High Volume Power Training for Climbers

This article was written by Dr. Tyler Nelson, a sports scientist and climber who owns Camp 4 Human Performance, a chiropractic sports medicine clinic and strength and conditioning business in Salt Lake City.

Work with Dr. Tyler Nelson

If you’d like to work with Dr. Tyler Nelson on an individual basis for injuries or strength training, he offers remote consultations to people all over the world. He also teaches online classes on strength training and injuries. Learn more.


By Dr. Tyler Nelson


I’m expecting most of you to pause at the title of this article. If it didn’t make you think twice, it should have. The title sounds like a misnomer. Most athletes associate power training with very low volumes of work, and long periods of rest. That’s because when sources discuss improving power, they are referring to peak power. That’s the maximum rate of work (load or intensity) per unit time. As an example, peak power for the vertical pull-up exercise is optimal around 70-75% intensity. So, to improve peak power you’d do a few reps (2-4) at that percentage, followed by a long rest (3-5 minutes), and repeat that for only a few sets (3-6). That would be a strategy to improve your peak power output.

Example athlete and what 70% looks like:

If we consider a 165 lb male athlete with a strength-to-weight ratio of 2.7 (not uncommon) in the pull-up exercise we get a better idea of these forces. If we divide his peak force (445 lbs) in half (222 lbs) and calculate 70% of that load he’d be putting 157 lbs of force through each arm during that movement. That’s 95% of his body weight! If we use his deadlift strength-to-weight ratio of 3.5 at 70% he’d be putting 200 lbs of force through each leg while on the wall. And lastly, if this athlete had a ratio of 1.9 on the 20mm edge (isometric maximum) then he’d be applying 100 lbs of force through each hand when working at 70% intensity. The question you want to ask yourself is, how often do we use those intensities while climbing. The answer is not very often.

This is a graph of my force-velocity profile for the bar pull-up, bench press, and 20mm edge pull-up at variable percentages.

Matching the Demands of the Sport

So, if the goal while climbing is not to reproduce peak power (the highest load you can move quickly) while climbing, why are we spending so much time using tools, like the campus board, that train peak power? It’s likely too high an intensity and too low a velocity to match the demands of the sport. On the whole, peak power training is not that sports specific. This applies to every sport and is the principle behind high-volume power training. By using a lower percentage of an athlete’s 1-repetition max we can train power with more repetitions (volume) that match the velocities of the sport. This is what climbers commonly call power endurance, however, this not usually how they train it.

It Sounds A Whole Lot Like Hypertrophy Training

If we compare the set, rep, and rest schemes of high-volume power training with hypertrophy training, they look very similar. The primary difference is the intensity and velocity. Muscle hypertrophy happens in the 70-85% intensity range while HVPT training is performed in the 30-60% intensity range. In this article, I’m going to outline how HVPT has been used to improve repeat power ability (RPA), repeat high-intensity efforts (RHIE), anaerobic capacity, and aerobic power in other sports. We will cover the most commonly used protocols and how to apply it to your climbing training.

Force-Velocity Continuum

It is very likely you have experienced the consequences of heavy loading. As you move heavier loads (added load to your body) the velocity at which you move that load goes down. If we measure the velocity at which you move a range of loads (35-95%) we can create something called a force-velocity profile (see image below).

This profile is specific to the athlete and the movement tested (pull-up, deadlift, bench-press, etc.). By better understanding an athlete’s profile, we can see which load to work with when training repeat power ability at different percentages.

We can conclude that strong athletes need more power (velocity) and powerful athletes need more strength, etc. Most climbers know their maximum (absolute strength) finger and pull-up loads, but very few know their 30-40% loads. This is problematic. We spend way too much time working the upper limits of the strength continuum at the neglect of the higher velocity loads.

Ballistic vs. Non-ballistic Power Exercise

When we think about power training we need to differentiate between ballistic and nonballistic exercise. In a non-ballistic exercise, there is a significant portion of time (the entire second half of the propulsive phase) spent slowing down (decelerating). In a ballistic exercise, there is no deceleration. This allows for greater peak velocity, as well as a longer propulsive phase (due to not slowing down). The athlete can accelerate through the entire movement because they, or their object, are eventually in flight.

Two examples to compare are the pull-up (non-ballistic) and the double-clutch campus move (ballistic). I would consider the 1-arm campus move quasi-ballistic. It is somewhere in the middle, like climbing.

Due to higher peak forces, greater impulse (the sum of propulsive forces), higher movement velocities, and a longer propulsive phase, ballistic-type exercises impose greater levels of acute fatigue compared to their non-ballistic counterparts. Also, ballistic exercises are technically more challenging (more degrees of freedom) to the neuromuscular system.

Put simply, if we can find ways to minimize technical strategies and perform similar work (direction of movement), we can do so with greater power output, even while undergoing fatigue. In short, you can do more high-velocity pull-ups under fatigue than you can single or double-arm campus moves.

Sienna Kopf testing her 20mm velocity at my clinic.

Andrew Caraballo testing his campus velocity at Elemental Performance

When using the non-ballistic version of a powerful exercise (pull-up) it is important to consider the loads because of their effect on the propulsive phase. This is due to the deceleration that accompanies each repetition. The lighter the load, the higher the velocity, and the greater level of decelerationSo, by using lighter loads it allows the athlete to move with greater power output over multiple repetitions.

One problem with the campus board, this needs to be fixed in my opinion, is that athletes don’t have a way to train at quantifiable intensities. It is either bodyweight or added load. There is no sub-body weight derivative.

