Improving rock climbing performance requires a global training of the factors on which it depends. Achieving high strength, endurance or finger power levels is somehow useless if afterwards you don’t know how to apply them efficiently while climbing (2,5). Therefore, all these physical factors are only a part of the set of elements that must be trained to optimize your climbing performance.
This being said, and from the field of the factors of physical performance, it’s common to combine finger hang workouts or any other content that analytically imitates the typical actions and moves done in climbing, called directed contents, with those that directly involve climbing itself, called special contents. The latter allows us to develop both the performance factors related to climbing efficiency (technical, tactical and psychological) and the physical ones (7), but with a less precise control of their intensity and density. The directed contents allow a more efficient development of the targeted physical factors (4,6), or at least they can better focus the training stimuli towards the capacities that need to be developed, since a better control on all the external load parameters (volume, intensity, density…) can be achieved through them. This, in addition to the convenience that characterizes these directed means, and particularly finger hangs (6), is the reason most climbers use training approaches that combine both content types for at least a given phase of their training season.
During the phases in which you combine finger hang workouts (which may be or not those of a dynamic proposed by the App) with other contents, you must take into account the internal load, as it can condition the assimilation of your training with finger hangs. The main idea is that training more or without following certain considerations, can have a detrimental effect on your progression (figure below).
Insufficient rest time or an excessive global workload related to the stimuli frequency.
In this sense, regardless of how many training cycles with finger hangs you want to perform per year and their orientation, you must keep in mind that the intensity of the effort implied by their workouts will most of the time be high and require to be performed without previous fatigue, so we suggest you:
- always placing them at the beginning of each session, leaving the remaining contents for later,
- carrying out only light training loads the day before any finger hang workout. A schematic weekly workload distribution is proposed for different contents in the next chart,
Chart 1. Example of a weekly training/climbing distribution, and workload of each activity. FHW = finger hang workout; WL1. = light workload; WL2. = medium workload; WL3. = high workload; WL4. = heavy workload; WL5. = extreme workload; – = rest
- being always aware of your fatigue level at the beginning of each session. This will allow you to decide if you may postpone, whenever possible, the finger hang workouts to any time ahead in the same day or week. In this sense, a decrease between sessions of the workload you can sustain equal to 5% or less can be considered a normal effect of the load accumulation in the short-term, but if this value goes over 5, you should delay your finger hang workout until you’ve had enough rest, which may usually take between 12 and 24 hours. For example, if your body weight (BW) is 70 kg, stable over time, and you’re doing finger hangs using 30 kg of added weight, but in a session of the same cycle you’re unable to do them with 25 kg, then you should consider deferring that session as indicated.
The type of training or activity you’re combining with the finger hang workouts is another thing to take into account. You’ll be able to complement or enhance their effects depending on the orientation you choose for the special contents. In this regard, on the basis of the average level of indicators (ALI) obtained by self-testing, we suggest that:
- if your ALI is below 5 do parallel contents that essentially complement your finger hang workouts, meaning they should have a different orientation. For example, if your finger hangs are focused on maximum strength, then center your parallel training on endurance, and if you do finger hangs to improve endurance, then your parallel training should be oriented towards strength or grip power (bouldering for example),
- if your ALI is equal to 5 or above do the opposite, which means doing parallel contents that have an orientation similar to your training with finger hangs, thus enhancing it. For example, if your finger hangs are focused on maximum strength, then, in parallel, give priority to strength or grip power exercises like bouldering or campusing, and if you do finger hangs to improve endurance, then preferably choose other kind of endurance contents.
A schematic example of this is shown in the next chart for each capacity that can be trained. The contents that appear in addition to the finger hang workouts are only related to special contents. In the context of this example, these contents are differentiated according to their intensity, which is understood as maximum in bouldering , with a very short duration of the stimulus (1 to 10 moves), and sub-maximum in endurance activities, divided in three different levels: high intensity with a short duration (E1: 11 to 20 moves), medium/high intensity with a medium duration (E2: 26 to 60 moves) and medium/low intensity with a medium to long duration (E3: 61 to 500 or more moves).
Suggested combination of contents based on finger hangs and special training contents according to the average level of indicators (ALI).
This proposal is based on the observed positive effect that strength training work has on endurance when both qualities are trained in combination or concurrently. The effects of concurrent training have been inversely related to the sports experience (8,10,11), meaning that they tend to be lower when the experience is higher, in which case these “antagonistic” stimuli should be more separated in time. In this case, the proposal doesn’t take into account the training experience. However, since there is evidence of significant differences regarding this parameter in climbers that do different grades (1), and since a very high relationship has been shown between the grade and the indicators of the physiological profile (1), it seems more probable that someone with a higher ALI will also have a higher training experience. Even so, you should take this proposal merely as a suggestion since it hasn’t been yet scientifically tested on climbers. To find out your best content and workload combinations, you should rely on the observation of the evolution of your physiological profile over time. You can easily analyze this thanks to the self-testing records kept in the App which may help you to know what is and isn’t working for you, allowing you in a short time to optimize your efforts to a great extent.
The information given so far should let you know which contents to train additionally to the finger hangs, and when to do so, but you’ll also need to know the most appropriate workload for each of them. The finger hang workouts proposed by the App have been designed to suit whichever level you may have, always involving adaptive loads (corresponding to a 5-7 perceived effort level, which is a considerable load), and to suit your physical shape, since in most of them the external load isn’t fixed. With this in mind, you’ll need to adjust your additional workouts avoiding excessive loads that could prevent you from properly perform those based on finger hangs when they need to be done (see the previous explanations). Therefore, adjust the workload of the additional contents on this basis, using the strategies that have been pointed before on when each workout should be scheduled, on the magnitude of the previous workload, and on analyzing your current state during each session with finger hangs.
It’s hard to find the correct training settings to achieve the most effective workload that is possible since they are not only individual, but also variable, as they depend on your age, experience, sports level, the particular moment (in relation to the effects of the previous workloads), etc. Bear in mind that the most suitable workload will always be the lowest one allowing you to generate the intended adaptations, therefore the improvements you’re looking for in the short and medium term, allowing you to achieve the best progression in the long term. In order to know if this is occurring, you must do a continuous assessment of the parameters on which performance depends and that you’ve stimulated, by evaluating with a certain frequency your physiological profile through self-testing.
In any case, always adjust the load according to your goals and to the current moment in the season. For example, the progression of a very experienced high-level climber will most likely depend, mainly, on his physical-specific improvement. He should then perform workouts with higher workloads and with a higher frequency during a specific period searching a cumulative effect in the medium term, even if in the short term this could imply a drop in his performance (see figure below). This may be the best way for this climber to get the required adaptations to achieve a significant performance improvement, after of course a tapering period with a workload reduction during enough time (3,9).
Adaptation with accumulated effect (optimal/necessary at a high level)
On the other hand, medium and low-level climbers, or high-level climbers with little training experience, and generally speaking, any climber looking for a peak of performance at a particular time, should perform workouts with medium or low workloads and/or frequency, to avoid falling into a high fatigue state. This may allow them to achieve in the short-term a peak of performance, or to simply assimilate the training more easily (figure below).
Adaptation with sequential or mantained effect (optimum/adequate at medium/low level)
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