Rachel

13th Feb 2008

Question:

I have been climbing for around 3 years now and have started trying to improve my grade by doing some focused training. My goals are to onsight F6c indoors and F6b+ outdoors this spring. I have a trip to Buoux planned in late March where I would like to try this.

My hardest onsight outdoors is F6b, which was in Morocco in Dec 2007 where the grades are soft and F6a+ in Wales and Spain last summer.

My hardest lead indoors is F6c and F6b+ (again soft ones!!).

What sort of training would you recommend to improve my grade?

At the moment I do one session of bouldering each week and 2 routes sessions (all indoors, rubbish weather!).

Do you think it would help to start doing strength training like dead hangs or pull-ups? The standard advice seems to be that you shouldn't start that sort of training until you get on much harder grades, F7a and upwards. Do you agree with this? Most advice is aimed at men, who are naturally much stronger and leaner so do you think women should start campussing when they climb less than F7a? Do you campus? Really what I'm after is your opinion on whether women should think about training differently to men. I've tried pull ups and hang off the biggest campus rung then pulling up to the next one, and next one, and next one. Clearly I am less good at it than men but I thought I saw improvements and the next time I got on a route indoors I felt stronger.

Answer:

Wow there is a lot of interesting information here. I will try to answer it succinctly.

Firstly, you seem to be climbing slightly harder indoors than out. This is unusual in that the majority of climbers will find it easier to climb harder outside than in, as the angles don’t tend to be as steep outdoors. This obviously depends on the venues you climb at and possibly the pitching of grades.

So it sounds like you already have a good base strength to work with and the fact you have already tried foot free pulls and pull ups would indicate your body is up to it.

I would rarely suggest campussing as a way to improve your climbing, unless the climber has already got to the mid f7’s and is struggling to make improvements.

Campussing is a good way to make gains but it is also a mine field for injuries.

There are many ways to improve your climbing. I have done a very small amount of campussing (as I know power is my main weakness) and have always been extremely careful, as I know my body struggles to cope with the high rigours of it. So the key is to know your body and understand what it can handle.

I would not suggest women start campussing if they aren’t climbing in the f7’s, as the body won’t be ready. Guys naturally have a denser and stronger musculature and their bodies will be able to campus sooner, they still get injured though. A lot of people do too much too soon and injure their elbows.

I would suggest you do some climbing specific weights. This will have a two-fold benefit:

You will gain increased strength for climbing and be able to tough it out longer on climbs and do harder moves.

But also, weights will prepare your body to be able to cope with a harder standard of training.

I found when I was working my way up through the grades, that doing foot free moves within a bouldering session helped my strength. On jugs at first. If you have some easy problems on the wall, try to do them foot free.

Traverses are good for this too. If you traverse foot free, the movements aren’t too full on upwards but you will really be working your locking strength and it also works your core too.

Also, another way to increase your power is to climb problems in your trainers (make sure they are clean first!). This obviously increases the force on the upper body and makes you pull harder and in some cases climb more dynamically too.

These techniques combined with weights will definitely increase your strength and help your climbing improve. But the best bit is that you are still climbing and working on your technique. If you are not careful with campussing, you can start neglecting your climbing movement work. It is essential to rest properly after campussing and not do too much.

If you really want to do it, start with one half hour session a week and build up slowly.