/ The maths of training?
let's say that first day he puts on rock shoes he's climbing 6a. Assuming he must have a certain amount of good genetics for it/appropriate build. So to get to 8c is 15 grades. Over 3 years is roughly one grade increase every 2 and half months.
Which sounds absurdly fast, but then i started breaking it down.
Lets say there's 10 weeks in two and half months. Assuming his body allows for high volume of training/recovery he could be training 4 days a week?
So I was thinking about it as 40 training sessions. Suddenly doesn't seem so unreasonable. Particularly structured training focusing specifically on weaknesses/targeted gains.
Is it as simple as 40 sessions = 1 grade? Or will everyone's body respond differently. Or is that same potential gain out there for everybody and we're all just farting around and not focusing properly?
I strongly believe that people are hugely physiologically different. Just look at them.
I can think of two people I've climbed with who are significantly better than me just through what they naturally possess. They haven't trained more or been more focused, they're just better. One of them is really muscular with almost no body fat, despite eating shite and having no training regime at all; the other doesn't climb much or train, but is just extremely good at climbing.
It would be nice if everyone was equal (in terms of ability to reach a given level of attainment at whatever skill), but sadly, we're not.
There's no way it's as linear as that.
Perhaps it's a reasonable approximation when you start training. There are many areas for improvement so to an extent you can maintain a fairly constant rate of improvement. You will reach a point of diminishing returns though, where your improvements vs. time and effort put in become more logarithmic. I guess the subtlety is that diminishing returns kick in at different times for different people.
The other major factor is motivation. The simple fact of the matter is that most people aren't willing to put the hours in. You can talk about focused training until you're blue in the face but unless you're willing to train 20hrs/week for years at a time you won't see major gains.
It also depends what he did before climbing, if he was a gymnast for example, he would already have super strong shoulders and core.
With a good starting level of fitness and the right motivation I think you could go from 6a to 7a in only a couple of months, if the strength is there you could pick up the basic techniques to get a lot of 7a's pretty quick.
That gives a longer time frame to achieve the remaining 9 grades, and I imagine it will go up in a broadly logarithmic fashion, that's just common sense.
Also, from my own experience, I probably climbed for several months when I started without ever really knowing about redpointing, I just climbed whatever looked like fun. If back then I had focussed several sessions on a single route I could probably have achieved a much higher grade than I was generally climbing, so perhaps his real redpoint 'starting' grade was actually quite high due to natural talent and the rise to 8c wasn't such a stretch.
That said, 8c is still mind bogglingly impressive regardless of how long it takes to achieve, so well done to Ben :)
We'd be in luck if one of these fast gainers used thecrag religiously. It has grade plotting over time.
I suppose its stating the obvious but a session for me is probably a third as productive as it could be. I imagine most people are like that, fun taking priority over increasing grades.
There's no way it's going to be linear.
Also, based on the people I know climbing that sort of level, I think 4 sessions a week would probably count as a fairly easy week by the time you hit that level.
In terms of your last question, most people do "waste" a lot of their potential abilities by not using the training time they do have efficiently. But the question of what level of improvement and speed of improvement requires some sort of advantageous genetics as well as efficientand focused training is of course the question that's spawned a thousand UKC threads.....
Mostly this. As others have said, gains are also unlikely to be linear.
I think one of the most amazing things here is that he's managed to build up the tendon strength in such a short time without catastrophic injury! I guess this comes down to a very disciplined training programme, some genetics (or some experience of another 'fingery' sport... does such a thing even exist?), and some luck. (I don't mean that to be at all dismissive, just that when you're treading such a fine line between intense training and injury, it could go either way.)
Don't think it's linear but on average you're probably not far off. Some people will find it more challenging and some easier to get to a given level. Most of the time we don't train effectively or target our true weaknesses. We would all like to be stronger (1 finger pull up) but how many of us spend hours doing footwork drills? Most the time we are plenty strong enough to climb the grade we wish it's other areas that are stopping us (footwork, redpoint anxiety, fear of falling etc).
