how to do weight training for climbing bouldering

How to do Weight Training For Climbing?

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Weight training is common in climbing training. It consists of using extra body weight. How you add it will depend on the exercise. But if you want to apply it to climb, the most common is to use a belt or a weighted vest. These adapt to your body, respecting your movements thanks to a minimal alteration of the center of gravity.

pull up with belt or weighted vest  is a common weight training for climbing

SPECIFIC CLIMBING EXERCISES WITH WEIGHT

Directed exercises are those that are focused on the direct improvement of the climber’s performance. Included here are those exercises specific to climbing training, based on their movement patterns.

CAMPUS BOARD

Training with Campus Board is one of the most aggressive training to improve climbing. To be efficient, it must be done with a head. The intensity and difficulty of the work on the campus board are adjustable by controlling a series of parameters:

Size of the slats: The smaller, the greater the difficulty and the greater role of the grip as a limitation.
The inclination of the plane: The more it collapses, the greater the intensity.
The inclination of the slats with respect to the plane: The greater the negative angle of inclination, the more difficult it is.
The more distance between the slats, the greater effort or intensity.
Depending on the execution of the movements, with one or two arms, and ascending or descending.
Vary the speed or intersperse blocks.
But also, it can be useful to add ballast:
If you lack intensity on one side of the strip, but you don’t have or can’t stand it in the next smaller one. If you use ballast on the large slat, there will be some positive transfer over a smaller size.
To work on the power or traction force on large slats, since on small ones the grip strength limits you.
To apply the complex training method. This consists of combining two exercises, one for strength and one for power, in that order. In this way, the first enhances the second. You can do a series of weighted hangs, followed by campus boards. Surely, you will feel lighter when you remove the added weight.

The use of ballast can be harmful if you have not prepared yourself gradually. It is only recommended for climbers who have been practicing Campus Board exercises for years, as it can be very aggressive for the tendons and joints.

campus baord training is a helpful workout for improving climbing

SYSTEM WALL: HYPERGRAVITY-SPECIFIC TRAINING (HIT)

The system wall is a wall in which there are vertical rows of equal and equidistant dams. In this way, it allows you to work a type of grip in a specific and controlled way. The wall usually has an angle between 35 and 50 degrees with respect to the vertical.

Eric Horst created hypergravity-specific training (HIT), discussed in his books on training. It consists of making vertical series of movements in a single type of grip.

The climber will use ballast to adjust the intensity. Depending on the number of movements and duration of each execution, it will be more focused on strength resistance or maximum strength.

SUSPENSIONS IN MULTI-PASS BOARD

Without a doubt, the most common specific exercise among intermediate and advanced climbers is hanging on a multi-hold board. By having more control over the exercise, it is less aggressive.

The usual thing is to work the types of grip with more transfer:

Rulers of a depth in which you support your weight for a certain time. It is usual to train the grip in extension (3 or fewer fingers per hand) and semi-arch (four fingers per hand), although the ideal is to adapt it to your needs. Arching requires special attention, which can be harmful and stressful if not worked properly (You have the article on semi-arching, extension and arching holds according to scientific evidence to go deeper).
Blunt or inclined planes (slopers): They are used with the open hand and all the fingers, involving the muscles of the hand and the flexors of the wrist. This type of flat and homogeneous holds have their own peculiarities (to learn more you have the article on climbing in blunts planes and volumes).

Once you have a base, you will be able to practice more types of grip such as tweezers, bi-fingers, and single- fingers… and vary their positions and combinations.

The weight of the ballast depends on your goals:

If you are interested in training maximum strength, depending on the type of adaptations you are looking for, the intensity will range from 70% to 90%. It is normal to work with a safety margin. You also have the option of making one-arm suspensions available. Training method reserved for very experienced climbers.
They are a very good tool to train the local resistance of the finger flexors. By working them in isolation, the interference of concurrent training on strength adaptations would be less. Among the methods, you have intermittent suspensions or continuous resistance.
Positive transfers from maximum force suspensions to RFD or contact force have also been recorded.

The intensity will depend on 4 variables:

Prey size.
Ballast.
Suspension time.
Rest duration.

These variables are like the slices of a pizza. If a larger one is made, the rest will have to reduce their share. That is, if you press more on one, you will have to soften some other. How you use them will depend on your goals.

If you use weights, you will be doing it on larger prey and will decrease the time in suspension in each repetition. Avoid reaching muscle failure or your body will need more time to recover.

Scientific studies point to the climber’s grip strength as the most determining quality in his performance. If you’re just starting out, give your tendons time to get stronger by climbing first. In addition, in the beginning, technical efficiency will be more decisive in your progress.

When you start with the suspensions, reducing the size of the holds will increase their difficulty. When size begins to be a limitation, the use of ballast will come into play.

