Steve Maisch’s Training TipsLeave a response May 16, 2007 / Posted in rock climbing, Tips
Here’s another article from my carefully saved file of rock climbing tidbits… It’s Steve Malsch’s training tips and once again the original url no longer exists, so here it is if you are looking to develop more power.
Personally, I don’t really agree with what he said about visualisation though. I think visualisation has a much greater and underrated role in climbing better. That said, I still think this article’s a useful one when training for power.
I should also add a note for the ladies who might have trouble with the section on campus boarding since I myself still struggle to do pull throughs. Even at the height of my climbing, the most I could achieve was one pull through using both hands. What I did practice was pull throughs using a foothold. I would exert just enough pressure on the foothold to help me complete the pull through but not so much so that it became too easy. To the ladies who can campus – rock on!
Steve Maisch’s 4 Not-so-easy Steps to More Power
I say not so easy because if it’s easy chances are it doesn’t work. I’ve seen the advertisements— 5-minute abs, 10 days to a smaller waistline, a better butt in just minutes a day, blah-blah-blah. The fact of the matter is, you can’t get rid of your “Homer” in five minutes a day and you can’t do that boulder problem by sitting around visualizing yourself flowing like water through those slopers at the lip. Visualization has it’s place, like when you have to figure out where to put your crash pad, but it won’t help you get any stronger. The best way to get stronger is to train. If you agree with me in this aspect then you might find what I have to say interesting.
Although, I have no formal training in exercise physiology, I do have alot of training in trial and error. I’ve probably tried just about every training regimen to come down the pike, from ARCing (i.e. aerobic energy restoration and capillarity, that thing were you traverse around the gym for a half hour without getting pumped) to strapping 150 pounds to myself while hanging from a chin up bar with two hands then letting go with one and trying to keep myself from cratering through the floor at mach 10. That which does not kill you only makes you stronger or maybe that which does not bore you to death only makes you more patient. So, with that said, what follows is a training system which I believe is quite effective at developing power.
Campus boarding: Pull throughs (i.e. climbing a ladder without your feet), 3 sets (1 set = leading once with each hand) doubles (i.e. double dyno both hands to a higher rung then dropping down double to a lower only to repeat over) 3 sets.
System wall: Straight on lock-off on slopers, outside edge undercling lock-offs, one foot straight on gaston lock-offs, 2 finger straight on lock-offs, Peter Pans on crimps (i.e. with a low foot reach from one crimp to the next, cut your feet and place your other foot on a hold that you can go to the next crimp on), dyno to slopers (i.e. grab a good hold, dyno to the sloper such that feet cut lose, place the foot high and deadpoint to an upper hold).
Fingerboard: Deadhang each hand individually. Start off with deadhanging a sloper for 15 seconds on each hand then rest for 2 minutes. Deadhang the same sloper for 10 seconds on each hand then rest for 2 minutes. Deadhang the same sloper for 5 seconds on each hand then rest for 2 minutes. Go back up to 10 seconds, rest, then 5 seconds again, rest, then 10 seconds again. This constitutes one set. Do the same timeing sequence on crimpers. Next, hanging with both hands, deadhang with each finger individually for 15 seconds rest then do two more sets.
Bouldering: 3 to 7 move problems. Difficult enough to where I can’t flash them but not so difficult that I can’t do them in a few tries.
4-by-4s: 7 to 10 move problems. Do one problem jump off go immediately to the next problem do it jump off go to the next do it jump off go to the next. Rest for 2 to 5 minutes do all 4 problems again, repeat for four sets. Problems should be easy enough that you can at least get through all four on the first two sets.
Day 1 boulder for about an hour, campus
Day 2 4-by-4, 2 sets
Day 3 rest
Day 4 system wall, 2 sets, fingerboard 1 set
Day 5 4-by-4, 1 set
Day 6 rest
Day 7 rest
Day 8 go back to day 1 and so on
Campus-boarding: Campus-boarding is the adaptation of plyometric exercise to rock climbing. Plyometric exercise was originally developed in Eastern Block countries back in the day to train explosive power. Wolfgang Gullich adapted plyometric techniques to rock climbing with the development of the campus board. In my opinion campusing is the premier power training tool. The benefits of this exercise are two-fold. The first is the development of one arm pull power and the second is the development of contact strength. One arm pull power is not as simple as it may seem. It is not hanging with three points off and doing a one arm. One arm pull power is the incorporation of pulling with one arm while pushing with the other. The lower arm is just as valuable, if not more so, than the upper arm when it comes to getting to the next hold. I have found the best way to train this on the campus board is to do pull throughs on rungs which you can hang onto relatively easily. When I say relatively easily I don1t mean handle bar size rungs you can swing around on. The rungs should be small enough to where you have to maintain rigid body tension in order to hang onto them. On this exercise contact strength is not the main focus, rather the focus is on pulling and pushing at maximum intensity. Since the emphasis is on the pulling through part of the exercise the first move shouldn’t be so far that you can’t pull an equal or almost equal distance to the second hold. For example, it’s better to skip one rung on the first move and be able to skip one rung on the pull through move than to skip two rungs on the first move and only be able to match on the second move, i.e. 1 to 3 to 5 is better than 1 to 4 then match on 4.
