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.

HIGH-VOLUME POWER TRAINING (HVPT) FOR CLIMBERS

By Dr. Tyler Nelson

@c4hp

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

https://youtube.com/watch?v=2Thl0Q12YQ%3Fwmode%3Dtransparent%26autoplay%3D0

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

https://www.theclimbingguy.com/ten-climbing-warmup-and-stretches/

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.

Link: PERFORMANCE CLIMBING COACH

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.

Multi-pitch Climbing 101: The Complete Guide

So you’ve learned to lead climb. You’ve been outside a time or two. You know what an anchor is, you’ve learned how to rappel, and you’re feeling pretty good about your single-pitch self.

But you’re seeing all these Instagram photos of climbers dangling hundreds of feet of the ground, rappelling off of giant cliffs, and topping out huge lines.

You’re ready to take the next step. You’re ready to start multi-pitch climbing.

One of the magical parts of climbing is that it takes you places where only the birds and the bugs normally go — and for the really tall stuff, you’ll need more than one rope-length to get there. In most areas, multi-pitch climbing unlocks new cliffs and vast amounts of new terrain.

We’ll cover the basics of what you need to get going: how to prepare, what gear you’ll need, the step-by-step process of multi-pitch climbing, and other logistical issues.

Before We Begin, Two Important Things to Stress

  1. Reading and theorizing are all well and good, but they’re no substitute for practice and understanding. Understand your systems, your equipment, and your intentions well before you have to put them into practice halfway up a wall. Find a way to practice the skills you need (more on this later).
  2. The majority of the multi-pitch climbing in the USA requires trad gear. Learning to place gear and build anchors is beyond the scope of a single article (despite a plethora of books on the subject, the debate on anchors continues to rage). If you’re a competent single-pitch trad climber, you’re likely well on your way. And if you happen to live in an area where there’s some approachable multi-pitch sport climbing nearby, lucky you — you have an easier, less-committing venue in which to learn. My first ever multi-pitch climb was this aptly-named ramble in Boulder Canyon.

Like much of climbing, these skills are not to be taken lightly. To make sure that we’re providing you with the best possible advice, I hopped on the phone with Eric Whewell, IFMGA-certified guide and Head Guide at Colorado Mountain School. Throughout the article, he’ll be providing the perspective and expertise of a professional.

Table of Contents

  1. Preparation
  2. Multi-pitch Climbing Gear List
  3. Getting Started
  4. Leading the First Pitch, Constructing Your Anchor, & Anchoring Yourself in
  5. Letting Your Partner Know You’re at the Anchor & “In Direct”
  6. Rope Management
  7. How to Belay from Above
  8. The Transition
  9. Fall Factor
  10. The Duties of the Follower
  11. Finishing Up & Descending
  12. Weather & Time
  13. How to Carry Gear on a Multi-pitch Climb
  14. When Things Go Wrong
  15. Parties of Three
  16. Putting What You’ve Learned into Practice

Preparation: How to Do Your Homework Properly to Minimize Risk

Eric Whewell took special care to point out that much of the work in climbing a multi-pitch route has to take place before the climbing begins.

“People typically don’t plan well enough for their route,” he says. “Maybe they haven’t done enough research about where the climb starts, or where the climb goes, or how to get off the climb. Maybe they didn’t bring the correct amount of equipment or the correct shoes, or they didn’t bring a second rope to rappel.”

In short:

Do your homework.

“Big-picture planning is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly when you’re moving to the multi-pitch world,” says Whewell.

Here are 7 things to do to plan ahead for your first multi-pitch climb:

  • Do as much research as you can before you go onto the route. Study the route — where it begins, where it travels, and where it ends.
  • Study how to get down. If you’re rappelling, find out where the anchors are.
  • Have a copy of the topo or guidebook with you when you do the climb
  • Ask any friends that have done the climb to give you beta
  • Look for information on how long you’re going to be on the climb
  • Know exactly what gear you’ll need for the approach, climb, and descent
  • Be ready for the terrain that you’ll encounter — that way, you’ll know exactly what to do when you get there.

