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Opinions on Tom Randall/Alex Barrows ideas
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Jan 4, 2016
Been looking at some training philosophy's from across the pond.
Training for Sport Climbing by Alex Barrows
Also two of Neely Quin's podcasts of the two are very informative.


Their new ideas are based out of running/swimming/biking training principles rather than sprint/gymnastics/weight lifting backgrounds.
Outside of strength or power in the program that seems to be similar to other training plans, they emphasize Aerobic & Anerobic Capacity and Power, so they are addressing the metabolic systems in the forearm muscles.

My thoughts:
-the article touches so little on strength it seems that this sort of stuff is for really good climbers who have the strength and power to do the hardest moves in isolation but are just working on being way better at expanding their endurance.
-much more nuanced approach to endurance parameters than what you usually see ("power endurance trains quickly, only do it for short times")
-ARC workouts for a lot of people might be in the "wasted miles" category of aerobic work, not hard enough, not easy enough.
-They also have an assessment tool they assess all their climbers with, obviously a cool data point.
Jon Rhoderick
Joined Jul 21, 2009
823 points
Jan 4, 2016
No disrespect to Alex, but isn't "aerobic power" an oxymoron? I guess Shakespeare is from across the pond...

Anyways, I'm not sure I got much from the linked article... I guess my quip with a lot of the recent training material is: when did sport climbing grade become the consensus climbing performance yard stick? At least Alex specified he's only talking about sport climbing. For most training programs, it's assumed.
reboot
From Westminster, CO
Joined Jul 17, 2006
163 points
Jan 4, 2016
This is just my opinion but surely the limiting factor for most sport climbers is endurance, when they are climbing at onsight or realistic redpoint level?

I think it's a given that climbers these days need to be 'doing something hard' with their fingers to build strength year-on-year.

With the whole campusing/fingerboard/bouldering explosion that has gone on in the last 20 years it seems like the 'strength question' is mostly solved IMHO.

Maybe it's time for some serious improvements in endurance/power endurance training methodologies :)
sachimcfarland
From Edenbridge, Kent
Joined Nov 1, 2014
0 points
Jan 5, 2016
Aerobic Power "maximizing the proportion of your aerobic capacity which you can output during a route, once we've developed the ability to produce energy with the aerobic system, now we need to ensure we can exploit that to its fullest extent"

Makes sense to me, generally the sense I get from their ideas is a lot of cool things to do in the gym if you aren't trying the hardest things you can boulder.


Another way they put it is Aerobic Power is the longer duration side of what most would classify as Power Endurance, whilst Anaerobic power is on the shorter duration side.
Jon Rhoderick
Joined Jul 21, 2009
823 points
Jan 5, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: At the BRC
Quick read- looks like 6 months of power endurance training.

Lots of differences from conventional wisdom, at least in US.

Kind of think he's not up to date with respect to lactic acid, but that's a minor quibble.
Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Joined Nov 29, 2007
517 points
Jan 5, 2016
Mark E Dixon wrote:
Quick read- looks like 6 months of power endurance training. Lots of differences from conventional wisdom, at least in US. Kind of think he's not up to date with respect to lactic acid, but that's a minor quibble.


I really like their ideas, and I'd disagree with your statement. Its all just a different take on periodization, but not that different. The spinning plates idea de-emphasizes strict linear periodization, but is far from radical.

So to compare, their base phase is:
a) "aerobic capacity"--> e.g. low enough intensity that you aren't swamping your muscles in lactic acid, think 20 minutes moderate ARC if you are a RockProdigy person.
b) and anaerobic capacity--> high intensity, but with short enough duration and enough rest that you don't get pumped; think along the line of RockProdigy repeaters. Barrows admits this to being a "hard systems work" workout. Indeed.

So essentially you start with a long phase emphasizing these two components... Same as what the RPTM suggests (repeaters with ARC after). Barrows claims to be weak and suggests doing strength workouts all the time as well as energy systems work. He also suggests that high end anaerobic capacity training also improves strength... just like the RP approach.

