Rock Climber's Training Manual


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Social climber
Joshua Tree
Topic Author's Original Post - May 2, 2014 - 12:13pm PT
So I like to train. Because it works. I am climbing as hard or harder in my early 40s as in my mid 20s, for one simple reason, the Rock Prodigy program. I'll spare you most of the spraydown, but with very limited time on real rock in the last year due to life circumstances, still manged to tick double-digit boulder problems and onsight steep 12s this season at 40-something and following an injury-induced layoff that had me out from Oct-Jan.

I've worked off the Anderson bros general plan for several years, from the original write up Mike did on RC.n00b about a decade ago.

Now they have published a book, The Rock Climbers' Training Manual.

These guys have really raised the bar for lit on the physical end of training for climbing. Both have climbed (and are still climbing) 5.14, and freed big walls, including many FFAs of wall routes like Spaceshot, Arcturus, Touchstone, etc. And that is while having full time jobs and raising kids. So they have the cred.

The book is comprehensive, including goal setting, long and short range planning, weight management, individual session planning, etc. There are separate sections specifically for big wall free climbing and bouldering. The general system is a periodized cycle with some management built in (i.e. not strictly a linear periodization, but not quite a block system).

The layout and graphics are excellent, and it is full color throughout. This is easily the best I've seen, with large glossy pages and inspiring photos (as well as lots of demo photos) it is closer to a high end college textbook than the typical cheap paper and black and white stuff we're used to in climbing books. Physically, it's thick and heavy, a little larger page size than the Self Coached Climber, by about an inch one way and half inch the other.There are samples of season long and daily plans, a quick start guide, and a separate season-long training log is included in the package.

You want to climb harder? Buy this book, follow the plan within, and you WILL increase your abilities. At $29 retail, it's a bargain IMO and completely blows the SCC or Horst books out of the water.

If I had to recommend two books to people wanting to improve (and I actually get this question probably once a week in the gym), it is this one and Dave MacCleod's "9 out of 10 climbers". This one will cover the physical end, MacCleod's addresses all the little things that make a big difference..conditions, tactics, fear, etc.

Well done boys, this is the first real improvement on the old Goddard/Neuman "Performance Rock Climbing" which was published over two decades ago.

They've set up a website that gives a good look at what's in the book, has forums for discussing training or the book, etc. You can check it out here:


Social climber
Dalian, Liaoning
May 2, 2014 - 12:24pm PT
Training is cheating!

May 2, 2014 - 12:26pm PT
Gotta ask...most of these training manual kind of things primarily focus upon things like hang-boarding and working a pyramid of problem/route difficulty in the gym - does this cover the cardio/strength training component as well?



Soul Cal
May 2, 2014 - 12:37pm PT
So what happened with Father Figure? Seems like you should have no problem if you are climbing double digits (5.14).

Social climber
Joshua Tree
Topic Author's Reply - May 2, 2014 - 12:42pm PT
It does address cardio, much like MacCleod addresses cardio. The basic idea being that aside from prepping for something like carrying loads for big wall staging with giant approaches, cardio is mostly a waste of time if you have a reasonable level of fitness, and is detrimental to your ability to recover (i.e. you need to recover from the cardio activity in addition to the climbing training). Cardio also typically induces appetite changes that are out of whack with how much you burn during the cardio, making weight management even harder.

At root, the limiting factor in ROCK climbing (as opposed to mountaineering) is almost always grip or technical. Forearms are small muscles and your cardio system's ability to move blood is not a limiter (add the fact that in the isometric contractions we're using, blood flow is largely occluded at anaerobic levels of intensity). Another factor is that doing typical cardio, running, etc will make you store more glycogen in those leg muscles, easily adding 5lb of bodyweight that is in no way helping you rock climb only decreasing your grip strenght:weight ratio.

I still ride my bikes, because I like to ride my bikes. But I do cut way back on it as the performance seasons for climbing approach to shed some of that leg weight.

May 2, 2014 - 12:44pm PT
Elcapinyoazz....can you assist me in designing a motorized 4x4 shopping cart to get me places so I can shed leg weight? I hear you loud and clear...I get stoked on riding bikes and next thing I know I'm having trouble fitting into my jeans. #activepeopleproblems

Social climber
1187 Hunterwasser
May 2, 2014 - 02:02pm PT
Wait, cardio is bad? Huh?
Easy Wind

Trad climber
Oakland, California
May 2, 2014 - 03:59pm PT
Just picked up a copy of this in the mail. I'm a few weeks into the big wall/trad program. Having just reached my 30s, I'm focusing on incorporating more rest into the program - before I would always cheat and climb extra on weeknights and take big weekend trips. Very curious to see the results of following the program without too much extra curricular climbing.

