Tag Archives: climbing

Move of the Month 7: The Grip Release/Relax Trick (a.k.a. Avoiding Overgripping in Climbing)

My lower hand is pretty relaxed at this point, not gripping nearly as hard as my leading hand.

My lower hand is pretty relaxed at this point, not gripping nearly as hard as my leading hand.

Do you hold on tightly to every climbing hold you touch as if your life depended on it? If so, this month’s move of the month is for you!

In addition to cultivating comfort with open-handing climbing holds (discussed in Move of the Month 4), learning to relax your grip as much as possible when you climb can help you conserve strength while you climb (avoiding the dreaded pump for longer), as well as giving you more fluidity in your climbing.

One particular way to start working on this involves focusing on relaxing the grip of whichever hand is lower on a route as soon as the higher hand fully grasps its target hold. Loosening the grip of the lower hand so that it’s more of a pivot point gives you options to move in whatever direction makes the most sense. Keeping a vise-like death grip on the lower hold makes it harder to move efficiently and effectively in many situations.

Step One: Learning to incorporate this grip release into your climbing is as simple as drawing your attention to it, particularly while you’re warming up. Focus on releasing your grasp on the lower handhold and noticing how this usually makes your whole body more relaxed. Doing this consciously move after move after move – in other words, using conscious repetition – can help gradually train it into your “default mode” of climbing, so that you no longer need to consciously think about releasing your too-tight grip and relaxing every time your upper hand connects with the next hold. This is desirable!

Step Two: Since climbing at your potential is all about efficiency, start to work on relaxing BOTH hands as much as possible while you climb. You might experiment with this by focusing your attention on your hands for a given part of several climbing sessions, and noticing if you tend to routinely overgrip holds (which often leads to climbing with mostly bent arms as well, discussed in Move of the Month 6). In safe climbing situations, such as warming up with a trusted partner in the gym, or bouldering low to the ground on a traverse with a good landing and ample padding, experiment with loosening your grip on every hold you grab. Notice if you can hold on with a lot less force than you usually do. Try to release your grip as much as you can, even to the point of slipping off. Learning that sweet spot where you are holding on just enough to stay on and keep everything as relaxed as possible is ideal.

Step Three: Work on relaxing your grip with both hands while you’re resting on a hold or on a set of holds, trying to hold on with as little force as possible. Another key aspect of this involves cycling your grips, or trying to change the positon of your hands on the resting hold(s) to allow different muscles to be used. If you know the sequence ahead involves a lot of crimping, for example, it’s smart to figure out how to open-hand the rest as much as you can. If you know it involves pinching, trying to keep your thumbs out of the resting equation makes sense. Getting creative with your grip at a rest might also involve ham hocking/meat-hooking the hold(s), jamming, or another way of taking the hold(s) that allows more tired parts involved in the grip to get more rest. Hanging straight armed (Move of the Month 2) also helps make the most of rests.

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!