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combining repeaters and max hangs in the same training cycle?


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Nivel Egres · · New York, NY · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 130

Training gurus, could you chime in on combining repeaters and max hangs? I am thinking of doing 4 weeks of repeaters followed by 4 weeks of max hangs. My logic is to induce hypertrophy by doing repeaters and then to improve recruitment on the newly-hypertrophied muscles by doing max hangs.

I did a short max-hang cycle early last year in a semi-structured way. It was a short HB workout - 5 3-5 sec hangs per arm with 2 min rest, split by the grip type for each day. Through the cycle, I tried to worsen the holds for each grip type (*). Even though I was doing it 4 mornings a week (closed crimp day, pinch day, sloper day, open crimp day), the workouts were non-taxing enough that I was able to climb two-three days a week. I am planning to do my repeaters the same way, maybe 2 sets per grip, with days split between grip types.

-- Does my hypertrophy + recruitment logic makes sense?
-- Is there a reason not to combine the two types of workouts?
-- Is there a reason I should deviate from my split-grip method for repeaters?

Brian Abram · · Celo, NC · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 495

It might make sense to do it that way, but in all honesty I'm not sure the data exists to tell you it'd be better than simply just sticking to max hangs throughout. I mean, depending on how your repeaters are done, they can more closely mimic power endurance type training, which can actually sometimes make sense to do after strength and power phases.

I think that if your hangboard sessions are non-taxing enough 4 days a week, and you still manage to climb, you're doing it wrong. Most people, especially relatively older people, need more recovery time between sessions. Or your hangboard sessions are so light to be possibly mostly a waste of time. I'm 36 and not super strong. After a hangboard session, I am incapable of another quality hangboard session unless I get 2 full days without bouldering or hangboarding. I hangboard on Saturdays. I try to boulder on Tuesdays, but I'll sub a hangboard session if I can't get out. I climb on ropes Thursdays, but I will never hangboard as a sub on Thursdays as it's too close to both Tuesday and Saturday. I've tried it, and it makes my following Saturday session horrible.

Relatively few blessed individuals can continue to progress through 5.12 and beyond by simply climbing all the time. Lots of folks plateau somewhere around 5.12- if all they do is climb. For those folks to progress into harder grades they need to focus on training, likely at the expense of not getting outside as much as they wish they could. Trying to squeeze in some half ass training among climbing days is probably a fool's errand

Nivel Egres · · New York, NY · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 130

I know, the Anderson book suggests resting and going all out on training days. I'd rather keep at least one day of harder bouldering. That's why I split my workouts by grip per day, it allows me to have the same load as a single heavy duty workout but not feel as taxed.

Overall, I don't subscribe to the school that a workout has to destroy you. I certainly saw gains from my cycle, my single arm hangs improved a lot quantitatively, by end of the cycle I was able to hang on significantly smaller holds.

Actually, I am not sure if not being dead after the session is a function of the split grip or that max hangs are not as taxing. Also, I heard that there are some climbers that hang board through the season while climbing hard on the weekends.

Jon W · · Longmont Colorado · Joined Jun 2010 · Points: 95
Brent Apgar · · Out of the Loop · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 90
Nivel Egres wrote: I am thinking of doing 4 weeks of repeaters followed by 4 weeks of max hangs. My logic is to induce hypertrophy by doing repeaters and then to improve recruitment on the newly-hypertrophied muscles by doing max hangs.
What you're describing is classic linear periodization. And the assumption then is exactly the one you're making.

As with all training protocols, you'll never know which one is the best until you start experimenting with different theories and see which ones you respond best to.

Sure you can make some generalizations about human performance characteristics but ultimately we're not at the level of technological sophistication where you can predict how an individual will respond to a particular training program.

Keep notes, give it a shot and see what happens.
Dan Austin · · San Francisco, CA · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 0

I'm including max hangs in my training cycle for the first time right now, with the same logic you've outlined. I've adapted my training approach from a post JCM made on the Anderson bros forum, which is roughly based on Alex Barrows' training article about conjugate periodized training. See here for reference: rockprodigytraining.proboar…

For me, I still think I have the most upside in terms of developing power & technique by focusing on hard & limit bouldering, as opposed to getting really deeply focused on max hangs. So I've sort of been doing a "lite" protocol for max hangs, and haven't been super strict or regimented about it.

On sessions where I'm doing max hangs, I'll start with warming up on easy boulders and working up to the point where I feel ready to try limit boulders. Then I'll take a rest, and head to the HB for max hangs. After doing the max hangs, I'll finish the session with limit boulder attempts for 30-45 mins.

