Climbing IS the Best Training for Climbing, But… Part 9 (IYC 17)

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Plateaus (6): “Just Climbing” Probably Isn’t the Best Training for Climbing…for Anyone

This week’s entry continues the discussion from last week about a climbing plateau caused by b) the climbing being undertaken regularly does not offer the most efficient/effective means by which to address the climber’s specific and personal weaknesses, meaning that he or she may get tiny, incremental bits of progress here and there from this climbing, but that if a more specific program of training were undertaken, gains would likely come more quickly and efficiently than they would through continuing the program of “just climbing as training for climbing.”

What I’ve learned as I’ve gained and continue to gain strength and power (strength gained largely through a targeted program of weight/resistance training, which I then mold via climbing training into climbing-specific power, etc.) is that what I thought were solid technical/tactical solutions were actually more often than not just my way of compensating for my lack of ability to perform the move(s) the way a stronger climber would – in other words, being stronger from the start (or closer to it) would have opened up different techniques to me more quickly, and many of these techniques would likely be considered the most efficient or effective solution to the move(s) in question by the majority of climbers.

I just use myself here as an example of when I feel, in my case, that basic strength training would have been appropriate to add into my climbing world, and I feel that I would have benefited from it right from the start, given the set of strengths/weaknesses I brought to the sport and that I was an adult when I first started climbing. But still – if I had to pick only one training component to include for someone like me back when I started, I would still say that climbing was MORE important – again, because without actually climbing, how could a person learn to climb and develop all of the complex technical and tactical skills necessary to grow and improve as a climber?

That being said, though, sport-specific strength (or a lack thereof) can eventually limit/constrain technical and tactical development, too (as I’ve learned); you can develop your own weird technical/tactical solutions that aren’t really that efficient for most folks to compensate for your weaknesses – but then if and when you do get stronger in those areas of weakness, you might find yourself forgoing those techniques/tactics and understanding that, “Hey, I just wasn’t strong enough to do moves like this this way before, but now that I am, I can see why it’s considered ‘good technique’ by most climbers.”

So to sum this up – if you’re plateauing from “just climbing,” it might be worth looking a) at the content, structure, intensity, volume, frequency, and routine components of your climbing sessions, and making some adjustments there; and b) adding in some specific, personalized climbing training exercises AND outside-of-climbing strength-training elements to your training plans to try to more efficiently and effectively stimulate the gains you’re after and to bust that plateau. More on both of the above next time!

This multipart series of articles starts here, in case you have to catch up – you’ll also find a full table of contents, complete with links, in that entry. This information and advice is based on my 20+ years of climbing along with observations I’ve made as a climbing coach/certified personal trainer. You 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 and training!

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