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Training Biases & Mental Traps.


Original Post
Dean O! · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2018 · Points: 0

We can't deny that training for climbing is popular right now. I've been climbing for a while and fortunate to work with some clients. A couple of honest critiques that I'm sort working through. 

Maybe I'm wrong and I can't deny I'm sort of hitting a mental wall. So your feedback is welcome.

Training for climbing lacks sports specificity. You're deluding yourself if you think most hang board workouts are remotely helpful. When was the last time you were hanging off your fingertips trying to place a micro cam? Yeah, never.

You're probably reading this mad. But stop and actually think before you craft a response. Ask yourself the question above, honestly. 

I'm not saying there isn't value to do 4x4s, arcing, and TRX. Indeed, such movement is helpful but to what end? Do you rock climb suspending horizontally on tubular webbing? Where the APPLICABLE value in TRX?

Maybe you graduated past the moon board and took up New Alpinism. Great. Phenomenal text and I can't say it's wrong. It's a mismatch of application though. You are a rock climber and not a damn alpinist. Why are you training your legs for sport climbing? Anderson brothers nailed it with the discussion on lactic acid thresholds etc. Still limited in APPLICATION. Again not to say these are not worthwhile endeavors but rather lack an applicable value quotient in real-world application. With the exception of the RRG you probably don't climb routes such that your forearms are going to explode. If so, slow the hell down and enjoy the climb.

You probably rolled your ankles on an approach but never thought to train ankle mobility, amirite!? This is the shit I'm talking about.

Below are some points I want to convey: I

1) Recognize you're training for something that the First Ascenionist probably didn't "train" for. You simply have a lack commitment so you're making up for missed time on real rock by training. Admit that you're no different than a tourist.

2) You DO probably want to wear a harness full of shit while climbing in the gym. Closer to the real thing, for sure.

3) Mind your muscles and mind your imbalances! Stay on your program of choice but damn watch your complimentary muscles so you don't get an injury. Deadlift goes a long way for this.

3) You probably need to sleep more and eat less. Most people eat considerably more than they need to. Anything above 1,700 calories is ridiculous if you're serious about sport climbing. Sure maybe more if long trad routes are your jam. You want to be over horse powered and the best way to do that is to cut weight (even unnecessary muscle weight).

4) You believe that training is valuable because it's a feedback loop. Arbitrary improvement in arbitrary tasks leads to arbitrary satisfaction.


Look, I'm not interested in arguing the fine details of Training Beta, RCTM, or whatever else. There is value but the APPLICABLE value remains to be seen. This is too new of a science for us to really know. Far different than say track and field.

I just think we as a community need to be honest about some of this. 

Jon W · · Longmont Colorado · Joined Jun 2010 · Points: 75
Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,455
Dean-o! N wrote:

We can't deny that training for climbing is popular right now. I've been climbing for a while and fortunate to work with some clients. A couple of honest critiques that I'm sort working through. 

Maybe I'm wrong and I can't deny I'm sort of hitting a mental wall. So your feedback is welcome.

Training for climbing lacks sports specificity. You're deluding yourself if you think most hang board workouts are remotely helpful. When was the last time you were hanging off your fingertips trying to place a micro cam? Yeah, never.

You're probably reading this mad. But stop and actually think before you craft a response. Ask yourself the question above, honestly. 

I'm not saying there isn't value to do 4x4s, arcing, and TRX. Indeed, such movement is helpful but to what end? Do you rock climb suspending horizontally on tubular webbing? Where the APPLICABLE value in TRX?

Maybe you graduated past the moon board and took up New Alpinism. Great. Phenomenal text and I can't say it's wrong. It's a mismatch of application though. You are a rock climber and not a damn alpinist. Why are you training your legs for sport climbing? Anderson brothers nailed it with the discussion on lactic acid thresholds etc. Still limited in APPLICATION. Again not to say these are not worthwhile endeavors but rather lack an applicable value quotient in real-world application. With the exception of the RRG you probably don't climb routes such that your forearms are going to explode. If so, slow the hell down and enjoy the climb.

