Climbing Smarter = Climbing Harder

Reverse flag, gaston, arête—oh my! If you’ve visited the Longmont Climbing Collective, you’ve surely heard this technobabble flung around a time or two. As with any sport, having a strong understanding of and being able to correctly utilize a plethora of techniques is a game-changer. Let’s discuss why technique skill-building is the #1 way to improve climbing performance for beginning to intermediate level climbers.

How many times have we all been told that climbers have to possess great upper-body strength in order to be successful? To be clear, getting stronger through systematic strength training is a great idea and is a crucial component for advancing through grades, so be sure to check out Taylor’s training classes. But strength isn’t everything. The idea that climbing is only for the super strong has led to many being too fearful to even give the sport a try, and it’s time this adage be debunked. I can truly say that the climbers I have enjoyed working with the most are the ones who threw this silly idea into the dust bin and tried it all the same. My greatest joy comes from their beaming smiles and lightbulb moments when they overcome struggles to find success.

So, how did these climbers without bulky upper-body muscles manage to not only have fun, but also be successful? They learned to utilize proper climbing technique. If you get the chance, watch multiple climbers navigate the same route. Some will seem to pull hard and power through the moves, while others will look as if they’re gracefully floating up the wall with minimal effort. Also take note of the “veteran” climbers. They know that muscle is harder to maintain with age and those powerful moves don’t jive so well with aging joints, so they must compensate with technique in order to maintain their skill level. Also consider slab routes with tiny or sloping holds, where the only option is using technique.

We’ve all been told at one point in our lives to take the path of least resistance. In climbing, this means utilizing a wide variety of techniques in order to use the minimum amount of muscle, energy and power to reach the top. Think about it—muscle is heavy and weighs us down. In a sport where we are literally fighting gravity, being lighter is highly beneficial, which is why almost all professional climbers are very lean and have exquisite technique. Using more energy and power than is necessary is simply inefficient. The next time you’re climbing, pay attention to your hand tension. Are you using the minimum amount of gripping force in order to not slip off the hold? I can assure you that using more than the minimum is directly related to fear, lack of confidence, or shoddy technique.

Now let me address my fellow ladies. Please, let’s collectively decide to stop allowing each other to use “I’m too short” or “I’m too weak” as excuses. These, and many other so-called challenges can be overcome or lessened by climbing with proper technique. In fact, technique can transform these challenges into advantages. Case in point- try sticking someone over six feet tall in a compact sequence of moves that can’t be skipped. Being tall can certainly turn one into a pretzel in this scenario! Small climbers and those with pinpoint technique accuracy can also expertly navigate seemingly too-small holds and keep their feet from popping off of dime-sized edges and slabby pancake nubs.

Hopefully by now you’re thoroughly convinced of why it is imperative to master that technobabble and start climbing more efficiently. So now the question remains, how do you learn this mythical unicorn technique? You could watch skilled climbers float up the wall and puzzlingly attempt to parse out what exactly they did. Or, you could fast-track the process by attending a class at the Longmont Climbing Collective! We offer a co-ed Bouldering Level I class on Mondays designed to teach you the essentials of climbing as well as a place for women of all levels to support each other’s learning through the Lady Crushers class on Tuesdays. Visit us online or speak with a staff member at the front desk for more information and to sign up.

Are you ready to transform how you approach climbing? I thought so! Register Today for Bouldering Level I or Lady Crushers to learn how to climb smarter so you can climb harder.

Rebecca Allison, AMGA Certified Climbing Wall Instructor & Lady Crushers Coach

Adult Bouldering League Launch

The Longmont Climbing Collective’s Adult Bouldering League is a social league focused on building camaraderie and having fun. Climbers of all skill levels are encouraged to participate.

The league will meet on Wednesdays at 6pm from November 7 to December 12.  Teams of 2-6 are ideal and climbers must be 18 or older.  Fees are $29 per climber.

