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Category Archives: Training

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.

Coming back to Training

I basically took this spring off.  Not from climbing.  But from training.  I was doing what most people consider training: Climbing and projecting boulder problems at the gym during the week and climbing outside and trying to send routes on the nice weekends.  I basically “let myself go back to my base ability.”  Of course, that’s not true..but it felt like it.  We are a product of our past training.  It turns out my “not-training” base is climbing 12d second or third go and onsiting 12a and b.  So pretty hard to complain right?  Now that I’m successfully married and honeymooned, its time to get serious with my training.  I think sometimes taking a break is really good – like I am so excited to train right now, I’m bursting with it!
Ryan Smith on Blood Raid 5.13a, New River Gorge.
I’m a dedicated student of training – like all of us right?  So what is my primary weakness?  My natural strength has always been my pure enduro.  I’m a big guy (for a climber) which means I have tons of gas in the tank.  Unless I’m at my limit, I rarely fail on a route because of enduro or power enduro.  Because of my previous hangboarding workouts, my finger strength is awesome – I can hold just about anything.  I will certainly do a new hangboard workout this winter, but I’m skipping my summer hangboard workout to focus on my true weakness:  Power.
If you’re not sure what your weakness is, I would first ask your friends.  Training your strength is good and fun, but its not effective for breaking through barriers.  There are also some online quizzes.  If you’ve never done core training – I’ll tell you right now.  Your weakness is your core.  Especially if you don’t climb “super smooth.”
My climber bro, Ryan’s primary strength is his power, so I’ve been consulting with him and today at the gym, he’s going to take me through a series of ring exercises he’s been doing.  I’ll be training on the rings for core, stabilizer muscles (super important), some pull, and I want to do flies to improve my compression strength – which flat out stinks.  I’m also going to do weighted pull ups as well as train for a one-arm pull up.  I would say right now my 50/50 focus will be the general pull stuff as I described above and the campus board.  Once I get a good base on the pull stuff, I’ll probably move into 80/20 campus board, ring stuff.  I have about ten weeks before I’m going to regularly climbing outside (its hot as crap here anyways.)
All that on top of running of course.  I love running.  Once I get it all sorted out, I’ll post my routines and see if I can get some input from you internet readers.
Lauren Brayack doing some training in Cartagena, Spain
Me doing a little bouldering on the Rock of Gibraltar

Insurrection!

By Mike Anderson

As I said in my last article (Spring, Sprain, Summer, Send?), I’m having somewhat of a “Cinderella Season”…with things just clicking despite some minor adversity. As I bragged in that post, I sent one of my “life list” routes, Grand ‘Ol Opry (5.14c) at the Monastery. It went faster than I expected, leaving me with just under three weeks of “bonus climbing” before our big trip to Europe…what to do…in Colorado…in the summer?

We tried Wild Iris on the first weekend, and found it too hot, so instead, we opted for Independence Pass…maybe the coolest (coldest) climbing in Colorado.

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Mike showing off after sending “Before there were Nine”, 13d at Indy Pass, back in July 2012.

 

Waaaay back in 2012, I worked and sent Tommy Caldwell’s route Before there were Nine (not his name, as far as I know). While I was working the route, Mark visited and we spotted a “futuristic” (for us) line of holds in the middle of the Grotto Wall that we were sure could hold a route.  I was living in Florida at the time, and the proposed route was out of my reach, literally and figuratively.

Mark returned, however, and bolted the line in the Fall of 2013, and sent it just over two years ago, establishing, Insurrection, 5.14c and the hardest route on Independence Pass. He described his epic send in this article from May, 2014. I always wished we could have worked the line together, but, as I said, it was beyond me, and I’m glad he got the First Ascent.

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Mark Anderson on Insurrection, 5.14c, back in May 2014. Stretching for the sloping edge at the end of the redpoint crux. Check out those awesome micro-crimpers!!! Photo by Adam Sanders.

So, with about two weeks, I thought maybe I had a shot at sending Insurrection, and completing what Mark and I envisioned four years ago.  It would be really tight, but if it didn’t work out, I could return in the fall to finish it off.

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The best part about climbing at the Pass is the camping!

 

I busted out of work on Wednesday, the 8th of June, with my good friend and trusty belayer, Shaun. I checked out the route, and it seemed plausible, but hard.  The holds were much smaller than those on Grand ‘Ol Opry, and the rests were not as good (or almost non-existent). Nevertheless, there was nowhere else cooler to climb, or better to prepare us for the granite-laden Zillertal region of Austria, so I figured I’d give it the old college try with the roughly 2 weeks I had left.

