Climbing Training Program | Take Your Climbing to the Next Level

Carolyn Parker putting her climbing training program to use climbing in Indian Creek, Utah

Carolyn Parker, Founder Ripple Effect Training, AMGA Rock Guide, puts her Climbing Training Program to use. Indian Creek, Utah ©Carolyn Parker collection.

It’s time to rock!

Get on the climbing training program.

One of our most commonly asked questions is “How do I take my climbing to the next level?”

This is especially true for intermediate to advanced climbers. It’s common for intermediate to advanced climbers to feel stuck and unable to make progress.

Here’s the straight scoop.

In order to take your climbing to the next level, you need to train.

Your fitness level is one of the most significant factors affecting your ability to progress.

Adding to this, it’s been a long winter.

I don’t know about you but I’m jones’ing for some sun and warm rock climbing.

The transition back to climbing after the winter can be especially difficult. Fingers and other joints have lost their conditioning and avoiding injury is just as important as getting fit and strong.

The following climbing training program will help you build strength and stamina safely this spring. And, it will provide you with a fitness base from which you can rocket to new climbing levels over the course of the season.

Climbing Training Program

The total length of this program is 8-Weeks.

(It assumes training inside during this time of year.)

The schedule is adaptable to fit your specific schedule.

However, your climbing training program should incorporate the following:

  1. One general climbing strength, stamina, and mobility workout/week
  2. Two short climbing sessions/week
  3. Having fun on the weekend
  4. Ideally, a rest day between climbing sessions
  5. Aerobic work and/or yoga anytime

Schedule Example:

Climbing session on Monday, strength workout on Tuesday or Wednesday, climbing session again on Thursday or Friday. Go outside and have fun on the weekend.

Climbing Sessions

Start with a “reasonable” volume and on a “reasonable” grade.

  • Reasonable volume is about half of what you can do when you’re really fit.
  • A reasonable grade is what you know you can climb confidently.

Boulder, or do routes. If bouldering, down-climb for extra volume.

Now, for my special tip:

Count your hand movements to track your progress and volume.

I’ve learned that for me, 100 hand movements is a reasonable place to start after months of not climbing.

However, 100 hand movements may be too much for you.

Scale the number of hand movements that you do to your own ability.

Maybe, you will do only 50 hand movements to begin with. And, rather than increasing by 50 each week, you will increase by 25 each week instead.

When I’m on the climbing training program, my goal is 300 hand movements during a single session by the end of the 8thweek. Once I hit 300 hand movements, I find I can warm up to a difficultly that pushes me technically. Yet, I still have the stamina to work on projects.

Your goal might be 200 hand movements in a single session by Week 8.

Climbing Sessions

Progression Example:

Week One– 100 hand movements on easy routes.

Week Two– 150 hand movements. Increase route grade for 50 of the movements.

Week Three– 200 hand movements. Decrease or drop out easiest routes. Just focus on more volume rather than increasing difficulty.

Week Four– 200-250 hand movements. Increase difficulty and volume.

*This climbing training program suggests that you do two climbing sessions and one general climbing strength, stamina, and mobility workout each week.

General Climbing Strength, Stamina, and Mobility Workouts

Warm Up

Start with a few minutes of light aerobic exercise. Light aerobic exercise gets your body warmed up. Run, bike, row, etc.

And then:

Do 3 rounds of

8 x Shoulder Openers

5 x Cuban Press

5 x Wall Squats or Air Squats

If you want to add more chest opening exercises to your warm-up, check out More Tips for Bombproof Shoulders and Shoulder Strength. It is very important for climbers to keep their shoulders healthy.

Take a few minutes to stretch your calves, quads, hips, and hamstrings.

Workout One

Do 3-5 rounds, depending on your fitness level:

5 x Single-Arm Body Row or Double-Arm Body Row

5 x KB Bosu Chest Press (You can also do this on a bench.)

10 x Floor Wiper

Rest as necessary

And then:

Do 3-5 Rounds of:

5 x Strict Press

30 sec Ring Support

Workout Two

Warm-up (same as for Workout One)

Depending on your fitness level

Do 3-5 rounds of the following:

3-5 x Pull Ups

8-10 x Anchored Leg Lower

And then:

3 – 5 Rounds

5 x Bent-Over Row with Lock-Off In Three Positions

10 x Archers (5 per arm)

10 x Hanging Windshield Wiper (5 per side). Keep your legs straight and your hips high.

