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 train for skiing and climbing at the same time (and be a badass at both)

A couple of years back when I was still in school, a good friend who had just moved to Jackson Hole sent me a frantic text. Ahead of my upcoming trip to the world-renowned (and famously steep) resort, she warned me  “Start working out your legs or you won’t be ready!”

Jackson Hole, WY

Aware that Jackson Hole was a gnarly place and that my Ohio-based cardiovascular system was not yet prepared for the upcoming trip, I set to work finding a preseason ski training plan that would work with a climbing schedule (and still leave me free time to do my engineering homework and go to the bar with my friends).

Beer, skiing, and climbing were cornerstones of my college existence.

Although this sounds pretty far-fetched, there is an effective preseason ski training plan presented by Backcountry.com that provides exactly what I describe above. Enter the leg blaster.

Click here for Backcountry’s Preseason Conditioning Program

However if you’ve read anything about climbing training and you enjoy skiing, you can spot a pretty obvious issue. These sports demand your body to be conditioned for diverse physical outputs. The only things that overlap in these two sports are the necessity of some cardiovascular stamina, really intense core strength, and a healthy command of your mental game.

Fear not, though. For all you two sport enthusiasts, there are ways to optimize for both. I’ve been following this program for two ski seasons now. I have showed up to resorts from Jackson Hole to Revelstoke to Snowbird ready to slay without noticing significant impact to my climbing.

Geographically speaking, climbing season and ski season are not really concurrent for me. The outdoor climbing areas in the Northeast become mostly too cold, and ski season starts in Mid-November to December. After the end of the fall climbing season, I transition to indoor training for climbing and prepping my legs to hit the powder in the coming winter months.

Me slashing the fluffy stuff in Lake Louise. You can tell I wasn’t have any fun at all.

There are myriad ways to prep for ski season. For my purposes, I adhere to a training plan that is simple, requires minimal time commitment, and is effective. Let’s go into some more details regarding the pre-season conditioning program described by backcountry.

What is a leg blaster?

Certainly refer to Backcountry for more details, but a leg blaster is essentially a series of eccentric body weight leg movements targeting the lower half. Below is an explanation of concentric vs. eccentric strength for skiing from Rob Shaul, who runs the Mountain Tactical Institute in Jackson, Wyoming (he is also the author of the Backcountry Article/the mastermind behind the leg blasting training protocol).

Alpine skiing demands eccentric leg strength. Think of concentric strength as “positive’ strength. This is the strength you use to stand up from the bottom of a squat, or hike up a steep hill. Eccentric strength is “negative’ strength. You use eccentric strength to lower yourself into the bottom of the squat, and hike down a steep hill. Eccentric strength absorbs force. Alpine skiing primarily demands eccentric strength.

So there you have it. Train your ability to absorb impact and get better at skiing. See below for an explanation of both “mini” and a “full” leg blaster.

Mini Leg Blaster

10 bodyweight squats

5 lunges each side (10 total)

5 jump lunges each side (10 total)

5 jump squats

Full Leg Blaster

20 bodyweight squats

10 lunges each side (20 total)

10 jump lunges each side (20 total)

10 jump squats

As you work through the program, you improve from 10 mini leg blasters to 5 full ones. The exercises should be done as quickly as possible without compromising form, 30s rest in between. I recommend keeping a stop watch on your phone and tallying on a piece of paper as you go.

Train for Skiing After Climbing

Moonboarding is hard. Moonboarding after leg blasters would be extremely difficult.

So how do you work in leg blasters on a daily/weekly basis?

It’s pretty simple actually. It takes about 15 minutes to complete your leg blasting workout and no equipment is required. I tack it onto the end of a climbing session 2-3 times a week with 1-2 days of rest in between.

Note that I don’t do leg blasters before training/climbing. I only do them at the end of a session. I love both sports, but I’m not compromising a limit bouldering session because I just wrecked myself doing 50 jump squats.

Hypertrophy concerns

For obvious reasons, excess leg muscle is sub-optimal for high performance climbing. According to the Anderson Brothers in The Rock Climber’s Training Manual,

“[Leg] Muscles ‘in training’ can store up to 5 lbs of useless (to climbing) glucose and water alone.”

Doing the volume of low weight high rep leg exercise as prescribed for pre-season ski conditioning (and skiing itself) is likely going to lead to some hypertrophy; however, I like to think this is advantageous in the outdoor climbing off-season.

