/ Power training: bouldering with a weight vest?

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Kemics - on 06 May 2014
I was listening to a podcast today about sport science. They were talking about developing strength that (rough example) if you can do 10 reps of 70kg on a bench press. If you work on max weight lifting much heavier but less reps, say for 4 reps 100kg etc once your body adapts, if you go back to 70kg you might be able to do 13-14 reps rather than 10.

I was thinking about applying this to climbing. I have for a long time plateaued massively with strength. "Just going bouldering more" is giving me no gains. I've been stuck bouldering at the same level for ages.

Recently several of my friends have dramatically improved at climbing through losing weight. Unfortunately (?) I already have a very low body fat percentage so havnt got much to shift. But I was wondering if I could replicate this with a weight vest?

Short version: if I boulder with a (15kg) weight vest will I get stronger ...or just injure myself?
JIMBO on 06 May 2014
In reply to Kemics:

Probably injure your knees or back with heavy off balance landings.
Campus or deadhang with weight to reduce the risk.
Alun - on 06 May 2014
In reply to Kemics:
You don't have bouldering grades on your profile so its its difficult to answer without knowing how much proper 'training' you do. If you have long time plateaued with strength and aren't yet following some sort of structured training system, then there are several things you can do which don't involve adding weight, such as executing a proper fingerboard training plan, or bouldering exclusively on much steeper panels indoors.

Adding weight while campusing or fingerboarding is definitely popular among higher grade climbers, but afaik it comes with a risk of injury if you are not careful.
Post edited at 22:19
KingStapo - on 06 May 2014
In reply to Kemics:

You could just enact the weight training regime outlined in your opening paragraph.
Kemics - on 06 May 2014
In reply to Alun:

alas i'm forever a punter. I'm stuck bouldering 6b..can probably get 6b+ if it suits my style or body type.

I've been bouldering the same level for around 2 years. While I focus on trad and sport more outdoors. My only indoor climbing is bouldering. Fairly consistently i've been training twice a week, as hard as I can boulder. Very little gains.

Kind of losing hope of ever climbing harder so looking for ways to shake it up. Or maybe I should just surrender, go train endurance and only do long routes
Thugitty Jugitty on 07 May 2014
In reply to Kemics:

What was the podcast? Sounds interesting.
Kemics - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Turdus torquatus:

Steve Maxwell on the Joe Rogan podcast. Steve Maxwell is a high level conditioning coach, he helps mma fighters, boxers, kick boxers etc prepare for bouts. It's a casual podcast so they also talk about the history of martial arts and other stuff they're interested in.

Also had a really cool bit about over training (I'm sure climbers do this!) so you measure your resting heart rate first thing when you wake up in the morning (he said you can get an app that measures your heart beat with iPhone works too! I'm using it now) anyway, if you have an increased heart rate in the morning it means your over training and your body is in stress. So take a day off or do active recovery.
kev74 on 07 May 2014 -
In reply to Kemics: I have tried using a 10kg weight vest and its not a pleasnt feeling it makes easy moves stupidly difficult and finger popping.So rather than going for 15 kg i would say 2 or 3 kg would be a good place to start .

Kevin Woods - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Kemics:

As far as I can see using a weight belt isn't the correct way around for you (from what I can tell by reading). Your friends are losing weight to get better so you're thinking the same. Low body fat isn't unfortunate! It's just that you're comparing yourself to friends, looking for (albeit unlikely) ways to get better since nothing seems to be working. I assume you're a good weight for your height.

But if you've been hitting the same bouldering room for a couple of years then I'd hesitantly suggest that's the reason you haven't progressed. I've seen it in myself and others that going to the same climbing wall/venue starts out great, then the results tail off until you banging off a brick ceiling. You need to go away, do something else and come back again with new perspective instead of sitting in the rut. Old climbing areas will yield new things when you come back. If you're only bouldering indoors you might have limited options in terms of where to turn.

If I could share my own perspective for a moment, bouldering at Dumbarton Rock was the biggest boost to my level I've ever had. Two important points; being surrounded by climbs in the 7th and 8th grades. And importantly being surrounded by folk trying those 7/8th grade problems.

One other thing; applying technique is a goldmine I find easier to trawl outdoors when the rock is featured enough to exploit it. Though sometimes it will take a couple (or more?) sessions on one problem for that info to soak out of the climb... Climbing centres can give you a blob here, a blob there and that's what you're given.

Anyway post getting a bit big, point is there's probably a lot more reasons for your plateau and it's possible (and based on the norm, it's probable) strength isn't the issue.

Hope I'm not being too cutting or unreasonable

Best wishes

Kemics - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Kevin Woods:

Not in the slightest no offense taken at all.

