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Training Plan Not Centered Around A Climbing Gym


Original Post
Travis Bieber · · Spearfish, SD · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 48

I live in Spearfish SD so late fall, winter, and early spring the climbing outside is very hit and miss, extremely weather dependent. I'm looking for some ideas or opinions others use when they have not walls to climb on or areas to doing the common training regimen of 4x4s or campusing or system wall. I have a full gym to use at my university and a hangboard in my apartment but get very sore tendons after doing a handful of hangboard workouts in a couple weeks span.Thanks for any comments

David Kerkeslager · · New Paltz, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 122

Core work can be done anywhere and a lot of people say this gives them good results.

Some people do deadlifts for climbing, you could use your university gym for that.

Pull-ups are of limited usefulness, but can't hurt. Wider grip hits the lats more which makes them more useful. If you hold at the top, it will help with lockoff strength.

Cardio can help with endurance and keep you lean: the less you weigh the less you have to drag up the wall.

Yoga for flexibility.

SteveZ · · Denver, CO · Joined Sep 2007 · Points: 406

What are you wanting to improve? What are your weaknesses? Why do you fall on the routes you're climbing? Are you training for any particular route(s)?

From my experience, Spearfish climbing can benefit a lot from improved lock off, power endurance, and precise footwork on small holds. But maybe these are already strengths of yours and your time would be better spent on hip flexibility or core stabilization or ??


Travis Bieber · · Spearfish, SD · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 48

I can pull a lot of weight but small holds are my kryptonite especially when small holds get really far away

Bryce Adamson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 748

If far away holds are an issue, core stabilization could be an issue? 

I would think you wouldn't want to overdo it with finger strength. They say connective tissue takes something like 7 times as long as muscle to adapt to stress. I guess I would keep hangboarding but drop the load and frequency until my tendons were happy, and try to be patient with that aspect. 

I don't have a ton of experience training. Mostly posting to keep the thread alive and see what others with more experience would say.

grog m aka Greg McKee · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 70

Cardio, core, hangboard. Recommend hangboarding 3-5 times per month. If its effing up your tendons dial it back a little. I love the metolius 10 minute hangboard workout routine - I typically do it in about 15-20 minutes. 

Steve Pulver · · Williston, ND · Joined Dec 2003 · Points: 455

Seems like you had a previous post about using a homemade hangboard. If that's the case, I'm wondering how much of your soreness might be due to the hangboard itself.

SteveZ · · Denver, CO · Joined Sep 2007 · Points: 406

Also, unrelated, but I'm curious why people recommend cardio. It seems like a time inefficient way to lose weight, if not a difficult way regardless of time as appetite overgrows the modest caloric expenditure. Has anyone found research that shows better local aerobic training effect (forearms) from systemic aerobic work (eg running)? It just seems like a recovery detriment from climbing related training? Not that it isn't awesome in it's own right, but I'm skeptical of its usefulness for climbing. Just an opinion :-)

aikibujin · · Castle Rock, CO · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 294

Totally agree with SteveZ, the most efficient way to train is to identify and attack your weakness(es). Also, if you have no access to any form of climbing, not even a small bouldering wall, then don't expect to improve your climbing by not climb. The best you can hope to achieve with a hangboard and a fitness gym/weight room is to improve your (fingers and general) strength, which gives you the potential/capacity to do hard moves. But you still need the practice of climbing to actually utilize that strength.

On the other hand, training on the hangboard and in the weight room is better than sit on the couch and watch Netflix, so I'm not discouraging you from using the hangboard and the weight room. I'm just helping to set your expectations.

David Kerkeslager · · New Paltz, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 122
SteveZ wrote:

Also, unrelated, but I'm curious why people recommend cardio. It seems like a time inefficient way to lose weight, if not a difficult way regardless of time as appetite overgrows the modest caloric expenditure. Has anyone found research that shows better local aerobic training effect (forearms) from systemic aerobic work (eg running)? It just seems like a recovery detriment from climbing related training? Not that it isn't awesome in it's own right, but I'm skeptical of its usefulness for climbing. Just an opinion :-)

I can't speak to cardio as improving climbing directly as I haven't done a ton of cardio since I started climbing, but I can say that before that, I lost a solid amount of weight (40lbs) though cardio and diet. Maybe it's not the most efficient way to lose weight, but it does work, and can make maintaining a calorie deficit feel more manageable. Just don't fall into the trap of feeling like you've earned a snack, without actually calculating how much of a snack you've actually earned.