You probably rolled your ankles on an approach but never thought to train ankle mobility, amirite!? This is the shit I'm talking about.

Below are some points I want to convey: I

1) Recognize you're training for something that the First Ascenionist probably didn't "train" for. You simply have a lack commitment so you're making up for missed time on real rock by training. Admit that you're no different than a tourist.

2) You DO probably want to wear a harness full of shit while climbing in the gym. Closer to the real thing, for sure.

3) Mind your muscles and mind your imbalances! Stay on your program of choice but damn watch your complimentary muscles so you don't get an injury. Deadlift goes a long way for this.

3) You probably need to sleep more and eat less. Most people eat considerably more than they need to. Anything above 1,700 calories is ridiculous if you're serious about sport climbing. Sure maybe more if long trad routes are your jam. You want to be over horse powered and the best way to do that is to cut weight (even unnecessary muscle weight).

4) You believe that training is valuable because it's a feedback loop. Arbitrary improvement in arbitrary tasks leads to arbitrary satisfaction.


Look, I'm not interested in arguing the fine details of Training Beta, RCTM, or whatever else. There is value but the APPLICABLE value remains to be seen. This is too new of a science for us to really know. Far different than say track and field.

I just think we as a community need to be honest about some of this. 

I agree but what makes YOU the expert?

mkclimb · · Western Colorado · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 416
Dean O! · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2018 · Points: 0

Fair question. I'm no expert but just pulling off of personal experience and observations made. Just seems like folks don't climb as much as they train.

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

Great Troll attempt.  I am sure this will hit 5 pages in no time.  I would break down your fallacies point by point but no use.  If you are trolling there is no benefit, and if you are as ignorant as you appear in your OP then you wouldn't understand anyway.

Eric Carlos · · Chattanooga, TN · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 40
Dean-o! N wrote:

Fair question. I'm no expert but just pulling off of personal experience and observations made. Just seems like folks don't climb as much as they train.

I will say that many people fall into that category  Saw a couple hangboarding last week having to take 45lbs off their weight to hold a huge edge, while I am  adding 50 lbs holding the 10mm edge.  There is no better tool for building finger strength than hangboarding, but if you have to remove that much of your body weight and you aren't crimping a nickel......GO CLIMB INSTEAD.

Dean O! · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2018 · Points: 0

Thank you, Eric! Not trolling but just trying to examine why we do what we do. Borderline conversation on epistemology - how do we know what we know. 


If you think I'm trolling it's because you don't answer the question honestly. And the point remains when was the last time you need to call upon hangboard type strength on a route? 

Eric Carlos · · Chattanooga, TN · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 40
Dean-o! N wrote:

Thank you, Eric! Not trolling but just trying to examine why we do what we do. Borderline conversation on epistemology - how do we know what we know. 


If you think I'm trolling it's because you don't answer the question honestly. And the point remains when was the last time you need to call upon hangboard type strength on a route? 

Many climbers today do train too much and don't climb enough...that we can agree on.  Or in my example above, they start training too early in their climbing life when they should be just climbing.  

But to discredit the specificity of training as a whole is absurd.  

What training does is allows one to focus on a small part of the equation with such intensity as to bring about change.  Climbing is a complicated sport that requires both strength and skill.  One must ideally improve in both in order to be better.  Even in your desire for people to just climb more, if done with focus,  can be a form of training.  

Eric Carlos · · Chattanooga, TN · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 40
Dean-o! N wrote:

Thank you, Eric! Not trolling but just trying to examine why we do what we do. Borderline conversation on epistemology - how do we know what we know. 


If you think I'm trolling it's because you don't answer the question honestly. And the point remains when was the last time you need to call upon hangboard type strength on a route? 

Every time I climb I call on finger strength....and the hangboard is a tool (one of the most effective) for building raw finger strength.  It allows progressive overload in a way that is hard to get in just climbing.  

