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How well does indoor climbing translate to outdoor?


Steve Marshall · · Concord NH · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 42
Nick Drake wrote: If your gym sessions are to warm on a few routes, then try something near your limit until you pump off and repeat until you're gassed you are quite literally training yourself TO GET PUMPED.

I think this is perhaps the wrong way to word it. You are still stressing that energy system and it will adapt. Maybe it's not the most efficient way to train, but it's not like you are going to get pumped more easily after training this way than after not training at all.


I am curious about a source for this because your post pretty much exactly describes what happens when I try to route climb in a gym. Most of my gym time is solo so I work on ARC type training (up/down climbing continuously for sets of 20min), and bouldering. But once a week or so I lead climb around my limit and basically exactly the same thing happens that you describe - I pump off 3/4s up OR I can do all the moves on the route, quite easily but can't do them all together.

To me this says I need to do that type of climbing MORE often - to train specifically for what I am trying to improve; running laps is too far below my limit so it doesn't help much with managing actual pump (which I think is a lactic threshold problem). I can hang out on the easy holds forever but that hasn't translated to making multiple moves on somewhat harder holds. Meanwhile, all the bouldering has improved my strength so if I hang I can pull the moves with very little difficulty, but still can't do all of them in sequence.

interested to hear your thoughts.
Sam Cieply · · Venice, CA · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 30
SteveMarshall wrote:
To me this says I need to do that type of climbing MORE often - to train specifically for what I am trying to improve; running laps is too far below my limit so it doesn't help much with managing actual pump (which I think is a lactic threshold problem). I can hang out on the easy holds forever but that hasn't translated to making multiple moves on somewhat harder holds. Meanwhile, all the bouldering has improved my strength so if I hang I can pull the moves with very little difficulty, but still can't do all of them in sequence.

interested to hear your thoughts.

I would recommend listening to the latest episode of Eric Hörst's Training for Climbing podcast. It's pretty dense and I don't think I digested it all on the first listen, but he addresses some of this. He says that moving quickly on small/difficult holds is a very effective strategy used by the best sport climbers, and this works a different energy system than doing lots of mileage on easier holds. He also says that everyone will "pump out" (switch energy systems) after 60-90 seconds of hard climbing.

http://trainingforclimbing.libsyn.com/podcast-23-energy-system-training-part-2
aikibujin · · Castle Rock, CO · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 294
Nick Drake wrote:

This is the process which builds up lactic acid within a muscle, i.e. the process which ends up resulting in "pump".

No! It's hydrogen bombs, man, hydrogen bombs!


Harumpfster Boondoggle · · Between yesterday and today. · Joined Apr 2018 · Points: 133

The fitness (for the size/type of hold and length of route) translates directly.

What you are finding is that there is more to it than that to climb rocks.

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 496
aikibujin wrote: No! It's hydrogen bombs, man, hydrogen bombs!


Haha damnit man I was trying to keep it simple! My original response went into that 

Joe Prescott · · Berlin Germany · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 6

I've thought about the OP question a lot lately since moving near a gym and climbing indoor a lot and not having it translate to outdoor as much as I like.

For route climbing, I think the biggest difference for me is the time I actually spend on a hold and on a route/foot of climbing. Indoor, even leading and clipping draws, I'm never on a hold more than a few seconds. Even if the next move is at or above my limit, I go for it because there is no other option, and because the next hold(s) and sequence are pretty obvious. Outdoor, I spend a LOT more time on many of the holds on a route, deciding on the best clipping hold, installing draws, clipping, quick shake, grope for the next hold, try a different one if the route is near my limit, decide that I had the best one to begin with, search for better feet, etc. I've mimicked this a bit indoors - routes that are pretty easy become very hard or impossible to top when I spend extra time in an isometric contraction on a few of the holds. Maybe hangboarding trains this? I've thought about just spending 10-20 seconds in a single hold a few times on a route to mimic/train this. Not sure if that is productive training??? You certainly get pumped much faster doing this, similar to outdoor climbing.