The main benefit I see to cardio for climbing is that you'll often find yourself in situations where you're at high risk for injury if you do climbing-specific training (i.e. tendons are sore or some joint is tweaked). In those cases, something like swimming or a bike is safe to do and gets you some benefits while you're recovering from injuries or minor strains. This is the main way I've used cardio since I started climbing, and it has at least prevented me from putting on pounds while recovering from some injuries (including a serious ankle sprain).

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 476
SteveZ wrote:

No need to focus on "small" edges, if the hold is one pad or less (IE PIP joint not supported in half crimp) your body doesn't know the difference between weight added on that 18-22mm hold vs going down to say a 10mm hold. It's about leverage. Thoughts from Will Anglin, who climbs pretty damn hard, coaches, loves to research training and is one of the owners of Tension.

Connective tissue needs to be loaded to get stronger, you can do in a safe manner. If you're not climbing in the meantime a repeater protocol (ala RCTM) would be a good way to get higher volume at low loads. Bechtel's 3-6-9 protocol is a good intro for hang boarding, but unless you're climbing while doing it the TUT (time under tension) is still a bit low. 

Mark E Dixon · · Sprezzatura, Someday · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 569

FWIW, I believe there is a small cardio (ie heart/lung) component to route climbing.

IIRC, a study showed climbers with a treadmill VO2max of 45 had a climbing VO@peak of 35. So about 80%. 

Other studies suggested climbing VO@peaks closer to 25. Hard to say which is more representative.

My conclusion, some cardio (heart/lung) ability is required, but most young people will have plenty. 

With age, some running or biking or swimming, may be necessary, as VO2max tends to progressively decrease unless trained.

@Nick- for strength gains, edge size may not matter that much, but personally I've found training on small edges to carry over well to climbing on small edges. 

There's a technique and 'attitude' involved in pulling on the tinies.

The whole muscle vs tendon rate of growth issue is vastly overstated.

I could only find one paper that addressed the issue. 

I was hoping it would say the 'slow tendon theory' was totally bogus, but to my dismay, tendons are just a little slower to strengthen than muscle.

Steve Z, Aikibujin and Nick have offered excellent advice.

grog m aka Greg McKee · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 70
Mark E Dixon wrote:


The whole muscle vs tendon rate of growth issue is vastly overstated.

Very interesting, never heard this before. Why are we much more likely to injure a tendon than a muscle?


Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 476
Mark E Dixon wrote:

@Nick- for strength gains, edge size may not matter that much, but personally I've found training on small edges to carry over well to climbing on small edges. 

There's a technique and 'attitude' involved in pulling on the tinies.


Totally makes sense, I've heard the idea of "pulp adaption" thrown around also (Mike Anderson?). I need to get stronger before really pulling on 6-12mm edges matters much though, right now I can't even hang onto most of the yellow school holds on a moonboard to even move feet around. 

Brandon Ribblett · · Breckenridge, CO · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 65

OP, are you using a pulley system to take weight off while you hangboard? this would allow you to progressively overload smaller holds safely. 

slim · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2004 · Points: 1,107
Travis Bieber wrote:

I can pull a lot of weight but small holds are my kryptonite especially when small holds get really far away

which is pretty much spearfish climbing 12's in a nutshell.  i mostly remember pulling some really small pockets down to my shins on some of those routes.  if i were in your situation i would spend a lot of time on the small pockets on the hangboard.  be sure to get at least 2 full days rest between workouts.  i spent a lot of time climbing at pocket/crimpy limestone areas and i had a lot of success cycling (about 4 to 6 weeks each) between strength workouts on the hangboard and power workouts on the campus board and system wall.

slim · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2004 · Points: 1,107
Nick Drake wrote:

No need to focus on "small" edges, if the hold is one pad or less (IE PIP joint not supported in half crimp) your body doesn't know the difference between weight added on that 18-22mm hold vs going down to say a 10mm hold. It's about leverage. Thoughts from Will Anglin, who climbs pretty damn hard, coaches, loves to research training and is one of the owners of Tension.