Mark E Dixon · · Sprezzatura, Someday · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 579
Dean-o! N wrote:

And the point remains when was the last time you need to call upon hangboard type strength on a route? 

Every time I pull hard on an edge? 

Basically every hard route I've been on, with the possible exception of some moderate 5.12 slabs. Even then, it's not all feet.

I mean, what are you talking about?

Eric Carlos · · Chattanooga, TN · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 40
Dean-o! N wrote:

when was the last time you need to call upon hangboard type strength on a route? 

I am going to let all college and NFL teams know that they are wasting time in the weight room doing squats with barbells, because when in a game are they ever called on to squat with a barbell around their traps?  They should spend their energy doing other things more specific to running, blocking an tackling.  

the schmuck · · Albuquerque, NM · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 110

Oh for Pete's sakes...because Wolfgang Gullich, Jerry Moffatt & Ben Moon definitely did not advance standards by a full number grade in the 80s by doing something as pointless as training at the Campus Center & The Foundry.  Truth is that standards were stuck at 5.13/8a until climbers started systematic training in the late 80s/early 90s. 

Dean O! · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2018 · Points: 0

Yeah, right. I wouldn't use the NFL as bastions for sport specificity and efficacy. Where should I start? Deshan Watson? Carson Wentz? All of those guys using the methodology prescribed and yet still got season-ending injuries.

Again don't miss the trees for the forest. Put the bong down and think about it.

Training is okay to do and you're going to see results. But let's not kid ourselves that it makes the difference for the 5.11 climber trying to get 5.12. Rather, training pays off for the echelon up in 5.14 trying to 5.15. 


Edit - Trying to convey that regular climbers don't need training.

Halbert · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2011 · Points: 286


Dean O! · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2018 · Points: 0
Halbert wrote:

I disagree. 

First of all I do not understand, and also question if you know yourself, what you do mean by training. Is it everything except for lead climbing on rock?

Strength training is a very effective way of adressing weak links in your physical system. Also it matters for reasons of injury prevention to have a decent level of base strength.

Ofcourse endurance training, easily done at the wall, will make a big difference in the level of pump you will experience while route climbing.

What is the most effective way of training depends person to person with different strength and weaknesses. I would agree that it is not the most effective way of training to just copy a training program from the internet or a book because it might not be adressing the points you need to improve to reach certain goals in your climbing. But saying that any training for climbing is a waste of time is just dumb in my opinion.



Thank you for the thoughtful response. Sounds like you and I agree on many points and arrive at differing conclusions.

I wanted to let this topic go but I don't think anyone is listening. 

Training for climbing works and does prepare you but you never do any of the things you do in training when actually climbing. Make sense?

Mikey Schaefer · · Redmond, OR · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 246

I think you should qualify your post with the type of climber/climbing you are referring to.  I agree with some of the things you have to say if you are referring to beginner to intermediate climbers (up to 5.12 or so).  But for advanced to professional level climbers (5.13 and up) I don't agree.

Regarding some of your specific points.

1. I know for a fact I've tried repeating routes the FA did indeed train for.  And conversely I've established FA's that I trained specifically for.  At this point in my climbing career I don't need more time on the rock.  I need to focus more time on my weaknesses, and that isn't footwork or movement.  One of my weaknesses has always been finger strength and hangboarding is a very time efficient and focused way to improve on that weakness.  

2.  Why would I wear a harness full of shit when I don't do that when I am sport climbing?  If you are projecting sport climbs and are leaving the ground with your gri-gri,cordellete, and gloves clipped to your harness you have a few things to learn about climbing at your limit and training isn't gonna help.  

3.  Absolutely need to pay attention to imbalances.  Good advice.

3.  Also good advice.  It is a lot easier to lose 5lbs than to get 5lbs stronger!  This is probably the best advice for a lot of beginning to intermediate climbers.

