Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Opposing Muscle Strength

Opposing muscles are the muscles that you do not use while climbing but are used to stabilize joints and move them in the opposite direction. Training your opposing muscles is very important when training strength to prevent injuries and to improve the strength of you climbing muscles. When strengthening your opposing muscles you are stretching the muscle fibers of your climbing muscles and that will allow them to be able to contract more, thus giving them more strength. These muscles can be strengthened at the end of a workout and will not affect your workout.

Some of the opposing muscles and strength training drills are:

Back of Your Forearms

The muscles on the back of your forearm are generally very weak compared to your muscles on the front of your forearms. This can lead to wrist problems because the wrist joint is not stabilized properly.

To strengthen the muscles on the back of your forearm there are several good drills.

Reverse wrist curls where you keep your palms facing the floor and curl your hand back towards your elbow. This can be done with or without weight, or by rolling a weight up with a broom handle or something similar.

Pushing and opening your hands in sand. This is great for constant resistance throughout a range of motion. Place a closed hand in a pile of sand and push down and out with your fingers as you open your hand.

Just opening your hand and extending your fingers as far as possible. Try to keep the back of your hand in line with your forearm as you do this. This one is good because it can be done anywhere; at school, in a car, or even at the dinner table.


While triceps are used alot when climbing they are not as used as often as your biceps and this can lead to elbow problems. Triceps are easy to strengthen. Chair dips, pushups, and tricep presses are all ways of strengthening these muscles. Not only that but stronger triceps will increase the range of motion in your lockoffs.

Lower Back

Look at the core strength section for some drills to strengthen your lower back.


Finally the fun stuff. Dynamic movement is a very important part of climbing. While it is more apparent on boulder problems it is just as useful on routes. Using your momentum from a previous move to do the next allows you to do moves easier, using less energy, so you won't be as tired as you move up a route.

Power is a combination of timing and strength. The timing of when to contract different muscles is something learned through practice and training. Generally as you work a boulder problem you are not getting much stronger but you are getting more powerful, learning how to use the strength at the right time. Strength does not come quickly but gradually over time.

There are some key times when power is very useful:


Deadpointing is when you move dynamically for a small hold and must be accurate. To complete a deadpoint you must be able to generate the momentum required (power) and be able to slow down your momentum, tighten up, at the last instant in order to grab the hold correctly. This requires both timing and power.


Yes there will be competitions out there where you may be required to do small or large dynos. This means generating enough momentum to be able to reach a hold that you can't reach statically. The difference between dynos and deadpoints is that with deadpoints you can usually keep your feet, and one hand on and are going to a small hold.


Campusing is when all your momentum is being generated by your upper body and is a very useful application of power on some routes. There are instances where it is easier to campus a move than to try and keep your feet on. If the feet are too far away or perhaps too high it may help to have the ability to campus.

Power Drills:

Deadpoint Drill

As described earlier deadpointing is when you move dynamically to potentially a very small hold. You must be accurate and be able to tighten up at the right moment to stick the hold. In order to practice this set up different small holds about eight feet off the ground. Place several good holds between four and five feet off the ground, and then place lots of good and bad footholds between two and three feet off the ground.

Now make some moves from the good holds to the bad ones that require you to be dynamic. Start by using good feet until you are comfortable sticking the bad hand holds, then move to progressively worse feet. Switch the type of holds that you are going to, pocket, pinches, edges, slopers etc... to help increase your ability to latch these holds. You can also increase the distance to these holds and force yourself to blow your feet off in order to reach the holds.

When you are starting do not try to deadpoint to a hold that you must crimp. This can lead to injury very easily and is an advanced skill. Only attempt this from large feet first even then do not try to weight the crimp too much right away.

A good variation on this if you are limited for space is to climb one handed along a wall or just in a fixed area. You will need to generate momentum with one hand and then move it very quickly in order to be able to grab the next hold. Move around between different hold types.

The biggest thing about deadpointing is the timing so as you do these drills concentrate on what feels good and efficient. Some times you will go past the hold, sometimes you won't reach it. Try to determine when you are pushing with your legs, when you are pulling with your arms, and when you start to tighten up in order to grab the holds.

Eventually you will not have to concentrate on these factors when you are deadpointing.

This is why good climbers make it look easy, timing.


