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Category Archives: Training Tools

Review of the Latest Climbing Research

By Mark Anderson

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Our friends at Trango generously footed the bill to send Mike and I to the International Rock Climbing Research Association’s (IRCRA) annual conference, held in Telluride, CO earlier this month. Ben and Jason at Fixed Pin Publishing also stepped up big-time to provide attendees with complimentary copies of The Rock Climber’s Training Manual. The conference was a who’s who of climbing researchers, medical experts and performance gurus, providing a great opportunity for us to spread the word about our system of training and line of Trango training products. We had the opportunity to meet and compare notes with the likes of hangboard queen Eva Lopez-Rivera, Volker Schöffl (climber-surgeon and author of the landmark book “One Move Too Many”), mental master Arno Ilgner (author of The Rock Warrior’s Way), Ben Spannuth (badass sport climber and creator of the Bam Board), Eric Horst (author of the Training For Climbing series of books), as well as prolific climbing researches Phil Watts, Nick Draper and Vanesa Espańa-Romero.

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Mark discussing the evolution of hangboard technology that preceded the Rock Prodigy Training Center.

 

Our primary purpose in attending was to present our two papers: “Evaluating the Rock Prodigy Training Method” and “Finger Strength Improvements with the Rock Prodigy Training Center Hangboard.” We gave a 30-minute presentation covering both topics. It was a bit intimidating presenting pseudo-scientific material to a conference room full of PHD physiologists and researchers, but we were very well-received and generated a great discussion about the evolution of hangboards and the importance of ergonomics in training tools. A number of attendees came up after our presentation to compliment us on the Forge and RPTC designs (and ask where they can buy one in Europe!)

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The highlight for me was a long—albeit broken—conversation with Eva Lopez. We compared notes on hangboard training methods, hangboard design (Eva designed the innovative and popular “Progression” and “Transgression” hangboards), and laughed together about the many internet debates over whose hangboard routines are superior. [We heartily agreed that the climber’s strengths, weaknesses, and goals are surely the most important factor in selecting the optimal routine.]

The world’s foremost hangboard experts (in no particular order)? From left to right: Mark Anderson, Eva Lopez, Mike Anderson

I also learned (from the truly impressive Volker Schöffl and team) that there are a lot of climbing injuries I’d never even heard of. One key takeaway is that, if I ever have a serious climbing injury, I’m going to Germany to get it diagnosed and treated. Dr. Schöffl is on a whole different level when it comes to understanding and treating climbing injuries. He’s done extensive studies comparing the various treatment options (that he likely pioneered) on injuries that your local hand surgeon has probably never even heard of (let alone treated).

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Mike going through the survey results

 

Our secondary objective was to learn about the latest advancements in climbing training and injury treatment knowledge. There were some 35 papers submitted from a truly international cast of experts (including contributors from Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, France, Germany, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, UK, and perhaps the most remote relative to rock climbing: Michigan). Below is a BRIEF summary of the findings I found most interesting/relevant to performance-oriented climbers. I’ve tried to provide links where possible so you can dig into the details if you’d like more info. [At some point all of these papers should be posted to the IRCRA web site, but they did not seem to be posted as of the date this post was published]

    • Dr. Vanesa Espana-Romero of Universidad de Cadiz, Spain presented a review of the literature to update our understanding of the physiological components of rock climbing.  According to her summary of the research, the top 3 key attributes are finger strength (relative to body weight), finger intermittent endurance and upper body power. There is little or no correlation between systemic aerobic fitness (measures such as heart rate, VO2 Max, etc), however, climbers tend to have better local aerobic endurance (within the forearm muscles). Also, flexibility isn’t correlated to climbing performance…I still plan to stretch though.

 

    • Shaking of the hand “near the body” while resting increases re-oxygenation [thus improving recovery?] ~32% compared to simply relaxing your grip over a hold (and NOT shaking the hand). Presumably because placing the forearm under the level of the heart increases vasodilative responses, thus increasing blood flow. [Reference]

 

    • Time to failure when performing repeated crimp grip contractions (10s on, 3s off) at 40% of 1 Rep Max (1RM) was significantly increased in “cold” conditions (50 degF, vs. control of 75 degF). The temperature difference did not significantly affect 1RM. I recommend taking a copy of this study to your local climbing gym in hopes of convincing the management to turn down the thermostat. [Ref. “The effect of cold ambient temperatures on climbing-specific finger flexor performance” by KC Phillips, B Noh, M Gage, T Yoon]

 

    • Dehydrated climbers did not perform as well on a Treadwall test. [Ref: “Effect of hypohydration on climbing to failure on a treadwall” by KD Hewitt, T France, G Gonzalez, M Probst, et al]

 

 

    • If you want to improve your 1 Rep Max for a 5 second dead hang, training for 8 weeks with 3-5 sets of 1, 10-second rep (with 3 minutes rest between sets) is superior to training for 8 weeks with 3-5 sets of 4-5, 10-second reps (with 1 minute rest between sets). [Ref. “Comparison of the effects of three hangboard training programs on maximal finger strength in rock climbers” by E Lopez-Rivera & JJ Gonzalez-Badillo]

 

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Eva Lopez presenting her paper comparing three 8-week hangboard protocols.

 

    • The use of chalk significantly increases hang time to failure on a hangboard (compared to NOT using chalk). [Reference]

 

    • Intermediate-level climbers make more technical mistakes when leading routes than when toproping. [Ref. “Anxiety level and ability to climb routes in recreational indoor climbing” by P Czermak]

 

    • “High” climbing level and/or intensive finger training (such as campusing) correlates with risk for early onset osteoarthritis in the hands of young climbers. [Ref. “Long term Radiographic Adaptations to the Stress of High-Level and recreational Rock Climbing in Young Athletes” by P Hoffman, S Hinterwimmer, AB Imhoff, T Kupper, and V Schöffl]

 

    • Forearm compression sleeves might beneficially affect lactate removal after climbing. [Reference]

 

    • A couple different presenters showed research that supports the theory that “near term” finger strength improvements may be mostly due to neurological adaptations, rather than hypertrophy. However, nobody directly studied this.

 

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Mike and I discussing training philosophy with Eric Horst at the end of our presentation.

Thanks again to Trango for sponsoring our trip, and thanks to all of you who participated in the Rock Prodigy survey! If you have any questions about any of the research presented, or would like to discuss any of the finer points, please post up in the Rock Prodigy Forum.

Kids Climbing Wall

by Mark Anderson

Growing up, I rarely had the opportunity climb. As a teenager, I occasionally had the chance to try it, typically on the most pitiful excuses for climbing walls you could imagine (one vertical sheet of 4×8 plywood with 2x4s nailed on for holds, and the like). The small geographical area within my reach was completely devoid of rock, but the local libraries had enough books to pique my interest—Steck and Roper’s 50 Classics, Harlin’s Climber’s Guide to North America, Watts’ Smith Rock guide. I knew I wanted climb, despite virtually no experience actually doing it. It wasn’t until the end of college that I finally had sufficient freedom and transportation to really get into it.

I now have two kids, Logan (4.5 years old) and Amelie (2). I sincerely don’t care if they become climbers, but if they choose to pursue it, I want them to have the opportunities that I lacked, and that means regular access to climbing terrain. The Lazy H Barn provides them far more opportunity than I had, but it’s a bit of a hike for their small legs, and they can’t physically open the door. Not to mention, the terrain isn’t exactly designed for them, and the few vertical sections quickly become dull. I expect as they grow up they’ll find it more enticing, but currently they rarely climb in it more than about once a month.