Multi-pitch Climbing Gear List

Multi-pitch climbing gear

Here’s a basic checklist of what gear you’ll need:

  • Climbing rope (or two, if you need to double-rope rappel)
  • Climbing shoes (relatively comfy ones)
  • Approach shoes (hopefully light ones, if you’re carrying them with you)
  • Harness
  • Chalk bag (unless you’re one of the crazy few who are above such things)
  • Climbing helmet
  • Protection — quickdraws for sport, or sufficient gear for trad
  • Belay device (one that can handle belaying from above)
  • Anchor supplies — cordelette, slings, or just your rope. Pick your poison, but know it well.
  • 2-5 locking carabiners each (for belay devices, anchors, clove hitches, prusiks, etc.)
  • Sufficient food and water
  • Appropriate layers (prepare for any likely or possible weather)
  • Prusik cord, hollow block, or emergency ascender (better to have it and not need it…)
  • Sunscreen, watch, headlamp, sunglasses, hand warmers, or other wilderness essentials (depending on location, objective, weather, etc.)
  • Topo, guidebook, or printout for your planned routes
  • A way to carry all of the above (a climbing pack, clever harness clips, etc.)
  • A willing partner

Getting Started

Matching tie-ins

Matching tie-ins

One of the most important steps of multi-pitch climbing takes place before you even leave the ground — right when you’re tying in.

You and your partner will be belaying each other up the climb, so when you tie in at the bottom, each of you ties in on one end of the rope.

Flake the rope first. You don’t want to be halfway through the first pitch only to find a knot in the middle.

Once you’re both tied in, you’re in it together. Barring emergency circumstances, neither of you will untie until the climb is completed. Enjoy the symbolism, and trust your partner.

Leading the First Pitch, Constructing Your Anchor, & Anchoring Yourself in

Okay, so now you’re ready to embark on your multi-pitch. The first pitch is just like the single-pitch you’re used to. You lead up, clipping bolts or placing gear until you reach the first belay.

Now what?

The first order of business is to secure yourself. If you need to, you can clip a draw or a piece of gear while you build your anchor.

If you’re on a trad climb, build your anchor according to your own systems and whatever the circumstances demand. Many climbers carry a cordelette, which is an 18-25 ft length of 6-7 mm cord, tied into a loop.

“Typically the cordelette offers the most in terms of simplicity and functionality,” says Whewell. But different climbs can call for different tools.

We won’t cover how to build anchors in this article, but there are a variety of ways to learn how. Online resources are a great start, but it’s important to put what you learn online into practice. Here are our recommendations on how to do that.

If you’re on a sport climb (as well as some trad climbs), you’ll likely be faced with a typical two-bolt anchor. There are a few different ways to build anchors on bolts, but your best bet is likely the venerable quad.

With a cordelette, quad anchors are solid, easy to construct, quick to set up, and easy to break down. “As long as they’re modern bolts, a quad is probably the best bet,” says Whewell. “I wouldn’t say always, but it’s one of my favorite tools.”

You can learn more about how to build a quad anchor here and here.

Once you’ve built your anchor, you need to attach yourself. For this, you’re going to want to learn the clove hitch. This is a versatile knot with uses in all kinds of anchors and systems.

To attach yourself to your anchor, throw a locking carabiner onto your quad or anchor of choice, and then clove-hitch your end of the rope to it.

Some climbers take along a sling or PAS, but Whewell recommends against it: “I’ll pretty much exclusively tie in with the rope,” he says. “The climbing rope attachment offers us the most adjustability and is the strongest option that we have.”

Clove hitches are excellent for adjustability: simply unweight the knot, shuffle a little rope through one end or the other, and reweight. You can dial in your stance for maximum comfort and efficiency.

Now you’re set: you’ve finished your lead, you’ve constructed your anchor, and you’ve successfully anchored yourself in.

Letting Your Partner Know You’re at the Anchor & “In Direct”

It’s time to bring your partner up to join you. In order to do so you have to pull up however much rope is left before their tie-in.

This is going to be difficult while they have you on belay, so you have to find some way of telling them that you’re at the anchor and “in direct.”

The stakes here are high — if your belayer were to somehow get the signal prematurely, they could take you off belay before you’re done climbing. Needless to say, this can be disastrous and fatal.