Week Five

Recovery Week. Take a week off of climbing. You can still do a general strength workout, some light aerobic training, and/or yoga. Make sure you rest.

Week Six through Eight

You should feel ready to push difficulty and increase volume after a month of consistent build-up and a week of recovery.

Incorporate harder climbing and a cool down on easier terrain each week.

Remember to do one of the general climbing strength workouts every week too!

Week Six

250 hand movements

Week Seven

250-275 hand movements

Week Eight

275-300 hand movements

Week NineRecovery week ( :

Now you’re ready to rock on your projects!! Inside or outside ( :

Carolyn Parker
Founder, Instructor, Athlete, Mountain Guide
970-773-3317 work cell
Founder Ripple Effect Training

Coach for Uphill Athlete

AMGA Certified Rock Guide
Gym Jones, Fully Certified Instructor

POW | Uniting Climbers to Protect 0ur Winters

POW poster of Angela Hawse climbing a 5.10 crack climb in Indian Creek, utah

Jamming with POW! Angela Hawse, Co-Owner Chicks, on just another 5.10 crack climb. Indian Creek, Utah. ©Ace Kvale

Last week I joined POW.

The purpose of POW is to unite the climbing community on climate advocacy. POW has a vision of a carbon-neutral future and is building a platform for climbers to have a voice on climate change.

As the seasons change, so does our dance with gravity from skiing to climbing. The wondrous transition of the seasons always reminds me of our precious planet Earth.

Planet Earth is something we can’t take for granted anymore. Each year I strive to live more consciously and take more responsibility for my carbon footprint.

In 2016, 7.7 million people in the U.S. participated in some form of climbing. As a community, we have the potential to move mountains. Together we can make positive change for future generations to enjoy the outdoors.

POW! Let’s do this! Let’s tie-in and talk about how we can step up our game.

Our Indian Creek Climbing Clinic

is just weeks away and as we’ll be sinking our jams into Indian Creek’s perfect sandstone splitters, we salute the fight for Bears Ears National Monument.

Indian Creek is one of our favorite climbing places because it’s the splitter crack capital of the world. If you want to take your crack climbing and trad climbing skills to a new level, Indian Creek is the place. But the best part of climbing in Indian Creek is its scenic beauty and remoteness.

Spring and rock climbing provide the amplified nature fix that Kitty talked about in her recent Doldrums post. We all need nature to reboot our outlook on life.

Fighting our way up a perfect crack climb gives us untold POWer that translates into everything we do.

So, hurry up already!

Join Chicks for all-women camaraderie, campfires under the stars and learn how to take your crack climbing technique to the next level.

Sign up now because there are only a few spots left on our Indian Creek Climbing Clinic.

Come jam with us and let’s get down to getting fired up!

Thank Grabber for Toe Warmers

Put Grabber Toe Warmers on top of your socks

Place Grabber Toe Warmers on top of your socks, arranged over your toes ©Chicks

Grabber Toe Warmers just got me (and my toes!) through a deep arctic front.

I was teaching an avalanche course for the American Avalanche Institute—a Pro 1 course for ski patrollers at A-Basin and Breckenridge.

A storm had recently left the region. This left room for an arctic air mass to descend onto Colorado, dropping the temps to -17˚F with a -46˚F wind-chill.

Being ski patrollers, we were outside all day, digging holes to assess the snowpack’s structure and stability.

I don’t have very good foot circulation to begin with. So, with -47˚F, I had a major problem.

How was I going to keep my toes from freezing while teaching the course?

Thank Grabber for Toe Warmers!

Seriously!

Grabber’s little packets of chemical heat are amazing.

Every morning, I took a pair of toe warmers out of theirpackage and set them gently on my dashboard while I was driving up to the ski area. Before I put my boots on, I peeled the paper backing off and stuck them over my ski socks. I placed them on top of my toes, right over my socks. Then I slipped my worried little feet into my ski boots.