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Mike Anderson on Insurrection, 5.14c. In the crux section by the 3rd bolt, setting up for a powerful undercling move. Janelle Anderson photo.

 

Since the 8th, I managed 5 climbing days on the Pass, and squeezed in two ARC’ing sessions at the gym to build up my ability to recover on the route.  This last Saturday, everything clicked…we had great weather (waking up at 4:45 AM helps with that!)  I had the moves dialed by now, and my fitness is peaking, thanks to the work put in on Grand ‘Ol Opry. I sent Insurrection on my first go of the day…a rarity for me. I usually get flash pumped on my first go, and really think of it as a warmup burn.  This time, I warmed up really carefully, took time to stretch thoroughly, and massage my forearms before the send.

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Mike Anderson on Insurrection, 5.14c. Making the powerful undercling move. Janelle Anderson photo.

The climbing is a power-endurance test piece with hard, dynamic moves and little rests, so for me, the send was all about rationing my effort.  I really focused on breathing and relaxing my grip on every hold…this is especially important with dynamic climbing because you tend to tense up and stop breathing when you dyno, as you engage your core. The key is to recognize this, and make a conscious effort to relax after every dynamic move. The mileage I got on the rock while working Grand ‘Ol Opry really helped me dial-in this technique, and it showed on Insurrection.

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Mike Anderson on Insurrection, 5.14c. Sticking the flake and getting ready to make a strenuous clip.  Janelle Anderson photo.

 

Insurrection is a brilliant route! It’s in the center of Independence Pass’s most prominent crag, and one of Colorado’s most historic sport cliffs. It’s now the centerpiece of that crag. The rock is excellent, and the moves are really cool, especially if you love crimping like I do!

My experience is limited, but I think the 5.14c rating is legit, and I think I’m in a good position to make a comparison to Grand ‘Ol Opry. GOO took me 6 climbing days, and 14 days from start to finish. I was able to send Insurrection in slightly less time…5 climbing days spread over 11, but that was with the benefit of the fitness and technique I developed working GOO. GOO is longer, and has more moves to dial in, but it has much bigger handholds and pretty good jam-crack rests, one huge rest right before the crux. Insurrection is in your face from the start on very small, crimpy holds, and you have to do a long, 3-bolt crux section with no shakes. You really have to hold it together mentally. Regardless, it’s a great route, and it brings Independence Pass back into prominence as a cutting-edge sport crag, the best summer destination in Colorado.

I’m feeling my strongest ever now, at the age of 39, and I have really high hopes for Europe. This winter and spring were humbling for me, and I had to re-dedicate myself to training and climbing. My birthday was May 5th, and at that time I told myself: “it’s a new year…forget about 38 because 39 is going to be your best year yet!”  It’s working so far, and I plan to keep it up! Training on Trango’s Rock Prodigy Forge, with it’s specially engineered micro cripmp, has really paid off. My crimping is the strongest it’s ever been and it’s showing in my climbing.

Mike hang small crimp

How I got this way! Thank you Forge hangboard for your awesome micro crimps that help me train smart and climb hard!

 

Thanks Mark for having the courage to bolt this line and see it through to a route. Your passion and dedication are a huge inspiration to us all!

The Beta

by Mark Anderson

Fred Gomez cool and collected on his send of Smooth Boy, 13b, Smith Rock, OR.

Fred Gomez cool and collected on his send of Smooth Boy, 13b, Smith Rock, OR.

Last week I had to upgrade to a new binder for my training records.  The old one was full.  This is actually my fourth or fifth binder.  My first binder was just an old manila folder.  The oldest sheet in my binder is a hangboard log for a workout I did in June 2003.  I was training before that time, but either I did not write down what I did, or (more likely) I misplaced those records.  Since that first workout I’ve added 347 more hangboard sheets–one for each workout, plus an inch or so worth of campus, ARC, Linked Bouldering Circuit and Supplemental Exercise sheets.

The oldest hard-copy sheet I have, for a hangboard workout in June 2003.

The oldest hard-copy sheet I have, for a hangboard workout in June 2003.

After a few seasons of training, I upgraded to my first three-ring binder: red, 1”-thick with D-rings (super plush!).  This most recent binder is 3” thick and lasted me almost a decade, but now it’s bursting.  My new binder is 4” thick, but I think I’m going to split my records into two binders—one for hangboard logs, one for everything else—so I don’t have to keep moving it between the barn and my hangboard room, and to increase capacity in each binder.  Hopefully this approach will last me through the next decade.