This means that you have to have a system worked out before you leave the ground. If you’re lucky, the pitches might all be short enough to be within shouting distance.

If so, a quick shout of “[belayer’s name here], off belay!” will do the trick.

Often, however, pitches are long enough or bulged enough to make verbal communication impossible. When this happens, you need a backup plan.

I know some teams who always climb with a pair of walkie-talkies. Other teams might work out a series of rope tugs. In many cases, belayers and climbers will operate on a series of rope signals: if more than 10 feet or so of rope is quickly pulled in, it means that the climber is in direct.

Again, extra care ought to be taken here, and belayers should err on the side of keeping the belay on if unsure. Use a system that works for you and avoids uncertainty.

The larger point here is that communication is one of the most important and most difficult aspects of multi-pitch climbing.

This point is really worth stressing. A good system of communication with your partner is absolutely essential. Far too many climbing accidents occur because of a misunderstanding between climber and belayer. On multi-pitch climbs, belay transitions are mandatory and heights are great. It’s especially important to heed one of climbing’s golden rules:

Always be on the same page with your partner.

Rope Management: Coiling Your Rope Once Your Off Belay

Once you’ve let your belayer know that you can be taken off belay, they’ll do so. You’re now free to start pulling up the rope.

But where are you going to put it? To answer this, we need to talk about rope management.

Rope management is to multi-pitch climbing as vegetable chopping is to cooking. It’s not always fun, it’s often a little tedious, somehow you always mess it up, and the pros make it look so easy.

Have faith. With practice and experience, it gets easier.

Luckily, most belay stances are on some kind of ledge or stance. This makes life easier.

Belay ledge

Most belay stances are on some kind of ledge like this.

“Even if it’s just a very small ledge, I like to make use of the ledge,” says Whewell. “While I’m coiling it, I’ll try to tamp it down with my feet or hands.” Keeping the coils compact and secure is helpful. Having a rats’ nest dangling down the cliff below you will be a pain later on.

If there’s no ledge to speak of, coil the rope over the small section of rope that you’re tied in on. Whewell says this is his last resort, but at hanging belays there’s sometimes no other option.

Again, try to keep coils neat. Many climbers suggest starting with large coils and gradually decreasing their size to avoid tangling. And when you inevitably get your rope tangled the first few times, don’t get discouraged.

How to Belay from Above

Eventually, you’ll reach the end of the rope (the one your partner is tied into).

If you’re within shouting distance, a quick call of “That’s me!” from your partner will let you know that you’ve reached the end. Otherwise, just pull until you can’t pull anymore.

With the rope successfully (or haphazardly) coiled, you’re finally ready to belay your partner up to you.

You’ll need a belay device that can handle belaying from above. There are plenty: Black Diamond ATC Guide, Petzl Reverso, Mammut Smart, Petzl GriGri 2Petzl GriGri +, and more. Whichever device you use, be sure you’re comfortable and knowledgeable on how to set it up and use it well.

My belay device of choice for multi-pitch climbing is the ATC Guide, for its lightness, simplicity, and versatility.

There are three ways to belay from above:

  1. Off the harness
  2. Through a redirect
  3. Off the anchor itself

Belaying off the anchor is almost always the best option. Are there situations when other options can be useful? “Yeah, but they’re few and far between,” says Whewell. “From a modern rock climbing perspective, 99% of the time I want to belay directly off the anchor.”

To do so, set up your chosen device on another locking carabiner attached to your anchor (don’t use the one you’re already clove-hitched into). The exact set up varies from device to device, but it frequently requires an extra locking ‘biner — makes sure you take enough of them with you.

Again, communication is critical here.

You don’t want your partner to start climbing before you’ve put them on belay. When possible, a shout of “[Partner’s name here], on belay!” will work. Otherwise, use whatever system you’ve worked out ahead of time.

One simple possibility: have your belay device ready and waiting while you’re pulling the rope, and put your partner on belay efficiently when you reach the end.

When your partner sees you pull in the last of the rope, they can wait a minute or so and then move slightly upward (while still secure at the ground or previous anchor). If the rope tightens with them, they know they’re on belay.

Setting up your partner’s belay from above is one of those moments when you need to be sure to check your work.

It’s just you up there — there’s no one to double-check your system or point out a mistake.

