Friday, September 25, 2009

Random Training Thoughts #2

So I bust out today's X-Fit workout as hard as I can. I'm doing squat cleans alternating with some sort of ass-backards situp thing that fully messes me up. I'm grunting, dropping weights, sweating like a pig and generally making a scene without even trying. It's about as much fun as I'm going to have in a gym actually, mega. But as I cooled down I started thinking why it is that I'm in a gym on a nice day. I also got a couple of email comments this morning from people asking about winter and training plans, with a few links to various programs. I'm going to rant now:

I'm going to get real blunt here: If you want to be a better climber then damn well go climbing. Especially a better rock climber. I would bet any amount of money that if a person spent, say, 20 hours a week training and climbing hard in a structured climbing program (rock gym and outdoors) and an identical person spent 20 hours a week in a weight gym (even one promising some sort of climbing-specific program) that the actual climbing effort would destroy the gym program. Absolutely destroy it, as in 5.12 vs. 5.9, as in sending like a fiend and falling off before the first bolt on the same route. I guarantee this.

For skill-based sports, as in Glassman's quote from yesterday, practicing the sport will likely provide the strength and fitness you need (especially at a relatively low level). If you want to be a better ice climber then climb ice. If you can't do that, and it's harder because ice isn't as common as a good climbing gym, then a weight training program will help. A specific program, not a general X-Fit sorta thing (which, while it will help, I don't believe it will help as much as a focused program).

There was one program on the web supposedly designed to improve one's performance for climbing desert cracks. That program was only slightly more useful than going to a 24-hour fitness and doing bicep curls. I would take somebody and put them on a crack box for three hours a week and he or she will absolutely DESTROY any sort of non sport-trained climber (given a reasonable base fitness level...). But the funny thing about training is that we become invested in one idea about it, and the more effort we put into that idea and program the more we become invested in that idea... I'm sure everybody felt like the program worked, but only because they didn't have a control group who spent their time climbing crack boxes to then publicly kick their collective asses. Or a group that actually went outside and got coached on how to climb cracks, even better...

I do Crossfit and other forms of training for a lot of reasons ('cause it's fucking fun being a good start), but not to be a better technical climber. Time to go stack some firewood on my deck (hey, Xfit will be pretty good training for that, or is it the other way around? That's what I like about Xfit...). I train in the gym and outside of it to provide a base foundation of strong movement for all my sports and life. I expect that, in the time I spend re-building this foundation every year, my technical skills will actually become worse. Yes, worse. But I will be able to refine my general strength into specific strength and "applied strength" in the form of my various winter and spring activities. And my training will become more specific as needed. I have beaten hundreds if not thousands of athletes over the years who spent a lot more time than me doing bench press (although I have also done some of that).

This is turning into a long post, but I think all of us need to think about what we are training for (very specific to very broad goals), and honestly look at our programs to see if they are producing the results we want. And we need to measure these results as objectively as we can. For example, is the bumbly who came into your climbing gym a year ago now climbing circles around you despite all the sets you've done of squats? If your goal was to be a better climber then the bumbly has just shown he has a better program than you do. If we don't do this examination and evaluation of results then the guy pumping his tenth set of bicep curls to look better on the beach next spring is not only training more effectively than we are but also with more honesty. In fact, I'd respect Mr. Bicep Curl a lot more than the guy or gal who is doing a set of weighted pullups and claiming to be training for hard sport climbing. Seriously.

Now train. Effectively.



Gordon McArthur said...


Gordon McArthur said...

part 2: it's actually really interesting that you posted this. A good buddy of mine, whom i climb with lots...he's struggling in a few areas with his climbing. Now this strong...and ripped, but by doin curls and crazy gym stuff (like huge amounts of weight whilst doing squats, and shoulder stuff etc.). Now despite him being super strong from the gym (fitness gym), put him on a powerful move with small holds, well he's not a happy camper. So, moving on...the other day he told me that he's going to stop climbing, hit the fitness gym for several months...and saying that's going to make him a stronger climber...i don't really get it. Wouldn't focusing on your weaknesses whilst climbing make you a stronger climber?

Butch said...

I think what Will has actually discovered is not Xfit but Scott Semple The Training Nazi ;-)

Awesome set of posts-- I am gonna do xfit this winter for 3.5 months in my off-climbing season. Keep up the rants, there, Will.

Will Gadd said...

Yes. I watch the burly get schooled by the scrawny all the time in technical rock climbing. And a few other sports too.

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I'm also agree with this because it's a funny we have to invest in other ideas, but I think it's the best way to get it.