So here's my deal. I'm currently a scrawny 5'9 and 135 pounds. Now, for the sport I compete in, competition rock climbing, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. However, in an attempt to take my climbing to the next level, I've decided to incorporate weight lifting into my training routine.
Now a little bit of information. I train for climbing using periodization, which means I am NOT focused on maximum strength 100% of the time. I am however, willing to change my program slightly to incorporate more strength oriented weight lifting. My climbing specific training is centered around forearm maximum strength, maximum recruitment, and overall forearm conditioning. The forearms really are the most important muscle in climbing.
Lately however, I have felt it is other muscle groups that have been holding me back (core muscles, upper arms and shoulders, lats and chest). So, my questions are as follows:
-What is the minimum amount of days per week that I can lift to strengthen these muscle groups and still see improvement? My training schedule is already packed, and I don't want any more over-training injuries, so I would like the keep the lifting to a minimum while still being effective.
-What are the best exercises to strengthen these muscles? I have access to a variety of machines, which I know are not the best for strength training. As far as free weights go, currently I only have access to a dumbbell set of up to 50 or 60 pounds and a bench (which is heavy enough weight for me at the moment in my scrawny skinny state hahah). When considering this question, think explosive pulling power.
-How quickly should I expect results? Does 1 pound of muscle a month sound like a reasonable goal? More? Less?
-Most of my training will be focused on upper body strength, while trying to minimize lower body weight. However, I hear that lower body training (squats and such) do wonders for your core. What lower body exercises should be done to keep everything in balance?
Again, I'm not looking to get huge, as this would be detrimental to my climbing. However, another well placed 15-20 pounds of muscle I think may be just what I need to take my climbing to another level. If anymore information is required to answer this post better, please let me know and I will provide it. Otherwise, thanks in advance for the the advice guys.
Forearms are important but core, lats, and legs are just as if not more important. There is no denying this. I would highly reccommend looking into crossfit and yoga. This way you are in shape for things like the approach, packing in, multi pitching, big wall, general strength, balance, stability, flexibility etc..
You should be fine up to 165-175 lbs and not be held back by your size. Maybe set your week up like this:
Heres two weeks:
Then do week1 then 2, etc...
Fyi- I have competed in bouldering and speed climbing. Up til last year I was extremely active mountaineering, alpineering, ice climbing, big walling, trad climbing, trekking etc... then I started playing rugby and strength training more specifically. (Just so you can know that I have a good idea where you are coming from)
Last edited by ZenMonkey; 11-02-2008 at 12:20 PM.
You should really focus on pulling movements. I'd think all kinds of weighted pull-ups would be your number one priority. Deadlifts and the Olympic lifts could really help you out as well. You should also throw in some overhead pressing to balance things out.
You could probably see improvements lifting once a week for the first little bit. If you're climbing a lot, you could probably do a full-body workout twice a week and not have to worry about overtraining.
I think you could get away with gaining 2-3 lbs a month with very minimal fat gains.
I really think crossfit and yoga would be better for a climber.
Awesome guys. I wasn't expecting anyone really to have any climbing experience on this forum. Since it seems like there is a few of you out there, let me go into a bit more detail about my training.
As I mentioned before, I use a periodization training schedule. I do not keep strictly to a training calendar like many people do, but I do break down my training into phases, and then listen to how my body feels as to how often I train. Following is a break down:
Week 1-3: ARC Training
This is my base phase. It consists of very easy, extended climbing sessions. One rep consists of 30 minutes non-stop climbing. Think a 30 minute traverse back and forth across the wall. I keep the intensity down to where I only have a slight pump going on, and I am sweating lightly approximatly 10 minutes into the set to avoid crossing from aerobic training into anaerobic training. A session is 2 to 3, 30 minute reps. During this phase I am climbing 4-5 days per week.
Weeks 4-6: Hypertrophy
This is my strength phase. A session consists of hard bouldering for about 45 minutes to an hour. Following the bouldering, I do a hangboard routine. During this phase, I do 2 bouldering sessions followed by a hangboard routine per week, and on the next day I do just a longer bouldering session. Climbing 4 days per week during this phase.