Also most people tend to over estimate what they can do in 6 months and underestimate what they can do in 3-5 years of training. If you actually gave yourself 3 years to climb 8c, i.e. trainied consistently and S.M.A.R.T then you'd probably get much closer than you think possible. It's the actual act of maintaining the psyche and continually doing the stuff you're crap at which in turn will make you a better climber.
As other have stated there is a certain amount of genetics involved but it's not as much as people would like to think, or use as an excuse!
To pick two random guys off thecrag...Well, almost random, they both have over 90km of logged climbs.
Surprisingly linear progression with respect to time:
Bit more variation here but isn't hugely off linear, doesn't seem to be a correlation to meters climbed and grade:
Pretty sure it's 42
Most of us are completely just farting around compared to people like that. Nothing wrong with that though.
WRONG ! - well 'ish.
Obviously some people are in physically better shape than others but that doesn't mean you can't turn that around and overtake them.
I was a fat child. Not due to genetics but because my dad would pack me off to school with cheese and mayo sandwiches etc.
It's all down to how much you want it.
The drive that people like Ondra etc. have is huge compared to ours. That's the difference. They work harder than we can imagine.
There is a local guy here ( i have to confess i haven't met him but my friend has ) and he has gone from never climbing to 8c+ in 2 yrs and is now working Planta Shiva ( 9a ).
He has stopped working, does not have a social life, does not drink alcohol, trains and climbs as much as is physically possible and has pretty much dedicated his every waking moment to improving his climbing.Everything he does is considered against the impact it will have on his climbing.
Not many people could do that, or want to, which is why he has done what he has done.
It's also a bit easier out here to not get the finger injuries as it's not as if he's crimping his way up some Peak Limestone crimpfest.
> Pretty sure it's 42
That's your answer to everything! :0)
>Or is that same potential gain out there for everybody and we're all just farting around and not focusing properly?
Of course. At least, depending on what exactly you mean by 'everyone', 'farting around' and 'not focussing properly'.
If you substitute 'reasonably athletic young people' for 'everyone', 'not having a job, mortgage and family, for 'farting around', and 'having the right mates' for 'focussing properly', then I suspect you are pretty near the truth. Although having said that it's surprising what people who do have jobs and mortgages can achieve when they put their minds to it.
There are no real excuses if you are healthy. We just decide not to and that's totally fine. Not everyone wants to give up going out on a Friday night, having the odd takeaway, doing other sports etc.
Just realise that you don't want it enough and be happy with that.
I fit what i can in to a point where it would start affecting my family life. That's more important to me than climbing so that's the priority.
It's just about what you're willing to sacrifice.
"Yeh but" - Sharma is no angel by all accounts and I seriously doubt he's alone in that.
My point was about a guy who went from zero to 8c+ in 2 yrs not about Sharma who never trains etc.
He just used to climb REALLY HARD 6 or 7 days a week.
While he was younger his body could get away with a bit of bad behaviour from what has been alleged but i don't think he was a major druggie or alcoholic was he ?
Now he only climbs 4 days a week.
Ondra on the other hand is allegedly a good boy who drinks very rarely and has a healthy diet etc Maybe Sharma cold have climbed 9b+ 10 yrs ago if he had done that. We'll never know.
I find it slightly comical that you think that is a credible reference to your argument.
No, its also down to a lot genetic luck, and the right environment. The same as almost every other sport.
> I find it slightly comical that you think that is a credible reference to your argument.
OK i'll bite.
Why is this book not a credible argument ?
Have you read it ?
Can you supply credible references for genetics being the most important aspect ?
For further info it turns out that Ben was a reasonable level triathlete previously. He is well used to the grind of spending hours and hours a week of training and pushing his body whilst already tired. Those who know him also say he has massive amounts of drive and determination and a sports obsessed family to help him along.
