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Should I do anything for strength outside of climbing?
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derpy


Nov 25, 2013, 7:52 AM
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Should I do anything for strength outside of climbing?
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I've seen enough about this to know that answers vary. But maybe if I tell you a bit about where I'm at you can take a guess?

So, I'm female, and feel like I'm not very strong compared to the people I climb with - for example, I can't do a single pull up. (Although I should say that after a year and a half of regular climbing, I'm far far stronger than I've ever personally been, which is very cool in its own way. Before I started climbing I could barely hang from a pull up bar!). A lot of the time when I can't finish a route it's because I just can't pull myself up on whatever less-than-great thing I have to pull on. Especially if I have to do it one handed (I match hands a lot, haha).

I currently climb twice a week, all indoors, a shortish session on a weekday evening and a longer one on the weekend. There's really no way to squeeze in another go, much though I would love to. I'm fairly physically active, e.g. I walk about 5 miles a day, but climbing is the only thing I do that's related to upper body strength.

So yep. I can do weird balancy moves, and I can step up on tiny high footholds, and I'm great at pushing up with my legs and using my arms mostly for balance. Traverses are my friends. But in the end some moves do seem to come down to arm and hand strength, and then I feel they let me down - like I can maybe pull up a tiny bit, but nowhere near the full move. Or if I'm hanging somewhere trying a few different ways to keep going, I can only do that for a very short period of time before my forearms give out, unlike the people I see just hanging out there and rearranging their legs as though it's nothing.

I feel like lately my strength hasn't improved much at all, while my technique and confidence really have (thanks for all your advice on that, helpful people on my previous post!). Is it because I'm only doing a few hours a week? Aside from climbing more, is there else I could/should be doing to improve my strength, either while I'm climbing or outside of it? Or do I just need keep at it and trust that I'll continue to improve with time?


Shanna


Nov 25, 2013, 8:00 AM
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Re: [derpy] Should I do anything for strength outside of climbing? [In reply to]
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Reading your post, I am under the impression you would like to climb harder grades. If yes, work on strength. There are many posts about females needing to gain strength to improve their climbing ability (see www.allirainey.com and http://www.highinfatuation.com/)
If you can do pull-ups it will help your climbing. Esp if you have the technique.


(This post was edited by Shanna on Nov 25, 2013, 8:01 AM)


jeepnphreak


Nov 25, 2013, 10:28 AM
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Re: [derpy] Should I do anything for strength outside of climbing? [In reply to]
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So if you doing weird balancey moves I going to assume that for the most part you are climbing vertical to almost vertical routes. To develop upper arm strength you will have to get out of your legs and in to your arms, easiest way is to jump on something very juggy and overhung to start out with. Climb until you fall, not until you let go. That will engages your biceps, deltoids, traps, lats and forearms. When that starts getting easy. . .
than move to over hung and progressively smaller hand holds.


JAB


Nov 25, 2013, 12:32 PM
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Re: [derpy] Should I do anything for strength outside of climbing? [In reply to]
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Pullups and similar workouts are not nearly as good as climbing more, but still it's better than nothing, so if you can't increase your climbing volume, it makes sense to do some general strength training. I suggest getting a hangboard. You can do pullups, frenchies and leg raises, which all are useful. Also deadhangs are good for finger strength, but overall you need to be careful with finger strength training, as it easily leads to injury.


derpy


Nov 26, 2013, 2:26 AM
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Re: [JAB] Should I do anything for strength outside of climbing? [In reply to]
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Thanks everyone!

Shanna: don't we all want to improve? :) But yeah, it seems like careful footwork can only take me so far.

jeepnphreak: until you said that, I hadn't really thought about the extent to which I mostly climb routes that play to my strengths and avoid overhangs. There are definitely a couple of routes like that that I normally don't give more than a token effort to. I'll definitely change that from the next time I go. I just probably won't be able to do much else the first few times I work seriously on them, which will be a bit sad!

JAB: I'm put off hangboards for a bunch of reasons, and I'd rather not risk straining my fingers, especially since I'm far from a training expert. A lot of my climbing friends have pull up bars though, maybe I should join the club. I can do leg raises at least even if no actual pull ups yet. One day...


granite_grrl


Nov 26, 2013, 4:45 AM
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Re: [derpy] Should I do anything for strength outside of climbing? [In reply to]
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Derpy, likely additional strength will help you, but I think you need to be relativly dedicated to strength training to see improvements.