The end of their cycle prior to performance is lactic acid tolerance/power endurance work, same again as RP. I'm a bit confused by the how the names Aerobic Power and Anaerobic Power relate to the energy systems and how they are leading to failure, but the difference is essentially if you are powering out or pumping out.

I'd say the main difference between this UK born philosophy and the RP approach is that the latter emphasizes a long period of isolated anaerobic capacity work (hangboard repeaters) with complete rest between workouts, and thus features lower volume in the base phase. Makes sense, given that Barrows seems to prefer modern steep pumpfests.

I've also starting regularly mixing in the 20 x (30s on/30s off) suggested in Barrows trainingbeta podcast into my base phase ARCing, and think it is brilliant; your aerobic systems has to work at its capacity, and you don't get pumped (but get close to powering out by the end), but you still get to work the anaerobic system at level it needs to operate at on a route.
nerdlet
From flatland
Joined Mar 6, 2013
0 points
Jan 5, 2016
nerdlet wrote:
I've also starting regularly mixing in the 20 x (30s on/30s off) suggested in Barrows trainingbeta podcast into my base phase ARCing, and think it is brilliant; your aerobic systems has to work at its capacity, and you don't get pumped (but get close to powering out by the end), but you still get to work the anaerobic system at level it needs to operate at on a route.


I'm still a little confused as to the level of effort/intensity they are recommending for this style of workout. Are you sticking to a 20 min ARC intensity level or stepping it up a bit given the more frequent rest periods?
jackson
Joined Mar 2, 2008
50 points
Jan 5, 2016
jackson wrote:
I'm still a little confused as to the level of effort/intensity they are recommending for this style of workout. Are you sticking to a 20 min ARC intensity level or stepping it up a bit given the more frequent rest periods?


The intensity level of the climbing is much higher. I don't know what the Brits feel is the right level, but I am just about failing by powering out at the end of the last 30 s set, and am not significantly pumped. I'd estimate the difficultly of moves is around the same as a consistent 40 ft route that might be at or just below my onsight limit. As the workout progresses past the initial sets, each 30s set ends with the beginning feeling of powering out, but after 30 s I have recovered enough so that lactic acid is not accumulating. I'd view the workout as tying together how much work the anaerobic system is capable of doing in the 30s along with how well the aerobic system can mop up in the 60 s.
nerdlet
From flatland
Joined Mar 6, 2013
0 points
Jan 5, 2016
It looks like they had really good results using their program to achieve their goals (Erra Vella & Century Crack). I believe Tom Randall said during the podcast that he hangboards nearly every day.

I used some of the Alex Barrows protocol this summer and had a very productive 7 day trip to the Red River Gorge. This was after a RockProdigy hangboard cycle, skipping campusing in favor of more Aerobic and Anaerobic training.
Brendan N. (grayhghost)
From Salt Lake City, Utah
Joined Oct 26, 2006
408 points
Jan 6, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Spoonless in the Obed.
nerdlet wrote:
I've also starting regularly mixing in the 20 x (30s on/30s off) suggested in Barrows trainingbeta podcast into my base phase ARCing, and think it is brilliant...


So what do you do for these (sorry if I missed it)? Are you doing hangboard repeaters or "bouldering repeaters", i.e. 30 seconds climbing, 30 seconds off, for about 20 minutes?
evan h
From Denver, CO
Joined Oct 3, 2012
263 points
Jan 6, 2016
evan h wrote:
So what do you do for these (sorry if I missed it)? Are you doing hangboard repeaters or "bouldering repeaters", i.e. 30 seconds climbing, 30 seconds off, for about 20 minutes?


