The Strength Game

Ever feel like you just aren’t strong enough to pull a move? Ever wonder just what the difference between strength and power really is? Strength training is key to improving your climbing because, as climbing legend Tony Yaniro once stated – “if you cannot pull a single hard move, then you have nothing to endure”.

Strength is defined as the “the maximal force you can apply in a given exercise”. This would equate to the maximum amount of weight you can add to your body and do a pull-up with.

Power is defined as “the speed at which maximal force is achieved”, or the speed of recruitment. For example, if you were to grab a small edge and hang off of it, you could take all the time you want to set up and provide the squeeze you would need to hold the edge (this is strength). If you were to have to jump to this edge, you would only have a certain amount of time to contract the muscles and squeeze said edge. If you couldn’t recruit the strength needed in time, then your power would be lacking.

We’ll touch on building power in another post. For now, let’s focus on strength – how do we get it?

For anyone who’s done any serious weight lifting, you know that high reps/lower weight will generally provide an endurance burn, keep things toned, 8-12 reps with a higher weight will help you build size (not really something we want in climbing), and low reps/high weight will build strength. This is where we want to focus, the strength zone. Just as with weight lifting, the same principles apply to training strength for climbing. We want to do things that are hard, but that we’re only doing for a shorter period of time. This means climbing very hard problems that are no more than 7-8 moves long, or doing dead hangs for a maximum of 5-10 seconds.

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The first step to training strength is to figure out your weaknesses so you can target those as you’re training. Exercises such as dead hangs, weighted pull-ups, or high intensity interval training can all help build strength. The following are a few examples of training exercises you can do to build strength:

dead hangs

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Pick 2-4 different hold types (ie: edge, sloper, pinch). Hang from each one, three times, for 5-10 seconds (add weight if needed). Rest for 30 seconds between each hang, and 2-3 minutes between grip types.

weighted pull-ups

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Figure out your 1-rep max for a pull-up. Do 3-4 sets of 2-5 pull-ups at 80%-90% of your 1-rep max.

HIIT training
Pick a boulder problem that is hard for you, but that you can complete (1-2 grades below your hardest redpoint), and between 5-8 moves long. Set an interval timer for 30 seconds of work, and 2 minutes of rest. Climb the problem until you finish it, or the timer goes off, rest, repeat. Perform 6-8 rounds of this.

Never Say Can’t

There’s been times in our lives when we’ve all said it – can’t. One simple word word that defines the outcome of possibilities. But what happens when you take that word away? How full could your life be if that word wasn’t an option?

Jennifer Bricker did just that. Check out the video below of this amazing athlete, who against all odds, achieved what she wanted because one word didn’t exist in her vocabulary.

An Interview With Shauna Coxsey

For those who are unfamiliar with Shauna, she is one of the top female climbers in the world. Her consistent podium finishes in World Cup competitions, combined with her long list of hard outdoor climbing sends gives her an extremely impressive resume. Top this off with a friendly and upbeat attitude, and an ever-present smile, and you have the makings of a rock star.

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I got a chance to meet and chat with Shauna when she was in town for a World Cup not too long ago.

EYMon your website, you mention that it was Catherine Destivelle that inspired you to start climbing. What was it about her that was inspiring?
SC – It was a really long time ago that I first saw Catherine climbing on TV. I was only 3 years old. I don’t remember exactly what it was but I do remember being totally fascinated what she was doing! I later came to learn how influential she has been in the development of many aspects of the sport and she remains one of my biggest role models.

EYMwho have some of your mentors been on your climbing journey?
SC – I have had so many. The biggest and most important has to be my father. He gave up his evenings, weekends and holidays for years so that I could pursue my passion. I would’t be where I am now without him. There were many people that had a big impact on not only my climbing but my lifestyle and personality as I grew up. One of the things I love most about climbing is the social aspect that does’t seem to be as evident in other sports. My coach, Mark and my boyfriend, Ned are the most influential mentors in my life at the moment. I can not thank them enough for his patience and dedication.

EYMhow does it feel to be a mentor for other climbers?
SC – It’s a little bit overwhelming. I still get a flutter of excitement every time I get a email or message from a fan. It’s such an honour to have the opportunity to inspire and motivate people.

EYM - let’s talk a bit about injuries. You had a nasty one in 2012 when you broke your leg on a climbing trip. How did you find the recovery process?
SC – Breaking my leg was definitely a blessing in disguise. The recovery process was hard. I think retrospectively I tend to think of it as a much easier period than it actually but I tend to focus on the positives. It can be really hard to get motivated when your injured but I really believe that you can take positives from any situation and come out of the other side better off.

EYMhave you had any other injuries that you’ve had to deal with in your career?
SC – Not many at all. I have been really lucky. A few finger niggles here and there but nothing serious.
EYM - in your opinion, what’s the most important aspect or component of an elite training program?
SC – I think a lot of people get so absorbed into training that they forget to go climbing. I am a firm believer that climbing is the best training for climbing.

EYMproper movement in climbing is paramount, would you say you spend any specific amount of time training technique and movement?
SC – This actually fits in quite well with my answer to the previous question. I think the best way to train these aspects is on the wall doing a variety of different boulder problems. Especially on the angles you dislike the most.

EYM - in terms of nutrition, do you follow any specific eating habits?
SC – Not at the moment. I have tried lots of different ideas with regards to dieting but I find that eating healthy and enjoying food is the best approach.

EYM- In your opinion, what does it take to become a world champion?
SC – Commitment, hard work, dedication, determination and passion. (I think I could go on for a lot longer)

EYMyou’ve had some great success so far this year. Are you on track to completing your goals for the year?
SC – haha Yes! I am really excited about my achievements so far. I almost can’t believe how amazing this year has been!

EYMwhat other goals are on your list?
SC – Good question… think I need to write some new ones!

EYMdo you have any advice for up and coming young climbers that want to improve and/or break into the competition scene?
SC – Yes. I always say the same thing but it is what my Dad always used to tell me and still does now… Have fun!

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You can catch Shauna and all the other world class climbers competing this weekend in Munich at the Bouldering World Championship. Check out the IFSC page for more details and a live stream of the event!

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