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Going from bulk to lean and tone

Original Post
Mark lewin · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 5

As the title suggests I was always about bulk in my youth (mainly football and wrestling). I've been on and off climbing for years but in the last year I've committed myself to train for climbing from as an athlete position. Not only in my workouts but the way I eat too. Needless to say it's done wonders! I'm currently mid 5.10s but I definitely want to keep moving up the ladder to as far as my body and more importantly my mind will take me. This all said I'm afraid as I'm working out I am adding to my bulk of years past. Am I stuck in this body made for the high school offensive line or are there certain areas (yoga, Pilates, tibata, p90x) which will turn the muscle more dense but shrink? I'm currently 200lbs and 5'10" I'm currently climbing 3-4 days a week too.

Thanks for your advice!

txclimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 10

Run. To elaborate: Run slowly, for a long time somewhere fun. Go find a nice trail and start adding the miles up. Invest in a heart rate monitor and keep your HR between 130 and 140. That's a nice comfy slow pace in which you could easily maintain a conversation. Try to build into a 60-75 minute run. Once you are able to do this on all of your climbing "off days". You will see your body start to change shape, and your strength to weight ratio will dramatically increase.

Taking your comments into consideration I think this is your best bet. Your 3-4 days a week of climbing are plenty of strength training (although don't neglect your push muscles too or you will be more prone to injuries). Adding pilates or p90x will only be an added strength workout, which will maintain your bulk, add more, or prevent you from recovering from your climbing days.

Using a low impact yoga, hatha for example, can help gain flexibility and aid in recovery as well, but don't count on it slimming you down.

Good luck!

Eric Carlos · · Chattanooga, TN · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 40

I personally recommend HIIT to lose weight mass. My speculation is you have some decent muscle but probably could lose a fair amount of fat as well. at 200 lbs, multiple long runs will do irreversible damage to your knees and joints. Plus it is terribly inefficient and boring.

JohnnyG · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 10

haha! one question and two totally contradictory replies. here's the 3rd reply:

I don't know

txclimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 10
Eric Carlos wrote:I personally recommend HIIT to lose weight mass. My speculation is you have some decent muscle but probably could lose a fair amount of fat as well. at 200 lbs, multiple long runs will do irreversible damage to your knees and joints. Plus it is terribly inefficient and boring.
I find your comment contradictory to the OP's needs, and somewhat lacking in evidence. HIIT burns lots of calories and sheds fat, yes, but also builds muscle. He doesn't state that he's fat. He states he has a lot of bulk (football player/wrestler).

Long runs may be boring for you, I find them quite meditative, restorative, and reflective. Why insert your own personal entertainment choices here?

There is ZERO evidence that long runs damage knees or joints, that's just wrong. Multiple long runs are a great way to shed mass and build strength in joints, if you build into them slowly. During the running season, I run 20-30 miles on Saturday followed by a 10-15 miler on Sunday, and often feel better after the second run than the first, and at 40 years old my knees are better than they were at 20. Ask yourself these questions:

Do you see more older distance runners or sprinters?

Does the stereotypical sprinter or distance runner have more mass?

Your suggestion may fit into your routine perfectly, but I don't think you're fully reading the clues the OP put into his post regarding his needs.
Brady3 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 15

The damage to knees from running comes from the impact not the movement. Sprinting is going to tend to be higher impact (not a hard rule though). If you have never been much of a runner then start with focusing more on your form. Try to keep your head level the entire run, if your head is moving up and down a lot then you are pushing up too much, this is less efficient and creates a higher impact. Try to keep your stride longer, short steps are going to also generate a higher impact. A longer stride is going to encourage you to roll your foot more which lessens the impact. Running in grass or on trails is going to lower impact than running on pavement. Avoid treadmills, if you insist on running indoors then go for an elliptical. Even indoor tracks tend to be higher impact than outdoor tracks and aren't much better than concrete if at all better. Also invest in a good pair of shoes, the are stores all over the country that specialize in running shoes. Go to one of these rather than a Dick's or other big brand store. The specialized places will be able to direct you to a good shoe for your foot and stride. Something that is simply a "running" shoe will likely not be a good fit for you. They may also point out things with your stride that may need correct, but they aren't your coach so don't expect that. Though if you say you are just starting running they may still give tips, especially if you are buying a pair of shoes there. Generally endurance training is going to build leaner muscle than strength or power training, hince the suggestion to do distance running.

