What Ondra won’t work for you, and other training tips


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The following is an excerpt from Super Climber: maximizing climbing performance, by Ian Kant and translated by Christopher Schafenacker. How to concretely improve in climbing and, more specifically, how to adjust your climbing practice to achieve your personal goals? This book takes the research and distils it into easy-to-apply training advice and offers an in-depth study of specific, structured programming.


Although we’ll talk more about each of these aspects later, we’ll start by highlighting some of the most important ideas for structuring an effective training plan.

Don’t do what other people do.

Especially when it comes to the best climbers in the world.

What Ondra or Puccio do will not work for you.

It makes no sense to imitate what elite climbers do. We’re talking about athletes with over 20 years of experience and huge levels of specific strength who follow routines that for the rest of us would be impossible.

This is why Adam Ondra refuses to give investigators details about his training (load, intensity, etc.). In his own words, “if someone does what I do, they will get hurt”.

A lot of people watch pro videos for the wrong reasons. They watch in hopes of replicating their exercises and routines when they should be looking to replicate their technique, movement, rhythm and resting patterns.

We must learn to see their precision, control, determination and determination.

Don’t believe everything you hear.

In climbing, anyone who climbs better than you will shower you with well-meaning advice. People with no training or qualifications will tell you what to eat (as if they were dieticians), how to recover from an injury (as if they were orthopedic surgeons), how to tape their fingers (as if they were physiotherapists), explain the mechanics of a movement (as if they were trained in the biomechanics of sport), give you lessons in psychology, conditioning, load, intensity, periodization, etc., etc., etc. , without any formal training.

Don’t listen to those who simply climb harder than you.

Think critically about the information you receive and the source providing it. Being a YouTuber with lots of subscribers doesn’t make you an expert. As for the specifics of rock climbing, consult qualified (graduated) coaches and don’t even let them become your doctor, dietician, etc.

Never push yourself to the point of extreme fatigue.

A good workout is about efficiency, not working your muscles to breaking point. In climbing, “no pain, no gain” is often misunderstood to mean high training volumes (thousands of aimless moves). Not only is this counterproductive to skill development, but it’s also an easy way to get injured.

Climbing is governed by an alternative principle: “No brains, no gain”.

Try hard but smart.

What follows is a study of the components and principles of training that provide a foundation for understanding how we can improve as climbers.

The latest research-based training information for climbers

What is training?

Training is a process of physical, technical and mental transformation achieved through the application of external loads with the aim of improving performance.

Based on this definition, we analyze its components.

Training is a process; that is, a series of steps, a set of successive steps occurring over time. You don’t train just by going to the climbing gym one day or spontaneously climbing outside. Training is cyclical and periodic.

We talk about transformation because training has an initial and a final stage. Climbing requires physical, technical and mental changes and therefore it is incomplete to speak only of physical improvement.

Additionally, adequate loads, volume, and intensity are necessary to generate wear, induce muscle overcompensation, and improve other factors. Performing easy movements on a wall or a rock is not enough.

Finally, this process must lead to higher levels of performance. We need to improve, send harder routes and increase our skill level. Climbing training is not about doing exercises that do not improve our specific abilities.

Training Components

Component #1: Physical activity

Component 2: Recovery/Quiet Training

When we talk about training, we tend to think of indoor or rock exercises, but this notion is incomplete.

Training has two inexorable components upon which improved interrelationship depends: (1) physical activity and (2) rest.

Component #1: Physical activity

This component refers to the physical exercise itself. Despite its name, it is not only about working on physical abilities such as strength but must also integrate technical (movement, body positioning, etc.) and mental (activation, memory, etc.) skills.

These things can be trained indoors in a climbing gym, as is most often the case, or outdoors on real rock.

Get Swole Faster With These Science-Backed Training Protocols

Training is not about strict reps, controlled loads, and timing with a stopwatch, but incorporating all of the defining elements mentioned above.

Many achieve this by simply going out to climb. They are aware of the process, they cause physical, technical and mental transformations, they take on increasing loads by trying harder and harder lines, and they achieve the goal of improving.

A notable example is Chris Sharma who, at the start of his career, was confined to a climbing gym, but then devoted himself exclusively to rock. This became especially true after his permanent installation in Spain in 2007 and this did not prevent him from following his training abroad and sending giant love in Clark Mountain, USA (2008), the first 9b (5.15b) in the history nor The hard hard 9b+ (5.15c) in 2013. This is also the approach of Dani Andrada, José Luis Palao “Primo” and many others, who have all succeeded in improving rock climbing only.

Now, not just any physical activity counts as training for rock climbing.

As we have already seen, running, cycling or yoga do not help. Climbing is what makes us better climbers, which brings us to the biggest secret of training.

The best training for rock climbing is the rock climbing itself.

Training is often separated from actual climbing when in reality they are one and the same thing. The formation rises.

The only way to improve as a climber is to climb.

Campus boarding and pull-ups can make you stronger, but they won’t make you a better climber. The strength gains obtained will have to be “transferred” to climbing. In contrast, anything you earn from climbing itself will not require any transfer.

This brings us to another essential distinction, already noted. Anything that is not escalation is complementary, supplementary or supplemental. It’s like taking a multivitamin: a good supplement but never a substitute for a healthy, balanced meal.

There are no drills or routines that make us better climbers. When considering such exercises, then, we should ask ourselves:

What can this exercise do for me that rock climbing can’t?

Finger strength training on a hangboard is perhaps the only case that has a comparative advantage.

The reason here is that rock climbing and hangboarding involve isometric contractions (fingers engage without moving). In other words, both cases involve the same action.

The hangboard provides controlled, isolated, consistent and easily measurable finger strength training. Maintaining a high degree of control over the training stimulus facilitates greater precision in the manipulation of variables, resulting in more improvement in less time and a lower risk of injury.

However, the hangboard will not provide all the benefits of real climbing (especially if you are a beginner or intermediate).

Should you train fully crimped?

So climbing, in itself, is still the best way to advance the various performance factors of our sport.

Understanding this confirms that looking for a “miracle exercise” (a magic potion) to take it to the next level is a mistake. Such an exercise does not exist because the escalation force is the result of thousands of structures working together in technical coordination to produce movements.

If complementary exercises are not as useful as is often thought, why do experienced climbers devote many hours to such routines?

Complementary exercises provide the strength needed to tolerate higher loads.

A stronger body will withstand higher loads when climbing. Stronger muscles are able to work at a higher intensity for longer.

Thus, the relationship between complementary exercises and climbing level is indirect rather than direct. Better physical condition allows us to withstand more intense climbing, which in turn leads to improvement.

Complementary exercises prevent injuries.

There is no doubt that complementary exercises strengthen the body. This does not have as much impact on the performance strength factor (because this strength is specific) as it does on the injury prevention factor.

Being clear about this involves a change in perspective regarding the purpose of doing these exercises. Lifting weights, doing pull-ups, TRX and ring training, etc. does not make us better climbers, but conditions our body so that it can improve while climbing.

In short, such training helps you get the most out of your climbing sessions by increasing your body’s ability to handle greater intensity.

However, it can also be a distraction, can consume time better spent climbing, and can exhaust your ability to recover, leading to reduced performance and possible injury.

Complementary strength training is appealing because progress is easy to measure. However, if we want to improve, we must not lose sight that the main objective is elsewhere.



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