This is what perseverance looks like. Each blue tab represents a season of training, although I’m slacking on adding tabs—the most recent one is from Fall 2012.

This is what stubbornness looks like. Each blue tab represents a season of training, although I’m slacking on adding tabs—the most recent one is from Fall 2012.

One of the most common questions heard at the crag is “what’s the beta…?” or “how did you do that one move?”  Well, if you ask me, here is my answer—in the many chalk-dust-covered pages of those creaking binders.  In other words, the beta is: do lots of thinking and lots of hard work.  Do a little bit of each of those things every week.  Then continue that month after month, season after season, year after year.  Keep doing it.  Do it  even when you don’t really feel like doing it.  Every page in that binder represents a decision point:  whether to do what is presently the most satisfying, or to invest temporary discomfort in the hope of future returns. Training is a ‘long con’–you will not see results in one week, or one month. There is no quick pay-off or silver bullet.  You have to keep at it for years.  It may be monotonous, it certainly isn’t glamorous and it often isn’t fun.  But if you do stick with it, if you follow through, you will be rewarded.

And that—with all sincerity—is how I did ‘that one move’.

Anderson Brothers Interview at PaleoTreats

Anderson Brothers thinking about training.

Anderson Brothers thinking about training.

Earlier this week Mike and I were invited on Nik Hawks’ podcast over at PaleoTreats.  PaleoTreats is a web-based mail order company that makes delicious and nutritious desserts for active and health-conscious folks.  In their own words,

“…We’ve been making foodie-approved Paleo desserts since 2009. We are serious about flavor, texture, ingredients and Paleo. Yes, all of them. We’ve shipped around the world, from Australia to Afghanistan, and we’ve ironed out all the kinks of getting a great dessert to your door.”

Nik’s podcast isn’t really about that though.  He’s interviewed an impressively diverse group of folks covering the gamut from elite athletes, to coaches and nutrition experts, focused on a wide variety of sports.  He’s really interested in the pursuit of excellence, and the common factors that make athletes successful, regardless of their athletic vocation.  Our podcast covered a variety of topics, including:

  • Goal-Setting in life and sports
  • How to develop the ability to work hard in yourself and your kids
  • The time and place for skill development in climbing
  • What we’re most proud of (in a training sense), and what we would change about the RCTM
  • How self-esteem (or lack thereof) has impacted our motivation and success
  • The next big innovations in climbing training

(Pretty much the only thing we didn’t talk about is food)

Check out the podcast here!

This photo has nothing to do with the adjacent text. Sticking the crux dyno on Nailed It, 12d, at the Sterling Wall.

This photo has nothing to do with this blog post. Sticking the crux dyno on Nailed It, 12d, at the Sterling Wall.

The Anatomy of A Limit Boulder Problem

Limit Bouldering is one of the best ways for rock climbers to train power.  When done properly, Limit Bouldering trains max recruitment, contraction speed, core strength and inter-muscular coordination.  If that weren’t enough, Limit Bouldering is also highly sport-specific, so the skills developed will translate directly to the rock.

The crux of Limit Bouldering is finding suitable training terrain.  If you have the luxury to set your own routes, the best option is to build your own Limit Boulder problems from scratch.  Even if you can’t set your own routes you can “make up” problems at your local gym using a system board, or any other part of the wall that has suitable holds and steepness (be sure to take notes on your made up problem so you can remember the holds each session).

So what makes a good Limit Boulder problem?

  • Dynamic movement, featuring dynos that are technically difficult, to holds that are complicated and difficult to latch (if you want to do simple, straight up dynos to flat edges that is all brawn and no brains, use the campus board!).
  • Representative of actual rock, in particular, your goal route(s).  Obviously that can vary depending on the climber, but in most cases that means:
    • Not particularly steep.  Problems in the range of 10 to 30 degrees over-hanging are sufficiently steep to mimic the vast majority of routes in North America
    • Low-profile hand holds, such as small edges and pockets, that are not overly incut and difficult or impossible to pinch.  Such holds are hard to pull “out” on, requiring good core tension and body position.  (Examples of ideal Limit Bouldering holds are discussed extensively here)
    • Small, but plentiful footholds (just like you find outside!) that are complex and require precise foot placements
  • One or two intense crux moves.  The key is really to focus on a few REALLY difficult moves.  This is in contrast to the typical gym boulder problem which may be as many as 15 moves long, with each move roughly the same difficulty.  That is power endurance, not power.  Limit Bouldering is about power.  Your problem can have as many as 8 or so moves as long as “the business” is 1-3 significantly harder moves (with the others being of relatively moderate difficulty).
  • Crux moves close to the ground, so that you can try them repeatedly, without a pump, without having to climb into position, and so that you can really “go for it” without fear of a long or awkward fall to the ground.