I'm using an adjustable angle Treadwall, climbing on routes set with similar sized holds and similar difficulty movement. If the intensity is off on a given day I change the angle during the rest. Bouldering is what Barrows proposes I think, though difficult to find suitable terrain in a lot of modern gyms.
nerdlet
From flatland
Joined Mar 6, 2013
0 points
Jan 6, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Spoonless in the Obed.
Interesting, I might give this a try. At least it can break up the ARC monotony a bit. evan h
From Denver, CO
Joined Oct 3, 2012
263 points
Jan 6, 2016
I had to reread and review other sources to try and better grasp the terminology and training intentions. The energy systems paradigm I’ve held is wrong. I thought this was informative: Repeated-Sprint Athletes: Energy Systems & Training vacano
Joined Dec 5, 2008
19 points
Jan 6, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Aleks
climbing friend,

the real question, myah, is how would one build up the necessary levels of sexual frustration, yes, and boredom with life in general, myah, in order to be able to follow a periodized training program, yes, and/or hangboard on meticulous schedule, myah?
Aleks Zebastian
From Boulder, CO
Joined Jul 3, 2014
162 points
Jan 7, 2016
Aleks Zebastian wrote:
climbing friend, the real question, myah, is how would one build up the necessary levels of sexual frustration, yes, and boredom with life in general, myah, in order to be able to follow a periodized training program, yes, and/or hangboard on meticulous schedule, myah?


Aleks: I've learned in life that sometimes it is difficult to understand the motivation of people you don't know well. For example, I've often thought the things you listed above as motivating your posts.

Anyway, as everyone else here knows, 99% of people posting in the training section are middle-aged and have a job, wife/husband and kids. Hangboarding in the garage after the little ones go to sleep (or at 5 in the morning) is what they look forward to all day. I fully understand how weird that must seem to someone not in those circumstances.

So there you go, you can try the above training plan out (get a job, get married, have kids), though it may take a few years or decades to get yourself in that "position". Best of Luck.
nerdlet
From flatland
Joined Mar 6, 2013
0 points
Jan 7, 2016
Brendan N. (grayhghost) wrote:
had a very productive 7 day trip to the Red River Gorge. This was after a RockProdigy hangboard cycle, skipping campusing in favor of more Aerobic and Anaerobic training.


That's what you would expect though, no? You went for specificity, which we kick around as one of the prime components of athletic training. I say that, because my limited experience in the Red was that I never, ever lacked the power or strength to do any individual moves or sequences, it was always a question of long anaerobic endurance.

I listened to the podcast, and while I do like some of Tom's approach of trying to benchmark certain physical attributes to see what the 'weak link' is, so you know what to focus on is a good one, I wasn't quite on board with their anaerobic protocols and how much emphasis they put on it.

As always, I'd prefer to look at the results of people they've trained, rather than their personal results, and I haven't seen any of that. My personal experience is that anaerobic capacity trains up quickly and you don't make much in gains after about 3-4 weeks of training it. I also find it's the most injury-prone type of training for me. I think it was Bechtel that used the "cake/icing" analogy, where power endurance is the icing.
Will S
From Joshua Tree
Joined Nov 15, 2006
1,377 points
Jan 7, 2016
Will S wrote:
My personal experience is that anaerobic capacity trains up quickly and you don't make much in gains after about 3-4 weeks of training it. I also find it's the most injury-prone type of training for me. I think it was Bechtel that used the "cake/icing" analogy, where power endurance is the icing.


I don't think An Cap is power endurance in their lingo, the power endurance still goes at the end as the icing. Their suggested AnCap is 8-12x(30-50 s on/2-3 min off), so translated to RP lingo it would similar intensity to the HYP/strength phase. Barrows does suggest doing it for twice as long as the RP approach though (up to 8 weeks), and primarily not on a hangboard.
nerdlet
From flatland
Joined Mar 6, 2013
0 points
Jan 7, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: Aleks
nerdlet wrote:
Aleks: I've learned in life that sometimes it is difficult to understand the motivation of people you don't know well. For example, I've often thought the things you listed above as motivating your posts. Anyway, as everyone else here knows, 99% of people posting in the training section are middle-aged and have a job, wife/husband and kids. Hangboarding in the garage after the little ones go to sleep (or at 5 in the morning) is what they look forward to all day. I fully understand how weird that must seem to someone not in those circumstances. So there you go, you can try the above training plan out (get a job, get married, have kids), though it may take a few years or decades to get yourself in that "position". Best of Luck.