Since I don't want to totally wreck myself on the HB before I limit boulder, I've only been doing 2 grips, 3 sets each grip, with a set consisting of 10s hangs at an intensity level where I feel like I could hold on for another 3s (13s total) and rest between sets of 3m. Most max hang protocols I've read suggest something like 3-4 grips and 3-5 sets per grip, so I'm purposely cutting back on the TUT. Depending on the HB I have available, I'll do 2 of the following 3 grips:
- front 3 open hand/drag, with weight added (on RPTC LVDER or BM2K large edge)
- half crimp at bodyweight using smallest edge I can on Eva Lopez HB
- full crimp on RPTC 8mm with weight removed

I didn't want to do a Maisch-style test protocol to determine my baseline weight, since that seems like it eats up an entire training day, and like I said, I'm viewing the max hangs as more supplemental and want to make sure I don't de-prioritize limit bouldering at their expense. So, I was just fairly conservative with my baseline weight across the board in early workouts, and have increased the intensity as needed.

I'm still in the middle of the training cycle, so hard to say how this will affect performance, but so far it feels good. I don't feel like I'm interfering with my bouldering, but I'm still progressing my intensity from workout to workout. I also like that I'm able to isolate some small edge hangs (a personal weakness) without the huge TUT required for repeaters, which can feel a bit tweaky for me.

Nivel Egres · · New York, NY · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 130

Very interesting. I elected to do single hand hangs because I feel that it has better applications to bouldering (also, you quickly discover imbalances between hands this way). For open hand, why do you feel that you need to add weight rather then worsen the hold?

JNE · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,940
Nivel Egres wrote:Does my hypertrophy + recruitment logic makes sense?
I am with Brent in that yes, this follows what I understand to be well established general training protocols: creating mass and then training it. Also, I like how you split it into two 4 week sections as data seems to suggest this is about right. For me personally the only thing with respect to this aspect that I would do differently is I would do each section until the gains leveled off, which I would in turn expect to be somewhere around 4 weeks.

Nivel Egres wrote:Is there a reason not to combine the two types of workouts?


Not that I can think of, and I actually think it is good to combine them. According to my personal theory, doing just the hangboard workouts would not create much of a strain on the system to be viewed by your mechanical body as a major obstacle to overcome. Thus as a result it will not create the same hormonal response that you will get from doing this after climbing, where you will benefit from the response you get from climbing. I also think that in combining the two workouts you get the benefit of both building the muscle and training the neurological aspects with respect to movement and specific use simultaneously, so this is another strong positive IMO.

Nivel Egres wrote:Is there a reason I should deviate from my split-grip method for repeaters?
No, I think this is right as well. I would only suggest that in the following bouldering workout, you avoid whichever grip type you focused on in the previous hangboard session.

As far as more general thoughts are concerned, the first thing I would ask myself before I embarked on a hangboard program is what specifically I want it to do for my climbing. Under my personal theory of training, the body always optimizes itself for present conditions, so any part of your training which does something which will not be a regularly visited thing will fade away as soon as you stop training it. That being said, I think the value of hangboard training lies not so much in its direct transferability but in the fact that it is adding either muscular (repeaters) or neurological (max hangs) potential to a specific part of the body. In this way the hangboard acts as a specific tool which is good for addressing specific weaknesses for rounding out workouts in specific ways. As a tool, it requires the extra step of then training this muscle with respect to movement (something the campus board is better about since it trains the whole arm-based muscular chain involved in latching holds, though I would not recommend limit campus sessions to round out a workout though I prefer ladders over pullup sets, unless my fingers are blown but my arms could use a greater workout...). Thus the best use I think it has is for combining it with any kind of climbing session in order to max out the grip muscles for every session, as these are the greatest limitation to improvement in my opinion.

In short, I think that is a great looking program. The only thing I would add would be the

thing workout done with straight arms held directly in front of you, set for set, to be done immediately after the hangboard sets (if you do it with bent arms like in the video, as a climber, it will likely over-use your elbow and contribute to any tendonitis on the top of the elbow/forearm). This would also be the time for any pullups. I am excited to hear about the results :)

Also, those links Jon W poster are excellent. I am a big fan of Steve Bechtel's holistic approach. People like him are especially good to work with because they have access to a wealth of data people like me do not have. Thus the subtle specifics of what they can offer in a training plan in terms of fidelity to achieve specific results is an extremely valuable service IMO.
Dan Austin · · San Francisco, CA · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 0
Nivel Egres wrote:Very interesting. I elected to do single hand hangs because I feel that it has better applications to bouldering (also, you quickly discover imbalances between hands this way). For open hand, why do you feel that you need to add weight rather then worsen the hold?
Mostly for comfort/ergonomics.

