Tension Climbing Online Training

Been a little while since my last post! I’ve been extremely busy the past couple months. I’m finishing school in June and have been writing my thesis pretty much nonstop. I’ll be taking some time off once I finish school and before I start working so I’ll hopefully be more active on here! I have a lot to write about: dealing with low back problems, a climbing app I’m helping a friend build, and some other things. For now, I’ve been keeping busy with a new training plan.

A little over a week ago I finished a 5 week online training plan with Will Anglin of Tension Climbing. A friend recommended it and after seeing his progress I was psyched to give it a go. I was not disappointed. Before creating the plan, Will had me do an extensive physical assessment, testing things like maximum weight added on hangboard, maximum weight added for pull ups, max number of pull ups, etc. The resulting plan was actually pretty simple: hangboard, some weights and ring work, and a couple bouldering drills. What set it apart though was the scheduling. It didn’t repeat weekly, but instead more or less repeated every three days. So instead of doing the same thing every Tuesday or Thursday (like I’ve always done in the past), the schedule was two days on, one day off. Doing so compacted the schedule without it feeling like it was overloaded. I had mixed feelings about this actually. I think it was very effective since it meant I ended up doing 11 hangboard sessions vs. 9 if I had just scheduled it as twice a week. However, the inconsistency of my schedule week to week was kind of bothersome and meant I couldn’t always climb with my friends.

Results

Let’s just get right to it. Results are what really matter, right? The two exercises I saw the most progress in were weighted hangs and weighted pull ups. For the hangs I was doing three sets of half crimp, 6 seconds on, 10 seconds off, six times on the small edges of the Beastmaker 1000. I also did two sets of open hand with the same interval but I’m not going to go over those too much. I’m hypermobile in my fingers and was having issues open handing on a flat edge. So at the beginning of the plan I started with an added weight of 35 lbs and it felt pretty close to my limit. 5 weeks later I was doing 50 lbs. Even more impressive, I actually gained a couple pounds between those two sessions, so my total weight for the first session was 181 lbs. My total weight for the last session was 198 lbs. A percent increase of 9.4%. Not too shabby, considering +50 lbs used to be my one rep max on the small edges!

I saw similar gains in the weighted pull ups, going from +45 lbs (191 lbs total) to +70 lbs (218 lbs total), a 14% increase. I’m not sure how effective weighted pull ups are for climbing but I’m still impressed with the progress.

Conclusion

Overall, I was very happy with the program. It was very effective in increasing my finger strength. It did however require full commitment which was hard since I’m a weekend warrior and skipping a day outside to train feels sinful. I have to confess I did sneak outside a couple times (sorry Will). It was worth it though, I finished two projects with relative ease: Goicoechea (V9/10) and Cotton Pony Dyno (V9). Once life settles back down, I look forward to working with Will again.

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NRT: A Jiggly Miracle

Maybe five years ago I botched a dyno and threw out my back. If this has ever happened to you before you know how debilitating it is. I couldn’t walk, couldn’t stand or sit, basically couldn’t do anything but lay on my back in bed. I was given muscle relaxers and pain killers and it took me over a week to be able to walk normally again.

A little over a week ago, I did it again. I’m not sure how it happened this time as it just got gradually worse over the day, but by the end I was in the same bedridden state. Then by the same time the next day I was maybe 75-80% better. How did I make this miraculous recovery? Neural Reset Therapy (NRT). NRT is fairly new as far as I can tell and I wasn’t able to find much information online about it. From what I’ve gathered you basically overload the mechanoreceptors in a muscle and the result is the muscle “resets” and fully relaxes. So in a simple example if you were to have a biceps issue, the therapist would target the antagonist (triceps) by resisting you extending your arm (engaging the triceps). Then they would basically jiggle your arm around while you continue to try to resist. The jiggling is the overwhelming signal that the mechanoreceptors receive and the result is the biceps relaxing. Here’s a video of it being used after a hamstring injury. Skip to 1:40 to just see the jiggling. If you watch the whole thing you can see just how much the muscle released based on his major increase in range of motion. Oh yeah, it improves range of motion. Maybe this means I’ll be able to touch my toes someday…

So the day after I couldn’t get out of bed I went to my friend, Liam Buell, and he worked on my back. I walked in with the gait of my 90 year old grandfather, then after no more than an hour of basically jiggling my legs and tapping on my abs with a reflex hammer, I could stand, sit, and walk like a normal person again! I seriously couldn’t believe how effective it was.

