Thursday, April 9, 2015

Updated Maxipull Workout

The Red River Gorge is filled with deep, open hand holds.  Some are jugs, some are flat, and some are heinously sloping.  All of them require you to engage all four fingers along their entire length.  Oftentimes matching on deep, open hand holds is the only rest that you get.    

How can you best train for these types of holds?   

Simple design:  My first version of the max-pull board is made from a threaded connection piece of 6 inch (interior measurement, 7 inch exterior) PVC pipe.   I sanded off the ridges on the outside, cut it in half and screwed wooden feet onto the corners.   The hold surface is covered in skateboarding grip tape which overlaps the top edge of the pipe and is pinned between the wall and the top wooden feet.  This design simplifies others I have seen in the past and it is cheap to build.  Note:  you can see a band of white duct tape along the top inch of the pipe which keeps your grip lower on the pipe, making the grip more challenging and keeping an ergonomic wrist position.

Second design:  The second design uses 4 inch exterior pvc, and it allows a much deeper grip because it is mounted with almost the entire cylinder exposed.  This is better for longer duration hangs, beginners and for working endurance.  

Open hand training.  The 7 inch half cylinder produces a deep, full hand sloper for training open hand strength and endurance.  The 4 inch cylinder produces a comfy open hand hold that ranges from juggy to slopey, depending on how deep you grip it. Both of these grips have a couple of great benefits.  First, they engage the muscles used when hanging from large open hand holds.  This is very helpful at the Red and the New, but also for bouldering on open hand sandstone slopers.  Second, the depth and large surface area seems to fully engage all 4 fingers in open hand grips (unlike shallower sloping holds which neglect the pinky).  Third, you can adjust the intensity by placing your hands lower or higher on the hold.  And finally, depending on what you want to train you can use each grip for strength (by adding weight) or for endurance, by going for a series of longer  hangs.   

Note:  I also have the RPTC hangboard, which is great for edges, pockets and pinches.  However, I feel as though these "Max Pull" designs engage the forearms in ways that are more specific to both open hand slopers (like at HP 40) and in preparation for open hand endurance fests, like those on the steeper, longer routes at the RRG.  

 The particular forearm muscle that engage while gripping are determined by the angles of the wrist and finger joints.  The 7 inch max pull angle keeps your joints nearly straight.  This inspires strengthening in the muscles that let you hold low angle slopers and seems to carryover to general levels of openhand strength and endurance.

The 4 inch pipe allows you to grip with the meat of your hand (hanging partly from the callouses at the base of the fingers), as one does on large jugs.  However, because the hold is slopey, this grip eventually tires too.


  1. Short duration repeat hangs.  You can use it like other hangboard grips for training strength, either through short duration timed repeat hangs (10 seconds on, 5 seconds off), max weight hangs (by adding weight or by adjusting lower on the grip).
    1. I plan to add pulleys for removing weight and some bumps along the grip to consistently identify starting positions that are lower on the grip.
    2. If I move down just 2-3 cm this grip gets much, much harder to hold.  I really have to bear down on it.
    3. Technical insight on hard slopers-   bear down hard from the start to prevent or delay the slide and loss of position on the hold.  This seems to be the opposite from intuitions that I gathered from hanging more positive holds.  
    4. Recent pair of sets:
      1. 15/10 duty cycle X 6 reps.  5X, nth= 8seconds
      2. 15/10 X6. 5X, nth=10
  2. Long duration repeat hangs.  Currently I am using two different protocols:  
    1. Hang for maximum seconds (for me, currently about 45 seconds on rep #1), then rest for a briefer period (either 15 or 30 seconds), then hang again for as long as possible.  Repeat for a total of 3 to 7 reps per set.
      1. I rest for about 5 min between sets.
    2. Hang on 1 minute cycles, stating by hanging till your goal duty cycle, and then resting for the remainder of the minute.   At the new minute, start a new hang.  Repeat for 4-7 repetitions with a goal of getting to 7 hangs of 45 seconds with 15 seconds of rest.
      1. On the 4 inch diameter, I successfully completed 6 reps of 40 seconds, with 20 second rests.  These were challenging, but not Madness cave level challenging.  
        1. Recently I completed 7 reps of 45 second hangs fairly easily, if I allowed myself a deep grip.  The deep grip means that you can hang somewhat from the top edge of the hand as well as the fingers.
        2. I switched to a lower grip where only my fingers were hanging on.  This upped the difficulty substantially, and made the experience much more pumpy.
          1. set one:  45,45,45,45,30,25,21
          2. set two: 45,45,45,45,30,25,25
          3. According to some friends, if you can do 10 reps of these hangs you should have endurance sufficient for most routes in the Madness cave. 
  3. Stooopid pumped recovery simulator.
    1. Start with the long duration hang protocol #2, and hang until you get stoopid pumped.
      1. Once your are stoopid pumped, simulate the recover process that you would experience while "shaking out" and hanging from from a large open hand hold on a steep route. 
      2. Rest for a super brief time period, say, 2 seconds, and immediately start hanging again for a ~4 seconds, repeat. 
      3. Then, extend the rest / hang duty cycle by increasing the rest period by 2 seconds, and increasing the hang period by 2X the rest period.
      4. Repeat the recovery process at following intervals, 
        1. rest 2 / hang 4; repeat enough times to move to next level
        2. rest 4 / hang 8; repeat
        3. rest 6 / hang 12; repeat
        4. rest 8 / hang 16; repeat
        5. rest 10 / hang 20; repeat
      5. Tune the ratio of rest to hang so that you can just barely recover from the pump while alternating hangs and rests of increasing duration.  Just like you need to do while shaking on a giant open hand edge on an overhanging route. 
      6. You can also tune the process by changing the depth of your grip between shallow and deep. 
    2. There are physiological as well as tactical lessons to be gained from this protocol.  
      1. Expanding the range of you maximum pump.   You will get more pumped on the Max Pull than you ever will on a route, and the process of maxing your hangs will teach you about new levels of pump where you can still hang on. 
      2. Improved pump monitoring accuracy.  Levels of pump are like the color coding of storm severity on weather radar maps.  Feeling these levels will allow you to climb with confidence in the yellow and orange range.
        1. Blue     totally fresh
        2. Green    good but feeling it
        3. Yellow  a bit pumped
        4. Orange    pumped
        5. Red   stoopid pumped
        6. Pink   hands sliding off max pull
      3. Recovering from the brink of failure.   Sending steep, pumpy routes means recovering while hanging/resting from open hand holds with most of your weight on your hands.  
        1. Recovering while matching when pumped is like getting a giant pendulum moving.   You get a tiny rest, and then, slowly extend the period of the rests, while extending the period of the hang.  Knowing what this feels like and how to manage the recovery process are crucial skills that you can learn while training.

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