Below are two examples of Limit Boulder problems I’ve used in my training.  Each of these problems literally took me several training cycles, spread over YEARS, to send.  If you can do all the moves of your Limit Boulder problem on the first day, it’s not hard enough.  The hardest moves should require many sessions to do in isolation, and linking the entire problem should take close to an entire Power Phase, if not several.

Problem #1: “Yellow Jacket” (~V11?)

This problem overhangs about 8 degrees and features a big, barn-door dyno to a rugged half-pad edge, just wide-enough for three-fingers. Here is a detailed look at the handholds:

"Yellowjacket" Topo

“Yellowjacket” Topo

Hold #1

Hold #1

Hold #3 with a hand for scale.

Hold #1 with a hand for scale.

Hold #2

Hold #2

Hold #2 with a hand for scale.

Hold #2 with a hand for scale.

Hold #3

Hold #3

Hold #3 with a hand for scale.

Hold #3 with a hand for scale.

Hold #4

Hold #4

Hold #4 with a hand for scale.

Hold #4 with a hand for scale.

…and the problem:

The target hold (#4) has to be hit just right in all three dimensions.  It’s probably a bit rougher than I’d like, and I certainly had to limit the number of attempts per session to spare my skin, but it’s irregular shape really punishes inaccuracy.  That’s the only limit move on the problem, but none of the holds are positive so if your hips sag or swing out from the wall you can come off at any point.  The contorted setup makes the crux move much harder to stick on the send, so you really have to pay attention to your hip movement and flagging foot.

Problem #2: “Iron Cross” (~V12?)

This four-move problem overhangs 35 degrees and consists of  small, sharp crimps that each need to be latched just right in order to have a shot at sticking the subsequent move.  This problem is a bit unusual in that there aren’t any foot-only holds (every foothold is also used as a handhold, and the handholds are well-spaced).  As a result, each foot move is difficult, and every foot needs to be placed just right.  The key holds:

Topo of "Iron Cross"

Topo of “Iron Cross”

Hold #3

Hold #3

Hold #3 with a hand for scale.

Hold #3 with a hand for scale.

Hold #4

Hold #4

Hold #4 with a hand for scale.

Hold #4 with a hand for scale.

Hold #5

Hold #5

…and the problem:

The first move pulling off the ground may be the hardest individual move, a long precise stretch to a rounded crimp.   The second and third moves are not super hard, but they need to be done just right in order to have a chance on the last move–a big, difficult dyno that is certainly the redpoint crux.  Having a really hard move at the end is not ideal for a Limit Boulder problem, so I worked this like two problems (approaching the last move by starting at the third move) until I had mastered the dyno.

Now that you know what it takes to make a good Limit Boulder problem, you can get some holds together and get setting.  Winter is the perfect time to build confidence–and power–on a long-term indoor project.  Set something that will expand your perception of what is feasible and get to work turning your skepticism into belief!

Adjustable Hangboard Mount (3.0) – Easiest yet!

Rock Prodigy Training Center  and Rock Prodigy Forge hangboards are revolutionary tools for developing elite finger strength. The split board design allows you to customize it to fit your body, improving the ergonomics, making it safer to train hard, and really boost your finger strength!

To really take the most advantage of the split design, you can mount the two halves in a way that allows the spacing and rotation to be adjusted on-the-fly…an “Adjustable Mount”.

The picture below shows one way to utilize the Adjustable Mount to enhance your training. In this pic, I’m training my “Index-Middle” 2-finger pocket. If you’ve tried this, you know that your fingers never fit in the pockets quite right because the middle finger is so much longer than the index. With the adjustable mount, I’ve widened the board spacing, and rotated the boards by placing shims under the outside mounting brackets (Counter-clockwise on the right, and clockwise on the left). This vastly improves the ergonomics, reducing skin wear and flapper potential. This makes a once-awkward grip really fun to train, and my IM 2F strength has improved substantially.

HB Rotation Montage

In two previous articles, we’ve presented methods for creating adjustable mounts: Adjustable Mount for the RPTC and Adjustable Mount 2.0 for the Rock Prodigy Training Center. The first method uses a “French Cleat” system:

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RPTC mounted with French Cleat

The second method uses fence post brackets bolted to a backing board that allows it to slip over a fixed-mounted 2×10:

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Fence brackets mounted to the RPTC. These easily slide over a 2×10 beam.