I also like the idea of doing both "max hang" and "min edge" training, where I'm increasing intensity on larger holds by adding weight (open hand) as well as increasing intensity on smaller holds by decreasing edge size (half crimp). Though that's really secondary to the comfort aspect.
Nivel Egres · · New York, NY · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 130

Well, the aim is to boulder harder. I do have a specific project in mind that's all crimpy face climbing, but I think I want to also progress all around and build a nice base of problems in every style in 7A to 7B+ range.

I have been told by a few friends that finger strength might not be my key issue, but rather upper body and core. So I am planning to focus my bouldering on that type of problems. I also suck at a very specific types of dynos where my feet leave the footholds (while I am reasonably good at most other lunges), that's another focal point.

Nivel Egres · · New York, NY · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 130
Dan Austin wrote: Mostly for comfort/ergonomics. I also like the idea of doing both "max hang" and "min edge" training, where I'm increasing intensity on larger holds by adding weight (open hand) as well as increasing intensity on smaller holds by decreasing edge size (half crimp). Though that's really secondary to the comfort aspect.
Intuitively, o feel that ROI for actual climbing will be better from worsening holds, not adding weight. There might be injury considerations I guess. Also, you are training your skin and tips for small edges which might help too
JNE · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,940

I think your program is nicely in line with your goals, however it is likely a little redundant to your strengths which sound like in control static climbing as well as tightly controlled micro-dynamics. As a crack climbing and gear-based climber starting out, these were also my strengths, learned as part of 'keeping it together' and mainly maintaining safety where total control over safety and the overall situation is not an option.

When I had great breakthroughs in my indoor climbing and having that transfer to outside climbing was ironically when I began focusing on foot-off dynamic movement inside, so this is what I would recommend you build your bouldering sessions around. The thing I struggled with the most was unlearning maintaining tension in my muscles through dynamic movements, which is what is done when keeping the feet on, as well as learning to really commit with all my strength to jumping, so overcoming the ingrained movement patterns. One of the best things for me in this respect was the campus board, which will really neurologically teach you to put the focus of recruitment on a short burst, as well as to then maximally relax the catching muscles so they have the greatest potential to quickly react to the catch. You can then train your foot-on dynamics with these short bursts using specific limit bouldering problems.

Nivel Egres · · New York, NY · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 130
JNE wrote:I think your program is nicely in line with your goals, however it is likely a little redundant to your strengths which sound like in control static climbing as well as tightly controlled micro-dynamics.
Possibly. Just by looking at my videos and also taking into account what I feel comfortable on, I would probably agree with you. I also feel that I move too slow. I wish I can do an assessment of my technical/physical strengths and weaknesses, but in absence of a proper coach, it's all "dude, you look strong there" and such.

JNE wrote: The thing I struggled with the most was unlearning maintaining tension in my muscles through dynamic movements, which is what is done when keeping the feet on, as well as learning to really commit with all my strength to jumping, so overcoming the ingrained movement patterns. One of the best things for me in this respect was the campus board, which will really neurologically teach you to put the focus of recruitment on a short burst, as well as to then maximally relax the catching muscles so they have the greatest potential to quickly react to the catch. You can then train your foot-on dynamics with these short bursts using specific limit bouldering problems.
So would you suggest foregoing HB all together and concentrating on campusing and more dynamic bouldering? To be honest, I would be all for it, as I think I still have a lot of technical gains to make.
JNE · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,940
Nivel Egres wrote:So would you suggest foregoing HB all together and concentrating on campusing and more dynamic bouldering? To be honest, I would be all for it, as I think I still have a lot of technical gains to make.
Not necessarily, and it is certainly your call. I use the hangboard after any climbing session for which I feel I have enough strength left over in my fingers that I will be able to train them and still recover for the next workout. Thus the hangboard is my go-to tool for maximizing/optimizing finger training.
Nivel Egres · · New York, NY · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 130

Ok, had a crazy side thought about finger strength and hang boarding.

All of our HB protocols train static finger strength, but it might not be what any boulderer actually needs. Instead, maybe we should distinguish two types of finger strength - "move-off strength" and "latch strength". The "move-off strength" is an ability to hold on to a marginal hold when the other hand is making the reach to another hold. The "latch strength" is an ability to catch and retain the hold when reaching to it.

