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I've been climbing for about 7 years starting when I was 31 years old. Initially I made rapid progress as I learned the various techniques etc, but after about a year I plateaued and I haven't really made any progress in the last 6 years. I have kids and I'm pretty busy all week so I only get to climb, with another friend my age at the weekend so as it stands I'm doing about 2 hours climbing per week. I can reliably climb up to a French grade 6b or a bouldering grade V4 but that's about it.

People generally say that my technique is good but what I really lack is strength. I see other people do routes that are beyond me and I get as far as "that pull" or "that hold" and I simply don't have the strength to do the move that's required.

So here's the thing, I'd love to go up another grade and to be able to climb V5-V6 routes but it's clear that if I don't make a change to how much training I'm doing it won't happen. I don't have a lot of time but I'm wondering what I could do with a few hours at home over the week that would help me improve at the weekend? Would two 20 minute finger board sessions mid-week at home be enough to get me up a grade? What kind of things would I be best investing my limited time in?

  • 1
    Yes that would be a good exercise. Will it up upgrade you a grade? Find out. – paparazzo Jul 23 '17 at 20:25
  • You should probably be a bit more specific about what you mean by "strength". I always found forearm power endurance (technical/fingery routes) and core strength (overhanging routes) the limiting factors. Fingerboard work for forearms and pilates or other floorwork for core strength are relatively easy to fit round kids and can be done at home. Core strength is surprisingly important - often the reason your forearms get pumped is because your core is too weak therefore there's too much stress going through your arms (though you say your technique is good so this may not apply to you). – aucuparia Jul 27 '17 at 9:44
  • Get some rock rings, hand them in your garage, and do pull-ups before or after work. I find that even 10 or so helps me get stronger. Use fewer fingers until it gets difficult. – Chris Mendez Jul 30 '17 at 2:23
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This depends on the person of course, but yes, any type of extra exercise which is sufficiently long would be beneficial. And 20min of fingerboard might just do the trick. Especially with climbing where strength can become the limiting factor. However if it is really enough to get to e.g. 6C is something different. A fingerboard is mainly about forearm strength. Ok, biceps as well if you're doing pull-ups, but that is about it. And while forearm strength is important in climbing there's a ton of other muscles you'll be using as well: climbing really is a 'using the whole body' type of sport, especially when adavancing to the higher grades.

So: the fingerboard won't hurt (though keep in mind to warm up gradually to avoid injuries) but to know whether it helps you'll have to try it since there's more to climbing than just fingers. Probably, unless you are a pro working on some specific body part, the single best exercise for climbing is simply more climbing. If I go from once a week to an average of 1.5 times per week, after a month or two I'm climbing 1 grade higher. I tried other things like fingerboards and never got any yield like that. What did help me a bit, but not as much as actual climbing in a dedicated spot, was mimicking climbing by having multiple fingerboards and whatever could serve as a grip and creating a small climbing route at home. You do need the space for that though. Climbing trees is another thing, though more dangerous. But it's also more fun, and hence easier to sustain, than the just seeminly pointless hanging from a fingerboard.

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    I fully agree apart from one point: At a certain point more climbing (not strength training on the climbing wall) isn't equivalent to adding strength workouts. The problem is, that while climbing you will only get to your strength limits irregularly, while on strength workout you can control the intensity to be just at the right spot (which depends on whether you train strength endurance or peak-strength). That is usually not true for a beginner, who is at the strength limit all the time when climbing, but with experience and technique, you just get too efficient for that. – imsodin Jul 24 '17 at 8:56
  • @imsodin that is roughly what I meant with the 'unless you are a pro working on some specific body part' though your explanation is much, much better :]. And maybe the 'you are a pro' isn't really accurate, but I wouldn't know how to judge whether one specific workout would be needed. – stijn Jul 24 '17 at 9:40
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    The "pro" and "specific body part part" triggered me. I am definitely not a pro (plateauing around 6c) but it very much applies to me: I climb quite efficiently and hit strength limits all the time. Whenever I can get over my inert laziness and do some strength training (allround, mostly fingers and core strength), I do make progress - but then the laziness kicks in again :) – imsodin Jul 24 '17 at 10:09
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    @imsodin that is interesting. Do you have an idea of how the amount of time spent for strength training compares to the amount of time spent climbing, to achieve a similar amount of progress? If I do 2hrs/week I'm ok for 6c, but if I manage to climb around 4hrs/week I'm reaching 7A but only half the routes or so. If I add another hour/week percentage of sends also increases. Would be interesting to find out if, for example, with climbing 2hrs/week + strength training 1hr/week I could get the same progress as with climbing 4hrs/week. Unfortunately strength training is pretty boring to me.. – stijn Jul 24 '17 at 10:30
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    @Benj See here. I mostly do frenchies on finger boards and static core strength stuff, but I am really a bad person to ask about a good strength routine - I never went through with it for more than a month :P – imsodin Jul 25 '17 at 17:05
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What you really want to do is "repeatedly" train in Bodyweight / Calisthenics/ Gymnastics/ Acrobatic oriented muscle chain & neural pathways, across varied planes & directions of motion; especially those of disadvantaged leverage.

