Mountain Project Logo

hypertrophy not important?


Original Post
kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 11,120

It was surprising to me when I read in the most popular recent English-language book on training for climbing that hypertrophy is actually not important, and anyway it's difficult to develop and tricky to measure - (and so their training program no longer has a HYPertrophy phase, instead a "Strength" phase).

But now I've been re-reading the old book on climbing injuries, One Move Too Many, by Schoeffl, Hochholzer, Lightner. That book says that (based on MRI scans) ...
Climbers versus Non-climbers have:

  • inter-osseus muscles (for finger control) twice as big.
  • finger flexor tendons twice as strong.
  • finger collateral ligaments thicker.
  • overall bigger diameter of fingers, with increased blood flow.

Funny that the hypertrophy is being measured also in non-muscle structures - which are not supposed to be able to grow fast.
. . (Note that there is almost no muscle mass in the fingers, so the "increased blood flow" is presumably going to support other finger structures).

Ken
divnamite · · New York, NY · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 170
kenr wrote:It was surprising to me when I read in the most popular recent English-language book on training for climbing that hypertrophy is actually not important
If you are talking about Anderson brothers, that's not what they say in several podcasts that I've heard. I don't think the book addressed it correctly. In one of the podcasts, one of them were clear that their program does focus on hypertrophy and strength at the same time.
kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 11,120
divnamite wrote:Anderson brothers ... I don't think the book addressed it correctly.
I only read the book (RCTM), so perhaps that explains my confusion.
The book includes quotes like
p 107:
"significant hypertrophy is difficult to achieve",
"Strength can be increased effectively through other mechanisms."
p 108:
"rather waiting for hypertrophy gains, climbers should transition to the next training phase".

. . (along with the omission of a specific HYPertrophy phase in the training program given in the book).

But with your assurance that really truly the Andersons are believers in the importance of HYPertrophy, then I say, "Great, so they'll be glad to hear that MRI measurements confirm that".

. . (Meanwhile in my own personal training program, I keep giving focus to scientifically-based Hypertrophy exercises, not just some sort of Strength increase through "other mechanisms").

Ken
Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190

My understanding, limited as it may be when it comes to training physiology, is that the no-hypertrophy rule applies to the larger muscles - legs, biceps, etc. hypertrophy builds muscle mass, which means you will have more weight to carry and thus your climbing will suffer. This wouldn't be a problem in the fingers, as the muscle system (all in the forearm, no?) is relatively small and extremely important for climbing.

Brendan N · · Salt Lake City, Utah · Joined Oct 2006 · Points: 378
kenr wrote:in my own personal training program, I keep giving focus to scientifically-based Hypertrophy exercises
Can you please describe these exercises Ken?
Aleks Zebastian · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 175

climbing friend,

yes, but what is most valuable quickest best way for hypertrophizing your forearm meat?

also there are no really none scientificized research on hypertrophizing forearm meat for the climber. maybe small handful of small studies of dubious methodolgy??

all your hypertrophy are belong to me.

Brian Carver · · Boulder, Co · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 30

I'm not sure I understand. Is there a question?

If it is about how to hypertrophy the connective tissue of the forearm and hand I believe most research shows that connective tissue responds best to strength training as opposed to hypertrophy training. Though, the research (which I don't have on hand) hasn't been aimed at climbing.

While strength is targeted at connective tissue and neural adaptations, I believe power endurance would better target blood flow and waste clearance.

Patrick Vernon · · Estes Park, CO · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 935

I am not sure what you are asking here Kenr. It is also hard to address this question without the original MRI study in its original context.

It sound like you are asking "Is a climbing related strength exercise really producing gains if it doesn't produce measurable hypertrophy in the small muscles of the fingers?" I would get this out of your mind asap.

The RCTM addresses hypertrophy briefly and differentiates the end goals of training for climbers versus weight lifters. Certain larger muscles will demonstrate a noticeable gain in hypertrophy if trained individually. For the weight lifter this is great, this is the end goal, to "buff up".

For the climber many larger muscles are not applicable to climbing including those primarily below the waist so it is not desirable to train these muscles because a strength to weight ratio is very important in climbing.

The largest strength gains for climbers are in the forearm and finger muscles, smaller muscles that do not produce noticeable gains in hypertrophy. Sure if you have an MRI scanner you could maybe measure the gains, but WTF? In 25 years I have never noticed my fingers gain muscle mass, I would never expect them to. I have become noticeably stronger Including after following the RCTM. Strength gains in RCTM are partly measured by hang-boarding resistance which then translates into on the rock performance.

divnamite · · New York, NY · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 170

Patrick: there is no muscle in the fingers. Any visible growth on the fingers would be connective tissues.

Patrick Vernon · · Estes Park, CO · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 935

You are right Divanmite, I guess I mean muscles and connective tissue responsible for finger strength IE. the muscles of the forearm and hand/inter-ossesous muscles.

I have never noticed hypertrophy in my fingers, inter-osseous muscles connective tissue (I was under the impression connective tissue does not show hypertophy). I have noticed some in the forearm but minimal. Strength gains for me have been measured by the resistance in the workout (hang boarding which does not produce significant hypertophy for me) and performance on rock which is what the RCTM gis getting at.

