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Are you a strength/power person or an endurance person?
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Mar 11, 2013
some interesting posts, unfortunately i'm short on time, but a couple quick comments:

aerilli - the measurement system you describe sounds pretty sweet. i think one hiccup though is that it likely can't measure excessive 'wasted' body tension. for example, the amount of energy that you waste due to clenching muscles that aren't being used. you could have the exact same body position, as well as the same loads on each of the holds, yet you could have a bunch of muscles straining harder than they need to. this is a large part of technique - not using the muscles any more than absolutely necessary.

i had thought somebody posted something about great climbers never continuing when their technique begins to suffer (looking back through the thread i can't find it though). obviously i disagree with this. when you are pushing yourself, there are going to be times when your technique is deteriorating but you will have to grind it out for the send. without this experience you will never reach your potential or come close.

i also don't agree with static climbing as the ultimate goal. there are times when i think climbing fairly static is important - in particular in runout situations on poor qualily rock. however, a lot of times it is a lot more efficient to climb with more of a dynamic component. this has really been difficult for me to learn, and i am a beginner in this area. i have spent such a long time climbing in a controlled static manner that it is really, really hard to make the leap (pun intended). i have learned that even something as simple as using the campus board has a lot of technique involved. any tool that you can add to your arsenal is worth having, in my opinion.

technique training is tough to do. i agree with others who have basically said that technique training in the gym is a waste of time. what i learned during 5 years of using the SCC method is that gym climbing ingrains habits in me (maybe different for others) that carry over really poorly to climbing outside. these days i really try to limit the amount of indoor climbing i do, for this reason. to really effectively train technique, you need to do it at your climbing area. unfortunately, it takes a lot of time, which if you have very limited time like i do, makes it not really have good value. i try to focus on maybe 2 things during my warmups, but i have long since given up on doing the little flagging/pivoting/etc drills in the SCC book.

is technique easier to develop than strength? when you are a brand new climber, either one of these things can develop quickly. i imagine to some extent most people develop both things at a somewhat similar rate. some people might develop one thing a lot more quickly due to some sort of pre-disposition. i don't think you can keep either one of them without some maintenance though. my first few routes of desert season are always a bit rusty. it comes back quickly, but it is always a bit off. same for slabs, steep stuff, etc.

anyway, i guess that is the fun in all of it. if it was easy, it would be called knitting....
Joined Dec 1, 2004
885 points
Mar 11, 2013
gym climbing ingrains habits in me (maybe different for others) that carry over really poorly to climbing outside

I think I can guess what habits you are referring to, but can you elaborate?
Dana Bartlett
From CT
Joined Nov 18, 2003
890 points
Mar 12, 2013
hi dana. i've described this in detail in other threads, but here is a basic summary.

1) most gyms that i have climbed at, including my current gym, just don't have any route setters that can set good routes in the 12a to 12d range on the vertical/slightly overhanging walls. the route setters may be level such and such setters, yada yada yada, but they just don't set good vertical routes that have any sort of application to the nearby outdoor routes. the main problem at my gym is that they have an obsession with slopers, and in particular, sloping pinches. despite what some authors may say, the open grip has little to no translation to gripping small holds.

also, stepping on beach balls the entire way up a route doesn't really build the small hold footwork that is required for most of the routes in my areas. in 25 years i have climbed a lot of routes in this grade range in my areas, and i can honestly say that i don't remember a single route where a sloping pinch was a deal breaker. i know that they will say that the small holds cause more injuries - but i counter that NOT training on small holds is more likely to cause injury when climbing real routes outside. during the 5 years that i tried the SCC program (bouldering and climbing in the gym, movement drills) there are 2 things that are stand out in my data - i had more injuries (shoulders, finger pullies), and my outdoor climbing basically had an inverse correlation with my indoor climbing (particularly the bouldering - it is almost perfectly 180 degrees out of phase).

2) the route setters all seem to be either midgets, or forced to set routes for 8 year olds. if you are tall, you will either be sitting on your heels nearly every move, or you will be at full extended reach on every move. given that 90% of the holds they use are slopers, it is always really, really awkward to stay low on the holds. it is pretty tedious.

the last 2 years i have gone back to focusing on strength training and limiting my gym climbing. the results were staggering. there were days that i would onsight 2 or 3 routes at grades that used to be a real struggle to redpoint. i consistently onsighted 3 letter grades harder than my best onsight during the SCC years. my best onsight was as high as my best RP during the SCC years. also, i was redpointing 2 letter grades harder than my best during the SCC years. i was having a great time. i didn't even do that much redpointing - i was having so much success onsighting that i kind of got hooked on it. all of my RP's were 3 or 4 tries or less. it felt great to see success come out of my hard work.

don't get me wrong, i still do some gym climbing - mostly for PE and stanina, as well as just to do some small amounts of movement practice. but my focus has shifted to focusing on strength training. so far this year, my results are looking even better than the previous 2 years.
Joined Dec 1, 2004
885 points
Mar 23, 2013
Okay, thanks, that's what I assumed you might say. I tend to agree. Gym climbing can help teach some useful movements, no doubt. But it's a poor medium for learning route finding and understanding how to rest, and it's only okay for learning footwork. Also, the style of holds that seem to be most popular - big slopers, blobs, and pinches - aren't applicable to most of the climbing you'll do in the US. Dana Bartlett
From CT
Joined Nov 18, 2003
890 points
Mar 25, 2013
Slim, I actually think Movement sets reasonable routes in the 5.12 range, even on the vertical/slightly overhanging walls. It's funny you think the route setters are midgets, cause the only short route setter is Jon Cardwell & his routes are quite reachy (for someone his height) & extremely powerful. BRC, however, have mostly short route setters.

