Training Wheels for Training: A Review

Climbers are endless consumers of information about climbing. There’s always one more blog to discover, one more video to watch, and one more slideshow to click through. We’re also inundated with information about how to train. As our sport matures, we’re discovering more and more about how to achieve peak performance.

When it comes to training advice, it’s important to find the voices you trust among the growing cacophony. For me, one of those voices is Kris Hampton, who writes the blog Power Company Climbing. His training content is consistently high-quality and relevant.  After a 3 week break from climbing in mid-December, I re-discovered this post by Kris: How to Climb Harder than Other Newbs. The guidelines Kris lays out have been the foundation of my training for the last two months. They’re simple, and they work.

My sessions are almost all structured the same way–in two hour-long blocks.

I spend the first hour warming up by climbing new (to me) easy problems, or repeating moderate problems perfectly. No flailing feet, no muscling up the wall. Focus on feeling and improving the quality of your movement, not whether or not you get to the top.

The next hour I spend working problems that are hard, but achievable. Kris recommends something you think you can send in 5-6 goes. I try to carry the smoothness and precision of movement from the easy problems through to the second half of my session. If I’m too tired to climb well on the harder stuff, I either end the session or climb a bit more on easier problems.

That’s it. Simple.

Even better, it works. I am having tons of fun during the first hour, and feeling more solid on problems closer to my limit. Some suggestions and tweaks for tailoring the ‘newbie’ workout are below. Remember–it’s never to early or too late to be beginner again!

Troubleshooting Tips:

How much do I rest? 

On a busy day at the gym, I can get in 15-20 boulder problems during the first part of my training session. If it’s empty (and I’m focused) I can get in closer to 30, although I’m more tired after.

I get bored climbing the same problems over and over again. The first hour feels like a waste of time. 

4 suggestions:

  1. Trying climbing problems in a different style each time. Make only static moves on one attempt, and then try moving more dynamically the next. Imitate climbers who you admire–practice moving as they move
  2. Substitute holds in and out of a familiar problem each time you do it. Remove one of the best handholds or footholds, and see what you can do with the replacements. How does the problem climb differently when you’ve mixed it up?
  3. Every time your feet hit the ground after you’ve finished a route or a problem, replay what you’ve just climbed in your head. Think about how the movement felt and see if there’s room for improvement.
  4. Make up your own problems! Look at the sequence of holds on the wall and try to visualize a sequence of handholds to get to the top. Remember to keep the difficulty moderate.

I’m too tired to climb hard after I spend so long warming up.

As your fitness improves, this problem will go away. As you get more in-tune with your body and how it responds to what you throw at it, you’ll be able to adjust how much energy you have left after the first hour. An easy way to reduce the intensity is to stick to less overhanging terrain.

I get sucked in and start trying hard routes with my friends.

Before you start the first hour, plan a structure for that particular day. Here’s two ideas to get you started.

Pyramids: Lately I get warm by traversing, then do 3 problems on the 45, 3 problems on a moderate overhang, 3 problems on the 15 wall, 3 problems on the vert, and then start building back up to the 45. Most of this time is spent repeating problems, adjusting and improving as I go along. This structure helps me stay focused.

Ratchet: Start with a grade well below your onsight level. Do all the problems or routes of this grade in your gym. Repeat for the next grade up. And the next. Can you reach your onsight level in an hour?

Important Caveat:

To make this work, you have to want to get better. Work your weaknesses. Focus on movement quality, not on showing off. Ask climbers you respect for tips on technique. Listen to your body and don’t overtrain!

What do you think folks? Will you give it a try? Sound off in the comments!

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4 thoughts on “Training Wheels for Training: A Review

  1. Pingback: Track It! | One Girl, On the Rocks

    • Oh man, make up your own!! It’s so much fun! The best is if you can pick a line of holds from the ground and then climb them. Mess around with variations until you find something you like. If your gym has enough holds close together, you’ll have tons of possibilities. Start with open feet–makes it easier to keep track of things. :)

  2. Pingback: How to Make Up Your Own Routes at the Climbing Gym | One Girl, On the Rocks

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