Bouldering is just completely different movement and hand/foothold for most bouldering to translate for me.  

Señor Arroz · · LA, CA · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10

A big part of the issue is really that indoor terrain so rarely mimics outdoor terrain. Gyms love vertical or overhanging terrain for the safety of the falls. But nature doesn't provide us with nearly as many plumb vertical to overhanging lines with plentiful holds.

I can climb the shit out of steeply overhanging terrain at my gym. I've yet to find a place in nature with 45% overhangs that I can just spider across.

Probably time for me to take a trip to Greece.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 210

Or the Red River Gorge.

Señor Arroz · · LA, CA · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10
Ted Pinson wrote: Or the Red River Gorge.

I live in CA. Greece is closer...

Peter J · · Ford E-150, wherever · Joined Aug 2017 · Points: 145
Señor Arroz wrote:

I live in CA. Greece is closer...


reboot · · . · Joined Jul 2006 · Points: 125
Harumpfster Boondoggle wrote: The fitness (for the size/type of hold and length of route) translates directly.

What you are finding is that there is more to it than that to climb rocks.

What, you trying to say climbing takes skills? It's all about the energy systems!

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 496
SteveMarshall wrote:

I think this is perhaps the wrong way to word it. You are still stressing that energy system and it will adapt. Maybe it's not the most efficient way to train, but it's not like you are going to get pumped more easily after training this way than after not training at all.

You're right in that if those single pitches are simply getting you pumped out of your mind then it's not actually increasing your ability to create lactate or necessarily reliance on glycolysis (but it might). If you get a complete lack of power without a pump then you are in the range of working "anaerobic capacity". 

The recent Horst podcasts that Sam mentioned are very good and worth listening to multiple times. There is also Alex Barrows paper that's been floating around about energy systems, some of the terminology he uses is a bit funny: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-40C59n2E_4aVRyYjY5U1Rtc2c/edit


If you listen to what Horst is saying, RCTM, Eva Lopez, or most other sources about sport climbing they will recommend that large base of localized aerobic fitness in the forearms. It allows the other higher output energy systems to also become more efficient and increases recovery rate both on route and between burns. Lots of info about aerobic energy system from Lopez: http://en-eva-lopez.blogspot.com.es/search/label/Endurance%20Training?updated-max=2014-11-13T15:28:00%2B01:00&max-results=20&start=4&by-date=false


Personal anecdotes, In the past I did the really low end ARC training in the gym, it was all jugs and in the 5.8 to 10- range on auto belays. I got that exact result you have, I could hang onto jugs forever, but wasn't sending routes. On rock the ARC training seemed to play out because I ALMOST always found a jug to shake on. I wasn't really happy with it. 

This fall/winter I based what I was doing off Steve Bechtel's logical progression layout. He recommends "intensive endurance" sessions where you do linked boulder problems (stay on the wall the whole time). Climb a problem, then down climb/traverse open holds to be ready to start a new problem at around 2 minutes. Repeat for a 10 minute set, 5 min rest between sets, 4 sets total. There is a progression to work in the book. You're still very low on the pump scale, should not be falling and should not be spending much if any time "shaking out". You alternate between building pump and recovering on the traverse/downclimb. It may not be as pure from the physiological adaptation standpoint, but I'll be damned it it didn't carry over to real climbing better (than low end ARC).

Also for JCM, EVERYONE LISTEN TO BECHTEL BECAUSE HE IS THE MAN :)
Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 496
reboot wrote:

What, you trying to say climbing takes skills? It's all about the energy systems!

Climbing is not a skill sport. Climbing is an energy system sport. Everyone should just buy hangboards and modify weight/hold times and only touch rock to red point. 

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

What, you trying to say climbing takes skills? It's all about the energy systems!

You better believe it if the empirical method tells you so!
reboot · · . · Joined Jul 2006 · Points: 125
aikibujin wrote: You better believe it if the empirical method tells you so!

Nah, since I wasn't thinking about the perfect balance of energy systems and aerobic cap my way up those 5.13/14s, the sends didn't count. In fact, they shouldn't have even been possible, #mustbelying.