I guess when I previously said I got to 80% recovered the next day, I should have been more specific: Within one hour I went from maybe 30% functionality to 80%.  I couldn’t recommend NRT enough for anyone suffering from a muscular issue and if you’re in the Seattle area, Liam is your man!

Edit: I should have mentioned, I hurt my back on a Saturday, Liam worked on it on Sunday, and I was back to climbing normally on Tuesday!

Edit 2: NRT should not be confused with the questionable “neural therapy,” in which areas of pain are caused by “interference fields” and are treated with injections of a local anesthetic.

Trip Report and Working Harder

Trip Report: Oklahoma and Arkansas

During his last trip up to Squamish, my good friend Kevin told me about a little area in Oklahoma that is super high quality sandstone. During the winter break Michelle and I always make the pilgrimage home to Austin so I decided to extend my trip so Kevin and I could drive up to OK. It was a short trip, but pretty jam packed. The first stop was McGee Creek in Stringtown, OK, which is only 5 hours from Austin so we were able to squeeze in a short evening session after the drive up. We tried The Visionary  and Solar Strike with very little success. The Visionary stumped us and Solar Strike had a massive slam dunk finish move that I was never able to get the distance on. After that we ventured deeper into the woods to do a cool moderate compression problem Kevin spotted early. We were both able to send pretty quick but I snagged it first and had to navigate the top out. I don’t know if it was the fading light, dirty unchalked holds, or my own shear obliviousness, but it was the worst top out of my life. It took me a solid minute to pull over the 2′ bulge at the top. Pretty pathetic. Anyways from there we drove up to Bartlesville just past Tulsa for the night.

The next day we drove out to Osage Hills, the next destination and main stop for the trip. This is the area that Kevin had told me about and he did not disappoint. There aren’t many problems but what is there is amazing. The first area we went to was a gorgeous cliff band with an amazing 45 degree wall. Sadly most of the wall was blank but there were two V6’s called Nemesis and Memesis that shot right up the middle. We did those quick then moved over to the main attraction (I should note that we later found out that those two problems topped out which we didn’t realize so sadly can’t take the points for those two). Geometry Class is probably the best problem in OK and by Kevin’s standards the best V7 (pre break, now at least V8) he’s ever done. It kind of has everything: dynamic power move, techy body position moves, crimps, wraps. It almost felt like a Squamish climb. This problem was one of my major goals for the trip, and I wanted to try to flash it. I was off to a good start, I stuck the big intro move, cruised the the next few, and go to the crux. Which was wet. So needless to say I had to give up. From there we walked up the hill to try Chaos From The Masses, or rather the high start which I later learned is called Power To The People. It’s supposed to go at V9, but it felt more like V7 to me, and rightly so: I started in the wrong spot. That’s what happens when you go to a low traffic area! Oh well, it was a fun problem either way. Up next was my second major goal for the trip: Steak Dinner Right. A pumpy little V9 traverse that felt very reminiscent of Sesame Street in Squamish. Honestly I think Steak Dinner was slightly harder. It didn’t have the same satisfying slam dunk finish but still a fantastic problem overall. With that one in the bag we called it a day, and since I pretty much climbed out the classics we decided to move along to another area. Well, to another state actually. Next stop Arkansas!

We drove into Fayetteville that night and crashed at a random hotel. Fayetteville is a pretty cool little college town by the way. The next morning we drove out to Area 74 about an hour from town. Area 74 is basically an outdoor climbing gym. It’s actually a giant overhanging cliffband covering a rest stop on the side of the road. Literally 10 sec approach, picnic benches, trash cans, etc. Pretty swanky as far as crags go. We warmed up on “the classic V4” called The Fin. Then I did Hood Rich, a squeezy V6. For 3rd day on I was feeling pretty good and was super psyched on a problem called Backseat Spooning a more or less two move V10 ending with a victory lap on jugs. The two moves are: lock off left hand start hold, hold body tension and snag an awkward right hand pinch, set up your feet and go big to a left hand mini jug and hold the swing. First attempt I pulled on, tightened up and reached for the pinch, only to grab it wrong and fall. Next attempt I knew to slow it down. Grabbed the pinch just right, walked my feet over, eyed up the jug, a little too far, oh wait left hand intermediate, square up with that, jump and snagged it! With a little try-hard I held the swing and took the victory lap on the jugs to the finish hold. My second V10 on my second try. Pretty fantastic way to end the trip. Here’s the video I put together of the trip.