What Does HVPT Look Like for Climbing

As I’ve mentioned, the frequency and volume of HVPT are similar to a hypertrophy training protocol in which 2-3 sessions per week is common. The duration of rest between these sessions is dependent on the protocol used (high-fatigue, low-fatigue), as well as the training age of the athlete. The more fatiguing protocols require a 72-hr recovery period and the less fatiguing protocols require 48h of recovery. It also makes sense to use the less fatiguing versions as an athlete moves closer to a competition or primary redpoint season.

Duration and Frequency

The duration of these training blocks can be as little as 4 weeks and as long as 12 weeks in duration with an average of 8 weeks. If exercising 2-3 times per week, this puts the athlete at 16-24 total training sessions. The typical number of sets used per session for HVPT is 3-5with the repetition range is 12-20. This has been recorded as high as 60-80 repetitions per set for some lower body movements.

Certainly, the most logical progression for a climber is to try and match the number of repetitions that the athlete has on their project, or possibly the average number of moves on a competition sport climb. This will take some time to work up to.

Velocity Cut-Off Strategy

Another option is to use velocity cut-offs to directly influence the repetition number each set. In this way, we can use a 10-20% velocity cut-off to better understand how many reps the athlete should use before their rest period. This has been supported in the research as a more effective strategy than a larger cut-off percentage of 30-50%. In the latter case, athletes performed more work, get less gain, and accumulate greater levels of fatigue. Remember, the ability to express power is dependent on the fatigue of the nervous system. The more fatigued an athlete gets each set, the less power they are producing.

Set 1: demonstrating the velocity of every repetition up to 10-reps until a velocity loss.

Set 2: demonstrating a velocity loss at repetition 9 stopping the set

Set 3: demonstrating a velocity loss at rep 7 stopping the set

Individual Needs Analysis

When it comes to selecting an appropriate set, rep, and rest scheme for the individual, that is where the art of coaching becomes important. There are infinite ways to organize the work-to-rest ratio of an exercise session, and it really depends on the individual and their ability to adapt to the training stimulus (adaptive capacity). What is productive for one might be injurious to another, etc.

Remember, being flexible is not a bad thing. If you get it wrong the first few sessions, change it and don’t be too stubborn to recognize it. Athlete adaptation is a moving target and your client will appreciate the honesty. That’s what programming is all about: trying new things, using logic and experience, and seeing how the athlete responds.

Inter-set Rest Period Options: Where to Start

Even though we use higher rep ranges during HVPT compared to normal power training the literature shows that a 2-3 minute inter-set rest is adequate for recovery. The most simple approach would be to gradually reduce the inter-set rest period every few sessions, or weeks, to improve the athletes repeat power ability.

A coach could start with a 3-minute inter-set rest and reduce it by 15-seconds per week while maintaining the same repetition number and intensity. The coach could also add load at 5% per week with the same rest period, or do both simultaneously. That’s the most simple way to apply this concept.

High-Velocity Interval Style Training

HVPT could also be used is in a circuit-style routine in which the athlete is moving between stations. One of which stations could be finger pull-ups, or campus board, at a specified percentage of their max. This is familiar to most as high-intensity interval training and shown to be an effective strategy for improving aerobic power.

The downside of this method is the use of more muscle mass. With more muscle fatigue comes more velocity loss. If the goal is to target the power output of the finger flexors specifically, it makes sense to isolate the vertical pulling movement.

Clustering Work: A More Nuanced Approach

Another application for HVPT is to manipulate the inter-set rest by using cluster sets. Cluster sets are commonly used at the beginning of a training stimulus and reduced over time as the athlete becomes more tolerant of the volume. So, instead of doing 3 sets of 15-repetitions continuously, the athlete would use a 5-second rest after every 5 repetitions for the entire set. They would perform 5 powerful reps, rest 5-seconds, then do the second 5-repetitions, rest 5-seconds, and then complete the last 5 reps until the longer inter-set rest (2-3 minutes).

As the athlete becomes more tolerant of the volume they could use more reps before the rest, or reduce the rest, etc. Another spin would be using a 25-repetition set in which the athlete rests 20-seconds after every 5 reps.

As of the writing of this article there is no conclusive evidence to support one type of cluster method over the other. The best one for you is the one which matches the demands of your goal route.

Acute Effects with HVPT: What the Research Says

Even at these high repetition ranges, there are no differences in peak power between sets. At the same time, however, we do see reductions in power output of 23% within every individual set. Put simply, even though athletes are getting tired they are still able to hit peak power every set.

There is also some evidence to support this type of training induces greater acute hormonal and immune responses to traditional strength, hypertrophy, and endurance training schemes. More on this in another article. When applied correctly it has been shown that HVPT can improve maximal power and repeat power ability by 22% across a total of 16-sessions, at two sessions per week.

An example of three HVPT sets showing a maintenance of peak power but a reduction in average power

Learn More from Tyler: If you want to work with Dr. Tyler Nelson on an individual basis for injuries or strength training, he offers remote consultations to people all over the world. He also teaches online classes on strength training and injuries. Learn more.

Energy System Demands

Even at these lower intensities, the continuous nature and neuromuscular demand (high-velocity) of HVPT will eventually stress the glycolytic energy system. Then during these partial rest periods, we see an increased respiratory rate to training metabolic clearance.

The goal is not to get pumped. The goal is to move until your power drops, rest partially, and repeat that as many times as the athlete can tolerate. This is how using 30-60% of your max can force an adaptation in both (anaerobic and aerobic) systems simultaneously while still being very specific. 

