Intelligent Training, Stronger Climbing

 Cameron Apple at Northern Point, photo by Nicole Wasko, @nicole_wasko

Cameron Apple at Northern Point, photo by Nicole Wasko, @nicole_wasko

Hello Portland climbing friends! We're nearly half way through February and the schedule says it's time to share some more training ideas with everyone so here we go...

The last couple of posts have been with my friend, physical therapist Hui En. We focused on a few key exercises to keep those rock climbing shoulders healthy and we've got more posts from Hui En on the way but this time around we're going to switch it up a little bit and bring you something a touch more physical.

Almost two years ago in 2016 I proposed an idea to 3 friends that we should train together to get in shape for fall climbing season at Smith Rock. I'd been working extremely hard to get AntiGravity Equipment off the ground and as a result, my climbing performance had taken a serious nose dive. I had not climbed anything particularly noteworthy (for myself) in some time. I'd gained some weight. My climbing sessions were without much direction and I felt sluggish on the wall. I needed something to get me motivated; I needed a project! I knew that my friends would make excellent accountability partners so we all agreed that we would give a training cycle a shot. I set out to plan our calendars to help us stay organized. I laid out all the climbing workouts and then I started to work on the scheduled days for core and opposing exercises as I'd learned to do a while back.

 Juan, Cameron, and Steven, Team SW/AG at it's finest during a birthday celebration!

Juan, Cameron, and Steven, Team SW/AG at it's finest during a birthday celebration!

My friend Cameron dropped by to discuss the climbing workouts and in passing he asked if it was OK for him and Missy to substitute my suggestions for complimentary training with workouts they were a bit more familiar with. I didn't see any problem with it but I was definitely curious to know what they'd be working on during active rest days. Now, if any of you have ever seen my friends Cam and Missy on our social media feeds or if you've ever met them in person, you know that they are in phenomenal shape. I lost count of the times I've heard members and customers ask about how Missy developed her shoulders or how Cam learned to perform some crazy feats of power and core strength. By comparison, my friend Steven and I looked like malleable silly putty and eager to not get left behind, I asked Cam to take over the opposing exercises and core workouts on the schedule.

 Missy from Team SW/AG, taking a break in the highball bouldering room.

Missy from Team SW/AG, taking a break in the highball bouldering room.

During that first cycle, I thought I'd made a huge mistake! I'd never felt so much pain in 20 minutes as I did during those first training experiences. I didn't recognize about 90% of the exercises he prescribed, I could barely execute any of them (even with horrible form) let alone the sets and reps he'd added to the routines. I dreaded the days he'd lay out a workout that ended the routine with "... rinse and repeat". I won't lie, there were many a days where I refused to do a second set. My frail, delicate frame simply refused any more movement beyond it's then current threshold. Steven and I did stick with it though. Gradually we were able to tolerate more and more stress until the thought of running through any of the routines a second time didn't send our stomachs into circus-like flips and twists.

 Juan Rodriguez in the training area next to the shop   

Juan Rodriguez in the training area next to the shop

 

Despite the nausea and the muscle-cramping fits of twisted rage often exhibited in the form of a tantrum on the carpet of our small workout space, one thing was for sure, I was experiencing benefits. Increased strength, some flexibility, and a stronger more stable core began to emerge from the mashed potato consistency of my former frame. It was easy to see how this functional style of cross training directly complimented my climbing and that's a huge part of why, within a season of dedicated training, I was back to having a real shot at sending something at the top of my game. 

So, for the next few blog posts, Cam is going to share with us, some nice simple kettlebell exercises that you can do individually or combine into a routine. They will make a great addition to your cross training and we'll delve into the benefits of his style of training and how they apply to climbing in the following posts.

This week, Cam starts us off with a simple kettlebell swing. Although it's an "isolated" exercise in the sense that over the next couple of weeks we'll add other exercises to comprise a routine, the swing is anything but. It's a compound movement with an impressive list of muscle recruitment in order to perform the exercise. To swing the kettlebell in repetition you'll need to engage your abdominal muscles, your hips and lower back, your shoulders, and your leg muscles. The result? Nearly a full body exercise that strengthens your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and hits all the requirements for increased strength during bursts of high intensity movements; like when you have to crush through 20 feet of powerful roped climbing before getting to a rest or doing 6-10 moves at a time of powerful bouldering at your limit.

Check out this video where Cam does the swing and then hands it off to me to do a less impressive version. We wanted to show part of the climbing shop in the background and thankfully neither of us sent the kettlebell flying through the glass case. Enjoy and don't forget to check back or subscribe to our YouTube channel for the rest of the exercises and the complete routine! Music for this episode was produced by Joey Ramz of Cold Lampin.

  • Select a kettlebell with a manageable weight
  • Make your movements hip-driven
  • Pack the weight back into your shoulder at the end of the movement
  • Use the free hand to generate more momentum and provide stability
  • 3 sets, 10 repetitions

You can read about the training that started it all in this section of the blog. If you want to get in touch with Cam about a training routine that will compliment your climbing, you can reach him at camrock25@gmail.com. We often work together to construct training programs for climbers and he can always be found making the rest of Team SW/AG cry on floor next to the climbing shop.

Drop us a line in the comments section if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for future posts. If you are in the Portland metro area, stop by AntiGravity Equipment, your one-stop-shop for all things climbing, and say hello!

-Juan Rodriguez