Tag Archives: Alli Rainey

Climbing & Training Helpful Hints and Suggestions (1): Lactate Threshold Training (B)

Include moves that make you uncomfortable when you encounter them on a route after a bunch of other moves -- like dynos are for me.

Include moves that make you uncomfortable when you encounter them on a route after a bunch of other moves — like dynos are for me.

Lactate Threshold Improvement Tactic 1: High-intensity interval training (HIIT) in the gym. In HIIT, you train your body to climb hard at a relatively quick pace without losing your ability to maintain solid technical and tactical maneuvering (i.e. maintaining control while pushing at your limit). If you have route goals outside (and you know the routes or can obtain information about them), this can help you structure these workouts more specifically (recall the SAID principle of training – specific adaptations to imposed demands) to your advantage.

Step 1: Create several boulder problems or routes inside that have roughly the same amount and types of moves you have to perform between rests/shakes on the route(s) you wish to redpoint. If you don’t have any projects in mind, then try to create problems (or routes made up of several “problems,” as so many routes are outside) ranging from 10 to 30+ moves, focusing on the types of moves or sequences of movements that you routinely struggle with. One way to do this is to create problems with themes, such as dynamic movement, slopers, small holds, lots of one-foot-only on moves, etc. You want these problems to be challenging, but not ridiculous. For known projects, you may start with moves that are slightly easier than the moves that challenge you outside. You can also start with slightly harder sequences or moves than those you encounter on the route(s) – so long as you can do them inside without falling at least one time per session.

Your aim is to be able to climb several of these problems per session cleanly, with no shaking out or resting as you climb them (anywhere from 4 to 20 laps total per session, depending on the intensity/difficulty/length of each problem), taking timed rests in between the problems. I usually start with 5 minutes and work down from there. As you improve at sending each problem multiple times, you’ll want to start decreasing the rest times between efforts, which will eventually lead to you to Step 2.

Step 2: Linkage with shakes on the wall. Once you’re able to handily send all the sections of your redpoint route project recreated indoors (or your imaginary route project made up of several long boulder problems created to target all of the areas of your climbing that need the most work), you’ll ideally want to start trying to sew it together without rests off the wall. So you’ll climb the first part of the route (the first boulder problem) to a rest – preferably one that mimics the rest you’ll get outside – and shake out there until you feel ready to move into part two, and so forth, until you send.

Step 3: Take it to the project outside (see next week’s entry for details). Or, if the moves were slightly easier to start with, now you’ll incorporate harder moves into your HIIT training routine, perhaps ending up sending a route that is even harder than your outdoor project.

Note that it’s important to not fall into a “too-specific” training rut here – you want specificity, but not to the point that you forgo all other types of climbing-related movements that challenge you because of training for a single project (unless that’s all that’s really important to you right now and you don’t care if you lose some ability in other areas). The simple solution to this is to have more than one mix of problems you can try (i.e. more than one full boulder-problem route that you’ll eventually link), or even more simply, to change the order of problems (if it’s not a specific route you’re training for) from session to session.

Also note that this is high-intensity training, meaning that quality and intensity of the sessions count for more than volume/frequency. If you’re training at a hard enough level to elicit training gains, you should aim to do this type of training two or three times a week, tops. If you have other training elements in your training program right now (such as power-focused bouldering/training or weight/strength/resistance training, for example), once or twice a week will likely be more effective and efficient in helping you see quicker gains while avoiding overtraining or “plateau-area” training, in which you can’t truly push hard because you’re never recovered enough to truly push hard.

Up Next Week: Climbing & Training Helpful Hints and Suggestions (1): Lactate Threshold Training (C)

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 Helpful Hints & Suggestions (1): Lactate Threshold Training (A)

Smart lactate threshold training starts with establishing a solid base of consistent and challenging climbing.

Smart lactate threshold training starts with establishing a solid base of consistent and challenging climbing efforts.

Continuing last week’s discussion about lactic acid and lactate, this week’s entry turns to practical advice based on the concept that lactate is an athlete’s friend, not foe. And it turns out that despite having the science behind lactic acid/lactate incorrect (i.e. it’s a help rather than a hindrance to working muscles), lactate threshold training – something that has long been employed as a sports training tactic – still holds great value for athletes, but for a different reason than used to be assumed.

“The aim is to teach your body to consume lactate more quickly, not to avoid ‘poisoning’ your muscles with too much lactate,” as Alex Hutchinson explains in “Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights?: Fitness Myths, Training Truths, and Other Surprising Discoveries from the Science of Exercise.”

To put this very simplistically into climbing terms: If you train your body to use lactate faster, you can potentially resist fatigue for longer when you’re climbing, meaning you can do more moves at a higher percentage of your maximal ability level for a longer time, and you can recover and do this again with greater ease – a major goal for most sport climbers out there.

