Jan 31, 2012

It is not the number of years; it is the number of feet

There is a saying in computer programming, "It is not the number of years; it is the number of hours." I propose a revision for climbing training, "It is not the number of years; it is the number of feet."

If you want to get better, you have to climb feet (lots). If you want better power endurance, you need feet of climbing while being pumped silly. If you want to climb strong on the steep, you need climb feet of steep. If you want to climb V10, you better be able to crush feet of V9.

Every time you sit down, your climbing total is not going up. Every time you climb 10 moves of V3 and fall on the V5 move, you are getting better at climbing V3. The V5 total is the same.

Simple, ain't the same as easy.

Jan 28, 2012

Saturday Syke

Imagine how this will transform climbing gyms, from custom holds to custom walls.

Jan 26, 2012

Columns & Rows

This is a follow up to the Pyramids, Diamonds, and Hourglasses post.

There are two additional shapes to structure training - Columns & Rows.

Columns are tall and skinny. The example above shows completing 1 boulder problem at every grade from V0-V10. Although this plan is simple, it is a dubious method to accomplish training goals. Rarely does the action of completing a column match any goal, other than to complete the column itself. Inherently, the intensity will either be too low or too high.

Rows are short and fat. The above example shows completing 8 problems at V5. It is easier to modulate volume and intensity in row format than column format, increasing the likelihood of eliciting a positive training effect. Continuous Intensity Repetitions (CIR) training is built upon the row idea.

Jan 24, 2012

Slide & Wedge, aka Crack Climbing 101

As a result of a recent crack climbing binge, I had this mini-epiphany:
All crack climbing is just "Slide & Wedge."

Your hands slide and wedge. Your feet slide and wedge. Your body slides and wedges.

Most crack climbing trouble is a failure to slide or wedge. Identifying and treating that single biggest weakness has the potential to up anyone's splitter game.

Sprinkle in high pain tolerance, you are ready for the 'Creek.

Jan 19, 2012

Pyramids, Diamonds, and Hourglasses

A plan doesn't have to be complicated to work. Let's look at the simplest plans for climbing performance and training:

Pyraminds are the most common plan and a great place to start. Build a base layer, 4 V7s in the example above. Then add another layer, 3 V8s in the example above. Keeping building up to the peak, V10 in the example above.

Pyraminds can be a good performance or training plan.

Intensity Zenith = 10
Intensity Nadir = 7
Intensity Total =80
Volume Total = 10
Intensity Average = 8*

Diamonds are the second most common plan. Start at the top, for example 1 V10. Then go down a level, for example 2 V9s. Continue one level at a time to the bottom. That last send feels very hard.

Diamonds work better for training than performance.

Intensity Zenith = 10
Intensity Nadir = 7
Intensity Total = 132
Volume Total = 16
Intensity Average = 8.25*

I saved my personal favorite for last. Start at top (e.g., 4 V7s). Work down one level at a time (e.g., 3 V8s, 2 V9s, and 1 V10). At the bottom of the hourglass, the climbs are objectively easier but have the same subjective difficulty. It creates a beautiful grind. Hourglasses are designed to provide the appropriate volume at the appropriate intensity for maximal training effect.

Hourglasses work for performance and training.

Intensity Zenith = 10
Intensity Nadir = 7
Intensity Total = 150
Volume Total = 19
Intensity Average = 7.89*

* The averages are meant to illustrate qualitative differences in the plans, not quantitative differences. In order to construct meaningful averages, data needs to interval scaled. Climbing unfortunately chooses difficulty measurements that might not be interval scaled.

Jan 17, 2012

Subtle Limiters

Improving limiters is the fastest path to improvement. In the case of climbing, limiters can be subtle. They are not always obvious like falling on a climb.

Are you barndooring but not coming off? That is a clue that your foot postion could be optimized.

Do you consistently hyperventilate after you clip the anchors? Your breathing might not match the nature of the climbing.

Are you holding to much tension during easy moves? Learning when to apply peak tension separates good from great climbers.