Brendan N · · Salt Lake City, Utah · Joined Oct 2006 · Points: 378
Mark lewin wrote:are there certain areas (yoga, Pilates, tibata, p90x) which will turn the muscle more dense but shrink? !
If you want your muscles to shrink, stop using them and stop feeding them. Exercising will drive your appetite and keep you at your current weight. I would recommend looking into a diet change.
evan h · · Denver, CO · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 310

Continue to focus on climbing, and your body will change accordingly. Sure, running a ton will slim you up if you're particularly bulky, but I don't think you are maximizing your climbing potential when you're running 30 miles on the weekends. It sounds like the OP's goal is to maximize climbing potential, so I suggest run only very moderately for recovery, or not at all. I used to run on my "rest days", but I really made a breakthrough in my climbing when I ceased that activity. Maximize your rest time. Look into tried and true training methods for climbing, such as the Rock Prodigy method.

And I second the suggestion above to check into your diet. Offensive lineman and wrestlers aren't known for their love of salads! I have no idea what you eat, but run a tad lower on calories and the pounds will fall off.

Just This Guy You Know · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 54

This is an issue I've been working on as well. I started climbing at 5'10" 200 lbs or so, and have gotten down into the 180s with a few methods that I'm still using. 1) eat less. I a broad sense, I went from eating a super high protein diet rich in meat and fat, to more fish and veggies. I get my protein from learner sources like legumes and fish instead of beef and eggs. Though I still eat a lot of eggs, because they're delicious and no one is perfect. 2) more varied alternative exercise outside of climbing. I hike a lot, run, and low weight and high reps on my aggressor muscles when lifting weights. Also yoga is fantastic as a tool for climbing.

reboot · · . · Joined Jul 2006 · Points: 125

The consensus on fat/weight loss is: everybody is different. That said, if you have 4-5 hrs/day dedicated to exercising, this is pretty easy: do lots of low intensity exercises. Most of us have far less time.

Some have found lower carb diet along w/ moderate amount (20-30 min/day) of aerobic exercises to work (seems to be happening w/ me, albeit slowly), in addition to what you do for climbing. AB exercises to suppress appetite also work to certain degree. YMMV.

Rob Gordon · · Hollywood, CA · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 105

Breakfast: granola and berries. some yogurt.
Lunch: a monster salad full of dark greens and real veggies. With a little protein - chicken, real tuna, tofu.
Dinner: a snack like apples or nuts.
One cheat meal a week. No Juice, soda, or alcohol!! Only water and the occasional sugar free redbull. Haha

Do this for a couple weeks you'll lose ten pounds. I'm down from 217 to 190 doing this for a couple weeks off and on for a couple months. Getting close to the best shape of my life and not just climbing. Rugby as well.

Vinyasa yoga has been a great help, too.

highaltitudeflatulentexpulsion · · Colorado · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 35

I don't think anyone here is arguing that long distance runners aren't skinny.

When I did my long distance running (marathons and a couple ironmans), I was between 130 and 135lbs. I had sore knees occasionally. Mostly my IT band. I also had sore hips and arches. If you're telling someone who presumably hasn't been running who weighs 65lbs more than I did as a runner that it won't hurt, well, I raise the bullshit flag and fly it high.

Cycling won't cut the bulk nearly as much as running but it's easier on the body. It's OK if you've got a good group you ride with (Cat 5 club team) to keep the intensity up. Otherwise I doubt it'll do much.

Same with ellipticals. Swimming may actually bulk you up.

Do you drink? It's like 150 calories per beer. At 10 a week, do the math. Same with soda, candy, and donuts though I bet you already avoid those.

I was recently in Guatemala and the 10 days of diarrhea had me in fighting shape. Of course Belize (the land of BBQ) cancelled that out.

It's actually a much harder question to answer than it seems like. How does a reasonably fit and active guy who eats pretty well cut down from 200 to 170? To make it even harder, you've posed the question to mostly skinny guys who've never been over 150 (I was 153 at my heaviest, 142 today and I had 6 pancakes for breakfast).

Is there a nutritionist (not employed by a gym) in your area you can consult?

Kyle Tarry · · Portland, OR · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 162
Brady3 wrote:Try to keep your stride longer, short steps are going to also generate a higher impact. A longer stride is going to encourage you to roll your foot more which lessens the impact.
Telling a new runner to reach is a recipe for high impact force and damage, not the opposite. Focusing on stride length can result in reaching and landing on heels, which is not good form.

The easiest way to get better (smoother) at running is to run. The second best way is to to drills focusing on form, like competitive runners do, but this may not be very valuable to a non-runner.
slim · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2004 · Points: 1,045

i have to say i am pretty anti-running. it seems great at the time, but as you get older your feet will hate you for it.

i think most people will be fairly successful at losing weight if they really, really stick to a reasonable diet. using one of those apps that track your calorie intake will probably shock you at how quickly you can blow your diet out of the water...

