/ Training for old gits

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keith-ratcliffe on 19 Jan 2014
I have been climbing for 40 years but this last year - now an OAP - I have been visiting our local wall regularly and been outdoors several times. My technique has got better - footwork, movement & body position particularly but what seems to limit my development is finger strength. I don't train in any way other than climbing but it made me wonder if there were differences in the way this works in older people. Are there effects that mean that older muscles take longer to develop strength or indeed stop getting stronger even with exercise and start to weaken? Are there specific training regimes for older people? Does anyone have any knowledge of this please?
deacondeacon - on 19 Jan 2014
In reply to keith-ratcliffe:

What is your current experience and what are your aims? Do you have particular weaknesses. Open handed, full crimps, pinches, slopers?sorry, no age related experience but I'm sure someone can help with that
remus - on 19 Jan 2014
In reply to keith-ratcliffe:

Unless you're really getting on and/or are particularly unfit I wouldn't worry about specific age related problems. Just take things slowly and watch out for signs of injury.
keith-ratcliffe on 19 Jan 2014
In reply to deacondeacon:
I can currently manage most 6as and the odd 6b - my reason for wanting to get better is that it gives me a greater scope eg My local wall has about 40 climbs of which I can do 25, if I added 6bs it would give me another 9 climbs to have a go at. I find that after I have done about 10 climbs my fingers just uncurl from the smaller holds.
keith-ratcliffe on 19 Jan 2014
In reply to remus: Thanks for this - I don't see it as a problem particularly but I was quite interested in the physiology of exercising in older people. To date I haven't had any injuries - perhaps I'm not trying hard enough!

johncook - on 19 Jan 2014
In reply to keith-ratcliffe:

I am an OAP. I have just changed technique because my arthritic fingers didn't like crimps. I did it by finding what would work on easier stuff and the building up that technique onto the harder routes. Am just on the brink of moving up from 6c to 7a. In the walls around Sheffield there are many people older than me who climb a lot harder. They have all apparently found techniques and training which allow this.
migs493 - on 19 Jan 2014
In reply to keith-ratcliffe:
You really need to start doing a little training as well as climbing. They are intrinsically different. However you don't need to do lots to see significant gains. Power endurance reps and static dead hangs are enough to start with. But the key is go slowly and don't try too much too early. These simple exercises should work for any age group. If you feel pain stop training. Don't go anywhere near campus edges until you have gained some more strength. Oh and read '9 out of 10 climbers' - this may highlight weaknesses you don't realise you have.
Post edited at 19:27
silo - on 19 Jan 2014
In reply to keith-ratcliffe:
I' know I'm only a babe in arms at forty five But I have just purchased my first finger board and I'm Loving it.I had a training session with a mate who has been using his beast maker for a couple of years and I hadn't realized just how weak I was! It was well worth shelling out.
Simos on 19 Jan 2014 -
In reply to keith-ratcliffe:

I am sure that if you ask 100 climbers what is their limiting factor, 99 will answer 'finger strength' also it seems that 6a/6b is a usual level that people get to without any specific training and then progress slows down for many. So I think age doesn't seem to be affecting your climbing in any unusual way so I wouldn't think about doing anything too specific 'for your age'.

Having said this, obviously be extra careful with injuries as they will obviously knock you out for longer than someone 50 years younger - so I would take things slowly as advised above. Also you will naturally find it a bit harder to put on muscle and if you don't train you will probably have a somewhat faster muscle wastage, so my guess that your best bet is to make sure you climb frequently and mix things up ie do a lot of easy climbs too.

Nutrition is also important, I don't know your build obviously but don't forget that keeping weight in check is as important as getting stronger.

Personally I stopped worrying about finger strength and just make sure I climb a variety of different problems focusing on technique, seems to help me a lot more than strength training did. If you want to get stronger, I would do lots of bouldering if I was in your shoes before trying finger boards and strength training...
is2 - on 19 Jan 2014
In reply to keith-ratcliffe:
I am 63, and train more since I have retired. I recognise that it takes me longer to recover especially from maximum strength and power sessions. I therefore plan what I am doing on the basis that I train aerobic capacity, core and legs and do no " hard pulling" roughly twice as often as the hard pulling and fingery sessions.
More specifically my hard sessions are either bouldering hard (for me) or working on my "board " which has a Beastmaker attached to it for finger sessions.
Working often at a fairly high intensity means that injury is a constant worry. To minimise the risk of injury I always warm up properly and have a daily routine of exercises to strengthen my shoulders, forearm antagonist muscles and core.
I am sure that I am now much stronger and fitter than a year ago, when I retired and have kept injuries to a minimum.
ti_pin_man - on 20 Jan 2014
In reply to keith-ratcliffe:

First of all, chappeau for still doing it. I once cycled with a guy about your age and decided that one of my aims was to keep as healthy and fit as him as I get older. He had my admiration.

