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/ SKILLS: Lattice Training Series with Tom Randall - Part 3: Strength & Power

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UKC Articles - on 24 Oct 2018
Building up strength and power through bouldering.Crack connoisseur, training guru and director of Lattice Training, Tom Randall, shares some training tips in this 4-part series, complete with live Q&A sessions in the forums from 7-9pm every Wednesday for the next 4 weeks. Ask him anything! (Within reason...!) Download Lattice's new (and free) training app Crimpd to assist with these drills.

Week 3: Strength and Power.



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SFrancis - on 24 Oct 2018
In reply to UKC Articles:

Hi Tom,

Maybe a little early, but I'll get my question in while i remember...

In your app you suggest doing max hangs on a fingerboard to increase strength with 90% 1RPM and retesting every 4-8 weeks.

I was under the impression there was a slight difference in building strength and recruiting muscles? If so what would you suggest a different protocol (possibly repeaters?) / %Bw for building as opposed to recruiting?

If there is a difference, then I would have thought the majority of the time you should be building strength and then recruiting the muscles just before trying a project / trip? or should you just be cycling between building / recruiting?

Cheers

JackM92 - on 24 Oct 2018
In reply to UKC Articles:

The question I have is really about the volume of climbing. Realistically is 2 sessions a week enough to make good technical progression?

 

Macleod on 24 Oct 2018
In reply to UKC Articles:

Hi Tom,

I'm mostly training power endurance and endurance right now, as it's sport climbing season here in the south eastern states and a lot of the routes I'm looking at are mid-upper 5.12, steep and powerful but usually with at least one really good rest (knee bars/sitting in huecos or similar). 

I'm also including one set of max hangs per week for recruitment purposes (well.. remembering how to pull hard anyway).

Does this seem like a sensible approach?  

Thanks,

Alasdair

L arammarks - on 24 Oct 2018
In reply to UKC Articles:

Tom,

Can you speak to the challenges of making significant gains in max strength as a climber on the older side?  I'm 38, with a long climbing background and several years of continuous, systematic training (with Lattice!).  The consistent and well-programmed training has unquestionably led to gains in all aspects of my climbing, including strength. However, gains in max strength for both fingers and upper body seem extremely hard-won, requiring lots of time and work to realize very small improvements.

In your experience as a climber and coach, does the trainability of strength fall off with age? I am sure there is a lot of variability in the onset of such an effect, depending on individual genetics and training history, but am wondering what you've observed.

Practically speaking, I'd like to know whether it's even realistic to set certain longer-term benchmark goals for myself, because if I extrapolate the rate of my gains into the future, the time required to get there seems rather daunting!

Thanks for doing these Q + A sessions!  They're awesome.

Aram

TomPR on 24 Oct 2018
In reply to SFrancis:

> Hi Tom,

> Maybe a little early, but I'll get my question in while i remember...

> In your app you suggest doing max hangs on a fingerboard to increase strength with 90% 1RPM and retesting every 4-8 weeks.

> I was under the impression there was a slight difference in building strength and recruiting muscles? If so what would you suggest a different protocol (possibly repeaters?) / %Bw for building as opposed to recruiting?

> If there is a difference, then I would have thought the majority of the time you should be building strength and then recruiting the muscles just before trying a project / trip? or should you just be cycling between building / recruiting?

> Cheers

So with this, I can expand a little on the practicalities of trying to give out training advice on an app! What happens when you're writing training protocols that you know people anywhere from V1-14 and 6a-9a are going to view, is that you have to work out who you're actually pitching the protocol/training method to. We talked about having our max hangs at a higher intensity 95-100% but we felt it was potentially too risky to give such an intense session out when we've only just released the app and can understand how people are using it and the demographic of that user base.

So...... 

If you're a more advanced climber who's who got a base of FB under their belt then you might look more towards:

Max hangs at 95% (time under tension approx 1 minute and broken into 10 sec reps blocks)

Repeater hangs (hypertrophy) at 80% with time under tension being around 4 minutes. A good place to start would be doing 7:3s repeaters for 1 minute sets and doing around 6 sets 

NB: The above is always dependent on the individual's history, profile and goals. For a lower experienced climber (say less than 7a) then you might do less and more experienced (say above 8a) then do more. 

 

Hope that helps guide you a bit

TomPR on 24 Oct 2018
In reply to JackM92:

> The question I have is really about the volume of climbing. Realistically is 2 sessions a week enough to make good technical progression?

100% possible IF this allows you to create overload and thus physiological adaptation. In 99% of individuals this is the case (I've trained absolutely loads of people who've only had 2 proper sessions a week) if they're able to focus AND work the most effective elements of their training. Of course, if you do the wrong thing, constantly change what you do and aren't consistent then 2 x week will not work!