Weeks 7-9: Maximum Recruitment
During this phase, I train muscles to recruit more fibers. This is done through campus board training. Much like the previous phase, I start a session with 45 minutes to an hour of hard bouldering, with a few campus problems thrown in. Following the bouldering session, I do my campus board routine. Again, it follows the previous sessions schedule of 4 days a week, with 2 of those days being "campus board days."
Week 10-12: Power-Endurance
This phase focuses on being able to pull hard moves for an extended period of time. A session consists of 2-3 hours of bouldering. For this phase, I select sequences of 18-25 moves which feel hard to me and result in muscle failure towards the end of each sequence.
Week 13-15: Performance Peak (Hopefully)
Hopefully at this point in the cycle, I have my body firing on all cylinders. This is the time to get outside, or get to competitions and climb HARD!
Week 16: One week full rest.
Thats my training schedule in a nut-shell. Again, I dont stick to those time frames exactly. If I feel like I am near a breakthrough in say, hypertrophy, I will dedicate another week to it to hopefully achieve that breakthrough. If I feel signs of overuse injuries during a phase, I may reduce my times climbing per week and rest more. It all goes by how my body feels.
Now, to address ZenMonkeys comment that forearms are important, but other muscle groups are just as important if not more important.... Up until a month or two ago, I would have disagreed. However, I am now to a point where I feel other areas are holding me back. This idea was further reinforced last night at a competition I attended (and managed to take 2nd in my class. Yay me! lol). While the skinny guys were climbing great as usual, everyone was decimated by the jacked-up, 5'9, 185 muscle man.
So, my question would be, how, when, and how often should I incorporate a lifting routine into my climbing? I have some ideas, and would like some feedback.
-During my ARC phase, I could see doing 2 to 3 lifting routines per week. As most of my lifts will be targeting areas other than my forearms, does anyone see this interfering with the aerobic focus on forearm muscles? Can you train aerobic and anaerobic strength in the same day?
-During my Hypertrophy and Max Recruitment phase, I could see doing possibly 2 lifting routines per week on the days that I am doing my hangboard and campus board training.
-During my power endurance phase, I would do 2 lifting routines per week depending on how my body feels.
Will 2 days per week help me actually gain?
Lastly, I just got home from the gym. I did my first lifting routine in quite awhile today. I would like to give a run-down of what I did while there. I know it is not the most effective work out, and would like some tips on how to change it for the most effectiveness. I only did upper body, as I know nothing of lower body workouts.
Set 1: 10 Reps, 20 lbs Set 2: 10 Reps, 25 lbs Set 3: 10 reps, 25 lbs
Seated Overhead Dumbbell Extensions:
Set 1: 10 reps, 20 lbs Set 2: 10 reps, 20 lbs Set 3: 10 reps, 20 lbs
Note:I experienced pain in the upper elbow. This has happened before when I have lifted previously, and goes away after a session or two.
Set 1: 10 reps, 25 lbs. Set 2: 8 Reps, 25 lbs Set 3: 7 Reps, 25 lbs
Note: This I think is my biggest weakness. I cant lift very much. I am forced to do dumbbell Press's as opposed to bench pressing as I do not have access to a barbell yet.
Reverse Wrist Curls
Set 1: 10 reps, 20 lbs Set 2: 9 Reps, 20 lbs Set 3: 7 reps, 20 lbs
Lat Pull-Down Machine
Set 1: 10 reps, 100 lbs Set 2: 10 Reps, 115 lbs Set 3: 10 reps, 120 lbs
Set 1: 50 Reps Set 2: 40 Reps Set 3: 40 Reps
Leg Extended Crunches
Set 1: 35 Reps Set 2: 35 Reps Set 3: 35 Reps
Hanging Leg Lifts
Set 1: 10 Reps Set 2: 10 Reps Set 3: 10 Reps
Note: I do not have access to a Captains Chair. Will fully extended leg raises be as effective when done hanging from a pull up bar?
Keep in mind, this was all done just to get my body used to lifting again. I will up the weights as I feel comfortable to bring muscles to failure around 7-9 Reps.