Scoring will be based on your V-MAX when the season starts. This is the highest grade that you’ve been able to regularly climb at LCC recently.  The point value of a boulder problem that you climb is based on your V-MAX, so climbers of all abilities can compete against each other on a level playing field. (See table below)

Your team score will be the average of the top 5 climbs completed by each member of the team.
1st, 2nd and 3rd place prizes will be awarded at the end of the 6-week season, based on highest total points per team.

Heal Your Spine

Pain in our low back and hips is all too common and very frustrating.  The spine is our mother-board, if it is not healthy and balanced there are many other effects besides a stiff low back. The nerves that run through the spine are connected to our various systems and organs. So by improving your spine health you can improve your overall wellness.   Here is a list of exercises that provide stability as well as mobility specifically into the low back and hips.

The Hula Sequence

I love this series of movements for isolating the flexion and extension of the spine as well as rotation of the hips.  Standing with feet hip distance apart knees softly bent slowly move the hips side to side without moving the shoulders or head.  Pelvic tilt forward and back bringing some movement into your lumbar spine.  Put it all together, move your hips in a circle.  Moving your hips side, back, side and to the front.  You’re doing the Hula!

All 4’s hips side to side

Lean the hips to one side with an exhale breath and then to the other. Move slowly to allow the stretch of the outer hip to progress slowly. This movement brings the external muscles and tissues into balance.

Cat and Cow / Flexion and Extension

On all 4s inhale drop your belly down, open your chest and collar bones. Look up toward the ceiling. Exhale, press into your hands knees and shins. Then draw your belly up and in and bring chin to chest.

Pelvic Tilts to a Bridge

Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet hip distance apart. Make sure your toes are pointed straight forward and not rotated out. Begin by tilting your pelvis forward and back with your feet on the ground. This feels like pressing your low back flat and then creating more space and arch in your low back. After a few rounds press down into your feet and lift your hips, move slowly like you are peeling your back body off the ground. Roll all the way up until you only have weight in your feet, shoulders and back of your head. Tuck your shoulders under and interlace your hands together underneath your back. As you exhale slowly release and roll back down slowly through the spine.

Practice these short sequences once a day and you will begin to notice more ease, flexibility and strength in your low spine. Then you may begin to realize there is a ripple effect through the rest of your body and mind. More strength and flexibility, clarity in your thoughts and intention in your actions. Our spine is our main control center.  Keep it healthy, flexible and balanced to experience true freedom.

Will Lifting Weights Make You A Better Climber

Climbers often ask me if lifting weights will make them better at climbing. The answer is no. As Steve Bechtel reminds us, “Climbing is a skill sport,” and the only way to improve a skill is to practice the skill. Sure, you’ll eventually need to employ climbing-specific training methods, but even those will still look a lot like climbing (hangboards, systems boards, and the like).

So it’s simple: climbers should only climb to get better at climbing, and avoid the weight room at all costs, unless they want to get bulky and slow. Right?

Not quite.

Here’s the thing. If you do one thing (rock climbing) over and over, you will eventually earn muscle imbalances and injuries. If you think you’re the exception to the rule, please email me in a decade so that I can know what it’s like to receive an email from one of the genetic elites. Simply put, training with weights is the quickest, safest way to incrementally increase your total-body strength and guard against imbalances.

That said, you are a rock climber, and rock climbing is a skill sport. So you don’t want to waste any time in the weight room. You need the minimum effective dose of weight training, and you should spend the rest of your time practicing climbing.

As it turns out, you are in luck. It doesn’t take hours upon hours in the gym to gain strength. You don’t need to think about Leg Day, Back & Biceps, or Chest & Triceps. These are leftovers from the bodybuilding era that your high school coaches most likely lived through. And I’m not hating on bodybuilding, here. I’m a Schwarzenegger and Stallone fan from way back. I’m just saying that the bodybuilding methodology is not the best fit for rock climbers (among other athletes).

It’s time that climbers learned that there is more to lifting weight than getting big. You can build strength without size. You can build a balanced physique that can endure the rigors of hard climbing. Here’s how.