Now, rock climbers may have "higher endurance" due to longer climbs, but pound for pound the disadvantaged positions some of these folks bodies can achieve would leave a climber flabbergasted. That is strength in "directions" that no climber or body builder would have ever bothered, which they have to have trained to perfection.

One of the places I got into that initially was a forum called BodyWeightCulture (.net).

That eventually led me to an article on Dragon Door around Gymnastic Strength training by Coach Christopher Sommer who sometime around/ after that started "Gymnastic Bodies" website, forum - which led to a Book and Online training programs.

Gymnasts undergo some of the highest loads & variations of loads in different directions than any other sport, so their training centers hugely around not just muscle strength, but tendon & soft tissue with mobility and strength in all directions of disadvantaged leverage.

So, being able to "condition" and "strengthen" the entire muscle/ body chain and control its "coordinated" movement & proprioception is going to be uniquely beneficial.

There are a few other programs/ books around this from other sources so do look it up, but largely this was usually knowledge only known to people in the Gymnastics arena that is now out.

A picture worth thousand words; You and I wont reach this anytime soon, but the direction/ pathway is as good as it gets for Strength to Weight ratio.

http://bodyweighttrainingarena.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/image-4.jpg

The books & training programs are copyrighted so I cannot share the content but if you are so inclined you can find the Table of Contents and some previews & freebies online that depict/ show/ indicate the direction of these & Articles that give you a glimpse into the types of exercises.

Rock Climbers using / training in similar ways:

https://www.reddit.com/r/bouldering/comments/4wunyn/strength_exercises_for_rock_climbing_on_gymnastic/
https://www.trainingbeta.com/gymnastic-rings-strength-training-for-climbing/
https://vimeo.com/127016821
Case Study: How an Accomplished Climber Used Gymnastic Rings for Better Performance - https://gmb.io/climber-sami/
https://www.gymnasticbodies.com/improve-climbing-using-gymnasticbodies-strength-mobility/
https://touchstoneclimbing.com/a-gymnast-in-the-climbing-gym-cisco-gonzalez/

http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/outdoor/adventure/2015/01/rock-climbing-gymnast-andrea-hah
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjwP1NEUxXs
https://youtu.be/DFojqoAfJ7g?t=46
https://youtu.be/8CAtQeFbwic?t=282


Cautionary Note: Some reference samples of starting points/ mid points & where it goes.

Some of these are advanced moves so there are progressions & conditioning to get there. Since the advent of GB/ GST lot of tutorials (good & bad) have popped up.

Please do your homework before you try them as they can screw up your joints/ tendons if done wrong or done before your body is that level.

To whet your appetite (free content from their FB/ Youtube channels):

Great Overview / Fundamental Article by Steven Low (former GB member):
http://stevenlow.org/the-fundamentals-of-bodyweight-strength-training/

His 2nd Book
https://www.amazon.com/Overcoming-Gravity-Systematic-Gymnastics-Bodyweight/dp/0990873854/ - See Table of Contents

Where it all Started: GB Forums

Multi Plane Pulling (a term never heard or seen by me elsewhere - Google it)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAGMcEoDbg0 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riTZNhGI-Jo Yewki and it combines a pullup, a row and a front lever together http://www.bodyweightculture.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-8931.html
https://www.facebook.com/GymnasticBodies/posts/1088319601191739

Front Lever Progressions:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3EwjmqsPnw https://www.gymnasticbodies.com/forum/topic/155-front-lever-pulls-a-conditioning-necessity/

360 Pulls - A Multi-Plane Pulling Exercise https://www.gymnasticbodies.com/forum/topic/263-360-pulls-a-multi-plane-pulling-exercise/

https://breakingmuscle.com/reviews/book-review-foundation-one-and-handstand-one-by-christopher-sommer

http://www.gymnasticbodies.com/blog/
https://www.gymnasticbodies.com/really-causes-tennis-elbow-fix/
https://www.gymnasticbodies.com/joints-pop-crackle-doesnt-mean-think/

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Rory Alsop Jul 29 '17 at 19:39
  • @RoryAlsop - Cleaned it up and added a Cautionary Note – Alex S Jul 29 '17 at 19:56
3

Hmm,

I've just found some excellent resources which seem to answer my needs. There's a podcast here called "performance tips for weekend warriors" which seems to fit my needs and a training program. I'll be trying this out and seeing where I get on:

http://trainingforclimbing.com/podcast-14-performance-tips-for-weekend-warriors/

http://trainingforclimbing.com/training-programs/

  • Thanks for posting your answer Benj. I hope these help you. It would be great if you report back after you've tried them, so we can learn from what you did. – Sue Saddest Farewell TGO GL Jul 29 '17 at 23:04

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