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The RPTC with Adjustable Mount.

Recently we developed the all-new Rock Prodigy Forge, (see this post to understand how awesome it is: The World’s Most Technologically Advanced Finger Training System – The Forge)  This hangboard is super-kick-ass, but it’s a little shorter than the RPTC, so I wasn’t sure my “Adjustable Mount 2.0” would fit on it. Therefore, I had the motivation to finally try an idea I’d had for an easier Adjustable Mount, that I’ll describe now.

In a nutshell, this system is created by bending sheet metal into a U-shape, then simply epoxy-adhering them directly to the back of the board. With the right equipment, it takes about 30 minutes to create this.

Here’s the final product:

Finished Glued HB brackets

The RPTC (top) and Forge hangboards with adhesive-mounted brackets.

 

Here’s how to make it….

Start with the brackets. I used galvanized steel Simpson Strong Tie framing backets, and used a “bending brake” to bend them into the desired U-shape. If you can find some, try to get brackets that are already shaped to fit over a 2×4. I picked some up at home depot, the HTP37Z. These are about $2 each, and they are a pretty heavy duty gauge (16 Gauge):

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This is another option, the A44 but more expensive, at $4.50:

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Here’s another option. It’s pre-formed, but it’s a thinner gauge of steel (18-Gauge), and a little smaller, so it would provide less surface area for adhesion. Most importantly; I haven’t tested it:

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OK, so you have your brackets. If you need to bend the brackets, measure them carefully and account for the material that will be used up in the corners for the bend radius. I suggest buying an extra bracket in case you mess up.  A bending brake is the best tool, which I have access to at the Air Force Academy’s Applied Mechanics Lab:

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A simple bench-top vice will work too:

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Here’s the desired shape:

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You need two brackets per half of the RPTC or Forge, so four total to mount a hangboard system.

Formed Bracket

THe HTP37Z bent into shape.

This step is critical!  For proper adhesion, you must prepare the surface of the steel brackets. I used a sand-blaster, but sandpaper, or a Dremel tool works too…it just takes longer. Sand the surface of the steel that will adhere to the RPTC or Forge to rough it up and remove any contaminants so that the epoxy forms a good bond. This is critical because the brackets will have a thin film of oil and other debris on them. Once you have treated the surface, don’t touch it or otherwise let it get dirty. The hangboard can be lightly sanded as well, but in my experience, simply wiping it down with a paper towel and solvent is adequate.

I used West System 105 Resin and 205 Fast Hardener, shown below, but any number of commercial adhesives will work, such as Gorilla Glue, Loctite, JB Weld, etc. The surface preparation is far more important than your choice of epoxy.

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If using a 2-part epoxy (which I recommend), make sure it is mixed thoroughly. Here, I’m using a paper cup and a tongue depressor that I’ve trimmed the end off of so that it is flat and can cleanly scrape the bottom of the cup. Follow the instructions for your epoxy carefully.

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Now glue the brackets on…. Take care to get proper alighment. On the Forge, the top edge should be parallel to the ground, so I used a straight edge, as shown below, to line up the brackets with the top edge of the board. This ensures the board will hang parallel to the ground. Don’t fret, if you make a mistake and the brackets are uneven, you can always add shim material afterwards to level it out.

20150804_134437

Once the brackets are in place with epoxy, they may drift a little before the epoxy sets, so tape them down with some masking tape. If your brackets have fastener holes, like mine, cover the holes with tape so epoxy doesn’t bleed through the holes. If it does, it can impede the brackets from sliding over your 2×10 (you can sand any excess epoxy off, but it’s a pain). You want to place the brackets as close to the outside edges of the board as possible to prevent unintended rotation when using the outer holds, such as the pinches.

Blank 2x10

A “blank” 2×10 mounted in my basement, ready to accept my bracket-equipped hangboards.

 

The back view.
The forge hanging on the 2x10.

Finally, let the glue dry and mount your 2×10, if not done already. Here’s an earlier article describing how to do that: How’s Your Hang? Now enjoy your adjustable mount!

If you’re skeptical and discerning like me; you may be wondering…how strong is this adhesive mount anyway? Well, since I have access to the best undergraduate mechanics laboratory in the world, and the best undergraduate students, I decided to find out. I assigned a group of cadets to investigate (Cadet Mike Hyde, Cadet Nate Dickman, and Cadet Tim Welkener). They are Mechanical Engineering students at the Air Force Academy, and this testing served as their final project for their Experimental Mechanics course (lest you think I’m abusing my powers 🙂 ). Trango donated some hangboards, and the cadets replicated the mounting system, then tested them to failure. Here are a couple pics of the testing:

Mounted Boards

Mounted boards – Note they only are using one bracket per board. This setup is not for “operational use”, only for testing. The bolted-on brackets at the bottom are used to ensure a solid connection for testing the epoxy-mounted brackets at the top of the boards.