Campusing is a very good way to build dynamic ability and timing. Here you will have a different goal than the campusing described when strength training, you should be trying to move dynamically and do bigger moves. It is okay to match hands and throw as far as possible. Modify the holds that you are throwing to, and from. The smaller the holds the harder they are to catch, and the harder they are to generate momentum from.

There are four really good variations on campusing for power:

Campus - Big Throws

Start with both hands on the same hold and throw as far as possible to catch a hold, then campus back down to the match and go up with the other hand catch the hold and back down. Do this in sets of three to failure. If you are doing more than 10 reps per set (10 per hand) then you should make the moves bigger, or holds smaller. Do not add weight when campusing.

This drill focuses more on the generation of momentum from the lats and biceps.

Campus - Go Agains

Start with both hands matched on a hold. Go up with one hand, catch a hold and then go up with the same hand again. Go as high as possible (you'll have to fall a couple times to figure this out) then come back down one hold at a time. Then go up with the other hand in the same manner.

This drill focuses more on generation of momentum from triceps and lats.

Campus - Both Hands

Start with both hands matched on a hold. Go up to a hold about 2-3 feet away with both hands at the same time. Go as high as possible, and come down with both hands at the same time as well, but try to do smaller distances.

A good variation is to go up two feet, down one foot, up two feet... with both hands always.

Campus - Bouldering

Try to campus boulder problems that you have already done. This will mean that you have to generate momentum laterally as well as vertically, and have to grab holds from many different angles. You will have to experiment with this one but it can be very effective.

NOTE: I am strongly against any under 18 using a campus board and novices should be fully supervised in the use of them, the BMC have some guidance notes here;  


Last but not least is bouldering itself. Bouldering is a very fun and efficient way to gain power. If you want to build hand strength set a problem with small holds, if you want power set a problem with big moves. Varying the style of climbing will allow you to have a fun and motivating workout. Not only that but it is easy to take a problem down and put another one up.

Try to approach a bouldering workout like any other. Have a goal, a set approach and make sure that you regulate the time between attempts and rest times. Do no try a problem a hundred times in 10 minutes. If you are trying a single move then it may make sense to try it three times in one minute separated by a three to five minute rest.

You may need to stay warm during this time so try and climb other easier problems if you are getting cold.

Arm and Back Strength

Here arm and back strength refers to the muscle strength required to bend your arms, lock off, and move your upper body while climbing. Some of the common names of the muscles required for this are biceps, triceps, lats, and pectorals (pec minor and pec major).

Arm and Back Strength Drills:


Frenchies is a standard drill for building the strength required to lock off in different positions. Start with a pull-up and hold yourself in a fully locked off position for seven seconds, lower down. Do a pull-up and lower yourself until the bend in your arms forms a 90 degree angle, hold for seven seconds, lower down. Do a pull-up and lower yourself until the bend in your arms forms a 130 degree angle, hold for seven seconds, lower down. One rep is finished when you have held all three lock off positions and lowered down. For this workout try to do three sets of 5-8 reps with a one minute rest in between sets. If you can complete three sets of 8 reps then add a little weight. If you cannot complete three sets of 8 reps then add a chair or footholds to take some of your weight.


For typwriters you need two holds of equal size placed between 1.5 and 2 times shoulder distance apart. The greater the distance; the greater the difficulty of the drill. Grab the two holds and hold yourself on one hand at a full lock off for three seconds, using the opposite hand to take as much weight as possible. Slowly shift your weight from one hand to the other and hold yourself at a full lock off for three seconds. One rep is completed when you have held yourself at full lock off on both hands.

Remember to try and keep your chin above your hands when moving back and forth between the two grips. To increase the difficulty you can increase the distance between holds or add weight. To decrease the difficulty you can decrease the distance between holds or add a chair/footholds to stand on.

Power Ladders

Power ladders are a great drill for combining hand strength training with arm and back strength training. This drill is best done on different walls of varying angles. Create a ladder of similar holds spaced 2-3 feet apart in vertical distance. These holds should be placed for left and right hands and shoulder distance apart horizontally. Do this for three or four different ladders using different hold types for each ladders. The ladders should be between 4-10 moves in length. To do this drill you start with one hand on and place you opposite foot on a hold that will allow you to reach the next hold. Lock off the first hold, hold it for 5-8 seconds and then grab the next hold. Bring your opposite foot up and lock off, hold for 5-8 seconds and repeat until you are at the top.

