Disclaimer: This post is for advanced/elite climbers who have minimum 5 years (approx) training and climbing/bouldering experience. Always climb and train intelligently!
This blog post could have been called “Lessons Learned”; or “High Risk, High Reward”. In fact you could describe my whole training theory with either/both. Confused? I’m going somewhere with this.
There are two basic principles with training for climbing that I follow, HOWEVER, not in the same proportion. The first principle ,”Lessons Learned”, is 90% predominant for me, depending on the circumstances, which states that climbing (and training for climbing) is a journey and you will make mistakes along the way about yourself that you need to learn from. Add up all those lessons over many years and what you get is some kind of WISDOM about yourself, what your limits are and more importantly, where your strengths lie which you can leverage and use to propel yourself forward.
Have you been injured before while climbing/training? Probably, if you’ve been at it for a number of years. Why did it happen? What were the conditions? What type of move/exercise? Usually when you look back you can see exactly why something happened when it did. (Flashback: me bouldering 6 days on in Bishop, CA, then trying the crimpy pockets of Cholos V9 without being properly warmed up… DUH!… and OUCH!!!) I think I LEARNED something there, as obvious as it seems in hindsight.
The second principle, “High Risk, High Reward”, is predominant for me 10% of the time. Just saying that will probably get some peoples’ backs up, but let’s face it, climbing and other sports put a lot of strain on your body and if you fail to train for that, you will get hurt and you will not succeed. Let’s say you are training for a project that has a lot of small, painful holds (pockets and crimps). Do you think training on jugs, slopers and large, comfy edges will help? Maybe a bit, but not much (unless you are novice/intermediate level, when virtually everything “works”), because it’s not specific enough. In fact it may increase your risk of injury if you don’t training specifically enough.
You are likely better off training those “risky” types of holds in controlled environment where you can progressively increase the intensity and volume, and where your adrenaline is kept LOW so you don’t fight unnecessarily and put yourself at risk.
These two principles interact and you can’t have one without the other. I’ve been climbing and training for about 18 years now (AKA I’m borderline “old”) so I err on the side of lessons learned. When I was younger I was more in the range of 50%-50%, hanging from tiny mono-pockets, bouldering in the gym for 5 hours straight, and doing 1.5 hour campus board workouts.
Many years and several injuries later, I’m a lot more careful but I still push the envelope and do things where I feel I’m taking a calculated risk.
- My workouts are shorter and more focused (usually 60-90 minutes), but more frequent.
- I try to have some consistency in my weekly program, and increase intensity and volume gradually.
- I don’t go to total exhaustion, and stop when my form starts to suffer.
- I warm up and stretch properly.
- I limit my exposure to tweaky/injurious holds or moves (but don’t avoid altogether)
- When I go to a climbing gym (as opposed to my home wall) I check my ego at the door and pay as little attention as possible to grades, and don’t try to ‘compete’ with others.
When I do take risks when training, most of the time I get away with it and get stronger as a result. Other times I’m not so lucky (such as when I recently overdid it bouldering with a 6 kg weight vest and hurt my rotator cuff). Another lesson learned and at least I know for next time to increase the weight and volume more gradually!
I hope you have found this to be an interesting post and welcome you to leave your comments and experiences below.