral epicondylitis.

In his post on ‘Dodgy Elbows‘, Dr. Julian Saunders explain the common conditions of both golfer’s and tennis elbow. He elaborated on the differences between tendonitis and tendonosis, both of which can result in the symptoms that encompass tennis elbow.

“Tendonitis elicits a sharp pain, felt around the medial or lateral epicondyle. It tends to worsen with activity to the point that you may have to stop the session. Left to its natural course (without aggravating activity), it should resolve in a few weeks. Tendonosis, on the other hand, is a dull ache (same place) that is felt at the start of climbing.”

Since my case of tennis elbow set on really quickly and subsided quickly as well, I am led to believe that I suffered only from tendonitis (inflammation) and not full-blown tendonosis.

What Causes Tennis Elbow?

Sources vary regarding what causes elbow tendonoses. It seems that these conditions are typically brought on by overuse, and repetitive motion. Interestingly, tennis elbow is sometimes related to excessive typing, weight lifting, carpentry, painting, and ironically, golf. Dr. Saunders evaluates tennis elbow in the context of climbing.

“The classic scenario is a sudden increase in training. The muscle, having a greater blood supply, is able to increase its strength faster than the tendon, leaving the tendon comparatively weak. Further use leads to tendon damage and degeneration. “

Evaluating the cause for myself, I believe some combination of desk work with an increase in training volume in January lead to the temporary demise of my elbows.

What can you do about it?

When I asked for feedback on instagram for how you all have dealt with elbow issuas, answers ranged from flex bars to yoga to cutting out gluten. There are many ways to skin a cat, but here is what I did to resolve my own elbow tendonitis.

Isometric Hangs at 120 Degrees

These were recommended to me by Kris Hampton at the Power Company (and many of you recommended these to me on instagram as well). Three to four times a week, I completed 3-4 sets of 120 degree isometric hangs. The duration was long, about thirty seconds per hang. I used pretty big edges in a half crimp position, edge size being 25mm+.

I incorporated these into my strength routine and warm-up. Here’s a video from the Power Company for more details.

Related: Dr. Tyler Nelson on the Power Company Podcast

isometric hangs
Me hanging around as part of my “heal my elbows” warm-up before a climbing session.

Reverse Wrist Curls

Similar in frequency to the isometric hangs, I completed reverse wrist curls three to four times per week. I used pretty heavy weight (10lbs) and used my other hand to support the movement. I performed 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps. Some argue that the sets/weight/reps don’t really matter as long as you do them. However, I have noticed that many esteemed trainers recommends that you load these heavily and I found that 10lbs was OK for me. Whatever you do, you should be getting fatigued.

These I incorporated into strength workouts or into my climbing warm-up as well.

Note that I prefer to keep the tempo a bit slower on the eccentric part of the motion than what is shown in the video below.

Related: Hooper’s Beta on Outside Elbow Pain

Ice and the Incurable Shitty Ankle

In one of my favorite pieces of stand-up ever, Louis CK talks about turning forty and his “incurable shitty ankle.” After being told to stretch for thirty minutes a day he asks the doctor “so how long will that take to fix it?”. To which the doctor replies “No, that’s just something you do now, until you and your shitty ankle both die.”

This sums up my feelings towards ice. If the doctor were talking to me he might say “Your elbows are effed up, you should do your exercises and you should ice after climbing. Forever. Period.” Though hopefully the exercises and the icing won’t go on forever, I am going to keep at it for at least a few months.

Perhaps some would argue that the ice is not doing anything, but it also does not cost anything to strap some ice packs to my elbows for a few minutes in the evening. Since the combination of these handful of protocol is working, I will probably continue icing after climbing 1-2 times per week until I feel completely recovered.

Research on Cold Exposure

Though the mantra of “Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation” is commonly touted in the context of soft tissue injury, there is not an exceptional body of evidence to support it. That being said, it is likely because in many cases, science is actual behind practical application. Interestingly, however, in a systematic review of cryotherapy, it was concluded that it had positive effects on return to participation for athletes.

In short, I think ice works and I think it worked for me. There is at least some science to back it up, so I will keep icing.

In addition to cold exposure after climbing, I also altered my climbing sessions.

Changing my Training

After getting over the emotional hump of acknowledging my injury and deciding to climb “around it”, I adopted a new rule of thumb: if it hurts during or after the training session, it is out of the training plan.

