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 🙂

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!

Raisin-Pecan Lentil Power Bars

One of my best friends is a triathlete. Actually, her whole clan competes in triathlons together – her, her husband and their children. She thinks we’re crazy to enjoy rock climbing so much, and we think she’s crazy for training for Half Ironman races (do you know how LONG those things are?!). | Lentil-pecan power-bars

As different as rock climbing and triathlons are, both require good fuel for the body. While training for a sport, we turn to snacks that are easy to eat, easy to digest and hopefully help give the body the energy it needs. | Lentil-pecan power-bars

This past Christmas she sent us two cookbooks as gifts, one of which was Power Hungry, a book filled with homemade energy bar recipes. If you’re looking for a protein bar, or a bar that will help to fuel a long endurance-training day, or food that doesn’t require an oven, this book has all those and lots more! The great part is that all the bars can be tucked away in the freezer until you need them, which makes planning food and snacks for training days a breeze. | Lentil-pecan power-bars

I’ve earmarked many recipes to try in this book, but the first one that caught my attention was a Fig and Honey Lentil Granola Bar. The problem? Figs aren’t in season, and we were out of honey. Darn.

But fear not! I had raisins, dried cranberries and maple syrup, these grand substitutions worked out just fine 🙂 | Lentil-pecan | Lentil-pecan power-bars

This bar recipe requires no baking, but the red lentils do need a quick simmer on the stove top to soften them up. Once everything is mixed together and pressed into a parchment-lined tray, it just needs to chill in the fridge for a few hours to set fully. Super simple! | Lentil-pecan power-bars

After cutting into squares, I popped them into a few Tupperware boxes and into the freezer to store. We bring them to our climbing sessions, and they’re a great snack to have during or after working out. The red lentils (which don’t have a flavour, really) give these bars a huge boost of protein, fiber and vitamins, but all you taste is the fruit and nuts! I’m quite certain you could give these to a picky-eater (child or adult!) and they would be none the wiser 🙂 | Lentil-pecan power-bars

We’re heading over to Vancouver Island for our first-ever climbing competition next week, and I have a feeling this cookbook will be used for a few more bar recipes to make and bring along 🙂

Raisin-Pecan Lentil Power Bars
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 16 bars
  • Serving size: 1 bar
  • Calories: 160
  • Fat: 7.8 g
  • Saturated fat: 1.6 g
  • Carbohydrates: 19.1 g
  • Sugar: 4.8 g
  • Sodium: 40 mg
  • Fiber: 3 g
  • Protein: 6 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
Recipe type: Snacks
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
This recipe was adapted from Power Hungry
  • 95 g (1/2 cup) dried red lentils, rinsed
  • 1½ cup water
  • 30 g (1/4 cup) chopped pecans
  • 30 g (1/4 cup) sunflower seeds
  • 190 g (1¾ cup) large-flake oats (gluten-free, if needed)
  • ½ tbsp melted coconut oil
  • 80 g (2/3 cup) raisins
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • ½ cup peanut butter (or nut butter of your choice)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  1. Line a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper and lightly mist the paper with a cooking oil.
  2. Place the rinsed red lentils and water into a large pot on the stove top. Bring the lentils to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes. The water should be absorbed and the lentils will look a bit mushy. This is okay!
  3. Mash the lentils up a bit and leave to cool, about 5 minutes.
  4. While the lentils are cooking, add the coconut oil to a large skillet, along with the rolled oats, pecans and sunflower seeds. Over medium heat, stir the mixture frequently and cook until golden and fragrant, about 3 or 4 minutes.
  5. Transfer the toasted oat mixture to a large bowl. Add the mashed lentils, peanut butter, raisins, maple syrup, cinnamon and sea salt. Mix together with a large spoon.
  6. Transfer the granola bar mixture into the parchment-lined tray. Spread and flatten the mixture using the back of a large spatula.
  7. Place into the fridge for about 2 hours, until the bars are firm and fully set.
  8. Remove the bars from the pan, using the parchment paper edges, and cut into 12 to 16 squares.
These bars can be stored in the fridge or freezer. Make sure to wrap them well to avoid drying out.