If you have not done 8-12 moves then downclimb in a similar fashion until you have reached 8-12 moves.

For example I start with my left hand on a pinch and my right foot on a foothold down and right. I lock off my left arm and reach up with my right hand. Once my left arm has been locked off for 5-8 seconds I grab the next pinch with my right hand and place my left foot on. My right foot comes off and I lock off my right arm. Once my right arm has been locked off for 5-8 seconds I grab the next pinch with my left hand and continue.

Do this drill three times for each power ladder with a one minute rest in between attempts. Take 2-3 minutes before switching to the next power ladder.

When doing this drill concentrate on pulling hard with you opposite foot and learning how to maximise the weight that your legs can take. The more weight on your legs the less weight on your arms.

Lock off Boulder Problems

This drill is similar to power ladders but offers a variety of moves. To do this drill either make or find some boulder problems 6-10 moves in length. For each move you lock off the hold with one arm for 5 seconds and then try and move statically to the next hold. You will have to experiment with different boulder problem to see which ones this works with. Try and find the three most difficult problems that you can do this on. Do each problem three times with a one minute rest in between attempts and a 2-3 minute rest in between problems.


What would strength training be without a reference to campusing. This section will talk about campusing for strength but you can also campus for power. When campusing for strength try to keep your movements slow and as large as possible.

Try not to match hands but concentrate more on using your lower arm to help move to a lock off with your upper arm. Hold the lock off’s and move slowly to the next hold. It is always a good idea to down campus slowly.

Campusing should not be attempted if you cannot hold a lock off. If you are deadpointing out of control for holds then you run the risk of shock loading your elbows or wrists and injuring yourself. Smaller and different hold types can be used to make campusing more difficult.

NOTE: I am strongly against any under 18 using a campus board and novices should be fully supervised in the use of them, the BMC have some guidance notes here;  

Off set Pullups

Off set pull-ups allow you to isolate one arm more than the other. Start with one hand on a hold and have the other hand holding something below and shoulder distance apart from the first hold. You can use a knotted rope, a piece of webbing, or another hold for the lower hand. When you do the pull-up lock off the upper hand and use the lower one to help hold yourself there for 3-5 seconds. Do this in 3 sets of 8-12 for each arm. Concentrate on holding the lock off and isolating the upper arm as much as possible.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

New Routing in Slovenia, Winter 2013

The plan was to head over and meet up with Matej and do some new routing on big Ice Falls, last year there was some perfect Ice conditions, very cold and not much snow saw lots of falls freeze up and new ascents being done.

For those not familiar with Slovenia and how easy it is to get to, there is a 1 h 45 min Easy Jet flight from London Stansted to Ljubljana 3 days a week, ticket prices vary from £57 - £110 return depending on when you book. Once there, pretty much any part of Slovenia is accessible in less than 3 hours.

Slovenia as a country shares its borders with Italy, Croatia, Austria and Hungary, it has a land mass size of 7,827 sq miles (UK has 94,060 sq miles) with a population of about 2.05 million. The geography of Slovenia is mountains and forests with over half the country forested and protected, protected areas of Slovenia include national parks, regional parks, and nature parks, the largest of which is the Triglav National Park.
Matej confirmed that the conditions are best around the end of January so with that as a rough plan and things looking good the dates were booked…

2 weeks prior to heading over we were discussing what kit was needed, Matej confirmed that there had been no snow and things were looking bad! With a warm front in it wasn’t looking good so he’d let me know the week prior to going over.

5 days before heading over Slovenia had its first huge dump of snow that lasted for a few days, in the mountains some 1 – 2 meters had fallen so I was pre warned that we were un likely to head high as there was a Cat 5 Avalanche rating, the highest rating that can be issued!

The flight from Stansted is only 1h 45 min and I was collected by Zdenka at the Airport, the plan for the day was to head to Krvavec which is a ski resort about 30 minutes from the airport, Matej would be meeting us there, the last time I skied was in Canada about 6 years ago this would only be about the 4th time I’d skied so I was a tad nervous… rightly so I was utter shit at skiing, I spent more time either on my face or tumbling backwards!!

