Thursday, January 29, 2015

Tracking Hangboard Workouts, Winter 2

The X axis represents time: workouts 1-8 for my second winter hangboard training cycle.  The Y axis represents "pound seconds" or number of pounds bodyweight held times seconds held, summed for both sets in the intermediate HB routine from the Rock Climber's Training Manual.  Some notable patterns:

  • I changed all* grips to more challenging locations between 4 and 5.    
    • Moved medium and small edges to the far outside of the adjustable depth edge. Or 1 to 2 finger widths wider than before.
    • Moved RP (Ring Pinky) from the jug to the deep inner 2 finger slot.
    • Moved MR (Middle Ring) to the shallow inner 2 finger, IM (Index Middle) to the shallow outer 2 finger slot.
    • Sloper is only grip that I did not make more difficult.
  • I only took 1 rest day between workouts 7 and 8
    • This means that I did not progress as much as I would have liked. 
    • However, I wanted to get one more workout in before transitioning to power. 
    • For some grips I chose slightly lighter weights for my final workout to consolidate my progress and set the foundation for my Spring HB season. 
  • This measure of weight X time is highly sensitive to drops in total seconds per set.  This means that in the future I will put extra effort into making sure I maximize my # of seconds for every rep.
    • This influences the measure especially if I fail on the 4th rep of the second set, I will make sure to put in both of the last two reps instead of skipping the 6th rep. 

Here is another view, this time with the amount of weight removed or added,
 averaged between sets 1 and 2.    

By the time I got to session 6 I felt that I wanted to stop pushing progress on weight, especially with the 2 finger grips.  I had gotten the feeling that my muscles were likely strengthening faster than my tendons and supporting tissue (the limiting sensation seemed to be in my hands rather than my forearms).   Therefore I focused more on just putting in some good, safe workouts.  I expect that in spring season in about a month I will start where I left off and edge up the weight 5 to 15 pounds per grip and see how that feels.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Season of Strength and Power

My fall season ended in early November.  I rested, did some ARC and jumped into strength training. Winter has been my season of strength and power.   A normal season in periodized training systems includes a 3 week power endurance phase and a performance phase.  However, I was curious about focusing just on strength, power, and rest during my 14 week winter season.

On the one hand, I was motivated to focus on the attributes that I lack the most (finger strength and power).  On the other, I did not want to try to schedule a performance phase with the unpredictable winter weather.

So, I scheduled two mini training seasons that each focused on building strength (hangboarding) and then power (bouldering and campusing).   I am in the final power cycle and here is what I learned so far:

  • Don't make too sudden of a change to the types of grips you train.  While warming up the other day I realized that I seldom crimp and seldom engage my thumb in order to pinch during normal climbing.  In my first winter HB cycle I included both the medium and wide pinch, and I worked these grips pretty hard, and in the process tweaked my left elbow a little bit.  I solved this by dropping the pinches from my workout and focusing on open hand and half-crimp.  
  • Don't tire yourself out needlessly.  During my first power cycle I ran into a wall of strength depletion for several days after campusing.  I learned that this was a result of doing too many sets of exercises on the campus board.  I cut my # of sets in half to about 8, and finished my workouts feeling strong.   During my second power phase I plan to keep doing more with less. 
  • Be patient with your body.  The RCTM advocates increasing the HB weight after you complete a full set at a given weight.  But I am trying to be extra patient under the assumption that muscle increases faster than connective tissue.  On a practical level this means that I take extra time before increasing my HB weight, or I repeat problems I have already done instead of ramping things up every workout.  
  • The acceleration is more fun than the top speed.  It is easy to imagine that climbing at your goal level is more enjoyable than climbing at our current level.  But I think it is more likely that the enjoyment we feel comes from the climbing process itself and the reality of progressing towards goals.   
  • You don't need a performance cycle in your climbing season.  By skipping the performance cycle I have had greater opportunity to enjoy the process and maximize the quality of my growth.  This winter I have climbed outside, I have climbed indoors, and I have trained.  However, every climbing day was one where I did not have any particular performance outcomes wrapped around the experience.  The lack of a grand performance goal added to my enjoyment, and I think, helped my extend my slow steady process of learning and getting stronger.  

Two weeks ago I repeated a 5.10a route I had first climbed 2 years ago.  This time every single hold felt big, and I was comfortable to climb slowly and enjoy it.  I did not send any new routes that day but I could feel and enjoy the progress that had caused that route to feel so smooth and easy. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Dojo Progress 2008 to 2015

The Dojo takes up about 2/3 of a 20 by 26 foot rectangular room.  The climbing surfaces in the Dojo total to about 580 square feet. There are about 1302 holds on the walls, with 34 built in holds including 2 hand cracks.

About 470 of those holds are homemade.  I made most of them with wood, the rest are PVC.  I concentrated on generic holds that I needed lots of:  for jugs I made handlebars, for edges I used handrail with variable depth backing, for footholds I used small sections of moulding.   For pinches I use wide gauge pvc pipe and doubled chunks of 2X3's.

I made some other jugs using sections of 2x6 mounted on an angled backing.   I concentrated on holds that I could mass produce-- making 6 to 20 nearly identical holds at a time.

Initially I sought out two types of manufactured holds: (1) low cost holds (2) high quality holds in interesting shapes that I could not make myself.  The following lists are not in a particular order, just the order that they occurred to me.