Basically, I knew what definitely hurt my elbows during training, these activities were swiftly removed and sometimes replaced. For example, I realized that power pull-ups were not ‘elbow-approved’; however, bent over rows were. So I replaced what was painful with something else. A little different, but it got the job done.

In my first week with this new adage, I made careful notes of what hurt and what didn’t — the day before and the day after training.

An important note: tendons tend to let you know if they were okay what you did 12-24 hours later, which is part of what makes tendon injuries tricky to deal with.

Then, I proceeded to do what I could without hurting myself more. I continued to train, though it was not as much or the way that I wanted to. However, I made sure to have an attitude of gratefulness that I was still able to keep climbing at all.

I could get into a lot of minutiae on what and how I changed in my training to accommodate my whiny elbows. If you want more details, leave a comment and we can discuss below.

Additional Upper Body Static Stretching

Though my warm-up typically involves some dynamic theraband stretch with the upper body, I was previously not including very much static stretching.

In TrainingBeta Episode 71 with Esther Smith, the renowned climbing physio posits that those with both tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow could benefit from increased mobility in the upper body.

“Some people are much more prone to inner elbow problems, some people are much more prone to outer elbow problems. And even if you don’t have an active elbow problem going on, it’s these types of exercises to balance what is tight and what’s weak that I think every climber should be doing…”

Esther then goes on to list a front pectoral stretch, a tricep and lat stretch. I took this idea she introduced and incorporated it into my warm-ups and cool downs.

Based on this, the stretches I added were as follows. I did these during my warm-up before climbing and sometimes in my cool-down as well.

How do you move on from an injury?

As I write this, I would call myself 90% recovered. I am climbing strong and pull-ups no longer hurt. However, I am still taking care not to overdo it. My plan from here on out is to be conservative, vigilant, and continue doing what I am doing to eradicate the injury.

Have you struggled with elbow injuries in the past? What has worked for you? What has not? Leave a comment or shoot me an email at lauren@senderellastory.com, I would love to hear from you!

Want more tips to help you become a better climber? Stay up to date on my latest posts by following me on Instagram, or Facebook, or subscribing to my monthly newsletter!

Resources

https://www.orthobullets.com/shoulder-and-elbow/3082/lateral-epicondylitis-tennis-elbow

https://msspc.org/causes-of-tennis-elbow/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3396304/#i1062-6050-47-4-435-b54

https://www.powercompanyclimbing.com/blog/2019/10/21/ep-147-making-sense-of-science-for-climbers-with-dr-tyler-nelson

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC385267/

Unstoppable Force

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Featured image in thumbnail by Teagan Maddux.

Essentials of Antagonist Training for Climbers

Lauren Abernathy pull-up

Nearly red in the face, I pulled my chin, a 53lb kettle bell, a 10lb plate, and my harness up high enough to call the whole thing a pull-up. My personal record for a one rep max for a pull-up went up: bodyweight plus 63lbs. My bench press on the other hand was less than stellar, 5 reps at 75% of my bodyweight was all I could muster.

There are not many sports that rely so heavily on pulling strength, but climbing is one of them. As as you might be able to pull, if you cannot push, there is trouble ahead. Enter antagonist training.

Despite what you might have heard, antagonist training is not captain hook working to improve his sword-fighting. It is not a buzz word you use to describe doing whatever exercises please you at the end of a climbing session either. But if not these things, what is antagonist training? And how can we use it to be stronger and prevent injury?

Let’s start with the basics.

In every movement, there is a prime mover and an antagonist. A simple example is the motion of a bicep curl. The bicep is the prime mover, the tricep is the antagonist. Simple enough.

Now, let’s complicate things. I really like how Dr. Jared Vagy explained this in his blog post on the topic, so I will steal a page from his book in my explanation.

Primer Movers and Antagonists in Climbing

In climbing, we are mostly pulling. So when you hear the word antagonist training in the context of climbing, you should think “pushing”.

This is not to say that we do not push in climbing. Sometimes, we do have to mantle or push against holds for stabilization. At which point, the script is flipped between the prime movers and the antagonists. However, the ratio of pulling to pushing in climbing is clearly skewed towards pulling. With that, we need to focus our antagonist efforts towards balancing out all the pulling we do.

For years we programmed push-ups and overhead presses as injury-proofing antagonist movements, but as our involvement with competition climbers has advanced, we are seeing a greater and greater need for good total body strength to deal with the specific demands of the sport.