Don’t be in a hurry. Unfortunately, epiphyseal and overload injuries are very common. In most cases, they could have been avoided by properly training each person.

system wall trainig on system board is a good climbing weight excercise

ACCESSORY EXERCISES WITH WEIGHT

You can use ballast in all kinds of functional and calisthenic exercises: push-ups, squats, lunges, burpees, sit-ups or core exercises, dips on parallel bars, rings,… By not looking for a transfer of technique to climbing, the amount of ballasted weight will depend on the intensity pursued. Be careful, this does not mean that you have a bad execution technique, as it could end in injury.

The 1RM or 100% will be the maximum total load with which you can perform a single repetition with the correct technique. This is the result of the sum of your own body weight and the ballast you add.

From here, you will be able to calculate different percentages according to the objectives pursued in the training session or specific exercise, and according to the type of main muscle fibers, you want to influence:

85-100% Max Strength. Interest in maximum muscle recruitment.
60-80% Strength-endurance.
Below 60%, you will affect more on the slow or red fibers.

Each percentage has its equivalence in intensity quantification scales, which are very convenient for self-regulating training every day. Although it must be said that these percentages are not written in stone and will depend on the genetics of each climber.

WEIGHTED PULL-UPS

Weighted pull-ups are a great exercise for working on pulling power. Make the ascent (concentric phase) always with the intention of the highest possible speed. The eccentric phase (the descent), makes it controlled.

Play with the variability of the exercise: the position of the hands, the distance, and the height of the grips, one to two arms… Also vary the grips of the hands, in a supine, prone, mixed or neutral position.

ISOMETRIC LOCKS AND FRENCHIES

Weight blocks are another interesting exercise. They work on isometric strength, which is especially important in rope climbing, due to the bracing. It is convenient to train them at different angles and vary the position of the arms since the adaptations of this type of training occur in the angle and positions worked on.

Frenchies are a great upper body strength-endurance training exercise. They combine isometric contractions interspersed during the execution of pull-ups.

Start by performing a normal pull-up, but when you reach the highest position, hold the lock for 5-10 seconds. He then descends. After reaching the bottom position, he begins another pull-up without resting. This time you stop when going down when you have your arms at 45º. After 5-10 seconds, finish lowering. So, you go back to doing another pull-up. In this last, one you will block a little before reaching the final position, keeping the elbows at about 120º.

Finally, it should be noted that blocking training is not for everyone, and that going too far with the load is a common reason for overloading the elbow.

EXCENTRIC OR NEGATIVE EXERCISES

In these exercises, only the eccentric or negative part of the movement is executed. In this way, you can get to work above your 1RM, reaching 140% or more of your maximum concentric strength.

Negative pull-ups are a great pull-strength exercise. Start in the highest position of a pull-up and try to hold the descent in a controlled manner.

Depending on the case, they can serve both climbers unable to perform a pull-up and other advanced climbers who work with a supramaximal load. You can go deeper in the article on eccentric training.

TRAINING WITH WEIGHT FOR CLIMBING

Applying the ballast to the climbing activity is the method with the highest transfer. You can do it in several ways:

Training on the rock: doing routes below your maximum level to work on endurance and rhythm.
Testing a project on the rock in which the limitation comes from physical factors, such as resistance. Use a slight extra weight so as not to negatively interfere with the technical execution and stimulate the neuro-muscular connections involved in the rehearsed sequences. When you take off the ballast, you will feel like you are floating. It is not recommended if the project has harmful dams, due to the risk of injury to the fingers, or requires a very precise technical execution.
In the climbing wall, either bouldering or rope.

Regardless of the type of climbing you do, you can use ballast to:

Put it loose one day in a transverse way, to work on extra explosiveness or strength.
Or if you’re going to climb a sector without hard routes, you can motivate yourself by adding extra weight.
To train based on intervals, timing the rest. You can work on alactic capacity, lactic capacity, glycolytic resistance, aerobic capacity, or aerobic resistance.
Perform specific exercises on the wall of the climbing wall or system wall.
ASPECTS FOR TRAINING WITH WEIGHT

To climb with ballast you must take into account:

The added weight: According to David Macia (2002), if you are interested in maintaining the maximum transfer, it should not exceed 5% of your body weight. This way you will not interfere with technique and balance. Although it is not uncommon to see very established climbers on the 45º wall training with up to 10kg, which would be more than 15% of their weight. In this case, they can afford it because their tissues and joints are adapted, in addition to having enough experience so that their technical execution is not altered.
You will work with larger dams, to avoid joint overloads.
Gradually adding ballast can be a good idea to help your body get ready, both at the nervous system and at the joint level. You can fit a week with 2 kg, the next with 3 kg, and a third with 4 kg. Obviously, after a cycle in which the body has already been conditioned by working with force in a certain way.
It is not recommended for the initiation stage. Apart from the fact that the tendons are not properly strengthened, at the neuronal level that extra weight can cause a lack of coordination. You are still in the learning phase of the technique and creating the circuits of body proprioception, so altering the management of the center of gravity is not a good idea.
It is also not recommended for training growing young climbers. They will be gaining enough relative ballast with their own development.
For high-level climbers, it is a very useful tool. Especially if it is used after a strength cycle with targeted exercises, it will serve to transfer it to climbing. Once you remove your ballast and recover, you will float.
ASPECTS FOR TRAINING WITH WEIGHT

HOW TO ADD BALLAST

On the way to add the ballast, it will depend on the exercise you are going to do. It is not the same for an activity that you barely move as for another in which you need to move as freely as possible:

To do pull-ups or hangs, you can hang weight plates or a kettlebell from the belly ring of a harness. In this way, its force vector coincides with the center of gravity.
For rock climbing, campus boarding, or multi-joint calisthenics, you have three options:
A scuba-type belt, with sandbags or weights. For bouldering, by not having to use a harness, the belt can be used if there is not too much collapse. The downside is that it costs more to distribute the weight. You will notice it at the moment when your feet go off on a roof. You can now pull abdominals, which will surely fly. In addition to the fact that the lumbar part is quite loaded.
A weighted vest with weights in sandbags helps you to distribute the weight a little better. Although the trend should be towards the hip, which is where the center of gravity is, you can distribute it over a larger area.
The third option is to use a backpack to add weight. Since it alters the center of gravity, it only makes sense if your plan is to climb the long line or solo. You can also train with nuts and bolts hanging from the harness if you intend to do a traditional climbing style.
THE WEIGHTED VEST
By distributing the weight in a balanced way, it is more versatile. Even so, it is better to place the greatest amount as close to the hips as that is where the center of gravity is located.
You can progressively add the weight according to the objectives, using more or fewer sandbags.
It fits very well with the velcro closures and does not bother.
It allows you to use a harness for sport climbing, both on the climbing wall and on the rock.

There are options like this vest or this one that is great as they allow you to distribute the weight around the waist.

In the 10 kg, the sandbags are 250 g. To use it climbing is more than enough, and you can adapt the load precisely.

There is another option that, although less versatile, is more comfortable. This is another model, with a fixed weight of 2.5 kg. Thanks to its small size, you can also use it on rocks, to gradually gain resistance to your project. In addition, you will sweat much less than with the previous model.

You can see Chris Sharma training with Patxi Usobiaga wearing a weighted vest at his Barcelona gym in this video. In the workshop I attended, Patxi recommended the vest over the belt since the latter can cause lower back pain.

The use of anklets or wristbands for climbing is not common, as they negatively affect the distribution of weight with respect to the body’s center of gravity. However, they can be useful for a specific exercise. For example, use anklets to work body tension in collapse.

WHY REMOVE WEIGHT FOR TRAINING?

When training with weights, it is easy to adjust the intensity by increasing or removing weight. However, it doesn’t seem so obvious when you train with your own body.

The use of a pulley is the most widespread way among climbers to adjust the weight to the programmed intensity. You can use it for suspensions or exercises on the bar, such as pull-ups.

It is also a very useful tool to start bilateral training (pull-ups or one-arm suspensions). Some people use resistance bands, but they lack precision.

However, for climbing there is still no system that does not alter your center of gravity or the execution of movements. Top-rope climbing can help in vertical plate sequences. In those cases, the belayer can roll to help the climber.

But it is not advisable to abuse this method, since you will alter the balance mechanisms, in addition to getting used to having the rope above you, which can generate fear of climbing first.

FINAL WORDS

Weight training, properly applied, can be excellent. But you have to be careful and use it wisely. The stress on connective tissues and joints is high. Also, by increasing CNS fatigue, you can fall into overtraining. Adapt and progress loads consistently and self-regulate your workouts, day by day.

Tools like Tindeq’s Progressor allow you to make precise measurements of resistance, maximum peak force, and RFD. In this way, you will be able to discover the need to train and control the adaptations. But, also, performed intra-session, they are very useful to control fatigue.

Weight training works by increasing mechanical stress. It is high-intensity training, which can take place in a polarized approach. At the other extreme is blood flow restriction or BFR training, based on low mechanical stress but deep metabolic stress.

Keep in mind that training must be individualized. If you prefer, we can work together for personalized planning, with strategies adapted to your situation and objectives. As the threshold law says, a plan made for another person or the one you made that season years ago will not help you. Also, as you gain experience, the range of improvement gets smaller and smaller.

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