Think of this additional leg muscle is “training weight”. As you train for climbing you’ll be training with the weight of your beefy, shred-ready thighs, preparing your upper body and your fingers to climb at a heavier weight (and then you will presumably drop this excess weight at the start of climbing season.

According to the Anderson Brothers, “At the end of each season’s peak, it is acceptable (and even desirable), to relax dietary restrictions and bulk up five to ten pounds…It is very difficult to add muscle and effectively build strength with restricted caloric intake.”

So eat well, get comfortable with putting on some training weight. It takes time to completely lose muscle gained during the ski season, so don’t expect your legs to shrink overnight. Muscle will begin receding after about one month. Once three months of not skiing in the summer have passed, your legs should be nice and scrawny for fall send season. If you want to read all about the effects of detraining on your muscle, I found an extremely well-researched article on muscleforlife.com. Check out an excerpt from the article below:

At the 4-week mark, chances are good that you’ll gradually lose muscle until you start lifting weights again. Once you start working out, though, you’ll likely regain muscle faster than when you first started training.”

Sure, in a perfect world you never have to climb with excess leg muscle weighing you down. But to be a two sport athlete, sacrifices must be made. Personally, I love skiing waist-deep powder. So let the gains begin.

Me enjoying the deep stuff in Revelstoke last winter.

Training Cardio for Ski Season

Another physical adaptation that may need to be increased for ski season is your cardiovascular capacity. As someone that does not live at a high altitude, I am not naturally prepared to be hiking uphill with skis on my back at 10,000 ft.

Smiling even though hiking uphill in ski boots is the least enjoyable part of skiing.

So cardio for ski season is necessary, for me at least.

Last year was the first year I included cardio training in my pre-season program. I am pretty cardio averse so I had to enlist the help of the good people of Orange Theory to get myself to do it. I personally do not enjoy cardio so going to a class where I was forced to run and row (all out sprints included) was a good choice for me.

This year, in order to save my sweet sweet moola for a new pair of skis, I’m forgoing the Orange Theory membership and trading it in for some quality time on the rower and the treadmill.

Although it would be nice to have the time for a long run a few times a week, I am opting to train my cardio systems with High Intensity Interval Training twice per week instead. This is a less time consuming cardio regimen and has been proven to be very effective as well.

8 week HIIT Program from BodyBuilding.com

This article on HIIT from BodyBuilding.com explains the concept pretty simply. I will either do my HIIT training on the rower or the treadmill and I won’t do HIIT more than twice a week. Leg blasters are pretty intense cardio anyway, and honestly I don’t have the time to do more than two HIIT sessions per week in addition to climbing training.

Weekly Training Overview

So what does this look like on a weekly basis?

See sample schedule below (for an explanation of the climbing portion of this training schedule, click here and here):

Monday: Limit bouldering

Tuesday: Strength, HIIT

Wednesday: Rest day

Thursday: Power Endurance, leg blasters

Friday: Endurance, HIIT

Saturday: Climb indoors/ski outside/rest (depends on the weather/life obligations)

Sunday: Leg blasters

Things to keep in mind

1. Intense cardio can wreck your climbing recovery. If possible, it’s best to give yourself full and complete rest days instead of doing some sort of training everyday.

2. Leg blasters can and will destroy your legs, especially if you haven’t worked out the old gams in a while. When I get back to doing them each season I take it easy, starting with 7-8 mini leg blasters and working my way up (although 10 minis is the recommended starting point). As soon as my thighs start feeling “pumped” I call it quits and cool down. Being sore and walking like you have a stick up your ass for 3 days straight sucks (and it will make climbing suck too). Don’t overdo it.

3. Make sure you have good form for these exercises! Don’t hurt your knees before ski season even starts.

4. Warm up before leg blasting. You probably will be warmed up from climbing, but make sure you at least do some walking/dynamic warmups before you start your leg blasting/HIIT workouts.

With that, happy skiing and happy climbing. Shoot me an email if you have any questions!

Review of Steve Bechtel’s Logical Progression: Halfway there

Logical Progression refers to the simple progression we make in a nonlinear plan. By training strength, then power, and then endurance in sequence, you’ll see that you truly can develop all of these facets of your fitness at the same time, and perform better year-round.

With this book as your guide, I hope that you’ll embrace a different way of looking at training, and performing, in climbing.