With that in mind, I decided last year to build a climbing wall inside the house, designed specifically for the kids. This would greatly improve their access, especially during winter when our place is frequently snowbound. We have a pair of really kid-friendly gyms on the Front Range (ABC Kids in Boulder and CityROCK in Colorado Springs). These gyms have done a great job of including elements that make the experince fun and entertaining. I wanted to do the same because more than anything, I want climbing to be fun for them.

The space, in the first stages of framing. My hangboard rig used to reside in the corner in center, but now that I’ve realized the wisdom of the “just climb” philosophy, I don’t need it anymore. (J/k of course—I’ll quit climbing before I quit hangboarding)

The space, in the first stages of framing. My hangboard rig used to reside in the corner in center, but now that I’ve realized the wisdom of the “just climb” philosophy, I don’t need it anymore. (J/k of course—I’ll quit climbing before I quit hangboarding).

Complete framing. The ramp behind the wall (on the right edge of the photo) supports a slide tunnel.

Complete framing. The ramp behind the wall (on the right edge of the photo) supports a slide tunnel.

A look at the Monkey Bars that connect the two walls.

A look at the Monkey Bars and catwalk that connect the two walls.

Painting panels. I had a bunch of scrap OSB lying around, and I really wanted to maximize re-use instead of scrapping it and buying new sheets. In the end I only had to buy one new panel (but lots of paint).

Painting panels. I had a bunch of scrap OSB lying around, and I really wanted to maximize re-use instead of scrapping it and buying new sheets. In the end I only had to buy one new panel (but lots of paint).

Gluing wainscoted (whiteboard) panels onto the slide. It took as much effort to build the slide as it did to build the rest of the wall! But it was worth it—the slide is by far the most popular feature.

Gluing wainscoted (whiteboard) panels onto the slide. It took as much effort to build the slide as it did to build the rest of the wall! But it was worth it—the slide is by far the most popular feature.

Logan about to test the slide tunnel. I created the curvature at the bottom of the slide by laminating two sheets of ¼” plywood together.

Logan about to test the slide tunnel. I created the curvature at the bottom of the slide by laminating two sheets of ¼” plywood together.

Installing panels. From L to R, the wall angles are 80 degrees, 100 degrees, and vert.

Installing panels. From L to R, the wall angles are 80 degrees, 100 degrees, and vert.

The finished product.

The finished product.

A closer look at the right half…

A closer look at the right half…

…and the slabby left half.

…and the slabby left half.

Mayhem! From L to R: Ayla topping out the slab, Logan rolling a basketball across the catwalk, Mike J supervising, Xander running, Mark S contemplating a sit start, Lucian running across the high platform, and Quinn coming out of the slide tunnel.

Mayhem! From L to R: Ayla topping out the slab, Logan rolling a basketball across the catwalk, Mike J supervising, Xander running, Mark S contemplating a sit start, Lucian running across the high platform, and Quinn coming out of the slide tunnel.

Lucian on the Monkey Bars while Mark S, Ayla, Logan (and Amelie, hidden) play in the slab tunnel.

Lucian on the Monkey Bars while Mark S, Ayla, Logan (and Amelie, hidden) play in the slab tunnel.

I got a number of great holds sets for this wall from e-Grips. In addition to their outstanding collection of killer normal-human grips, they have a number of sets that are super kid-friendly. Many typical jug sets don’t work so well for kids because their stubby fingers aren’t long enough to reach into the incut part of the “jug”, effectively leaving them with a sloper. The sets described below are kid-tested and great for small hands:

Big Buttons These are the perfect thickness for tiny hands, super incut and non-slopey.

Meridian Pulls Medium-depth edges for adults, moderately-incut full-finger jugs to kids.

Pure Line Finger Buckets Full-hand buckets for small-sized climbers.

Pure Line Mini-Jugs These are actually pretty monstrous from a kids’ perspective—two full hands, but thin enough to wrap their short fingers around.

Jr. Bugguy Interesting shapes, but also plentiful kid-size features. Best on slabby to vertical walls.

Sea Food The Sea Horse and Starfish are among Amelie’s favorite holds.

Jungle Animals Easily Amelie’s favorite set. Every time she comes in the room, she runs and points out the Ape, gesticulating while say “ooh-ooh, ahh-ahh”. Holds like these really do help attract the kids to the wall. That said, this set is non-positive, so best used on a slab.

The wall has been a huge success. My kids love it, and so far, so does every other kid who’s seen it. Instead of me asking Logan if he wants to go out to the barn (to which he usually says “no”), he’s asking me to come climb with him.  Both Logan’s and Amelie’s climbing skills have improved dramatically since it was finished. I really try not to push my kids towards climbing, but if erecting a fluorescent opportunity right in front of their faces influences them, so be it. 🙂

The Lazy H Climbing Barn

by Mark Anderson

Piggybacking on last week’s post about designing a home wall, here is a quick virtual tour of the Lazy H Climbing Barn. Note that I didn’t go through any logical process when designing it, I just eye-balled everything, and I paid for my impatience with a wall that was too steep. Six months in I was compelled to tear it down and re-build it.  Other than that, I’m pretty much happy with it (see more below).

The Lazy H. Note how the barn is built to match the sloping hillside.

The floor dimensions of the Lazy H are roughly 12-feet by 24-feet, (with the 24-foot-long walls running roughly east-west). The south exterior wall is 12-feet high, and the north exterior wall is 8-feet high, with a slanted roof spanning those walls (with no interior bracing aside from the joists that support the climbing surfaces). The barn was built decades ago to match the contour of the sloping hillside. There isn’t a square angle in the place, and if I were doing it again I would tear the entire rat trap down and start over!  It was used as an actual barn until I moved in.  At that point the roof was full of holes and there was literally a mountain of horse manure on the floorless ground.  Every flat surface was covered in rodent feces.  I spent the first several days just shoveling shit and wheeling it outside. So many memories 🙂

The climbing surfaces are as follows:

  • Both the east and west walls are a single vertical plane. I estimate I have about 280 square feet of vertical terrain total, but about 100 sq ft of that is basically useless.
The vertical East Wall of the Lazy H.  Good for my kids, but otherwise designed to not interfere with the South and North Walls.

The vertical East Wall of the Lazy H. It was designed so as to not interfere with the South and North Walls.  It’s great for my kids who love to climb up to and stick their heads out of the window, but I don’t use it except to connect the North and South Walls when warming up or ARCing.

The vertical West Wall of the Lazy H.  This wall is great for warming up and ARCing on small, insecure hand and footholds.  It has a few boulder problems that I climbed regularly when training for To Bolt Or Not To Be.  They haven’t been touched in the six-plus years since :)

The vertical West Wall of the Lazy H. This wall is great for warming up and ARCing on small, insecure hand and footholds. I credit it with keeping my footwork honed.  It has a few boulder problems that I climbed regularly when training for To Bolt Or Not To Be. Those problems haven’t been touched in the six-plus years since 🙂

  • The eastern-most two-thirds of the south wall is composed of a single plane, 16-feet wide, running floor to ceiling, overhanging 8 degrees.

The 16-feet wide, 8-degree overhanging panel on the east end of the South Wall. This is prime ARC and warmup terrain. It also has a few Limit Boulder problems that are generally thin and hard on my skin.