Training

Now that I’m back in Seattle it’s time to get to work. I only got a couple weeks of weighted campusing in before the trip so I’ll be restarting that cycle. I will say that I felt a significant lightness after just those few sessions so I’m pretty psyched to see what happens after a full cycle! Other than that, I was recently inspired by the latest addition to the Seattle strong guy crew, David Powell, to take my training even more seriously. I’ve lately been trying to find shortcuts, or just do the minimal amount of work needed to show improvement. I need to get back to putting in the extra hours, controlling my diet, staying focused and motivated, and generally just trying harder so that I can achieve that next level, even if only momentarily. I’m working full time at school now so it’s going to be hard to find the time for all this but hopefully by putting my intentions in writing I’ll hold myself accountable and motivated :).

Hangboard Update

Last week I retested my max hang  after 6 weeks of following Steve Maisch’s review of isometric strength training. To review, the idea is to do single reps at submaximal effort with extended rest between reps. Although I followed this protocol with 9 second hangs I wanted to directly compare to my previous experiment with 5/3/1 so I retested my max for 7 seconds on an 18 mm edge. With 5/3/1 I went from 95 lbs added to 105 lbs added, which is a  10.5% increase in added weight. In order for Steve’s protocol to show the same increase I would need to max at +116 lbs. Unfortunately I was unable to do so. I held +115 lbs for approximately 6.5 seconds. I will say, however, that the time commitment and perceived amount of work was much lower than 5/3/1 for the amount of strength increase that this protocol provides. I’d say either one is pretty effective, but I’m going to follow my own numbers and switch back to 5/3/1 for a few cycles.

Also, after listening to Will Anglin on Trainingbeta, I’m back on the campus board/power bandwagon! However, there’s a twist; I’ll be using a weight vest while campusing. I’ll explain more in my next post after I’ve had a few sessions on the board. You can also listen to Will’s (very good) podcast for his explanation.

Progression and Future Training

I enjoy training quite a lot and I’ll do it just for the hell of it with no lack of motivation. However, I’ve always been told to set more specific goals than “get stronger” in order to stay motivated so last year I somewhat arbitrarily set a goal to climb V10. Last week I finally achieved that goal.

I put in a few end of the day attempts last year on a problem called Equinox, then about a month ago I finally was able to put a full session in on it (that session was in the rain however!). I got really close but the crux revolves around a tricky toe hook and I could never get it to stick. I knew I could do it and just had to have that one magic attempt where it all came together. With psyche super high I went back and fairly quickly dispatched my first V10! It’s so great to see progression in your climbing and I’m so excited to see how the rest of this season goes!

On the training side of things, Team of 2 recently announced their disbandment, which means I’m now left to my own devices to figure out my training. I’ve decided to really streamline my training and really only focus on hangboard and a few other exercises. I’ve adopted this philosophy partially after listening to TrainingBeta’s podcast with Adam Macke and in conjunction with Kris Hampton’s High/Low approach. Typical periodized training includes strength, power, and power endurance phases. I’ve basically decided to eliminate the power and power endurance phases as I think they’re the least useful (in my case; I’m naturally a powerful climber and gravitate to 1-5 move boulder problems) and although all three are very intertwined as means to improvement, I think strength is the easiest way to progress systematically. Also, power and power endurance are almost just skill sets. Power is mostly about knowing how to generate momentum with your body and power endurance is partially the mental ability to keep pushing your body under exhaustion. Admittedly, I’m sure there are physiological changes from training them, but they still root from strength.