– Steve Bechtel, Logical Progression

At the time this is being published I am halfway through Steve Bechtel’s Logical Progression Program. I was a little scared to try a new program for the ever-important Fall Climbing Season, but so far I am very glad I did. In seven weeks I’ve seen a noticeable impact to my climbing. Read on to see if you think this program would be helpful for you!

General Overview

To summarize the book and program, Steve Bechtel has designed a program around concurrently training strength, power/strength endurance, endurance,  and power. For an explanation of non-linear periodization, click here. You rotate through training days, working a different facet of training each day (e.g. in 5-7 day time frame you would have done a strength, endurance, power endurance, and limit bouldering workouts).

A problem from a limit bouldering session at the Triangle Rock Club  when I was visiting family in North Carolina.

Steve offers a few different options for the program orientation. I went with the “Level 1” program as it is the most entry-level option and geared toward climbers that are new (or new-ish) to training. The Level 1 program also has the most simplistic setup, which sounded good to me.

Below is a general overview of the training sessions I’ve completed over the course of 7 weeks.

  • 6 Endurance Workouts
  • 7  integrated strength workouts
  • 6 Limit bouldering sessions
  • 6 power endurance sessions

Although there were some hiccups here and there, I think I did a good job of not skipping certain training days in favor of others–something Steve warns about in the book.

Overall impression of Logical Progression Program

So far I am really enjoying the variety that the program has to offer. Training all facets of climbing concurrently has been really amusing and it’s been pretty easy to stay psyched on training.

I still have six-seven more weeks to go, so we’ll see if it gets harder to stay stoked, but I’m thinking it won’t.

The structure/flexibility of the program is great. In the past month I have moved to a new city, moved apartments twice (long story), started a new job, started this blog, and have still managed to train and avoid stressing about making training work with my schedule. So from a strategic standpoint, this program is ideal for the average weekend warrior.

Adventures of moving into a new apartment!

I was pretty nervous to switch from the Rock Prodigy program, but Steve Bechtel is the man and I decided to give it a shot. So far, the results have been noticeable and I’m pretty psyched about it.

Hangboard Results

First of all, I like that Steve recommends that you switch up the hangboard protocol halfway through the program. I feel like there are so many protocols claiming to be “the best”, so it’s refreshing to have a trainer claim that threre is more than one way to hangboard.

So far, I have only completed the 3-6-9 ladder portion of the hangboard program, so I will speak to the results of this.

When I first read through the first part of the hangboard program, my first thought was “how the hell are my fingers going to get stronger if I’m spending only 3 minutes PER WEEK hanging on them.”

The proof is in the pudding. My finger strength improved measurably. See beginning, middle and end below.

Workout #1*:
Open hand, 20mm, Bodyweight (BW)
Half crimp, 20mm edge, BW
Full crimp, 30mm edge, BW
*note that I was taking it a easy on this day because it was my first time back on a hangboard in a while

Workout #3:
Open hand, 25mm, BW +15lbs
Half crimp on 25mm edge, BW+15 lbs
Full crimp, 20mm, BW

Workout #6:
Open hand, 15mm, BW +13lbs
Half crimp on 15mm edge, BW+13 lbs
Full crimp, 15mm, BW

If you want to attribute this to “newbie gains”–you really can’t, because I’ve done 30+ hangboard workouts in the past year and a half (a la the Rock Prodigy program).

Integrated Strength Gains

Bechtel incorporates some climbing specific strength training into his program. He actually has an interesting structure for strength training called Integrated Strength. I don’t want to get too in the weeds about it, so read more about it here. Essentially you end up doing a hangboard exercise, a lift, and a mobility exercise right in a row. It is a very interesting approach.

Below I review some personal records from the integrated strength workouts:

Deadlift: 165lbs – 5 reps
Hanging leg raise: 6 reps
Weighted push-ups: 25lb plate, 5 reps
(I could NOT come even remotely close to doing the one arm, one leg push-up as recommended, so putting a plate on my back to up the intensity was my best option).

My deadlift increased by about 20lbs throughout the 6 workouts, push-ups didn’t go up by too much, but the hanging leg raises definitely got easier and improved in quality as I kept going. (Note that the try-hard face you see below is completely required, these BREAK ME.)

Power/Strength Endurance Results

Essentially, the power endurance workouts are 3 sets of 6 boulder problems that are right around your limit–leaving only 2 minutes or so between problems for recovery.

