Tag Archives: climbing project

Move of the Month 2: Straight-Arming Your Rests (Improve Your Climbing Series)

Kevin taking advantage of a great rest by lowering his body weight, bending his knees, and straightening his arms, allowing him to relax and shake out while looking ahead at what's coming up.

Kevin taking advantage of a great rest by lowering his body weight, bending his knees, and straightening his arms, allowing him to relax and shake out while looking ahead at what’s coming up.

This month’s move is a simple one, yet one that often goes under-utilized by climbers: straightening your arms at rests while you’re climbing. It’s a very common tendency for climbers to “rest” with their arms quite bent and with rod-straight legs – especially on slightly less-than-vertical to vertical to slightly overhanging terrain. The more overhanging terrain becomes, the harder it becomes to get away with feeling like you’re truly resting while keeping your arms bent. In other words, super-steep climbing tends to force the issue a bit more, resulting in straighter arms on rests or quicker, more obvious failure from not using rests as efficiently as possible.

Instead of keeping the arms in a powerful, bent, locked-off position during a true on-route rest — a place where you’re still climbing (not hanging), but you can shake out both hands alternately — try to lower your body weight down so that your legs are bent and your arms are as straight as possible.

At the same resting spot pictured in the first photo, here Kevin shows how he can miss out on this rest by keeping his arms bent and his legs straight while looking ahead.

At the same resting spot pictured in the first photo, here Kevin shows how he can miss out on this rest by keeping his arms bent and his legs straight while looking ahead.

The next time you find yourself on a set of handholds that feel good enough for you to take a rest and shake out each hand alternately on a route, experiment by lowering your body weight down on the holds until your arms are straight. Try to make this a habit in your climbing, looking for ways to straighten your arms and alternating which hand you can let go with while keeping the opposite arm as straight as possible. Sometimes this requires a shift in foot positions in order to find the most efficient rest for each arm.

Be careful about not taking the rest to its full advantage, too. What do I mean by this? As shown in the photo below, this most commonly happens when you straighten your arms but fail to bend your legs. In this type of position, you get somewhat of a rest, but not the fullest rest you could potentially get from a great resting spot like this. It takes more energy to lean back like this and keep your legs straight rather than bending your legs and letting your body weight sink down. It’s also way harder to shake out while leaning back like this.

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There will certainly be times when you take a much-needed (often very quick!) rest (a “quick shake”) while climbing when you will not be able to find a straight-armed position, or when you’ll only be able to shake one hand and not the other.  And, you will sometimes need to pull up out of a rest to feel out or get a visual of what’s ahead, particularly when you’re onsighting and you can’t see clearly what might be coming up from your most efficient resting position. However, it’s a good idea to make it a habit of trying to find the most straight-armed, least-fatiguing positions possible when you rest on your warm-ups, onsight efforts and projects — so long as amazing no-hands rests aren’t available, of course.

Recovering by resting efficiently while climbing is a key tactic that can make or break your send of a route, and strategically managing your rests to be as effective as possible can help you achieve this end. Finding resting positions that require the least amount of energy and that are the most truly restful positions for you is a major way to make the most of your on-route resting, and seeking straight-armed positions in which you can lower your body weight so that you’re hanging down (not out) by bending your knees usually supports this effort, allowing you much more ease in shaking out each arm in turn as you rest and contemplate what’s ahead.

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. 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 observations I’ve made as a climbing coach/certified personal trainer. You may find some of the areas harder or easier to change. 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 and training!

Improve Your Sport Climbing (14): Mental Training, Part 7 (HARD)

Your Mind On The Climb (1)

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“What good is a prepared body if you have a scattered mind?” (From Divergent, by Veronica Roth)

All of the physical training in the world can fall by the wayside, unused or underused, if your mental state while climbing doesn’t support and enhance your physical capabilities. Even if you have a great mental game off the rocks – daily visualization, positive attitude, belief in yourself and your abilities, a disciplined and informed approach to training, and so forth – this can all go to waste if you aren’t able to tap into your brainpower and use it to your advantage when you’re going for a peak performance. Doing this involves the following:

Reading sequences from the ground: Technically this happens right before you embark on a problem or a route, but it’s still a key part of utilizing your brainpower to its fullest capabilities, and it’s also good exercise that can help you improve at reading sequences ahead of you while you’re climbing. So before you step off the ground, whether you’re onsighting, redpointing, inside, outside, competing, or just clowning around with friends in the gym, always look at the route/problem in question and try to visualize exactly how you’ll climb what’s in front of you. Knowing where you’re going in advance and having an idea of how you’re going to get there can save you valuable time when you’re actually climbing, making for a more efficient and less draining effort and yielding greater success.