  • West of this panel is the door, which is 4-feet wide, about 6-feet tall, with a campus board above it (at a 15-degree angle).
  • West of the door is a vertical panel, 4-feet wide and 11-feet, 10-inches tall.

The west end of the South Wall hosts a Campus Board, overhanging 15 degrees, and a vertical panel, 4-feet wide by almost 12-feet tall. The vertical panel is useless except as a buffer between the Campus Board and the East Wall.  Note the ceiling cutout to make room for an extra rung on the Campus Board.

  • The North wall has a 4-feet-by-8-feet vertical panel at it’s west end. This is to allow access to storage space behind the rest of the north wall, but basically serves no other purpose (although it does allow the vertical West Wall to be a bit wider). If I were doing it over I would extend the central, overhanging section of the North Wall to cover this space.
The west end of the north wall. Pretty much useless, although it allows for a novel arête feature.  I’d much rather have 40 square feet more of 35-degree overhang…

The west end of the north wall. Pretty much useless, although it allows for a novel arête feature. I’d much rather have 40 square feet more of 35-degree overhang…

  • Next to that is the money wall, a 12-feet wide by 10.5-feet tall plane overhanging 35-degrees. I use this wall far more than any other surface. This wall has a 12-inch vertical kick plate at its base, then runs for 10.5-feet in the 35-degree overhang direction. From the floor to the top of the 35-degree overhang is 10-feet in the vertical direction. Some of the problems on this wall continue onto the ceiling section for up to four more feet of travel, but these moves are usually fairly trivial relative to the rest of the problem.
The Money Wall, my happy place for Limit Bouldering.

The Money Wall, my happy place for Limit Bouldering. If only it had some more holds!

  • The eastern-most section of the north wall is an 8-foot wide roof system. It begins with a two-feet tall vertical kick plate, then the “roof” (overhanging 65-degrees) runs out for a distance of 64 inches. Finally a headwall panel runs up from the lip of the roof for 72 inches at a 17.5-degree angle.

The roof system on the east end of the North Wall. This got very little use until the last year or so, when I accumulated several outdoor roof projects. Since then I’ve made a point to do several Limit Boulder Problems on this section, along with a couple problems in my Warmup Boulder Ladder. Still, for the amount of space it consumes, its a terrible waste.

  • The ceiling varies in depth based on where the walls join (from 3-feet at the east end, to 4-feet in the center, to ~13.5’ on the west), but it runs at a consistent 72.5-degree-overhanging angle. I don’t use it for anything except to support a few finishing jugs (all used by problems on the 35-degree wall) and to link between the North and South Walls while ARCing or warming up.

Things I like about the Lazy H:

  • Tons of terrain. Really, more than I need. I could get by just fine with only the 35-degree wall and the 8-degree wall.
  • I love the 35-degree wall. The only thing I would do different is make it bigger 🙂
  • There is enough variety that I can train for pretty much any angle, within a few degrees. Still, I rarely stray from the 35-degree wall, and I find that for my goals, training on that wall seems to carry over fairly well to other angles.
  • The 8-degree wall is great for ARCing.  That said, I don’t ARC much anymore, and if space were limited I would build much less ARC terrain and trek to a gym when I wanted to ARC.
  • It’s small enough that I can control the temperature pretty well between the windows/door, a box fan, and one space heater. Note all the walls and ceiling are insulated with ~R-13 fiberglass.
  • I built the floor to be “soft”. The floor joists are 12-feet long 2x4s with no other bracing, which is way under-designed. You can bounce up and down on it, and I think this will spare me some degree of arthritis later in life.
The Lazy H is essential a long corridor, and occasional I will smack into the South Wall when stick big dynos to the top of the North Wall.  Also, it gets crowded in here really quick.

The Lazy H is essentially a long corridor, and occasionally I will smack into the South Wall when sticking big dynos to the top of the North Wall. Also, it gets crowded in here really quick.

Things I dislike:

  • I wish the floor plan were “deeper” than 12-feet (so there was more space between the north and south walls). I will occasionally swing into south wall when sticking big finishing moves on the north wall. And it’s pretty tough for more than one person to climb in there at a time.
  • I wish it were closer to the house (it’s about 120’ from the house, add another 30’ to get to the nearest door). Getting out there once is no problem, but I often need to run back to the house for various reasons, and that is a pain when the weather is bad.
  • Heat can be a problem, especially in the summer. My ideal training temperature (inside the barn) is 45 degrees F. I wish I had a wall of deciduous trees to the south, so the barn would be shaded in the summer.
  • I wish it were square!

All told, I feel extremely fortunate to have such a fantastic training area.  When I began building it, I had doubts that I would enjoy it enough to continue using it.  Seven years later, I couldn’t imagine training anywhere else.  It has easily paid for itself (in terms of money saved on gym memberships and gas) and its a huge hit with my kids and their friends.  I seriously doubt I would be the climber I am today without the companionship of the trusty Lazy H.

For some brief footage of the Lazy H in action, check out this video.

Designing a Home Training Wall

by Mark Anderson

A home climbing wall offers many advantages to the performance-oriented climber. Chief among them are:

  • Convenience – with a wall literally in your backyard, commuting time and cost is eliminated along with most other excuses for skipping workouts. Those with families or pets can train with their loved ones without disturbing others, and the gym is open 24-7!
  • Control – you are the supreme dictator of your home wall. You call all the shots, including everything from the type of terrain, to grip shapes, to temperature and music selection. You can even decide whether or not shirts are required 🙂
  • Solitude – this is also a drawback of a home wall, but solitude can be a huge plus for training enthusiasts. Certain activities, like ARCing and Linked Bouldering Circuits, can be very difficult to do in a crowded public gym.
  • Route-setting privileges – For performance oriented climbers, this is the primary advantage of a home wall. First and foremost, if you can set your own routes, you can tailor them to your goals and weaknesses, allowing you to get the most from your training. Furthermore you can decide when to add new routes and when to take them down. You can afford to spend a few months or even years working a problem without worrying about the gym staff stripping it at any random moment….
  • “Benchmarking” – Piggy-backing off the last point, home wall users can leave “benchmark” problems or circuits up for many seasons or years, allowing them to gauge their fitness and progress over time. This can be extremely motivating as problems that were initially mega-projects gradually evolve into warmups.
Limit Bouldering on my home wall -- "The Lazy H Barn"

Limit Bouldering on my home wall — “The Lazy H Barn”

This is not a detailed step-by-step guide to home wall construction, but rather, this post will discuss some top-level design philosophies for home climbing walls. Even if you are a member of a good gym, adding a small, supplemental “woody” can help you get the most out of your training.

The first step in building your home wall is selecting a good space. Generally the taller the wall the better (up to at least 12-feet or so). Most home interiors top out at 8 feet, so a garage, basement, attic, shed, barn or other out-building may be the best option. You want your wall to be protected from the elements, so if you select an exterior building, ensure it is at least somewhat protected from moisture. The ability to control the environmental conditions to some extent is a big plus too. Most walls will be too hot more often than too cold, and it’s usually easier to add heat to a space than it is to remove it, so favor a location that is generally relatively cold (such as a basement or shaded room) as opposed to one that is generally warm (like an upstairs room or building with lots of southern exposure).

Another factor to consider is the wall’s proximity to your living spaces. Some folks are more social and will use the wall more if it’s centrally located. I like to have no distractions and complete control over my man-cave, so my detached barn works well for me. That said, I regularly have to post hole through knee-deep snow to get there in the winter, which can be a deterrent to training. If nature calls mid-session, it can be a major pain to get back to a bathroom. I think the ideal option for me would be a detached building that is adjacent (within 10-feet or so) to my house, so I could be isolated, but with easy access to/from the house.

