The Elbow Cue

This isn’t the first post on elbows, and it probably won’t be the last, but because it’s such a key factor in efficient climbing technique, it’s worth saying over and over again. So here’s the cue to remember – elbows in.

I know that before I’ve said elbows down, but the cue “elbows in” encompasses every hold type, so it’s an easier one to use. I want you to look at the following three pictures of strong, famous climbers.

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What do you notice? All of their elbows are either pointing down or in towards the wall. This is because the direction that your elbow points equals the direction of pull.

Want to increase your contact on slopers? Point your elbows down and into the wall. This will create a pull straight down onto the sloper instead of out and on the same angle as the slope. Want to make a side pull feel more positive? Change the angle of your elbow from pointing out away from the wall to in towards the wall and pointing towards your body.

Next time you’re climbing, test the theory out for yourself and see how much better, how much more positive holds feel to pull on them when you change the direction your elbows point.

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.

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