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Climb Training: Climb or Weights and Climb


reboot · · . · Joined Jul 2006 · Points: 125
Mark E Dixon wrote: So training both directional senses of motion/force (i.e. agonist and antagonist) might be helpful beyond mere injury prevention?
In climbing, we have toe hook & heel hook (anterior & posterior chain), compression and gaston, pull & push (think max campus or long reach), even the wrist have flexion (holding a sloper) & extension (keeping forearm close to the wall, especially on overhangs), as well as climbing in increasing overhanging angle vs reaching past a bulge. Some directions are exercised more frequently/intensely, but it's hard to pick out many muscles that are strictly "antagonist".
Sean McAuley · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2013 · Points: 10

From a personal standpoint, I rarely did any antagonistic training for the first 4 years of my climbing "career". I ended up with lots of pain in my lower legs, elbow pain, shoulder pain, etc. Every trainer, PT, massage therapist, and rossiter practitioner I spoke with highly stressed antagonistic strength training. Since I started working antagonists on rest days or after climbing workouts, no pain and quicker recovery. Also no "boulderer's back" where unstable shoulders and underdeveloped upper chest caves the shoulders forward putting them in a highly unstable position, often resulting in torn labrums or rotator cuffs. While climbing movement certainly is full body, I can't imagine anyone seriously suggesting you develop your push muscles as much as your pull muscles by just climbing.

John Robinson · · Elk Grove, ca · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 699

Interesting regarding Antagonist Muscles. I am certainly not nearly as knowledgeable regarding this subject as most of you appear but, this is the first time I have heard that working antagonist muscles is not necessary. I don't know if you all consider Jim Stoppani's Encyclopedia of Muscle and Strength to be authoritative but his Glossary says "Antagonist muscle - The muscle responsible for actively opposing the concentric muscle action of the agonist muscle. Although this seems counterintuitive, the opposing force is necessary for joint stability during the movement. For example. during the biceps curl exercise the triceps muscle is the antagonist muscle." I don't find, however, anywhere in the text of his book where he talks about antagonist muscles.

Aerili · · Los Alamos, NM · Joined Mar 2007 · Points: 1,970

ken, having come from the world of outpatient sports medicine and athletic training (at one time), I can tell you that physical therapists are trained in and do assess for muscle strength balance across joints. This is one of the most basic initial tests they perform when a patient presents. There are known ratios of optimal strength between muscle groups like quads/hams, internal/external rotators, etc. (for instance, I remember off the top of my head it is 3:2 for quads/hams, although rarely is quantitative data collected in a clinical or field setting).

Muscle imbalances are considered a factor in joint injuries because skewed strength ratios across joints leads to altered biomechanics. Altered biomechanics lead to altered forces within a joint. Altered forces over time are a mechanism of injury for joint structures.

Some joints in the hand and foot have evolutionarily developed to be very different in strength ratio. The finger flexors/extensors are one case. The ankle is another: the plantor flexors/toe flexors are far more numerous and strong than the dorsiflexors/toe extensors. It is not that there is no benefit to strengthening these extensors (and in some cases I think strengthening finger extensors has helped in elbow tendonitis recovery), but these muscle groups are small and cannot handle near the load the flexors can. So doing equal training in these particular joints would result in raging cases of extensor tendonitis.

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 13,579
Aerili wrote:Muscle imbalances are considered a factor in joint injuries because skewed strength ratios across joints leads to altered biomechanics.
We're in complete agreement here.
Specific exercise for special cases where there is an actual problem in biomechanical geometry.

Agreement that it makes sense for a PT to make an assessment of _ratios_ of muscles strength, and note that the safe or appropriate ratio range for most articulations is not 1:1

I conclude further that, since most climbers do not know either their current actual ratio of muscle-tendon strengths for most articulations, or the desired goal range ...
most climbers will not be able to perform a useful antagonist training program.

So then, other than the oft-mentioned scapula retraction concern,
what antagonist exercises do you recommend generally for most climbers?

Ken
jackson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2008 · Points: 45

The following from DINTIMAN, G. et al. (1998) Sports Speed. Leeds: Human Kinetics. p. 34 are the accepted values for joint agonist-antagonist muscle ratios at slow isokinetic speeds.

Joint Movement Ratio
Ankle Plantar flexion/dorsi flexion 3:1
Ankle Inversion/eversion 1:1
Leg Extension/flexion 3:2
Hip Extension/flexion 1:1
Shoulder Flexion/extension 2:3
Shoulder IR / ER 3:2
Elbow Flexion/extension 1:1
Lumbar Flexion/extension 1:1

As you can see in the upper extremity near equal balance of force production is ideal. In my personal experience anytime one deviates too far from these ratios injury happens.