Unstoppable Force pg. 177

What the Research Says

Though I was not able to find extensive research explicitly relating antagonist strength ratio to injury risk or athletic performance, there are a few studies that I want to discuss here.

Measuring Antagonist Strength Ratios in Healthy Adults

In one study, 180 healthy and active adults (69 males, 111 females) aged 18 to 45 were tested to determine their pulling to pushing ratio. This was done by measuring the number of repetitions for push-ups and a modified pull-ups (shown below). On average the push:pull ratios were 1.57:1 and 2.72:1 for men and women, respectively.

Photo as shown in the aforementioned research article. Modified pull-up.

This study was done to show a benchmark for injury-free, active adults. I would be curious on the outcomes of this study if it were conducted with a population of climbers. Though we do not have this information, we do have a study on a different group of athletes: elite rugby players. Do you think they will be just as push-dominant as the recreationaly active adults? You might be surprised.

The Rugby Players

In another study of 42 elite male rugby players who regularly train both weighted pull-ups and bench presses were studied. For as much pushing as these athletes do in their sport, the average push:pull ratio between their one rep max (1RM) bench press and their 1RM pull-up came out to be nearly 1:1. Though I am not a male rugby player, this does give me some information to infer as a climber. If these push-centric athletes are managing a 1:1 ratio in their sport, perhaps climbers should try for the same. However, research is not everything. If this does not speak to you, perhaps a coach with decades of practical experience will.

A Coach’s Recommendation

In Unstoppable Force, written by Charlie Manganello and Steve Bechtel, Steve calls out the risk of imbalances in our antagonist strength.

We downplay the need for pressing strength in climbing, but strong pressing muscles – the ones we to push loads away from the body in training – are fundamental to good movement, joint stability, and continued progress in our pulling strength.

Unstoppable Force pg. 63.

Steve and Charlie go on to advise that if you cannot do three reps of a bench press at bodyweight, you may be holding back your pulling strength.

Why it Matters

Perhaps if you have just started climbing, this may seem like absolutely too much information. However, if you are a year or two in and you have done nothing but climb 2-4 days a week, it may be time to take a look in the mirror to see if you are overdue for some antagonist work. No guarantees, but it may grant you some strength and injury prevention in the long haul. Like Steve Bechtel says “strength is safety.” So how can you tell if you are overdue for some opposition training? Why not give yourself an assessment?

A Quick and Dirty Push to Pull Ratio Assessment

Here’s a little assessment you could give yourself. Ideally, perform it before climbing, but after warming up so you are not fatigued. Additionally, try to take at least a full day of rest between each of these assessments.

Day 1: Upper Body Endurance

  • Perform as many push-ups as you can do in one set. Record the total. Make sure you are doing real push-ups, not the ones where your arms are a thousand miles from your sides and your ass is in the air. If you cannot do a push-up, perform an incline push-up on a bench instead.
  • Rest 3-5 minutes
  • Record as many pull-ups as you can do in one set. If you cannot do a pull-up, use a band or a chair to remove resistance from the bar. Record the total number of pull-ups you can do. Do not kip, swing, or cheat between reps. Do them well and do them right.

Day 2: Maximal Upper Body Strength

  • Find your one rep max for the bench press. If you don’t know how to bench, I suggest finding a trusted friend to teach you and help to spot you. Make sure to warm-up and work up to finding your 1RM (with a spotter or safety bars). If you don’t want to load up all the way to a 1RM, I recommend finding your 2-3 rep max and using a calculator to predict your 1RM instead. Make sure you rest for at least 3 minutes between sets.
  • Rest for 3-5 minutes before moving onto the 1RM pull-up.
  • Find your one rep max for the pull-up. Warm up for this as well. Do a few bodyweight pull-ups. Start adding weight, continue adding until you reach your one rep max. Make sure you rest for at least 3 minutes between sets. Record your 1RM.

Disclaimer: I am not demanding that you do this, perform at your own risk and make sure that you are not putting yourself in harm’s way by partaking in the above. And don’t blame me if you find that you are sore the day after!

Let me know your Assessment Results!

If you decide to take this assessment, shoot me an email at lauren@senderellastory.com and let me know how it went!

This is part one in a series. In the next installment, I will tackle my favorite antagonist exercises and provide tips on working them into your climbing schedule. Make sure to subscribe to my monthly email list to stay up to date when the next post comes out! You can also stay up to date by following me on Instagram.