For the last two years I have roughly followed the Rock Prodigy program and have experienced notable results. Having said that, I always added a solid weight lifting component to the training to build strength. In my opinion, the gains in total body strength were just as, if not more, instrumental to climbing progression as the technique and finger-focused training that the Rock Prodigy method expounds.

The book has a nice section on supplemental weight lifting/physical conditioning, but it still seems to be a bit light.

I'm curious to hear what weight lifting/physical conditioning/total body strength exercises (and frequency) are used by El Cap and other folks who have followed this training schedule. Particularly when it comes to applying this program to long Valley routes that are at or beyond your limit.


Social climber
Joshua Tree
Topic Author's Reply - May 2, 2014 - 04:19pm PT
My supplementals are mostly shoulder and elbow maintenance things...rice bucket, wrist pronators, wall angels, hip adduction, that sort of thing but I've always done some focused core strength/hip hinge type stuff. Not high rep enduro core, but low rep strength development core stuff like 3-5 rep deadlifts, 6-8 rep crunch machine, front squats, swiss ball plank rollouts, heavy kettlebell swings, front lever pulls (pull into front lever, lower back to vertical in that planked/rigid position, repeat for reps). Basically trying to hit the entire core or posterior chain in the 3-8 rep zone whatever the exercise.

For some years I did chest/tris, but I'm prone to tricep tendonosis in one arm and most chest/tri stuff like dips and bench is very hard on my rotator cuffs and AC I don't really do them anymore. Seem to get plenty of chest from all the compression bouldering and generally steep bouldering.

For frequency, I am usually on a 3 day cycle...climbing or climbing training, supplementals, rest. But I'm also not young and spry and have a high-stress job, thats about all I can recover from.

May 2, 2014 - 04:28pm PT
So, generally of course, what does this book offer over the material in Performance Rock climbing?

Social climber
"Sh#t shack across from the city dump"
May 2, 2014 - 04:32pm PT

I obviously read the wrong manual...


May 2, 2014 - 04:41pm PT
My training goal is to have more fun.

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
May 2, 2014 - 04:42pm PT
I've found that general cardio was limiting factor in many all day adventures in Yosemite valley or other places. It wouldn't be at Southern California crimpfest 1 pitch routes with easy approaches.
Probably makes sense to incorporate the right cardio/strength balance for your preferred activities. Bouldering or high-end leading is an extreme case of conditioning for strength.


Social climber
Joshua Tree
Topic Author's Reply - May 2, 2014 - 04:46pm PT
My training goal is to have more fun

I recommend hookers and blow. Oh, and single malt scotch, and pure sativas.

Soul Cal
May 2, 2014 - 08:32pm PT
And Father Figure went down?

Trad climber
May 2, 2014 - 10:05pm PT
Does their system allow for beer this is important.

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
May 3, 2014 - 12:40am PT
At root, the limiting factor in ROCK climbing (as opposed to mountaineering) is almost always grip

Capt obvious sighting.

On a more serious note.. thanks for this post.. I'll check out the book.

Social climber
Joshua Tree
Topic Author's Reply - May 5, 2014 - 02:04pm PT
So, generally of course, what does this book offer over the material in Performance Rock climbing

Quite a bit. While PRC gives the basics (and is outdated on the science regarding things like lactic acid), it's not very prescriptive. This book takes the basic physical training elements in PRC, updates it to modern scientific understanding, fleshes it out further, and then shows you how to actually build a training plan off those elements.

It also offers detailed sample plans on a range of scales...daily, cycle long, multi-year, etc.

Has detailed full chapters on tailoring the training for big wall free climbing, and for bouldering. A chapter specifically on weight management, looking at how/when to cut and when to carry a little extra.

Aside from that, it's just a much nicer book in a visual and physical sense. Larger pages, full color, etc. Goes into far more detail on most things. I'd say PRC is an outdated primer, while RCTM is textbook depth and current.

Trad climber
May 5, 2014 - 02:08pm PT

Does their system allow for beer this is important.

Sure, you can do curls with a keg.

You just can't drink it.

Boulder climber
May 5, 2014 - 04:42pm PT
Cant find it right now but I read an article by super strong sport climber jonathan siegrist who attributed a big chunk of his success on 5.14+ routes to his superior cardio fitness levels.
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