The toe warmers generated enough heat to get me through the arctic days.

To say that my toes were warm would be an overstatement, but they did not freeze!

My toes and I made it through the coldest week of the year.

Pro tip:

I place the Toe Warmers on top of my toes so I don’t have a weird-layer under my toes.

Stick the adhesive back diagonally across the top of your toes. Line up the rounded edge with the front of your toes, and the back corner over the middle part of your foot. It works like a charm!

Training for Mountaineering | Back to Basics

Carolyn Parker Training for Mountaineering

Carolyn Parker getting Back to the Basics training for Mountaineering with a goblet squat.

When training for mountaineering (backcountry skiing, climbing: gym climbing, rock climbing, ice climbing, alpine climbing), the most important lesson I’ve learned over the years is to always go back to the basics.

Although I played many sports when I was young, it was not until I was 18 that I started to train in a structured way. It was in college that I got a coach and since then I’ve been paying attention, absorbing, learning, reading, focusing and refocusing.

A simple lesson that comes up over and over is to begin again.

Our brains want to be distracted; they believe that fancier work must be more beneficial. They also believe that if we’ve done something a few times, we must need something new.

You can practice climbing and skiing. You can learn technique and skills from a professional. However, if your physical foundation is not solid, your performance will suffer.

Going back to training basics will help everything—your backcountry skiing and your climbing—gym climbing, rock climbing, alpine climbing, ice climbing.

Following are the links to

The first 4 training tips for Chicks

Together and in succession these programs make up a foundational training progression. These training tips are good for anyone intent on improving their climbing or skiing.

  1. Basic Warm-Up Exercises | Training Tips for Backcountry Skiers and Climbers | Chicks

Why a solid warm up is so important when training for climbing and backcountry skiing?

  1. Stronger not Bigger | Training Tips For Mountaineers | Chicks

The positive effects of strength conditioning and how to get stronger without getting bigger.

  1. Core Movements (Part 1) | Exercises for Mountaineering | Chicks

The specific strength required for climbing that can be gained in the gym environment can enhance any athlete’s performance.

  1. Core Movements (Part 2) | Exercises for Mountaineering | Chicks

The number one cause of injury, aside from a direct trauma, is muscle imbalance and loss of ROM (range of motion).

 

Carolyn Parker
Founder, Instructor, Athlete, Mountain Guide
970-773-3317 work cell
Founder Ripple Effect Training

Doldrums 

Kitty Calhoun navigating the doldrums, skiing at Red Mountain Pass Colorado

Kitty Calhoun, Co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, can’t quit laughing. Chicks Intro to Backcountry Skiing and Spitboarding Hut Trip, Red Mountain Pass, Colorado. ©Kitty Calhoun Collection

For days, I was in the Doldrums

For no particular reason, I felt listless.

Everything was a chore. I had to force myself to stay on task and be productive.

Yoga and the climbing gym helped, a bit, but I had no motivation to work on the computer.

I wasn’t even excited to go skiing with Angela, but I figured I should.

As we drove up the winding road towards Red Mountain Pass, we craned our necks and mused in awe at the large avalanche crowns on either side of the valley.  We imagined the avalanches starting, collecting speed, growing, and then destroying everything in their path.

Naturally occurring slides are most likely within 24 hours of the last storm.

I’ve witnessed enough to know that within minutes there’s calm and stillness again. It’s as if nothing ever happened.

We donned our skis, checked our beacons, and started skinning up a track through the trees.

I became focused on my breathing. Rhythmic, cold, white breaths formed frost on my hair.

It was snowing, and wind built drifts and further caked the heavy tree branches.

I became mesmerized with the cadence of my breath, the crystal beauty. I lost track of time.

Eventually, we arrived at a bench in a cirque near tree line and prepared for our descent.

Skiing down, I felt weightless in the deep, untracked powder.

We swept over rolling hills and snaked our way through large, evergreen trees.

I heard Angela laughing as she disappeared over a mound.

I followed, yelling,  “Yee-Haaa!”

Today, I feel like I can tackle anything, uplifted by of the power of the outdoors, the majesty of the mountains, and the wonder of snow.