There is no end to this game. It keeps climbing at all levels engaging. A moment to recoganize the limiter but a lifetime to improve it.

Jan 12, 2012

The Complete Guide to Projecting

Do you project better climbs to get better or you get better to project better climbs?

Jan 10, 2012

Looking for training partners at Earth Treks Rockville, MD

I'm very excited about their recent expansion and looking for people who are interested in training for climbing at Earth Treks Rockville, MD.

I do a majority of my training on the wall. I occasionally hit the system board and use wieghtroom rarely.

I'm looking for seriously fun partners at any grade, preferably someone who will push me. For context, I can 1st go mid-12s and V7-8 according to their ratings.

Please send an email to me directly - theclimblab@gmail.com

The Digital Dawn

The climbing world is flattening. Everyone now has the opportunity to share their own interpretation of the rock. There is no longer a singular voice of authority.
I don't care if you are the guidebook author, the first ascentionist, or the local. I don't care if your blog has more hits or your video has more views. None of these people make my climbing rules. I already have too many of my own rules, thank you very much.

If you want to play the "historical reenactment of the first ascent" game, go ahead. If you want to race to the bottom by adding progressively lower starts, go for it. If you want play the hardest eliminate game, more power to you.
I'm playing a different game.
May the best interpretation win.

Jan 5, 2012

Why I Olympic Weightlift (And You Shouldn't)

Under the Bar in Competition,
aka Keeping The Goal The Goal
(Somedays I miss my previous leg muscles)

My Olympic Weightlifting objectives might come as a surprise given my stated goals. Let's dig into why I'm doing it and why you should do something different.

I lift weights for a variety of reasons. One of the primary reasons is my interest in health and longevity. Climbing is my sport, I do everything possible to improve my performance just short of direct negative impacts on my health and longevity. Lifting weights in a planned progression has the greatest return on investment I have found for health and longevity.

It is important to establish a base cake layer of strength before adding the power icing top. During the holidays, I assessed my strength in the basic barbell movments. I was able to meet or exceed my benchmarks:

Back Squat, 3x5, 185lbs
Shoulder Press, 3x5, 125lbs
Deadlift, 1x5, 275lbs
at a bodyweight ~170lbs

This numbers represent my personal triple point for climbing sport performance, general health, and longevity. In the past, I had bigger gym numbers but I was not climbing very hard. Given my nominal strength base, I plan to add power via Olympic weightlifting.

I love to Snatch and Clean & Jerk. Any program you love will have higher compliance than a program you hate. I enjoy the speed, aggression, and technical challenge. In addition, quick lifts have a smaller eccentric loading component than the basic barbell lifts which means less muscle soreness for my primary sport. There is an inherent mobility component, an upright postural ying to balance the climbing hunchback yang. On the technical side of the coin, I have general sense of how do the lifts and not hurt myself. I find one focused cycle in the year breaks up the monotony of training.

Those are the reasons why I choose to lift. It is mostly likely not right for you. #1 - it takes too long to learn the lifts to gain the limited benefits for climbers. Climbers are better served by increasing strength via basic barbell movements. However if you are still interested, I suggest you contact someone that can teach Olympic Weightlifting and has a track record of results.

Jan 1, 2012

My 2012 Promise

I have decide to share my 2012 year in climbing. In the past years, I shared part of my programming and many individual sessions. Lately, I've chosen to go in a different direction with this website. Now, I feel providing a complete year at the programming level is the best way to appreciate The Climbing Lab approach to climbing.

I will share my cycles, but I won't share the individual sessions, inside or outside. I don't want the forest, the cycles, to get lost in the trees, the daily sessions. Anyone can make-up a workout that is hard or spray down about a climbing trip. There is much more value in creating a program for consistent improvement and long-term results.

Most importantly, I will share "The Why." Before a cycle, the reason for what I do and when I do it. After a cycle, a breakdown of what worked and what didn't work. Then, you can improve your own program using the principles.

You can find this experiment here. The rough sketch of "The Post Season", the first cycle of 2012, is already posted.

Please join me on this journey.