How to Apply HVPT to Climbers: My Recommendation and Programming Ideas

Most of the exercises that have been studied with this intervention are lower extremity driven movements like the countermovement jump, speed squat, and power clean. I believe that’s part of the reason we see repetitions in the average 15-20, and up to 80 range. As far as applying it to climbing we can do so generally with the bench-press, deadlift, and pull-up or we can do it specifically using a campus board (feet on likely) or fingerboard. I have used both for my private clients, so it really depends on the athlete and their needs. To reduce the length of this article I’m going to focus on the finger training version of this method, which I call high-volume power pull-ups.

What You Need and How to Apply This Method

First, you want to use the edge size that you’re frequently using on your project route. As a general rule, the more vertical the terrain the smaller the edge (15-20mm) and the lower the percentage used (30-40%). The steeper the terrain the larger the edge (25-35mm) and the higher the percentage used (40-50%). Once an athlete gets into the 5.14 grade and above, they’ll likely be using smaller edges (15mm) and higher percentages (50-60%), etc. So it really depends on you and your ability.

The next thing you need to do is test your maximum strength on that same edge size. This can be done in many ways and is very simple to calculate. For more information on testing, you can look at my previous articles or @C4HP. Take the 2-arm maximum (bodyweight + added load) that you can hold for 5-seconds (most commonly used finger position as well) and multiply that number by the targeted percentage (.30 – .60). This might take some playing with to get the appropriate load, so feel free to calculate multiple loads to try.

Let’s use our same 165-lb athlete as an example. His s:w ratio was 1.9 on a 20mm edge which puts his peak force at 313 lbs. If we multiply 313 by .40 we get 125 lbs at 40% intensity. So, to get the appropriate load for a bodyweight-dependent exercise we need to subtract that number from his body weight (165-125) which gives us -40 lbs. Remember, we want him pulling on his fingers with 125 lbs of force, or 62.5 lbs per arm.

Ben Hannah testing his 20mm maximum with the Exsurgo Gstrength500 at C4HP


Next is choosing the appropriate set: rep scheme that fits the demands of the goal route. I’m writing this with the sport climber in mind, however, this does not mean it wouldn’t work for a bouldering athlete as well. The only difference is the percentage intensity (60-70%) and the repetition number (3-4) you would use before the inter-set rest (longer). If the goal route is an 8-move boulder problem, the progression would be to hit 4 high-velocity pull-ups, without your feet touching the ground, on a finger or campus board at 60-70% before your rest. If it’s a sport climb with 30-moves, the progression would be to hit 15-high velocity pull-ups at 30-40% before your rest.

The last thing is to predict the progression of your training. As I have already mentioned, starting with a 3-minute inter-set rest is a reasonable place to start. Then you could simply watch the repetitions automatically increase for a couple of weeks until you start reducing that time by 10-15 seconds per week. I’ve included below some sample progressions that you could try for different types of athletes.

Below is Ben Hannah showing us what good power capacity looks like in the fingerboard version of HVPT. If you’re strong enough you don’t need to remove load from your body, which makes this very simple to perform. In this example 45% load is body weight.https://www.youtube.com/embed/8StH5oipxsE?autoplay=0&enablejsapi=1&wmode=opaque

And here, Andrew is demonstrating the body weight version at 55% intensity…https://www.youtube.com/embed/GbIqr_YswEM?autoplay=0&enablejsapi=1&wmode=opaque

Short Route or Long Boulder Example Progression: 48-hr Rest Between

Repetitions are performed consecutively until power drops without feet touching the ground. Repetitions will vary each set pending power output but will increase automatically with time. This is as long as the athlete is well recovered. This is a higher intensity protocol (50-60%).

Example 1: Increasing short duration power for bouldering.

  • Weeks 1-2: 5 sets, 3-4 reps with 3-minutes rest between.
  • Week 3-4: 5 sets, 3-4 reps with 2:45 rest between
  • Week 5-6: 5 sets, 3-4 reps with 2:30 rest between
  • Week 7-8: sets, 3-4 reps with 2:15 rest between
  • Week 9-10: 5 sets, 3-4 reps with 2:00 rest between etc.

You could also do the same workout with increased intensity and no change in rest time.

Long Route Example Progressions

These are cluster examples – think number of hand moves before resting on your project with 48 hours of rest between sessions.

Repetitions are performed in groups (3-5) until the athlete gets a short rest. They will continue to progress in this manner for the remainder of the reps until the inter-set rest. Repetitions in each cluster are to be performed consecutively without feet touching the ground.

Example 1: increasing power output over the cycle (72-hour rest between)

5 sets of 20 reps in 5 rep clusters separated by 10-20 seconds. Moderate intensity protocol (40-50% intensity)

  • Weeks 1-2:  5 reps, rest 20-seconds, 5 reps etc. for 4 rounds (rest 2-min). 5 total sets
  • Weeks 3-4:  5 reps, rest 15-seconds, 5 reps etc. for 4 rounds (rest 2-min). 5 total sets
  • Weeks 5-6: 5 reps, rest 10-seconds, 5 reps etc. for 4 rounds (rest 2-min). 5 total sets
  • Weeks 7-8: 5 reps, rest 5-seconds, 5 reps etc. for 4 rounds (rest 2-min). 5 total sets
  • Weeks 9-10: 10 reps, rest 5-seconds, 10 reps (rest 2-min). 5 total sets etc.

Example 2: increasing capacity over the cycle (72-hour rest between)

5 sets of 12-30 reps in 4-10 rep clusters separated by 20 seconds. Lower intensity protocol (30-40% intensity)

  • Weeks 1-2:  4 reps, rest 20-seconds, 4 reps etc. for 3 rounds (rest 2-min). 5 total sets
  • Weeks 3-4: 6 reps, rest 20-seconds, 6 reps etc. for 3 rounds (rest 2-min). 5 total sets
  • Weeks 5-6: 8 reps, rest 20-seconds, 8 reps etc. for 3 rounds (rest 2-min). 5 total sets
  • Weeks 7-8: 10 reps, rest 20-seconds, 10 reps etc. for 3 rounds (rest 2-min). 5 total sets
  • Weeks 9-10: 10 reps, rest 20-seconds, 10 reps etc. for 5 rounds (rest 2-min). 5 total sets etc.