Climbing friend,

Marriage does seem excellent way for the building of the sexual frustration. Also, perhaps you should divorce and sell children if hangboarding at 5 am in cold dark garage is what you most look forward to all day.
Aleks Zebastian
From Boulder, CO
Joined Jul 3, 2014
162 points
Jan 7, 2016
nerdlet wrote:
don't think An Cap is power endurance in their lingo, the power endurance still goes at the end as the icing. Their suggested AnCap is 8-12x(30-50 s on/2-3 min off), so translated to RP lingo it would similar intensity to the HYP/strength phase. Barrows does suggest doing it for twice as long as the RP approach though (up to 8 weeks), and primarily not on a hangboard.


Ah, gotcha. I'm sleep deprived and not thinking especially clearly at the moment.

In any case, I think you've milked the steep part of the gains curve in any aspect of training within 4 weeks and should switch up. I won't let the kids I coach train the same thing more than ~3.5 weeks before changing focus. They still do some of each, just the bulk of the training changes, (for example, if we've been training power, and switch to AE, I still have them boulder up to a few project level attempts as part of their warmup, in an attempt to retain the power from the prior phase while they are focused on the new AE phase).
Will S
From Joshua Tree
Joined Nov 15, 2006
1,377 points
Jan 7, 2016
someone, *ahem* nerdlet, definitely needs to eat more fish heads. pkeds
From Hermosa Beach, CA
Joined Feb 3, 2006
32 points
Jan 7, 2016
I'm intrigued by their program and exercises. One little gripe I have with Barrows' write-up is the lack of an example program, e.g. mocked up on a calendar. He provides a "rough example plan" in section 4.2, but to be honest I find it a little too vague to be helpful and winds up just opening more questions than it answers. I appreciate the desire not to get too prescriptive, but at the same time, I find it really helpful to have some sort of template as a starting point, and then be able to tweak it and experiment based on my own needs and understanding of the theory.

Brendan N., would you be willing to share a bit more specifics about how you incorporated some of these ideas/exercises into your training for the Red? Would really appreciate it!
Dan Austin
From San Francisco, CA
Joined Oct 6, 2010
5 points
Jan 7, 2016
August: An/Ae Capcity. Climbing every day, switching between two workouts.
Workout 1: Bouldering volume.
10min. continuous climbing warmup
5min. increasing difficulty bouldering
5x15 move problem V5, 3min. rest
10min. rest
5x15 move problem V5, 3min. rest

Progressing throu the month to

10min. continuous climbing warmup
5min. increasing difficulty bouldering
5x15 move problem V7, 3min. rest
10min. rest
5x15 move problem V7, 3min. rest (increased difficulty)

Workout 2: ARC
5min. warmup
10min. Dynamic bouldering
20min. ARC 5.10-
15min. rest
20min. ARC 5.10-

Progressing through the month to

5min. warmup
10min. Dynamic bouldering
20min. ARC 5.12-
15min. rest
20min. ARC 5.12- (increased difficulty)


September: An/Ae Power. Climbing every other day, switching between two workouts.
Workout 1: Boulder problem intervals.
10 min WarmUp
4 x 4 Intervals
10 min Rest
4 x 4 Intervals
10 min WarmUp

Progressing through the month to

8 x 4 Intervals (increased volume)
10 min Rest
8 x 4 Intervals

Workout 2: Linked Boulder problem intervals.
10 min WarmUp
8 x 30 move Intervals with 2min rest
10 min Rest
8 x 1min Foot-On Campus w/ 1min Rest

Progressing through the the month to.

