Strength Training: Pinch It Real Good!

A few weeks ago we finished a strength-focused climbing month, which means we added 2 hangboard sessions per week to our climbing schedule. We also changed up our hangboard routine from what we’ve done in the past (you can read about those here and here) and brought in a new, highly sophisticated piece of training equipment…. a small piece of 2×4 πŸ™‚

We were pretty happy with this new routine and thought we would share it.

Our Strength-Focused Schedule:

  • One lead climbing session per week: Working on leading harder grades and improving technique (footwork, fast clipping, on-sighting, etc.)
  • One bouldering session per week: Working on bouldering harder grades and focusing on maximum strength moves
  • One general conditioning session per week: Incorporating exercises to improve functional movement and increase core and upper-body strength
  • Two hangboard sessions per week: Maximum strength dead-hangs plus pull-ups

Hangboard Routine:

The modifications we made to our old hangboard routine were as follows:

  • Choose 6 or 7 finger/grip positions to train. This time around, we included three different pinch grips using a 2 x 4 (cut to a length of 5-inches)
  • For each finger grip / position, find the weight you need to add / remove in order to just hold tension for 6 seconds + 1 pull-up
  • For each finger grip / position, complete 3 sets of the “6-second hang + 1 pull-up”), resting for 90 seconds in between each set | Strength training mono-pullup

We loved this new routine for two reasons:

  1. It was quick! We could finish the hangboard routine in less than 45 minutes (this was, of course, after a very good warm-up at the climbing gym).
  2. It incorporated movement (the pull-up) off of a finger grip position, which we feel is more beneficial to climbing.

Pinch it Real Good:

We also started using a 2×4, cut to a length of 5 inches, to work on improving our narrow, medium and wide pinch grip.

  • Start with your weakest grip (for us, it was the widest, 5-inch width of the block)
  • End with your strongest grip (for us, it was the narrow, 2-inch width of the block)
  • We used a sling around the block, attached to our weights. It seemed to work! | Strength training pinch-grip

For these maximum-strength exercises, you need to find out what weight you need to add (via a weight vest) or remove (via a pulley-system) so that you can just complete one 6 second hang / hold followed by 1 pull-up. This might take a session or two to figure out exactly where you lie.

Make sure you record your weights and grip positions, so you can track your progress over the week, and know what weights to start on, when you return to the hangboard training months from now.

Happy Strength Training!

Training for Climbing: Power and Visualization

Last week I started into the Power Training phase of our 17-week training schedule. I’m following the same plan as last time (you can find that post here, if you’d like to see what I got up to). These sessions include a thorough warm-up, followed by some campus board work.

For me, campus training requires a lot of mental visualization and commitment. I find the exercises difficult, and a lot of it comes down to my mental preparation. The movements on the campus board do not come naturally to me, and in the past it has felt like it’s has taken almost the entire 4-week phase to improve my skills to a level I’m happy with, only to move onto the next phase and lose any gains I’ve made!

So, I tried to be more proactive about hitting the ground running this time, and I did a few things to set me up to be more successful for my power training:

  1. Prepare during the Strength Phase: I decided to use the campus board for my finger strength phase, instead of the hangboard. The intention was to prepare my body (and mind!) for campusing, as well as improving my finger strength.
  2. Document: At the end of the last power phase in August, I wrote down a few notes for things I knew I’d forget. Things like “This order for exercises worked well”.
  3. Visualization: I also wrote notes for what I was thinking about when I succeeded at a campus ladder. Things like “Keep a steady tempo”, “Think about bouncing up the campus board”, etc.

This approach has really helped! On the first campus session, I finished almost as strong as my last session in August! Wahoo!

Some of the things I think about which I find improve my success rate are:

  • Each move up the campus board should be a little hop or bounce.
  • Even if I slow down towards the top, make sure each move up is still a quick power pull-up.
  • With each move, make sure my shoulders and body don’t sag between moves.
  • Focus on where myΒ  hand is in relation to my shoulder (this gives me a consistent point to pull-up to, where I know I can easily reach the next rung, even if I tire).

Yesterday, I was able to ladder all the way up to the top of the campus board multiple times, and I was very pleased with myself πŸ™‚ I think a big part of that was my visualization and prep during the Strength Phase, so my mind and body knew what was coming!

Jonty, in week 13 of knee recovery, is able to walk now (wahoo!), but is still not strong enough to withstand landing on his leg, so he’s continuing to work on finger and upper-body strength. One of his long term goals was to be able to do a muscle-up on gymnastic rings; this requires working on dips:

… and quick pull-ups:

… and putting it together, a muscle-up with a bit of aid to start:

He also decided to work towards being able to do one-finger pull-ups, here’s his latest climbing party-trick πŸ™‚

This power phase will take us through another few weeks, then transition into the power-endurance phase. We’re thinking of putting together a few before / after videos to showcase any improvements we’ve made, so perhaps you’ll see those pop up in another few weeks.