Example 3: increasing capacity over the cycle (72-hour rest between)

5 sets of 15 reps in 3 rep clusters separated by 20 seconds. Lowest intensity protocol (30% intensity)

  • Weeks 1-2: 3 reps = rep 1, hang 5-seconds, rep 2, hang 5-seconds, rep 3, hang 5-seconds, rest 20-seconds, etc. for 5 total rounds (rest 2-min). 5 total sets
  • Weeks 3-4: 4 reps = rep 1, hang 5-seconds, rep 2, hang 5-seconds, rep 3, hang 5-seconds, rep 4, hang 5-seconds, rest 20-seconds, etc. for 5 total rounds (rest 2-min). 5 total sets
  • Weeks 5-6: 5 reps with 5-second hang, 20-seconds between for 4 rounds (rest 2-min). 5 total sets
  • Weeks 7-8: 6 reps with 5-second hang, 20-seconds between for 4 total rounds (rest 2-min). 5 total sets
  • Weeks 9-10: 7 reps with 5-second hang, 20-seconds between for 3 total rounds (rest 2-min). 5 total sets

Overview: High-Volume Power Training

  • 2-3 Sessions per Week
  • 30-60% 1-Repetition Max for Sport Climbers
  • 3-5 Working Sets
  • 10-20 Repetitions per Set or Auto-Regulated by Velocity Drop
  • Inter-Set Rest Period of 2-3 Minutes
  • With Weight Lifting Derivatives (Think Bouldering). Use 60-65% 1-RM instead.

Has Been Shown to Improve

  • Repeat Power Ability
  • Repeat High-Intensity Efforts
  • Anaerobic Power and Capacity
  • Aerobic Performance

Principles to Consider When Choosing Variables to Manipulate 

  • Increasing Load = Increases Power, Reduces Reps (Alactic Power)
  • Increasing Reps = Increases Capacity at Given % Power (Anaerobic Power)
  • Reducing Rest = Increases Recovery at % Power (Aerobic Power)
  • Increasing Sets = Increases Adaptive Capacity (Burns in a Day/Session)
  • Increasing Rounds in a Day = Systemic Capacity (Pitches in a Row)

Primary citation: The effect of high volume power training on repeated high-intensity performance and the assessment of repeat power ability: A systematic review. Sports Medicine, February 2020.

Learn More from Tyler: If you want to work with Dr. Tyler Nelson on an individual basis for injuries or strength training, he offers remote consultations to people all over the world. He also teaches online classes on strength training and injuries. Learn more.

About The Author

Tyler Nelson owns and operates a chiropractic sports medicine clinic and strength & conditioning business in Salt Lake City. While earning his doctoral degree, he completed a dual program Master’s degree in exercise science at the University Of Missouri. While in graduate school he worked with the University of Missouri athletics department and currently is employed through two colleges in Utah.

He teaches anatomy and physiology at a community college and works as a team physician for the Brigham Young University athletics department. He is certified through the National Strength and Conditioning Association as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and spends any extra time in his life with his wife and three kids or trad climbing in Zion National Park.

He has been climbing for 17 years and gravitates toward all-day adventure climbing. His expertise in human physiology and cutting-edge knowledge of strength and conditioning science are what drive him to always challenge the norms in training.

Your Menstrual Cycle and Athletic Performance

Your Menstrual Cycle and Athletic Performance

Oh yes, we are totally going there! If you aren’t one who enjoys talking about periods, female “issues” and hormones you can stop reading right now. However it is 2019 and these topics are becoming more popular but are still not nearly mainstream enough to have the attention this topic so dearly deserves.

So here we are! I love talking all things periods, menstruation and hormones. Why? Because they effect my life every dang month. Hell, every day is more like it! And because knowledge is power, the more you know about your body and why it does the things it does the better off you will be.

I am particularly excited to talk about how a woman’s menstrual cycle affects athletic performance because I think it is such important information to have in order to determine training cycles, training load and when to just give ourselves grace or take a rest day (or two).

For this post I will be specifically addressing women who have a regular menstrual cycle – fairly dependable timing each month and lasts 26-34 days and who are not on hormonal birth control. Those with amenorrhea (no period), PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) or those with irregular cycles will need to work with either a healthcare professional or doctor to make sure they are doing what is best for their individual situations.

I can, however, speak to those who have regular menstrual cycles and how either have symptoms throughout the month or starting before their period because GIRL I’VE BEEN THERE. Honestly, I’m still there but it’s getting LOADS better with supplementation, seed cycling, stress reduction and figuring out the root cause of my symptoms. Overall, it has been an interesting and exciting journey as I learn more and more each month about myself.

If you want to learn more about menstrual cycles and PMS head here to read this post about 10 things to try before turning to NSAIDs or ibuprofen. Now, remember I am not a medical professional nor can any of this information be intended as diagnosis or treatment. This is merely educational and anecdotal information that I hope to be able to share.

Two of the most helpful guides I have had throughout my journey to learning more about my own body and cycle have been Beyond the Pill by Dr. Jolene Brighten and The Period Repair Manual by Dr. Lara Briden. These books are well worth their weight in gold and have been extremely useful for information on PMS symptoms, hormone management, troubleshooting and overall education about women’s health and health issues. I highly recommend that you pick up both books and get ready to change your world!