The Lazy H Climbing Barn.  Not a bad venue—isolated, with ceilings up to 12-feet high, and located at a nice cool altitude of 7400-feet.

The Lazy H Climbing Barn. Not a bad venue—isolated, with ceilings up to 12-feet high, and located at a nice cool altitude of 7400-feet.

Once you’ve identified the perfect venue, you’re ready to start designing your wall. Three major factors will drive your design:

  1. The size and shape of your available space
  2. Intended uses of the wall
  3. Long term climbing goals

Space will be a limiting factor for virtually everyone, so it’s important to consider how you plan to use the wall, and prioritize those activities to ensure you create the best terrain for the most important activities. Rock Prodigies might perform any of the following training activities on a home wall:

Determining which activities are most deserving of limited real estate is personal, but here are some things to consider.

  • Your ability and experience level will likely influence your training priorities (and therefore your terrain priorities). Those relatively new to climbing tend to benefit more from ARCing and other skill-development activities, while advanced climbers will often spend more time on Limit Bouldering, Campusing and PE training.
  • Every activity will require some type of warm up, so warmup terrain should be a high priority. Fortunately Warm Up Terrain and ARC Terrain can be very similar.
  • ARCing requires the most terrain, so those with limited space will have a hard time building a suitable area for ARC training. However, ARCing can be one of the most difficult things to do in a public gym. If you’ve had trouble ARCing at your gym (due to crowds, unsuitable layout, poor hold selection, infrequent hold spacing, etc), AND ARCing is a priority in your training, consider ARC terrain a high priority. One way to overcome a small space is to build a wall with very high hold density. This allows for long, circuitous routes in a small area while minimizing the need to retrace your steps.
  • Hangboarding can be done just about anywhere and does not require high ceilings. If you have the option to set up a hangboard in another space (like a closet or the corner of a rarely used room), then do that, and save your precious home wall space for climbing terrain. If that’s NOT an option, consider building a removable hangboard mount that allows you to remove the board whenever you aren’t in a Strength Phase.
  • Limit Bouldering is arguably the best use of a home wall for several reasons. First, it demands the least space, so even those with a small area can usually build something that works for Limit Bouldering. Next, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find goal-route-specific Limit Bouldering terrain in public gyms. I’ve ranted about this on many occasions, but in a nutshell, public gyms are looking more and more like American Ninja Warrior obstacle courses than representations of actual rock. To get the most from Limit Bouldering, it must be done on realistic terrain and holds. The best bet may be to create such terrain yourself.  Another advantage of LB terrain is that it is relatively steep, allowing more climbing distance within a given vertical height.
Steeper walls provide more travel (but don't let that be the driving factor in your wall design).

Steeper walls provide more travel.  That said, maximizing travel should NOT be the driving factor in your wall design.  The driving factor should be maximizing utility, and an overly steep wall will be useless for some activities (like ARCing).

  • Campusing is important for advanced climbers, but it is trained relatively infrequently (maybe 4-6 times per season). I love having my own campus board, but if space were limited it would be the first thing to go. Campusing at a public gym is a piece of cake, since no one ever uses the campus board, instead opting for whatever flavor-of-the-month Crossfit exercise is trendy at the time 🙂 That said, your local gym’s board may well be a disaster. If that is the case, consider setting up a removable campus board, or building it in a separate space so you can maximize the climbing terrain on your home wall.
  • There’s nothing worse than trying to get through a Linked Bouldering Circuit at a crowded gym, constantly dreading some unsuspecting climber will interfere with your workout. Fortunately, LBCs can be done on the same terrain (sometimes even the same problems) as Limit Bouldering, so if you have LB terrain, you have LBC terrain. Only a very lucky few will have suitable terrain for Route Intervals, so those are best done at a public gym. Usually this is fairly easy to do since you only need to monopolize a single route (as opposed to say, ARCing, where you are constantly traveling against the grain, or LBCs that require the use of 6 or more boulder problems).

In summary, I think the highest priorities are Warmup terrain, which can double as ARC terrain in a pinch, and Limit Bouldering terrain, which can also be used for LBCs. That said, it is possible to warm up on a hangboard. It’s not fun, but plenty of Rock Prodigies do it. It is NOT possible to Limit Boulder on a hangboard, so LB terrain will be the top priority for all but complete beginners (who would benefit more from ARCing). If you have extra space, throw in a Campus Board if power is a priority in your training, or add more ARC terrain if Skill-Development is a higher priority. If you have an embarrassment of riches like me, add both!

A slightly overhanging wall like this one can be used for both ARCing and Limit Bouldering.  Include an assortment of large holds for ARCing, and small, realistic holds for Limit Bouldering.  However, the disadvantage of less steep walls is that they will provide less climbing travel (in the direction of the wall) for a given ceiling height.

A slightly overhanging wall like this one can be used for both ARCing and Limit Bouldering. Include an assortment of large holds for ARCing, and small, realistic holds for Limit Bouldering. However, the disadvantage of less steep walls is that they will provide less climbing travel (in the direction of the wall) for a given ceiling height.

Now that you’ve figured out your training priorities, what does that terrain look like for you? Ideally we could have a wide variety of wall angles, but most of us will have to make some tough choices. The final consideration is your goals, relative to your ability. Since this is your terrain, it should be specific to your goals. If you live in Bend, Oregon, climb exclusively at Smith Rock (where routes are rarely steeper than 10 degrees overhanging), and your ultimate, lifetime climbing goal is a redpoint of the dead vertical To Bolt Or Not To Be, it will be easy to determine what your goal terrain looks like.

The author climbing Smith Rock’s To Bolt Or Not To Be

The author climbing Smith Rock’s To Bolt Or Not To Be.  Photo Mike Anderson

The rest of us will need to do an informal survey of our favorite climbing areas.  Fortunately most of us have a relatively narrow range of angles that we really like. Furthermore, if you live in North America, terrain steeper than 20 degrees overhanging is quite scarce. Look through some photos of your favorite crags or goal routes and estimate the cliff angles to come up with a range of steepnesses that are representative of your performance preferences. Also, you’re not building the wall solely for the ensuring training cycle—it should be something you grow into, so dream big when considering potential goal routes.

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The approximate steepness of a few of my recent goal routes.  Photos (L) Ken Klein and (C) Adam Sanders.

Once you have a sample of goal-route angles, add a few degrees of steepness and then use those augmented angles to inform your wall design. The reason for this is that artificial holds, especially footholds, will always be bigger than the outdoor holds they emulate. Furthermore, small holds are hell on your skin, to the point that they can create skin injuries that will limit the duration of your training sessions, and may even impact your outdoor climbing. It’s better to go with slightly larger, more comfy holds, and compensate by kicking the angle back a bit further. Plus you can downsize holds much more easily than you can change the wall angle. Erring on the side of “too steep” will give you the potential to grow into your wall as you improve.