Double-check it yourself. Then triple-check it, just to be sure. Make sure your carabiners are locked and in the correct position. Make sure your ropes are loaded properly.

When belaying your partner, make sure to stay attentive. There can be a lot of distractions at multi-pitch belays (not the least being that you’re frequently hungry, thirsty, or in bodily need). Your partner can always shout “Up rope!” at you if too much slack builds up, but an inattentive belayer is no fun.

Stay efficient and attentive and your day will run more smoothly.

The Transition

Your partner, bravely toprope-hero-ing their way up that insanely bold pitch you just led, has made it up to you. You’re together again, a full pitch off the ground.

This brings us to another crucial point: the transition.

During this time, both climbers are stationed at the anchor preparing for the next pitch. Gear is re-racked, water is sipped, and the belay is switched.

First Decide How to Divvy Up Who Leads & Who Follows

There are two possible ways to divvy up multi-pitch leads:

  1. Swing leads
  2. Lead in blocks

Swinging leads means that partners alternate. If you led the first pitch, your partner will lead the second pitch.

This means that belay and climbing blocks are longer. After you belay your partner from above, you belay them again as they lead the next pitch.

If leading in blocks, one climber will lead multiple pitches in a row with the other climber following each one. In some cases, one climber will do all the lead climbing, though generally lead blocks are divided up between partners.

Both approaches have pros and cons. Swinging leads is traditional and efficient, and it means that you get a break from being on the sharp end. Climbing in blocks can allow leaders and followers to get in the zone for long periods, and with practice, it can be equally efficient.

Whewell points out some additional considerations: “If being cold is an issue, leading in blocks tends to make the most sense (to stay warmer). Other times, I’d lead in blocks if one person in the party is stronger and they want to lead a few pitches in a row. Oftentimes I’ll swing leads, and that’s the traditional method.”

Depending on which approach you choose, your transitions will differ slightly.

If you lead in blocks, your partner will clove-hitch themselves into your anchor, hand you whatever gear they cleaned from the last pitch, and then flip the rope.

Flipping the rope is a crucial step. You have just flaked it with your end at the bottom, so in order for it to feed smoothly as you lead, you’ll need to flip it. This is where rope management can get especially tricky.

After the rope is flipped, your partner can put you back on belay, and you can unclip your clove hitch and be on your way.

If you’re swinging leads. Your partner will arrive at your belay station, and you’ll have two essential tasks to complete:

  1. Get your partner the gear they need
  2. Put them on belay

For a variety of reasons, belaying off the harness is almost always preferable when a climber is leading up from an anchor.

One neat way to save time is to carry the same belay device as your partner — that way, when they arrive at the belay station, you can simply grab their belay device, put on a harness belay below the one set up on your anchor, and then remove the anchor belay.

Your partner is never off belay, and you can hand them your belay device to take up to the top of the next pitch. If this isn’t an option or you both need a little more time at the anchor, just have them clove-hitch in on another locker.

There are a variety of ways to transfer gear and streamline transitions. There are articlesclasses, and a whole lot of snarky forum comments on the subject.

The most important thing?

“Being on the same page with your partner,” says Whewell. “A lot of people use a lot of different techniques, but just be well-practiced with your partner.”

Fall Factor: A Little Bit of Climbing Math

You’ve completed your transition, given your partner the gear they need, sipped a little water, and set up a belay on your harness. Your partner is now all set to lead the next pitch.

We’re going to take a quick detour here to talk about some math — the ominously named fall factor.

Fall factor is a measure of how severe a climbing fall is, and the calculation is simple: divide the distance you fell by the amount of rope in the system.

Fth = Fall length / Rope length

Fth = theoretical fall factor

Fall length = length of the climber’s fall

Rope length = length of rope between belayer and climber

As long as a good length of rope is in the system, most climbing falls have a fall factor below 1.

The most severe possible fall would have a fall factor of 2. In this scenario, you’ve started leading above the anchor, but you fall before clipping any gear. You fall back to the anchor and then past it — twice the length of however much rope was paid out at the time.

This is a situation that you want to avoid at all costs.