For trad climbing and sport climbing outdoors I think I have fairly good technique. At least all my 'hardest' climbs have been technical routes rather than thugging through. I can usually make a quick redpoint of 7a (sport) but cant boulder harder than v3 (my girlfriend can campus...I cant even make a single run...THIS IS MY ONLY PROBLEM! :P)

While i'd like to be stronger than my girlfriend, ultimately I'll make more gains working my power endurance...I just don't want to admit it
ti_pin_man - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Kemics:
I get the logic you started with. Mates loose weight and grade improves, you dont feel you can, so logically look at building power endurance.

I suspect looking at your replies theres a number of suggestions, my first is that the two times you climb per week are looking like 'social climbing', not a bad thing, but I fell into this trap, chatted with mates, did some climbs, tried some, fell off some, had a laugh but didnt really improve.

I broke the cycle by writting a training plan and sticking to it. Writing down a 12 week plan. Core work/approach to my wall sessions/upping the quantity and the quality/fingerboard sessions did it for me. When I returned to the social climbing I saw relative improvements and was climbing harder than friends.

Perhaps this is you main weakness, mentally you need to break this cycle of social climbing, a new venue might help or a shift into a training mentality might be the key. Only you will know.

Next I want to do something similar, increase power endurance so I'll watch this thread with interest. For me continuing the above, doing a bit of lopez weight sets plus 4x4's is the vague notion.
Post edited at 13:15
Alun - on 07 May 2014
In reply to Kevin Woods:

Great post, I agree with every word.
luke obrien - on 08 May 2014
In reply to Kemics:
I think training with additional weight might be a risky option. It is high risk on the injury front and will also compromise technique as it seems to make most people more snatchy. It's worth checking if there are specific parts of your bouldering that are holding you back eg explosive power, lock off strength, pinch strength, ability to pull on slopers etc (assuming it's not tactics and technique). Pick one or two and work on them and see if there is improvement. I know quite a few people who benefited from doing lock off exercises (eg frenchies). It's a case of keeping an eye on the result of any training and keep on mixing it up to prevent injury or stagnation.
megamonkeyman on 08 May 2014
In reply to Kemics:

Try the strength routine you've found man. I still use the gym for power training 3x per week. Try and get it as specific to climbing as possible. Forget the bench press and do weighted dips for example. Weighted pull ups etc. Follow a strength programming and you will not go wrong.

Train hard but the best bit of advice I can give as an ex power lifter is drink some chocolate milk or have a meal with protein and sugars within 30 minutes after a workout. This is very important with strength training.
John Kettle - on 08 May 2014
In reply to Kemics:

Folk using added weight successfully for bouldering training tend to use the martial arts belts that weigh about 6kg max. 15kg is a recipe for lower back, finger and shoulder injuries, and really poor technique development.
Based on your time climbing and grade level I'd say it's 99% likely to be tactics, movement and psychological issues holding you back. Purely physical issues rarely limit bouldering below f7a.
Simos on 08 May 2014 -
In reply to Kemics:

I know little about climbing in general and only do indoors bouldering these days so take the below with a lot of salt but if your body is anything like mine, you will just get injured and/or develop poor technique by using a weight vest. I have toyed with the idea too having hit similar plateaus but have decided against it.

I think even if you didn't get injured you'd probably find it largely a pointless or at least not very effective exercise - with a heavy vest on you will need to drop your grades to V1/V2 I am guessing and I don't see how that would help since you'll just be carrying more weight up juggy/easier problems. Why not just try harder problems with no weight, it's not as if you've maxed out on difficulty?

If you really want to improve I'd guess that adding a 3rd/4th session a week will help a lot, as well as starting to actually train your weaknesses specifically than just 'climbing more'. Push yourself beyond your comfort zone, climb problems you really hate climbing and make sure to also try problems above your grade, even if it means working on a couple of moves and trying to then link them together.

I am suspecting what you are experiencing is not uncommon - I focused on technique and it has helped me massively in the last 6-7 months but now that I am starting to try V4s etc I am finding that some problems just need more finger strength. I watch others that do the same problems and their technique is similar (or even worse at times) to mine but they still stick the moves I find impossible. One thing I noticed however is that they spend a much bigger % of their session trying hard problems whereas my sessions are more of a pyramid with a very wide base of easy problems and the occasional try at harder stuff (if that makes sense). It has served me well so far but I know that to improve further I do need to try a lot more harder problems that 'don't suit my style' so it's probably time to push the pyramid up a grade or so...

SteveSBlake - on 08 May 2014
In reply to Kemics:

Well, I've been around a bit, done the training malarky and all that..... So I know what I'm talking about. Take it from me, what you need to do is get a girlfriend who isn't stronger than you. Then you'll stop thinking your weak.