 

MTS Test Setup

An MTS Tensile Test machine. This was used for static strength testing and fatigue testing (repeated loading and unloading). Here they are testing an un-formed bracket (the bracket is flat) to isolate the epoxy-polyurethane bond. This is the “pure shear” test.

Testing of 2x4 mount

The RPTC with bracket mounted over a 2×4 for testing.

2x4 loading condition

Close up of 2×4 mount.

The cadets did a few tests:

  1. Pure Shear Test – here, the brackets were flat and held in the hydraulic grips of the MTS machine. This test isolates the epoxy bond. They ran a couple variations to test different surface preparations and epoxy combinations, but found little difference that would matter to us. In these tests, a single bracket held over 3,000 lbs!  Consider that you will be hanging from four brackets (two per RPTC/Forge half), and the epoxy is plenty strong!
  2. Cyclic Fatigue Test – In this test, the goal is to determine if repeated loading and unloading weakens the bond over time. With our MTS machine, we can apply repeated loads very quickly. They performed two variations on this test: Cycle load of 0-200 lbs for 650,000 cycles and 0-400 lbs for 75,000 cycles. The bond didn’t fail in either of these tests. I perform 24 sets of hangs on 8 grips per workout, which is 144 hangs per workout, so 75,000 cycles is the equivalent of 520 hangboard workouts, or about 52 seasons of hangboarding. I think we’re good!
  3. Formed Bracket Test – This test is probably the most relevant to us because it test the entire system, not just the epoxy bond. Here, the bracket is bent into the proper shape and placed over a 2×4. This was another static strength test, meaning the load was not repeated, just gradually applied until failure. The system failed when the steel brackets deformed (un-curled from their U-shape) at a load of 624 lbs. Again, this is for only one bracket — you will be hanging from four brackets.

Here’s a picture of the epoxy bond after the shear test:

After Test failure

…And the deformed brackets:

Deformed bracket post testing

Here’s a of quick video one of the pure shear tests.

 

In conclusion, I think you can hang with confidence off your new adjustable mount!

Climbing Gym Workouts for Improving Endurance

January is a pretty popular time to start a training program for many people, what with the combination of New Year’s resolutions and falling off the exercise/healthy eating wagon over the holidays.  And for climbers, this time of the year is the perfect time to start building a training foundation with which to get ready for spring season.  A year ago at this time, I was starting my first training cycle with the Rock Climber’s Training Manual.  I saw great results from the program not only during the spring, but throughout the year, and I’m optimistic for similar gains this year.

For those of you not familiar with the program, the Rock Climber’s Training Manual (aka Rock Prodigy Method, reviewed here) takes the climber through 4 distinct conditioning phases – Base Fitness, Strength, Power, and Power Endurance.  The intended result is a peak sending season that can be appropriately timed for prime climbing seasons or special trips.  The goal of the first phase (Base Fitness), is to gradually build a foundation of endurance that the body can build on during the latter phases to come.

Another day, another auto-belay...

Another day, another auto-belay…

The following is a compilation of my favorite endurance activities to do during my Base Fitness phase, which usually lasts 2-3 weeks for me.   ***On outdoor days, I stray from the plan and just hop on what everyone else is doing :)

ARC TRAINING – Most efficient, and most boring.

This exercise is what the RCTM authors recommend for Base Fitness workouts.  ARC stands for Aerobic Restoration and Capillarity Training, but you don’t need to remember that word.  All you need to know is that for it do be done correctly, you need to feel kind of pumped, but not desperate, the entire time your on the wall.  The RCTM authors recommend that ARC-ing be done 2-4x per week (lower if you are also climbing outdoors during this time, higher if you are not), for 60-90 minutes per session.  As long as each set is at least 20 minutes long, you can break your total “on the wall” time up however you want – ie, three 30 minute sessions versus two 45 minute sessions.  I have found shorter sessions to be a lot less mind-numbing and easier to stay focused.