 

The 1% is often the portion of the population who already have a long history of good depth in their training and 2 x week isn't enough overload. Long term they're already too physiologically adapted to the training and hence won't move forward. 

TomPR on 24 Oct 2018
In reply to Macleod:

> Hi Tom,

> I'm mostly training power endurance and endurance right now, as it's sport climbing season here in the south eastern states and a lot of the routes I'm looking at are mid-upper 5.12, steep and powerful but usually with at least one really good rest (knee bars/sitting in huecos or similar). 

> I'm also including one set of max hangs per week for recruitment purposes (well.. remembering how to pull hard anyway).

> Does this seem like a sensible approach?  

> Thanks,

> Alasdair

Yup, this is a great approach to take (I do the same myself) as the recruitment will give you more of an opportunity to maintain top end strength levels whilst climbing outside regularly. Lots of people find their finger strength has really dropped after long trips or a season outside, but in most cases it's a function of lower recruitment levels. Good thing is that it's "easy come, easy go" so it doesn't take too long to get it back in most people.

TomPR on 24 Oct 2018
In reply to arammarks:

> Tom,

> Can you speak to the challenges of making significant gains in max strength as a climber on the older side?  I'm 38, with a long climbing background and several years of continuous, systematic training (with Lattice!).  The consistent and well-programmed training has unquestionably led to gains in all aspects of my climbing, including strength. However, gains in max strength for both fingers and upper body seem extremely hard-won, requiring lots of time and work to realize very small improvements.

> In your experience as a climber and coach, does the trainability of strength fall off with age? I am sure there is a lot of variability in the onset of such an effect, depending on individual genetics and training history, but am wondering what you've observed.

> Practically speaking, I'd like to know whether it's even realistic to set certain longer-term benchmark goals for myself, because if I extrapolate the rate of my gains into the future, the time required to get there seems rather daunting!

> Thanks for doing these Q + A sessions!  They're awesome.

> Aram

Hey Aram, good to see you on here! 

Yup, you're absolutely on point here that as we get older, then strength gains are harder to make and if you were to compare 100 18yr olds and 100 40yr olds then you'd see very different results!! Unfortunately I'm in the same boat myself (I'm 38) but I have a found a few things can help push back against the body clock. Of course some of these are going to be specific to me (we're all very individual!) but I think the message is common across lots of clients I've worked with over the years. 

1. Strength gains appear to be lower in older climbers who pack A LOT into their life. Lots of work, family, travelling and stress. I definitely notice this pattern year in, year out. 

2. Climbers who do a lot of running, cycling or swimming also are often those who struggle with strength gains. I'm not totally sure whether it's a selection bias (those people are naturally endurance athletes so enjoy the CV work and end up doing lots of it) or there's a significant factor from hormone changes, nutritional demands and overall physiological stress. 

3. Sleep appears to also be a common pattern. Those who have young kids, burn the candle at both ends or travel internationally a lot also see more issues with strength. 

In contrast (and I know many people are going to say - who lives on that planet??!!) the people who are in their middling ages who don't have kids, work part-time or less, have little stress in their life, have a lot of fun and good relationships whilst also staying very FOCUSED on their sport don't have the same issues! Sorry :-D

These days I'm happy with 1-2% gain in finger strength each year. It sounds like hardly anything, but I know that if I do that consistently for 5 years then I'll be cranking 9a every day of the week

 

Si dH - on 24 Oct 2018
In reply to TomPR:

 

> If you're a more advanced climber who's who got a base of FB under their belt then you might look more towards:

> Max hangs at 95% (time under tension approx 1 minute and broken into 10 sec reps blocks)

> Repeater hangs (hypertrophy) at 80% with time under tension being around 4 minutes. A good place to start would be doing 7:3s repeaters for 1 minute sets and doing around 6 sets 

Hi Tom,  this repeater protocol appears the same as what you recommend on the app for ancap training. Does that mean one can effectively train both hypertrophy and anearobic capacity together with the same exercise? Or does it mean that depending on your physiology you'll be training either one or the other with that given exercise? If the latter, how would you test to find out where your own physiology is,  in order to make sure you are training what you want to? 

Thanks 

 

Post edited at 19:54
L Ravedave on 24 Oct 2018
In reply to UKC Articles:

Hi

I was wondering if i should only focus on one aspect (endurance, power, etc.) during one workout or mix them?

If the answer is "focusing on one aspect": always the same exercise or also mix them during the workout?

Thanks and nice greets

TomPR on 24 Oct 2018
In reply to Si dH:

Hi Si, yup you'll see strength gains when using AnCap training protocols. So effectively, you're stimulating both a metabolic and structural response to the training. I remember from talking to Alex Barrows that he also found his first season using AnCap had an impact on strength levels. 

L arammarks - on 24 Oct 2018
In reply to TomPR:

Great points, thanks for that!

