Ways to Improve Your Sport Climbing/Bouldering (7): Using Two Key Training/Exercise Principles – SAID and Overload, Part 1 of 4 (MEDIUM – HARD)

I touched on the concept of SAID – or Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands – in my recent entry talking about triceps training. This simple training concept offers one of the easiest paradigms for effective and efficient climbing training, especially if you’re training for specific climbing-performance goals. Basically, you train for what you want to be better at by doing what you want to be better at – i.e., you train for climbing by climbing. Your time spent trying to improve your climbing game is better (more efficiently) spent actually climbing than it is spent, say, running or swimming or biking or some other fairly-irrelevant-when-it-comes-to-climbing activity.

Aha – but haven’t I said that this exact approach is what failed me, and failed me miserably, to be honest, (and undoubtedly too many others to count) in my own efforts to improve my climbing?

Yes – well, sort of.

In fact, SAID has been serving me really well these past few years of training, and the more I’ve learned to apply it effectively, with particular attention to the overload principle (OP), the more improvements I’ve seen in my climbing. (OP, as simply explained on ExRx.net, states: “If overload is not present, adaptation is not necessary, and will not occur.”)

I’ll explain this from a sport climber’s perspective (mine); the basic outline I’m offering here can be manipulated for bouldering or other climbing disciplines as well as other sports. Actually, it already has, because these are athletic training principles that have been effectively applied beyond what I’m briefly explaining here – obviously.

Back to the topic at hand though – when I first started climbing, and for a long, long while – years, I’m sure – I improved a lot at climbing just by climbing and trying climbs that were harder and harder: SAID/OP in action. But I also gravitated toward the style of climbing I was best at and avoided what I wasn’t naturally good at – which also resulted, inevitably, in SAID/OP in action. Meaning that I got better and better at technical vertical face climbing with lots of bad footholds and intermediates, but not much else – never developing the skill set needed for steep, thuggy, powerful climbing – or steep endurance climbing, for that matter. Or crack climbing or true friction slab climbing, either.

Those latter two are still victims of SAID/OP for me, actually – I’m sure I “suck” at them, still, but that’s how it goes; I won’t get better at them without practice…of course not. But frankly, I don’t much care at the moment. Climbing is personal – as in you choose to train because you love the results or you love training or both, or you choose not to train because you’re happy enough just climbing or you’re getting the results you want from just climbing or both, and you choose to care about certain angles/styles or you choose not to; it’s up to you, always, to choose what you like and want to care about in climbing, or in anything, really.

For me, as someone who really likes seeing the results of training manifested in my climbing, I’d rather focus my training efforts now on the areas that I’m passionate about getting better at – the areas that will help improve both my steep climbing game AND, at this point, my ticky-tacky vertical maneuvering, too, because I did hit a wall there that I couldn’t get beyond, as I’ve discussed too many times here to count – hit the limit of routes/route level I could climb near home that didn’t require more strength and power than I possessed. And that’s where a whole different application of SAID has come into play for me.

(To be continued)

This multipart series of blogs and articles starts here, in case you have to catch up. Remember that my designation of each area as “easy,” “medium” or “hard” is purely subjective. I’ve arrived at the designations from my personal experience garnered from 20 years of climbing along with my observations from climbing coaching throughout the past four years. You may find some of the areas harder or easier to change than I do/did. You also might not agree with me or my take on things. That’s fine – feel free to take it or leave it as you wish! Also, remember that the information I provide here is purely offered as advice and that no exercises or training program should be undertaken without receiving medical clearance from a healthcare professional.

One other caveat: As will be true for all of the entries and articles in this series, if you’ve already mastered or maxed out the topic at hand to the best of your ability level, you’ll reap far fewer benefits or none at all from my suggestions – good for you that you figured it out, but sorry I couldn’t help you out more. Happy climbing, bouldering and training!

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