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

Nah, since I wasn't thinking about the perfect balance of energy systems and aerobic cap my way up those 5.13/14s, the sends didn't count. In fact, they shouldn't have even been possible, #mustbelying.

Oh no, I believe you when you say you climb 5.14s. But maybe because you climb so well, you don’t believe others can get so pumped on a 5.12 that their fingers open up jugs? Maybe whatever you do works so well for you, you don’t believe something else can work for others? It just seem strange that you’re here to poke fun whenever energy systems is mentioned, but you never offer us what you do. I'm not expecting unicorn dusts, but I'm always eager to hear what others do so I can try it myself.

Rod Shaftmoore · · Boulder, CO · Joined May 2008 · Points: 100

I think indoor climbing is good for getting strong, but isn't as helpful with the technique and mental aspects of outdoor climbing.  It's pretty common to train a bunch indoors for a while, then start off climbing outside with limited success, and once you get some more outdoor mileage in, see the results of all the indoor training.  To the OP, I'd just say stick with it.  Get that mileage outdoors, and then the indoor training will pay off.

The other way to look at it is "indoor climbing has nothing to do with climbing.  It just happens to be good training for it."  I forget who said that, but it's pretty true. 

Harumpfster Boondoggle · · Between yesterday and today. · Joined Apr 2018 · Points: 133
aikibujin wrote:

Oh no, I believe you when you say you climb 5.14s. But maybe because you climb so well, you don’t believe others can get so pumped on a 5.12 that their fingers open up jugs? Maybe whatever you do works so well for you, you don’t believe something else can work for others? It just seem strange that you’re here to poke fun whenever energy systems is mentioned, but you never offer us what you do. I'm not expecting unicorn dusts, but I'm always eager to hear what others do so I can try it myself.

If you were not born with the ability to throw a 95mph fastball you will never be able to throw a baseball 95 mph.

Some people are marathoners, others milers...others yet excel at the 100m dash.

You cannot compete with the Usain Bolts of the world. There is no secret training formula that will ever, ever make that happen. They have unique genetic gifts distributing the fast twitch/slow twitch muscle fibers in their bodies that others do not have.

But the beauty of climbing is that it is a purely individual sport and how you improve and push yourself is all that matters.

The people that have impressed me the most in climbing is the people that have done the most with the least gifts, not the mutants that commonly waste years due to talent.
Adam Ronchetti · · Madison, WI · Joined May 2011 · Points: 25

In my general experience indoor climbing is a good place to encounter new moves and sequences and develop muscle memory for the moves and positions. That I feel translates at least somewhat well to outdoors in that if you're in a position that your body recognizes you know you have it.

That all being said the above sort of exists in a vacuum independent of grades. Heel hooks on weird slopers can exist just as easily on 5.12 as they can on 5.8. 

FourT6and2 ... · · San Francisco, CA · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 45
Adam Ronchetti wrote: In my general experience indoor climbing is a good place to encounter new moves and sequences and develop muscle memory for the moves and positions. That I feel translates at least somewhat well to outdoors in that if you're in a position that your body recognizes you know you have it.

That all being said the above sort of exists in a vacuum independent of grades. Heel hooks on weird slopers can exist just as easily on 5.12 as they can on 5.8. 

Yeah I think the gym is a place to train. To get stronger. But also to learn and practice techniques you might encounter on real rock, but you won't encounter them with enough consistency outdoors to really get good at them without years and years and years of doing it every weekend, for example. 

I can go to the gym and only focus on rock overs for an hour if I wanted to. Or focus on twist locking or heel hooks or back stepping. Or any combination of them on any one given route. Can't do that outdoors due to how time consuming access is. I can spend 3 hours at the gym and get in 15 climbs. Outdoors... you might spend 12 hours on a day trip and only get in 3 climbs due to any number of factors.

That said, I think I've only encountered maybe two routes outdoors that actually required a heel hook. But I nailed both of them because I spent the time in the gym to train that move.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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