However the guy who 'coached' him did say he took to climbing amazingly quickly and was naturally good at it - possibly the most naturally talented he'd seen.
That doesn't mean he would progress to 8c in 3 yrs though as he has had to amass as much technique as he could and specific training. It's mentioned that what Ben actually did was climb LOTS as well as train setting himself along the road prescribed by bounce.
Anyway, i await your, hopefully not slightly comical, reply.
There's also a macho attitude around being able to drink 5 pints, a packet of fags and then send a couple of E4s - It's not the done thing to say that you train, even though people obviously do, they just maybe don't see it as training.
When I ask about training, I'm usually given advice along the lines of 'just climb', which for a beginner like me is probably fine. However, as a former marathon runner and triathlete I wouldn't dream of preparing for an event by 'just going for a run'. I might improve, but to nowhere near the level I could achieve with a systematic training method.
So yes, I definitely believe that a seemingly meteoric rise through the grades is possible, even for mere mortals, there's just not that much information on how best to achieve it. "The Self Coached Climber", and some of Dave Macleod's writings are about the closest thing I've seen.
good post there. i think alpine climbing is a bit more systemized, but it doesnt seem to cross over much.
It think Dave Macleod's book is great for the mentality of training, how to access weaknesses and the general psychological approach. But I felt it was a little too meta-training and doesn't have any specific training advice.
Everyone in the end seems to construct their own training plan, no one seems to really share them and it seems hard to work out what is the most effective method.
i think the Robbie Philips articles on UKC was the first time i'd seen an article about training which included "do X number of reps on x difficulty"
Having said that, as a counter argument to the 'no such thing as talent' gang and Malcolm Gladwell's 'it takes 10,000 to truly excel' most of us wouldn't spend 10,000 hours doing something we didn't actually enjoy, were motivated at, and for which we maybe a wee bit of talent.
As i have been called comical for mentioning a book heavily based on science and heavily referenced i have to ask where you get this info from ;-)
Has it been proven ? Genuinely interested.
> Having said that, as a counter argument to the 'no such thing as talent' gang and Malcolm Gladwell's 'it takes 10,000 to truly excel' most of us wouldn't spend 10,000 hours doing something we didn't actually enjoy, were motivated at, and for which we maybe a wee bit of talent.
It is obviously a mix. You don't get many 5ft4in olympic swimmers and neither do you get many 6ft6in olympic divers. Genetics certainly helps your baseline.
However plenty of people enjoy plenty of sports to a level they are happy with despite being the 'wrong' body shape. Not all club tennis players are over 6ft for example. Many cyclists don't have the long levers or muscle mass in the right place to be genetically gifted at it. But they enjoy it and stick at it, they get better and do it more, get better, enjoy it more and do it more and so on.
I think opportunity and support are far more important than genetics.
The book i mentioned is about how there was a large concentration of amazing table tennis players in a few streets. Were they related ? Was there something in the water or food locally that helped them ? No, they had 24hr access to a table, a brilliant coach willing to give as much of this time as he could to them and a friendly competition between the group of friends meaning they all strived harder all the time.
Opportunity and support.
One example in the book is of a man who as part of an experiment ( he was a psychologist i think ) coached his 3 daughters to play chess. He had no background in chess and no one in the family did which is one of the reasons why he chose chess. His daughters have become the 3 most successful female chess players of all time. The amount of time and effort put in was phenomenal. They lived and breathed it. His despair was huge when people congratulated him on having been so lucky as to have daughters born with a natural chess ability.
He also looks at child prodigies and dispels that idea fairly convincingly.
Young composers ( i think it was MOzart he used as an example ) who write music at the age of 4 etc. His parents were both musicians and he was immersed in the world of music from birth. It's no wonder he could write full orchestral pieces at a young age. He had racked up his 10,000hrs practice by that time.