It so obvious it's painful. ;-)

Simos on 08 May 2014 -
In reply to Kemics:

Out of curiosity, do you crimp or openhand or both? Only asking because I noticed that many times where I fail others just crimp while I openhand 100%. Crimping feels a lot easier even though I never practiced it, it feels like it just takes a lot longer to build enough strength if you climb openhanded but of course it's much better for minimising risk of injury. Wonder what your gf does lol
Kemics - on 14 May 2014
In reply to Simos:

I over crimp most of the time. Much to my detriment. After reading '9 out of 10 climbers' I started working my open hand strength which is now slowly starting to catch up with my closed crimp.

I think I probably should work harder problems with more ferocity.

I'm almost certain it's strength holding me back, because people can show me the perfect beta for a move. And I literally just cant hold on because the holds are too small/poor for me to use.
In reply to Kemics:

Honestly, don't put weight belts on. Especially since you don't really train - I.e your idea of training is to have an indoor bouldering session. If you are really keen to improve do some fingerboard work at the start of each session.

A 2-3 sets of repeaters* at the start of every wall session for three weeks and then leave it alone for a week. Force yourself to use an open hand or half crimp grip, even of you have to use a huge hold. You'll see big gains in a short period of time. Don't follow this regime for more than a couple of months in a row, or you may break.

*from the beastmaker training bible - "Repeaters consist of hanging a grip type for 7 seconds then resting 3 seconds and then holding for another 7 seconds, this should be done for 6 to 7 reps so if you’re on a stopwatch and you start hanging at 3 seconds the finishing line is at 1 minute 10 seconds"
pebblespanker - on 15 May 2014

If you can't hang the holds on harder problems then finger strength is the most likely culprit with the caveat its small holds you are failing on. If its slopers then its contact strength. If you can hang the holds but not move between them then the culprit is probably physical strength. Get on a fingerboard and benchmark which holds you can use and which you can't before you start training regimes so you can measure progress accurately. Remember to measure progress on the same brand of board

A Fingerboard gives the safest and most consistent training environment to improve finger strength and you can set up pulley systems to take weight off to permit you to start hanging the smaller stuff. Train ALL prehensions to prevent weaknesses i.e Open Hand, Half crimp on All 4, Front 3, Back 3, etc. be careful with Back 2's - don't even think about trying to hang any Mono's. Open hand and Half crimp are the best option, full crimping is often avoided by a lot of folks in training as its got a higher injury risk for the pulleys - up to you in the end. You need to be doing two good sessions per week as a minimum and 3/4 as a absolute max. Rest is very important so ensure there are rest days between sessions. ALWAYS warm up - warm ups are critical to avoid unneccessary injuries through cold muscles/tendons. Stretching also very important (see recent UKC article on this),as are atagonistic exercises like press ups to avoid tendon issues such as tennis elbow.Do not neglect hydration during training. Always time hangs accurately; use a clock with a loud tick, or a stopwatch or similar - dont guess!

Designing and sticking to a structured plan is also key to success and far more likely to succeed that a more casual approach - Excel spreadhseets are great for designing training plans. Do not be too ambitious, only plan a level that you know you can commit to, no point planning 3 sessions a week if you only regularly have slots for 2. Decide what the target is and set a goal for the programme e.g for finger strength it might be a 6 second hand on the smallest edge os a Beastmaker 1000. Always have a rest week planned in after a block of 4-6 weeks training to allow micro injuries to recover etc.

However all this needs to be caveated against the fact that if you spend a while fingerboarding and nothing else then when you get on rock it may take a little while for the new gains to show up, don't expect to set new personal highs immediately - good luck!
Post edited at 09:54
hoodmonkey - on 15 May 2014
In reply to Kemics:

Okay, so forgive me for saying exactly what you said not to say, but I would suggest you need to do more bouldering. If you're plateauing at V3 and you don't think weight is an issue then training won't be that much use.

Boulder at least 3 times a week and focus on projecting hard problems at the very limit of your ability for at least two of those sessions. You should feel like you have worked extremely hard for these two sessions and have your other session as a volume session; do lots of easier (but not easy) problems.
Kemics - on 15 May 2014
In reply to midgets of the world unite:

I read an article about finger boarding (I think it was Dave Macleod) saying how you should rest to full recovery between reps as you're training max power so should be fresh as possible . It seems like repeaters have a very short rest time (3 secs) before you jump back on? Though I'll give your suggestion a go as I think it would be good to have a structured training plan. As I tend to just wander aimlessly round the boulder centre ;)

In reply to pebblespanker:

I think it's mostly finger strength, I'm quite happy on big powerful moves. I'm okay on closed crimps, but I struggle a lot with slopers and more open hand stuff. Strongest on pinches for some reason.

Do you do a finger board session as part of a boulder session or is it a standalone training thing?