Happy Power Training!

Training for Climbing: Gimme Strength!

Since Jonty’s knee injury (at the beginning of our September performance phase), we haven’t been able to climb together, as his leg is still splinted and he can’t walk (or climb or belay!). As a result, we hadn’t talked very much about what our winter training schedule together would look like! After a month or so of bouldering in the gym, I was ready to start training again, with a focus in mind.

Last week, a notification popped up in our calendar, telling us we were due to start the Strength phase for our winter training block. Perfect timing! The whole premise of this 17-week training plan is to think about your climbing goals and to tailor your training to give you the best shot at conquering your “goal routes”. Since climbing outside in the winter on the “Wet Coast” is not possible for those that live some distance from the crags (climbing on soaking wet rock is not that fun!), our training usually focuses more on improving our general skills (finger and core strength, power movement patterns, etc.). | Jonty on the hangboard, large rungs

Normally, during this 4-week training block we focus on improving finger strength through exercises on the hangboard. We talked about that session here, if you’re interested in our set-up. We’ve had discussions over time about whether this is the best way to improve finger strength. The main issue we have with this style of training is that you’re hanging, statically, on small holds. But climbing is a dynamic process, and the forces generated through your fingers as you move off a hold are much different than if you’re just hanging on a hold. | Jonty on the hangboard, medium rungs

So I thought I would try something different this time around! A few years ago, we bought the Gimme Kraft training book, which includes tonnes of climbing-specific training exercises, developed in their training studio in Germany. Virtually all the exercises use body weight only and all have a rating from “Easy/Beginner” to “Very Hard/Pro” levels. We worked through some of the exercises in this book a few years ago and Jonty suggested I might want to look at some of them again. | Jonty on the hangboard, thin rungs

What I like about these exercises is that they are dynamic and require the strength of multiple muscle groups at the same time, which (I’m hoping!) will help me improve some of my weaknesses.

For this strength training round, I’ll be focusing on 3 general exercises, all done on the campus board. After a significant warm-up session on the auto-belay (climbing continuously for 20 – 30 minutes, warming up each of the finger groups like pinch, crimp, 2-finger, etc.), the finger-strength training can begin!


What to think about:

  • One set = 4 – 6 “square-dance rounds” without a break
  • Complete 4 – 6 sets, resting ~3 minutes in between a set
  • Body tension (stay close to the wall)
  • Contact strength (fingers latch to the rungs)

How to improve/make more challenging:

  • Move to smaller/thinner rungs
  • Use higher feet (if possible)
  • Use a steeper-angled wall (if possible)


What to think about:

  • Hang 7 – 10 seconds on off-set holds, lifting one leg as high as possible; repeat with the other hand/leg combo.
  • Complete 12 sets of these hangs
  • Core tension, finger contact strength

How to improve/make more challenging:

  • Move to thinner rungs, if you can hold the tension for more than 10 seconds
  • Starting at 6 sets, working up to 12 sets
  • Starting with 4 fingers on the holds, working my way down to 3 fingers


What to think about:

  • One set = 4 – 6 “lock-off” rounds, without resting
  • Complete 4 – 6 sets, resting ~3 minutes in between
  • Keep the body tension throughout the move
  • Try to touch your body to the wall as you lock-off (hips through nose)

How to improve/make more challenging:

  • Use thinner holds
  • Use higher feet (if possible) to get a deeper lock-off
  • Use a steeper wall (if possible)

For the last 7 weeks, Jonty has not had the luxury of two functional legs, so he has been working on improving his upper-body strength and finger strength, namely in the way of pull-ups. Lots of pull-ups. He’s now up to >130 per session, and generally stops due to boredom not fatigue!! On the weekend, when we are both at the climbing gym together and he has access to the campus board, he will work on his finger strength by doing off-set pull-ups and two-finger pull-ups. Over the last 7 weeks, he has really improved! He can now do off-set pull-ups on the thinnest campus rung:

And he has been working toward two-finger pull-ups on the medium and thin campus rungs:

He makes both look pretty easy, but I can assure you, it’s not!!! πŸ™‚

This routine might get modified over the next few weeks, but this is my general plan.

Happy Training!!

Vancouver: Shades of Fall

Weekend Meanderings: 50 Mm Shades of Fall

Back in January, when I started my 6-month sabbatical, I decided to make a conscious effort to use my big-girl camera more and really start working on improving my photography skills. It’s definitely a slow process, but a fun one! Practice, practice, practice! πŸ™‚

I have the original kit-lens that came with the camera body we bought a few years ago, but the more pictures I take, and the more I look at the other people’s pictures, the more I’d like to experiment with different lenses. Enter Lens Lenders, a Canadian company that rents camera lenses! They send you the lens in the mail, along with a pre-paid envelope to send it back in, and you don’t have to return it until 4:00 pm the day after your last rental day, which means you basically get an extra day free! I was impressed with their service, it’s a great way to try different lenses before spending an (often) significant amount of money – I’m already looking at which lens I’d like to try next πŸ™‚

I rented a Nikon 50mm f/1.4 prime lens over the Thanksgiving long weekend. The weather was a bit hit-and-miss, but we tried to make the most of the moments it wasn’t raining.