Bechtel recommends an interesting method of quantifying these workouts. Basically, you add up the grade of all the routes and take the average of these. He calls this your v-score or v-average.

Below I compare my average v-score from my best strength endurance circuit in my first workout to that of my final workout. Note that the rest between problems from the first workout was about 2 minutes. In my most recent PE workout I’ve reduced the rest to 1 minute.

Session 1:  Average V-score = 3
Session 3: Average V-score = 3.9
Session 6: Average V-score = 4.2

Essentially, I’ve gone from doing  6 boulder problems with V3 and V4 problems, to doing sets with V4 and V5 problems with less rest in between.

Noteable Ascents – Indoors and Outdoors

Putting in my first attempt on Orangahang, 5.12a

  • First 5.12 indoors – flashed it
  • Regularly Flashing 11+ (in the gym)
  • First V6 indoors
  • Able to work the moves/complete the crux on Orangahang, 5.12a in Rumney (new project–very psyched about it)
  • Flashed Waimea, 5.10d in Rumney–I’ve onsighted 10d before, but if feels good to do it in a new crag with a style different from the Red. It also felt pretty easy which was cool.

Flashing Waimea, 5.10d (also peep the guy a couple routes over about to send his project, graded 14c!)

These halfway point results are substantial from my perspective. I look forward to continue putting in work on Orangahang and other project and am very excited to see where this program takes me.

More to come, overall I’d highly recommend the program based on my half-way-there results.

Cheers,

Senderella

How to Make a Training Plan Part 3: Block vs. Nonlinear Periodization

To quicly re-cap:

The first part of making a training program is to set attainable, inspiring, goals.
The second is to know what components of your climbing need to be improved in order achieve your goals. 

In part three we review two types of training structures. There are different ways to set up your training on a day-to-day, week-to-week and month-to-month basis. These are block and non-linear periodization. They both have their pros and cons and either training structure is only as good as the climber’s adherence to the program.

What is periodization?

Generically speaking, periodization is the idea that training is more effective if you train certain attributes in a time-specific way. Periodization is an idea that is employed in many athletic fields, climbing included. See scholarly definition below.

Periodization is an organized approach to training that involves progressive cycling of various aspects of a training program during a specific period of time.

(Frankel, C.C. & Kravitz, L. (2000). Periodization: Latest Studies and Practical Applications. IDEA Personal Trainer, 11(1), 15-16)

Comparison of Block and. Non-Linear Periodization

I have personal experience with both styles. I have completed multiple macrocycles of what is essentially a block periodization program and it was very effective. This is what made up the first year or so of my training.

Currently, I am in the middle of my first non-linear program and I am really enjoying the change—the results are not yet in in terms of improvement in my climbing as I have not yet completed it, but at minimum certain measurable aspects of my climbing have definitely improved (finger strength, completion/improvement on some indoor boulders, etc.).

I could explain each style of program with some lengthy post, but the comparison of the two can be nicely summed up using the table below.


Block

Non-Linear
Structure
Breaks up your training into 3-4 distinct phases where you focus on one attribute of climbing at a time for 4-6 weeks.*

  • Endurance
  • Strength
  • Power
  • Power Endurance
  • Performance

*Note that although the focus is on one attribute per phase—there are other attributes being worked on simultaneously in the background. No block training program is purely one component at a time.

 Rotation throughout the program, working on all critical attributes concurrently over the course of 7-10 days (depending on how much rest you need).

The schedule would look some thing like this:

Mon – Strength
Weds – Power
Thurs – Endurance
Saturday – Power Endurance

Performance &
Outdoor Climbing
Reach a performance peak at the end of the training plan. During some periods of the training, outdoor climbing may need to be ommitted for adherence to the program . Outdoor climbing can be de-coupled with training. You can go climb outside and project on the weekends—no specific performance “peak”.
Specific Literature
Rock Prodigy Program
How to Climb 5.12
Logical Progression
Pros
Strong performance peak, effective. You can, in theory, be performing all throughout the program. Flexible and engaging because you rotate through different workouts (strength, limit bouldering, etc.) in addition to working different aspects in one single training session.
Cons
Training must be planned around trip outside to work on goal route. Potential omission of outdoor climbing to focus on training. Can be daunting to focus on one attribute for a month at a time. Certain aspects decline while focusing on other aspects. No specific performance peak. May develop certain aspects (finger strength, power) more slowly than if you focused on one aspect at a time.

