Power endurance progress

It is incredibly hot in Vienna. Incredibly hot! The season of sweat has arrived and the temperatures rarely drop below 30 °C anymore. I’m sitting hunched over below the 45, day in day out, sweat dropping from my eyebrows, shirt soaked and I am wondering if this is worth it.

What I’m talking about?

Power endurance training!

It’s been two weeks since I started some serious PE training and I thought this would be a good time to recapitulate how all this is going.

As I outlined before, I started with a 20-move circuit on the steep board which I could barely redpoint. I have now gotten to the point that I can redpoint it relatively comfortably on my first go of the day but performance rapidly drops on subsequent reps.

A problem that I have run into is that it is now way too hot and my hands are just too sweaty for the circuit. I have reverted to using all foot-holds instead of using small jibs only. I am also trying to extend moves rather than diminishing rest periods as this seems more productive right now. I can now do 32 moves on the steep board. When I first tried as many moves as possible about a week ago, I only managed about 25 moves. That’s an improvement!

Another thing that I realized was that my skin just can’t take 2 – 3 sessions a week on the steep board. Thus, I have integrated an alternative power endurance exercise which I do about once a week: Foot-on campusing.

For those not familiar with this exercise for PE training, Steve McClure explains it in this article.

I started out doing 1:30 minutes on / 5 minutes off and can now do 2 minutes on / 5 minutes off. Going ok, I guess.

However, I find training power endurance to be very draining, especially in the heat, and I hope that I can get out more during the next two weeks to do my PE training on real rock.

Otherwise everything is going roughly as planned.

Have a nice Tuesday everybody!
Cheers.

Belaying: the unlikely cause of injuries

Sometimes you get tweaks and niggles or light injuries and it is obvious where they come from. Say you took a weird fall while bouldering, landed awkwardly and wake-up with a stiff neck the next day. In that case, it is very obvious were that stiff neck came from.

Sometimes, however, it is a bit different. There’s some little tweak that flares up from time to time and you actually have no idea where that tweak is coming from.

Today, I want to talk about one of those ‘unlikely’ causes of small injuries or soreness that you can’t really wrap your head around: belaying.

Disclaimer: This is not a post on how to belay. If you’re not sure how to belay, get lessons from an experienced instructor. Safety always comes first!

The obvious tweak you can get from belaying all-day is belayer’s neck. It is caused by looking up all the time and usually presents itself with pain and stiffness in the neck. You can resolve this issue by wearing belay-glasses. There are also some exercises to strengthen your neck muscle and postural cues to avoid belayer’s neck (outlined here by Jared Vagy).

Another thing that happened to me recently was some sort of shoulder soreness from belaying. At first, I wasn’t sure where it was coming from but I soon identified my belaying technique as the root cause. I had pain in my right shoulder and the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint were very stiff.

For a few months now, I have been climbing with my girlfriend more regularly and as she dislikes bouldering, we’ve been going to an indoor rope-climbing wall. She exclusively topropes and wants the rope to be fairly tight most of the time. I have found that when I pull-in rope and try to keep the rope tight (I use a Grigri by the way), I often find myself in an awkward position with my arm pulling backwards and sideways with the elbow flaring out (away from my body) while I’m looking up. This motion is basically yanking on my rotator cuff and it was the cause of the stiffness I experienced.

Usually, I exclusively belay lead climber which means that I don’t really have to pull-in a lot of rope. Therefore, this is less of a problem with lead belaying.

There are two things that I did to fix this condition. First, I paid more attention to my arm when belaying. I try to keep my elbow close to my body and avoid flaring it out in order to reduce stress on my rotator cuff. Secondly, I push the rope into the Grigri with my other hand (holding the rope above the belay device) and subsequently have to pull less with my right hand. This has also helped a lot!

Sometimes, I also switch to a tube-style device for belaying. This is actually a really good solution for me because I’m left-handed. With the Grigri I have to use my right hand as the brake hand because there’s no other way to operate it. With my ATC Guide I actually use the left hand as the brake hand (belaying with an ATC was also the first belaying technique that I learned when I started climbing). This gives my right hand a rest and I can alternate between the two devices if I want to alternate hands (Don’t alternate hands if you’re right-handed and don’t use a tube-style device if you weren’t taught how to use it).

The lesson here is that you should pay attention to unlikely causes of injuries and soreness. Sometimes it is not even climbing related but could be something like the position of your mouse-arm at work.

When belaying, pay attention to your posture and observe carefully if any motion that you’re doing feels a bit awkward or likely to induce soreness. Keep your elbow close to your body when pulling in rope in order to avoid stress on your rotator cuff. Remember that safety always comes first. I could correct my belaying technique without making any sacrifices in safety. Make sure that any correction you make does not impede safety!

 

Cheers!

Training power endurance

It’s Tuesday already? Oh yes it is!