Enjoy! | Lentil-pecan power-bars

ClimbEatCycleRepeat | Ginger-Citrus Smoothie

Sunday Smoothie: Week 2

How was your first full week of the new year?! Our week seemed to fly by, due in a large part to a pretty crazy work week. I had to go in to work today (boo!) to test a new machine upgrade, but was rewarded with a few hours of climbing afterward (Jonty sent his 12c, and Moira her V6 – yay!). | Moira bouldering V6, Cliffhanger Climbing Gym

Moira using her super core strength on a V6 boulder problem. | Jonty climbing 12c, Cliffhanger Climbing Gym

Jonty half way on a 5.12c route.

Week 2 of my Green Smoothie Challenge has been successful (you can find my favourites from Week 1 here). I managed 6 green smoothies in 7 days (after aiming for 5 per week), with the only day missing being the day Jonty and I go out for breakfast after our 5:30 am gym workout (in which case we console ourselves with a coffee and a muffin from Whole Foods.) 🙂 | Pomegranate spritzer green smoothie

Like last week, I ended up changing up the ingredients of most of the intended recipes. Luckily, they were all quite tasty – my go-to ingredient this week was fresh ginger, I added it to every smoothie! I absolutely love the smell and taste of fresh ginger, so I probably add more than most people might like, but the combination of the spicy ginger with sweet pineapple is a winner in my books 🙂 | Ginger-citrus green smoothie

I’ve included recipes for my two favourite smoothies of the week:

A Ginger-Citrus Smoothie… | Ginger-citrus green smoothie

… and a Pomegranate Spritzer Smoothie. | Pomegranate spritzer green smoothie

Both recipes make enough for one big serving, so if you want to make enough for two people, just double the ingredients.

We hope you have a great Green Week!

Ginger-Citrus Smoothie
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 1 serving
  • Serving size: 1 glass
  • Calories: 165
  • Fat: 1.2 g
  • Saturated fat: 0.2 g
  • Carbohydrates: 41.1 g
  • Sugar: 26.2 g
  • Sodium: 40 mg
  • Fiber: 7.1 g
  • Protein: 4.8 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
Recipe type: Breakfast
Prep time: 
Total time: 
  • 1 cup / 60 g (packed) fresh kale
  • 1 cup / 150 g chopped pineapple (preferably frozen)
  • 1 mandarin orange
  • 1 piece (1 - 2") fresh ginger, peeled and diced
  • ½ fresh lime
  • 1 cup water
  1. Using a high-speed blender, blend together the kale, orange and water until smooth.
  2. Add the pineapple and ginger and blend again until smooth.
For a cold smoothie, make sure at least one fruit is frozen (the pineapple, in this case).
Feel free to use water, coconut water, or non-dairy milk for the liquid.

Pomegranate Spritzer Smoothie
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 1 serving
  • Serving size: 1 glass
  • Calories: 189
  • Fat: 4.1 g
  • Saturated fat: 0.4 g
  • Carbohydrates: 37.7 g
  • Sugar: 22.3 g
  • Sodium: 40.3 mg
  • Fiber: 9.5 g
  • Protein: 6 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
Recipe type: Breakfast, Drink
Prep time: 
Total time: 
  • 1 cup / 70 g (packed) kale
  • 1 cup / 150 g chopped pineapple (preferably frozen)
  • ¼ cup pomegranate arils
  • 1 (1" - 2") piece fresh ginger, peeled and diced
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 cup water
  1. Using a high-speed blender, blend together the kale, pomegranate and chia seeds until smooth.
  2. Add the pineapple and ginger and blend again until smooth.
For a cold smoothie, make sure at least one fruit is frozen (the pineapple, in this case).
Feel free to use water, coconut water, or non-dairy milk for the liquid.

Enjoy! | Ginger-citrus green smoothie

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 my  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 🙂 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 🙂

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!!! 🙂

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

Happy Training!!