training principles & exercises
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Article and Photo by Ryan Ojerio
"Failure teaches you what to work on and how to do it. Without failure it is harder to learn"
An effective training schedule should begin with an understanding of one's weaknesses and strengths. The components of climbing can be broken down into three basic categories:
• Physical - Grip strength, flexibility, balance etc..
By breaking down the climbing experience into its component parts you can begin to focus on specific weaknesses and address those in your training. Keep in mind, however, that all the components of climbing interact and depend on one another. In other words, successfully executing a climbing sequence requires a synergy of body, mind and technique.
To identify your weaknesses analyze your failures and look for patterns. Begin by climbing routes at your limit and when you fall ask yourself: "Why did I fall?". Was it a physical failure such as the inability to lock off and move to the next hand hold? Did you have a mental failure and give up before your strength failed? Or was it a technique mistake that prevented you from finding the right body position to keep weight off of your arms? It may help to have your fellow climbers critique you for they may be able to observe your climbing more objectively. A video camera is an excellent tool for pin pointing errors in your climbing.
Push your limits on a variety of routes or boulder problems. Investigate your endurance limit by doing laps on a route well below your red-point limit. Test your mental abilities by trying to on-sight a new route or problem. Focus on power by doing short boulder problems at the very limit of your ability. Check out your flexibility on routes that force your body in to awkward positions.
Once you've identified some of your weaknesses, don't forget to remind yourself of your strengths. Maybe poor upper body strength is a weakness, but you've got great footwork and balance. Work out with the weights and on big juggy roofs, but then treat yourself to some slab routes to keep it fun.
Set specific goals that are measurable to gauge your progress. Steps to an effective training regime:
Power: Simultaneous muscle contraction to produce a short burst of strength.
Exercises To Improve Performance
A lot of folks hate exercise and training; but just think about how much quicker you'll improve if you focus on working specific weaknesses. Don't just train hard, train smart. Keep it fun and remember the sacrifices you make in the gym will pay off in spades at the crag.
Got great footwork and body position, but you still poop out on steep routes or attempting to pull around roofs? Check out these upper body exercises:
Work those abdominals for moves that require a lot of body tension. You'll notice an improvement in your ability to tackle steep routes and everyone else will notice your rippin' six pack.
Hanging leg raises
Push-ups or light bench
Light shoulder press
Finger Strength Training
Performing specific exercises for finger and upper body strength can improve contact strength, gripstrength, endurance, power, and neuromuscular coordination. Deadhanging, or statically hanging from straight or bent arms, can help build endurance and grip strength. On the other hand, dynamic movementslike pull-ups andcampusing are more effective at working contact strength (the ability to latch a hold at speed) and coordination.
According to Eric Horst, effective finger strength conditioning for climbing should meet four criteria:
Adding or decreasing the load may be necessary to produce muscle failure with the desired number of repetitions. You can increase the load by adding weight either strapping it to your harness or carrying it in a pack. To decrease the load use a spotter or elastic band for support. Four popular methods of finger strength conditioning are mentioned below. For more information visit the links on the Resources Page.
Static Climbing - Body Position and Lock Off Strength
Dynamic Climbing - Coordination and Contact Strength
Speed Climbing - Building Motor Engrams
Blind Folded Climbing - Proprioceptive Sense
Downclimbing - Footwork and Lock Off Strength
Lap Climbing - Endurance and Stamina
Straight Arms - Steep Route Technique
Hands Down - Footwork
Thumb Climbing - Balance and Footwork
Stick Game - The Stick Game, also known as Send Me can be used to train a variety of skills. One person climbs while the other chooses holds either by pointing to them (with a stick). It can be a fun way to train endurance, force a climber into new body positions, or simply a method of training on-sight skills.
Pick Five - Pick Five is a great way to create spontaneous boulder problem and practice on-sight skills. One person picks five hand holds and then attempts to link them. Thinking of challenging combinations is a good mental exercise and climbing with a group will allow you to analyze one another's technique.
Add Two - Another great bouldering game, Add Two is a bit like Simon Says. One person starts with two starting holds. The next person begins to build the problem by adding two moves and so forth until everyone has had a chance to add two moves to the sequence. This game is good for analyzing each other's technique and practicing re-point skills as you repeat moves, memorizing and making improvements each time.
Finding your mental weakness can be a bit tricky. Unlike physical weakness or technical mistakes, it can be hard for someone to help you by pointing out errors in your thinking. What do you think about when you are climbing? How does your mental attitude affect your performance? How do your expectations and fears affect your ability to differentiate between perceived risk and real risk?
Expectations that we bring to our climbing can come from within or they may be imposed by years of socialization or the offhand comment of a friend. The important thing is to realize how we form expectations, how they can impact our performance. As you begin a hard route or challenging crux do you expect to fail or succeed? Do you expect to fall and get hurt? WHY?
Negative thoughts and expectations of failure lead to unreasonable fears that can cause you to lose focus, have difficulty remembering sequences, torpedo your motivation and ultimately lead to a "self fullfilling prophecy." Such fears need to be identified and discarded before you can free your mind and realize your physical potential.
On the other hand, reasonable fears that come from an accurate assesement of the situation must be heeded. Over-confidence, denial, hubris and ingnorance can blind you to real danger.
Think about how the following ideas are a part of your climbing (or your life): Focus, Memory, Arousal, Fear, Frustration, Failure, and Motivation. If your mental attitude is one of your "weak links", consider doing some research into the area of sport psychology and learn about techniques such as visualizaton and relaxation that have proven effective for beginners and experts alike.
OPP - credit for adventure