Aerili · · Los Alamos, NM · Joined Mar 2007 · Points: 1,970
kenr wrote: We're in complete agreement here. Specific exercise for special cases where there is an actual problem in biomechanical geometry.
You're sort of missing the point of how "special cases" start. Repetitive motion for training with asymmetric muscle development around joints and no correction can, over time, impact any individual. Hence the notion of prehab not rehab.

kenr wrote:Agreement that it makes sense for a PT to make an assessment of _ratios_ of muscles strength, and note that the safe or appropriate ratio range for most articulations is not 1:1 I conclude further that, since most climbers do not know either their current actual ratio of muscle-tendon strengths for most articulations, or the desired goal range ... most climbers will not be able to perform a useful antagonist training program. So then, other than the oft-mentioned scapula retraction concern, what antagonist exercises do you recommend generally for most climbers? Ken
I don't agree that most climbers cannot perform a useful training program. You don't really have to measure strength ratios directly, you just have to consider movement patterns and figure out which ones are overly dominant - a common biomechanical field analysis used by strength coaches.

How would I recommend the best antagonist training for climbers? 1) Consider common postures and how those postures occur (postures which deviate from normal and optimal in the general population)...the hunched-over monkey look comes to mind. 2) Consider what types of injuries occur and their frequencies. If you understand biomechanics well and you also understand development and treatment of injury well, you can then address the issue.

But climbers have been figuring this out for years. There are hundreds of anecdotes/case studies of climbers managing to rehab and/or avoid injury with reverse elbow and wrist curls, push ups, shoulder presses, triceps and finger extensor work, etc. I also think external rotators of the shoulder should be a focus (since the internal rotators contribute to the hunched shoulders). Obviously most of this focuses on the upper body since that is what drives a lot of the control during climbing and as a result is the site of most posture problems too.

Lower body injuries in climbers are, in my guess, more frequently the result of contact stresses and/or lack of strength in agonists (not talking about those sustained on the trail).
kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 13,579
Aerili wrote:... climbers managing to rehab and/or avoid injury with reverse elbow and wrist curls, push ups, shoulder presses, triceps and finger extensor work, etc. I also think external rotators of the shoulder ...
Wow that's taking preventive / rehab training very seriously.
I recall that "bench presses" were often recommended for climbers.

A few years ago I did lots of antagonist exercises like that, one or two times each week -- but gave it up after a couple of months or so.

How many times a week do you do each of these exercises?
How many sets?
kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 13,579
reboot wrote:how about from the Gimme Craft book (which I don't necessarily consider antagonist ... pg 86,112 muscle up pg 98,102, 168 pushup pg 104 Lat-Ziehen im Kniestand pg 110 dips pg 116, leg pull and any exercise in chapter 7
Thanks for finding those specifics. Like you say, even if we don't agree on the analysis of each exercise, it does look like the Gimme Kraft book does include some "antagonist" style exercises (e.g. push-ups).

The trickiness of the primary-climbing versus antagonist definition for me is illustrated by "dips". I guess for an indoor climber those are non-positive for climbing. But since I climb lots outdoors, and lots on less-than-vertical routes with ledges, I do lots of mantle moves in my actual climbing: pushing downward with my arms. So in my regular training I include a dip-like exercise, but I don't think of it as an "antagonist". Every time I see one of my partners struggling to top out with a mantle move, I remember why I'm glad I train those.

Push-ups ? (or bench presses) ... For me those are mostly non-positive for climbing. And I do not perform them any more.
But for that elite team that was trying recently to do all hardest off-widths, that kind of arm-pushing and chest strength would be important for executing crux moves.

Ken
reboot · · . · Joined Jul 2006 · Points: 125
kenr wrote: The trickiness of the primary-climbing versus antagonist definition for me is illustrated by "dips". I guess for an indoor climber those are non-positive for climbing. But since I climb lots outdoors, and lots on less-than-vertical routes with ledges, I do lots of mantle moves in my actual climbing: pushing downward with my arms. So in my regular training I include a dip-like exercise, but I don't think of it as an "antagonist". Every time I see one of my partners struggling to top out with a mantle move, I remember why I'm glad I train those.
Dips (even if not the most specific exercise) are probably far more useful than you think: every time you make a long move, the lower hand can drive the body upward w/ a pushing motion on the hold. One of the exercises I'd recommended to Mark (not sure if he thinks I'm crazy) is the offset pull-up (pg 106 of GK). Regardless, your example illustrates how difficult it's to practice all moves one can encounter in climbing by just climbing & how supplemental exercises can help.
kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 13,579

jackson wrote:
> DINTIMAN, G. et al. (1998) Sports Speed ...
> Joint Movement Ratio Ankle Plantar flexion/dorsi flexion 3:1 ...
> ...
> In my personal experience anytime one deviates too far from these ratios
> injury happens.