I got to grips with going fast in one direction and just found the stopping and turning to be an issue … the views from the top were stunning, but the coming down was hard work!!

Matej had sorted accommodation at the Hostel Celica in Ljubljana for the evening, the Hostel Celica is located in the old military prison building in Metelkova area in Ljubljana. It was originally built in the Austro – Hungarian times at the end of the 19th century (1882). The building functioned as a military prison for over 100 years until 1991 when Slovenia achieved its independence after separating from the former socialist federation of Yugoslavia.

It consists of some 20 prison cells that have been turned into bedrooms by artists, each one being totally unique. I stayed in Cell 103 ; which was the French / German cell designed by Petra Margu─Ź who was born in Germany but lives in France.

The dark ceiling  symbolizes the sky at night. There are door handles scattered around the walls as a symbol of escape attempts. The small coffee table was found in the Metelkova area and remodelled into a trendy piece of furniture.

The cell was very comfortable and worth the experience! Being relatively cheap and having ratings like Number 1 Hippest Hostel – by Lonely Planet and being in the top 25 Ultimate Places to stay – by Rough Guides it is well worth the visit! There is also an art gallery and resturant/bar on site.

In the evening Matej took me for a tour of the city.

It is a large sprawling city, with everything you could want nice bars, restaurants and shops, it was nice and clean as well as photogenic and seemed very well suited to cyclists. We wandered the streets, visited the castle and met up with Zdenka and Barbara for an evening meal at a small restraint that served traditional style Slovenian food, dinner, drinks and cake for four only cost 47 euros, and we were all full!

The next day the plan would have been to go high and find some unclimbed ice, with the avalanche risk still high Matej decided we should check out and area where there were some big falls that hadn’t been climbed yet so with that in mind we hired some snow shoes and set off to Bohinj.

On the way the roads were getting smaller and on we went until we came to the road where we needed to drive up to get parked up, the road was partially blocked by snow so Matej decided that he would push through it, subsequently we got stuck!!

Shortly after grounding the car and trying to dig it out a very angry man in a very big tractor turned up and was shouting all kinds of profanities in Slovenian, (I was later told that this included Mother Fekkers!) when I informed him I didn’t speak Slovenian and only English this only enraged him further to which he replied “No English… Slovenian … rarrr rarrr rarrr” but he did help us out. After he got us out and with his tractor he then rather than remove the pile of snow he built it back up. I am assuming he didn’t want anyone going up the track!!

After we parked up further down the track we got kitted up and begun to treck up to the falls, Matej had his touring skis and I had snow shoes, Matej reckoned it would be about an hour to walk into the falls, three hours later we arrived! Having waded through deep snow we’d cut a path all the way up only to find the falls still running wet!

Feeling slightly disappointed after carrying all the kit up we wandered down, although now I know how long it will take and what’s required for the walk in, it was a stunning blue sky day so it was an adventure and it was certainly not an hour walk in!!

That night we stayed at the Hostel Pod Volgom, the rooms were very comfy and had an ensuite toilet with a shower! Bonus after a day of snowshoeing!! There is Rafting and all sorts of activities to be had in the summer, worth considering if staying in the area!

Sunday we woke up to Rain, this confirmed the plans for the day, Tourist Day!! we would walk up to the falls at Savica, we won’t take the kit as we know it won’t be in condition, and do a recce!!

The walk was a lot easier taking only some 30 minutes but we heard a massive avalanche just off to our right and saw the aftermath of a load of debris and dust linger for quite some time.
The falls are a famous site in Slovenia where the Emperor of Austria is said to have visited!

We would have needed a dingy to get to the bottom of the very newly forming slithers of ice!!

Following this Matej took me for the Traditional Bled Slovenia sweet cream cake called Kremsnita, very nice and was destroyed and demolished with not much elegance or grace by myself!!

To round the trip off we visited the National Alpine Museum which was fantastic. It was a very open and new building, lots to touch, pick up and play with, you could even put a harness on and try a bit of Via Ferrata or build a Cairn!

All in all no new routes or climbing was done but it it was an amazing trip with lovely people and stunning scenery, a massive thanks to Matej, Zdenka, Barbera & Erika (who let me have Matej for the weekend!) 

Here is a video of the weekend…