Just worked it out and it looks like my finger strength has improved by about 5% over 2 years, so not bad perhaps!  (Of course my 5% is probably not much more than your 1-2%, but still )   A few more years of that and maybe i'll manage to hang the one-pad edge...

I will also say that even those small % gains FEEL really meaningful.  As in you can absolutely feel the difference in a lot of scenarios.  So thats another encouraging point.

TomPR on 24 Oct 2018
In reply to Ravedave:

If you're going after those last few percentage points of efficiency/"training return" then there's an argument to say that you shouldn't mix different forms of training into a single session (one of the reasons why lots of professional athletes tend to do split sessions across their day). In the vast majority of cases though, we're quibbling about that last marginal gain and often it's good to reflect that mixing up some sessions is a good use of time with busy individuals, it creates a variety of physical adaptations and it pushes the body to adapt to ever increasing loads (function of volume x intensity). 

I should note that climbers who've only just started on their training pathway should be very careful with how much intensity they put into the whole session and how much they mix stuff about. If in doubt, combo a VERY easy form of training with those harder training sets (like the fingerboard, system board, bouldering etc). 

TomPR on 24 Oct 2018
In reply to arammarks:

Ha, yeah I'd be very happy with 5% :-D

That should now put you into around the low 90s shouldn't it...? I think I remember you were tested at the 85/86% level. Once you see those improvements in finger strength combined with increases in both the aerobic and anaerobic function then things are looking up! Keep up the good work...

SFrancis - on 24 Oct 2018
In reply to TomPR:

Thanks for the reply. So would suggest hypertrophy as a block and then recruitment as block? Or am I wrong with the build strength and then recruit idea? 

Should i just be sticking to max hangs for maximum strength gains? 

The reason I’m asking is I’ve seen very rapid finger strength gains with max hangs that do drop off rapidly when I stop fingerboarding. Trying to workout which type to focus on during a winter training phase. 

Thanks again.

Phil_Brock - on 24 Oct 2018
In reply to UKC Articles:

Hi Tom,

Quick question r.e. training strength when injured: if one hand is out of action is it still worth training strength in the other hand whilst waiting for the other to recover? Similar question for different grip types (e.g. training open hand only if your pulleys are sore)? 

Thanks,

Phil

TomPR on 24 Oct 2018
In reply to SFrancis:

> Thanks for the reply. So would suggest hypertrophy as a block and then recruitment as block? Or am I wrong with the build strength and then recruit idea? 

> Should i just be sticking to max hangs for maximum strength gains? 

> The reason I’m asking is I’ve seen very rapid finger strength gains with max hangs that do drop off rapidly when I stop fingerboarding. Trying to workout which type to focus on during a winter training phase. 

> Thanks again.

Yes a hypertrophy focused block seconded by a recruitment focused block would be a sound approach. In my experience (and how we work with clients) is that we tend to use at least 2 methodologies for FB training in any one mesocycle. Keeps things varied and staves off stagnation, boredom and overusing certain grips/arm positions etc. 

TomPR on 24 Oct 2018
In reply to Phil_Brock:

> Hi Tom,

> Quick question r.e. training strength when injured: if one hand is out of action is it still worth training strength in the other hand whilst waiting for the other to recover? Similar question for different grip types (e.g. training open hand only if your pulleys are sore)? 

> Thanks,

> Phil

I tried this myself for 4 months one year and my weaker (uninjured hand) actually made a fair in-road into catching up with the other arm. Interestingly though, once I'd returned back to normal training again, the stronger (previously injured hand) quickly got back to its max and my weaker hand dropped off a bit... kinda annoying! Not quite sure what's going on with this. We do see in the data though, that climbers are very uneven in strength testing and anything up to around 3kg difference can be seen as a statistical norm. If I recall (off the top of my head) the greatest we've ever measured in an uninjured climber was 9kg?!

Using different grip types on the other hand DOES appear to be highly effective. Our physio Sam uses this lots with those who are in rehab cycles. We've certainly seen that using FB protocols for rehabbing injured fingers as very effective indeed. I did it for the first time this year and I've had the fastest recovery from a serious pulley injury and feel really good back in those "riskier" positions again. Happy days! I'll be doing it again if I suffer the same

 

John Aisthorpe - on 24 Oct 2018
In reply to TomPR:

I was going to ask a similar question as I currently have an injured pulley. Do you just use a different grip type that doesn't hurt when finger boarding for recovery. Or do I use normal grip position e.g half crimp bit at a much lighter intensity to normal?

 

 

TomPR on 24 Oct 2018
In reply to John Aisthorpe:

> I was going to ask a similar question as I currently have an injured pulley. Do you just use a different grip type that doesn't hurt when finger boarding for recovery. Or do I use normal grip position e.g half crimp bit at a much lighter intensity to normal?

