Rock Climber's Training Manual


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Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
May 24, 2014 - 11:44am PT
I understand that some folks don't like to train. But training makes you climb better, it makes the climbs you do more enjoyable, it increases the spectrum of routes available to you, and (properly done) it decreases your risk of injury. This has nothing to do with competition and it isn't just a sport-climbing thing. However modest your current abilities might be, you get a better "you" from training.

Without some ongoing form of training (and for me the amount and content has certainly varied over time) I wouldn't be climbing at all any more, like the vast majority of my contemporaries who have long since left the field.

Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
Jun 16, 2014 - 07:12pm PT
Trying out the book- happy to report that the section on big wall free climbing restores all of the cardio training into the regimen.

Trad climber
dancin on the tip of god's middle finger
Aug 27, 2014 - 08:18am PT
i'm inspired by tucker's method
of carrying a heavy boulder down
the lane and back
so i, this morning,
reached into the recycle can
and grabbed about 4 partially crushed cans
and 2 plastic juice bottles,
the whole lot pretty precarious
in my overloaded paws, all ready
to jump out and scatter
but through precise pressure adjustments
and a collected grip,
i was able to take this
bundle of promise
to the end of the road and back,
about a 1/2 mile.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Sep 15, 2014 - 09:04pm PT
hey ECIYA, check your STForum email accnt...
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Nov 24, 2014 - 01:58pm PT
I've been playing around with learning how to use the RCTM.

It seems to follow a strategy that makes sense from what I could learn from the various papers on the biomechanics and physiology of climbing...

basically, it's about training the forearms...
once you've got most of the base fitness stuff down, including weight reduction.

The RCTM outlines a periodic training schedule about 3 per year, 18 weeks for a cycle. My first time through is coming to a close. And as it states that you should have a goal, my goal for the first time was to figure out how to do each of the programs, strength, endurance, power, power-endurance; and without getting injured.

The logistics includes multiple gyms, building some home equipment, and figuring out an aerobic training scheme, and fit it into my usual schedule.

The program I was following was the "Trad" training program, but I've modified it a bit to include some campus board work. My main motivation for this was to improve my lock-off ability, which I usually wish I had more of, with a residual benefit of improving power, and strengthening shoulders.

Both the hang-board and the campus-board routines come with copious warnings about injuries. Warming up is important, and I basically use a black Theraband and go through a set of 9 or 10 different shoulder exercises as warm ups before jumping on either board.

But more importantly, I use a counter weight, which I've found over the years to be a fast way of improving without injuries.

My campus-board is also built from the large Metolius rungs, 1.25", which I'll stick with until I can do the exercises without weights. At that point I'll contemplate going to the medium rungs... I'm not training for Action Direct so I'll probably not go to the small rungs, ever.

Here's a few pictures, it's a basic 5 rung ladder with 11.5" spaced rungs, it overhangs 20

Credit: Ed Hartouni

you can see the counterweight scheme. The campus board is built on an independent frame and can be stowed away when I'm not training on it. It is just in front of the hang-board, which has different routing for the counterweight.

More detail:
Credit: Ed Hartouni
the bottom rung is 6' off the ground making it easy to hang from it bent legged.

The pulley system is off the framing of the garage
Credit: Ed Hartouni
note that I put some 2"x4" spreaders to resist the "squeeze" force of the very shallow angle of the cord.

The weight is hung from a hook while I clip into the cord on the other side of the pulley system (have to climb the Aluminum ladder to do that). Body weight moves the counter weight off the hook and the height is such that I get assistance all the way to the top.
Credit: Ed Hartouni

You have to be careful to rig something that isn't going to fall down on your head (I've done that before and have a scar to show for it).

Anyway, I've been working with this system now and learning how to campus board. The RCTM warns that you shouldn't even try to do their "beginner's" routine until you can do the "Basic Ladders" smoothly. I'm not quite there yet even with the weights.

My routine has been to do "Matching Ladders" for 4 sets followed by "Basic Ladders" for 4 sets.