I don’t want to get into a nitpicky, overly analytical prescription here involving target heart rates and training zones and such. What I want to do instead is to give a few general, highly employable training tactics that you might find will help you increase your body’s ability to use lactate for fuel – or in other words, to avoid the pump for longer and longer periods of time/numbers of moves.

Lactate Threshold Improvement Preparatory Training: Lactate threshold training is quite uncomfortable and taxing (you’re working on getting pumped on purpose!), and it should not be pursued without a solid training base. Establish a solid base level of climbing/training volume that you can manage in every week, with a rest week thrown in once every four to six weeks. One of the biggest reasons that new training regimens fail is the “too much, too soon” paradigm, in which the excited climber (or other athlete) jumps full-on into a new, more difficult training regimen without taking the time to establish a solid base level of sport-specific fitness. Note that for climbing, this does not include cyclical endurance exercises like running, cycling or swimming; you want to build a fitness base for climbing – so CLIMB!

Developing a suitable base for more structured/intense lactate threshold training for climbing involves a regular amount of time spent climbing or training for climbing in each week (2 to 4 days, depending on intensity of sessions), and, please, not just climbing laps on routes that are easy for you. Your workouts should include challenging moves and challenging series of moves that take you out of your comfort zone. You may already have a base like this – but if you don’t, it’s a good place to start before taking on a more regimented plan to push beyond your comfort zone.

Up Next Week: Climbing & Training Helpful Hints and Suggestions (1): Lactate Threshold Training (B)

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!

Move of the Month 4: The Open-Hand Grip (Improve Your Climbing Series)

Move of the Month is back, hopefully with more consistency this time around!

This month’s move is the open-handed grip position. Though I started out my climbing life attempting (somewhat successfully) to crimp every hold I grabbed for dear life, I’ve long since come to believe is the most desirable way to grasp and use the majority of handholds, “crimpers” included – unless you need the extra strength of the crimp to help you hang on and/or pull you through. If you’re confused about the difference between open-handing and crimping a hold, take a look at the photos below for clarification.

In this photo I'm open-handing with both hands.

In this photo I’m open-handing with both hands.

In this photo, my left hand is open-handing, while my right hand is crimping.

In this photo, my left hand is open-handing, while my right hand is crimping.

I don’t want to get into too many nerdy details here (or in any Move of the Month entries) about the whys of the open-handed position being preferable, so I’ll keep it short and to the point, sharing my top three reasons why I prefer open-handing holds as my default way of taking holds rather than crimping, and why I recommend training to a high level of comfort with open-handing holds.

First, open-handing holds tends to have less injury potential than crimping due to the less stressful  way an open-handed grip loads your fingers. As your fingers are already extended in an open-handed grip, this reduces the risk of a sudden and potentially damaging impact (e.g. the dreaded tendon or pulley “pop”) should your crimp-grip unintentionally open up (a major cause of climbing finger injuries).

That same less power-sapping, less stressful grip also helps you preserve that finger strength for if and when you need it for crimping, usually making for a slower drain of your strength, power, power endurance, and endurance than you would experience were you to crimp every single hold all the way up a route (and also reducing the risk of explosive, unintentional opening from crimp to open hand).

Finally, I find that keeping an open-handed grip gives me more potential directions of movement that I have off of any given hold than when I lock it down into a crimp grip. I feel more relaxed and able to almost swing off of my much more relaxed grip – the relative relaxation of my hand extends through my arm and shoulder, and I can usually more easily change my angle and trajectory of movement for my entire body than I can if and when I lock a hold down into a powerful crimp. To fully open hand any given handhold, I actually have to drop my relatively short pinky entirely off of the hold in question, but I still find the leverage better in many cases.

Here I am open-handing a small hold with my pinky off -- my most commonly used grip on small holds these days.

Here I am open-handing a small hold with my pinky off — my most commonly used grip on small holds these days.

I still crimp when I need to -- here crimping hard with the left hand while open-handing with the right.

I still crimp when I need to — here crimping with the left hand while open-handing with the right.

This is not to say that crimping doesn’t have its place. I believe that you should be able to crimp when needed, of course – when the strength generated by your bent fingers gives you the extra purchase and power needed to get you through the move. You should most definitely train your fingers to be strong in a crimped position as well as to be strong at open handing – and ideally, to be strong at changing in a controlled way from an open-hand to a crimped grip, and from a crimped grip to an open-handed one.

Crimping a hold instead of open-handing it can make the difference between doing and not doing a move for me sometimes, for sure. I just only pull out that weapon when necessary these days – and it only took about six tendon pulley injuries over the course of my first few years of climbing for me to stop crimping so much (slow learner, but I do learn eventually).

If you want more details about this week’s topic, check out Improve Your Sport Climbing (12): Technique, Part 8 (EASY-HARD): Primary Technical Issues: C) Grip.

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!