3 Rules

  1. Use compound movements. This means that more than one joint moves when you’re doing the exercise.
  2. Keep the reps at 5 or less. Any more than this and you will likely build non-functional muscle mass. If you’ve ever been told that “low reps + heavy weight build mass,” then please know that whoever told you that was wrong.
  3. Never go to failure. Always leave a rep or two in the tank. For many of you, this will be the hardest rule to follow, but try to be mature in the weight room. Remember, Hemingway always stopped writing for the day when he knew what would happen next. Take the same approach. Leave some ink in the well.

Below is an example of how a climber might set up a strength training program. All of the fundamental movement patterns are covered. The sessions will take less than an hour each. It’s going to take a few months, but you will get strong. If you don’t believe me, try it out and let me know what happens.

Starting Weights
Goblet Squat / Halo Press Weighted Pull-up Deadlift
12-20kg Kettlebell 6 Rep Max 6 Rep Max 6 Rep Max

 

Warmup
Goblet Squat x 5 x 3
Halo x 5 Left / 5 Right

 

The Program
Week Press Weighted Pull-up Deadlift
1 5 x 3 5 x 3 10 x 1
2 5 x 4 5 x 4 5 x 2
3 5 x 5 5 x 5 3 x 3
4 Add 5 pounds and start over Add 5 pounds and start over Add 10 pounds and start over
  • Do this two days per week, always with at least one rest day in between. Day 2 each week will be exactly the same as Day 1. Enjoy it.
  • If you climb outside on the weekends, then Tuesday/Thursday would be the ideal days for these sessions.
  • If you’re climbing in the gym on the same day as lifting, always climb first.
  • Once the weight starts to get feel like it’s near max, decrease the weight by 15% and start a new cycle.
  • If you stall at the same weight more than once, switch to a different program.

This program is dead simple. It’s absolutely effective. And it will leave you plenty of time for climbing. If you’re unsure of how to execute any of these lifts or if anything above is unclear, please ask for Taylor at the front desk. I’ll probably be around.

Taylor


Influences

Power To The People. Pavel Tsatsouline, 1999.

Logical Progression. Steve Bechtel, 2017.

Easy Strength. Dan John & Pavel Tsatsouline, 2011.

Intervention. Dan John, 2013.

New Head Coach – Aman Anderson

New Head Coach – Aman Anderson

The Longmont Climbing Collective is pleased to announce that Aman Anderson will be the Head Coach of Longmont’s Youth Team.  Aman is originally from Florida and has been climbing for the past 10 years. His approach to human performance and athleticism stems from his health, academic and competitive background as an athlete under USA Triathlon. Aman has studied health sciences and nutritional therapy, and has been coaching youth, and collegiate level climbing athletes for the past 3 years for the Beast Fingers Climbing Team. He works as a sports performance analyst for KörperForce, which helps both adult and youth athletes balance strength and track their performance output. These opportunities have allowed him to play an effective role in published climbing-centric research to help propel the sport of climbing and innovate new concepts in training.

The LCC Youth Program is now fully staffed and loaded for a fantastic 2018/2019 Season.  We invite you to check out our programs:

  • Team Program – 8-19 years old – We offer a Junior Varsity and Varsity team. The Junior Varsity team is focused on training and enhancing climbing skills, without the stress of competition. The Varsity team is focused on building a youth team to compete nationally in sport climbing, speed and bouldering.
  • Club Program – 7-17 years old – Climbing introduction, utilizing games and indoor exercise to build your child’s self-confidence, critical thinking skills and more.
  • Kinder Club – 3-6 years old – Introduce your little ones to the magic of climbing.

If you’ve got questions, please email [email protected] or call us at 720-340-3640.

Climbing Tips – How to Get Unstuck

Training to get unstuck

How many times have you found yourself on a climb needing to make that seamless transition to the next move and you’re stuck?  Is it your strength, your flexibility, your metal state or your balance?  All of these obstacles can be conquered through a regular yoga practice. When you dedicate yourself to time on a yoga mat you will find the benefits translating to your time on the wall.