So maybe instead we should be building protocols for the two strength types. E.g. for "move-off strength", you'd hang your working hand on a very marginal hold, while the moving hand would be making a reach from a good hold to another good hold. For "latch strength", you would be hanging on two good holds and latching a very marginal hold with your working hand.

Something like that. I know it's crazy, but I wanted to throw it out here.

JNE · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,940

I personally like:

Mass: the size of the muscle

Power aka Total Force: a combo of how fast the muscle responds as well as the actual volume of muscle responding. Thus this is a function both of the size of the muscle as well as the specific neurological wiring (and neurological mass) of the muscle.

Training Goal: Get bigger muscles which respond more quickly using an increasingly large volume of the muscle. Thus I think training should center around muscle/neurological growth as well as sport-specific muscle recruitment.

IMO a hangboard program will help with respect to both mass as well as to a lesser extent with adding potential in the neurological components with respect to absolute force generation.

Dan Austin · · San Francisco, CA · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 0
Nivel Egres wrote:Ok, had a crazy side thought about finger strength and hang boarding. All of our HB protocols train static finger strength, but it might not be what any boulderer actually needs. Instead, maybe we should distinguish two types of finger strength - "move-off strength" and "latch strength". The "move-off strength" is an ability to hold on to a marginal hold when the other hand is making the reach to another hold. The "latch strength" is an ability to catch and retain the hold when reaching to it. So maybe instead we should be building protocols for the two strength types. E.g. for "move-off strength", you'd hang your working hand on a very marginal hold, while the moving hand would be making a reach from a good hold to another good hold. For "latch strength", you would be hanging on two good holds and latching a very marginal hold with your working hand. Something like that. I know it's crazy, but I wanted to throw it out here.
Sounds like you're basically describing the typical "Strength" & "Power" components of most climbing training programs. Get strong at holding onto really shitty holds (e.g. on a hangboard) and then get powerful at moving between possibly-less-shitty holds (e.g. on a campus board or limit boulders). The exercises you're describing sound like they could accomplished on a campus board.
aikibujin · · Castle Rock, CO · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 294
Nivel Egres wrote:It was a short HB workout - 5 3-5 sec hangs per arm with 2 min rest, split by the grip type for each day.
What you describe is not what most consider a max hang protocol. Max hangs are usually around the 10 sec range (the idea is for hypertrophy). 3-5 sec hangs are more of a recruitment protocol (which you identified correctly). This type of "max recruitment" hangboard work out was described in the RCTM as well.

Since I'm limited to one gym visit per week, during my power phase I use a very similar "max recruitment" hangboard work out: 3 sec hangs, 5-6 reps, either with both hands and lots of weight added, or single hand on a grip I'm very strong on. But if you have time to go to the gym though, I feel campusing and limit bouldering is a lot more effective for max recruitment.
Nivel Egres · · New York, NY · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 130
Dan Austin wrote: The exercises you're describing sound like they could accomplished on a campus board.
Yeah, that's where I started. My thinking, however, is that a campus board does not allow many specific type of grip (unless you have sloper and pinch campus board) and also does not really allow to isolate "move-off" and "latch-on" separately.
Nivel Egres · · New York, NY · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 130
aikibujin wrote: But if you have time to go to the gym though, I feel campusing and limit bouldering is a lot more effective for max recruitment.
Hmm, mkay. I feel like I should say that it worked for me, my top grade improved and all the other blah, but I did not campus.

I did do a lot of limit bouldering this past year. My process is, generally, to pick a gym problem in v9 to v11 range and try to do the first 2-3 moves. Much more applicable then trying to complete v6s and v7s, which are 6-8 moves.Also, staying in sit-start space allowed me to save my ankles from repetitive falling.
aikibujin · · Castle Rock, CO · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 294

Don't get me wrong, since I'm forced to do the majority of my training on a hangboard, I would love to hear how to make it more effective. But do you think your improvement was due to the fact you were doing the workout on a hangboard, or was it due to the limit bouldering?

You mentioned above that the campus board does not isolate "move off" and "latch on", so I'm really interested in hearing how you isolate this on a hangboard. In my "max recruitment" protocol I use 3 sec hangs, I feel this is the shortest time I can use that still have some sort of effect. But when latching a hold, that process doesn't happen over 3 secs, it probably happens on a millisecond scale. I can try to lift my feet off the ground as quickly as possible, but it just doesn't feel to have the same effect as launching for a small rung and try to latch it.

In terms of slopers and pinches, some gyms do have campus board with them. I don't use them since those grips are not my priority, but it is possible to train different grips on a campus board.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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