Ondra the same. That's why we have this group of youngsters coming through now who are pushing the boundaries after a while of not much progress. They have been taken to the crag by their climbing parents whilst still in nappies and racked up a lifetime of climbing in a very short time. Add to that our better training knowledge and that is what has caused the recent emergence of so many younger climbers at such a high level
+1 - Great post!
>One example in the book is of a man who as part of an experiment ( he was a psychologist i think ) coached his 3 daughters to play chess. He had no background in chess and no one in the family did which is one of the reasons why he chose chess. His daughters have become the 3 most successful female chess players of all time. The amount of time and effort put in was phenomenal. They lived and breathed it. His despair was huge when people congratulated him on having been so lucky as to have daughters born with a natural chess ability.
Not absolutely accurate (Polgar himself was a reasonably strong chess player), and the three girls are no longer the three most succesful women, although the youngest, Judit, is still by far the strongest ever. But in general, yes, absolutely.
Moreover, I played one of them once, when she was 13 and travelling alone to a tournament in England. She was already probably stronger than me, but I won, after she had stood better - something which would have had most child prodigies stomping off in tears and/or dudgeon. She, however, was calm and charming and spoke about the game in pretty good English. I was very impressed by her maturity, and indeed, apart from being good players, all of them went on to marry happily and lead stable and useful family lives, which again isn't always what happens with child prodigies in chess.
I am also interested in this assertion, do you have any specific evidence for this or is it a general belief in behavioural genetics?
This is quite closely related to my area of research so I am very interested.
To my knowledge this sort of direct deterministic link between genetic coding and individual differences in high-level abstract psychological functions (ie. high-level planning of action, the ability to realize long term goals) is not regarded as very plausible these days in the light of findings from the human genome project and the last 20 years or so of research on how people's brains actually develop. For sure there are 'innate' constraints on how people develop, but nearly everyone recognises that a huge amount of the detailed wiring up of the brain is experience dependent - ie. no one these days argues for simply 'nature' or 'nurture'.
The Matthew Syed book incidentally is well researched and is to my knowledge a reasonably accurate overview of the science.
My own belief is that your previous ability (or 'natural talent' if you believe in such a thing) does determine how quickly you progress as a beginner in the world of climbing. However once your initial improvement plateaus other factors (eg. determination, the time and quality of your conscious practice, lifestyle (eg. whether you quit your job and move to spain) , how hard your mates climb, etc.) are much more important in determining how much you improve from that point on.
Very interesting to know.
I was summarising without the book to hand so obviously made a couple of errors.
Bounce also mentions that same ethic as well. You fall over, you get up and try again. Those who stomp off and give up won't improve.
However Ondra does throw some pretty big tamtrums.
The biggest thing that Bounce taught me is to be happy with what you do.
If i tried to squeeze more climbing into my life my family life would suffer. That's more important to me at the moment. So, don't make excuses about genetics, bad grading, not having enough time, too tired from work etc. just accept something else is more important and be content. It's a much happier place to be than beating youself up or being negative.
I'm not saying use that as an excuse to coast along - unless you want to of course. Then be happy with that too. Not everyone wants to 'improve' whatever that may mean.
Once the kids have grown up however Mrs Biscuit may not see much of me - unless she starts coming to the crag that is.
>However Ondra does throw some pretty big tamtrums.
Not of the stomp-off-in-dudgeon-complaining-about-the-referee type. He might shout and curse, but he's focussed and ready to try again pretty damned quick.
>I was summarising without the book to hand so obviously made a couple of errors.
No, I think you had the book exactly right but it contains those same inaccuracies, actually.
I'll add that you're misrepresenting what people are saying about the genetic component of this in your posts. It's not an excuse people are using because they can't climbing 8a, just a fact that genetics will have some impact (the extent to which it has an impact is opinion), although that impact might not be significant at the level you or I climb at.
The following link is interesting:
So they looked at families and twins and decided that because they act the same it's genetically linked ?