Thanks for the responses
Fire Marshall on 15 May 2014 -
In reply to Kemics:

There are loads of things you could try, different venue, variation of problems, training plans, climb outside more, etc, most of which has been fragmented across this post from various contributors. Best things you can do are; get a plan, set some goals, get outside and climb with people who motivate you. For a consolidated look at the detail of what a training plan should include then I would suggest a book by Eric Horst called 'Training For Climbing'.

Best of luck!

In reply to Kemics:

Yep, as you've kind of guessed the repeaters are much less rest, because they're much lower intensity than the kind of maximal stuff Dave Mac is talking about. For best results you want to spend a lot of time doing this kind of sub-maximal work, and a few weeks a year doing the really high intensity stuff
Kemics - on 16 May 2014
In reply to Fire Marshall:

I've ordered the Eric Horst book, will be good to do an actual structured regime. I've got lots of time off this summer should be able to put the time aside to have a good crack at it
seankenny - on 16 May 2014
In reply to Kemics:

> I've got lots of time off this summer should be able to put the time aside to have a good crack at it

Isn't time off in the summer the holy grail of improvment as it means you can climb lots on real rock...?
abarro81 - on 16 May 2014
In reply to seankenny:
+1. Climb outside loads if you have the time, you'll almost certainly not have that time at some point in the not too distant future, which is when you return to training as it's much easier to fit around work. Feeling weak? Go bouldering outside on power orientated problems 5 times per week. Top up with deadhangs in the evening if desired.
cha1n on 16 May 2014
In reply to Kemics:

There's certainly no reason why you shouldn't be seeing good progress from bouldering indoors. I've done so and most likely at the same venue as you (I started climbing when TCA opened).

I'd be surprised if finger strength is holding you back on 6B/+ boulders if you can confidently RP 7A routes. Are you sure you have a good understanding of climbing techniques? I don't just mean knowing of the techniques themselves but knowing when to apply them. When I started climbing I read the self-coached climber and watched Neil Gresham's DVDs which really helped.

Perhaps you need to do the opposite to your mates and put on some weight (muscle), are you OK at pull-ups? I'm not saying that's essential, I could hardly do any pull-ups when I was bouldering 7A.

How often do you climb boulder problems that you can only do a few moves of? Are you climbing as steep as you can still use finger holds (not jugs). I'd say that if you're trying to improve you should be failing a lot. It's nice to have that feeling of success but that probably means you're climbing stuff that's too easy, save that for the warm-up/down.

Regarding your original question, I've read negative things about climbing in weighted vests. It can mess up your movement if your body gets used to moving with a different centre of gravity. I guess it could be handy if you often climb with lots of trad gear on a harness? I don't trad climb so can't comment on that.
Kemics - on 21 May 2014
In reply to cha1n:

Yeah no problems with pull ups. Can usually do a set of 10 without too much drama

Looking at everyone's responses, I think I don't do enough bouldering beyond my limit. I try stuff that might take a session or two. But ultimately it has to feel possible, I rarely boulder stuff i know is too hard to see if I can link a move or two

My book 'training for climbing' has arrived. I can definitely confirm I have just been going climbing and not training, I had no idea how specific and scientific it can get. I'm going to come up with a structured plan for a proper cycle and do a good volume of training, with some specific metrics so I can measure improvement/gains
cha1n on 21 May 2014
In reply to Kemics:

Hmm, sounds like you're strong enough to me! I have some friends who transition from routes to bouldering and they really find it hard to switch from 'holding on just enough to stay in balance' and pulling as hard as you can to stay on the wall. Bouldering requires much more effort than a route, so really make sure you're giving it some!

Trying stuff that takes you a couple of sessions should still see you improving in my opinion. How about you pick the style of climbing that you aren't good at and work on that?

For example, when I first started climbing steep stuff it cut my achievable climbing grade in half. The ego took a hit but after 6 months I was starting to see some real progress.

I'd really avoid getting too scientific at the grade you're trying to achieve because I'm certain you could achieve 7A with no specific training. That is unless you find training enjoyable?
SGD - on 21 May 2014
In reply to Kemics:

I had a similar problem, bouldering around V2/3 for years but this winter I've applied myself to a more structured bouldering regime at a dedicated centre and started working projects beyond my limit or should I say my comfort zone, i.e. 2 or 3 goers.

This winter my indoor bouldering grade has gone up to a consistent V5 and the occasional soft V6. This change has recently paid off with a successful 7b/+ redpoint of a steep route. My previous best was 7a+ on a slabby/techy route.

Boulder more but Boulder harder than you think you can. Work problems with others and get beta from better boulderers and watch the positions and footwork and see if it will work for you.

I know it’s telling you to suck eggs and it’s what all the literature says but for me it appears to be the way forward.

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