Hangboards + Climbing

First rule: never walk by a hangboard (or pull-up bar, or rings, or any sturdy door frame) without doing a pull-up. No but really, unless you’re resting, just do it. Mastering the pull-up is essential to leveling up your climbing game.

But seriously, don’t forget about climbing in all your #couchtocrush training. A lot of fitness plans tend to slack out on the climbing part of it all – but I can guarantee you that the single best way to become a better climber is to climb. Incorporating hangboarding and climbing ‘games’ is key to a successful fitness routine:

Couch To Crush Guide to Climbing Training – Hangboard Training and Climbing

HANGBOARDS

My hangboard circuits have been fairly standard thus far while I build my finger strength back up. As is outlined in Deadpoint Mag’s Fit For Fall in 4 Weeks plan, I choose six different hangboard positions per session. Each set of hangs goes like this:

For your first rep, gently hang from the chosen grips for 10 seconds (start with the harder and move towards easier holds). Drop, and rest for five seconds before pulling on again. Repeat six times per position. Once you’ve completed the set, rest for two minutes.

Here are some tips for hangboards:

  • Your arms and shoulders should be engaged, but not totally locked off. They’re called ‘hangs’ for a reason, folks.
  • Work with a partner. It’s great to have someone to help keep time and make hangboarding a bit less tedious. A stopwatch is really helpful, especially if you can prop it up somewhere you can keep an eye on it while hanging.
  • Don’t overdo it. I usually do hangboard training once a week. In winter when I’m not climbing as much, twice a week is totally fine if you’re up to it. You want to strength your fingers, but you don’t want to overwork them – that’s how injuries happen, and “I busted my tendon on a hangboard” makes for a really crappy reason to get sidelined.
  • Give yourself a decent rest after every hangboard session. You can train hard all you want, but you won’t give your body time to properly recover (and get stronger) without resting. Work hard, rest hard.

Check out this post from Evening Sends for a truly excellent guide to hangboarding that includes everything from tips on proper form to adding weight for additional intensity. Steph Davis also offers some great advice on hangboard training (along with an alternative hangs circuit), and this video from Chris Webb Parsons shows you how to level up your hangboard game with one-armed assisted hangs:

If you’re really committed to your hangboard training, read this post on TrainingBeta.com written by the authors of The Rock Climber’s Training Manual. Mark and Mike Anderson provide a deep look into choosing the right hangboard, exercises, and grip positions.

CLIMBING GAMES + WORKOUTS

Here are a few of my favorite ways to incorporate intentional climbing sessions into your training:

  1. Bottoms Up: I use this to warm up a lot, and sometimes spend my whole day playing along until I max out – start a V0, and climb every line of that grade until you progress to the next level. In addition to really warming your muscles up, it provides a great bout of endurance training.
  2. Hop on the Systems Board: Just like campus boards, when I get on a systems board I always get a slice of humble pie right to the face. This thing will really whip you into shape – and you can make it a game with your partner. Grab a long stick brush, and while your partner is on the wall, point out each next hold for them to reach. Keep your core engaged, and really focus on your body movement.
  3. 4x4s: The perfect ‘game’ for the climber who wants a solid pump in a short period of time. Pick four boulder problems that sit within the range that’s pushing your limits (but not quite at them). I climb at an upper limit of about V5-6, so my ideal 4×4 would include a mix of V3-4s. Do each circuit as quickly as possible – and don’t be afraid about falling, because you absolutely should be if you’re pushing hard enough! 4x4s work your power endurance, and should leave you feeling pleasantly wiped out.
    1. Note: These can be a little difficult to do in a packed gym! I head to Movement Denver at 7 AM most mornings to avoid the crowds.
  4. Add-On: A great activity for when you’re not in try-hard-project-sending mode, add-on is a group game where each player takes a turn adding a move to the sequence. The game continues with players disqualified if they cannot complete the sequence, or forget any of the moves.

Climbing training at Movement Denver.Whatever you have to do to get yourself on the wall, don’t forget that the most important part of training for climbing is the part where you actually climb. You’re lifting weights, eating right, and working hard for one reason: to become a better climber.

Additional Resources:

Be sure to share your training photos on Instagram +Twitter with the #couchtocrush hashtag for a chance to win sweet climbing swag!

Go from #CouchtoCrush to Save The South!

It’s the second day of spring, and I am feelin’ fresh. Yesterday involved a little core training and a trail running session with Heather from A Colorado Gal, and today I’ve already gotten in some climbing and foam rolling. I’ve been extra motivated in my Couch-to-Crush training lately – and for good reason.

