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Climbing Training

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Climbing Training

Gyms, hang boards, yoga and cardio can be highways to increasing your climbing performance. For most climbers though modifying your climbing gym routine to maximize productivity is the key. Climbing two lines that you can't top out on isn't going to make you a strong climber.

Similar to gymnastics, technique is key. Understanding footwork, balance and body positioning will get you up the grades faster than any pull up machine.

A hang board is a great home / office solution. If the hang board isn't allowed at work hand trainers are good stress management tools and do have some benefit.
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Training routines for the climbing gym
Climbing Gyms can be a highway to adding the strength and endurance needed to crank up the grade for next season. The obvious question is how to maximize the benefits you can obtain from a gym.

Lock-Off Training - Climb an easy to moderate route (relevant to your ability). Every time you reach for the next hand-hold stop your hand about one inch from the hold. Wait five seconds (typically the belayer counts to five for you because the lactic acid will be messing with your mind), then grab the hold. Do the same for the next hold and so on.

This technique trains your 'lock-off' strength and forces you to have complete control (no dynamic moves).

Clipping Training - If clipping quickdraws is your weak suit, this is for you. Tie a ten foot (length is not critical) piece of climbing rope to your harness. The opposite end of the rope will just hang loose (you do not have a belayer).

Climb up to the height of the first quickdraw at your gym and clip this quickdraw. Traverse across the wall at this height continuously clipping the first quickdraw of other routes. Your rope will 'pull through' prior quickdraws and follow you.

Select various unique clipping scenarios including situations where you have to clip the rope on the right side of your body with your left hand and visa versa.

Down Climb - This is not a new concept but is often forgotten. Down climb routes and boulder problems. This increases strength, endurance and can come in very useful.

Traversing - Many gyms develop 50+ hold traversing boulder problems. If your gym does not have one just traverse or make your own route. This is an excellent way of increasing your endurance. Long boulder problems also force you to learn to rest and minimize energy usage.

Climb until failure - Climb a moderate route. As soon as you reach the top your partner lowers you quickly and you begin climbing immediately. Repeat until failure. Great endurance, pump session.

Other Tips - Spend at least a quarter of your time climbing your weak suit. You may be weak at sloppy holds, balancing slab climbing, powerful jug hauls, under clings, side pulls, stemming etc. The more you are comfortable with the more options you will have when climbing difficult routes.

Yoga and Climbing

Yoga For Climbers
Brief history of Yoga

Yoga is a form of meditation that was developed in India thousands of years ago. It was originally practiced to ease the body and mind in preperation for meditation. It is still used today in many Buddist and Hindu cultures as a part of a spiritual lifestyle. Most forms of yoga taught in the Western world have lost most of the spiritual properties, but still encourage balance and harmony between the mind, body and spirit.

To some, rock climbing can be like a form of meditation. Yoga can be used to help prepare the body and mind in hopes of reaching optimal performance

Relationship between Climbing and Yoga

There are many similarities found between rock climbing and yoga. Both activities require a present state of mind, mental calmness and focus, and the desire to challenge your personal limits. Also, there are several physical requirements found in both yoga and climbing such as; balance, flexibility, core strength, body tension, and muscular endurance.

Yoga can improve your climbing
Body Awareness

Practicing yoga regularly may increase your mental and physical awareness. Yoga practices extending your awareness into all parts of your body, while harmonizing the body with the breath. This serves to strengthen your concentration, and mental focus. Yoga also teaches the concept of being mindful, and present with each movement and position.

Being a mindful and focused climber means you have the ability to direct and redirect pin point focus on the specific finger or foot placement most critical with each movement.. Yoga can help open your awareness to new elements that play a part in your climbing performance. For example, while holding a strenuous balancing yoga asana (position) you learn to use your breath to calm your mind and find your center strength and balance. This skill of breath control and mental concentration can be applied while climbing to help prevent shakiness (ex. That uncontrollable elvis leg) anxiety, tightness, and lack of focus, ultimately dooming your performance.