Resources

Upper Body Push and Pull Strength Ratio in Recreationally Active Adults

Push to Pull Ratio in Elite Rugby Players

Unstoppable Force: Strength Training for Climbing

The Climbing Doctor: Train Antagonist Strength for Climbing

Mallorca Trip Report: Guide to a Deep Water Solo Adventure

deep water solo mallorca

After visiting the magical island of Mallorca for the first time in 2018, I decided that I had to return in 2019. The second time, I brought my other half with me so he could see the island I had come to love so much.

deep water solo mallorca
Michael and I enjoying our first day out deep water soloing together.

Barely Made It

The adventure began with a startling automated text message the morning of our departure.

“Due to government intervention, your flight to Barcelona has been cancelled indefinitely.”

In the week before the trip, riots had broken out in Barcelona. The overall function of the city was severely impaired and the protests centralized around the airport. I had been nervous all week that we somehow wouldn’t make it to Spain. My fears were unfortunately realized.

A few hours and some phone calls later, Michael and I had somehow cobbled together travel plans departing one week later only costing us about $200 in flight change fees on the part of Vueling, the local airline that would take us from Barcelona to Mallorca.

A week later, we were on a flight from Barcelona to Mallorca, ready to start our island climbing adventure.

 The Digs

After getting picked up by the Rockbusters crew, the same guide service I used in 2018, we were taken grocery shopping and to the Hippocampo hostel. The bathrooms had been fully renovated since 2018 and the rest was as lovely as I remember it.

Hippocampo Mallorca
The Hippocampo Hostel

After getting settled, we sat down to dinner with chef Erin Lingle (who runs a restaurant in DC that is regularly featured in the Michelin travel guide) then went to sleep before our first day of deep water soloing.

prawns
The best camp food you’ve ever eaten that you didn’t have to cook.

How I Packed

After last year’s trip, I came with some wisdom about how to pack. Here are my critical packing list items for deep water soloing:

  • As many shoes as you can bring. I brought four pairs, some of them were pretty old/non-aggressive. It definitely helped to have a solid rotation of shoes so that you always have a pair that is completely dry.
  • A dry bag. I didn’t have one the first year, but it was really nice to have to ensure your stuff stays dry around the crag. Also nice to have if you want to swim over to the start of the route and keep your shoes dry.
  • Jackets. It got to be a little windy and soggy sometimes, so my favorite combination was to put my thin outdoor research rain jacket underneath my puffy. This allowed my puffy to keep me warm without drenching it in seawater.
  • Pro-Bro tip: I saw a lot of guys bring two pairs of swim trunks out to the crags. Seemed like it was nice to be able to change into different trunks halfway through the day. Alternatively, you can be like the Italians and wear a speedo, which seems to mitigate some of the swim trunk issues. Do as you please.

Lots of liquid chalk. My favorite is Friction Labs. One tube lasted Michael and I about a week.

cala barques couple
Rocking my rain jacket under puffy for maximum warmth and dryness.

How To Start the Routes

Many of the crags I visited in Mallorca required downclimbs to start the routes. For many people and sometimes myself included, the downclimbs are scarier than actually climbing the routes themselves.

However,  keep in mind that the grades of the downclimbs are pretty low. Additionally, there is usually some sort of way to completely sit and relax before actually starting the routes. It is not as if the route is a combination of a downclimb and an upclimb of the routes.

This is not true for all of them however, some start with a convenient cliff edge or can be accessed by boat.

Falling

Obviously, the falls are the hallmark of deep water soloing. If you are planning to go on a deep water solo trip, I would recommend ensuring that you are comfortable taking falls while leading. Additionally, if you can take any of these falls while on steep, overhanging routes in the gym or outside, this is great mental preparation for a trip to Mallorca.

Rockbusters does a great job of taking you to good “warm-up” crags on day one to help you adjust to the ropelessness of deep water soloing. Mentally, I get better and better throughout the week. It fascinates me that usually my hardest sends seem to happen at the end of the week long trips. Despite increased fatigue, because I am very comfortable with trying hard and taking falls by the end of the week, I climb my best. I would love to see what I could do if I had time to spend a month there, but alas, duty calls and I can only get a week away from work.

bisexual cala barques 7a
Me taking the plunge while working Bisexual, 7a.

