EA MOUNTAIN SKILLS
The snow is falling & like every winter I'm on a Training Plan that is already pushing me into the next grade. Six months of indoor climbing is a huge opportunity for any climber to improve regardless of level & after ten years of climbing & coaching I know having a consistent & purposeful structure to your sessions is key. If you want improvement from your time at the wall then read on for a better session in 6 steps...
Probably not the ground-breaking advice you were hoping for? But for me a good warm-up is appealing because increasing muscle pliability contributes to ease of movement when you pull on to the wall - it helps me climb better. Warm-up with 3-5 minutes of cardio followed by dynamic stretches focussing on shoulders, elbows, hips & knees.
Easy routes have value if you climb a lot of them consecutively. Continue your session by spending time at easy grades moving precisely & honing your footwork & efficiency. Climbing continuously with a small amount of forearm pump for half an hour or so will also train localised endurance in the arms meaning you process the by-products of anaerobic exercise faster. Spend 30 minutes climbing easy to improve your technique & your rate of recovery.
You want to move from 5+ to 6a? Start trying at 6a. Working projects involves repeated failure so put the ego to one side. Trying harder projects will make you stronger & involves technical experimentation which will improve your understanding of movement. Find projects that push you to failure in less than 12 seconds & between attempts rest for one minute per hand move. Once you've mastered a move try the next move in the sequence. Once you've made every move link them to send
'WORK EVERYTHING ELSE'
When a muscle contracts an opposite muscle stabilises absorbing some of the stress. A strong upper back & biceps aids the frequent 'pull' action of climbing but exercising the 'push' pectorals & triceps will help you stay healthy. Smaller moving parts such as the rotator cuffs, extensors & pronators should also be strengthened to cope with the unusual positions & stresses that climbing puts you through. Finish your session with push-ups & core then get the theraband/powerfingers & do some shoulder rotations plus extensor & pronator exercises.
Think about a high rock-over on a slab or a high step-through on an overhang. Increasing the range that you can smoothly move your feet through ultimately makes climbing easier. Stretching for flexibility involves holding positions for longer & using slow breathing to relax your muscles & sink further into the stretch. At the end of your session take time for yoga stretches that focus on the hips.
'REST MAKES YOU STRONGER'
Getting stronger is what happens after you exercise not during. The process of fatigued muscles growing back stronger is known as 'supercompensation' & as you might expect the harder you work the longer it takes. After working projects take 3 days before you do so again, after working endurance take 24 hours.
Altogether these 6 steps make a productive session that's achievable in around 3 hours. Two of these per week with 72 hours rest in between will be enough for most beginners & intermediates to see progress.
1. Pulse-raiser & dynamic stretches: 10 minutes
2. Endurance & Technique: 30 minutes
3. Projects: 20 attempts - 1 hour & 40 minutes*
4. 'Push' & Core, then rotator cuffs, pronators, extensors: 15 minutes
5. Yoga: 20 minutes
6. Rest: 72 hours
*assuming 5 minutes between attempts
The amount of endurance & project attempts can be increased slightly every 8 weeks & strength endurance training can also be added. Further into the future you will also reach a level at which campus rungs, fingerboards & mental training become effective additions. For now though - commit to a structure, enjoy your climbing & start making some progress.
Ed | Mountaineering Instructor & Development Coach