It’s not a size problem it is a power problem!
The famous statement from the diminutive queen of climbing, Lynn Hill, still rings true today, but the answers to so many climbers power problems remain hidden for only a few to find.
Now that you have read the last three training topics and have honed your mind, motivation and visionary skills to such perfection and are able to squeeze every gram of effort out of the body that you have. You are now using the biggest muscle in your body to your advantage and we can now move on to getting the rest of the body in shape to follow the mind further.
There are many training programs and theories as to how one can gain power. I like to stick to some of the basics, they work well and are proven, they are less prone to injury and you do not need a degree in sports science to follow it. I will be dealing with climbing specific power training, so going to a gym would count as extra, but is not essential. There are three tools that I like to use for power training, the best one of these is the finger board,
then comes the boulder wall and working hard routes. So this is what I do.
The word power, from a training point of view, means low repetition and high intensity. The repetitions range between 1 and 6 and the intensity ranges between 80% and 120%. On a bouldering wall or hard route this would translate to 1 to 6 move problems. On a finger board it translates to 1 to 6 second hangs. The 100%-120% range means negative training or releasing. Power also means intramuscular coordination, meaning you teach the muscle to use more of itself instead of getting bigger in order to get stronger.
The finger board is the best peace of equipment that you could invest into in order to improve your power. You can isolate specific muscles, control the training intensity very well and have a clear picture of your progression and increase in power. All you need is a good finger board, a stop watch and the right idea as to what you should do. Start with a good warm up on the board (moving around on different sized edges with the feet still on the ground to create about 40% intensity), then once the fingers are ready for some pulling, hang on the smallest edge. If you can hang for more than 6 seconds you should add weight.
Work all the edges and slopers this way, never do pull ups on your fingers, this makes for a good party trick but the chances of injury increases. The reason for this is one should not train shoulders lats and fingers together, the fingers are far smaller than the arms and the effect will be lost or the fingers will blow. Once the forearms are well worked, and the fingers do not want to lock off it is time to move to the big jugs and work the upper arms.
Doing pull-ups looks good and impresses the girls, but in climbing the lock off power is more important. In order to build brutal lock off power do a pull up or use a ladder if you can’t do a pull up and lock off for 3-6 seconds. If you can lock off for longer then try moving onto only one arm and lock off on that arm, gradually taking more weight off the arm you are not training. For even more lock off power try negative training, once again pull up and move
over onto one arm, now lower yourself slowly using the other arm to help control the weight and therefore the speed of descent, 3-6 seconds. Power training is very intense so listening to your body for warning bells is recommended and stop immediately if there is pain. After a good power session one should rest for a minimum of 48 hours.
Power also means inter-muscular coordination, this means how the muscles work together. In other words the coordination of crimping like crazy pulling of the biceps and lats, the rotation of the waist, body tension and vigorous pressing of the toes make it possible to do a move. Once again high intensity and low repetition. The 45° wall is a great tool, with loads of different grips.
Create short hard boulder problems or try short sections of longer problems you can’t do. Here one is trying to get the whole body to work perfectly together as a unit. The power training for the fingers is not as great as on a finger board because the load varies with every different grip, the chances of injury is also greater. I am one who does not promote tracking, use all the grips for the feet, do not define foot holds only define hand holds. If the problem is too easy use smaller grips, use tracking as a last resort, it does limit technique.
This is also a great opportunity to train technique which happens automatically while working out sequences for a hard problem. This will also build up your body memory, this does not make the individual muscles stronger but they work together as a unit and this gives the power. Similarly work a hard route on top rope or from bolt to bolt. This will also create power similar to that of a boulder wall, although it is difficult to specify the intensity and variety, but it is very climbing specific. I like this kind of training because it is out doors and it also helps my body memory get used to the texture of the rock and the specific movements required on a route. Once again the route should be so hard that you can only do 1- 6 moves at a time.
I have not mentioned the campus board, as this is a high end tool and needs proper preparation on how to use it and you can get injured very quickly if you are not careful.
All in all there is no quick and easy route to power, some people will gain power quicker than others, but it is a great thing to have especially in large amounts. Train power for 3 – 4 weeks and then move on to endurance training which will be my next topic in the following issue. And as the late Todd Skinner said “and for heavens sakes get a tan!”