How often do you measure your ratios to check if they're in a safe range?

Does it require special equipment?

Or is there a way to monitor / manage these antagonist ratios without measuring?

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 13,579
reboot wrote:One of the exercises I'd recommended to Mark (not sure if he thinks I'm crazy) is the offset pull-up
Yes great suggestion.
Offset pullups are my most frequent arm-strength exercise. I almost never do "normal" even-level-hands pull-ups.
. (Also almost all my finger-training hangs are on vertically offset hold levels, thanks to the suggestion in Gimme Kraft -- more climbing-specific, and simultaneously trains Arm lock-off strength).

At my gym I do offset pullups on the campus board, with each hand on a different horizontal rung in the same "ladder". I start with rungs one level apart, then two levels, and lately I've been working on vertical offset of three levels apart. I vary the proportion of finger strength required by which depth/thickness of wooden rungs I use -- the small thin rungs make for a big finger-strength challenge (sometimes I get a surprise when the fingers of my low hand blow off their skinny wood hold).

At home I have two pull-up bars in the same doorway, so on those it's pure arm strength.

I try to pull up farther so my chin goes several inches above the upper handhold. I have measure marks for detecting how high I get my range-of-motion.
Trying to get higher than the upper hand causes me to engage pushing from the lower hand using Wrist flexion muscles. (which some people call "deep lock-off" strength).
So it's not just Arm-pushing off the lower hold, as trained in Dips.

And on the smaller/thinner wooden rungs there's also pushing with the fingers -- using the finger-flexion muscles (which we normally think of as key pulling muscle for climbing), but in a very different configuration, a different segment of their possible range of motion, so they're exerting a pushing force.

Ken
Kevin Stricker · · Evergreen, CO · Joined Oct 2002 · Points: 575

While it is true that you can get to a very high level in climbing performance by just climbing, it might not be the best way to progress. Most likely at a certain point you will find yourself limited by nagging injuries that your performance peaks will be determined by. Climb, climb stronger, get injured, repeat.

Where climbers really start putting their bodies into jeopardy is when they decide to train specifically for their sport without a good groundwork of general conditioning, strength, and mobility training. They focus on their strengths ( pulling primarily) and ignore their weaknesses. While their pulling muscles are now more injury proof, the rest of the kinetic chain becomes compromised. Over development creates compromised joint mobility and postural mis-alignment. The really scary thing is noticing that many top climbers have the same stooped posture as the elderly. This is a body out of alignment.

The reason that strength standards were developed were for coaches to asses their athletes and determine their weaknesses and program their training. If you have decided to become your own coach you would be well served to focus your strength training on your weakness, because that will often lead to gains in your strengths as well. The body needs to be treated as a whole unit. While it is true that a 2xBW squat is probably not going to benefit climbers as much as football players, it is still a movement pattern that should be trained. Even golfers squat, because they know that strong legs lead to a powerful swing.

Learn the 5 basic movement patterns, and aggressively focus on your weakness. Think of strength training as injury proofing your body. Check out Climbstrong.com for a good resource for strength training for climbers.

Steve Marshall · · Concord NH · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 40

This has kind of side-tracked from "is lifting in general useful training for climbing" into the merits of "antagonist" training.

Virtually every collegiate sport in existence today incorporates some degree of strength & conditioning work as part of the training for athletes, in addition to sport-specific training and of course direcct practice. Usually this S&C work involves free-weight training of some kind. The dose really depends on the sport, but I don't think climbing is too different.

I think of lifting like hangboarding - it's a controlled and objectively measurable way to stress certain functions of the body. In that respect it is useful for injury prevention and overall strength development.

Steve Bechtel's programs often incorporate barbell lifting, and moves like squat, bench press, and deadlift are mentioned in Steve House's Training for the New Alpinism.

It's just a matter of determining the dose that will help you the best for your situation and goals. That dose of barbell training might be zero for some, or a lot for others.

Personally, my fingers get tweaky if I climb in the gym more than 2 days a week with weekends outside. So on days I need to rest from climbing, I strength train. (Note - I am not a strong climber). I am really working on trying to transition to more (injury-free) climbing, less lifting but I doubt I'll give up lifting completely.

Chris Rice · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2013 · Points: 50

I started lifting in 1959 - started climbing in 1983. Here's my conclusion after all these years. If you have a muscle - make it strong - any and all of them. Often the easiest way to do this involves some kind of resistance training besides actually climbing. The trick is to not get so into the weights that you become a lifter who climbs instead of a climber who lifts.

