Month: January 2015

More Power!

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Another Monday meant another early morning at Central Rock Cambridge. Today I worked a bit more on power and footwork than on endurance. Here was the routine (the warmup is similar to last week):

  1. 5-10 mins stretching, focus on shoulders and hips.
  2. Pick a bouldering level that is two grades below your redpoint level, so for me that’s a V0. Do a V0 three times in a row. For the first one I took my time and stretched out on each hold.
    1. Do a core exercise until exhaustion. Here’s a list of the exercises I did today:
      1. Tornado situps (lie flat, swiftly bring legs up straight, bringing up the butt and into middle back if possible, twist hips, come down and then bring upper body up to a situp)
      2. Straight leg-lifts
      3. Side crunches
      4. High plank rhomboid shrugs (I just made up this name as I’m having trouble finding an example, you hold a high plank position and do pushup action just with the shoulder blades: draw shoulder blades together and chest comes down, push shoulder blades apart and chest comes up)
      5. TRX plank knees-to-chest
      6. Pull-up prep (more on this below)
      7. Bridge with alternating legs up
  3. Repeat #2 with two more V0s, focus on overhanging V0s.
  4. Repeat #2 with four V1s but only do each V1 twice, again focus on overhanging V1s.
  5. Repeat #2 with one V2, climb it only once if you flash it, climb up to three times if you don’t.
  6. Work at least 5 minutes on your project. My project is a slabby V3 so it was a nice contrast to the power prep I did. I made it about three moves past last week and am just one move from the top so I’m stoked!
  7. Hit the weight room for this circuit (if you have time repeat this at least twice, I only had time for one set):
    1. Seated tricep press low weight for 12 reps, higher weight for 8 reps (I used 15 + 20 lb)
    2. Reclined tricep press low weight for 12 reps, higher weight for 8 reps (I used 15 + 20 lb)
    3. KB lunge and row x 10 each side (I used 26 lb KB)
    4. Situps on the ball x 20
    5. Grab two weight plates (I used 2 x 10 lbs) and hold with your fingertips while doing deep lunges the length of the room x 2 (~25 paces in that gym).
    6. Pull-up prep or pull-ups to exhaustion
  8. Spend at least 5-10 minutes cooling down and stretching. Focus on releasing shoulders, triceps/biceps, forearms/wrists/hands and hamstrings + quads.

Overall this was less bouldering problems than last week (15 plus about 5 tries on my project, as opposed to 30 plus projecting last week) but since I chose overhanging routes and harder problems it was quite a workout. I also felt I could focus more on my footwork with the harder problems. V0s are so ladderish that while my intent was footwork, I mostly worked on quiet feet and played a bit with flagging where appropriate. Today I was able to do more with heel and toe hooks and I really needed to up my flagging and drop-knees and get weight in my feet to support the steep climbs. It felt really good and I can feel myself progressing and using more of my entire body when I climb.

Finally, I want to give a bit shoutout to Coach Rich of Mountain Strength Crossfit for his helpful advice on pull-ups. I believe I mentioned that I finally have started being able to do unassisted pull-ups. Well, there’s a little catch to that. I’m doing well at engaging my lats to start and then my biceps to finish but I get to a point where my biceps are pressed against my forearms and my head is barely over the bar; it’s like I get stuck. Another trainer told me I had to engage my rhomboids there so I went to give it a go and Rich checked my form. He immediately noticed a few things. Yes, I do need to engage my rhomboids, but I needed to alter my posture altogether. I need to look up (I was looking forward) and aim my sternum towards the bar. As a beginner I also need to widen my grip to start so as I pull back my elbows have space to come next to my ribs and my rhomboids engage. He has me doing an exercise where I hang in this wide-arm position, look up, point my sternum at the bar and just work on engaging rhomboids as I do continuous “mini pull-ups” (my word, not his). I will update you all on my progress, but I’m hoping this advice also helps others. This “mini pull-up” is what I mean by “pull-up prep” in my routine above.

