Tag Archives: climbing

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

Training your body to recover on the rock is a key part of effective HIIT training.

Training your body to recover on the rock is a key part of effective HIIT training.

Lactate Threshold Improvement Tactic 2: High-intensity interval training (HIIT) outside. This is very similar to the indoor training paradigm outlined in last week’s entry, but instead, you’ll use your outdoor project or projects as the training ground rather than an indoor climbing wall. Once you have the beta worked out, at least enough to start trying to put sections of the climb together, you can start employing a HIIT approach to your project(s) outside – keeping an open mind that you might need to rework beta sometimes, too. Note that you can also work on HIIT on still-challenging routes that you have already sent by pushing the pace and decreasing the resting intervals, so long as this presents an actual challenge for you and pushes you into a place where you feel you are fighting to maintain technical/tactical control, struggling to recover, and pushing the pump away.

Step 1: Overlapping sections. Breaking the route up into sections between rests just like you did inside can be an effective way to train HIIT on the route. Work to climb to a given point where you’ll get a shake on redpoint, and then allow yourself to take there rather than trying to shake out on the hold right away. But, if you have a particular place where you “always fall” (a crux for you), do NOT train the fall (i.e. don’t make that a standard take-‘n’-shake place) – what I mean is that you should not just get back on from where you fell and continue, but rather, you should lower down a few moves prior to the fall point and attempt to climb into and through the move(s) in question (assuming you can do them!), and on to your designated shake point.

If I hang at the shake point, I usually try to get back on and start there with a few shakes to simulate that I’ll be moving out of this place from a rest, and then carry on to the next shake-out spot (again, if I fall, lowering down and trying to climb through rather than training the fall). You’ll never get to rest right before the place you fall while you’re climbing the route (unless it’s right after a real rest), so you don’t want to train your body to be recovered when you go into the move – once you’re able to hit the move consistently from a hang right before it, which this training regimen assumes you can, you will not want to keep repeatedly ingraining the rested execution of the move.

Step 2: Linkage of sections with shakes. After you’re able to do the route with the designated take-‘n’-shakes, you can start to link longer sections with the shake outs taken on the actual route rather than taking hangs at each shake. You’ll still stick with the falling and lowering part approach to cruxes, and you should take care to reduce all hang-time on the rope during this portion of your HIIT training on the project – so you won’t lower down a few moves and hang until you’re totally de-pumped and then attack the moves into the crux and the crux again. You’ll rest while you’re lowering, and then immediately get back on and tackle the moves and the crux, and then continue.

Step 3: Send the route and find a new project! Start the process over again. I actually usually have a few projects going, indoors or outside, so that I’m never too specific in training on only one angle/set of holds/movements/length of sequences or route, etc.

Lactate Threshold Improvement Tactic 3: Consider undertaking a program of climbing-specific resistance (weight) training. Resistance training has been shown to help improve lactate threshold. But this is the topic for a different series of articles entirely, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

Up Next Week: Move of the Month 5: Initiating Movement (Improve Your Climbing Series)

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 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!