Looking ahead & planning en route: When you’re already climbing and you get to a resting position, use this time not only to bring your heart rate and breathing down (more about breathing later in this entry!) but also, to look ahead at what’s coming up and visualize yourself performing the sequence perfectly. If you’re redpointing and you know what’s coming, this is easier, of course, but it gives your brain and body the cue of what you want to happen and can help shut down voices of doubt, feeding yourself positive imagery of success instead. If you haven’t been on the route before, holds you couldn’t see from the ground can come into your field of vision, and you can also up climb and touch what’s available and look around for options and then return to the rest while you work to piece together what sequence you feel will be most effective for you to try – which brings us to the next on-the-route tool: downclimbing.

Downclimbing: Like so many parts of successful climbing, downclimbing is not just a mental tool, obviously. It’s the physical act of reversing sequences and getting back down the rock without taking or falling, which is often harder than climbing up into a position. Cultivating a deep well of knowledge about how and when and why to downclimb takes training, meaning you should definitely put some time into training climbing down. Knowing if and when you can or should reverse a sequence can be the difference between sending and failing, and sometimes, between wholeness/injury or even life and death. Diligent training can render this into an automatic response in certain emergency situations, so that when you know you can’t do the next move or that you’d have a better shot if you had more rest or that you need to climb into it with your hands or feet on different holds, your body just reverses direction back to the last rest, where you’ll shake out and prepare for what’s ahead. Downclimbing can also actually be a lifesaver if you find yourself unwilling or unable to perform a sequence, and/or you do not have the proper gear to protect yourself for the effort – instead of falling, you can downclimb back to your last piece of pro or to the ground.

This multipart series of blogs and 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. 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 observations I’ve made as a climbing coach/certified personal trainer. You may find some of the areas harder or easier to change. 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 and training!

Improve Your Sport Climbing (14): Mental Training, Part 6 (HARD)

 

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Visualization

Visualization/Memorization: Visualization is a HUGE component of using your mind to bolster your performance and training outcomes. For awesome directions on how to effectively implement visualization for sports performance enhancement, check out The Power of Visualization and Teaching Athletes Visualization and Mental Imagery Skills.

For climbers, especially redpoint climbers, a key part of effective utilization of visualization is to memorize every single move you’ll make on your project, including breathing, clipping, how long to stay at rests, shouting, nuances of core positioning, foot placements, hand positions, and so forth. The more details you can retain and repeat in your brain during your daily visualization sessions, the less likely you’ll be to forget what to do in the moment. And yes, this might take years of practice to refine your visualization/memorization skills to this level of detail.

You can start to drill your ability to memorize at the gym. Get on a boulder problem once, then turn away from the wall and try to remember all the handholds you used in order. The next time, add in the footholds. After practicing this for a few months, you should notice a marked improvement in your ability to recall sequences even when you’re not at the gym or on the route outside. This practice will help you start to develop a method to remember that works for you when you get on a new project outside.

My method: I start by memorizing the handholds I use during the crux(es), then I memorize the crux feet, then the crux clips. Then I move out from there, recalling the moves before and after the crux, as well as the clips, breathing, rests, and so forth. I visualize projects 2-3x each a day, minimum, when I’m actively working them. It only takes 10 minutes or so to put in a solid visualization effort. For me, visualization works best either when I’m sitting or when I’m walking – not when I’m distracted by things like television or cooking dinner or the like.

Added to the intricacy of memorizing movement and persistent dedication required for visualization to really work, you also will still ideally be able to improvise in the moment if things don’t go as planned, too – so you do not want be totally attached to the visualization. When you get to a sticking point on the climb and you can’t move on as planned, you still want to be able to take advantage of another option that might work if it’s available, making the decision to go for that in a split second and letting go of the plan. This leads to the topic of the next entry: Mental Tactics for the Crag.

This multipart series of blogs and 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. 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 observations I’ve made as a climbing coach/certified personal trainer. You may find some of the areas harder or easier to change. 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 and training!