Trip Highlights

  • Getting heckled by Germans. Nothing like getting beta sprayed at you from two fat, German guys on a dingy.
  • Halloween. The Hippocampo campground went from deserted to full of about 10 local families with their kids – all dressed up for Halloween and trick or treating at our hostel rooms. Sorry kids, all I had was protein Clif Bars!
  • Sending Metrosexual and Bisexual. Since I had seen these two routes on my first trip, I knew I wanted to do both of them. They are located in the Cala Barques crag. Felt really, really cool to send 5.12 while deep water soloing.

Why Go Deep Water Soloing in Mallorca?

  1. Aesthetics and Vacation Quality. Let’s face it, most climbing trips do not boast the glamour of a beach bar on the approach to the crag, surrounded by gorgeous limestone cliffs and turquoise water. At best you are staying in a pretty nice cabin probably without cell service. At worst, you are in a tent clutching bear spray after you cooked dinner in the dark on a rock for two hours. Getting the vibe of a beach vacation with the exertion and thrill of a climbing trip is really nice.
  2. Projecting is extra hard. Projecting is hard when you deep water solo. There is no “working the moves”. Once you make it farther on the route than you have before, you need to take whatever beta your buddy gave you and make it go first try, lest you fall into the water for the 50th time. It can be extra frustrating, but I think it makes you a better climber overall – and the sends are very rewarding when they come.
  3. Improve your mental game. Taking falls on lead can be scary, getting yourself to be OK with falling into water is a different challenge. Though objectively, you know that falling is mostly ok (depending on how high you are…) getting your body and mind to believe it is a different story. Deep water soloing is a great challenge in convincing your brain to deal with risk. It is both thrilling and extremely satisfying.
deep water solo mallorca
the start shared by Metrosexual and Bisexual in the Cala Barques area

So go on, get out there. Mallorca is a climbing trip you won’t ever forget.
If you have any questions about using Rockbusters as a guide service, feel free to shoot me an email. I have been on three trips with them and they have all been an amazing experience.

rockbusters mallorca
The whole crew at the end of an awesome week of climbing.

Want more tips to help you become a better climber? Stay up to date on my latest posts by following me on Instagram, or Facebook, or subscribing to my monthly newsletter!

Please note that if you decide to book a trip with Rockbusters and you book through the links in the above article, I get a small credit that helps keep this site up and running. However, I was not financially affiliated with them before adventuring with their guide service.. Rockbusters is a friend of this blog and they wanted to find a way to help me keep it running. Additionally, there are links to Amazon for the products that I packed, used and enjoyed. If you choose to buy any of them, at no cost to you, it gives this site a little kick back to the blog as well.

2019 Wrap-Up: Failure, Fun and Onto the Next

In the Fall of 2016, I went on one of my first trips to the Red River Gorge. I packed some clothes, some food, a hammock, and an intense fear of heights. My vertical neuroses paired interestingly with a fierce determination to become a good climber. This combination of fears and desires eventually left me hanging in terror on the seventh bolt of A Brief History of Climbing. I sat with my head against the wall crying because I was so uncomfortable with the heights. If you would have told that girl that in three years she would send 5.12, she would have laughed. If you told her she’d do it while deep water soloing in Spain, she might have slapped you. But here we are. I’ve done all of those things. It’s been a hell of a year.  

For those who may have missed it, at the beginning of 2019, I set the goal of red-pointing twelve 5.12s in at least four different climbing areas. Though I didn’t meet my objective, I was certainly made better for trying.

So with lots of training, focus, cursing, joy, and many aggressive weekend road trips, here is what I did piece together in my attempt at twelve 5.12s in 2019.

  • Groovin’ 5.11d in Birdsboro, PA
  • Starry 5.12a in The New River Gorge, WV
  • Butch Pocket and the Sundance Pump 5.12a in Wild Iris, WY
  • Beattyville Pipeline, 5.12a in The Red River Gorge, KY
  • Orangahang 5.12a/b in Rumney, NH
  • Flesh For Lulu 5.12 a/b in Rumney, NH
  • Bisexual 7a/5.11d (Deep Water Solo) in Mallorca, Spain
  • Metrosexual 7a+/5.12a (Deep Water Solo) in Mallorca, Spain
Lauren Abernathy mallorca
Falling off the top of Bisexual in Mallorca.
Lauren abernathy Beattyville pipeline red river gorge
Me on Beattyville Pipeline.

Additionally, though I went bouldering only two or three times this year, I flashed my first V4 and sent my first V5 outside, which was a neat little bonus on top of my sport climbing objectives. With that, here is the little bit of wisdom, that I have personally collected over the past year.