Avoiding a factor-2 fall

Taking care to avoid a factor-2 fall

Factor-2 falls are the most severe load that you can put on your anchor. In the worst-case scenario, your anchor could fail, which means that your team is coming off the mountain.

Even if you’re falling on two modern stainless bolts that could sustain a factor-2 from a pair of elephants, you’re still going to take your belayer for a nasty jerk.

To mitigate this possibility, most sources recommend clipping the uppermost piece of your anchor as your first piece of the pitch. There are some rare scenarios where this might not be preferable, but it’s generally a good idea.

Place or clip gear as soon as possible once you’ve left the belay, and take special care during this stretch. Falls here can be especially treacherous. You can read some more about fall factors here.

The Duties of the Follower

Assuming all goes well, your partner will embark on their next lead, clip their first piece early and safely, and successfully lead up to the next belay station.

They’ll repeat the same process you went through at the first anchor (if you’re constructing anchors using a cordelette, note that you’ll need a second one). They’ll go in direct, communicate that to you somehow, and then pull up the rope and put you on belay.

Now it’s your turn to be the follower.

As discussed earlier, it’s generally a good idea to take a quick step upwards to make sure that you’re on belay. If the rope tightens as your partner belays, you’re good to go.

You can then unclip your clove hitch, clean whatever gear was in your anchor, and rack it on your harness before starting the pitch.

While following, one of your crucial duties is to clean and rack gear as you go. This is another area that can get tricky. Racking gear is all well and good when you’re stationary, but when you’re pumped and feeling your foot start to slip, fumbling with an alpine draw is the last thing you want to worry about.

Keep it simple here. Have a system that works for you. I prefer to put gear on my harness and throw alpines over my shoulder.

If you’re only cleaning draws, it’s usually pretty easy to put them back on your harness. Some climbers will only unclip or remove the gear end, leaving the hardware dangling above their knot until they reach the next stance or anchor. I find this method to be a little cumbersome, but you can experiment with what works best for you.

When following, it’s a good idea to move quickly. Multi-pitch routes are often more pleasant if you’re swift, and an expeditious follower can speed things up quite a bit. You’re not on lead and you’re not placing gear, so don’t dally. Use all that extra mental space to focus on climbing.

The one scenario when the follower is also on the hook is during traverses. On a vertical climb, the follower is on top rope for the duration of the pitch. On a traverse pitch, however, the follower will be staring at a fall every time they clean a piece.

Take care during these circumstances. A thoughtful leader will remember to protect traverses effectively for their second, but a follower may need to move carefully through horizontal terrain.

A short traverse

Followers should take care on traverses

Finishing Up & Descending

From here on it’s just rinsed and repeat.

After you follow a pitch, you and your partner will execute another flawless and efficient multi-pitch transition, leaving you ready to lead the next pitch. You can go on leapfrogging each other until you reach the end of whatever climb you’ve picked out for the day.

Congratulations! You made it.

At this point, you still have to worry about getting down. Here we arrive at another golden rule of climbing:

Do not underestimate the descent.

A shocking number of climbing accidents happen while climbers are trying to descend from climbs. Know exactly how you plan to descend before you leave the ground, and make sure you’re equipped to do so.

Favor walk-off descents over rappels — rappels add risk, can dislodge additional rock, and can slow down or obstruct other climbers. If you’re doing multiple rappels, have an efficient and reliable system for transitions, and always (ALWAYS) tie knots in the ends of your rope(s).

At the end of a long climb, you and your partner will often be tired. Do not get complacent. Stay attentive and careful, and make sure that you get down safely.

Weather & Time

“Weather is always a concern when I’m on a multi-pitch rock climb,” says Whewell. Because multi-pitch climbs tend to be longer and more committing than single-pitch routes, the risk of getting hit by weather increases substantially.

If things start to get really epic, you might still be on the climb when the sun is setting.

When you’re halfway up a cliff, these are no small concerns. Wet rock might make it impossible for you to continue climbing. A sudden storm might cut visibility. You might be a long way from shelter and in a very exposed position. With some precipitation, shade, and a little wind, things get cold pretty quickly.

Alpine weather

Be prepared for the possibility of adverse weather.

The answer, as always: be prepared.

Bring layers. Check the weather. Move quickly. Bring as much food and water as you’ll need.