Tally Rock Gym’s 5th annual
Save The South Bouldering Comp is on the 28th!Tallahassee Rock Gym Save The South

I had originally planned on finally competing (always the organizer, never the climber), but since I’m emceeing again, I’ve decided to just climb for fun – but the event has still been a great source of inspiration.

Whether you’re training for Save The South, or just want to finally send a project at your local crag, pick a goal to look forward to. It’ll help keep you motivated, and give you a reason to get up and get movin’ on those mornings when your bed feels particularly cozy.

In honor of my favorite climbing event of all-time, I’ve put together a Save The South training workout. The climbs at Tally Rock Gym really engage your upper body and core, so this circuit focuses on arms and abs. Start your session with 20 minutes of cardio (or 30 minutes of bouldering), then launch into the workout below. Top your day off with some foam rolling and 15 minutes with your rice bucket – and bam, you’re one step closer to crushing.

The Save The South #CouchtoCrush Climbing Training Workout

If you want to kick things up a notch: do crunchy frogs instead of knee-ups, and grab a weighted ball to bounce during each Russian twist rep.

To celebrate the training season, the first #CouchtoCrush giveaway is dedicated to everyone gearing up for Save The South. I’ll be bringing a few prize packages down to the event, including this one:

#CouchtoCrush Giveaway

Wanna get your hands on a gorgeous handmade Kendal Jackson chalkbag, Nature Valley’s new Nut Crisp bars, ClimbOn salve and tape (you know, for all the outdoors crushing you’re about to do)? Share your training + climbing journey with the #CouchtoCrush hashtag! And, for the rest of the training series, anyone who tags #SaveTheSouth in their photos gets an extra entry to the giveaways. I’ll announce the winner of this package at the comp!

I’m so excited about Save The South next weekend. It’s an incredible fundraiser for the Southeastern Climbers Coalition, and the road trip down to Florida is going to be the perfect way to welcome spring. Big love to all the sponsors who are supporting Save The South – y’all rock:

Moja Gear, So iLL, The Crash PadKendal Jackson Bags,
Dirtbag ClimbersRock Candy HoldsMad Rock ClimbingGrassLands Brewing Company,
Teknik Handholds IncEvolvAlternative Baking Company, Momo’s PizzaSurepaw Dog Gear, and more!

PS: If you’re a southeastern climber, or just looking for an excuse to visit the greatest rock gym ever built, register for Save The South ASAP! You can stop by TRG in person, or pre-register on the phone, or sign up the morning of the event. I can’t wait to see everyone there for a weekend of Tallahassee Rock Gym southern lovin’. Pass me the corn nuggets!

Ricebuckets + Foamrolling

Part of training is falling in love with the way you feel when your body is active. You should also really enjoy the activities you engage it during your workouts (and recovery). We all play favorites, and for me, the best part of my daily routine is spending some quality time with my rice bucket and foam roller. Bonus points if you add accu-pressure rings to your daily routine too!

The #CouchtoCrush climbing training guide to foamrolling and rice bucket workouts.

RICEBUCKETS

It’s admittedly a bit messy, but I’ll swear by it. Foam rolling helps you strengthen all those extensor muscles in your forearms, and creates balance in your body strength. Arms and hands are pretty damn important to climbers, you know. DeadPoint Magazine offers great descriptions of all the ricebucket movements and outline of a great workout to accompany this classic video by Steve Edwards:

I find that rice bucket sessions can be incredibly relaxing and almost meditative. I’ll just dig my hands into the rice whenever I’m sitting around binging on Netflix, chatting wtih my housemates, or watching climbing videos. I start going through the motions, direct my gaze elsewhere, and bam! before I know it 20 minutes have passed and I’m pleasantly pumped. My favorite moves include:

  • The Swirl: Submerge your fists deep in the bucket, and roll your wrists while churning the rice and engaging your shoulders.
  • Side-to-Sides: Again with fists buried in the rice, move your wrists from left to right for one minute, then forward and backwards for one minute.
  • Make A Fist: Grab a big fistful of rice, and squeeze it as hard as you can.
  • Fists-Up Dig: With your fists facing palms-up, dig deep into the edge of the bucket closest to you, and really engage your arms/biceps as you pull upwards towards the opposite side of the bucket before digging back in again.

For additional viewing, check out this rice bucket forearm workout video (specifically for baseball players, but still good). If you really want to get weird, there’s a video called “Dirty Rice” for power lifters.

Fair warning: If you have a dog, your dog might end up eating a lot of rice when you aren’t looking – which means pooping a lot of rice. Or, if you have mice living in your house, they’ll totally poop in your rice bucket. I may or may not know all of this from unpleasant personal experience. Consider keeping a lid over your bucket when not in use.