You now have a range of angles to train for. It’s tempting to build a wide assortment of angles with tiny increments between them to perfectly match every goal route on your list. However, the best artificial walls have only a few large planes (or even one) of a consistent angle. For some reason, this just feels better. The Lazy H has a variety of angles, but I spend 95% of my Limit Bouldering on one uniform wall, approximately 12-feet wide by 11-feet high. All the aretes, roofs, dihedrals and other features were fun for the first week or two, but the single consistent plane sees all the action. If you have a lot of space, go with two angles—one optimized for warming up/ARCing at your ability level, and one optimized for Limit Bouldering at your ability level. If you have more than a lot of space, like a huge barn, only then consider including some other angles, but mark my words, much of that extra terrain will be neglected.

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When bouldering (including Warmup Boulder Ladder problems and Limit Bouldering), I spend the vast majority of my time on this wall.  It’s wide, uniform surface allows for a high concentration of smooth-yet-challenging problems.

One final note: invest in quality hand holds! The smaller your wall, the more essential this is, because each hold on your wall represents an opportunity cost. If your holds suck, the wall won’t be fun to use, and that will certainly impact your training. When I’m having fun in the Lazy H, my sessions are longer, more intense, and more productive. You can read some of my hold recommendations here and here.

Later this month I’ll provide a brief virtual tour of the Lazy H, detailing the dimensions and angles of each wall, what I like about it, and what I would do differently.

Functional Core Training

Last summer I bolted a radically steep roof in Clear Creek Canyon. This climb involves approximately 30 feet of horizontal roof climbing–something I’ve never been very good at. I knew I would need to improve my core strength to have a chance at climbing this monstrous roof, so I put together a set of exercises to achieve that objective.  This article will describe those exercises in detail.

Born on the 4th of July, fully equipped and ready for action.

Born on the 4th of July, the motivation behind these exercises.

Before discussing the exercises, it’s helpful to consider the role of the “core” in climbing. The core generally refers to any and all of the muscles surrounding the torso, including the abdominals, obliques, muscles of the back, and perhaps some of the muscles in that region that activate the extremities, such as the iliopsoas (aka “hip flexors”). Athletes in general use the core for two basic purposes. The most obvious is to generate motion, such as when a decathlete rotates his torso explosively to hurl a javelin. The other more significant function is to stabilize the torso, creating a “rigid body” that resists movement, buckling, or rotation against external forces.

While climbers certainly use their core in both ways, the latter is far more common and critical. The vast majority of climbing movements are performed with a relatively static torso, while a hand or foot moves between holds. The act of moving the body upwards, with fixed points of contact, is often relatively easy on the core by comparison, and once the correct body position is reached for the next hand or foot movement, the climber typically regains a rigid posture to execute that hand/foot movement. Of course there are exceptions, and campus regulars have probably noticed their abs are sore the day after the season’s first campus session. However, most of the time when climbers talk about core strength, they are talking about the ability to create a rigid bridge between their hands and feet.

So how do we create this rigid body? By preventing bending and rotation along the spine. A person standing straight up can move about the spine in six “degrees of freedom”:

  1. Bending at the waist so the shoulders lean forward
  2. Bending at the waist so the shoulders lean backward
  3. Bending at the waist so the shoulders lean to the right
  4. Bending at the waist so the shoulders lean to the left
  5. Rotating at the waist so the shoulders turn clockwise with respect to the hips
  6. Rotating at the waist so the shoulders turn counter-clockwise with respect to the hips

Any other spinal movement is essentially a combination of these six basic movements. As climbers, in order to create a rigid body on the rock, we need to develop the strength to resist movement in these six degrees of freedom when sport-specific forces are applied to our hands and feet. Some of these degrees of freedom are more relevant to a given climber than others, based on route selection and the way climbers typically orient their bodies with respect to gravity (i.e., facing into the rock), but in the interest of maintaining good muscular balance about the spine, I recommend training for all six, at least to some extent, even if some are rarely encountered on the rock.

The exercises I selected to improve my core strength are relatively complex movements (involving many muscle groups in a single exercise), which is a departure from my typical strength training philosophy. The first reason for this is practical. I have only so much time and energy, and it’s sometimes more efficient to hit a few birds with one stone. The other reason is that the core is never isolated in practice in the way that the fingers often are (where for a given move, finger strength is everything and any associated arm/shoulder movement is trivial by comparison). Creating a rigid body, or even torsional explosiveness, will always be a “team effort” incorporating the arms, shoulders, and legs. Primarily for this latter reason I think it makes sense to train the core in conjunction with the rest of the “bridge segments”.

Since these are all body-weight exercises, I will present a series of variations that will allow you to progress and document your improvement from easier to more difficult versions of the exercise. The only special equipment required for these exercises is a set of free-hanging rings with adjustable tethers. I use wood gymnastic rings, but TRX Grip Trainers, Rock Rings, or a few lengths of old climbing rope and two scraps of PVC pipe would also work.

The number of repetitions and sets performed should be based on the training phase in which the exercises are performed, as described in Chapter 6 of the RCTM (page 123). I perform these exercises in conjunction with the rest of my Supplemental Exercises (at the end of each workout), and the number of sets varies from one to three based on my goal-driven priorities.

WARNING: Some of these exercises can be quite hard on the lumbar region of the lower spine, so use caution when attempting them.  Focus on engaging the supporting muscles of the lower back prior to and throughout each movement, and immediately cease the exercise if the lumbar begins to hyper-extend.

The Exercises:

Advanced 1-Arm Inverted Row:

The 1-Arm Inverted Row is an old stand-by of the Rock Prodigy Training Program, used to improve pull-strength in a more sport-specific direction than that achieved by the standard pull-up. The standard version involves the core to some degree, but not much. The Advanced version engages the core much more deliberately. This is done by wearing climbing shoes and performing the exercise on the underside of a roof with the opposite foot placed on a foothold (and the other foot flagging). To avoid falling, the climber must maintain consistent pressure on the foothold as the row reps are completed, and this requires maintaining a rigid core that resists motion in the first degree of freedom.  In other words, you must keep the muscles of the lower back flexed to prevent your hips from sagging, or else your foot will pop off.  To a lesser extent, the muscles that control motion in the 5th and 6th degrees of freedom are also trained isometrically* (while flagging) and isotonically** (while rotating to reach with the inactive hand).

[*muscle length remains constant during isometric contractions; **muscles shorten and/or lengthen during isotonic contractions.]

Progression: Increase the difficulty of this exercise first by performing the rows on increasingly steeper terrain (an adjustable-angle systems wall is ideal for this). Focus on maintaining a rigid plank position and moving smoothly, with control, minimizing movement of your foot on the foothold. Once you can perform the appropriate number of reps, with good form and in control on a horizontal roof, select increasingly less-positive footholds to up the ante.  You can further increase the difficulty by selecting ever-more-distant footholds.

Ab Roll From Rings:

Ab Roller

The Ab Roller

TV-watching night owls have likely seen an info-mercial or two for the infamous “Ab Roller”. This device is essentially a wheel with two handles that is used for training abdominal strength in the second degree of freedom. The exercise begins from the knees or toes, with hands grasping the Ab Roller, which is placed adjacent to the knees/toes. You push the Ab Roller forward until your legs, torso and arms are nearly horizontal, pause for a moment, and then strenuously pull back into the starting position. This exercise is nice because it incorporates both isotonic and isometric contractions of the frontal core.

The same basic exercise can easily be done from rings, and doing so provides some advantages over using an Ab Roller. First, it eliminates the need for yet another specialized piece of equipment, but moreover it makes it much easier to incrementally adjust the difficulty of the exercise.   When performing this exercise, it’s important to keep a noticeable arch in the small of your back. The objective is not to form a perfect plank when fully extended (this places tremendous strain on the lumbar). Begin the exercise with the small of your back bowed backward, and maintain that bow as you extend forward and retract to the starting position.