It's hard if you can't do pullups, but frankly the traditional pullup doesn't really mimic climbing as well as most people think. I would suggest to keep climbing, but get on routes that are more burley. Especially consider bouldering. Personally, it seems that I gain a lot of endurance and some grip strength through the rock season and then ice/mixed season I get strength gains.

For strength training outside of climbing probably the most important aspect, and where you'll see the most gains, is with core exercises. If you still want to work the pull up stuff try assisted pullups, rows and pullup lowers (don't know if this has a proper name, but hop up to have your chin above the bar and then lower in a controlled manner).


camhead


Nov 26, 2013, 6:22 AM
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Re: [granite_grrl] Should I do anything for strength outside of climbing? [In reply to]
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I'm just going to second granitegrrl– work on core (leg lifts from a pullup bar, then over the very long term working up to something approaching a front lever). Although pullups do not translate into climbing directly, you should probably work up to doing 3-5 at a time if you are wanting to climb more overhung stuff. Also, more beneficial to climbing, work on lockoffs– just hanging on a pullup bar with your elbows bent at different angles for set amounts of time.

More random ideas: Even though I just mentioned training lockoffs, if you are making the transition into steeper climbing, try to do all movements with straight arms, WITHOUT locking off. Even on overhangs, you still want to push with your feet as much as possible.

Finally, a word of caution: I'm not sure what your height and weight are, but if you are on the heavier sid (or even average), and can also not do a pullup, realize that working too hard on upper body movements, jumping for holds, having your feet cut, can REALLY put a lot of strain on your elbows and shoulders, possibly injuring you. Be careful, and climb statically. To avoid injuries, also work on training your oppositional muscles by doing "pushing" excercises rather than just "pulling" ones. Try pushups, light bench pressing, etc.


brooklynclimber


Nov 26, 2013, 3:58 PM
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Re: [camhead] Should I do anything for strength outside of climbing? [In reply to]
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There's a nice set of blog posts about strength training for women here:

http://cruxcrush.com/2013/03/15/newbie-training-strength-workouts/


derpy


Nov 27, 2013, 3:20 AM
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Re: [brooklynclimber] Should I do anything for strength outside of climbing? [In reply to]
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Okay, thanks!

granite_grrl: Most of my climbing is (indoor) bouldering, as it happens. But yep, from today I'll be getting on the more strength focused routes instead of pretending they're not there, ha. Funny how that had genuinely not occurred to me as a strategy, I was concentrating on the ones I'm close to finishing rather than the ones that tire me out to even start.

I'm not particularly interested in working to doing pull ups as such, I just mentioned it as a rough indication of where I'm at. I can't see myself getting much satisfaction out of just practicing pull ups, but I'm willing to do it to get better at climbing. Although I'm sure doing my first would be a very nice ego boost :) it's certainly not anything I'd ever imagined being able to do, so it's cool that way.

It's still good to have the reminder that they're two different things though. I have actually noticed that some people I climb with can do absolutely loads of pull ups without a fuss but climb at a comparable level to me, so it's clearly not everything. That said they can definitely do some moves that I can't even get near, but would like to.

Camhead: For what it's worth I'm short and thin and not remotely inclined towards terrifying dynamic moves. I'm not too worried about injury through overdoing it. But pushing exercises sound like a good idea, I'll make sure to include some since right now climbing is basicaly the only thing I do.

brooklynclimber: That page is fabulous, thank you. Maybe it's just my good mood today but that's the first time I've read something along those lines and thought I could actually incorporate it into my routine and enjoy it. A lot of the other pages I've read seem to assume a better starting point than I'm actually at in terms of both strength and familiarity with the topic (let alone equipment and space, neither of which I have), so seemed a bit ambitious if I'm honest, and discouraging when I try them out but get immediately tired or confused about whether I'm getting it right. This looks like it would really work for me. I'm excited to give it a go this evening!


potreroed


Nov 28, 2013, 7:27 AM
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Re: [derpy] Should I do anything for strength outside of climbing? [In reply to]
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Yes, running, biking, swimming, weight training, tennis, campus board -- it will all help.


Partner rgold


Nov 28, 2013, 10:47 PM
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Re: [derpy] Should I do anything for strength outside of climbing? [In reply to]
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This is a version of something I posted in response to a similar question on Mountain Project.