FOAM ROLLING

Just ask Vikki from The RV Project, who will readily profess her undying love for foam rollers; this seemingly weird tool works wonders for your body. The first time you foam roll while sore, you might actually shed a few tears – and then you’ll wake up the next day feeling brand new. Foam rolling invigorates blood flow and helps your body bring nutrients to your muscles.

For a basic guide to the various areas you can target using a roam roller, this post from The Clymb is a great place to start. You can obviously work your back, but the foam roller is also a great tool for your hamstrings, lats, quadriceps, and more. Climb On Sister offers a more in-depth look at foam rolling, which is accompanied by this excellent video:

Before you go out and buy a foam roller, learn about the different options you have and what you should look for. This informative post by Sarah Groman that delves into considerations like areas of the body to target, intensity, and product quality. Her preference is the Thera-Roll, which features ridges for “deeper tissue pressure.” Personally, I’m a fan of smooth foam rollers for every day use, but I haven’t spent enough time testing my options. Check to see if your local rock gym has foam rollers for use, and test theirs out before purchasing your own.

Incorporating rice buckets and foam rolling into your Couch-to-Crush training plan is a great way to provide your body with a stimulating way to recover and refresh yourself. Once you get started with training and figure out a good daily groove for yourself, it gets easier and easier to keep up with fitness elements like these in your routine. Get after it!

Don’t forget to share your training + climbing photos on Instagram + Twitter with the #couchtocrush hashtag – you could win gear like ClimbOn! skin salve, handcrafted Kendal Jackson Bags chalkbags, and more!

Getting Started

Training is what you make it, and sometimes it’s intimidating to figure out where to get started. Yeah, of course we all want to be lifting our bodyweight from the first time we lift that barbell – but that’s just not going to happen. Beginnings tend to be humble. That’s totally okay. Facts only: On my first day in the weight room, I struggled through bicep curls with 7.5 lb dumbbells. One of the worst things you can do to yourself is to go too hard from the start. You’ve been living the couch potato life, you can’t expect your body to crush just yet. Take it easy, and find pride in the fact that you’re here doing it and pushing yourself closer to crush-mode.

#couchtocrush guide to getting started with climbing training

You have to get started somewhere, here’s how to do it right:

  • Always warm up. I like to start my sessions with 20-60 minutes of cardio or (easy) bouldering. A good warm up session will activate your body and help you prevent injury.
  • Remember to breathe. This is a big issue for me with climbing in general – I always concentrate so hard on what I’m doing that I forget to breathe. Focus on your breath and form while working out. Hop on a treadmill or elliptical, climb a few laps on auto-belay, take a jog around the block – whatever works for you.
  • Drink water – drink all the water! Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Your body is going to be working hard, so make sure you keep it well hydrated. You’ll perform better and feel better. Aim for a gallon a day (the health benefits are plentiful for those of us who are properly hydrated).
  • Mix things up. From triggering different parts of your body to just keeping things exciting, I’m a big advocate for switching things up during your training sessions. Create a schedule that combines lifting, climbing, core training, hangboards, cardio, yoga, and recovery exercises. Combine two on days when you’re feeling strong, and don’t be afraid to swap a lift day for some yoga if your body really isn’t feelin’ it.
  • Train with a partner. I’ve done many training/workout/climbing plans, and this is the first one I’ve ever actually committed to in the long run – largely because I have a great training partner. Our lady-time gym sessions have up to four of us at a time, and we text each other throughout the week about our upcoming sessions. Training partners provide excellent accountability and motivation.

When my training day includes some time in the weight room at the gym (which I do about 3 times a week), the workout goes as follows: First, drink water (and top off your water bottle). Begin with 10-20 minutes of cardio until you break a sweat. Drink more water and stretch out a bit. Then do three sets of three different exercises, 10-12 reps per exercise. Cool down with 10-15 minutes of light core exercises and active yoga.

Here’s a quick 9-exercise workout to get you started with weights:Arms and shoulders workout guide for the #couchtocrush climbing training.

Start sharing your training photos on Instagram + Twitter with the #couchtocrush hashtag – you could win gear like ClimbOn! skin salve, handcrafted Kendal Jackson Bags chalkbags, and more!

Note: I shouldn’t even have to be saying this – but I’m not a personal trainer, nor a nutritionist. I’m a climber who wants to climb better, and I’m sharing what works for me. Proceed at your own risk. Except for the drink more water thing, you shouldn’t have to question my authority on that one. 