These concerns are especially pressing when climbing at high altitude. “Weather in Rocky Mountain National Park tends to be much more of a concern than when you’re in Eldorado Canyon,” says Whewell.

The more remote and alpine your objective, the more ready you should be. And don’t be afraid to bail — better a wet retreat than a stormy epic.

How to Carry Gear on a Multi-pitch Climb

So: you need to carry all those layers and all that food and water (not to mention the topo of your climb).

You might need sunscreen or climbing tape, and you’ll probably want a camera if you want all your friends to see how amazing the view was. If you’re walking off, you’ll also need to get your shoes up to the top with you.

How?

As is so often the case, there are multiple answers here.

Some climbers prefer to hang almost everything on their harness. Many climbing-specific shells and layers will pack into a pocket and have a handy clip-in loop, perfect for attaching to the back of your harness.

You know those funky little half-size Nalgenes that look like they’re made for kids? They’re perfect for clipping to your harness on smaller multi-pitches. Throw some energy bars in one pocket and your topo in the other, and you’re good to go.

If you’re taking your approach shoes with you, it helps to have a light pair that can clip to your harness as well. I have climbed with a pair of hiking boots on my harness, and it’s not a very pleasant experience.

My current favorite lightweight approachers are the La Sportiva TX2, but find whichever ones work best for you.

I’m one of the climbers that prefer to carry a small pack — I like the extra space and versatility. If the load is light enough and the climb is short enough, both climbers can fit their gear in a single pack. Whoever is following carries the pack, and it gets passed back and forth at belay transitions.

If more gear, layers, or supplies are needed, both climbers can carry a small pack. You’ll want something low-profile and light that will stay close to your body as your climbing. I’m a fan of the budget-friendly REI Flash 18, but many companies design packs specifically for this purpose.

When Things Go Wrong

No matter how well we prepare, things don’t always go our way. The weather might suddenly shift. A rock might break loose. You might make your best judgment and have it turn out wrong.

A few things will help here.

Stay realistic and stay positive. Manage your risk. Be prepared for unforeseen obstacles, but recognize when you’ve pushed it too far. Support your partner, and trust them to support you. I can’t overstate the importance of having a partner who can get you back on track when you’re discouraged or panicked.

If things do go wrong, have the skills that you need to survive and react.

It is strongly recommended that you know some basic self-rescue techniques when embarking on any serious multi-pitch climbing.

Articlesvideos, and forum threads on the topic abound. Again, practice these skills before you really need them. Ideally, you’ll know things like how to ascend a rope, how to tie a prusik, and how to belay off a Munter.

A full self-rescue rundown is beyond the scope of this page, but I strongly encourage you to familiarize yourself with basic techniques.

Part of what’s wonderful about climbing is the adventure of it. Embrace that adventure, but be clear-eyed and humble about what you’re getting yourself into (and the risks involved). Be prepared for whatever you might encounter along the way.

Parties of Three

Climbing with a party of two is one of the most basic and efficient methods, but you might find yourself wanting to bring another friend.

In some circumstances (committing alpine expeditions or big walls, for example), parties of three bring substantial advantages. The mental load is shared, you’re alone less of the time, and the duties at transitions can be delegated even further.

There are several methods of climbing with three, depending on your objective and needs.

Sometimes the leader will belay both followers at the same time. Sometimes one follower will clean while the other jugs up a fixed line. As usual, do your research and know your systems. It is certainly possible (and sometimes very fun) to climb efficiently with larger parties.

Putting What You’ve Learned into Practice

An article like this one can, at best, provide a theoretical outline for how to get going. How are you going to learn and practice all these skills?

“Seek mentorship from people who are experienced,” says Whewell. Mentors are an essential part of the climbing community, and they’re one of the best ways to literally learn the ropes.

That could mean getting an experienced friend to lead you up a moderate climb. It could mean sucking up the courage to ask that grizzled old-timer at your local climbing gym to show you a thing or two, and then repaying him with six packs or sandwiches.

Even better, find some classes or a guide service. Many local services have courses on learning to lead trad or multi-pitch climbs, and they’ll give you a hands-on environment with an experienced guide.