Progression: The best reason to do this from rings is that they make it really easy to adjust the difficulty of the exercise without limiting the range of motion. The higher the rings, the easier the exercise. The further forward your feet or knees are located (relative to the plumb line of the rings), the easier the exercise. All of these can be done from the feet or knees (from the knees is substantially easier). For example, here are several variations from easiest to hardest (note that you could create infinitely more increments of difficulty):

Base Ring Height Base Starting Position Order of Difficulty
Knees 2’ above ground Knees plumb to rings 1 (easiest)
Knees 6” above ground* Knees plumb to rings 2
Knees 6” above ground Knees body-length behind rings 3
Feet 2’ above ground Feet plumb to rings 4
Feet 6” above ground Feet plumb to rings 5
Feet 6” above ground Feet body-length behind rings 6 (hardest)

(*the changing parameter is shown in blue text)

Both height and base starting position can be gradually adjusted as you progress. My recommendation is to begin from the knees, with knees plumb to the rings (i.e., knees directly below the point where the rings are mounted), and gradually lower the ring height until they are just above the ground, then gradually move the base starting position backwards until you can start from body-length behind the rings. Then progress to performing the exercise from your feet and repeat the same order of progression.

Front Lever:

A front lever is performed by hanging straight from a set of rings, and then pulling your planked body up into a perfectly straight, horizontal position* (rotating at the hands/wrists and shoulders). This exercise was introduced to climbers by the legendary John Gill. It’s now quite popular, however, its applicability to climbing is worth questioning. Most climbers will rarely do any movement even slightly resembling a front lever on actual rock. The exception is roof climbing, where the closer a climber gets to horizontal, the more relevant the exercise becomes. In this scenario, the ability to perform a front lever or something like it can come in handy. When you are hanging in a pike position and you need to pull your feet up onto a foothold in the roof, it is often helpful if you can execute such a move as statically as possible, thus allowing you to carefully place your foot on the foothold, as opposed to wildly swinging and stabbing your feet in hopes of hitting the target before you swing back down (and likely off).   Likewise, front lever strength can help when you are stretched out in the roof and you need to remove your feet without causing your body to swing wildly (which will often result in your hands coming off the rock too).

[*some sources suggest performing the lever by first pulling into an inverted plank—with legs pointed straight up and head down—and then lowering into the front lever. I do not recommend this method because it further reduces specificity with respect to actual rock climbing.]

Front Lever strength can help when moving into, or out of, horizontal positions like this, where your feet are extended far from your hands.

Front Lever strength can help when moving into, or out of, horizontal positions like this, where your feet are extended far from your hands.

Specificity aside, another argument in favor of front levers is that they train the strength needed to resist movement in the second degree of freedom, which is helpful when flagging on less steep terrain. I would argue the Ab Roll From Rings trains those muscles more specifically, since the front lever focuses torque more towards the shoulders, while the ab roll spreads it evenly across the body bridge. However, I felt they were specific enough to my goals to be worth my time…and I’ve always wanted to do a Front Lever like my hero Gill 🙂  If you feel like Front Levers will benefit your climbing, here’s how to build the strength to do them….

Progression: The difficulty can be easily modulated, even within a single set,  by varying leg extension. To make the exercise much easier, tuck your thighs into your torso, and bend your knees so your heels are touching your butt. Maintain this posture from the shoulders down as you rotate up into the lever, hold, and return to the starting position. You can progressively straighten your legs as your strength improves. A good milestone is to do the exercise with thighs straight (no bend at the hips), and knees bent. Another milestone is one leg straight and the other tucked.  I find it really helps to flex the gluteus maximus prior to beginning each lever, and maintaining that tension through each rep.

It’s worth considering the advantages of performing sets of a single lever consisting of a relatively long isometric hold in the horizontal position, versus sets of multiple repetitions of mostly isotonic levers. From a specificity perspective, I couldn’t imagine a scenario in which I would need to hold any front lever-like position on the rock for more than a few seconds at a time. Likewise, it’s easy to imagine the need to pull my feet up into a roof, and/or release them with control, multiple times within a sequence. Furthermore, I tend to favor sets of multiple reps over “max hangs” for strength training. For these reasons I prefer to perform sets of multiple reps with up to a 2-3-second static hold in the horizontal position.

Wings:

I learned of this exercise from the book Gimme Kraft! Wings are performed from a standing plank position, with a ring located at the height of your free-hanging arm. Grasp the ring with one hand and slowly lean to the side of the active hand, bending only at the shoulder (and ankles). Continue to lean until you can go no farther without losing control, pause for 1 or 2 counts, then reel yourself back into a vertical position. This exercise primarily targets the shoulder, upper back, pectoral, and latissimus dorsi muscles, but also trains the core in the 3rd and 4th degrees of freedom. It is the least core-specific of the exercises presented here, and so warrants a lower priority, but I find it’s a useful motion to train the strength needed for certain strenuous gaston moves (especially those where the palm is facing “out” from the opposite shoulder). This exercise can be quite hard on the shoulders, so use caution.

I find the Wings exercise is quite helpful for shoulder gaston moves like this.

I find the Wings exercise quite helpful in preparing for shouldery gaston moves like this. Photo Mike Anderson.

 

Progression: The difficulty of this exercise can be adjusted in two ways. First, by adjusting the position of your feet relative to the plumb line of the rings. For example, if you are performing the exercise with the right arm, the further right your feet are relative to the plumb line, the easier the exercise will be. Second, by adjusting the depth of the lean. The lower you lean, the more difficult the exercise. In the interest of maximizing the range of motion, I recommend starting with a relatively easy foot position and progressing to deeper leans before progressing to more difficult foot positions. I’ve never leaned much beyond a horizontal arm position, so if you want to go deeper, you’re on your own!

A comment on the Windshield Wiper (aka “Metronome”): This is a popular core exercise among boulderers (I hear it’s one of Daniel Woods’ favorites). Windshield Wipers are done by hanging from rings or a pull-up bar, pulling into a pike position with the back parallel to the floor and the legs pointed straight up, and then rotating the legs from side to side. This could be a good way for climbers to train the strength needed to resist motion in the 5th and 6th degree of freedom.   I’ve tried doing these a few times, and I always find they are hell on my back (which has a sordid history of tweaks and strains). I’ve never felt they were specific enough to my climbing objectives to be worth the injury risk, so they are not a part of my program. However, if you are interested in specifically targeting the 5th and 6th degrees of freedom, and your back is flexible enough to handle them, this could be a useful exercise for you. Modulate difficulty by bending at the knees and hips and/or limiting the range of motion.

There are countless more exercises targeting core strength.  If you have a favorite that has produced results for you, we’d love to hear about it.  Please share it in a comment, or on the RCTM Forum.

Many thanks to Phil DeNigris for providing the physiology concepts in this article.

Holiday Gift Guide for the Performance-Oriented Climber

The holidays are upon us, and you don’t want to end up with a pile of socks and ties again. Chances are somebody is nagging you for a wish list, but you’re too focused on training to put one together. Fear not Rock Prodigies, we have assembled the perfect list of stocking stuffers to help take your climbing to the next level. Just forward this URL to Santa and let the elves in his extensive IT department do the rest.

In other news, I’ve uploaded the highly anticipated 2015 Training Calendar to the tools page.  This is a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that you can edit to plan and track your training in 2015.  Download it for free here.