Rich also gave me the weight plate exercise (#7F). This seems like a great exercise for climbers as it works grip strength, shoulder/back and legs.

More next week, along with hopefully an article on the importance of working antagonists. I can’t tell you how much better my hands are feeling now that I’m regularly using PowerFingers to strengthen my extensors. If you have any training tips please send them my way!

Power Endurance

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I still owe updates to my Thanksgiving post, but somehow the time has flown and we’re past the holidays and on to another new year! I’m pretty happy with how my physical fitness went in 2014, but I definitely have plans to ramp it up in 2015. My biggest fitness accomplishment was my commitment to and improvement in climbing. I can’t believe that it was a year ago that I was gifted a membership to Central Rock Gym, but what might be more impressive is that I kept a regular routine there for the entire year, woot! I went from a casual climber doing 5.6/5.7s and working on V0s, to regularly red pointing 5.9/5.10s and flashing V2s. That still makes me a “beginner” in climbing classification, but it’s also motivating to keep going along with finding ways to get to the next level.

My biggest focus right now is footwork. I’ve watched hundreds of hours of climbing videos (literally) and have worked a little bit with trainers and I’m left with mentally understanding what I need to do with my feet, but not executing it properly…especially when I get tired which is exactly when the technique would really help me. So lots of work on soft feet, trusting the grip and pressing my weight into my toes. I will get there! The other focus is general fitness (esp. core fitness) and projecting more so I can stretch myself.

Today I did a power endurance routine that I modified from other climbing workouts online. Many of the climbing workouts I’ve found have been for people who are at the V5/5.11+ level of climbing. I’m not there yet and there are some things I can’t do safely: e.g. finger training, as I already managed to inflame the tendons of my right hand by overdoing finger training. My hands will strengthen as I climb more and eventually I’ll be able to get on the hangboard, but for now my focus is technique and, the topic of the day, power endurance.

I’ve been top roping and leading a lot lately, which is great for endurance but not ideal for power. Since CRG opened a new bouldering gym in Cambridge with morning hours that alternate their Watertown location I’ve been able to get in on Mondays and boulder. They also have an excellent fitness area so I’ve begun making my own routines to keep myself challenged and my heart rate up. This was my workout today. The intent was to build up sustained strength (aka power endurance). It was intense, rewarding, exciting and definitely got my heart rate up! I was bright red by the end of it!

1/5/2015

  1. 5-10 mins stretching, focus on shoulders and hips.
  2. Pick a bouldering level that is two grades below your redpoint level, so for me that’s a V0. Do a V0 three times in a row. For the first one I took my time and stretched out on each hold. You will repeat this for every V0 in the gym (that was 10 problems at CRG). After each set of three take a “break” by doing one of these:
    1. Pushups to exhaustion.
    2. Tornado situps to exhaustion.
    3. Leg lifts to exhaustion.
    4. Tricep dips to exhaustion.
    5. Side sit-ups to exhaustion.
    6. Plank or forearm plank to exhaustion.
    7. Insert your own challenging core exercise here.
  3. Once done, work at least 5 mins on your project. Don’t have a project in the gym? Pick something at least one grade above your redpoint level.
  4. Think you’re exhausted? Great, do one last round of a challenging core exercise (I did TRX plank knee-ins and sit-ups on the balance ball) and then pull-ups to exhaustion, which was just two for me because I’m still working on my pull-ups.

That whole workout took me an hour. There was very little rest time. The trick is to manage the on and off the wall time so your forearms don’t get too pumped. The “break” time when you work on core should be equal to the time you’re on the wall. IF you run out of problems in your low grade at the gym go to the next level up (e.g. V1 in my example) and try your three rounds, or drop to two if you’re getting really pumped.

In theory, this workout will build strength, help you learn to get through the pump and help you burn some calories with the cardio rush. Since I was working on easy problems and repetition I was able to focus more on my footwork and also play with different ways to climb each problem (I tried to use slightly different body positions each time since V0s are loaded with holds).

If you’re a climber and you try this I’d love to know what you think of it and what your favorite climbing workouts are!