“Finding a mentor can take a long time,” says Whewell, “and coordinating your schedules can take a long time. The most expensive — and most productive — is to hire a mountain guide to specifically cover the skills that you want to learn. You can tailor the curriculum to exactly what you want to learn about.”

Resources online and in books are common, but they’ll only get you so far.

“Learning from books and videos is better than it ever has been, but it’s still not quite as good,” says Whewell. That’s no reason to stop reading or doing research, but in the end you’ll need to find a way to get comfortable with these skills on real rock. Whether it’s with friends, with a guide, or in some low-pressure setting is down to your personal style and needs.

This is a matter of both courtesy and safety. You don’t want to be the gumbies slowing down all the parties on your local classic, and you especially don’t want to end up in an accident report.

One more time, for the people in the back: know your systems, be prepared, and have a plan before you get out on the rock.

And while you’re there, don’t forget to enjoy the view.

Multi-pitch climbing can take you to some of the most magical places in the world, places where the majority of people will never get to go.

Scaling large cliffs lends a sense of scale that single-pitch climbing lacks. You get to follow in the footsteps of climbing titans and clip the pitons they left behind. You get to feel the joy and tribulation of summits that test you.

It can be a humbling, exhilarating, and beautiful experience. Savor it.

The view from the top of a multi-pitch route

Special thanks to the Eric Whewell of the Colorado Mountain School for lending his time and expertise. CMS offers a variety of courses and clinics on rock, ice, and snow — including courses on trad climbing, anchors, self-rescue, and multi-pitch. You can find them online or at their offices in Boulder and Estes Park.

About the Author: Willis Kuelthau

Willis is the rare local who was actually born in Boulder, Colorado, and he has been climbing mountains since he was small. He appreciates all styles of climbing and enjoys skiing and running on the side. Favorite climbing spots include Rocky Mountain National Park, Wild Iris, and Tuolumne. He attended college in Massachusetts and currently resides in Philadelphia. He loves cats, green tea, and endurance climbs. You can check out his adventures on his Instagram account.

How many people have climbed the dawn wall?

If you are asking this question, I found this on Wikipedia:

“On January 14, 2015, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson completed the first free climb of the Dawn Wall after 19 days, one of the hardest climbs in the world. In November 2016, Czech climber Adam Ondra free climbed the Dawn Wall in 8 days”

After that, there is no one else, not that I can find. but I am still looking, if you have more information please send it to me at mail@frogclimber.com

Dr. Natasha Barnes – Pain Science for Climbers

This episode of the Power Company Podcast helps me a lot to understand how our brain works and why we feel pain. not just for climbing or training injuries.

I suffer from a chronic disease and learn how to manage the pain is a relief on my day to day life. I hope this helps other people too.

https://www.powercompanyclimbing.com/blog/2019/11/25/ep-153-dr-natasha-barnes-pain-science-for-climbers

There is also a video explaining everything

Sleepwalker 8C+ by Rudolph “Drew” Ruana

Sleepwalker 8C+ by Rudolph "Drew" Ruana

Drew Ruana, #13 in the Combined World Championship, has done his first 8C+, Sleepwalker in Red Rocks, which was put up by Jimmy Webb one year ago, video. (c) Cameron Hörst

I just dialed all the moves perfectly before considering redpoint attempts. I did it on my 4th rp try today but I made sure over the last seven days before that I could do all the sections perfectly each session. I was going for “low points” and yesterday did it from the 2nd move to the top which gave me confidence.”

The boulder is like 50-55 degrees overhanging and with three pads stacked Drew was able to work all the hard moves.

Drew has previously said that his focus is not the Olympics and he was not selected to participate in the Continental Championship. However, if a Canadian gets the spot, Drew is likely to get the Tripartite ticket, based on his WCH result.

Article on https://www.8a.nu/

Climbing Terminology – how to talk like a climber

I know some of this term are from Europe and don’t apply for the rest of the word, there is a lot that is the same. Very funny and educational video.

Want to know the difference between a Guppy and a Gaston or just sound like a pro next time you’re at the wall? This is the video for you!

Bouldering Bobat

I recommended, watch and enjoy, you can follow these guys and watch other videos on their YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIRjdHLsHq6xdtAHAmoueqg