Scenes from “The ‘Dale”… | Kerrisdale, Vancouver BC

The dry summer we had is evident with the hydrangeas outside our apartment. They are definitely not as full as usual, but still oh-so pretty! | Hydrangea petals, Vancouver BC | Hydrangea petals, Vancouver BC

I wanted to try shooting with a prime lens for a few reasons. First, there is no zoom, so you have to physically move around to get the shot you want. It definitely takes some getting used to! Second, this lens is great in low light situations and allows for those uber-dreamy blurry background pictures (much more so than my current lens) and I really wanted to take advantage of that, especially for some of our food photos.

One thing I love about Vancouver is that, even on the grey days, you can always find pops of colour. After the leaves fall, you just might have to look a bit harder to find it πŸ™‚ | Granville Island views from False Creek seawall, Vancouver BC | Granville Island views from False Creek seawall, Vancouver BC

I think we hit almost every type of weather last weekend – a bit of sun (we managed some great sunrise pictures from Queen Elizabeth Park), a lot of cloud, and a healthy dose of rain. | Granville Island views from False Creek seawall, Vancouver BC | Sunrise from Queen Elizabeth Park, Vancouver BC | False Creek seawall, Vancouver BC

And the best place to turn when it starts raining cats and dogs? Head to a cozy neighbourhood pub, find a bit of light along the way, and wait for the storm to pass πŸ™‚

Happy Weekend!

Fall in the Fall

It’s hard to believe we’re almost through September already. This month is really flying by, and the next few months don’t appear to be slowing down! The leaves are definitely turning colour, and the conkers are starting to fall – I came home the other day with a pocket full of them. They remind me of my mother-in-law – she was a master at picking the biggest, shiniest conkers while out on her walks. Hopefully she will be proud of my selection πŸ™‚ | Collecting conkers | Collecting conkers

The last few weekends have been a mixed bag of weather and health. On the ones with good weather, I struggled with a nasty bug, which put a damper on some of the climbing (for me). On the wet ones, I was healthy but Jonty was not. What can you do!

One Sunday a few weeks ago was supposed to be a good one, and we had a vacation day the next day to climb, so we used Sunday as a “rest day”. We were up early and cycled down to the Cambie Street Bridge in an attempt to catch the sunrise. The clouds were almost in the way, but we still got a few pretty great moments! | Olympic Village sunrise from the Cambie Street Bridge, Vancouver BC | Olympic Village sunrise from the Cambie Street Bridge, Vancouver BC | Olympic Village sunrise from the Cambie Street Bridge, Vancouver BC | Olympic Village sunrise from the Cambie Street Bridge, Vancouver BC

There was a stiff wind that morning and we were already looking forward to our coffee at Whole Foods, but we persevered to get “the sunrise shots”! | Olympic Village sunrise from the Cambie Street Bridge, Vancouver BC | Olympic Village sunrise from the Cambie Street Bridge, Vancouver BC

The next day was a vacation day and we headed up to Squamish to jump on our climbing projects. The weather was supposed to take a turn for the worst later in the week, so we were pretty excited to make the most of our day off. On our third warm-up climb, Jonty was leading a route, and did a slight drop-knee to make a quick power-move up to a hold. Next thing I knew, he had fallen 10 feet down and was clutching his knee, yelling to be lowered immediately.

Not good!

Once he was down and we were trying to figure out what happened (and how bad it was), he said he heard a tearing / fluttering sound in his knee and then his knee just collapsed (like the key was turned off on the engine – no power!).

Definitely not good!

With the aid of two makeshift crutches, he made the sloooooow trek back down to the car (the standard 20-minute hike took close to 1.5 hours), and headed into the Squamish ER. | Jonty's crutches

The ER doctor there was very good and got Jonty an appointment with a highly-regarded orthopaedic surgeon in North Vancouver, so hopefully we will find out his true diagnosis today at his appointment! (We’ve been consulting Dr. Google over the past week, making our own assessments.) He’s hoping for the best, but preparing for a few months worth of recovery. Unfortunately, that marked the end of his performance session this year πŸ™

The good thing (for me!) is that being on crutches has not prevented him from making pie on the weekend – he just needs to sit down to do it! | Jonty's crutches

So, without a belay partner, I’ve been getting back to the climbing gym to boulder, and Jonty has been working on his pull-ups (currently over 50-a-day!), since he’s out of ideas of what he can do safely right now. I think we’re both looking forward to hearing what the surgeon says today so Jonty can get back on the road to recovery as quickly as possible!!