Let’s dive on into what a menstrual cycle actually is. What hormones are at play, how they affect our bodies and common issues women may experience with different hormone imbalances?

A woman’s cycle can last anywhere from 26-36 days with 32 being the average. Day 1 of the cycle is the first day of a woman’s period or the day she begins to bleed. Bleeding can last anywhere from 3-7 days, shorter or longer than that can be considered abnormal. Around day 14 or halfway through the cycle, ovulation occurs. Women’s bodies produce an egg every month which then if fertilized with sperm, can create a pregnancy. This egg travels down the fallopian tube, if it is not fertilized, will then dissolve and pass out of the body along with the uterine lining which starts the next cycle with bleeding.

It is easier to think of the cycle into 4 main parts: the period, follicular phase, ovulation and the luteal phase. These four distinct parts of the cycle allow the magic to happen. Fascinating stuff here, really. Now that we have a rough idea of what happens to the body during a woman’s cycle, let’s dive into the hormones at play.

There are two main hormones that rise and fall at different parts of our cycle. Estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen is typically most dominant during the first half of our cycle while progesterone is typically most dominant during the second half, after ovulation occurs.

If hormones are relatively balanced, day 1 of our period both estrogen and progesterone levels drop low to shed the uterine lining and start the bleed. This drop in hormones stimulates the brain (specifically the pituitary gland) into releasing follicle stimulation hormone (FSH). This stimulates the growth of the follicles in the ovaries to get an egg ready for ovulation.

During the 3-7 days that a woman is bleeding, estrogen starts to rise to a peak around day 8. Then, around days 9-10 testosterone also spikes to increase libido. Women also have testosterone, just not in the amounts that males do. Our bodies “want” to get pregnant and the spike in estrogen and testosterone makes sense to encourage women to seek out their partners for fertilization during ovulation. This would be a good time to either use a condom, use other non-hormonal forms of birth control like a spermicide or to abstain from sex if you are not looking to get pregnant.

Ovulation occurs around day 14 and the egg lives for 24 hours. Sperm can live for up to 5 days so the window of time that women can get pregnant is 6 days. Days 12-14 during ovulation estrogen is at its highest point and after ovulation occurs, starts to drop. After ovulation, our bodies start to release progesterone from the ruptured follicle released during ovulation. Progesterone continues to rise until about day 21 and then the cycle starts over again!

To recap: the first half of a woman’s cycle is called the follicular phase and prepares the body to release an egg and builds the lining of the uterus, the second half of the cycle is called the luteal phase and prepares the body to accept a fertilized egg (pregnancy) or to start the cycle over again. All the while, the body is sending the brain signals to elevate certain hormones.

From the image above, hopefully you can get a little bit better visual as to what the levels of different hormones look like throughout a cycle. Hormones are KEY to how we as women feel every single day. Too much of one hormone or too little of another can create anxiety, moodiness, lack of self confidence, acne, bloating and so much more! That’s why it is so important to work with a practitioner that you trust to make sure your body is operating optimally for your health. Or if your body isn’t operating optimally, what you can do to support it and create more balance.

Now that we have a little bit better of an idea of the hormones at play in the body let’s dive into why they are so important for the body and why it is so important to make sure the hormones are balanced in our bodies.

Estrogen is a group name for the hormone compounds that contain estradiol, estriol and estrone but for ease of understanding is typically grouped into the general term of estrogen. Estrogen is key for brain health, heart health and also keeps our bones strong. It is key in the reproductive system for helping to regulate the menstrual cycle, thicken the uterine lining and helps direct the distribution of body fat in the body.

Progesterone also helps to regulate the menstrual cycle and is crucial for maintaining pregnancy. If no pregnancy occurs that month, progesterone levels drop off so the uterine lining can be shed. Other important functions that progesterone help with include: blood clotting, immunity, regulating inflammation, skin elasticity, thyroid health and bone strength. Seems pretty necessary huh? Men also produce progesterone but in much smaller amounts than females.

From this information we can then begin to understand why females can feel so strong or good in one part of their cycle and tired or flat-out defeated in a different part of their cycle if certain hormones are either too high or too low. Keep in mind that there are plenty of other factors at play here: sleep, nutrition, internal and external stress all have a large effect on overall health.

Generally speaking, women tend to feel stronger or “better” in the first half of their cycles due to an increase in estrogen. This would be days 1-14 or as soon as you feel ready and able after the cycle starts. Again, estrogen is what helps to build bone strength and density but it also has an effect on satiety cues in our brains and can help us to feel more full with less food. I call that a win-win, as long as you are eating enough in the first place!

This would be a great time to focus on more strength-based activities such as heavy hangboarding or fingerboarding, heavier isometric drills (weighted two-arm hangs, weighted one-arm hangs and any other heavy weight pulling exercises), deadlifts, heavy bench press and more. Anything that requires a lot of physical strength would be a great fit for this time of the cycle creating larger strength gains overall. Women will typically also feel especially awesome leading up to and right before ovulation. Take advantage of this!! Set out to onsight or redpoint the hard boulder or route and push yourself to expand your limits if your body is feeling it!

As far as training for strength goes: high intensity, low volume and lots of rest. That means heavy loads, not that many reps and make sure you get plenty of rest between sets of whatever exercise you’re performing.

During the second half of the cycle and after ovulation, progesterone begins to rise and women might start to feel a bit more fatigued and “heavier.” Progesterone can cause the body to retain water, so don’t panic, it is normal to feel heavier or a little bloated in the second half of a cycle.