4.  It would be great if it were easier in climbing to measure all of the different variables, challenges and difficulties.  But not every 13a is the same perceived difficulty in the world and often even the same route can change in its difficulty due to changing variables such as temperature and humidity .  It is much easier to time a 100m sprinter on any given day at any track in the world and record their time/performance and see how a training cycle has improved the sprinters ability.  We can't do that in climbing so we have to draw some conclusions from the observations we made about our performance and training.  Personally when I had my strongest training cycle on a hangboard I also managed to redpoint my most difficult route.  Maybe that was just a coincidence.  But I find that hard to believe as I just took nearly 6 months off from climbing (due to an acl repair) and within 1 month of returning to climbing I was stronger than I had ever been.  All I did was train for 6 months.  I saw a positive outcome from the training.


When was the last time you were hanging off your fingertips trying to place a micro cam? Yeah, never.

Sounds YOU have never hung off your fingertips placing a micro cam but many other people have including myself.  I have no idea the grade you climb but when you get into 5.13 gear protected climbing you aren't placing all the gear from stances or good footholds.  

But overall I think you make some good points.  Training for climbing is becoming popular but most beginning to intermediate climbers don't need to train, they need to work on technique, body movement, footwork and reading moves (generally more time climbing!).  But once a climber reaches a high level of proficiency in the fundamentals I do believe training can help climbers climb at a higher difficulty. 


Dean O! · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2018 · Points: 0

Mikey, thanks for the response - you gave me a lot of to think about. Can I ask why the insistence of the hangboard? I don't disagree that's its the most efficient way to improve upon finger strength. The reason I'm sort of shunning the hangboard is that gains made are quickly lost. Just seems like folks would be better off on the systems wall?


Dean O! · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2018 · Points: 0

Do we all generally agree that most climbers DO NOT need to be training?

Yes or No.


will ar · · San Antonio, TX · Joined Jan 2010 · Points: 270

Dean-o! N wrote:

Training for climbing lacks sports specificity. You're deluding yourself if you think most hang board workouts are remotely helpful. When was the last time you were hanging off your fingertips trying to place a micro cam? Yeah, never.

I can think of several routes where I've slotted a micro nut on vertical to slightly overhanging terrain while hanging off an edge with one hand and my feet on crappy holds. I feel like hangboarding has a pretty direct application to this.

With the exception of the RRG you probably don't climb routes such that your forearms are going to explode

Travel more, there are plenty of areas in the US that can bring the pump. 

Below are some points I want to convey: .......

With the exception of climbing with a harness full of shit (which I rarely do on hard single pitch, even when it's trad) most of your points are discussed in the major training books. I wouldn't say they are anything novel.

There was a time when I was on the rock all weekend and a couple of days after work on weekdays. Given my current location, family, and work commitments that isn't feasible for me so I'll make do with a few weekday sessions on my home wall to keep me in shape for when I can get outside. For training I do HB, limit bouldering, and 4x4s (on problems I set to match my projects). I also do technique drills which are technically practice and not training. The only thing not specific about limit bouldering and 4x4s are that I usually do them on plastic.

In the past you got to 5.13 by being a dirtbag and climbing a lot for many, many years (which is probably still training, just not very structured), these days you can go to any major sport crag with 5.13s and find people who have full time careers and in some cases not all that experienced crushing 13s. Training has probably had a small part in that.


Pnelson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 401
Dean-o! N wrote:

Mikey, thanks for the response - you gave me a lot of to think about. Can I ask why the insistence of the hangboard? I don't disagree that's its the most efficient way to improve upon finger strength. The reason I'm sort of shunning the hangboard is that gains made are quickly lost. Just seems like folks would be better off on the systems wall?


I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone talk about gains made on a hangbored being "quickly lost."  Most training lit I've read makes the point that strength takes the longest to build, but lasts the longest, too; much more than power or endurance.  That's definitely been the case in my own experience.  When you start climbing at levels higher than what your profile states, you may find that, too.

I do agree that beginning and intermediate climbers are jumping on the training bandwagon from an often clueless perspective.  Training, like tick marks, fixed draws, and project climbing, is having a trickle down effect into lower grades where technique and mileage are the true necessities.  

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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