(Matching Ladders: match on rung 1, right hand to rung 2, match on rung 2, left hand to rung 3, etc..., Basic Ladders: match on rung 1, right hand to rung 2, left hand to rung 3, etc...)

It's a workout, hopefully I'll find it beneficial. Once I can do it smoothly, I'll add 4 sets of "Max Ladders" which have you throwing as far as you can... that's the power aspect of the exercise.

Then I'll start to reduce the counter weight.

The training period for these exercises is relatively short in the cycle, but repeating them three times a year should be much better than not doing them at all (as long as I don't get hurt!)

Gunks Jesse

Trad climber
Shawangunk, NY
Aug 12, 2015 - 08:20am PT
So I have been using the book and see results, but I'm working on the basic fitness and weight management part right now. I'm looking at how I can really benefit from the 18 week training cycle that incorporates campus and hang board, but I don't have anywhere to set the stuff up. Does anyone have any suggestions on common things (not door frame trim) that can be used to simulate a campus or hang board?

Or am I just crazy?

Social climber
Joshua Tree
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 12, 2015 - 08:31am PT
Jesse, I trained one hangboard cycle of weighted hangs on nothing but the smallest metolius campus rung screwed into the studs above a door frame (had just moved house).

Any rounded piece of wood trim about a pad deep and a bit wider than shoulder width will work, medium or small campus rungs works really well for that, and they are only about 2" tall, so will fit over virtually any doorframe.

I do my campusing in the gyms, have never built my own since I
only do a total of 8-10 campus sessions in any year. A lot of the ones is gyms kind of suck though - no intermediate spaced rungs making progress hard to gauge on max pulls, sharp bottom edge and a 90 degree undercut that will shred your thighs. I always change into old pants, duct tape the bottom edge of the board, and still look like I'd been lashed across the quads.

Gym climber
Aug 12, 2015 - 08:36am PT
I like to judge books by their cover.
And that is one baddass cover!

Thanks for the tip.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Aug 12, 2015 - 10:32am PT
I used the book and it taught me a lot so far. Unfortunately there is not much on practicing techniques, but the book is golden for strength training. Can't wait for the fall, so I could actually get on some sort of a schedule. It is hard to during the summer when you try to climb as much as possible.

If anyone is looking for AWESOME podcasts that incorporate training tips etc, check out ones on training beta. I like pretty much all of them. Good stuff.

Training idea is easy - intense session, good nutrition, good rest and consistency. What is hard is complying with schedule :)


Edge of the Electric Ocean Beneath Red Rock
Dec 18, 2015 - 05:28pm PT

About to take a rare week off of all things climbing while in Connecticut visiting some family with my fiancee and then launch imto the trad/big wall free climbing plan...assuming I stay focused and healthy. Have incorporated elements of the plan in the past and have seen gains.

Social climber
Joshua Tree
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 18, 2015 - 06:26pm PT
"a rare week off of all things climbing"

Good chance that's why you're battling injuries so often. That "rare" week off should be about 4 times a year. I won't train any specific quality (i.e. power, endurance, etc) more than 3.5 weeks before switching focus, and take 7-10 days off at the end of the every cycle (cycle runs 10-15 weeks for me, depending on the upcoming season...e.g. my bouldering season cycles are shorter because I don't train pure endurance in that cycle).

I also use a "wave" style loading progression in the micro-cycles and a transition week between micros that reduces volume. Could spent a lot of time spraying about how well this is working for the kids I coach (works for me too, but sample size of 1 isn't compelling, sample size of 15 otoh...)

Dec 18, 2015 - 11:08pm PT
Quite the set up Mr. Hartouni, thanks for sharing

Edge of the Electric Ocean Beneath Red Rock
Mar 2, 2016 - 10:52am PT

9 weeks into the plan and am VERY impressed with results. Likely in part due to my previous training plan (climb until cannot climb anymore, then work out until cannot work out anymore) being relatively ineffective, and in large part due to the fact that this thing seems to put things in place. Am already having the best season of climbing I have had and am not even 'peaking' yet.

Believe the hype.
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