$5 or less:

    • Protein Bar(s) – For post-workout consumption. We all have our favorite brands and flavors, but it never hurts to try something new from time to time. Some of my favorites are the Chocolate Mint flavored Clif Builder’s Bar, any of the chocolate-based Pure Protein Bars (available at Costco and Walmart), and the Caramel Nut Blast flavored Balance Bars.
    • Mechanical Pencil(s) or Pen(s) – You’re not really training unless you’re writing down what you’re doing. For that you need a writing implement. I like the ability to erase what I’ve written, YMMV.
    • Sanding block, cuticle cutters, athletic tape and nail clippers are all must have items.  Photo Frederik Marmsater.

      Sanding block, cuticle cutters, athletic tape and nail clippers are all must have items. Photo Frederik Marmsater.

      Sanding Block – Keeping your skin tough and smooth will help prevent skin issues that can derail your training AND sending. Daily use of a sanding block is the best way to do that. Get something in the Medium to Fine grit range (100-200 grit).

    • Climbing Salve – If you’re one of those lucky honemasters with leather-like hands that are constantly cracking, ask Santa for some Joshua Tree Climbing Salve.
    • Athletic Tape – Let’s face it, it’s just a matter of time before you need this. Ideally you’ll only need it to protect your skin from flappers, but it’s always good to have on hand during training in case you feel a connective tissue tweak.
    • Nail Clippers – If not for you, do it for the rest of your crew. Nobody wants to hear that fingers-on-a-chalkboard sound every time you slap for a hold in the gym. These things wear out over time, so even if you have a few it might be time to upgrade.
    • Music Download Credit(s) – You can never have too many sic beats to get you psyched up to train. Make sure Santa knows what type of device you’re using.
    • Duck Tape – Those with a home climbing wall are always in need of fresh patterns to mark their web of boulder problems. Duck Tape brand duct tape is constantly coming out with new patterns to keep your lines distinct. These are available in the paint section of most hardware stores (often in the same aisle as the sanding blocks), or in the party section of Target, etc.
    • Wrench – Along the same lines, if you have a home wall, you can never have too many 7/32” and 5/16” Allen Wrenches. Get the clever Multi-Wrench from Metolius and you’ll never have to worry about grabbing the wrong size.
    • RCTM Logbook – You can never have too many of these!

$5- 10:

    • Stopwatch – Whether timing dead hangs or rest periods between redpoint burns, we all need some kind of stopwatch. There are a lot of options here that come down to personal prefernce, but for indoor training, a timer with a big display like this one can be really useful.
    • Brush – Essential for cleaning the playing surface—be it your precious hangboard grips, or the crux crimper on your long term goal route. But don’t rely on whatever manky, plaque-coated, blown out scrubber you find lying in the back of your bathroom drawer, ask Santa for the Lapis Boar’s Hair Brush, the Holy Grail of brushes, coveted by pebble-wrestlers around the world. Shipping is a killer on these guys so it’s best to buy a few at a time, or see if your local climbing gym carries them.
    • Chalk – This is another consumable that always seems to run out at the worst time. With a seemingly infinite shelf-life, you can never have too much. If you’ve never experienced the pure joy of chalk in a bottle, now is the time!
    • Placebos – Getting sick can completely derail your training cycle. Fortunately placebos are proven to work (as long as you believe in them). So keep the faith and ask Santa for some Airborne or Emergen-C. My PhD friend Chris prefers the Airborne tablets because they pop and fizz like crazy, providing a more convincing placebo effect.  I’ve consumed literally hundreds of these and I can attest that Tropical Emergenc-C is the best-tasting flavor.

$10-20:

    • Cuticle Cutters – These are a must have for the Very Serious Climber. Use these to carefully trim away budding flappers (as described on pages 171-2 of the RCTM). Like nail clippers, its critical to have a sharp pair, so if yours are more than a few years old, it’s probably time to re-load.  The Revlon 1/4 Jaw Nippers are wicked sharp, but there are other good options too.  Usually you can find these in the beauty section of your drug or grocery store if you don’t want to pay for shipping.
    • Thermometer – OCD training fiends will want to document and track the environmental conditions of training sessions, and perhaps even the ideal sending conditions of your outdoor proj. You can keep it simple (and cheap) with something like this, or for only a few bucks more take it completely over the top with AcuRite’s Digital Humidity and Temperature Monitor.
    • Thera-Band – An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and so these stretchy rubber bands provide a lot of value for not a lot of money. These can be used for warming up, rehabbing ailing joints, or training antagonists.
    • Mini-Tripod“Hey, you guys wanna see my video?” – Uncle Rico  A collapsible mini-tripod will allow you to film your project sessions and break down your sequence and effort like the pros do.  Smaller/lighter tripods are more likely to actually make it to the crag, so no need to mortgage the house on a super elaborate rig.
    • Trango Trucker Hat – Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Even more important is looking dope as hell while doing it! Channel your inner Teenage Mutant Ninja Gym Boulderer with this fly lid from our stylin friendz at Trango.
    • Holds – It’s nice to have options, and climbers with a home wall know you can never have too many holds. Most hold sets are too big (and costly) to qualify as stocking stuffers, but discerning shoppers can find small sets of screw on foot jibs for right around $20.

If you’ve got any other great stocking stuffer ideas, please share in a comment below.  Happy Holidays!

Adjustable Mount 2.0 for the Rock Prodigy Training Center

The finished adjustable mount. Keep reading to learn how to make your own.

The finished adjustable mount. Keep reading to learn how to make your own.

In a previous article, we showed you how to build an Adjustable Mount for your Rock Prodigy Training Center so that you can take maximum advantage of the built in ergonomics of the most innovative fingerboard on the market. While it gets the job done, the French Cleat technique described in that article is difficult to execute, and the result is bulky. We’ll show you an alternate method here that can be built for about $20 in parts and an hour of work.

The finished product is shown above, and the backside view is shown below. It uses “Door Stop” hardware I found at Home Depot to drape accross a 2×10 (or 2 x whatever you like..) Besides being much lighter and lower profile than the French Cleat, this design is also extremely portable. this mounting system could be hung from any 2×8, if you were on the road and needed to get your training in…think of the possibilities…

Rear view of the finished adjustable mount.

Rear view of the finished adjustable mount.

The base board is 3/4″ plywood, which the RPTC and Door Stop hardware mount to (with T-Nuts). I had some nice scrap plywood laying around that I used, but you could use a lower grade to save some money. I used my RPTC to trace out the shape for the base boards, and cut it with a jig saw, which is ideal for cutting curves. Before you cut, plan out where the screws for the RPTC are going to be, and where the bolts for the door stops will go so that they don’t interfere. It’s a good idea to drill the holes for the Door Stop hardware before you cut, but it isn’t necessary.

Cutting the 3/4" plywood base board with a jig saw. Use safety glasses!!!

Cutting the 3/4″ plywood base board with a jig saw. Use safety glasses!!!

I left about a 1″ margin at the top of the board, as shown in the next photo.

Note the ~1" overlap at the top of the RPTC.

Note the ~1″ overlap at the top of the RPTC.

Here is how I laid out the bolt holes for the door stops:

Laying out the holes for the Door Stop. You'll want to mount this as close to the top of the baseboard as possible.

Laying out the holes for the Door Stop. You’ll want to mount this as close to the top of the baseboard as possible.