Breath Control

In both climbing and yoga, we often hold our breath during a crux move or when we are gripped which creates muscle tension. Muscles need oxygen to replenish their energy state. Practicing pranayama, (breath control) during yoga practice, teaches you to breath smoothly and evenly. This practice of breath control can be applied while on the rock. Being in control of your breath while climbing will prevent muscular fatigue, lactic acid accumulation in the muscles and symptoms of anxiety (ex. Rapid heart beat, hyperventilation, overheating ect.).

Mental Strength

Climbing exercises your mental strength just as much as your physical strength. Yoga does the same. It is critical in both climbing and yoga to understand the relationship between the breath, mind and body. By learning to control your breath, you can learn to calm the mind, sooth the body and remain in a relaxed, present and focused state of thought. What does this do for your climbing? It helps you conquer those mental challenges, face your fears, and expand your physical limits. Climb on!

Yoga can enhance your physical performance.

It is obvious that yoga improves balance and flexibility. Like climbing, yoga also requires core strength, static movements, and muscle tension control. Many movements in yoga are similar to those on the rock. For example, during “Half Moon” pose, you must shift your center of gravity over one leg and use one arm for balance. Keeping your weight over your feet, and moving in a slow, controlled fashion is essential for success in this pose. Similar movements are used often while climbing, such as keeping your weight over your feet and using your hands for balance, while shifting your weight from one leg to the other.

Many climbers experience overly tight hips, hamstrings and shoulders. Keeping these areas stretched and warm are essential for injury prevention, muscle balance, and optimal performance. A good yoga session will give you a complete body stretch, wringing out all tension and tightness. You will be left with free flowing joints, a mental cleanse an emotional uplift. What better way to prepare yourself for the rock!

Low weight is key to climbing and extra cardio is always a positive element. Running, biking, swimming etc. are excellent ways of obtaining this.

Weight Training
Though weight training can help, 'extra' muscle bulk will generally do more harm than good (due to the extra weight and decrease in flexibility). Many hard climbers do add weight training with medium to high reps to their training routine. I do recommend doing push-ups (or bench press) to help balance out your back muscles. Sit-ups help to gain the body tension which is required to climb overhanging routes.

Like any sport, rest is the key to increasing strength and allowing your body to repair. I do not recommend climbing more then 4 days a week (and less if you are new to the sport). If you are an addict and need your daily hit, focus on endurance (low impact, non-crimpy) climbing at least half the time. Though dynos and crimpy routes are fun they are a fast track to injuries if you do them daily.

Training Equipment

Campus Board
Campus Boards train finger strength and power by forcing the climber to campus (climbing a series of holds, only using your hands) a series of rungs. Rungs, shown below, are normally made of wood and come in varies depths.

Most climbers do not need to train on a campus board until they are trying to break the 5.12 (face climbing) barrier.

History: Campus Boards were developed by Wolfgang Gullich. He developed the campus board to train the strength neccessary for his route Action Directe. Wolfgang designed and built the first campus board in a gym called The Campus Center in Germany, hence the name.

Hang Board
Hang boards are pull up bar custom designed for the needs of climbers. Instead of holding onto a bar, hang boards have a variety of holds that you can use like crimpers, slopers, jugs etc, and can accommodate a variety of different pulling positions.

One of the biggest problems a climber can run into while training is working a limited amount of hand positions and thus causing tendonitis (the most common injury when training is by far to the hands due to repetitive training). A hang board helps combat that by adding a substantial amount of varied hand positions.

A Note on Injuries
Over fifty percent of injuries and overuse problems occurred in the hands, and the most common overuse syndrome was tenosynovitis of the fingers (this is from a survey conducted in "One Move Too Many" referenced on the bottom of the page). So, protect your hands by varying your hand positions, and stopping when you start feeling discomfort or pain in your fingers.

One Move Too Many How to understand the injuries and overuse syndromes of rock climbing. By Thomas Hocholzer and Volker Schoeffl. Published by Petzl.

This is probably one of the best reads I've found on how to avoid injuries and treat them when they do occur. It goes over workouts, therapeutic taping, nutrition, rehabilitation etc. I highly recommend this book for anyone looking to get serious about training for climbing.
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