Times flying by when you’ve got a lot on your plate.

Nevermind, I promised a longer post last week and I am not one to disappoint my dear readers.

I would like to start of with some good news on the injured finger front: It hasn’t returned to full strength yet but it feels really f*cking good! I can climb relatively hard, hang from relatively small edges and don’t feel any pain in most grip positions. At times it still feels a bit insecure but I guess that’s just the name of the game.

I was able to prove how good my finger is when I was able to onsight 6c (5.11a) last Friday! This is my first onsight of the grade and I almost topped it with a redpoint of a nice 7a+ (5.12a) but botched a delicate sequence right before the top after breezing through the lower crux. I hope I will return soon and finally get my first 5.12-route.

Ok, so that’s about it on the climbing side of things. Time to talk some training!

 

Power endurance

I’m heading to Céüse in about 6 weeks and I know from experience that I will get incredibly pumped on those long, immaculate limestone routes. Thus, it is time for some power endurance (or strength endurance) training.

My approach towards this quality includes two components. The first component is frequent outdoor climbing, trying to get flashes or quick redpoints. This works power endurance and specific rock-skills (footwork, reading rock, clipping, lead-head…) at the same time and will hopefully shorten the time that I need to reacquaint myself with the climbing in Céüse.

The second component is some serious training on the steep board at my local climbing wall. You should always train specifically for your objectives in order to get optimal results. So at the start of my thought process, I figured out what type of routes I want to climb in Céüse. I came to the conclusion that I will climb routes in the 25 to 35 metre range which will be slightly overhanging, very pocketed and generally quite pumpy and sustained.

This would mean you should climb on similar terrain and on problems of similar length in order to have the perfect preparation.

I admit that a 45°-board might be a bit steeper than the walls in Céüse but that is the only option I have. Regarding grip type, I am somewhat limited because I can’t really use 2-finger pockets with my injured finger, so I decided to go for large open-hand holds instead and hope that I’ll be able to use pockets soon. I also train the index/middle-finger combo on the hangboard. An advantage of this approach is that the bigger jugs are not as friction dependend as smaller holds. At my wall, it has become unbearably hot again and I tend to grease off every hold that needs at least some amount of friction.

On the board, I set a 20 move circuit which is consistently difficult and has no distinct crux sections. If you want to get your power endurance up, it is important that you complete a certain number of moves rather than falling at some arbitrary point because a crux move was too difficult for you. The plan is to do that 20 move circuit 3 times with a certain amount of rest in between tries. This constitutes one series. After the series you take a longer rest of 10 to 15 minutes and do another series afterwards.

Initially, I will start with a 2 minute rest between sets and then gradually decrease rest times every week until I can hopefully link the circuit 3 times with no rest, making it a 60-move pump fest.

The reasoning behind eventually doing a 60 move circuit is that routes in Céüse tend to be longer climbs (from 25 metres all the way up to 60 metre monster pitches) and 60 moves roughly falls into the length of 25-35 metres.

If you want to do similar training, I’d advise you to set a very good circuit first. Spend some time on this, as it will greatly influence how effective your training will be. I took about 2 sessions to finalize my circuit and I chased multiple dead-ends in the process. Actually, I wanted to have 3 different circuits but made 2 circuits which were too hard and ended up deciding to use only the one circuit.

Another trick is to use small screw-on foot-jibs only, as this will slow down your climbing and make your pace more similar to outdoor climbing. Small footholds on a steep board also train core strength and are, in my opinion, the best way to replicate insecure foot placements outdoors.

During your sessions, pay attention to where you fall on your circuit. If you fall after only a few moves, you shouldn’t consider this attempt as a proper repetition. Take a small rest instead and try to link the circuit again. You don’t have to ‘send’ the circuit every time but you should get far enough to feel a burning pump in your forearms. If you’re sending every time, your circuit may have become too easy and you should decrease rest times. If you can link your circuit 3 times back-to-back, you should change it to make it harder.

You can increase the number of series you do in a session as you get better. This will increase work capacity and give you more quality attempts when it comes to actual outdoor climbing. My goal is to eventually do 6 series in a session, so that I can have 4 to 5 good goes on my outdoor projects in a day.

That’s everything I have to say about training power endurance for climbing right now and I’m excited to see how my plan will work out.

 

Wish me luck, have a great week and feel the pump!

 

Cheers!

Rain, climbing and taking it slow

What’s up everybody?

It’s just going to be a short post this week because I don’t have much time and last week was pretty uneventful.

An old friend visited and we planned to go climbing in Maltatal but the weather forecast pretty much destroyed our plans. It was supposed to rain four days straight. We looked for other climbing destinations all across Austria but there was no way to escape the rain.

It seemed like the only dry bits of rock were in the Vienna area, so we finally decided to stay and climb locally instead.