This is also a great time to focus more on the endurance aspect of the sport. This might mean taking the intensity down a notch and decrease rest between sets. This could be a great time to work on power-endurance with a shortened work:rest window, so doing an exercise such as 4x4s on boulder problems. Anything that isn’t max intensity or heavy loads will be beneficial in the latter half of the cycle.

As you get closer to starting the cycle over again and bleeding, be sure to listen extra carefully to what your body is telling you. If you need rest, take it, during this time of the cycle women are extra prone to injury due to low levels of estrogen and therefore creates less elasticity between the tendons and bones. Calorie requirements (especially carbohydrates) during this time will also be higher in order for your body to undergo shedding the uterine lining. This process is no small feat and requires fuel, sustenance and rest to do so.

Of course, these are just guidelines but I encourage you to give it a try! By adapting this approach for my own training I have seen gains in both my strength and endurance and more importantly I am able to give myself grace and be a little more patient with myself when I am just “not feeling it” a few days before my cycle starts. Having a deeper understanding of exactly what is happening and when it is happening has really opened my eyes to a sustainable approach to climbing training.

I highly recommend starting to track your menstrual cycle if you don’t already! My personal favorite app is Flo, but there are plenty of cycle tracking apps out there. Get to know your body and the signals it is sending you! It is so important for you to get in tune with your body and to train in sync with what it is telling you.

Lastly, I would like to bring up what it feels like to have “balanced” hormones so you can know what to look for in your own health journey. If your hormones are balanced well, your period will come and go easily. You might not even notice any of the typical PMS symptoms like breast tenderness, moodiness, fatigue, bloating, cramps or other symptoms. Your cycle will be regular, predictable and generally pain-free.

On the other hand, if hormones are imbalanced or poorly regulated, symptoms will be very prevalent and can cause further issues such as autoimmune disease, endometriosis, fibroids, PCOS and more if ignored for too long. Examples of hormone imbalance include: estrogen dominance (too much estrogen), low estrogen, low testosterone, high testosterone, too little progesterone, too much cortisol, too little cortisol and too little thyroid hormones.

As you can see the list for why hormones might be imbalance is long and not entirely straight forward. I highly recommend working with either a practitioner that you trust and can ask questions from or in conjunction with someone such as myself who can work with you to discover what your current hormones situation looks like and where to go from there to become more balanced and create a healthier life.

Thank you for making it this far in the post and for following along! As always, I love hearing from you and let me know if you have any questions or comments in the comment box below. I love hearing from you!!

Top Ten Warm-Ups and Stretches to Do Before Climbing to Avoid Injury

If there is one universal truth about climbing, it may be this: climbers suck at warming up.

How many times have you gone to the gym or gotten to the crag and immediately jumped on a crimpy V4 boulder problem or pumpy overhanging route because you’re “fresh?”

To avoid injury and maximize your climbing potential per session, don’t let your friends (or your eager ego) pressure you into getting on the wall before your body is properly warmed up.

When your muscles are cold from sitting all day, your body is far more prone to injury if you start working out without warming up, regardless of the activity.

This sentiment is especially true for climbing, since rock climbing is a particularly intense sport that requires both fine and gross motor skills to complete every movement on the wall.

Warming up and cooling down may feel like a chore when you first start the practice. But once you incorporate this fun and dynamic warm-up series into your regular climbing sessions, you will undoubtedly begin to see improvement in your overall technique and stamina.

Avoiding flash pumps and nagging finger injuries, as well as increasing your projecting potential, make warming up before climbing a worthwhile endeavor for beginners and rock gods alike!

First Things First – Heating Up the Body

The term “warming up” is self-explanatory and describes the first principal of performing a proper climbing warm-up. Your first goal before getting on the wall is to get your body warm.

There are a number of ways you can heat up the body, but the most important thing to focus on is increasing your heart rate while warming up.

Exercises to Increase Your Heart Rate Before Climbing

1. Jumping Jacks

As simple as it sounds, jumping jacks are one of the easiest and most effective ways to get your blood pumping and increase your heart rate to prepare your body for a rigorous climbing session.

  • Complete 3 sets of jumping jacks at 10 reps per set with a 30 second rest between sets (30 total jumping jacks)

2. High Knees

Similar to jumping jacks, trotting around your gym or the crag while lifting your knees high into your chest is a great way to get your body moving and stretch your hamstrings and quads at the same time.

  • Perform 3 sets of high knees at 1 minute per set with a 30 second rest between sets (3 minutes total)

3. Walking / Jogging / Hiking

Regardless of where you are, whether at the crag or in your local gym, you should have no problem finding somewhere to simply move your body in a forward direction.

An approach to a crag can often suffice for your heart rate warm-up, but if you’re climbing by the roadside or in the gym, make sure to intentionally move your body before getting on the wall.

You can do this by walking around saying hey to friends or jogging up and down a staircase a few times to get your muscles working before you begin stretching.

Types of Stretching – Static vs. Dynamic

It is important to know the two different styles of stretching before diving into the nitty gritty details of how to warm-up before a climbing session. The two types are static and dynamic. Both are useful for various forms of exercise, but for our pre-climb warm-up, we want to focus on dynamic stretching.

  1. Static stretching is holding the body in a single position for a certain amount of time (i.e. 30 seconds), such as bending down to touch your toes and holding the stretch without moving for the allotted time.This is great for improving flexibility, but best suited to after a workout.
  2. Dynamic stretching is a smooth movement through the full range of a stretch that focuses on spending an equal amount of time through each phase of the stretch.A dynamic hamstring stretch would be reaching down to touch your toes while counting to three, and counting to three again while you return to a standing position. This is the sort of stretching you want to do to warm up and get your joints moving.