Every climber should have a bucket of 5/16″ T-Nuts laying around, but you may need to pickup some 3/4″ x 5/16″ bolts and washers. You’ll want to torque these pretty tight so that the T-Nuts suck in to the plywood and are flush with the plywood. This will ensure the RPTC can be mounted to the base board without interference from the T-Nuts.

Torquing the bolts into the T-Nuts.

Torquing the bolts into the T-Nuts.

Here is the finished backplate with Door Stops, bolts, and washers:

The finished backplate.

The finished backplate.

And this is the front view, showing the T-Nuts flush with the plywood for easy mounting of the RPTC:

The front side of the backplate. Note the T-nuts are flush with the plywood to allow you to mount the RPTC flush.

The front side of the backplate. Note the T-nuts are flush with the plywood to allow you to mount the RPTC flush.

The next step is to mount your RPTC on the base boards. Carefully select your screws (length in particular) so that they DO NOT protrude out the back of the plywood. If they do, you’ll need to cut them off with a cutoff wheel or grinder, and that’s a pain you should try to avoid.

Selecting the right length screws from my collection to mount the RPTC with.

Selecting the right length screws from my collection to mount the RPTC with.

Here are the finished adjustable mounts with RPTC halves mounted:

The RPTC mounted on the base plates.

The RPTC mounted on the base plates.

At this point, if you throw your RPTC up on a 2×10, you’ll notice some slop in the mounting. The Door Stops are not 1.5″ deep like a 2×4, they are deeper, which leaves a gap. You may be able to live with this gap (and in my experience, it isn’t a problem). If not, you’ll need to mount shims on the backside of the 2×10 to “widen” the 2×10 and eliminate that gap. Something in the range of 3/8″ to 1/2″ shim will work. I used 3/8″, and this works well for me.

Shim material mounted to the back of the 2×10 that I use for my cross beam:

Shims added to the back of my 2x10 cross beam. And a poop tube (for some reason?)

Shims added to the back of my 2×10 cross beam. And a poop tube (for some reason?)

Cutting out the shim material with my Jig saw:

Cutting the shims.

Cutting the shims.

Finally, if you are accustomed to your hangboard residing at a particular height, you will want to relocate your cross beam. As I described in this article on how to mount a hangboard, I like the bottom of my board 81″ off the floor. The adjustable mount will raise the level of your board a few inches, so you may need to lower your crossbeam by a corresponding amount. If you have other boards or holds mounted on your crossbeam, you might want to just live with it, and build yourself a platform as described in the aforementioned article.

Lowering my cross beam to account for the increase in height provided by the door stops.

Lowering my cross beam to account for the increase in height provided by the door stops.

Here is the finished product, and the happy new owner of an adjustable hangboard:

The finished product.

The finished product.

The Bubble

Hello, this is Janelle…Mike’s wife. Since someone is off to Germany enjoying his 12 hour long flight, I thought I would seize the moment and post on his beloved blog without permission. HA!

ET2

You know your husband is a little INSANE when he turns the basement into a movie set straight out of the ET!

ET1

Keep in mind; the word “insane” is used quite loosely by one very understanding, supportive, kick ass wife! Many things over the past 15 years have been labeled “ insane” a little prematurely and this is no exception.


I digress…


After moving from high, humidity Florida to dry, arid Colorado; we thought we were in the clear for hangboard workouts. We were going to have crisp, dry mountain air and every workout would be just perfect, right?! Well, our basement proved to be a wonderful little humidity hoarder during the monsoon summer experienced here in Colorado Springs. After our first hangboard workouts, it was quickly apparent that we needed to do something about it. It was at this point that Mike revealed to me one of his long-held fantasies (ooh, still some excitement after almost 12 years of marriage)! Apparently, ever since we moved to Dayton, OH back in 2008, Mike has suppressed urges to create a hermetically sealed hangboarding bubble in which climate could be easily and precisely controlled. Well, apparently, Colorado’s humid air was the “last straw,” and Mike had snapped. Clearly he had put some thought into this, because once the decision was made, there was no pause for planning or analysis, just a fury of activity.


Had the man lost his mind???

IMG_9609

A view of the The Bubble

Mike stopped in at Home Depot and picked up six 8-foot 1×2’s, plastic sheeting, and one heck of a cool zipper kit (both available in the paint department).  You will also need duct tape and a staple gun with staples (if you’re following along at home).

IMG_9631

These are awesome and very easy to install. We may use the other one to make a two zipper door.

IMG_9632

Lots of plastic!

The general plan was to block off a section of the basement and fully encase it in plastic. Here are a few things required for this whole operation to work: The bubble needs to include a window so you can run A/C.
– Needs electricity
– Large enough for the HB equipment
– Needs to be more-or less sealed
Had the man lost his mind???
I reluctantly offered up some assistance which was not turned down. We lined the ceiling with plastic first because of the open floor joists (which would have let air in) then draped walls of plastic to corner off the new hangboard bubble.

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We used plastic to cover these ceiling joists to prevent air from escaping.

With an unfinished basement, the bubble went up quickly. We used staples to tack up the plastic and then reinforced and locked the seams with duct tape. We did have to use some 2X4’s/2×6’s on the ground to tuck and hold the plastic on the floor, some 1×2’s to reinforce the ceiling connections (duct tape helped but was not cutting it) and the zipper door was an added bonus.
About half way into this project, I began to realize that this just might work. Maybe my “insane” husband isn’t so crazy and I should help out with a little more enthusiasm. If it did work, my hangboard workouts would definitely benefit too!
Soon, we had the air conditioner blasting to test the bubble theory out. Besides some strong suction everything held into place except for the temperature and humidly which kept dropping — RAPIDLY. We were amazed at how quickly we were able to regulate temperature compared to our old HB room in Florida which was a bedroom approximately 11’ x 11’. Cracking the window eliminated the suction (which Mike surmises comes from a leaky A/C unit) and ta da! We had ourselves a climate controlled hangboarding bubble room! I was pretty impressed.

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Looking up at this corner, you can see where we stated hanging the plastic wall after covering the ceiling joists. We used staples, then white duct tape followed by the 1″x2″ wood trim.

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Sticker zipper.

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Looking down at the floor, these are the 2×4’s used to tuck the bottom of the plastic.

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A/C next to window and up on a stand so the cold air blows directly on the hangboard.

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Another view from inside The Bubble

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Looking out from inside The Bubble. This is where we might add another zipper.

Yes, Team Anderson came together despite the skeptical wife! I would now like to take this opportunity to introduce myself again as the very understanding, supportive, kick ass wife who recently had the best hangboard phase to date!
The Bubble is awesome.


Not only does it capture that cool dry air, it keeps all the chalk from decorating the rest of the basement/house. I’m a huge fan and would recommend something similar to anyone out there struggling to get good conditions while training. We really should have tried out this insane bubble idea in Ohio and Florida where the humidity really is ridiculous. After reaching new personal bests during my latest hangboard training phase, I’m a believer in The Bubble.


In case you find yourself going a little insane, here is a material list to get you started:
– HDX Clear Plastic Sheeting 10ft X 100ft (1000Sq Ft…way too much for our project so we have plenty for other fun bubble projects)
– Duct Tape
– Staple Gun
– Staples
– One box of Heavy Duty Zipwall Zippers (2 pack)
– 2X4 boards or 2X6, whatever you have lying around
– 1X1/2 boards
– Measuring tape 
– Saw?.

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Already to go!!!

Happy Hangboarding!

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