So my training per week will consist of two hangboard (hb) sessions, two climb sessions (inside or outside), two sports specific strength (3s) sessions, and two injury prevention (pt) days. Here’s a likely schedule

Sunday
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
climb
 Rest
hb, 3s
pt
hb, 3s
pt
climb

This is also flexible and may change depending on conflicts or motivation. Basically I want my plan to be so simple that as long as I’m getting in my two heavy load days in a week, I’m good.

Hangboard

The hangboarding will be as described in Steve Maisch’s literature review on isometric training. The only modification is I will do an actual one rep max test at 9 sec instead of a 13 sec test with training with the same load for 9 sec.

I’ll be doing single rep 9 sec hangs at 80% of max for 4 sets. I’ll be doing four hold types: full pad edges, quarter pad edges, and slopers. Ideally I’d like to do these all one armed with assistance so I can focus on each hand individually and also reduce the overall load on my body, but I haven’t quite figured out how that will play out. So for each hold type it looks like:

  1. 9 sec hang left hand, 9 sec hang right hand

2. 3 min rest

3. repeat 4 times

Sport Specific Strength

I’ve done so many different exercises as part of my training: endless amounts of core, pull ups, deadlifts, shoulder workouts, arm workouts, etc. and I’ve never really felt or noticed any benefit. Of course this is just for me though. If pull ups are hard for you then you could definitely benefit from working on them! Although I’d always feel worked after doing them, all these workouts felt like a bit of a waste of time so I’ve done away with most of them and boiled down to a few high intensity exercises that I think will directly work on a few weaknesses that don’t revolve around handhold size.

  1. Heavy underhand rows (3 sets of 5). Doing hard moves even on good underclings is definitely a weakness of mine.
  2. Chest Flys (3×8). Should help with compression problems
  3. Front Levers( 3×4). Body tension to the max! Someone once told me front levers are the key to hard bouldering in Squamish :).

That’s it! Just three exercises that I’ll add on after hangboarding. Quick and easy and hopefully effective. Well I guess not easy…

Injury Prevention

Injury prevention is so important and really if you take nothing else from my plans, take this section! Again I tried to boil down my PT workout to what I felt are the essentials. These workouts are super light weight and high reps (3×15) so their perfect for off days. The focus is on the shoulders, forearms, and elbows. Also they can be done with therabands and household objects so I don’t even have to leave the house to do them.

  1. IYT.
  2. Rotator Cuff series: internal rotation, external rotation, elevated external rotation
  3. Forearm series: wrist rotation (at home you can use a hammer or a skillet), wrist extension
  4. Push ups

And that’s that! Hopefully this plan will cover my bases and help me continue to improve.

Squamish Season

Thought I’d do a little update on my climbing. Been going up to Squamish quite a bit lately. Mid-August my friend and fellow Mad Rock athlete, Kevin, came up to get the Squamish tour. For anyone who hasn’t bouldered in Squamish before, it can be a very humbling experience. There aren’t many holds and the climbing is very intricate and subtle. What I mean by that is even the slightest shift in your body position turns an impossible boulder into an easy one. It definitely takes some getting used to. So far I’ve been up to Squamish 4 times since moving to Seattle, and I think I’ve finally paid my dues and am getting used to the finicky style.

With Kevin we were up in Squamish for four days of climbing. It was probably my most productive trip to date. The first day I quickly ticked Breakfast at Tiffany’s (V7). I’d half-heartedly tried it last trip and  knew it’d go down easy. I believe I did it first try of the day. Next we headed to the Titanic area and I tried Mantra (V8) for the first time. I previously was a little intimidated by it as there’s a tree in the fall zone and it’s a little tall for me (It’s not really that tall by most standards but I’m a bit of a baby…). For some reason I felt it was time to get out of my comfort zone and Mantra was the problem to do it on. I even took a little digger from the top on my 3rd or 4th go and was still undeterred. After one or two more tries I was at the top! I’m so glad I, for whatever reason, decided to try that problem because I can honestly say it’s the best damn thing I’ve ever climbed!