Noah Yetter · · Lakewood, CO · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 105

Climbing is practice, lifting is training. You need both.

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

^^^^^
What's considered lifting? How much do gymnasts lift? I ask because they are the epitome of body strength & the very elite climbers don't have the body strength of a second rate gymnast. And my understanding is they don't "lift" very much at all.

I'm all for weight training for specific weaknesses, but I haven't been very impressed w/ the climbing results (bouldering or single pitch) of people who spend considerable amount of time squatting, cross-training or even just pullups.

Peter Beal · · Boulder Colorado · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 1,760

"Second rate gymnast"
I would add 10-year old" to that description. :)

No serious gymnast of whom I am aware lifts weights to train. Granted that's a small sample but for example at CATS gymnastics in Boulder none of the gymnasts or coaches lifts weights.

Aerili · · Los Alamos, NM · Joined Mar 2007 · Points: 1,970
kenr wrote: Wow that's taking preventive / rehab training very seriously. I recall that "bench presses" were often recommended for climbers. A few years ago I did lots of antagonist exercises like that, one or two times each week -- but gave it up after a couple of months or so. How many times a week do you do each of these exercises? How many sets?
I guess it wasn't clear that I don't think everyone needs to do all these things all the time. In some cases, I agree with you that doing certain things (finger extensor work, for instance) is probably only necessary if you find yourself prone to elbow discomfort/pain. Depending on the type of climbing you do, your posture, and your physical symptoms, you can choose what you need. In my case, I only do antagonist training 2x/week, sometimes only 1x/week (sometimes even less), and I primarily do 2-3 sets of push-ups to failure, occasional shoulder presses (usually dumbbell one-arm clean and press), and I do regular rotator cuff work with external rotation at 2:1 ratio of internal rotation. I used to do some other things when I had medial epicondylitis, but eventually I have found I don't need to do it anymore. But I keep tabs on the how the tendons feel there, and incorporate the exercises again when I think they seem to need it before I feel pain.

reboot wrote:What's considered lifting? . . . I'm all for weight training for specific weaknesses, but I haven't been very impressed w/ the climbing results (bouldering or single pitch) of people who spend considerable amount of time squatting, cross-training or even just pullups.
I think what he means is that lifting is traditionally considered conditioning and consists of aerobic/anaerobic exercises which are specific but supplemental in nature to practice - which is composed only of skill acquisition training.

I don't know what "considerable time" means, but the amount of time can vary a lot with what one chooses to do so I wouldn't paint with a broad brush as supplemental training efficacy being only either/or.

My understanding is that collegiate level gymnasts are more likely to be engaged in supplemental conditioning in the weight room than younger ones (I did see this when I had class rotations in the athletic training facilities at ASU vs my time spent at Desert Devils facility). As one former gymnast states: "...Work in the weight room usually is helpful for the more mature college-age athletes so that they can develop the necessary strength to continue to perform gymnastics with a bigger, more mature body. Rehabilitation and injury prevention work may be done in the weight room as well." Adult climbers could certainly take the same approach. I did see plenty of injured young gymnasts at Desert Devils, however, and they were working with weights and cardio during those times.
highaltitudeflatulentexpulsion · · Colorado · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 35

I'm less curious as to whether weight training helps someone who can climb several days a week. That person is more than strong enough for climbing purposes and as someone upthread stated, just needs practice.

What I'd be interested in knowing is the effect weight training has on the guy who can get out only once a week max to occasionally less than once a month. Will weight training help stave off the inevitable decline that comes with reprioritization of life?

Eric Horst's FB feed has pics of him and his kids lifting and generally being very strong. This isn't valid to my question though because he is able to climb as many days a week as he wants. His home gym from his FB feed is pretty elaborate.

I do have a hypothesis and that is that it doesn't help your max but may help you have long day.

For example, if you can climb 12c when you climb 3 days a week, dropping to 2x a month is likely to drop you down to 11+ or so. Still a good day. The problem will be that you'll be good for that single 11+, maybe one 11b, then be so wrecked that it's just not fun to even climb 10. I say this with certainty because it's my life, only the numbers have been changed to protect the innocent.

With weight training and gym cardio this decline is pretty much the same since it's all about the hands and forearms. I have noticed that after that first theoretical 11+ that more sub maximal but still stiff routes can be climbed in a day. In other words, you'll have a better day when you do manage to get out.

I believe the reason for this is 1) higher core endurance 2) more efficient lactic acid clearance 3) better muscular recruitment.

My anecdotal conclusion? Don't waste your time in the weight room if your life allows for frequent climbing. If you can't climb a lot, being strong physically helps make up for it a little.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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