Tag Archives: climbing training

Climbing & Training Helpful Hints and Suggestions (3): The Sport-Specific Training Approach

Weight training can be a key part of your sport-specific training program. (Image courtesy of Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Weight training can be a key part of your sport-specific training program. (Image courtesy of Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If general, all-around fitness without boredom is what you’re after – and not reaching your personal potential in any one particular sport – well, by all means, you should go ahead and cross-train, especially if you like it! It can be a great way to develop total-body fitness, much more so than doing one or two activities that don’t necessarily incorporate your whole body/energy systems, or that might become boring and repetitive after some time, leading to a plateau, repetitive use injuries, or burnout. Cross-training can also be good for a mental break to assuage burnout and to allow the body to rest and recover (or help maintain general fitness) if you’re injured and can’t climb.

And yes, it’s possible you could make some gains from cross-training activities that might translate into a stronger or improved climbing performance or ability level. But you would be likely to make even greater gains if you invested that same amount of training time that you put into the cross-training activity into more specific climbing training aimed at addressing whatever areas need the most attention (or whatever relevant areas the cross-training activity might target). Never make the mistake of thinking that the time spent doing another activity that is not sport-specific is benefitting you MORE than training for that same sport (in your case, probably climbing) via more sport-specific training tactics would be.

Sport-specific training should include smartly designed and well-informed strength and conditioning exercise(s) that are part of an overall training plan. This is not cross-training. It falls into the category of sport-specific training. Since specificity is a key concept in efficient and effective training – the SAID principle (specific adaptations to imposed demands) – having a portion of your training time being relegated to working on enhancing your ability to perform sport-specific movements using weights or other resistance/conditioning equipment is a major plus. This falls into the category of climbing-specific training. Each exercise selected should have a clear reason for why it’s a part of your training plan – in other words, what it’s supposed to help you with in terms of your climbing performance.

Keep in mind, though, that this does not mean that every single exercise must mimic a climbing movement exactly – because there’s a good reason to seek balance in your body. In other words, developing a hunchbacked posture for climbing is probably not the best way to reach your full potential as a climber. This is elegantly and succinctly explained in “Periodization Training for Sports-3rd Edition,” by Tudor O. Bompa and Carlo A. Buzzichelli, who write, “Misuse of specificity results in asymmetrical and inharmonious body development and neglects the antagonist and stabilizer muscles. Misuse can also hamper the development of the prime movers and result in injury.” To put it simply – if you don’t also train what climbers commonly refer to as “opposing muscles,” you stand to limit your potential to get stronger in your “climbing muscles,” and you also might end up injured as a result of your disregard.

The ideal climbing training plan is tailored to you as an individual, honing in on the precise areas that are holding your progress as a climber back. It also takes into account your training age, time spent climbing, biological age, overall lifestyle, job commitments, life commitments, workout style, stress levels, gender, etc. Summing it up: if you want to dedicate as much time as you can to efficiently and effectively improving at climbing (or any other sport), don’t fool yourself into thinking that cross-training is a better way to train for that activity in lieu of performing that activity itself regularly at a high enough intensity to stimulate desired gains, coupled with sport-specific training components (i.e. drills, lifts, etc.) directly correlated to the activity, each with a precise and unambiguous reason for being included in your particular training plan. And of course, don’t forget to rest!

Read More: Cross Training Doesn’t Work and Aerobic Exercise & Strength Training-Does It Help Or Hurt?

Up Next: Move of the Month (7),  The Grip Release/Relax Trick

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!

Climbing & Training Myths & Misconceptions (3): Cross-Training Is Good Training for Climbing (Part 2)

If you're running to "train for climbing," you might want to reconsider how you spend your training time. (Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

If you’re running to “train for climbing,” you might want to reconsider how you spend your training time. (Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am a recovered cross trainer myself. For a long time I believed that, even if I trained really hard for climbing, I must incorporate some cross-training into my climbing training for my “cardio fitness.” I used to cross-train numerous days a week, and this commitment to cross-training used to be a cornerstone of my “climbing training” for many years.

What was my cross-training? Running. Running for “cardio,” because for some reason, conventional wisdom said that I must do something besides specific climbing training in order to keep my “cardio” up. Never mind that climbing DOES involve cardio, or that steady-state cardio training probably isn’t the best tool for weight management  (for those who argue that they must run in order to keep their weight down).

In fact, too much “cardio” of this type can actually promote the loss of sport-specific lean body weight (LBW — or in other words, climbing muscle). Steady-state aerobic exercise, even in relatively small doses, also can sabotage your sport-specific strength and power development. Perhaps even worse, it might make you gain fat! (See “Does cardio make you fat? Study says yes.”) What climber would want this type of result from their training regimen?