Mark lewin · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 5

This is great! Thanks everyone for your replies especially those who are or in my shape. I'm basically going to take a little from everyone's suggestions. I'm not going to train for any marathons but everything in moderation. My goal now is 180.

MorganH · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2010 · Points: 160

I'm 200 pounds and 6' tall. I can usually climb up to 12+, sport and trad with some work. 13 sport starts to be pretty hard do to PE. You should be able to climb as hard as me with a decent training plan in a few years without losing any weight. I've seen very few people (2?) climb much harder than me who are bigger. I think for long term success, if you can get to 13- without losing weight, and then slim down, you'll be crushing way harder than if you slim down first.

Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,465

I was in your position a few years ago. There is some great advice here. I will say this- being 40 and coming from a position of being a distance runner (30-40 miles a week) for several successive years in my late teens and early 20s- it has absolutely wrecked my knees. Now, that's not to say that it's a foregone conclusion to everyone. Genetics do play a role and there are people in their sixties and seventies that are still quite healthy doing it. There certainly is some merit to running- as it is the most convenient way to shed weight and all you really need is the ground and shoes. Riding a bike can be a great way to shed weight as well. Swimming too. For overall fitness gains while shedding weight, maybe consider not devoting yourself to just one activity, but several different ones.

As a former "mass" athlete- i.e. sports where performance is contingent upon mass and weight, you learn, and your body learns to adapt to the portions you give it.

I used to weight train to an obsessive degree for roughly 4-5 years before I found climbing. In my early 30s I was 6'2" and 215-220 and taking in 4k calories a day. Once I found climbing and abandoned "the gym", it didn't take me long to figure out that weight- even muscle weight doesn't transfer well to climbing. Even the bulkiest climbers that climb consistently high grades are still somewhat lean. So, I did cardio with limited results. I was still bulky. The trick was to train my body over time to accept and be satisfied with smaller portions. I was stuck at 5.10 for the longest time and it became super frustrating. Once I figured out that my body was used to large portions and I could eventually cut my portions to almost half of what they normally are, and started eating better quality food, the lbs came off.

I'm now 180 even and can probably healthily drop another 5 (because I have a small frame underneath everything). My climbing has improved dramatically.

Also, don't discount the importance of learning the subtleties of refined technique and the role that flexibility plays in climbing prowess. It's major. Look at your strength vs weight ratio as merely one part of the improvement process (which you probably already do, it just bears repeating).

Figure out where you can cut portion size, how many calories you actually need (vs what you WANT- or more specifically what your body wants because that's what it's used to), focus on consuming quality calories, and vary your cardio. Refine your technique and always be focused on that when you're climbing- no matter what grade or route type. You'll get there. Good luck.

Jer · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 50
Brendan N. (grayhghost) wrote: If you want your muscles to shrink, stop using them and stop feeding them. Exercising will drive your appetite and keep you at your current weight. I would recommend looking into a diet change.
This reply is most in line with the Rock Climbers Training Manual, are you the Brendan N photographed therein?

I recently started intermittent fasting and do most of my workouts fasted. This helps me restrict calories and it's supposed to make the workout more productive for fat loss. check out for more info
djh860 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 110

Just lose weight and keep the calorie count low enough that you keep dropping weight. You can easily drop 10-15 lbs with zero change to your muscle mass or power

Sean McAuley · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2013 · Points: 10

I've been in your shoes, played football in HS and threw discus & hammer in college. My max size was 6'-1" 248, and while there was a good deal of fat in there, a large portion of it was raw muscle mass (550lb squats tend to produce sycamore sized legs). Right now I'm starting to lean out for spring climbing season so I'm currently around 170lbs and should hit 165ish in a month. So long story short, you're absolutely not stuck in you HS body.

When it comes down to it, losing weight was about 95% diet and 5% exercise. Maybe running is helpful for some, but running did nothing for me except make me incredibly hungry. Basically all I did was make one small change, give it a month, then proceed to the next. Of course dieting is really all about dealing with a small degree of suffering, but by not trying to overhaul everything at once, it gets easier.

As far as loosing muscle mass, it'll happen, and it won't matter in the grand scheme. I started climbing at 215 and while dropping that weight my climbing grades have increased relatively consistently (from 5.9 at 215 to 5.12 at 170). Good luck with it, just be consistent and you'll be good.

Brendan N · · Salt Lake City, Utah · Joined Oct 2006 · Points: 378
Jer wrote:are you the Brendan N photographed therein?
Photographer, yes.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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