Again, thanks in advance for any help.
Crossfit and Yoga. Make sure you maintian at least one rest day.
Size is a function of diet. Slowly up cals til you are gaining a lb a week.
Also, you are probably making this more difficult than it is, climb a few days and then do crossfit and or yoga a few days then rest for a day or two. This with gaining a lb a week will get you to your goals.
Last edited by ZenMonkey; 11-02-2008 at 01:20 PM.
For effective recovery, I plan on at least 3 rest days per week in any phase which are focused on any sort of hard climbing (which is all phases besides ARC). This is why I plan on doing my lifting on climbing days.
As for Crossfit and Yoga. I have heard talk about Crossfit, and plan on checking it out. Yoga is definatly in the plans, as I have seen many achieve higher levels of success when including it in a training routine.
And to making things more difficult than they need to be. I find a lose focus if I do not set myself to a somewhat strict schedule. Also, I find Periodization works very well for me. Not being a naturally gifted climber, random climbing does not get me stronger as fast as Periodization does. I had maxed out at about V5-V6 for quite a long time with just random climbing. I am halfway through my first cycle of periodization, and I already find that V7 feels well within my grasp pretty soon. Hopefully plan on making finals in ABS Open Class within the next year and a half (Currently climbing in Intermediate class and DOMINATING)
yea, ive never done anything that complex before!
I suck at bouldering but used to be able to redpoint a 5.12c/d on sport lead and about a 5.10a trad.
obviously you want strength and muscular endurance especially in your main load bearing/stabalising areas.
to add to the above (if weights sessions are what youre looking for) id say as far as weight training youre looking for pull-ups, rows, core exercises (crunches, hyperextensions, russian twists), etc. bench presses with moderate weights should stabalise the shoulder joints with all the back work. also focus on grip work. using a wrist roller and grippers would be a good step.
given that your main power comes from the legs, squats and plyometrics will be helpful there. obviously, you dont want to go heavy, but light and explosive, for the strengh of repetitive motions. sprints are helpful too. going too heavy will adversely affect your flexibility too, so thats another reason to keep it light.
try to alternate your weight training between explosive training and endurance.
id be wary of the following exercises:
isolation exercises especially curls & wrist curls
heavy work, especially the legs and shoulders
any movements which place extra strain over the shoulders (behind neck presses, overhead triceps extensions, etc.)
and to answer your question about the leg raises, yes. in fact youd be better off doing them hanging. any chance to increase your grip endurance you should grab (unintentional pun).
keep your reps to about the 12 - 15 range to start with, without going to failure. you can gradually lower this to 8-12, at the lowest. this is for the endurance of long climbs. the primary muscles for this are the trunk, forearms/grip, back, shoulders, chest.
id start with pull-ups, rows, bench press, military press, leg raises crunches, wrist rollers, grippers, hyperextensions and upright rows, light squats.
for explosive work use the same weight going up to around 10% more, and lower down, pause, explode back up quickly. aim for sets of around 10 each, remembering not to go heavy yet. the idea here is to develop optimal output time after time, for speed in climbing. the main muscles to target here are the legs, the shoulders and the back.
here youd do sprints, standing high jumps, squats, rows, power jerks, etc
with ab work, your core stability is connected to your balance while climbing. high, slow controlled reps and hyperextensions are a must.
Just a little more info for those of you that may be able to help, but dont know quite as much about climbing (mostly from the last reply, thanks joellhall for making me realize this).
Grip strength is something that I actually want to avoid training as much as possible in my weight routine. I train grip strength extensively in my climbing/hangboard/campus board routines. I do NOT want to incorporate and grip strength exercises into my lifting routine for fear of over training. Also, I want to avoid (as much as possible) anything which will work my forearms too much, as that is extensively trained in my climbing as well. I know the forearms come into play on most lifts, but not to the degree where I feel they will be ove r trained. The exception to this rule is reverse wrist curls. Climbing does not train the back of the forearm, so the reverse wrist curls are more for injury prevention and to keep things rounded out.