Top Ten Warm Ups and Dynamic Stretches

1. Knee Pull-Ups

Male Climber Doing Knee Up Stretches

  • Aim: to stretch your abdominals, hip flexors and gluteal muscles
  • How-to:
    • While standing, pull one knee tightly into your chest until you feel the stretch, then switch and pull the other knee in.
    • Repeat 5 times per knee.

2. Hip Rotations

Female Climber Doing Hip Rotations

  • Aim: to increase flexibility in your hips, allowing you to pull them in closer to the wall while climbing. Also stretches glutes and abdominals.
  • How-to:
    • While standing with legs hips-width apart, balance on your left foot while lifting your right leg with your hand on your knee.
    • Gently pull your right leg open, rotating your hip and extending your knee out to the right until you feel the stretch.
    • Repeat motion with your left leg while balancing on your right foot.
    • Repeat hip rotation 5 times per leg.

3. Deep Squats

Male Climber Doing Deep Squat Stretches

  • Aim: to lengthen and strengthen the inner quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves while stretching the low back
  • How-to:
    • Stand with feet together.
    • Step out to the right wider than hips-width and squat down as far as you can, making sure to keep your heels on the ground and your back as straight as possible.
    • Stand up as soon as you reach a comfortable depth of stretch in your squat, step feet together, then step out left to squat down again.
    • Repeat 5 times per side.

4. Flag & Reach

Male Climber Doing Flag And Reach Stretches

  • Aim: to mimic a movement you would make on the wall (flagging) while stretching the abdominals and glutes
  • How-to:
    • Start standing up.
    • Reach each opposing arm and leg (i.e. right arm, left leg) as far away from the body as possible while standing on one foot to make half an X-shape.
    • Repeat movement on the other side.
    • Repeat 5 times per side.

5. Reverse Outside Flag & Reach

Female Climber Doing Reverse Outside Flag And Reach Stretches

  • Aim: to mimic flagging while stretching the arms, hips, and legs
  • How-to:
    • Start standing up.
    • Bend your right knee while you extend your left arm up and away from your body and step your left leg behind your right leg, touching the floor with your toes.
    • Repeat motion on the other side (right arm / right leg).
    • Repeat 5 times per side.

6. Shoulder Rotations & Arm Circles

  • Aim: to warm up your rotator cuffs while stretching your shoulder and arm muscles to prepare for pushing and pulling motions on the wall
  • How-to:
    • Roll both shoulders forward five times, then back five times while arms dangle down by your sides.
    • Next, lift both arms and rotate the arms/shoulders five times forward and five times back, making sure to keep the motion as smooth and controlled as possible.

7. Torso Twists

Male Climber Doing Torso Twist Stretches

  • Aim: to increase mobility in the spine and stretch/strengthen the abdominal wall
  • How-to:
    • Stand with your arms raised and bent in toward your chest at shoulder height. Keep your feet rooted firmly on the ground, wider than hips-width apart.
    • Simply start twisting your torso gently from side to side, gaining momentum slowly. Don’t twist your body further than is comfortable each time.
    • You must move fully from one side to the next to complete one twist.
    • Perform 10 total torso twists.

8. Neck Rolls

  • Aim: to improve mobility in your neck, especially to prepare for long belays
  • How-to:
    • Let your head completely relax while looking down, then roll your head in gentle circles, five times in each direction.

9. Forearm Extensor Stretch

Female Climber Doing Forearm Extensor Stretches

Female Climber Doing Reverse Forearm Extensor Stretches

  • Aim: to extend your forearm muscles and stretch your biceps and triceps to avoid elbow injuries while climbing and decrease the possibility of a flash pump
  • How-to:
    • In a standing position, bring your arms together in front of your chest (your hands should be at your waist).
    • Straighten your right arm and lay your fingers flat on the palm of your left hand.
    • Pull back on the fingers of your extended (right) arm until you start to feel a gentle stretch. Hold for 10 – 20 seconds.
    • Release your right arm and rotate it 180° so the fingers are facing backward on your left palm with your thumb facing out to the right.
    • Pull back with your left hand until you feel the stretch in your forearm. Hold for 10 – 20 seconds.
    • Repeat both front and back forearm stretches with the other hand.
    • Do two sets of the stretch per arm (four total stretches per arm)

10. Easy Climbing

Rock Climber Doing Gentle Warm Up Climb

  • Aim: to prepare your body and your mind for the act of climbing and put into practice all the warm-ups you just did!
  • How-to: _ Pick out at least two climbing routes or boulder problems that are two or more grades below your peak climbing level (so if you’re a 5.10 climber, climb a 5.7 and 5.8, or if you climb V6, start out with a couple V3 or V4 problems). _ Focus on how you move and pay attention to where your thoughts go while you warm-up on the wall. Try to be precise with your movements and present in your thoughts while paying close attention to footwork and efficient movement across the wall. * Warming up before climbing doesn’t have to be lame. Gather up a few friends and make a game of it, or record your progress as you start to notice the differences that warming up has on your climbing ability.

You’ll be impressed with how quickly your climbing improves after just a couple of sessions that incorporate a thorough warm-up!

And always remember to do a short cool down after finishing up on the wall to allow your muscles to relax and prevent further injury. To cool down, simply perform some of the same stretches described above in a static fashion (hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds), or you can do some gentle yoga to cool down your body and your mind.

Now that you know how to properly warm-up before climbing, get out there and start climbing like the rock warrior you are, with smoking hot muscles and the mind of a Jedi to boot!

Written By: Briana Halliwell


Performance Climbing Coach

Performance Climbing Coach is the brain-child of Tyler Nelson and Steve Bechtel. Over the course of their climbing careers, they noticed a shift from individuals seeking coaching to coaches asking how to assess, manage, plan and program for their athletes. Thus, exposing a significant need in the climbing coach community to standardize coaching. Hence, Performance Climbing Coach.