Helpful low cost holds: 

1.  ebay.  This option is hit or miss, I did get a few good deals, including a giant set of SoIll holds, all in the same color of blue.   Not all of these holds were ideal for my wall, given the generally steep angles, but they were serviceable enough.

2. Synrock.  Synrock had the best price per hold of any brand I ordered.   I focused on two types that seemed most valuable for my wall--  the cobbles and the screw on sets.  I am really happy with these work horse holds for less than $2 per hold, these sets filled in a lot of key roles on my wall. I filled in lots of helping hold positions and footholds with these, and they work great.

3.  Three ball.  I ordered some jugs and some edges from 3Ball.  The jugs in the sets I ordered had narrow radius edges, and tend to be sharp, unless positioned in the most favorable positions. I am sure they have options better than the ones I selected, but I just guessed badly at first.

4. Lowes.   The homemade wooden and pvc holds are king for price and function.  I do not understand why more people do not make more of their own holds for their home wall. I made dozens of mass produced holds, and I also made a slew of cool unique holds as well.

5. Atomik.  Sales posted online.  I got some of the Atomik rails on sale as well some sloping edges and some little orange crimps.  It is always a good idea to follow the FB page of all hold companies that interest you in case a good sale comes up.

6.  Extras from gyms.  A big thanks to Tony at Kinetic for hooking us up with some older holds that no longer fit the color plan.  Your local gym will eventually have hold for sale and this is a good way to get good prices on several holds at a time.

7.  I am not joking about Lowes.  You can never have too many holds on your home wall.  Most people do not have nearly enough holds on their home walls- not even close.  This seems crazy to me, given the fact that they went through the trouble to make the wall in the first place.  With nothing more than power drill with a sanding disc and a hand saw, they could make dozens of great holds.

Even in the first couple months after construction (see "before" photos above) the Dojo had a higher hold density than I see on many home walls.  Of course I knew at the time that that density was completely insufficient, but I needed some time to make and find the right holds for our setup. Homemade holds just take time and the willingness to sweep up some sawdust.  See the DIY link above for more hold making links.

Awesome cool holds that I am really glad that I have:

Giant holds, aka monsters, or Kaiju

1.  Etch.  I have two giant holds from Etch, Bigworm and T-Rex.  These have been mainstays for interesting holds that bring a little 3D to the wall.

2. Urban Plastix.  I have the first Tremor and the Full Service.  These add great 3D potential as well.

3. Kilter Teagan Kaiju 1,2,3.  We just got these a couple weeks ago and we are so psyched.  They add 3D potential to any space and they create that wonderful quality that you usually only find in outdoor boulder problems at someplace like Hueco:  creative uncertainty about how to use them best, even though they are the biggest holds on the wall.  They are huge but filled with subtlety.

4. eGrips.  Tufas.  I got two of the single Tufas and I really like them when they are placed near an arete.  I have both of them in the path of our standard endurance traverses, and they can make both good rest jugs and heel hooks around the corners.

5.  Atomik.  Moon XXL set.  These are not quite Kaiju scale but these are great shapes with interesting details due to the craters.

Super helpful sets: 

1.  Urban Plastix Ribbon pinches.  These are some of my favorite holds at the Dojo.  They make great challenging / interesting holds on the 50 degree wall.  Plus they are compact and do not waste material.

2.  eGrips. Bubble Wrap ledges.  Mini Loaves. Comfy crimps.  I love these sets.  I could probably be happy with 3 more sets of bubble wrap ledges.  The mini loaves are a varied set of small pinches that you can fit into the spaces between the larger holds.  Comfy crimps are great little directional incuts.  And for thin holds, especially on less steep walls, I really enjoy the options given by the moon crimps, hueco patina flakes, pure slap slopers and the midnight desert crimps. eGrips has lots of other great shapes, I just concentrated on some of the more challenging holds from them.

3.  Kilter.  I need to look up the exact sets that we have here at the Dojo, but I have some great Teagans, sandstones, winters, and Noahs.  It is impossible to go wrong with Kilter holds but I am especially enamored with the Teagans.  The smalls, mediums and larges all offer that same uncertainty about how best to use them that I really love about the Kaiju Teagans. I will make a whole post about the new Kilter sets that I got this fall as well as about several more sets that I would like to get.

4.  Atomik.  I really like the system wall pinches, edges, jugs, and large system tiles from Atomik.  The 2 and 3 finger pockets are good, especially the Yaniro pockets.  I have the original Yaniro pockets, but the Atomik is now able to make the historic Yaniro pockets and pinches (and other holds). We have a couple sets of the Font slopers and pinches as well.  The Font sets are great holds to have on your wall, especially on aretes and around subtle corners.


1.  Kilter.  We bought the Noah small 2 I believe.  I need to check order form, but these are super holds for practicing your backstep pivots.  Smooth, rounded and with great texture.

2.  eGrips. Sandstone chips are awesome technical footchips.  They are screw on so you can add them wherever they are needed.  eGrips also makes some great bolt on feet, including the buttons and discs.  Both of which I wish I had, but have not yet gotten for the Dojo.

3.  Atomik.  We got a good price on some screw on jibs from Atomik.  You can never have too many foot jibs.

4.  Lowes.  I made several dozen foot chips from different types of oak and pine moulding.  I marked short lengths from an 8 foot section, pre-drilled, cut, and sanded them 2 dozen at a time.