I agree with Florence Williams, author of “The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative.”

The best prescription for the doldrums yet—go outside!

Two Scoops –  Favorite Spring Climbing Areas 

Elaina Arenz, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, applying just the right amount of pressure in the amazing and surreal, Joshua Tree, California. ©Greg Epperson

Elaina Arenz, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, applying just the right amount of pressure in the amazing and surreal, Joshua Tree, California. ©Greg Epperson

One of the questions I get asked the most is “What’s your favorite climbing area?”

Honestly, “Where’s your favorite place to climb” is akin to asking, “What’s your favorite ice cream?”

It depends.

When it comes to ice cream, I could be in a mint-chocolate-chip mood, a salted-caramel-gelato mood or a strawberry-cheesecake kind-of-mood.

When it comes to climbing, since right now I’m ready to thaw out after winter, I’m in a warm-sunshine kind-of-mood.

My favorite spring climbing areas are Joshua Tree and Indian Creek.

Both Joshua Tree and Indian creek are sunny desert places!

Joshua Tree has 6000 climbs in an amazing and surreal setting. No cell service, deep orange sunsets, stars, friction and traditional climbing.

Friction climbing means many of the handholds and footholds are invisible. But when you carefully apply just the right amount of pressure, you stick. Friction climbing can be humbling and amazing when you discover what you can hold onto.

Joshua Tree is also a favorite because of its traditional climbing history. You have to place gear and build anchors. Placing gear adds a gratifying technical element. Fixed protection, like bolts, are rare but there are many climbs in the easier grade ranges. New trad climbers can work out the physics as they practice placing gear and building anchors.

Indian Creek is my other favorite sunny-desert, spring climbing area. Indian Creek is also a trad climbing Mecca.

However, gear at Indian Creek is easier to sort out.

Indian Creek is the land of the exalted splitter crack that goes on for an eternity.

Often 8-10 of the same-size cam makes up an Indian Creek rack. Then, the (mostly) parallel-sided crack systems tend to have bolted anchors.

Bolted anchors free your attention to focus on the climbing technique itself.

Crack climbing technique requires jamming skills—stick a body part (usually fingers, hands or feet) into a crack in such a way as to gain purchase.

There is nothing like a bomber hand jam!

So pick your favorite flavor and if you can’t decide, go ahead and order up two scoops;)

Sterling PowerCord Cordelette – light, compact, strong

Sterling Powercord Cordelette set up for a two bold quad anchor.

Atticus approves! Sterling Powercord Cordelette set up for a two-bolt quad anchor. ©Elaina Arenz

Is a skinny 5.9mm cordelette strong enough?

You bet it is!

Since a cordelette is almost always on my harness, my cordelette of choice is the Sterling PowerCord, 5.9mm in the 18ft length—the lightest, most compact cordelette that I can get my hands on.

I use cordelettes primarily for rigging anchors (both single and multi-pitch). Learn more about Building Climbing Anchors and Quad Anchor in our blog. However, cordelettes are also useful for self-rescue.

Sterling PowerCord isn’t just a normal nylon-type of cordage that you can buy for pennies by the foot at most climbing shops.

PowerCord is special. It’s made of Technora, which is twice as strong as your standard nylon cord of the same diameter—this is why PowerCord can be 1-2mm skinnier than other cordelettes. In fact, the 5.9mm Powercord has a minimum breaking strength (MBS) of 4429 lbs or the equivalent of 19.7 Kn. That’s plenty strong for any anchor rigging I’ll be doing with it.

The secret to the PowerCord’s strength lies within its braided Aramid core fibers. Aramid is similar to Kevlar, the material that bulletproof vests are made from. It has 4 characteristics that make it a good cordelete material:

  1. High tensile strength
  2. Low elongation
  3. Low water absorption
  4. High melting point. A high melting point is especially important for use in a rescue scenario.

How do you get your hands on one of these?

You can find it here on the Sterling Rope website, or ask at your favorite local retailer.

 

Inspect Your Rock PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)

Angela Hawse, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, IFMGA mountain guide, climbing Inti Watana. Red Rocks, Nevada ©Garrick  Hart

Angela Hawse, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, IFMGA mountain guide, casting off on Inti Watana. Red Rocks, Nevada ©Garrick  Hart

 

The last thing you want to think about when you’re off the deck is the viability of your equipment.