One might ask, how am I supposed to be able to do 1-4-7 if all I’m doing is 1-3-6? This is a crux in the campus training system, hitting the wall on the campus board comes pretty quickly. If you’ve never campused before you1ll probably see fairly large increases every time you campus for the first few times. This is not due to an increase in strength rather it’s due to an improvement in campus technique. The best way I’ve found to overcome the campus barrier is to do one or two sets where you increase the first move then do one or two sets where you decrease the first move and increase the second, so if you want to ultimately do 1-4-7 but are only doing 1-3-6, do two sets of 1-4-6 then do two sets of 2-4-7. Lately I’ve been experimenting with wearing a weight belt and doing a sequence with weight which I’ve been able to do without weight, but I haven’t done it enough to tell if works yet. Doubles on the campus board are probably the most violent thing one can do to oneself without breaking the law. On these the emphasis is on contact strength and reactive power. I prefer concentrating on the contact strength, it’s not that often I’m doing a problem which involves dropping down to a hold then pulling back up. Contact strength is that type of strength that’s needed to latch a hold when deadpointing or dynoing. It seems to be localized in the fingertips alone but this is not wholly accurate. Although the focus is certainly in the fingertips contact strength involves the whole body in order to stabilize enough to be able to hold onto the hold. The more you swing your body around the more power it takes to hold onto the hold. So, when going up there is the deadpoint action going on and the timing thing with the whole body, while, when going down it’s more in the fingers alone.
System training: The system wall is another training device of European origin. System training doesn’t seem to have acquired the same fanatical following that campus boarding has but I think, if done correctly and in accordance with bouldering, it can be a very effective tool for training power. The one problem I see most often when I see people training on the system wall is that they seem to be using it as a bad technique trainer. By this I mean that they pick a move to train and instead of trying to do the move as easily as they can, they get into a position something like the one they’re trying to train but not the optimal position for that move and thus they’re only training bad technique. The best way to avoid this sort of thing is to pick a move that you want to train and then pick certain feet that facilitate this move. To make the move more difficult choose either a smaller handhold or smaller foot holds, or if your wall is adjustable make the wall steeper.
The mentality behind system training is more of a weight lifting mentality in which you decide on the type of move you want to train then you do repetitions of this one move until you are too tired to do it anymore. Let’s say you want to train dynamic moves off underclings. First find a succession of holds that are good enough such that you can do 5 or 6 consecutive undercling moves on these holds. Second map out your footholds ahead of time, maybe get into a position on each undercling that allows you to reach the next one such that the movement through the move is the movement you want to train. Once you have the feet and hands mapped out simply climb the sequence like you would a boulder problem, but concentrate on moving from one undercling to the next dynamically.
Above, I mentioned these things called Peter Pans. Peter Pans are intended to train moves in which your feet cut loose and then you have to put them back onto the wall and do another move, it’s best to do moves with only one foot on the wall, something like a high step. So, you’ll move from one hold to the next, keeping your feet on, then once you have the next hold you cut your feet loose and put one foot back onto the wall on the foothold in which you’ll go to the next hold off of. I find the best way to avoid the bad technique thing is to choose footholds that are low, thus forcing an extended deadpoint which is such that cutting your feet loose just to get them to the next hold is the most efficient way to do the move.
The moves I listed above are moves which I like to work on. Any move can be trained on a system wall, so it’s a good chance to train your weaknesses. Just pick a couple of moves your weak at, figure out the technique for doing them that best suits your climbing style and train the move over and over again.
Fingerboarding: If your fingers are strong you’ll be able to get up stuff. If you want to get stronger on two finger pockets, deadhang two finger pockets. If a problem you want to do involves hanging on a crimper, deadhang crimpers, etc… Simply put, you can’t do hard boulder problems if you don’t have strong fingers and fingerboarding is the best way to improve your finger strength.
The 15-10-5-10-5-10 workout I describe above is one a friend of mine at the gym told me about, so I’ll give credit to whoever designed it because I think it works really well, although I don’t know who designed it— whoever you are, good job. The 15 seconds on each finger
workout could also be done like the other workout if you can deadhang one finger one hand without ripping your finger off at the elbow. I’m too weak to do the other workout effectively only using one finger so I’m doing the 15 second thing until I get strong enough to do the other workout.