Flexibility

This seems to be the benefit of yoga that’s the most common knowledge. Opening up your hips and hamstrings is always a popular place to start. Did you know that you can benefit your hands and feet through yoga too? Opening the fascia or connective tissue through regular stretching helps your hands and feet to become more receptive to crimps and tiny foot holds.

Stretch feet

Stretch Fingers Forearms

Mind & Breath

These two keys to climbing are a main focus of a yoga practice as well. On the mat you’re encouraged to bring all of your attention to the present, each breath and movement. This trains your mind so you’re able to call on this skill even when you’re not connected to the ground. Slow, controlled breath not only oxygenates your muscles, but also promotes calm and clear decisions.

Proper breathing

Balance & Strength

When you dedicate yourself to a regular yoga practice you will notice how your balance begins to improve. This enables you to make delicate moves while conserving your vital energy for the power moves. You will also gain balanced strength and flexibility. In a yoga practice you will work each main muscle group, even if the focus is on one in particular. Can you say injury prevention?

The LCC yoga program is powered by Shri Studios, a local yoga studio with highly experienced yoga instructors and programs. You can read more about Shri Studios here.  Shri Studios has crafted the LCC yoga program to meet the unique needs of its growing community. All of the weekly yoga classes at LCC are included in your day pass, punch pass or membership. The workshops and series classes are offered to the public and discounted for members.  Check out a calendar of all our classes and workshops here.

Hope to see you on the wall and the yoga mat!

Shauna

Building Endurance – Part 1

HOW TO BUILD ENDURANCE AT A BOULDERING GYM — PART 1

Strength is the best, but it’s not everything. At LCC, we love training strength and power. It’s one of the reasons we built a bouldering gym—bouldering is strength and power. We went all-out on this: Kilter board, Tension board, systems board, campus board, hangboards…the finest tools available for getting climbers outrageously strong. Strength is the master quality of fitness. Increased strength will generally improve other attributes of fitness, while the reverse is not true. So, get strong. (Much more on this in the future).  But what happens if you take your fingers of steel out for a field trip up Boulder Canyon, and they crap out on you halfway up the second pitch of the day? More hangboard and deadlift! Just kidding. The truth is that climbing demands a uniquely well-rounded set of attributes from the athlete. Endurance is one of them. Here are two straightforward ways to improve.

ARCing = Jogging for Climbers

ARC Training…you may have heard of it. ARC stands for “Aerobic Restoration and Capillarity.” I could ramble about the science of this for at least a couple paragraphs, but I’ll put it simply: ARCing is the “jogging” of rock climbing. In short, it will improve your low-end endurance, and make your forearms more veiny, which will increase blood flow, which is definitely a good thing.  Traditionally, you would ARC for multiple sets of 20-45 minutes. This will no doubt work wonders for your endurance, but the downside is that it’s so boring you’ll never do it. Here’s a suggestion that you might actually try.

What to do:

  • Use the big training board in the back of the gym. If you’ve never tried ARCing before, then start with the wall set at vertical.
  • Climb continuously at a fairly easy pace. A slight slight pump in the forearms is okay, but don’t push it to the point of failure.
  • Don’t try to climb specific routes on the training board, just climb around on all the holds.
  • ARCing is a great chance to work on specific climbing technique: flagging, silent feet, etc. Also, this is a great time to practice the very important skill of “not grippingholds any harder than you have to.”

When to do it:

  • Employ ARCing during your warmup or cooldown. One set of 15 minutes to warm up, or one set of 15 minutes to cool down. If you have time, ARC in your warmup and your cooldown.

How to progress:

  • Work toward 15 minutes of continuous climbing. If 15 minutes is too much for you at first, that’s fine. Start by ARCing for whatever length of time you can manage without getting pumped, and strive to add a minute or so per week, until you’ve reached 15 minutes.
  • Once you can climb for 15 minutes with the board set at vertical, increase the board angle by 5 degrees and build back up.