The beginning of every season marks an important time to check your Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Just as we pump up our push-ups and finger board workouts, preparing for the rock season ahead, so too should we insure our equipment is in good nick.

Rock PPE or climbing protection protects us while climbing.

The life span of some climbing protection is easy to evaluate. With others it’s more challenging.

Climbing gear manufacturer, PETZL, breaks Rock PPE into three categories.

Rock PPE Inspection Guidelines

Category 1

  • Includes climbing protection like eyewear, gloves and rope tarps

Gear in category 1 is easy to inspect. It adds to our safety system, but it isn’t critical.

I include belay glasses here because they help reduce strain in my neck and back particularly when I’m sport climbing.

Category 2

  • Includes helmets

Retire Helmets after 10 years of minimal use and after 3-5 years of frequent use. Sign of UV fatigue, cracks, strap-wear or damage to the foam casing inside the shell means a helmet should be replaced.

Category 3

  • Fall protection

Fall protection is a critical category and gear in this category is the hardest to inspect.

Critical climbing gear includes harnesses, ropes, webbing, slings, PAS, carabiners, belay devices, nuts, cams, ascenders, etc.

Harnesses should be retired immediately if they show any wear, fraying or damage to the belay loops or waist belt. Retire a harness after 7 years; or, retire your harness every year if you’re a regular user.

Slings, cord and webbing should be retired after 10 years even if never used. Anything with excessive wear should be retired immediately. I retire my skinny cords like prusiks and cordelettes every year or two. Their smaller diameter means they wear faster. And, I use them a lot!

For ropes, read my previous article, Rules For Rope Care and Longevity.

Hardware like carabiners, nuts and cams are easier to inspect.

Look for grooves and any signs of hairline cracks.

Look especially closely for hairline cracks at the gate/pin area of your carabiners.

You can replace frayed cam wires yourself.

Frayed nut wires, however, means you need new nuts!

An unattended wire may not be a safety issue initially. But frayed wires will dig into your soft gear, clothing and skin, creating all kinds of problems.

 

Finally, know your equipment’s history and if in doubt, retire it.

Women’s-Specific Alpine Touring Boots | Scarpa Gea

Galibier Mountain Boots and Scarpa Gea Alpine Touring Boots

We’ve come a long way, baby!  Real female empowerment from leather climbing boots through to Scarpa Gea alpine touring boots©Scarpa and Galibier

We’ve come a long way, baby!

I can’t help myself.

I keep thinking of the Virginia Slims cigarette campaign, “You’ve come a long way, baby.”

If it’s not wrong enough that something we now know to be very unhealthy (cigarettes) were used as a symbol of female empowerment, it’s even more wrong because when I think “You’ve come a long way baby!” I think about boots!  In this case, I’m thinking about my ski boots.

My first backcountry ski boots were my much-loved Galibier mountain boots.

These boots were state of the art for climbing and I was very proud of them. All leather with a stiff shank, they were not meant for skiing but I made them work. I attached them with cable bindings to my metal-edged cross-country skis. This was far from a perfect skiing set-up. It was especially bad for skiing downhill through breakable crust with a heavy pack. However, back then I was on skis just to make it to the base of winter alpine climbs. So, as long as it was after the climb, it didn’t matter that each time I fell, I became like an overturned turtle—anchored to the bottomless snow with my backpack.

Eventually, backcountry ski gear improved and I bought a pair of boots and skis just for alpine touring. Then I discovered that alpine touring boots are just as warm as climbing boots, nearly as light and you can fit crampons on them. The tables turned. Whereas before I used climbing boots for skiing, I found I could use ski boots for climbing. One time, while guiding Denali, the lip of my climbing boots wore out and my crampons would not to stay on so I summited in my alpine touring boots instead.

For the next twenty years or so, I skied a in my Scarpa Magic alpine touring boots.

I loved their comfort, warmth, and lightness. I thought I would never need another ski boot. I was sure I wouldn’t find a better one. Eventually though, the little holes that hold the bindings on wore out. I was devastated. I grieved the retirement and loss of my Magics. We had so many bluebird days together, I remembered them dipping in and out of the powder on every turn, a bright grin on my face.

