Tag Archives: climbing

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!

Move of the Month 6: Straight-Arming Moves

Contemplating the next move with straight arms.

Contemplating the next move with straight arms.

Bending one’s arms repeatedly – like you would when climbing a ladder – might strike a nonclimber or a beginner climber as the most logical and straightforward, and therefore most efficient and effective, way to ascend any given rock climb. However, unlike climbing a ladder, the diversity of angles and holds in climbing often lends you an option that tends to be more efficient – that of keeping your arms mostly or relatively straight while you ascend.

Straight-arming this move by rotating my hips.

Straight-arming this move by rotating my hips.

You do this by organizing the rest of your body to allow for this straighter-armed positioning as much as possible. Both bending your legs (while straightening your arms) and rotating your body from side to side enable you to conserve more of that precious upper body strength contained in the relatively smaller muscles of your arms for those moves when you might really need it.

In fact, one of the general rules of climbing that is good for beginners to start with is to try to bend your arms as little as possible while you’re climbing, whether you’re moving or resting (see Straight-Arming Your Rests for more on this).

Looking to swing straight-armed to the next hold.

Looking to swing straight-armed to the next hold.

One of the most efficient and effective ways to keep your arms straighter involves lowering your body weight down so that your arms are straight and your knees are bent, rather than the opposite of straight legs and bent arms – a position commonly used by beginners. With your body weight lowered down, you can maneuver your feet into position for the next move while your arms are straight, working to execute that move as efficiently as you can – maybe by backstepping and turning your body to help keep your arms straighter as you move up.

Of course, all rules are made to be broken (right?), so there will be situations (and many of them!) where it is most certainly warranted to bend your arms – and sometimes a lot or repetitively for move after move – whether you’re locking off a hold, bending an arm (slowly or explosively or somewhere in between) through a range of motion to get to the next hold, or some variation of these movements. In other words, forcing this issue by trying to climb with stick-straight, rigid arms would yield inefficient climbing movements, for sure. But it’s better to be aware of the idea that repetitively bending your arms and climbing a route like it’s a ladder usually leads to fatigue and failure far faster than a less arm-strength-dependent execution of climbing movements.

For most climbers, trying to bend the arms as little as possible during climbing moves and especially when resting tends to yield a less-fatiguing and more successful climbing experience and performance. Start working on this by:

  • Consciously trying to bend your arms as little as possible while you’re climbing a warm-up route that is easy for you and that includes lots of handhold and foothold options;
  • Experimenting with lowering your body weight by bending your legs, especially when you’re looking ahead at different options for your next move;
  • Swiveling or repositioning your feet on the holds (or onto different holds) to help encourage straighter arms both as you rest and as you move;
  • Turning your hips and torso from side to side to allow you to move up without bending your arms very much;
  • Observing stronger, more experienced climbers climbing in this way to help guide you in your exploration of this key point of efficient climbing movement; and
  • Asking a knowledgeable partner or coach for feedback when observing your climbing to help you discern places where you might be able to employ this skill more effectively.

And finally – again – don’t be afraid to bend your arms when it is the most efficient way for you to execute a move.

Here my left arm is straight but right is bent because of the demands of the angle and move.

Here my left arm is mostly straight but right is bent because of the demands of the angle and move.

Know that sometimes this depends on a climber’s personal strengths and weaknesses. This means that one climber might find it more efficient in a certain situation to just move quickly by putting a foot on a hold and then bending both arms powerfully to execute a move, while another climber might find it easier in this situation to spend the time setting up a more straight-armed version of the move involving several more foot movements and a repositioning of the body to enable a more straight-armed execution. Neither climber is necessarily doing the move less efficiently or effectively for his or her body – though they might both do well to at least check out the other climber’s way to see if it’s more efficient for them, too.

Up Next: Climbing & Training Myths & Misconceptions 3: Cross-Training

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!