Linked Boulder Problems = Sprinting for Climbers

ARCing will cover your base endurance, but we all know that “other” type of endurance. It’s the deep burn type of endurance. It’s the “I don’t know if I can make this move, but I’m going to try anyway” type of endurance. It’s called Power Endurance.

Power endurance happens at a higher intensity than aerobic endurance. That means that the sets are shorter, but more difficult. Unlike ARCing, you should expect to feel hideously pumped during this session. Because of the increased intensity, you should only do linked boulder problems 1-2 times per week.

What to do:

  • Use slightly-overhanging terrain. The Prow is a great section of the gym for this type of session.
  • Pick 2-3 boulder problems that are close to each other on the wall.
  • Choosing the right problems is a bit of an art, and you’ll have to experiment, but here’s a general guideline: 1 easy problem, 1 hard problem and 1 medium problem.
  • Get out your phone and open the stopwatch app. Start the stopwatch when you begin climbing.
    Climb up Problem 1, traverse over and climb Problem 2, traverse over and climb Problem 3.
  • Get off the wall and check the stopwatch. Rest for 2x the amount of time you were on the wall.
    Repeat the circuit 3 times total, then rest 5 minutes while you make up another circuit.
    Repeat the same process with the second circuit. Build up to doing 4 circuits.

When to do it:

  • You will be tired and sore after a session like this, so don’t do it the day before you go climbing outside.
  • Generally speaking, work on power endurance a couple of days after a strength session.

How to progress:

  • Start by resting 2x the amount of time you were on the wall.
  • Over the course of a few weeks, gradually reduce this rest time until your rest period is equal to the amount of time you were on the wall.
  • Finally, increase the difficulty of the problems in the circuit.

As always, if you have any questions about training, ask The Guy With The Beard (a.k.a. Taylor)

Summer Camps

When school is out, we know how important it is to keep your kids engaged and active. Camp should be informative, interesting and most of all... FUN! Whether you are looking to boulder for the first time or send V10, you’re sure to find this camp a fun and exciting learning experience! Activities will include:

  • Safety instruction
  • Bouldering technique and skill training
  • Health and fitness instruction
  • Games and exciting activities
  • Team building
  • Yoga and flexibility introduction
  • and much more...

LCC will be offering half day (9am - 12pm) and full day (9am - 3pm) options during the weeks of June 18-22, July 9-13 and July 30 - Aug 3. The kids will be split into two different age appropriate groups - ages 6-9 and 10-15.

Prices for half day camps are $150 for members and $187 for non-members. Full day prices are $300 for members and $375 for non-members.

Youth Programs

Young climbers are an important part of the LCC Community and we want to support their development at all ages and skill levels.  Our youth programs begin on May 1 and we're excited to offer the following options:

Youth Bouldering Team (Ages 8-19) - This is for kids who are seeking a competitive, challenging yet fun environment.  Team members meet Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:00 to 6:30.  Fees are $175 per month.

Youth Climbing Club (Ages 7-17) is for kids who enjoy climbing and want to have a fun experience with friends and coaches.  Sessions meet on either Monday or Wednesday from 5:00 to 6:30.  Fees are $90/month.

Kinder Club (ages 3-6) is an opportunity for the youngsters to have fun and get introduced to bouldering.  Sessions meet on either Monday or Wednesday from 5:00 to 6:30.  Fees are $90/month.

You can find more information on our Youth Programs page, but if you have any questions you can also email us at [email protected].

Your feedback

Take a short survey.  Get a discount.

It’s very important to us at LCC to hear your opinion.  We’d like to hear a little bit more about how you’re using the gym, your climbing preferences and your interest in our yoga services.

You can take the survey HERE.

On average this should take you 3-5 minutes to complete and we’d really appreciate your input.  If you complete the survey, we’ll give you a code at the end that will be worth 10% off of items in our retail store that will be good through the end of April.