Green in the Face 8B by Michaela Kiersch

Green in the Face

Michaela Kiersch reports on Insta that she has done Green in the Face 8B in Castle Rocks and in went down during the first session. The 152 cm, who was #18 in her last Boulder WC in 2018, has been one of the leading rock climbers in the world in the last few years in spite of finishing her University studies and now doing doctoral students.

How can you explain being in such peak performance with your hectic life?
Since the gyms have been closed I’ve been climbing outside in the evenings after school and over the weekends. I follow a really detailed schedule with school, climbing, and mental breaks to keep balance in my life. I think that challenging myself academically makes me work harder in the other areas of my life too.

Article in 8a.nuhttps://www.8a.nu/news/green-in-the-face-8b-by-michaela-kiersch

Belly Full of Bad Berries 8a (5.13b)

There are rare occasions in climbing that allow you to truly dig deep into your energy levels, producing such a fatigue that you almost want to vomit. Once the moves get intense, you usually fall off before it would happen. Off-width climbing, no matter how disgusting it can be, is beautiful that it really lets you climb until you just can’t move… Next episode is more or less uncut ascent Belly Full of Bad Berries, including the commentary. Worth checking out the epic fight.

Different Types of Climbing Anchor

Climbing Anchors from the Bolting Bible

Here is the Climbing Anchor section from the Bolting Bible explaining in detail all the options for how you can configure climbing anchors. Leave us comments or message us about how we can make this section better in the Bolting Bible as we update it every winter.

Another great anchor video by AMGA certified guide https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-pLP9dRWPc

Live life high… safely. All the info is FREE at https://www.hownottohighline.com/

The Crag – largest collaborative rock climbing & bouldering platform

The website thecrag.com was started in 1999 in Australia by Simon Dale and Campbell Gome as a resource for climbing information in Arapiles and later all of Australia. Despite the fact that the venture almost went bankrupt twice, the team decided to move ahead with the project. Grassroots growth spread it across the globe and the site reached 100,000 page views per month in early 2012.

By now theCrag is the largest rock climbing and bouldering platform worldwide in terms of content with 737,500 routes, 7,900 crags and 1,539,600 ascents logged. Thousands of contributors ensure constant growth of content, volunteers support the project with their creativity and manpower and partners use it for research and integrations, far beyond anything that was imagined in the early days of theCrag.

While theCrag relies heavily on the climbing community, individual contributors and external resources for selected tasks a small team is responsible for the operation and management of the company. The team of theCrag is spread out over 3 continents and brings a variety of experience and backgrounds to the world’s largest rock climbing and bouldering platform.

Shauna Coxsey Reconfirmed for Tokyo 2020

Shauna Coxsey

Sport climber Shauna Coxsey is the latest athlete to be reconfirmed as selected for Team GB for the Tokyo Olympic Games, following its postponement.

Coxsey personally earned a ‘named athlete’ quota place for Tokyo 2020 and retains her place for the Olympic Games, where her sport will debut. Named athlete quota places are those which are specific to the athlete who earned the qualification, and these have been guaranteed by the IOC as secure.

This means that all 21 of the athletes originally nominated to, and selected by, the British Olympic Association (BOA) for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games have been confirmed by their sports as retaining their selections for the Games, now being held in 2021.

The athletes officially selected and named as part of Team GB for the Tokyo Games are from three sports: sailing; canoeing (sprint and slalom), and, sport climbing.

Both sailing (15 athletes) and canoeing (five athletes) have confirmed that their nominations remain unchanged and therefore the originally selected athletes will fill the earned quota places as previously intended.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen the postponement of the Games until 23 July 2021 and has required the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to reconfirm sport qualification processes, which they did recently.

With over 200 quota places having formally been secured for Team GB by athletes across a number of sports prior to the postponement, the BOA has since asked National Governing Bodies to reconfirm their selection policies.

In respect of sports whose qualification processes were open and ongoing at the time of the postponement, the BOA is now working to support National Governing Bodies to review selection policies based on new qualification events – as they become known – and any amended criteria as laid down by International Federations by 29 June 2021.

Many qualification events have understandably been cancelled and cannot now take place unless there is fair and appropriate access to preparation and training for athletes for those events. The BOA still hopes to take over 370 athletes to the Games.

Team GB Sport Climber, Shauna Coxsey, commented: “With so much uncertainty at the moment, I am relieved to have my place with Team GB reconfirmed for the Olympics. I have adapted my training so I can maintain my form at home, but I cannot wait to be back on the walls and preparing for the Games.”

Mark England, Team GB Chef de Mission for Tokyo 2020, said: “We are extremely pleased that we have been able to reconfirm all previously selected athletes for Tokyo 2020.

“As the first athlete to represent Team GB in sport climbing at the Olympics, we are very excited for the road that lies ahead for the hugely talented Shauna Coxsey. We hope that when the time comes for her to resume training, this reconfirmation will provide Shauna with the opportunity to refocus her preparation for the Games next year. I’m confident it will be a fantastic debut Games for her personally, and for her sport.”

Are climbing master points made with a girth hitch or clove hitch REDUNDANT???

Benjamin Schuldt donated some 60cm mammut contact slings made out of dyneema, which is very slippery so when one side breaks of a leg of a climbing anchor when a girth hitch or clove hitch is used it isn’t very redundant. Yann Camus from came up with a combo that might be more redundant. What do you think? Live life high… safely. All the info is FREE at https://www.hownottohighline.com/

Eyes Gone Wrong by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license