& Power Training
article by Phil Requist is part of a series in Climbing magazine
on various types of training. As an intro., the following is reprinted
from "The world According to Geoff Weigand" in Climbing No. 148:
a physical level Weigand recommends periodisation training. ‘You should
train long endurance for a period, then power, then power-endurance. Endurance
would be like doing four routes at Snowbird (long & easy - Ed.).
Power would be like a two move boulder problem at your limit. And power-endurance
is most climbing, when your racing your pump to the top.’ Depending on
your strength, you’ll spend four to eight weeks on each segment"
Killer of the Green Dragon Clan
article covers hypertrophy and power training. These two phases are dealt
with together because they are closely related and many climbers train
them simultaneously. ] - Ed.
training aims to increase muscle size. This is what bodybuilders emphasise,
and bodybuilding magazines are excellent source of methods and recent studies.
It is important to remember that muscle size is only one small component
to strength, let alone climbing ability.
of schemes exist for attaining muscle hypertrophy.
select the specific muscle that is to be trained, then exercise that specific
muscle until failure repeatedly. Essentially, this involves 5-10 sets of
6-12 repetitions (6-12 seconds for fingerboard hangs).
are performed at an intensity level that produces failure during the last
rep of each set. The speed of each rep can also vary between very slow
to fairly fast. (All reps within a given set should be done at the same
speed.) Rest between sets should be 1-3 minutes: enough to be 75-95% recovered.
You should feel slightly pumped at the end of each set. Recovery time after
each workout is 36-60 hours. At the end of a training day your muscles
should feel exhausted, but not too pumped.
will notice that the time, set, rep, and rest ranges are fairly broad.
Doing 10 set of 12 reps with 1 minute rests will feel much different than
doing 5 sets of 6 reps with 3 minute rests.
and notice how your body reacts to different workouts. Also, variation
is important, never let your body get "used to" a workout routine: this
consistent, nearly identical muscular movements are necessary to stimulate
muscle hypertrophy, rock climbing is a relatively difficult method to use.
On the other hand, weightlifting is so efficient that one must realistically
consider the risk of building too much muscle. Large muscles can yield
greater strength, but they must be trained properly to do so. The proper
combination for you will depend on your climbing style, goals, ability,
strength, training history, time spent training, etc.
you want to do your hypertrophy training on rock, choose a climb with very
similar movements throughout the length of the climb. Or, take a climb
and break it up into sections of 10-20 feet of climbing.
top-rope, climb whatever section you have chosen, lower to the starting
point, then climb it again until failure. After a short rest, repeat this
section until failure 2-3 more times. Rest for 5-10 minutes and move on
to the next section. This is a good method for working sections of a route
that you want to redpoint.
walls are an excellent environment for training hypertrophy. Simply design
a 6-15 move boulder problem with similar moves. After a few training sessions,
this route will be too easy, so make the holds smaller and/or further apart,
or add weight. Make sure to have a variety of routes. These should be designed
for different purposes: crimp strength, pocket strength, lock-offs, etc.
One advantage of training on artificial walls is that strength gains translate
towards climbing ability more rapidly than from weightlifting.
you decide to lift weights, choose 2-3 exercises for each major climbing
specific movement. For example, do 2-3 different pull-up-type exercises
for the major pulling muscles. For smaller muscles (biceps, triceps, etc.)
1 or 2 exercises is enough. Finger curls are also a great way to finish
off your forearms. Each workout should also include at least 5 exercises
that target your antagonistic (or pushing) muscles.
what exercises to do is not easy. I recommend asking fellow climbers, reviewing
climbing magazines, and glancing at some bodybuilding books. The key is
to know what movement you want to simulate and which muscles are used in
that movement. Then look up 2-3 exercises targeting these muscles; try
ability to train hypertrophy on fingerboards is questionable at best. Evidence
indicates to me that finger curls with weights are a better means of attaining
muscle hypertrophy. But, experiment and see for yourself. To train hypertrophy
on a fingerboard, simply choose a hold, hang it for 6-15 seconds, then
rest 1-2 minutes.
you should fail in the last 1-2 seconds of your hang. Do 4-10 sets, then
move on to another type of hold. Vary the holds you hang every few workouts.
to Move On
should have an estimate of how long you will train hypertrophy. The most
important thing is to monitor your workouts. You'll probably notice local
plateaus every 2-3 weeks, where gains come slowly.
this occurs change your workout scheme. Continue training hypertrophy,
just in a different way. As the overall rate of improvement decreases,
so will your motivation, these are good signs to move on to power training.
The phase should last about 8-14 weeks. This should give you a working
knowledge of hypertrophy workouts.
or recruitment, is the ability to activate a high percentage of the muscle
fibres in a given muscle. While bodybuilders are a good example of hypertrophy
training, scrawny climbers who can do multiple one-arm pull-ups are an
excellent example of recruitment training.
a powerful climber does not require large muscles, but it does require
a high level of recruitment. For most climbers, power training will lead
to greater strength and performance faster than any other type of training.
these rewards have a price. Since power training maximises the forces absorbed
by your muscles, ligaments, joints, etc., it can cause serious injuries.
It is also the most complex and challenging type of training.
it is also, for a fact, the most fun.
The term power is used very broadly by climbers, who usually mean strength.
Some relatively unknown, yet primary elements of power are:
Tendon Organ (GTO) which senses stress at the juncture of a muscle and
tendon. If excessive stress is exerted, the Golgi tendon reflex causes
the muscle to shut down. Through deinhibition training (i.e., shock loading),
the GTO can be trained to withstand greater stress without shutting down.
Injuries (like an elbow injury) increase the sensitivity of the GTO.