The next day we went to the Animal Magnetism area. I’d previously tried King Swing a V7 that starts on the same holds as Mindbender (V7) but goes right instead of straight up. So instead of wasting more time on King Swing I figured I’d try Mindbender. At first I didn’t even understand how to pull on but luckily my friend David, the Squamish wizard, was there with a quick tip. With his help I did it second go! Feeling pretty strong for second day on I want to try something harder. I’d been eyeing King Kong (V9/10) for a while and was psyched to give it a burn. It basically consists of a few right hand bumps then a really trick lip encounter. I quickly put together the bottom section then quickly got shut down on the lip crux. It was pretty frustrating that I couldn’t even figure out how to do it but I’m still psyched to keep trying to figure it out! After that we finished the day at Titanic so Kevin could run through a bunch of classics, one being Timeless (V5). I was done for the day but after Kevin finished it he kept telling me how good it was and that I had to do it. It definitely earns it’s name; really fun movement, comfortable holds, definitely a timeless line. Oh and I flashed it so that was a little bonus :).

The third day I took a rest day and we went to the Farm so David could try his project The Reckoning (V10). After warming up on some easier lines, he finished by quickly dispatching another of my projects Big Chicken (V9/10). After some rest he got to work on The Reckoning. On his first go he got to the last move but didn’t have the proper heel hook and bailed. He was so close!! After that he just couldn’t quite piece it all together again, then he ran out of time and had to head back to Seattle. Kevin and I moved on to a nearby boulder so he could do another classic called Space Monkey (V5). Once he did that I goofed around on a line to the right called Space Robbers (v6). Space Robbers is supposed to follow an arc of crimps but I noticed a big jug out right so I just dynoed straight to it (while only wearing one climbing shoe). Felt like maybe V4 that way and was way more fun than how I assume Space Robbers is supposed to climb.

The fourth and final day was time to clean up. We went back to Titanic and I did a bunch of new warm ups which was cool and day flashed the Mantis (V4) which usually takes me a couple tries. Conditions were perfect and I was feeling great; I knew it was going to be a good day. I did Mr. Bigglesworth after taking quite a while to figure out beta that worked. The old guidebook gives it a V6 and the new one gives it a V8. Definitely felt harder than the other 7’s I did that trip so I’d side with the new guide book. After that I was planning on trying to finish up King Kong but we were right next to a problem I’ve been wanting to try for a really long time, Sesame Street (V9), so we moved there instead. I’ve watched videos of this problem so many times and I had the sequence down cold. I pulled on for the very first time and cruised all the way to the last move: a huge slam dunk to a massive jug shelf. I got a little too excited about almost flashing a V9 for the first time and wildly flung for the jug, pulling in a little too close to the wall and smashing my chin. So. Damn. Close. After that it kind of fell apart. I kept dropping the heel, dry firing of the holds, etc. but after too many attempts I finally slammed the jug and topped my first V9 in the magical forest. Probably the best way to finish one of the best climbing trips I’ve ever taken. If you haven’t seen them already check out the two videos I made. Part 1. Part 2.

Last week I went back up to Squamish with another friend Matt who just moved here for grad school. The first day we got there and the forest was completely soaked. Really not the way I wanted to introduce him to the area. We checked a few other areas and they too were all wet. We decided to move to the Apron since it’s in the sun and I knew it’d be dry. I haven’t really climbed there before so didn’t know where anything was. We eventually went to Shots Fired! (V4) which is supposed to be in the top 100. I thought it was kind of a dump; 3 stars max. Maybe I did it wrong or something, I don’t know. After that I figured I’d try King Kong again. What a mistake. I don’t know if it was the humidity or that all I’d done that day was a V4 and wasn’t warmed up but I was struggling with the bottom section really bad, not to mention the actual crux that I couldn’t even figure out last time. Although I couldn’t physically do it I think I did figure out some beta so I guess it wasn’t a total loss. That night we camped just north of The Chief and by the next day the forest was dry! After being defeated the day before I decided to just take it easy and do some laps on a bunch of easier problems. I repeated Easy in an Easy Chair (V4) a few times and it definitely was the slimiest it’s ever felt. Some other guy came through and said the same thing so I know it wasn’t just me! After that I kind of just wandered around looking for projects in the area. David had talked about wanting to try Encore Une Fois (V11) so I went and looked at that. Wow, what a dream problem. I doubt I’ll ever actually do it but I sure would like to try it some day. I also looked at the Stinger Low (V10) which looks pretty doable! It’s an overhanging compression problem which I’m usually pretty decent at. Hopefully I’ll get to give that a go next time! Right before we had to head back to Seattle, I tried Autobody (V8) a little bit. It took a while to figure out the sequence (typical in Squamish) but once I did I pieced it together up to this right hand blocky triangle pinch and got stuck. Not having a clue how to move past that and the pinch being a little painful I gave up so we could head home. Guess I’m adding one more thing to my list of unsent boulders in Squamish…