First thing you need to do is figure out a way to take off weight, some people use bungees, some people hold onto another hold with their other hand. One thing that works well is to find a hold on the wall (you don’t need to do it on a fingerboard) that you want to get stronger on. If your using a hold on the wall you can put your feet on the wall such that you either increase the weight on the hold or decrease it. The key is to use the same sort of hold for each repetition from 15 seconds on down to 5 seconds, e.g. if your training crimpers, crimp on a small hold which is of the sort that if you encountered it on a boulder problem you would crimp on it. Don’t grab the jug holds and crimp on the edges.
So, let’s say you want to train sloper strength. Find a sloper which involves all four fingers, I think the really rounded ones are good for this because all four fingers are contacting the hold at the same time. Figure out a way that allows you to hang from the hold with one hand for 15 seconds and not longer, you want to fail at 15 seconds or close to it, hold onto another hold with your other hand so at 15 seconds you fall off. Once you do the first repetition on each hand rest for about 2 minutes then hold onto the hold for 10 seconds with each hand, again to failure. Rest for 2 minutes then do 5 seconds each, rest, do 10 seconds, rest, do 5 seconds, rest, do 10 seconds. This constitutes 1 set for slopers. I think its best to only do 1 set for each type of hold and I don’t do more than 3 sets, so I only train 3 types of holds. It gets kind of boring after a while and 3 sets will probably take you about an hour which is plenty for this sort of stuff. I’ve heard of routines were you just grab onto a hold with each hand and hang until you fall off, but this could easily lead to an overuse injury and also I don’t think it trains power that well.
Bouldering: In this case the bouldering I’m talking about is “bouldering training.” There was a time when all bouldering was considered training but John Gill changed all that. I’m talking about training for bouldering with bouldering. The best way to do this is in the gym. When you’re bouldering in the gym you’re able to control the difficulty of each problem. When making up boulder problems I like to make up problems which I can do in a few tries. I don’t think it’s that beneficial to make up problems that are so hard that you can only do each move by itself. I’m sure most of you have noticed that when you’re trying a hard problem you can hold yourself in position on the holds but you can’t do a move then move your body to a new position readying yourself for the next move. When training with bouldering it’s the movement aspect that your training, so you need to be able to conjoin a few of the moves to train the movement. Boulder problems that are at least 3 moves long manage to do this and anything much longer than 10 moves becomes power endurance. So, make up problems somewhere within this range. If your training for a problem that’s 7 moves long don’t make up 5 move problems unless you want to fall on the mantle and if your training for a problem that’s 2 moves long don’t make up 10 move problems unless the approach is the crux.
4-by-4s: 4-by-4s train power endurance and this is an article about power, so why do I include them in my workout? I include these for two reasons. The first is that they work. These things are the ultimate power endurance training tool. The second is that I like to do routes every once in a while and I got sick of falling off after hiking the first 12 moves. It doesn’t hurt to have some endurance and since I don’t think you can effectively train power every day you go climbing it gives you something else to do.
If you want to do 4-by-4s you pick out 4 boulder problems which you can do relatively easily. You then do all 4 boulder problems one after another until you’ve done all 4. After each problem you jump off and go immediately to the next one. You can rest on the wall but not on the ground. After doing all 4 problems you rest for 2 to 5 minutes then you do the same four problems over again and you do this 4 times, thus 4-by-4.
The beauty with these things is that you can train really effectively for specific routes. Let’s say you’ve done a couple of 12d routes and you want to do a 13a which has a 3 move crux right off the ground and another 3 move crux after 15 moves. Pick 4 boulder problems, 2 sustained V3s and 2 cruxy V4s, for example. Do one of the V4s first, then do the two V3s then finish on the other V4. You can modify the sequence in which you do the problems to more accurately simulate the route you want to do. In conclusion I want to say one thing about the scheduling. This schedule is not set in stone, in fact I rarely go through all eight days twice in a row. Since I live in Salt Lake City I have access to climbing outside pretty much year-round so often times I’ll blow off training and go climbing.
I don’t think it’s necessary to stick exclusively to the program for an extended period of time. I’ve found that if I do one of the training days each time I go to the gym I manage to get quite a few of the training sessions in. I may not get 16 training days out of 32 days but I think I make gains every time I train so even if I only get a couple of training days in I’m getting stronger. For example, I’ll go climbing in Little Cottonwood one day, go to American Fork the next day then I’ll take a rest day and do Day 1 and Day 2. After two rest days I might go back to Little Cottonwood and American Fork then after another rest day I’ll do Day 4 and Day 5 in the gym. Over the course of a few months I might get 16 good training days in and this will definitely have an effect. The one thing to remember is to vary your power days, i.e. if you did Day 1 last time, do Day 2 next time, and if it’s second day on and your feeling worked do a 4-by-4 day. Well, that’s it. I hope you give it a try.