Nothing to do with being brought up in a sporty family then ?
It's impossible to say what influences people in this way as you quite rightly point out. My reply to you was tongue in cheek from a reply i got about the book i referenced being slightly comical.I didn't require confirmation. As Quiddity pointed out it is deemed to be as good a stab as we have at the moment.
They also looked at rats and the sporty ones had differences in genes from the non sporty ones in the reward areas of their brains and therefore that must be the cause ? Seems a bit crappy science to me and many tests on lab animals don't carry through in the same way with humans.
I don't think genetics is that significant for many people. But it is often used as an excuse. Climbing is one of the few sports where all somatypes can succeed as physical attributes are not the most important aspect.People call elite climbers mutants or freaky or super human. They're not, they just work harder at it than we do.
Ben comes from a super sport family. Does that mean he is genitically gifted or he had support, encouragement, advice and role models from his parents and siblings to keep working? Obviously we don't know but from reading books such as Bounce you start to see that the REAL difference is how much you want it and how hard you work at it.
> Ben comes from a super sport family. Does that mean he is genitically gifted or he had support, encouragement, advice and role models from his parents and siblings to keep working? Obviously we don't know but from reading books such as Bounce you start to see that the REAL difference is how much you want it and how hard you work at it.
I agree that hard work and desire are what separate champions from the rest of the field, but I don't agree that we can all be winners just through hard work. At the rarified level of professional sport it's the application of those professional disciplines to fields of endeavour in which humans have an outstanding talent that enable them to stand out.
For those of us lacking any natural athletic talent, hard work and ambition will deliver overachievement measured against expectations and even in comparison with those slightly more talented (but lazy). But we cannot shine in comparison to the truly gifted.
Nor should that be a problem, however. I see my climbing (sailing, snowboarding etc) as a battle with myself, with the rock and ice (sea and snow), and against the forces of nature. I don't care if I'm not the best if I'm the best I can be.
Mountaineering is the quintessential individualist pursuit and I wouldn't have it any other way.
When I started bouldering I set myself (what I thought would be) the massive goal of breaking into F7's within my first year while going to the gym 3 times a week. Last week, after touching a bouldering wall for the first time eight months ago, I topped an F7A+/B (For talking sake, we'll go with the lower grade) and in the last fortnight I've battered several F7A's.
I started at F5 on my inudction and hit F6B+ in 4 months, and while I feel confident that I could keep pushing grades further, it feels like I'm waiting for my arms and fingers to catch up with my technique more than anything else. With some lock-off training, a healthier diet (I'm lucky enought to be a ectomorph and eat lots of crap), more work on really steep stuff and going 4 instead of 3 times a week, I reckon I could progress to consolidating a whole plethora of F7A problems within my first year.
In saying that, F8A seems a million miles away. How well you do particularly on high-7's must be massively dependant on your commitment to getting there.
I agree that it's not conclusive evidence, but bad science? The nature of science is that it's often incremental, stepping sideways, isolating effects in related (simpler) systems, rather than just bashing away fruitlessly at the original (often incredibly complex) system!
Making a simplistic extrapolation from rats to humans is bad reporting maybe, but doing the study on rats and pointing out (with suitable caveats) that there may be similar mechanisms at work in humans is not bad science. In fact, I'd say it's a very good, smart way for scientists to make a start on this question.
(</rant> Sorry, as a researcher, I often feel the need to defend "science" against )
By way of example, check out the progression of the 100m world record and birth order (in brackets) - from 'The Talent Code' by Daniel Coyle:
1. Usain Bolt (second of three)
2. Safa Powell (sixth of six)
3. Justin Gatlin (fourth of four)
4. Maurice Greene (fourth of four)
5. Donovan Bailey (third of three)
6. Leroy Burrell (fourth of five)
7. Carl Lewis (third of four)
8. Leroy Burrell (fourth of five)
9. Carl Lewis (third of four)
10. Calvin Smith (sixth of eight)
Well, no. Winners imply losers. We can't all be in one camp.