5/3/1 Conclusion and Team of 2

That’s a wrap! I finished the second cycle of the 5/3/1 hangboard experiment and the 10 week cycle of Team of 2 training, and I have to say both were quite a success. First let’s run through the 5/3/1. For the second cycle I focused only on hanging on an 18 mm edge (using lowest outermost edges on a Beastmaker 1000). For a 7 sec hang my previous max was +95 lbs, and honestly it was more like 6 seconds… Yesterday after feeling sluggish during my warm up I was debating even bothering retesting and saving it for a stronger day, but Team of 2 demanded hangboard so hangboard I must! I made the bold assumption that I improved (even on a crappy day) and strapped 100 lbs to my harness. It was easy. I felt like the harness was going to crush my pelvis but my fingers felt amazing. I rested 5 minutes and added 5 lbs more. Perfect; failed right at 7 seconds. New max is +105 lbs. That’s a 10% increase in added weight! Spectacular results in my book.

Now that I can deem this a success I’ll reiterate the protocol.

  • Choose appropriate edge size. It’s better to choose a larger edge and add extra weight than a smaller edge with less weight.
  • Reps are based on a single 7-10 second hang with maximum weight added.
  • Rest between reps: 10-15 sec. Rest between sets: 3-5 min.
  • Once actual max is determined, all calculations use training max: 90% of actual max
WEEK 1 WEEK 2 WEEK 3 WEEK 4
 65% x 5 70% x 3 75% x 5  40% x 5
 75% x 5  80% x 3  85% x 3  50% x 5
 85% x 5  90% x 3  95% x 1+  60% x 5

So for example my actual max was 105 lbs, so my training max is ~95 lbs. Using available weight increments my plan would look like:

WEEK 1 WEEK 2 WEEK 3 WEEK 4
 6o# x 5 65# x 3 70# x 5  40# x 5
 70# x 5  75# x 3  80# x 3  47.5# x 5
 80# x 5  85# x 3  90# x 1+  57.5# x 5

Now I’m debating continuing with this protocol or experimenting with Eva Lopez style single rep hangs. I like trying new things and her study showed similar results (10% increase) so I’m leaning towards trying that.

Part 2: Team of 2.

The focus of this 10 week plan was hangboarding (as per my request) so nothing monumental to report really. It mostly consisted of hangboarding, projecting (which apparently some people interpret what I mean by that incorrectly so I should say limit bouldering and not performance climbing), injury prevention, and fitness. My week typically looked like:

Mon Tues Wed Thurs Thurs Thurs Thurs
Hangboard Project Rest  Hangboard  Project  Fitness  Project

Projecting days weren’t always actually limit bouldering, sometimes they were 4×4’s or other similar drills. I should note that these are not typical 4×4’s in which you do 4 problems 4 times in 16 minutes. Team of 2’s has a full explanation on their site, but the general idea is you only climb 4 problems one time each in a 20 minute period. This allows you to pick much higher intensity problems than you would be able to with a normal 4×4. After hangboarding or climbing, each session concluded with either some fitness (e.g. rows, weighted pull ups, core, shoulders, etc.) or injury prevention (e.g. forearms, shoulders, posterior chain, etc.). Fitness day was weight lifting and typically included some cardio, chest, deadlifts, shoulders, and back.

One big change from the last review I did is a huge upgrade in the online app Addaero. It now has a mobile app for android and iphone! It still can be slow as dirty sometimes but it’s definitely gotten a lot better.

As always, working with Team of 2 was a very positive experience and I definitely recommend working with them if you’re looking to take your climbing to the next level.