We got 3 days of climbing in and we only got rained on once. When I was cleaning a route, heavy rain and a small thunderstorm set in and I was able to retrieve the quickdraws just before the route would have become an unclimbable mess.

My finger kept up pretty well, although it still hurts on very small holds and (expectedly) two finger pockets. I’ll keep taking it slow but overall I’m definitely on my way restoring full strength in that finger.

Ok, I promise a longer post next week and hope y’all have fun and climb some stuff!

 

 

Cheers!

Wataaah Pocket Holds

Finger injuries all the way!

It’s Tuesday again and it’s time for another blog post! I haven’t actually climbed much last week because I stupidly injured my finger while hangboarding (as you may have read). The only climbing I did was an easy traversing session last Wednesday and very light route-climbing yesterday. Otherwise, my week was focussed on rehabbing the injury.

For those who have not read last week’s entry: I sustained what I believe to be a flexor tendon strain in my left ring finger while hanging in a 3 finger open-hand grip from the hangboard. It was initially quite painful, I didn’t have full ROM and bruising occurred in my palm but things have gradually gotten better.

Actually, I was lucky because this seems to be only a very minor strain. While holding small-ish holds last Wednesday was a little painful, I had no pain climbing yesterday. Furthermore, pressing my palm to the floor (like in a push-up position) caused pretty bad pain last week but I could happily bust out some push-ups this morning.

However, the finger is not totally fine yet. I do have less strength in that finger when using it in an open-hand grip and I feel like I could easily tweak it again if I’m not being careful. Trust will also be hard to regain.

My rehab regime consisted mainly of using power-putty and rubber bands. A key insight was that moving the finger and causing heightened blood-flow reduced the pain, increased ROM and made movement smoother. When I would wake up in the morning – not having moved my fingers for about 8 hours –, the finger felt like a rusty hinge and movement was generally more constricted. As soon as I’d do some tendon glides or similar, this would improve. Movement functioned like lubricant to make the rusty hinge open and close smoothly again.

Another tool I used, and continue to use, are these pocket grips from Wataaah:

You can thread some cord or a sling through the hole in the top and then attach weight to that sling in order to progressively load the finger. I used the mono-pocket to load my ring finger individually in an open position and the two-finger pocket to do a curling motion with my ring and pinky finger in it. This is a really great tool and my finger has progressively grown stronger again. Holding weight only with my injured finger felt very insecure when I started out but it has gotten more and more solid throughout the week. I usually performed 5 or 6 holds for about 10 seconds and 3 sets of 5 to 10 ‘curls’ about once or twice a day. Just make sure to increase the weight very slowly if you want to use something similar to rehab an injury like this.

 

Collateral ligament injury

I have another lingering finger tweak that I didn’t tell you about. It is some form of pain to the left side of my index finger at the pip-joint. It doesn’t occur all the time and mostly flares up when the finger is bent sideways or twisted in some way. This is what I believe to be a collateral ligament sprain. It has persisted for more than 6 months but the occurrence of pain and intensity varies. It doesn’t really impact my climbing and the pain generally doesn’t occur while climbing (because I don’t do finger cracks). Though very frequent climbing has made it overall worse in the past.

About three weeks ago I stumbled upon an article by Jared Vagy (The Climbing Doctor): Collateral ligament sprain (in climbing). He proposes two simple exercises to strengthen your finger muscles and rehab the sprain (see link). I have done these exercises for the past 3 weeks and my finger is much better. While the injury is not completely gone, it is notably more stable. I performed the recommended exercises almost every day although I didn’t follow a strict set and rep-scheme. Note that performing the exercises might cause slight pain in your finger (it does for me) but it should get better a few hours afterwards (that’s my experience).

Another thing that has helped was to stop taping my finger. I used to tape the finger with the H-tape method as you would do for pulley injuries. This gave me more stability and I thought it would be good. I noticed, however, that the tape somewhat constricted blood flow and that my joint would swell up and be more painful after a long climbing session. I tried climbing without tape and this has made my condition much better and I don’t feel like I’m missing anything because of not using tape. Injuries are strange things sometimes… 🙂

Alright, that was it from my bleak world of finger injuries. I hope you are all well out there and I wish you a great time climbing!

I’ll test my finger on a trip to Maltatal this weekend and I’m confident that I can at least climb some easier routes.

Cheers (and as always, click the follow-button if you like what you see)!

Beastmaker Micro Crimps

Beastmaker micro crimps, finger injury and blog update

Update: If you are looking for a full review of the Beastmaker Micros (and campus rungs) then click the link!

Look what the mailman brought last Friday:

Beastmaker Micro Crimps and Campus Rungs

Those are some nasty small crimps from the guys over at beastmaker. It’s a new product of theirs addressing the fact that there is no really small crimps Continue reading “Beastmaker micro crimps, finger injury and blog update”