To my extreme relief, Scarpa continues to develop top of the line alpine touring boots and I was able to replace my Magic boots with the also women’s-specific Gea.

An all-round performer, the Gea is Scarpa’s best selling women’s ski boot. It is warm and light and fits like a glove. I have no doubt the Gea are as durable as my Magic boots were. and I look forward to adventures shared with my Gea’s for the next twenty years.

It’s All In the Glutes | Training Tip for Mountaineers

It’s All In the Glutes

This training tip takes us back to basic glute function. All mountaineering-related activities, whether climbing or skiing, require strong and active glute muscles.

Why do so many of my athletes have issues with glute activation or function?

In today’s culture, most of us spend too much time sitting. From the time we are young we sit in desks, cars, and couches.

Even if we move regularly, the act of sitting and slouching turns muscles off. This is especially true for the Gluteus Maximus because you sit on it directly. As the point of contact between the chair and your body, your glute max is pressed upon and stretched, which causes it to lose its normal tension—it turns off.

If we don’t check in and turn our glutes back on, they aren’t going to work properly. This is a problem because our glues are core instigators of power.

The following training tips are designed to get you thinking and focusing on glute function. This awareness will help you properly activate your glutes while training which in turn will help you gain strength.

Once you have the hang of it, pay attention when skiing and climbing. Use your glutes as the primary movers and stabilizers along with your hamstrings and core and suddenly your quads won’t be on fire and your knees won’t hurt as much.

Beginning to strengthen and gain awareness in the gym is a stepping-stone to applying a fully-functional body to any mountaineering-related activity—where the body is challenged even more by the application of skiing or climbing in the variable environment.

Here’s a little something more on this subject (and other alignment issues):http://rippleffectraining.com/2017/03/06/aligning-the-modern-athlete/

Activate Your Glutes

  1. While standing, squeeze your glutes. This is easy for most.
  2. In a plank, try squeezing your glutes. This can be harder for some, but is a basic piece of a solid plank.
  3. Sitting on a bench or chair, with your feet flat on the ground and slight pressure on the heel of the foot, sit upright with good posture and squeeze your glutes. Your body should actually raise up an inch or two from the mass of the flexed glute and hamstring.
  4. While seated as above, squeeze your right glute and release, then squeeze your left glute and release. Doing this drill gives you proprioceptive feedback—feeling the contraction to make sure its happening. It’s easiest to do when seated so you don’t have to worry about balance and other muscles, for now.
  5. Next, try to stand from the bench with no additional weight, focusing on using your glutes to create the upward movement. See: Glute Stand Exercise | Training Tips for Mountaineers | Chicks
  6. Don’t allow your knees to angle in. See: Glute Stand with Poor Form | Training Tips for Mountaineers | Chicks. If your knees angle in you may have glute med/min weakness. Try doing the standing movement with a band around your legs to correct and strengthen. See: Glute Stand with Band | Training Tips for Mountaineers | Chicks.

Other Movements to Activate Your Glutes

  1. Step Up – try this focusing on using the glute with just a single leg working, pressure on the heel of the foot on the box, good posture, stand using the glute. Once again don’t let that knee angle inward. See: Step Up Exercise (good form, poor form, good form) | Training Tips for Mountaineers | Chicks.
  2. Lunge – front leg glute is lifting the body, pressure on the heel, back leg glute is squeezing, isometric contraction for balance, watch knee alignment as mentioned above.
  3. Spilt Squat – same, front leg glute is lifting the body, pressure on the heel, back leg glute is squeezing, isometric contraction for balance, watch knee alignment as mentioned above.
  4. Squat with Weight – lift by activating your glutes versus pulling up with your quads.

Take this focus and awareness into all your movements, even walking ( :

Enjoy the practice!

If you need information for training for a specific climb or trip of any nature you can contact me at:

carolyn@rippleffectraining.com

970-773-3317

Carolyn Parker

Founder Ripple Effect Training

Gym Jones, Fully Certified Instructor

AMGA Certified Rock Guide