10 min WarmUp
8 x 30 move Intervals with 2min rest (increased difficulty)
10 min Rest
8 x 1min Foot-On Campus w/ 30sec Rest (decreased rest time)

Oct. 11-18: Red River Gorge
Brendan N. (grayhghost)
From Salt Lake City, Utah
Joined Oct 26, 2006
408 points
Jan 8, 2016
Nice Brendan! really clear way of looking at their work. I have no doubt you crushed it if you could do 10 V7 sends in one session. Another aspect I'm grasping is that if you do Ana Cap workouts, your sticking way more hard moves in one gym go rather than falling of say V8 problems at the same rate. You hypothetically did 150 moves in the V4-7 range on those days. Jon Rhoderick
Joined Jul 21, 2009
823 points
Jan 8, 2016
Thanks, Brendan, that's really helpful! Much appreciated.

The first thing that strikes me (other than the overall difficulty of the workouts) is the relatively limited rest time. Am I reading correctly that you climbed every day in August?? And only rested 1 day between your An/Ae Power workouts??? I'm having a hard time imaging this much training volume and lack of rest, how did that fare? How long do you usually rest between hard/limit bouldering and/or campus workouts?

Between the end of September and the start of your RRG trip on Oct 11 did you stop climbing completely? Or just do one or two maintenance workouts?

Also I think you said this earlier but wanted to confirm -- prior to August did you do a more standard RCTM-like hangboard repeaters cycle? How often did you rest between hangboard workouts?

Thanks again!
Dan Austin
From San Francisco, CA
Joined Oct 6, 2010
5 points
Jan 8, 2016
Dan Austin wrote:
Am I reading correctly that you climbed every day in August??

That was the goal, but of course work and life got in the way. It looks like I averaged 5 days a week.

Dan Austin wrote:
And only rested 1 day between your An/Ae Power workouts???

Correct

Dan Austin wrote:
How long do you usually rest between hard/limit bouldering and/or campus workouts?
I try to keep the workouts short and do them every 24 hours

Dan Austin wrote:
Between the end of September and the start of your RRG trip on Oct 11 did you stop climbing completely? Or just do one or two maintenance workouts?

A mix of ARCing and Hangboarding every day, then 5 days rest before leaving.

Dan Austin wrote:
prior to August did you do a more standard RCTM-like hangboard repeaters cycle? How often did you rest between hangboard workouts? Thanks again!

Yes, hang boarding every-other day.
Brendan N. (grayhghost)
From Salt Lake City, Utah
Joined Oct 26, 2006
408 points
Jan 9, 2016
Rock Climbing Photo: At the BRC
nerdlet wrote:
I really like their ideas, and I'd disagree with your statement. Its all just a different take on periodization, but not that different. The spinning plates idea de-emphasizes strict linear periodization, but is far from radical.


I'm not a defender of conventional wisdom, just pointing out that they differ from it in several respects.
For example, I find conventional linear periodization doesn't work well for me. Their program looks like a form of block periodization, which Steve Bechtel has advocated.


nerdlet wrote:
I've also starting regularly mixing in the 20 x (30s on/30s off) suggested in Barrows trainingbeta podcast into my base phase ARCing, and think it is brilliant; your aerobic systems has to work at its capacity, and you don't get pumped (but get close to powering out by the end), but you still get to work the anaerobic system at level it needs to operate at on a route.


I would call this a high end power endurance workout. It very well might also build some strength, but at a lower level than a true strength exercise.

If you rested 2-3 minutes between 30 seconds climbing reps, it would be similar to doing repeaters with 3-4 reps/set, which would be a strength exercise. But it would be hard to progressively increase the intensity of the 30 second sessions, due to the varied nature of the routes/holds. This is different from hang boarding where increasing the intensity is both simple and easy to measure. On the other hand, you could also be engraining good technique and strengthening other parts of the kinetic chain rather than just hanging off your fingers!

I personally find PE very difficult to improve, despite the conventional wisdom that it ramps up in just a couple of weeks. I'm already committed to my plan for this winter, but maybe next year I'll try to incorporate more of the Barrows/Randall idea.
Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Joined Nov 29, 2007
517 points


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