After evaluating my own goals for the season and my schedule, I have chosen a nonlinear periodization program for this training season. I am currently following the Logical Progression program laid out by Steve Bechtel and I am really enjoying it so far. I chose this program because I think it works well for the time frame in which I need to be in tip top shape. I will be trying to hit some personal bests on a couple of trips in October and November, so a very targeted performance peak does not work for me this year in terms of timing. I also thought it might be time to change it up a bit, which has been really fun so far!

UPCOMING TRIPS

I am headed to Mallorca, Spain for a week in October (1 month out!). I am also headed to the Red River Gorge for a long weekend as well. I will have just three days to try and take down my first 12b (ahh!).

My first go at Super Best Friends (5.12b). I got rained out of working on it more on my last trip to the Red. This route is the goal for my next trip down there in November!

Once you have your own goals and your time frame nailed down, you can choose which will work best for you too!

Which style of training appeals to you and your goals? If you’ve tried both, which do you like better?

Leave a comment or shoot me and email, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Happy climbing,

Senderella

How to Make a Training Plan Part 2: The 6 elements of sending

Training for a project is like a mixing a great cocktail. A variety of ingredients, well-synthesized and carefully planned will yield great results. In this article we’re going to go over the different bases, modifiers, and huge cocktail-shaking forearms you need to make the ascent of your goal route both smooth and delicious.

Let us start with a quick exercise. Grab a beer and enjoy the short film below of Michaela Kiersch sending Golden Ticket (14c) at my [former] home crag–The Red River Gorge.

For starters, this route is 85 feet tall and has many challenging moves and holds. Note that Michaela has the endurance to deal with marginal crimps for all 85 ft. She has the power and strength to accomplish the move, recover from it, and clip the anchors. In addition, she has to have the stamina to try this route many times in one day since she is in school and is only able to make it down to the crag on the weekends.

Summarily, in order to redpoint this route, she needed to:

1. Be able to do all of the moves.
2. Be able to link all of these moves together.
3. Have the capacity to make put in multiple burns on it in one day since she is short on time.
4. Not get injured in the process

We may not all be intensely projecting 14c,  but if you are reading this blog, you probably have a goal route–or a few–in mind (if you don’t, see How to Make a Training Plan Part 1: Goals You can Point To).  It is natural then, that you would want your training program to address all of the above. After reviewing some of the most popular training regimens by a variety of authors and doing a few of them myself, it seems that training for single pitch sport climbing can be summarized by these 6 components:
strength, endurance, power, skill, power endurance, and injury prevention.*
*Note that my training and goals are primarily for single pitch sport climbs, at this time. The cruciality of these components will vary for other styles of climbing. 

Strength
The concept of strength is pretty simple–you either have the physical capacity to do something or you don’t. In climbing, a good program will focus on the following, in terms of strength:

  • Finger strength
  • Antagonist strength
    • By definition, an antagonist muscle is a muscle that directly opposes another muscle. In climbing, we use all of our muscles; however, climbers tend to overdevelop certain muscle groups. Therefore, a good program will have you develop the lesser-used muscles. Read more about antagonist muscle strength from The Climbing Doctor!
  • Selection of exercises with a focus on climbing specific movement

    My try-hard face while I engage too many different muscles in this hanging leg raise.

Endurance

Whether you are too pumped to clip at bolt 3 or at bolt 11–if you don’t have the endurance to recover from the crux and finish the route, you are never going to send. Building up your low-end endurance capacity is important.
See  Guide to Endurance Training for more details.

Power

Let’s talk physics. See equation below.

Power = Work/time

Now let’s look at a practical example from my personal life.

Bouldering at my limit to increase power.

My boyfriend, Mike, is very tall–about 6’3″. He is able to reach things that I cannot and thus, some moves work better for him when they are done statically. I am not tall, and there are some holds that I will not be reaching unless I start moving dynamically.

If Mike and I both do the same move, but he take 5 seconds to do it because he can move slowly, and I take 1 second to do it because I jumped–I have done the same amount of work in less time, and therefore I have displayed more power.*

A good training program will set you up to increase your power so that you can efficiently do those big powerful moves on your project without letting one big throw bust your whole send.

*if we are being extra nerdy, technically Mike has more mass than me, so technically he has done more work than I have. However, let’s not get too detailed. 

Power Endurance

This is where things get whacky. Experts get into debates all day about whether or not power endurance is even a real energy system–this is fine. As climbers, I think the term “power endurance” is a term that makes sense to many of us, so we are just going to take it and run with it. Let’s look at another example.