Lauren - powerlinez bouldering
After the send of my first V5 outdoors.

Persistence or Bust

I love climbing, but getting better at it is not easy. Usually, if you are proud to accomplish something, it means you had work hard and make sacrifices to get it.

There were many times where I felt tired, or my day job was really stressful, or I wanted to press snooze on the alarm clock and skip my morning training session. Sometimes I did. But most of the time, I showed up with a plan and got shit done. Not every session felt great – most felt either lackluster or completely terrible. But I showed up.

Personally, I have seen that being consistent and finding excitement in incremental improvements is critical to continuous improvement in as a climber.

The Blog

Consistency is something that has been a key to pushing through with this blog as well. When I first started writing, I didn’t really know where it would take me, or have any idea what I was doing. Then after four or five months of having no more than twenty people readers, I thought that maybe I ought to quit. It felt a like I was performing a monologue for an auditorium of deaf kittens. Lots of work with no one listening.

I want to sincerely thank those of you who emailed me, messaged me and told me that something I had written had helped you or inspired you in the year since I started this blog. Knowing that someone had benefitted from something I had written kept me from quitting. It helped me to stay excited to write even when it seemed like this blog served no purpose besides sucking time from my loved ones, my climbing, and my apartment that needs to be tidied every now and again. So thank you, sincerely. I love writing and climbing and I do not have plans to stop doing either any time soon.

 Here’s to a New Year

With that, I wish you all the happiness, health, and sends in the coming year. May you set big, hairy, audacious goals. Even if you fail, may you learn a lot in the process.  

With that, I will leave you with the words of the late Warren Miller.

“If you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do.”

You are never too old to crush at something. Have a happy New Year.

Want more tips to help you become a better climber? Stay up to date on my latest posts by following me on Instagram, or Facebook, or subscribing to my monthly newsletter!

Systems over Goals: Set Yourself Up for Success

“A goal should scare you a little and excite you a lot.”

Joe Vitale

In 2019, I said my goals loud and proud for all of the internet to read – some of you all did too. In 2020, I am making some tweaks to and trying to re-frame the goal making process. Here are some actionable tips to help you examine the way you have (or have not) been making goals, your resolutions, and the overall quality of your follow through on the commitments you make to yourself.

With that, here are some new perspectives you can apply to your climbing goals in the coming year.

What Kind of Person are You?

Perhaps you have failed at sticking to your commitments in the past and you want to do better this time. In the past, you may have said “this is the year I will actually follow a training program”. And then life got in the way. Then you gave up. Now you are still climbing the same grades that you were two years ago and you are frustrated that you can’t follow through with commitments you make to yourself.

Maybe you have plenty of the motivation, but you don’t seem to understand how you can get yourself follow through. Might I suggest an eight question quiz to help determine your own tendencies around behavior modification? It will help you learn a bit about what makes you tick and help you to set yourself up for success. Perhaps it is not that you don’t have the motivation or the ability to achieve what you want to, maybe you simply have not designed your systems to your own unique habit-changing specifications. So take the quiz, find out how you work, and proceed from there.

Take the Quiz here.

Further Reading: Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin

Photo By Teagan Maddux

On Keeping Your Goals to Yourself

In addition to understanding how you work in the context of achieving goals and altering your habits, another interesting idea that I am pondering is the usefulness of sharing my goals with other people.

Though I have given a select few a glimpse into what I want to tackle next year, I plan to keep the spray about what I want to achieve in 2020 to a minimum. Though I will still be sharing in the process, I am keeping the end goal to myself this year? Here is why.

Though some people need added external pressure, I find that with my sometimes overwhelming fear of failure, letting the world know about what I plan to achieve does not really help me at all.

However, if you are the sort of person that lacks intrinsic motivation and has found that external accountability helps you to succeed, then godspeed. But make sure that you don’t phrase the discussion of your goals in a way that makes you feel less accountable for putting in the work to achieve them.

The next topic I want to address is the idea of focusing on our systems and habits more than the goals themselves.

Related: How to Set Quality Goals

Habits, not Goals

Though having big objectives is important, having a framework for what habits or systems you want to build is critical to achieving them.

If successful and unsuccessful people share the same goals, then the goal cannot be what differentiates the winners from the losers.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

Practically everyone has the goal of climbing harder in their next climbing season. Whether or not you succeed has little to do with the goal you set and a lot more to do with the plan you have in place to do so.

