Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Core training

Unless you are crushing V7+ roofs, your weakest muscles are most likely your core.

As a climber this is ironic because climbing involves so much core strength, but I would argue your core is one of the hardest things to improve upon through everyday climbing (unless you do nothing but roofs). To this point, I would like to introduce you to a great exercise that should help to rock that core into shape, which should in turn greatly improve your climbing.

Remember that your core is essentially all the muscles in your trunk excluding the arms and legs - we're talking back, chest, lower back, abs, glutes, groin - all of 'em.

The best whole-core exercises that I've come across was recommended by Will Gadd - he called them "knee-to-elbows". They go a little something like this:

- Find something to grab (ideally a chinup bar, could be rock rings, a hangboard, just give yourself room in all directions) and dead-hang in pullup position (palms facing forward), shoulder-width apart.

- Now pull up until your elbow is somewhere between 160-degrees and 140-degrees (i.e. want the muscles engaged).

- Curl your knees and stomach slowly upwards to touch your elbows in a nice smooth arc, and back down again. Make sure both stages are fully controlled. This is the primary component of the exercise.

- Ensure that as you do these you are taking care to not swing, and keep your arms as stable as possible. essentially your goal is to keep your shoulders as still as possible and rotate around that axis.

- You should feel this everywhere, but especially your mid/lower back (generally the weakest part of your core)...if you don't feel it, either you have the core of a V7+ roof climber, or your technique is a little off.

- Don't be surprised if you cannot do very many of these before failure when you first start, but stick with it and you will find improvement very quickly. For the sake of training, I would say find your 1-set failure limit and back the reps off by 1/2 to pack more sets in, or else do pyramids up to your limit. Gadd defines a "strong" core as being able to do 15 in a row, so consider working towards that.

Supplementary reading: Core strength stuff from Will Gadd

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