The suggestion however is broadly that if we all got our finger out we could climb a hell of a lot harder than we do.
>Mountaineering is the quintessential individualist pursuit
Is it? There's two on a rope, you know. (well, usually)
> Well, no. Winners imply losers. We can't all be in one camp.
> The suggestion however is broadly that if we all got our finger out we could climb a hell of a lot harder than we do.
> >Mountaineering is the quintessential individualist pursuit
> Is it? There's two on a rope, you know. (well, usually)
I thought that as I wrote it, but then stood by the statement. The inner contest with your fears and the external battle with the elements remain the very essence, whether you are soloing or with a partner.
That's not to deny the added satisfaction a partner can deliver in helping to overcome challenges. But on every outing, solo, paired or in a group, there seems to be a period when I (and I've noticed many others) retreat inside myself (themselves) and emerge refreshed.
Sorry if that's a bit mystical, not to mention off topic!!
+1 to that
> (</rant> Sorry, as a researcher, I often feel the need to defend "science" against )
I guess bad reporting rather than bad science - my bad !
The report in the paper makes some huge jumps to conclusions that really aren't conclusions, but as you say a step on the way to maybe discovering something worthwhile.
The article even says at the end there are still no excuses as we all have the ability to get off our arses and do something about it.
Whats your evidence for this?
On a slightly different tack - I think its not just motivation but the amount of training your body can take without injury. For example some may be able to quickly move up to multiple hard fingerboard sessions a week quite quickly, others may have to go more slowly to avoid tendonitis. I think one of the hardest things if youre trying to do more systematic training is getting the balance right between not working your body hard enough to improve, and overdoing it so you then have to ease off for a while. Thats my personal experience anyway!
v = training volume
i = training intensity
and b = amount of beers drunk after training ;-D
Assuming two sport climbers starting out but fully going for it equally motivated, aged etc starting at the same time but performing differently after three years then things that offer a genetic advantage off the top of my head would be:
Morphology especially power to weight
Starting natural maximal finger strength
Resistance to injury
Whilst all the above can be mitigated and influenced or trained for it would be foolish to pretend they don't count much
For sure these things exist BUT
Morphology - climbing is one of the few sports where it's not THAT important. There are tall, short, stocky and thin climbers all performing at the elite level and well represented throughout.
Being lardy won't help though but i don't think it's been proven yet that that is genetic. It's more a social education/lifestyle thing i think.
I reckon Kinaesthetic awareness and finger strength can be well trained in 3 yrs as you say. They may get a head start but may also then be held back if they plateau quicker.
Training response is also quick to respond and again the initial quicker climber may plateau sooner and find it harder to bust through.
Is there a natural tendency to be better at resisting injury ? Genuine question. I used to get lots of finger injuries. It wasn't genetic, i was slapping for holds like a man being attacked by wasps in a dark room. I also used to have a bad rotator cuff. Guess what ? It's because i had shocking steep ground technique and injured it that way. It's a n=1 ' in my experience' response but i'd be interested for sure if there are any studies.
I suppose i am (overly)trying to emphasise that for 99% of us hard work will get us there. Making excuses about why we never will will never get us there, but it feels good to have something to blame when we compare ourselves against the 'mutants'.
If you really want it you'll get it, even if you start off as a finger tweaking lard arse.
Elsewhere on the site
Make the most of this months HALF PRICE OFFER on the Five Ten Guide Tennie Mid!! Designed as a hybrid approach and... Read more
I am Matthew Phillips, I'm nearly 14 and I was born without my right arm below the elbow. I started climbing at taster... Read more
2012 saw the release of the beautiful first volume of definitive Yorkshire Gritstone climbing, produced by the YMC with Robin... Read more
Hot Aches Productions premiered their latest film Redemption: The James Pearson Story at Kendal Mountain Festival on... Read more