Strength (SVS). Initiating movement without inertia requires slow-velocity
strength. That is, the ability to overcome a heavy resistance at relatively
slow speeds. SVS is trained by moving very heavy weights (1-3 reps).
Strength (HVS). Once inertia is gained via SVS, HVS is required it keep
it moving or accelerating. HVS is trained with speed repetitions at various
Shortening Cycle (SSC). Before a climber performs a lunge, they lower their
body, extending their arms, then pull rapidly. Why? Because a stretch reflex
caused by rapid extension results in greater force during contraction.
Your efficiency in utilising this reflex can be improved by ballistic and
and Efficient Movement. Performing a powerful move requires the precise
contraction and relaxation of literally hundreds of muscles throughout
the body. Any error, regardless of how minor will result in failure (assuming
the movement is at 100% of your potential). Even unnecessary tension of
facial muscles, for example, leads to inefficient movement. Since power
is largely neuromuscular in nature (this is kinesthetic awareness), fatigue
rapidly reduces co-ordination and therefore, technique. Bruce Lee emphasised:
"Do not practice finely skilled movements after you are tired..."
climbing requires you to perform difficult movements while fatigued, proper
training might appear contradictory. A good guideline is to learn new techniques
fresh and practice known (difficult) techniques tired. This should also
remind you to get adequate rest between sets.
with hypertrophy training, power training has some general guidelines to
follow. The number of sets can range from 3-10. Repetitions should be from
1 to 5 (1-6 seconds for finger hangs). Again, each set is performed at
an intensity level that produces failure during the last rep of each set.
The speed of each rep is a much more important factor in power training;
it can range from normal movement speed to very fast. Rest between sets
should be 3-5 minutes: enough to be 95%+ recovered. You should not feel
pumped at all during the entire workout.
time after each workout is 48-72 hours. At the end of a power-training
day you should feel relatively fresh, say 80-90% (definitely not exhausted);
but you should be unable to complete single moves or routes that felt reasonable
at the start of your workout.
and working short sections of future redpoint routes are adequate means
to training power. As a guide, these problems should be less than 8 moves
and/or take under 10 seconds to climb.
each boulder problem or section as 1 set and repeat the problem several
times (until you can no longer do it). Then move on to another problem
or section. Mix up the type of moves you are doing as much as possible:
do static problems, dynamic problems, fingery problems, etc.
on artificial walls is done just the same as on natural rock, except here
you can finely tune each problem to meet your specific needs. You might
want to try recreating moves on a natural route that you want to redpoint.
are an excellent means of training your fingers on holds that are too dangerous
to use on your boulder problems. For example, don't just slap some monos
on your wall and try to pull on them. Instead, find a good mono on a fingerboard,
and hang it with the aid of elastic straps. Slowly (over the course of
many months) increase the stress to your fingers. This allows for precise
stress to the fingers, which is impossible on boulder problems because
external variables (your feet can slip, humidity, etc.).
The Ultimate Form of Climbing
general, there are two types of campusboard workouts. One involves static
movements, the other dynamic dropping (plyometric) movements. The difference
between the two is substantial. While both methods should be used, the
latter provides greater power gains. The static method is fine for training
lock-offs and some contact strength, but plyometric training targets all
five of the elements of power listed above.
exercises generally involve hand-over-handing from the lowest rung to the
highest while locking-off with one hand.
essence of plyometric campusing lies in dropping, catching, and rapidly
reversing direction back upwards. Any exercise you develop should incorporate
these three aspects.
is important because it means you are accelerating downward. Note that
you will be catching more than body weight because you are accelerating.
Catching targets the Golgi tendon reflex. Reversing direction is important
because this is when you train the upward movement necessary for climbing;
SVS, HVS, SSC, and co-ordination are trained while reversing direction
and catching at the top.
are many plyometric exercises. Here are some examples of the more popular
methods to get you started:
moves. Starting on the same rung, both hands drop down and catch a lower
rung; then you can fire up to the starting rung, or higher. Repeat. Fun.
with two hands at the lowest rung, fire up and touch a rung but do not
hang it, immediately lower and catch yourself on the original rung, then
fire up with the other hand, touch a higher rung without hanging it and
lower and catch on the original rung. Repeat until death. Very hard.
with one hand on the lowest rung, and one hand on the highest rung you
can use, let go with the high hand and catch on the lowest rung, immediately
fire back up with the same hand to its original rung. My personal favourite.
Strength and Slow-Velocity Strength in the arms are the primary targets
of weight training. HVS, is best trained by using loads around 30% of your
1 rep maximum (1 RM). For example, of your 1 RM for pull-downs is 100 kg,
use about 30 kg for HVS training. Do as many reps as possible as fast as
possible at this weight. If you can do more than 20 reps, increase the
can be trained with loads ranging from 60-110% of your 1 RM. At the 60%
range, you should be able to do 4-8 reps fairly fast (try to do them as
fast as possible). Loads greater than your 1 RM are usable only by doing
negatives. Negatives are very demanding on your body, consult bodybuilding
books for specific exercises and methods.
power-weightlifting routine would involve a mix of all the above methods,
although not necessarily in every given workout. Clearly, a solid base
is a pre-requisite.
To Move On (Never)
the next phase in the cycle is power-endurance, I can't really imagine
why you should ever stop power training. As Belt proclaimed to me recently,
"I won't train endurance. I won't." Belt, as with other climbers at "The
Castle" only stops power training when on the verge of injury. For legal
reasons, I must recommend a more sane approach, so follow the same general
guidelines as were mentioned under hypertrophy training. Prepare yourself
for the hell of infinitely boring endurance training.
routes get easier.
moves are always hard moves."