If you regularly climb at a high or fairly high intensity for yourself – meaning that you get your heart rate up and are breathing hard – you already are benefitting from an effective form of cardio training called high-intensity interval training (HIIT), one of the latest exercise trends. HIIT for the general population involves performing a series of specific exercises at a quick pace that together involve the whole body,  rather than HIIT for climbers — which would feature challenging rock climbing that involves intense full-body movements followed by shake-outs on or off the rock to try to recover, followed by more intense full-body movements. If you’re lacking this type of intensity in your climbing – and your priority is improving at climbing – it’s a good idea to add in sport-specific efforts that take the principles of HIIT into account.

Note that these principles include only performing this style of exercise two or three times a week for optimal fitness, as explained in “How to Get Fit in a Few Minutes a Week.” Despite the “more is better” idea that seems to hold fast in our mindsets (similar to the myth of lactic acid), this recent research supports the “less is more” concept. This means that you can probably reap greater gains in less time by decreasing your training/climbing volume and increasing your training/climbing intensity. (Again, resting is a key part of training effectively and efficiently). See Climbing & Training Helpful Hints & Suggestions (1): Lactate Threshold Training (A) for guidance on implementing HIIT in your climbing.

As the authors of “Body by Science” note, “If you want a specific metabolic adaptation, you can produce it only by practicing that specific metabolic adaptation.”

In other words, if you want to get better at climbing, you definitely need to climb, and you need to tailor any outside-of-climbing training to directly correlate with what needs work in your climbing game. And if you want to improve at climbing hard for your body – you must invest much of your training energy into climbing hard for your body. Then rest, recover, and repeat.

Up Next Week: Climbing & Training Helpful Hints and Suggestions (3): The Sport-Specific Training Approach

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!

Climbing & Training Myths & Misconceptions (3): Cross-Training Is Good Training for Climbing (Part 1)

Should you be cross-training to improve your climbing? (Image courtesy of vectorolie at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Does cross-training help improve your climbing? (Image courtesy of vectorolie at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The idea that practicing skills that are used in one sport will somehow improve the specific skills required for another is not at all supported by science. …if you want to improve your skills in a specific sport, you need to practice the skills required for that sport—period.” (from “Body by Science: A Research Based Program for Strength Training, Body building, and Complete Fitness in 12 Minutes a Week,” by Doug McGuff, M.D., and John Little)

“Cross-training does not work, except to sell shoes. The benefits of any particular exercise rarely transfer very far into another mode of exercise. It is also possible that the cross-training will actually interfere with the primary skill (a very specific pattern of joint and muscle coordination being worked on). …however, there may be something to be gained by lifting weights.” (from “A Handbook for Yogasana Teachers,” by Mel Robin)

The two books quoted above almost couldn’t be more diametrically opposed in their beliefs and philosophies surrounding the ideal methods by which to cultivate lifelong whole-body health. For example, the former eschews all stretching as useless while promoting heavy weight training as a key to peak fitness, while the latter lauds the development of slow-twitch muscle fibers and a yoga practice as a superior way to achieve health and longevity.

Without pitting these two books against one another in a philosophical face-off (which I have no desire to do, since I have a more middle-ground viewpoint than either book, and I found great value in the wisdom and approaches presented by both on the whole), I did find it quite interesting that they intersected in a brief moment of agreement on the topic of – of all things – cross-training. (It’s also interesting that the yoga book gives a grudging nod there toward weight training, even for yoga practitioners…hmmm).

But first, before delving into this topic any more deeply, I should provide a definition of the terms under discussion – in other words, what exactly is – and isn’t – considered cross-training, for the purposes of this and the next couple of entries?

According to the Oxford Dictionaries definition, cross training is: “Training in two or more sports in order to improve fitness and performance, especially in a main sport.”

For anyone serious about efficiently and effectively dedicating their training efforts to improving their climbing (or in another specific sport), this would be the proper definition, for sure.

Note that for people who do not have a sport or physical activity of choice that they’re working to excel at, though, that another definition exists (one that I won’t go into great detail in, but that’s worth sharing for clarification’s sake): “to engage in various sports or exercises especially for well-rounded health and muscular development,” as defined by Merriam-Webster.

Myth: Cross-training is an effective, efficient and recommended way to enhance sport-specific performance in climbing (or any given sport).

Reality: Cross-training is not a smart or recommended way to efficiently or effectively train to improve at climbing (or any given sport).

Up Next Week: Climbing & Training Myths & Misconceptions (3): Cross-Training Is Good Training for Climbing (Part 2)

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!