I’ve also found that changing up the type of ARC-ing between sets is helpful mentally.  For instance, doing one set by doing low traversing across the entire gym, and the next one on an auto-belay.  If you are lucky enough to have access to a tread wall, you can simply change up the angle.  It’s a lot more fun (but a little more time consuming) to ARC with a partner – choose a section of wall with several routes in your grade range, and take turns running laps both up and down, ideally not coming off the wall at all during your set, then be the belay slave while your partner does the same.

GYM MILEAGE – Moderately efficient, and is always fun.
IMG_4860

Baby Zu doing a bit of her own traversing while watching big brother’s climbing team practice…

So maybe you can’t convince anyone to belay you for 30 minutes at a time.  Doesn’t mean your stuck traversing 3 feet off the ground for your entire session.  If you’ve got a partner, climb!  Choose routes that are challenging but still doable while tired, and log as many as you can with minimal rest in between.  Don’t get sucked into hang dogging a project, and don’t spend a lot of extra time talking in between burns.

BOULDER FOR POINTS – Least efficient, but always fun.

This is similar to a bouldering interval workout that I like to do during my Power Endurance phase, but a lot less rigid.  Basically, climb as many boulder problems as you can in 45 minutes or so, giving yourself a point for every V grade you send (V1 = 1 point, V5 = 5 points, etc.  If I’m including V0’s, I will say that two V0s = 1 point.)  Start easy and slowly progress your way up to your typical onsight level, but not beyond.  You should aim to be on the wall for as much of the set as possible, and only doing problems that you can still send while tired.  (Problems that have been up for a while and you have wired are great for this!)  Set a minimum point goal to achieve, and then the next time you do the workout, try and increase your score.

COMBINING ACTIVITIES – Best balance of efficiency and fun.

Though it may not be perfect execution of the RCTM program, I’ve found that I stay committed a lot better when I have more variety in my workouts, so my typical endurance workout often features a combination of the above exercises.  After a couple of strictly ARC-ing workouts, I usually start adding some of the other activities into the mix, still aiming for 90 minutes of workout time divided into 3 or so sets.

If you are after a strict, regimented training program, you probably will prefer the RCTM program over my “hybrid-ish” methods.  Buy the book, and jump in full force so you can be crushing come spring time!  But if you are new to training, or like me, are constantly trying to find a balance between family, training, and everyday life, you can still be in plenty good shape for spring season.  While it’s still probably helpful to buy the book, use it as a resource to structure a loose training plan that works for you (and potentially the rest of your family’s) schedule, and then do the best you can with what you’ve got, switching things up as needed.

That being said, who else is boosting their endurance for the sending season ahead?

Related Images:

[See image gallery at cragmama.com]

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Bridge Cycle for Summer Training

by Mark Anderson

Performance-oriented climbers often ask me what to do with their time when facing a month or more of unsuitable outdoor climbing conditions. A good example is the climber who lives in the northeastern US and can’t climb through the dead of winter due to snowpack or extreme cold. On the other end of the spectrum, the summer heat stymies many in the southern part of the continent.

My standard disclaimer is that it’s personal: it really depends on your near-term and long-term goals, and your current level of motivation. If you’re psyched to train, you really want to eke every last bit of performance out of your body, and you’re willing to sacrifice other aspects of your life to do so, then the best bet is to complete a Bridge Cycle. This is a truncated version of a typical Rock Prodigy training cycle, tailored to span the gap between full-blown training cycles.

A Bridge Cycle could be as short as a month, or as long as several months. The distinctive element is that it essentially skips the Performance Phase, or at least minimizes its importance to the extent that any outdoor climbing is an afterthought, rather than the primary focus of the cycle. For example, let’s say it’s June and you have a big project looming for the fall. You’ve determined that in order to peak during optimal sending conditions in early November, you should begin your full fall cycle in mid-August. But what to do in the mean time?

Over the summer of 2011 I trained as usual and focused on working Grand Ol’ Opry, located in a relatively cool, shady alcove at nearly 8000-feet.

Over the summer of 2011 I trained as usual and focused on working Grand Ol’ Opry, located in a relatively cool, shady alcove at nearly 8000-feet.

If you’re like me, you might benefit the most from a break from climbing. I like to climb in cold weather, and it’s generally “too hot” for my taste in the summer. My strategy for bridging between the spring and fall seasons varies from year to year. Some years I select a relatively cool goal route, go all out as usual to train for it, and then “suffer” through the sub-optimal redpoint conditions. Some years I stop climbing completely, ride my bike instead, and focus on family and house projects. I find a long layoff helps stoke the flames of motivation for my next training cycle. Of course, I have a lot of miles under my belt, and even after an extended break I seem to be able to pick up right where I left off—physically, technically and mentally (after completing a full training cycle). Other climbers find an extended layoff makes them “rusty”, and the sabbatical negatively impacts their next full season.