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 11,120
Patrick Vernon wrote:hangboarding which does not produce significant hypertophy for me
I guess that's why the Anderson book now avoids giving their fingerboard focus phase the label of "HYPertrophy".

My own response (after doing lots and lots of intense fingerboard training) to the recognition that static hanging is not such effective way to achieve finger/forearm Hypertrophy is different.

Ken
divnamite · · New York, NY · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 170
kenr wrote: I guess that's why the Anderson book now avoids giving their fingerboard focus phase the label of "HYPertrophy". My own response (after doing lots and lots of intense fingerboard training) to the recognition that static hanging is not such effective way to achieve finger/forearm Hypertrophy is different. Ken
After all those training, I guess it's fair to ask if you are climbing better?
kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 11,120
Brendan N. (grayhghost) wrote: Can you please describe these exercises [for finger/forearm Hypertrophy]
My approach is to apply well-established principles from training strength for other sports.
Namely like 3-5 sets of 6-12 reps of a concentric/eccentric cycle move which specifically targets my finger/forearm muscles + tendons.

. . (Same way a serious American football player trains bicep HYPertrophy).

My own favorite is "finger pull-ups": I start each exercise move cycle hanging from horizontal wood edge, with fingers of both hands in Open grip, then "roll up" my fingers (concentric contraction) into a higher Crimp grip (with fingers only, no Thumb crossed over top of index finger) - with no change in Arm configuration. Then "roll down" fingers (eccentric contraction) back to Open grip. Repeat and Repeat.
. . (Add weight to increase resistance/intensity. Connect elastic to decrease resistance).

There's several other exercises that offer concentric/eccentric cycle stress specific for forearm/finger climbing.

Ken

P.S. My best guess is that static hangs on a fingerboard are best for training some climbing-specific form of neural Recruitment - (or perhaps Endurance for placing Trad gear?) -
not best for HYPertrophy (though hangs also provide some benefit also for hypertrophy).
llanSan · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 130

ken, can you do a short video (30 sec.-1 min.) of what you are describing?

Patrick Shyvers · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 15

I like the finger pull-ups idea. One nice thing about concentric training like that is less angle specificity.

kenr wrote:I keep giving focus to scientifically-based Hypertrophy exercises, not just some sort of Strength increase through "other mechanisms"
You sound very disdainful, yet you must know that strength increases can come independent of hypertrophy? IMO there's nothing wrong with hypertrophy in the forearms (it adds insignificant mass and can protect your flailing arms from injury) but I'm not sure you have explained why you believe forearm hypertrophy is the only worthwhile goal.
aikibujin · · Castle Rock, CO · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 294
divnamite wrote: After all those training, I guess it's fair to ask if you are climbing better?
I want to ask the same. With a scientific approach, you can't omit this important detail: in what way has your hypertrophy protocol improved your climbing?
Aleks Zebastian · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 175

climbing friend,

most interesting, no climbing "coach" or "expert" recommends this.

JNE · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,940
divnamite wrote: After all those training, I guess it's fair to ask if you are climbing better?
I can't speak for kenr, but for myself, one of the times I did this (used standard protocols of hypertrophy and muscle science and applied it to climbing exercises) I onsighted a highball v8/9 offwidth which has a crux topout (my hardest redpoint up to that point was 12+ and my hardest offwidth boulder was v9), and the next time I did this the highlight was the NFL Dyno sit, highballing an extremely delicate (so not at all my style) v11 tips crack, and a v11/12 boulder on tiny crimps (my previous best tiny crimp boulder was v7 or v8). Keep in mind these ascents were equivalent to or pushing local standards, much of which was the kind of climbing for which you can't practice it in a gym setting. Also, I lost access to a climbing gym and other workout facilities for over a year, otherwise I would still have that fitness plus more, and have a lot more progress to report on. Thus the above represents what occurred during two separate times I made training programs for myself, separated by years.

Also, talk to Bob Scarpelli about this. He was the one pushing those standards years ago, and he did so using the concepts of muscle science.

Also, it is worth pointing out that the Anderson brothers (and as far as I am aware any climbers directly using their program and philosophy), using all of the equipment available in the 1990's plus extra stuff and more knowledge, struggle to match the accomplishments of the athletes whos training programs they claim to replace. When I read RCTM, I felt that this, as well as the lack of discussion of the importance of hypertrophy, was a glaring, glaring omission.
aikibujin · · Castle Rock, CO · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 294
kenr wrote:My best guess is that static hangs on a fingerboard are best for training some climbing-specific form of neural Recruitment, not best for HYPertrophy (though hangs also provide some benefit also for hypertrophy).
I'm confused. Since this is Mountain Project, aren't our goal for training pretty climbing specific?

JNE wrote:When I read RCTM, I felt that this, as well as the lack of discussion of the importance of hypertrophy, was a glaring, glaring omission.
So why is hypertrophy so important?
JNE · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,940
aikibujin wrote:So why is hypertrophy so important?
Its not. You can climb as hard with toothpick arms as you can picture (and if data in the real world contradicts your picture, ignore it) yourself climbing.
Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190

Was going to say...Adam Ondra is the perfect counter example to hypertrophy!

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Post a Reply

Log In to Reply