The #CouchtoCrush Challenge

The idea of going from couch potato status to crush-mode began back in September when I got a ludicrous idea to sign myself up for a hefty birthday challenge after a six-month break from climbing. I trained and tried my hardest – but after my birthday, afternoon sessions at the climbing gym were quickly replaced with a new job and new obstacles (read: new excuses).

About a month ago, I found myself back in the gym. This time, I had a partner to keep me accountable, a steady work schedule to plan around, and a membership at a rock gym complete with a fitness area, yoga studio, cycling room, crossfit box, and the works. It’s been a transformative experience, and a lot of readers expressed interest in a post about what my training consists of – so I decided to turn it into a series of #couchtocrush guides.

#couchtocrush climbing training guide What’s in the #couchtocrush guide series?

Getting Started

Ricebuckets + Foam-rolling

Core Training

Climbing + Hangboards

Fitness-ing

Nutrition

Recovery + Injury

I’m certainly no expert, so I combined my experiences with resources from around the climbing community to help you educate yourself on how to create your ultimate #couchtocrush training plan. I’ve been pushing myself with the goal of getting back in shape in time for Tally Rock Gym’s annual Save The South bouldering competition – what’s your reason for going from #couchtocrush?

Be sure to share your training photos on Instagram + Twitter with the #couchtocrush hashtag – I’ll be selecting the best photos for a chance to win prizes like ClimbOn! skin salve, handcrafted Kendal Jackson Bags chalkbags, and more!

The main guides will roll out starting tomorrow, but since so many people asked about my workouts, here’s a bonus post about getting started with a few quick breakdown of one of my morning circuits with Heather. A few quick tips? Drink a lot of water. Start waking up earlier. Think about what you’re putting into your body (and how you can be healthier). Climb with intention at the rock gym. And do more yoga while you’re at it. 

The most important part of the plan? Commit. Get up and get yourself to the gym. Just do it. I schlep myself to Movement Denver at 7:00 AM on weekdays mornings – always sans make-up, sometimes with pillow lines on my face, usually still half-asleep. But I get there, and after a few minutes of grumbling, I’m always stoked to train. Let’s do this!

Update on my Triple Crown climbing training (and failures) – and a GIVEAWAY!

Exactly 13 days ago, I began my four-week training effort to prepare me for the Triple Crown Bouldering Series competition at Hound Ears in North Carolina on October 6th. My original inspiration came from the “Fit for Fall in 4 Weeks” training program published on DPMclimbing.com

But it didn’t work so well.

Yes, that’s right, I failed at adhering to the program’s daily regimen. I began the first few days doing exactly what the training schedule called for, which totally whooped my rear end, but quickly realized that this cookie-cutter plan wasn’t going to work for my personal goals. There is one glaring reason why I have decided to make some changes to my 30-day training program:

The schedule didn’t include daily climbing.

In fact, the ONE day at the end of the four weeks that called for a real climbing day insisted that I not “go all out” on any projects. Uh, that’s just not going to happen. There were three ‘light’ climbing days spread out over the last two weeks, but let’s get real – I need to climb, every day.

While I definitely think that the Fit for Fall in 4 Weeks program is a great training method, it’s simply not the one for me at this point in time. It would be an ideal thing to do if I was feeling a bit burnt out on climbing and wanted to switch up my fitness, but right now, I’m psyched on climbing, and can’t bear to pull myself away from my projects.

So I’m changing things up a bit.

I really liked a lot of aspects of the original plan, and I’m going to stick with the factors that worked for me, like drinking a gallon of water every day, cutting out junk/processed foods, incorporating frequent aerobic exercising into my week, and balancing those lighter aerobic days with intense workout days. But, my friends, there will be climbing.

 Here’s what I’ve been doing:

  • Morning hangboard sessions: I am fortunate enough to live with a group of dirtbag climber boys, so I have a little woodie climbing wall and hangboard set up on the front porch. Each morning, I begin my day with a series of hangs, and a little circuit of lock-offs and movements on the wall. With stretching before and after, of course. I’ll be doing this at least four days a week.
  • Aerobic exercise: To round out all the workouts and climbing days, I really enjoy the aerobics encouraged by the Fit for Fall in 4 Weeks program. Niko and I have started riding our bikes to the gym on Mondays for climbing club meetings, and we’re going to dabble in our first trail running experience this week.
  • Indo-boarding: If you have an indo-board, I would highly suggest integrating it into your training. My housemates watch TV every evening, and I discovered that an hour spent on the indoboard instead of the couch is a great way to sneak a little exercise into my nights. It’s great for practicing balance, and I really like doing squats on it. There’s a whole series of indo board exercises you can try.
  • Core workouts: Aside from finger and shoulder strength, one of the things I really wanted to focus my training on is improving my core. Two of my lady climber friends turned me onto the P90x Ab Ripper workout, and I absolutely LOVE it. I’ve been doing this 3 times per week, and plan to up that to 4 days/week. Between eating right and the ab workouts, I’ve already gotten a 4-pack back.
  • Climbing: One of my buddies once said, “The best way to train for climbing, is to climb.” – And I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been incorporating a mix of lighter climbing days when I’ve done a big workout with harder climbing days where I project routes. Mixing rope climbing with my bouldering is another area where I’ve seen myself getting stronger.
  • Rest Days: Folks, no matter how strong you are, what kind of training you’re doing, or how long you’ve been at it – you need to take rest days. I’ve taken two thus far, one of which I spent walking a few miles at a greenway for three hours. Listen to your body, always.