Connective tissue needs to be loaded to get stronger, you can do in a safe manner. If you're not climbing in the meantime a repeater protocol (ala RCTM) would be a good way to get higher volume at low loads. Bechtel's 3-6-9 protocol is a good intro for hang boarding, but unless you're climbing while doing it the TUT (time under tension) is still a bit low. 

i don't agree with will on this at all.  there is a lot that goes into pulling on really small holds that takes adapting to, not just the strength aspect of it.  first of all, your skin.  second, just getting yourself in the mindset that you can hang the holds.  you are also going to hold a 10mm hold a lot different than a 20mm hold.  on a 20mm hold i was a lot stronger if i held it open crimp, but on a 10mm hold i was a lot stronger with a full crimp.  a 10mm hold is tiny compared to a cadillac 20mm hold...

Mark E Dixon · · Sprezzatura, Someday · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 569
grog m aka Greg McKee wrote:

Very interesting, never heard this before. Why are we much more likely to injure a tendon than a muscle?


I don't pretend to know the answer, but is that even really true?

We don't injure finger tendons, it's tendon pulleys that get hurt. 

I suspect that's because the pulley concentrates stress. And is poorly vascularized, so tends to accumulate chronic damage.

Certainly rotator cuff injuries are generally secondary to chronic damage from all our overhead work, especially for folks with subacromial narrowing. 

Not due to relative weakness of the tendons vs the involved muscles.

SLAP tears aren't tendon related.

Elbows, maybe...

@Nick- there are tinies on less steep walls too! 

It's the rare yellow moon hold I can stick. Much less the wood ones.


Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 476
slim wrote:

i don't agree with will on this at all.  there is a lot that goes into pulling on really small holds that takes adapting to, not just the strength aspect of it.  first of all, your skin.  second, just getting yourself in the mindset that you can hang the holds.  you are also going to hold a 10mm hold a lot different than a 20mm hold.  on a 20mm hold i was a lot stronger if i held it open crimp, but on a 10mm hold i was a lot stronger with a full crimp.  a 10mm hold is tiny compared to a cadillac 20mm hold...

Interesting note about open vs half crimp with edge size changes. I've noticed something similar with far more weight in a 3 finger drag on a larger edge, but then I have to do a half crimp on one of those beastmaker "micro" holds. I can't open hand that thing at all. 

 I've seen some people who can make a near 90 degree bend with their DIP joint and get the tip of the finger parallel to the tiny edge.  I don't have that much ROM in the DIP and so I can't leave my PIP fully straight to get my pad parallel to the edge. I don't know whether it's it's physical or mental, but I seem to have an easier time holding my PIP joint at more acute angles.........but I've never actually dedicated a cycle to hanging on small edges yet. 

aikibujin · · Castle Rock, CO · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 294
Nick Drake wrote:

 I've seen some people who can make a near 90 degree bend with their DIP joint and get the tip of the finger parallel to the tiny edge.

You mean 90 degrees in the direction of hyperextension? Wow, that sounds painful.

SteveZ · · Denver, CO · Joined Sep 2007 · Points: 406
David Kerkeslager wrote:

I can't speak to cardio as improving climbing directly as I haven't done a ton of cardio since I started climbing, but I can say that before that, I lost a solid amount of weight (40lbs) though cardio and diet. Maybe it's not the most efficient way to lose weight, but it does work, and can make maintaining a calorie deficit feel more manageable. Just don't fall into the trap of feeling like you've earned a snack, without actually calculating how much of a snack you've actually earned.

The main benefit I see to cardio for climbing is that you'll often find yourself in situations where you're at high risk for injury if you do climbing-specific training (i.e. tendons are sore or some joint is tweaked). In those cases, something like swimming or a bike is safe to do and gets you some benefits while you're recovering from injuries or minor strains. This is the main way I've used cardio since I started climbing, and it has at least prevented me from putting on pounds while recovering from some injuries (including a serious ankle sprain).

First of all, that's awesome and good on you. Second, that's probably great advice for everyone with regards to actually knowing how many calories are going in/out. I very much agree diet will make or break weight loss regardless of exercise (or lack there of). Good thought on the cardio as safe from overuse injury too. Never would have crossed my mind as I have kids and don't get to climb anywhere near often enough for over use issues. 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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