You may not have any big goals, but setting up habits like “I will do fifteen minutes of footwork drills at the beginning of my climbing sessions” will lead to improvements without being attached with some grand, long-term objective.

Personally, I like having big goals. However, making a goal is the easy part. Formulating a plan to execute is what takes effort.

Related Reading: Atomic Habits by James Clear

Simplifying for Success

Plans to reach our goals can vary in terms of complexity. If you are not participating in a training program right now, the odds that you are going to handle your training complexity going from zero to one hundred are statistically extremely low.

For those that have never followed a training plan before, you can likely get something out of making simple tweaks to your time in the gym. Here are a few ideas to get you started. Note that whether or not these suit you specifically, is up to you to determine.

  • Add movement drills to your climbing warm-up
  • Do the same hangboard session once a week for 8 weeks
  • Go to the climbing gym three times per week
  • Try any boulder that you do not flash at least five times
Measuring progress during a hangboard session. Photo by Teagan Maddux.

The list could go on forever. The point is, getting better at climbing doesn’t have to be complicated. If you know that you have failed at sticking to training plans before, then resolve to make small adjustments to your training, stick to them, and make changes once you stop seeing results.

This is not to say that getting better at climbing is easy. And eventually, your goals will necessitate increases in training complexity beyond the small tweaks to your sessions that are discussed above. That being said, if you don’t feel comfortable going big with a full-fledged training program. Start with small, manageable bites.

Please Start Measuring Something

Making small tweaks to your climbing session is a great way to get yourself headed in the right direction. However, if you don’t measure your progress, you really will not know if what you are doing is helping and when your progress is leveling off.

The first step in knowing that you want something in your climbing to change is to have a grasp on what your climbing consists of now. But if you have no idea how strong you are, what you consistently send, or how much climbing you have actually been doing, it is really difficult to do that.

Perhaps you are very new to climbing and all you need to do is go to the gym more to get better. However, you might be a veteran that truly needs to take a hard look at some serious finger training to break into the next grade.

Whatever your situation, some measurement will go a long way.

senderella story - track your training
Taking notes during a climbing session. Photo by Teagan Maddux

Depending on your current habits, maybe it is unrealistic to expect that you will become a detailed note taker that logs their training sessions like I do. If that’s you, fine. Meet yourself where you’re at, but please track something. Here are a few ideas for baby steps you can take to become a better tracker of your climbing and training sessions.

  • Record every time you go climbing or train for climbing. Keep a tally. Bonus points if you separate days inside vs. days outside.
  • Write one sentence about what you did, how it went, for how long, and the date for every time you train or climb in a notebook or excel sheet.
  • Give every session a rating of perceived exertion (how tough the session was) on a scale of 1 to 10.

Once you get in the habit of recording something for each of your training sessions, get more detailed. If you really care about getting better at climbing, you need to keep track of what you are doing.

Related: Comprehensive Guide to Tracking your Climbing and Training

Shut Up and Crush It

So now, please go forward. Spray about it or don’t, but use the above to shift your mindset and crush next year. I am really excited for you and all the dreams you have. So please go make them a reality. See you at the gym.

Do you enjoy making goals? Is training something you are trying to be more disciplined about next year – leave a comment below and let’s discuss!

Want more tips to help you become a better climber? Stay up to date on my latest posts by following me on Instagram, or Facebook, or subscribing to my monthly newsletter!

The Case for Stronger Fingers

Guest Post Intro

I am very excited to introduce my first guest post to the Senderella Story blog. I have admired Chelsea as a female in the climbing trainer space for a while, so I am delighted to have her words here on this sight. Chelsea has crushed multiple routes up to 5.13b and V8 in the state of Washington. She works as a self-made professional climbing coach for women and is a passionate climber herself. In her climbing and her work, she brings the best of herself to help others climb as hard as they can.

I am very excited to get some Pacific Northwest perspective on the blog since there is a lot of Southern Sandstone flair on here. Sometimes when you have spent a lot of your climbing career yanking on Red River Gorge jugs you tend occasionally discount the advantages of having super strong fingers.

With that, here is a post from Chelsea where she breaks down the case for stronger fingers and the basic principles of hangboarding.

Why Stronger Fingers Help You Climb Harder

Most climbers know that stronger fingers are incredibly beneficial for climbing harder, but the why behind what we are doing is so important and can help to direct our training to give us the biggest benefits possible!