[Read more…]

30 Days to Triple Crown at Hound Ears – My 4-week Climbing Challenge

Last week, my adventure soul-sister Gina Bégin announced the beginning of her first 90-day challenge in a series of training hauls designed to prepare her for an epic race in Patagonia. Almost immediately, the outdoor community erupted with declarations of all sorts of personal challenges – and naturally, I hopped on board too.

With an upcoming full year of traveling to climb all over the country, I reckoned I ought to really start overhauling my training to elevate my climbing to the next level before the journey begins in late January. I knew I wanted to push my limits, but I didn’t have a solid direction.

This morning, in a perfectly timed twist of fate, everything came together – thanks to Dead Point Mag’s “Fit For Fall in 4 Weeks” article (and Aiguille Rock Climbing for posting it on their Pinterest boards).

I woke up a bit early today, and began my morning social media scouring, which quickly led me to the article. Maybe it was the coffee coursing through my body, or the general hype on the idea of finding a formal plan for my climbing, but the moment I read the article, I was fully committed.

Combining both fitness training and a not-so-strict (but still slightly demanding) diet, this four week climbing regimen targets four elements that can be effectively improved within a single month: “strength to weight ratio, hand and forearm muscular efficiency, and mobility.” Along with hangboard exercises, the plan calls for a lot of yoga, aerobics, rice bucket workouts, and fitness circuits.

Bring it on.

As I mapped out the 30 days of dedication and perseverance, I noticed that my 4-week plan is perfectly aligned with one of the best events of the season: the Triple Crown bouldering competition at Hound Ears in Boone, North Carolina.

Photo by Andrew Kornylak.

This legendary crag has access so limited that the only day of the year you can climb there is during the Triple Crown event. Niko and I had made it a goal to attend a few days ago, and now with the 4-week challenge ending the Thursday before the competition, it seemed like destiny. I’m registering us both today – it’s going to be my first outdoor climbing competition, so I’m both very nervous, and very stoked.

The best part? Two months ago, I got a mysterious fortune cookie. It read:

Remember three months from this date. Good things are in store for you.”

As luck would have it, that date happens to be October 6th – the first day of the Hound Ears competition. Coincidence? I think not.

So, today marks the first day of my climbing challenge. What’s in store for me this week? Well, first comes the dietary aspect. During the first week, all I have to remember to do is drink a gallon of water every day. For those of us who live by Nalgene, that means four full Nalgenes a day. Easy, right?

Here’s this week’s training schedule:

Day 1: Aerobic training, and the first hangboard workout, including a 9-minute rice bucket session. For the aerobic portion, I’ll be riding my bike to and from the rock gym.
Day 2: Full body workout circuit, including my not-so-favorite exercise, push-ups.
Day 3: Yoga and the second hangboard/rice bucket progression. My lovely friend Katie is a yoga instructor, and she offered to teach me a few things to get my personal yoga sessions tuned-in.
Day 4: Another total body workout circuit.
Day 5: Aerobics. I might (read: MIGHT) try running. It will probably be more of a speed-walking/jogging, but I’m going to try.
Day 6: A second day of yoga, and the third hangboard/rice bucket circuit.
Day 7: Another aerobic day.

Doesn’t seem too hard, right? One of the reasons I felt drawn to this particular training schedule is that it doesn’t seem so outrageous. Yes, it’s going to kick my ass – but it doesn’t seem undoable.

Stay tuned as I power through this first week, and prepare for the second week of this climbing challenge.

PS: I’m also cutting out soda. Perhaps the hardest challenge of all. Seriously, I’m dying already. There has been a small bottle of Sprite sitting in the fridge for a week, and I’m about to assault it.

Do you have a personal challenge you’d like to begin?
Put it out there, let me know, and let’s keep each other inspired to stick to our goals!