It VERY much depends on your injury history! If you drop Sam an email he's really friendly and will talk you through options... he's worked with lots of people with finger injuries and he's a damn fine climber himself so he talks and walks, if you get what I mean

 

John Aisthorpe - on 24 Oct 2018
In reply to TomPR:

Thanks Tom, ill get in contact with Sam asap. Great article and q&a!

John

planetmarshall on 25 Oct 2018
In reply to TomPR:

> 100% possible IF this allows you to create overload and thus physiological adaptation. In 99% of individuals this is the case (I've trained absolutely loads of people who've only had 2 proper sessions a week)

I've been amazed at the progress that's possible with limited time if you take a systematic approach. I see all these people (and I don't mean elite athletes looking for marginal gains) doing high intensity training 5, 6 days a week and it just looks to me like a recipe to get injured.

abarro81 - on 25 Oct 2018
In reply to TomPR:

Yeah, me, Stu and Sparky all rate an cap for strength gains (as, presumably, do the Anderson bros, since their strength session - which I like a lot - is something I would count as quite ancappy)

 

p.s. I've had similar with training my weaker arm when my stronger arm was injured - it caught up a bit, then after a few months back to normal climbing I was back at my normal imbalance

TomPR on 25 Oct 2018
In reply to abarro81:

> Yeah, me, Stu and Sparky all rate an cap for strength gains (as, presumably, do the Anderson bros, since their strength session - which I like a lot - is something I would count as quite ancappy)

> p.s. I've had similar with training my weaker arm when my stronger arm was injured - it caught up a bit, then after a few months back to normal climbing I was back at my normal imbalance

AH that's good to hear that it wasn't just me! Ollie Torr has had some really interesting discussions with about unilateral vs bilateral strength training which he covered in his Masters research... must get it into a podcast one of these days

Phil_Brock - on 25 Oct 2018
In reply to TomPR:

Thanks for the response. Never tested my hands separately but would guess my left (dominant) hand is stronger than my right & unfortunately it's my right hand that's injured! Did it doing static three finger hangs on a 20mm edge with pinky down so suspect a lumbrical strain / tear. All four finger grips feel fine, and climbing with buddy taping is painless, so will see how gentle 4 finger FB grips feel and potentially use that to help rehab along with high volume easy climbing on big holds - might have to ask Sam for his opinion!

ollyroberts - on 25 Oct 2018
In reply to UKC Articles:

Hi Tom,

Could you give an example of a warm up prior to a max hang fingerboard session? 

Obviously the session is fairly short, ~25mins on the Crimpd app and I want to make sure make sure that I am warmed up enough for the session. 

I am quite short of time so lots of short sessions work well for me.

Cheers!

timparkin - on 25 Oct 2018
In reply to TomPR:

> In contrast (and I know many people are going to say - who lives on that planet??!!) the people who are in their middling ages who don't have kids, work part-time or less, have little stress in their life, have a lot of fun and good relationships whilst also staying very FOCUSED on their sport don't have the same issues! Sorry :-D

> These days I'm happy with 1-2% gain in finger strength each year. It sounds like hardly anything, but I know that if I do that consistently for 5 years then I'll be cranking 9a every day of the week

Hi Tom, 

I'm one of those middling ages with no kids etc but have recently moved to Ballachulish and have caught the local climbing bug. The problem is I'm 52 and haven't really been athletic at any point in my life. I've been climbing at the gym two or three times a  week for a year and just started outdoors and was wondering if there are any weak old git optimisations to look at when using your training app and the articles on here. I obviously don't want to injure myself but I don't mind spending the time getting somewhere and at least in the local gym, the next climbs I'm looking at definitely need some upper body and finger strength.

Tim

kevin stephens - on 27 Oct 2018
In reply to TomPR:

> Hey Aram, good to see you on here! 

> Yup, you're absolutely on point here that as we get older, then strength gains are harder to make and if you were to compare 100 18yr olds and 100 40yr olds then you'd see very different results!! Unfortunately I'm in the same boat myself (I'm 38) but I have a found a few things can help push back against the body clock. 

That doesn't sound ideal for someone just turned 60 hoping to turn the clock back to previous highpoints, in my case 6c back to 7b (e2/3 back to e4/5) and like a lot at my age weak for the grade or more kindly talented for our weakness  I trained a lot on circuit boards at the Works and AW last winter, which worked really well, until I tried to use my fingers!  So this winter I really need to concentrate on finger board for a time, and only 2 sessions per week to avoid injury, only using wall now and again to measure improvements.  However I would also like to build endurance at the same time, particularly in arms rather than fingers.  I'm assuming there's no harm in combining lots of pull ups on the board's jugs with finger dead hangs in the same session, or could this be counter productive?  Then after Christmas going back to the circuit boards

Thanks Tom for taking time to respond to this thread


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