Climber A can climb v8 in the gym. Once he tries on it for a week or so, he can get warmed up, rest properly, and do the problem. If he wanted to do it again, however, he’d have to wait at least 5 minutes to rest and he may or may not have the capacity to do so when he tries again.

Climber B can also climb v8 in the gym. However, climber B has a different rest requirement to do this problem. She is able to place this problem in a circuit. Climber B can start on this v8, climb down a v3 to recover, stay on a jug for a nice, active rest and do the v8 again.

Both climbers exhibit the power to do the moves on this problem; however, Climber B has the power endurance to repeat these powerful moves without a full resting recovery. Climber A does not.

Power endurance is the ability to exhibit near-maximum power over and over again. It is the ability to maintain a prolonged display of near-maximum power. A quality training program will also focus on improving this element of a climber’s skill set.

If you want to learn more about this, give TrainingBeta Podcast Episode 101 a listen–one of my favorite trainers, Steve Bechtel, explains power/strength endurance very well.

Skill

At its core, climbing is a skill sport. If you want to get better at it, you will not do so by doing tons of pullups.  You must learn lots of moves and hone your skills to improve as a climber. I think this point is summed up very well by Eric Horst in his book, How to Climb 5.12.

The best climbers [climb at] an exceedingly high level because they have internally programmed gazillions of different moves that are on call at a moment’s notice.

Essentially, you can be great at hangboarding, campusing, and doing pull-ups, but if you never improve your technique you won’t be getting better at climbing.  A well-planned training program has plenty of on-rock time in which you can hone your skills.

Injury Prevention

If you are run-down, your shoulders feel like trash, and you slept three hours last night, you aren’t going to be performing or training optimally.

However you train, the first priority should be to avoid injury. Generally,  if you can’t climb you can’t get better at climbing.

Overall, a quality training program will focus on improving your strength, power, endurance, skill, power endurance, and preventing injury. Blend all of these

Cheers,

Senderella

How to Make Training Plan Part 1: Goals You Can Point to

Last spring, when my work was getting particularly gloomy, I decided to spend my lunch time sprucing up the cork board above my desk. I needed a reminder of why it was worth it to drive an hour from work to get to the climbing gym to train. I knew I had to stay motivated and go climb, though sometimes all I really wanted to do was smash the jelly doughnuts in the break room and take a nap.

To ward off the dreariness, I printed out whatever google images had available for the routes at the Red River Gorge that I was excited about. When my coworkers would ask me what I was up to over the weekend, I would point to one of the pictures on my desk , smile really big, and say “I’m gonna go bag this route”.

Me, super psyched, at the end of a day where I sent a project that had previously landed me with a few staples in my head the season before.

And I did. It was a blast. Each weekend getaway to the red would yield another tick–I would take the route’s picture down as soon as I sent it, and pin another on the board.

They say “never lose sight of your goals” so I made sure to put my goals where I could see them everyday (even sometimes on the weekends, unfortunately).

When making goals at the beginning of a training plan, there are three key components that should be considered:

  1. Specificity
    Choosing a route, or a handful of routes to train for is far superior to saying “I want to send an 11d outside.” When training, it is good to customize the program with the goal  in mind. With the variety of terrain that can be classified as “11d”, it is more beneficial to choose a specific 11d, be aware of the cruxes on the route, and keep the unique challenges of this route in mind as training progresses.
  2. Attainability
    Sure, I would love to climb 5.13d, but my hardest onsight is a 5.11a–so it would be pretty stupid to start trying to work a 13d, wouldn’t it? In How to Climb 5.12, renowned trainer, Eric Horst, recommends choosing projects that are approximately, 4-6 letter grades above your hardest onsight.  (Keep in mind this is in terms of single pitch sport climbs).  Additionally, training programs are a relatively short-term commitment (8-12 weeks)–it is important to choose goals that congruent to the timeline of training.
  3. Inspiration
    If the goal isn’t getting you psyched before you start training–it definitely won’t keep you motivated when you’re in the middle of a tough workout. Pick something that, when asked about it, you want to launch into a full cinematic Reel Rock interview about how stoked you are to do this thing.

In summary, goals that are specific, attainable, and inspiring  are a solid basis for a training program. Clear, stoke-inducing objectives will keep you motivated, even when the going gets tough.

Happy climbing!