Now in my mid 40's I have discovered bouldering and am hitting f6c and moving towards 7a. I started 'training' about 4 months ago, before that was largely social climbing.

as others have said my finger strength is my weakness and so i bought a second hand fingerboard and began to use the beastmaker app. I am slowly easing into it. its taken a while for me to mentally get the fingerboard thing. and finally I found a set I like doing but getting your head into short 7 second hangs is weird IMO. For me its something that is quite focused and thats harder than physically doing it.

Every experienced climber I spoke to says that as you get older you have to try harder, to work harder at it to improve.

maybe you should write a blog and keep a diary so that others OAP's can see any differences in training as an OAP. Set yourself a goal and go for it. Good luck.
is2 - on 20 Jan 2014
In reply to keith-ratcliffe:

If you begin training then a finger board is the obvious way to gain finger strength. Beastmaker provide an app to take you through specific training routines.

To start with you may not be able to hang the holds and if so putting your feet on a box or chair is a useful starting point. You can also stand on a set of mechanical bathroom scales and get a rough measure of how much force you are pulling with. This is awkward but useful because it allows you to assess the maximum force you can exert with each hold. To increase maximum strength you should always try to work in the range of 85-100% of this amount. Its also useful for warming up doing sets of 7s pulls at 50% of max and building up to a maximum gradually. Once established you can add a pulley system to the board to offset the amount of body weight needed to hang the hold. The pulley system is easier to use and can be operated from day one but needs you to develop an awareness of how hard you are actually pulling to ensure you are working close to max on each hold.

I also use a " Spikey" finger massager to get the blood flowing to my fingers before doing any finger workouts. On the odd time I have tweaked a finger I also found using it helped get it back in good condition quickly.

Hope this is useful.
keith-ratcliffe on 20 Jan 2014
In reply to everyone who posted:
Thank you to all of you who responded to my post on this topic, I have found it very useful.
I think that what I will do is to initially visit the wall more often say 4 times a week - I pay a monthly fee to use whenever I like so the only cost is time.
I can do a couple of climbing sessions with friends and a couple on my own each week. The solo ones will be used to do exercises and improvise some bouldering (There is no dedicated area) and traversing.
If that seems to have an effect then I may buy a fingerboard though quite where I will be allowed to fit it I don't know!
Any other comments will of course be welcome in particular I would still like to hear from anyone with a physiotherapy background who can talk about the age effects of training.

is2 - on 20 Jan 2014
In reply to keith-ratcliffe:

Not physio or climbing specific but this site (Masters athlete physiology and performance )has lots of info:

Static - on 20 Jan 2014
In reply to keith-ratcliffe:

Hi Keith
There is lots of strong evidence in physiotherapy that resistance training can improve neuromuscular performance for people of any age. The ability of muscle tissue to achieve hypertrophy does reduce as we get older but force production can increase through improved neural control.

Obviously it is sensible to build up slowly to high impact training methods such as fingerboards or campus boards. You need to give the supporting tissues (tendons, ligaments) time to adapt so don't expect instant results. Beyond that I think that training for senior athletes is the same as it is for anyone else.

Simos on 20 Jan 2014 -
In reply to keith-ratcliffe:

I think training often will make a big difference. Just bear in mind that 4 days hard climbing a week is a lot for anyone almost, so unless you keep this in mind you will likely get injured (I certainly did when I tried to up my training to 3-4 mindless hard bouldering sessions a week).

There are many ways of getting around this but the most obvious is probably to keep mixing things up and also make sure you do a lot of easy climbing too. You could for example have 2 harder sessions each week (spaced apart) and see the other 2 days almost as recovery/technique days and climb easy routes focusing on technique, do stretching/core strengthening, train antagonistic muscles etc.

Might also be worth considering doing a session of yoga if possible on one of those days - helps for balance and flexibility and I think it's an excellent way of injury-proofing yourself.
keith-ratcliffe on 21 Jan 2014
In reply to static: Thanks for your comments - good to know that I might still be able to progress plus being elevated from 'Old git' to 'Senior athlete' is really flattering!
Martin Wright - on 21 Jan 2014
In reply to keith-ratcliffe:

being elevated from 'Old git' to 'Senior athlete' is really flattering!


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