I'm not sure gyms need to imitate outside climbing as much as providing an environment to train specific areas of climbing. That said, it's no secret Movement tries to imitate Rifle routes than Shelf routes. I can think of several reasons for the sloper/pinch galore:
1) finger injury prevention: I seriously cannot have a 2-3 hr gym session on crimps & I can always supplement w finger board/system board
2) comp climbing: say what you want, but open hand grip has increasingly been the focus of comp route-setting.
3) body position training: one of the difficulty w/ sloper is the subtle body position required to optimize the hold (because it goes from Ok to really bad w/ a very small change), whereas you can play a bit looser w/ crimps and just crimp harder.
4) the "when all you have is a hammer syndrome": I don't climb much at all @ shelf, but elsewhere on the front range, there are actually plenty of sloper/pinch or otherwise open hand grip type moves on non-trivial sections of routes (Public Solitude, crux of T.G.V., most of the hard climbing on Musta Been High, the harder moves before the crux on Choose Life (it's a power endurance route, so those moves need to feel easy), etc). Rifle may as well be in the front range & it's a sloper/pinch (& kneebar) galore. And the thing is, the better you are at it, the more these types of holds present itself: on one of my project (Beethoven's 5th) last year, I saw someone hanging out w/ open hand @ the crux while I was desperately trying to milk a bad undercling/finger jam. Hell, on my first creek trip this season, I realized I can modify my rattlely tips jam a bit by squeezing the shit out the other side of the crack w/ my thumb. This is after I realized from the previous year that w/ increased open hand strength, I can pseudo hand jam much thinner crack than before.
From Westminster, CO
Joined Jul 17, 2006
50 points
Mar 26, 2013
Interesting to compare the setting styles of the different gyms. I've been climbing at the DBC for much of the winter, and have liked the setting style there. It seems like their typical problem consists of locking off 1-pad incuts on a 45, with short but hard moves; this is a pretty nice gym style for translating to strength on rock (i.e. lock-off strength on crimps). In this setting style, difficulty comes from reeling in a smallish hold, no from generating big dynamic moves between good holds. Also have been using the system baord a bit there, which is set up to basically emphasize the same style (1 pad incuts, on a 45).

I recently went to the Spot for the first time in a while; I'm actually planning to spend a bit more time there this spring specifically because of their setting style. I'm planning an extended trip to Rifle in May, and the idea is that the Spot style (slopers, compression, body power) should translate well to there. As reboot said, it is sloper/pinch galore. (Any of you experts want to comment on this plan?). Plus, with longer problems and a good treadwall, it should be a better place to get some PE work in. Somewhat ironic, really; since the Spot style is exactly the opposite of what you want for training on rock for most areas (the DBC style is way better for that), but getting ready for Rifle seems like an exception to this rule. Or I may be totally wrong there.

As reboot mentioned, though,these gyms seem to be getting to the point where they are designed mostly to train one for more gym (comp) climbing. While upstairs at the Spot, I looked at their system board (the steeper one). Even on the system board, all of the holds were slopey pinches- hilarious. Useful for comps, I guess, but not great for most Front Range climbing.
From Seattle, WA
Joined Jun 9, 2008
5 points
Mar 27, 2013
slim wrote:
hi dana. i've described this in detail in other threads, but here is a basic summary. 1) most gyms that i have climbed at, including my current gym, just don't have any route setters that can set good routes in the 12a to 12d range on the vertical/slightly overhanging walls.

This has been my experience at Rock N Jammin (north) as well. I can send all the 12s on the vertical walls but when I get to the cave wall I can barely let go long enough to make some of the clips. I know I probably need to work on some of that overhanging endurance but the crimps on the overhanging walls seems just as big as the crimps on the vertical walls and the routes are the same grade?!

I have made myself climb solely on the cave wall this winter in hopes of improving. It has gotten a little better but I am now just crushing the 12s on the vertical wall more and still struggling with the overhanging walls. I am a bigger climber at 5'10" 175 but it should not be this much of a struggle. I have also noticed their grading has become way out whack as well.

Ah, cant wait for Spring!
Mike McKinnon
From Golden, CO
Joined Aug 27, 2003
20 points
Mar 30, 2013
Check this article out

It highlights the need for both. I generally consider myself a power person by nature but gravitate towards the aesthetics of sustained sport climbs on tall, vertical to slightly over hanging walls. Because of that, I'd been tailoring my training routines to incorporate more endurance related activities in hopes that it will counter my fast-twitch instincts and build a more balanced skill set: running, cycling, and only doing sport in the gym.

Lately though, after plateauing around 11+ for a season or two, and finding myself getting completely burnt after pulling the crux on longer climbs, I've re-introduced more bouldering, hard power/strength training, hangboard routines, and even weight lifting. I feel like I have more endurance as a result; I've seen huge gains in my onsight and project level in sport recently. I am able to push through hard, anaerobic crux sequences with enough steam left over to finish the moderate aerobic/endurance based head walls that follow.
Jon Zucco
From Denver, CO
Joined Aug 15, 2008
40 points

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