3 Ways I'm Changing My Training in 2017

I’m about to be back in Chattanooga after a vacation, and I’m psyched to get back after it in terms of coaching, climbing, and my own training. I always like to reflect on the past year and see what’s changed in both my training and philosophy concerning physical preparation. I’ve learned a lot the past year, and am taking on some new challenges this coming year. How does MY training plan reflect that? Let’s take a look.

1. An Increased Focus on Finger Strength

I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to climb at a fairly competent level without doing a whole lot of targeted finger strength. The last year or two, I’ve learned that as climbs get harder, holds tend to get smaller (a big surprise, eh?). One of my main dislikes about finger training  was the amount of time I perceived a dedicated block of finger training would take. One of the “big rocks” of my training philosophy is efficiency. I’m not a fan of sitting around and doing only one movement. I (wrongly) thought that this approach was how the majority of hangboard training sessions would go. Enter Integrative Strength Training.

I’ve heard this approach mentioned multiple times by Steve Bechtel over at Climb Strong. It’s a unique way to keep your sessions flowing, and reduce monotony. Most importantly, this method utilizes the endocrine system to  make strength gains. At it’s most basic, this approach combines a heavy strength exercise, a finger strength exercise, and some mobility work. A session involves rotating through these movement categories instead of just hitting straight sets of one movement, then moving on to the next one. The first grouping of movements I will be playing with include deadlifts, fingerboard work, and some upper body T-Spine and Glenohumeral mobility. I’m excited to see how it goes.

I’ve kept my description of this approach extremely broad, because I still have a LOT to learn about it. I learn by doing, so I hope to not only develop strength through this approach, but also gain some knowledge. If you want to learn more about Integrated Strength Training, check out this podcast.


Power Company Podcast: Integrated Strength Training w/ Steve Bechtel

2. Putting Heavy Shit Overhead

I think a heavy shoulder press is one of the best shoulder health movements a person can do. If they do it correctly. Also, someone once told me the secret to happiness is lifting heavy shit over your head. I want to be really happy, so I want to lift something really heavy (for me).

I’m going to be training for my StrongFirst Kettlebell Instructor level 2 Certification in April. It’s about that time to dive even deeper into the world of Kettlebells, applicable strength, and tension. The strength test for this qualification is a 1/2 bodyweight single arm Kettlebell press. I need to press either a 36kg (80lb) or 40kg (88lb) kettlebell depending on how much I weigh come April. I plan on training for the 40 kilo, because why not take the opportunity to get stronger?

My strategy for this goal will involve around the concept of variability. The Soviet weightlifters of the past hold an incredible number of records and competition wins. The training system they used wasn’t as linear as some other schools of thought. When viewed with an EXTREMELY broad brush, one of the golden rules of that system was that one’s training load should vary at least 20% from session to session. That doesn’t mean it always needs to increase. In fact, depending on one’s training experience, the wavier and more varied the load, the better! (within reason).

I personally handle heavier sets with low reps better than higher rep sets, so it looks like I’ll be doing a lot of 1,2, and maybe 3 rep sets (and not in that order) if I’m feeling froggy. Maybe I’ll throw in some fingerboarding and turn it into more Integrative Strength work. Who knows…

3. Sport and Region-specific Conditioning Work

My endurance sucks. Part of it is due to the fact that I boulder 90% of the year. The other part of it is that I rarely spend an adequate amount of time training my aerobic energy system. Looking back, when I’ve tried to develop my endurance, I’ve spent a disproportionate amount of time addressing my anaerobic performance and neglected the aerobic energy system. In 2017, I want to balance that out a bit more. It is hard to train a weakness. It’s not fun, and quite humbling. I would really like to climb some hard sport climbing routes in the fall, so I plan on staying disciplined and getting after some of my weak spots.

Some non-specific conditioning protocols I like

-Kettlebell Snatches: 15 seconds on, 45 seconds off, alternating hands each round.

-Loaded Carries: All sorts of variations and intervals, but the goal would be to stay around 4-7 out of 10 intensity wise, and making sure there is adequate recovery.

Deep 6 Complexes: Skill practice, and being able to complete complex techniques when fatigued.



Some climbing-specific things I’ll be doing

-Playing with some low intensity hangboard intervals or repeaters

-4 x 4’s

-Feet on campus board intervals, with a simulated rest

I used these last spring and they really helped with recovery and climbing through a pump. Start on the lowest rung of a campus board, with your feet on the kick board. Slowly climb up and down the board, making sure your feet stay on the kick board. Simulate foot movements if you want. Once your work interval is over, put your feet on the ground, but keep a fraction of your weight hanging from a campus rung. 1/2 of your rest time is spent “shaking out” on the rung. Adjust the weight you’re putting on the rung to ensure you are recovering. The second 1/2 of your rest time is off the board, normally resting. I started with a 1 set of 5 intervals and worked up to 3 sets, with a 5 minute rest in between sets.  

As always, perfect repeats and technique drills will always be part of my training. Skill comes first, all the other details are built on proper technique.

Without a plan, you’re just randomly trying to throw things at a wall and see what sticks. Figure out what you want to address, and figure out what you need to change. Einstein said that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of madness.

How are you going to prove your sanity in 2017?