When we train for climbing, we want to make sure we are focusing on exercises that will translate and transfer well back to our climbing. Ain’t nobody got time for exercises that don’t actually improve our climbing!

The principle that we are looking for is called specificity

When is the last time you fell off a route or boulder because you were pumped? Like no other reason than besides you were pumped?

I honestly can’t think of many times this has happened to me. 

But what does happen (A LOT) is that I fall off because I can’t do a move – either I’m not strong enough or powerful enough. Especially for women, this is something I see so often!

Chelsea enjoying a finger-intensive route in China Bend, WA

Strength Breeds Endurance

When I do get truly pumped its because the moves below where I fell took too much out of me, and took away from my overall strength. And this is exactly why when we train finger strength, we want to make it as specific to climbing as we can. 

I have tried just about every hangboard program out there. A lot of these programs are volume heavy, and low-intensity in hopes of creating more finger strength.

What I have found is that we actually need less volume (volume is the enemy of strength and power) and MORE intensity. This is KEY to building maximal finger strength.

For some individuals, an increase in finger strength is low-hanging fruit when it comes to breaking into the next grade or breaking out of a plateau.

Progressive Overload

One of the most important tenets of training (and exercise in general!) is the idea of “progressive overload.”

Progressive overload is simple in theory – it involves continually increasing the demands on the musculoskeletal system to continually make gains in muscle size, strength, and endurance. Simply put, in order to get stronger, you must continually make your muscles work harder than they’re used to. 

Makes sense, right?

When it comes to climbing, the same thing applies. We must continually increase the demand placed on the body by making what we do continually more difficult.

How do we do this? There are a few different ways. We can increase intensity and therefore further challenge the body by increasing the resistance (weight) for an exercise, increasing duration, increasing sets or reps, increase training frequency and decreasing rest time.

Using a Hangboard for Progressive Overload

Enter hangboarding! This is my ALL-TIME favorite tool to use to get stronger for climbing because of how well it lends itself to the idea of progressive overload.

One of the best ways to add difficulty for hangboarding and finger strength!

We can make hangboarding more difficult and produce progressive overload by adding more weight to hangs, hanging for longer periods of time, doing hangs on one arm, increasing sets/reps and decreasing rest periods.

While some argue that the best way to improve your climbing is, well, climbing, I think differently. At some point in our climbing careers, finger strength training can be extremely important to becoming stronger at our favorite sport. 

We want to make sure that what we do when we are training transfers over to our climbing as much as it possibly can. Because, hey, most of us are fitting training into a busy lifestyle and want to maximize the results that we can get – I mean I certainly do!

This is where specificity comes into play. We want to make sure the training that we are doing is directly translatable to our climbing. It needs to be specific enough so that the strength that we gain from training shows up in our climbing AND makes a positive impact.

Finger strength is one of the most measurable things that we can do with our climbing. We can write down EXACTLY how much weight we used and which edge – from this information we can see a direct rise in our finger strength. 

I work with a lot of women who have been implementing the Lady Beta training plans (which have a heavy focus on hangboarding) and they have seen massive improvements in not only their strength, but their endurance as well! 

When we become stronger overall, each individual move takes less and less out of us, we have a larger strength reserve to pull from and we won’t need as much endurance. 

When we start using structured exercise as a tool to accomplish our goals and stop using it as a way to just fatigue our bodies, this is where we can start to see massive benefit in our climbing.

Chelsea climbing some crimpy granite in Leavenworth, WA

Where You Can Find Chelsea

Chelsea runs her own website, FromTheMountainsWellness.blog. You can also find her on Instagram, @ladybeta.coaching. And for all my rad ladies out there, she has an awesome facebook group that Chelsea would be delighted for you to join! Chelsea is a source of major stoke on my own social media feed, so give her a follow if you feel so inclined.

Chelsea’s Hangboarding Program

As a professional climbing coach, Chelsea has poured her heart and soul into creating a six week hangboard program to help climbers like yourself get stronger fingers. So if you need some motivation to get after it in the gym this winter, throw some money at it and get cracking. Sale pricing ends on Friday 12/20 so go get it while it’s hot!

*Note that I am not financially affiliated with LadyBeta.Coaching.
I just love supporting rad, entrepreneurial climbing ladies because it makes me happy.

Related Reading

How to Understand if You are Ready to Begin a Hanboarding Protocol

4 Hangboard Protocols To Increase Finger Strength