First of all, recognize your weakness as the learning advantage it is. People with lots of upper-body strength often learn to substitute if for technique, and in spite of sometimes rapid initial progress invariably plateau, either forever, or until they get serious about body position and footwork. Being relatively weak forces you to learn technique, and as you do get stronger you'll be much further along.

But there is also the issue of muscle and joint health, and so in order to stay in the game you should do some upper-body training.

Even though technique is critical for climbing, getting stronger by just climbing when you are starting out fairly weak opens you up to the possibility of nasty injuries. It's one thing if you transition from gymnastics to climbing and have a substantial base of upper-body training. But if you are coming to climbing from a background that didn't involve hanging your body weight from your arms, then just climbing is a dangerous way to acquire the necessary strength.

It might work out fine, and no doubt various people will post up about how the started out as weak as a kitten, never did anything but climb, and now climb mega-grades. But for each one of those is someone you may not hear from who needed an operation to put their shoulder back together and isn't climbing much if at all now.

World-class climber Stephanie Davis says, (see http://www.highinfatuation.com/blog/gymless-training/)

I think you’re on the right track with wanting to increase your upper body strength for climbing. As a woman, I notice that if I improve my upper body strength at all, I instantly see dramatic results in my climbing. Since women do not naturally build upper body muscle like men do, I think we are forced to climb with more technique in general. If we give any attention to strength building, it allows us to make use of that technique to an extremely gratifying degree.

I’ve also seen many posts written for climbers that play down the benefits of pullups and pullup workouts. I couldn’t disagree more, especially for women. If you start to do pullup workouts, and possibly fingerboard workouts, you will see a dramatic improvement in your climbing very quickly.


In addition to pullups, I'd consider what Ms. Davis has to say about weight training:

http://www.highinfatuation.com/...ng-for-climbing-102/

For something more climbing-specific, consider

http://www.dpmclimbing.com/...ry-climber-should-do

and for shoulders in particular, which are especially endangered if you aren't strong yet,

http://www.ukclimbing.com/...cles/page.php?id=119

http://www.dreaminvertical.com/...-shoulder-stability/

Have fun and good luck!


derpy


Nov 29, 2013, 3:37 AM
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Re: [rgold] Should I do anything for strength outside of climbing? [In reply to]
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potreroed: I do ice skate once a week for about 3 hours, which is surprisingly hard work, especially when you're practicing a move that's on one foot for most of that time. I really ache afterwards.

rgold: It is kind of satisfying to be climbing almost as well as people who are dramatically stronger than me, I'll admit. But it sounds like the consensus is that I'm right in thinking that increased upper body strength is what I should be working on for myself. And yeah, I have no athletic background at all.

That sounds like a vote for joining the gym... something I've never done before and am a bit intimidated by! But there is one conveniently at my work so I could actually fit it in to my life if it ends up being something that suits me. I might give it a go next month when I'm back from my travels. I can't believe what climbing has turned me into :)

In the meantime, going for the juggy routes on nasty overhangs, and trying the push ups and hand stands routine recommended in a previous link have together thoroughly kicked my butt.

I did get significantly further on the overhang than I thought I could, it's amazing how far persistence can get you when you don't just go 'this is not my kind of route, moving on now'. I could barely do anything else after it, my forearms were so worn out, I ended up making it a shorter session than usual. But the progress feels gooood!


Partner rgold


Nov 29, 2013, 9:57 AM
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Re: [derpy] Should I do anything for strength outside of climbing? [In reply to]
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Derpy, we are of course gratified by your inclination to seek advice from across the pond, but you'll also want to engage with folks closer to home, more so as you improve and seek to move beyond the gym, so check out http://www.ukclimbing.com/


wjca


Dec 6, 2013, 2:36 PM
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One thing that I didn't see mentioned is balancing your strength training. Climbing more will make you stronger in your upper body, but it is all pull muscles (back, biceps, lats). I noticed a huge difference in my pull muscle strength when I started also working outside of the climbing gym on my push muscle strength (chest, triceps, shoulders). Doing so balances out your upper body muscles. At home at night when you're working on core exercises, start doing push ups, dips, dumbbell shoulder presses, static handstands against the wall, and handstand push ups once you get stronger (I'd start with some pillows under your head).


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