A low key summer season also allows me to catch up on house work and spend more time with my kids. These two goals converged in early June, when I built this climbing wall for my kids. [more details on that project to come]

A low key summer season allows me to catch up on house work and spend more time with my kids. These two goals converged in early June, when I built this climbing wall for my kids. [more details on that project to come]

This year I’m using a combination of several approaches. I began with a full bore spring season, which included working and sending several hard projects. Rather than ending the season when my peak ended (around the end of May), I’m continuing to climb easier and easier objectives as my fitness fades. I also started riding my bike and began some serious house projects around the 1st of June. I will stop climbing in the middle of July, for a full two weeks of straight rest, and then resume training around August 1st for my fall season.

Recently I’ve found summer is a great time for developing new routes like The Smear Hunter, 5.13c, at the Bunker. During prime seasons I’m very focused on my projects and refrain from anything that interferes, like the often strenuous work of cleaning and bolting new routes. During summers like this one, my goals are modest enough that I can afford to divert some energy towards route development.

For me, summer is a great time for developing new routes like The Smear Hunter, 5.13c, at The Bunker. During prime seasons I’m very focused on my projects and refrain from anything that interferes, like the often strenuous work of searching for, cleaning and bolting new routes. During summers like this one, my goals are modest enough that I can afford to divert more energy towards route development.

There are many situations where an extended break doesn’t make sense and you would be better off with some form of training.   Perhaps you are new to climbing and should keep your nose to the grindstone. Perhaps experience shows you’re best off maintaining momentum from one season to the next. Perhaps you are just plain psyched on training, there’s nothing you would rather do, and you can’t stand the thought of wasting an opportunity to get better.

How you spend the training phases will depend on your goals, strengths, and weaknesses. If you have any glaring weaknesses, they should be your first priority. A bridge cycle provides a fantastic opportunity to focus completely on addressing weaknesses because you have no specific near-term goal that demands attention. For example, if you find you struggle with a particular type of move—say, pulling the lip of a roof—you can spend this time training the physical, technical and mental aspects of these moves, including seeking out sub-limit routes to practice on.

Chill summer seasons like this also allow me to explore new areas like Mill Creek Crag (which is about an hour west of Denver). When I’m super-fit I’m reluctant to go places I haven’t thoroughly scoped, for fear of “wasting” a precious day of peak fitness. Completing the First Free Ascent of Lou Reed, 5.13b.

When I’m super fit I’m reluctant to visit unknown crags for fear of “wasting” a precious day of peak fitness. On the other hand, laid-back summer seasons allow me to explore new areas like Dumont, CO’s “Mill Creek Crag” where I made the First Free Ascent of the scenic Lou Reed, 5.13b.

Next consider the relative importance of any short and long term goals. Going back to the original example, let’s say your fall goal route is long and pumpy, but the individual moves are well within your ability. You may want to design your bridge cycle to improve your redpoint endurance, and so emphasize Base Fitness and Power Endurance training. Perhaps your fall goal route is short and bouldery, in which case emphasizing Strength and Power is the way to go.

For many, the near-term goal route is less significant than the desire for long term improvement. This could be because you haven’t identified a fall goal route yet, you have many goals for the fall that span the gamut of climbing styles (so focusing on one climbing style takes a backseat to general improvement), or maybe you’re “all-in” on the Time Value of Climbing Ability. If any of these apply to you, and you have no glaring weaknesses (dare to dream), I recommend focusing on Strength and Power, since these are the most difficult to attain and will benefit every aspect of your climbing.

An example of a Bridge Cycle emphasizing Strength and Power is shown below. It includes a few Base Fitness workouts to get you ready for hangboard training, a relatively full Strength Phase, and a brief Power Phase so you can realize a short payoff from your training (in the form of a few sessions of Limit Bouldering–these can be done indoors or out). It clearly favors strength over power for a number of reasons (it’s more basic, more universal, more cumulative and easier to train, to name a few).  If you have more time to work with, expand the Strength Phase, then Power Phase, then Base Fitness Phase accordingly.  For most the PE Phase would be the last priority since there is no Performance Phase planned.

Bridge Cycle ChartFor some great discussions and first-hand experience with planning Bridge Cycles, check out these threads on the RCTM Forum (more or less in order of relevance):

Finally, if you do find yourself training in the mid-summer heat, you might benefit from some of these tips.  Good luck and happy training–fall is just around the corner!

 

 

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.

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