Bench Press & Other Lifts

I really like lifting weights.  I’m a little guy, so that usually makes people giggle a bit, but I’ve never seen faster gains in strength than when using weights.  At some level, the body weight stuff just doesn’t cut it and you’ve got to overload your body to see changes.

Of course, I only use lifts that are going to help me reach my goals, i.e. be a better climber.  Training smart means staying focused.  Right now, I’m focusing on leg strength for El Capitan (jugging, hauling, standing in ladders, etc.)  so I’m really into back squat, dead lift, and kettlebell swings.  The pistol squat, split squat, or one leg squat will come next.

Pavel’s Bench Press Plan

I just read a great article on the bench press:

It has a fairly simple, detailed approach to gaining strength in your BP.  If you’re new to this lift, and looking for a plan, why not start with Pavel’s approach?  At least you’ll have a plan.

Why Do Bench Press?

How does bench press help you climb?  It’s mostly useful as a longevity training tool, meaning that you’ll climb for more years and prevent injury if the strength in your upper body is balanced.  I remember a Steve Bechtel article that said that you should be able to push as much as you pull, meaning if you can do 20 pullups, you should be able to press your body weight 20 times.  That’s definitely not me!  And this probably isn’t necessary to be a world class climber, but we all could benefit from focusing on our push muscles more.  You don’t want to blow out your shoulders again, do you?

Other Variations Of The Same Movement

I like the one arm press better than the bench press, but it’s good to use multiple exercises to train similar movements, so use both!  Since most of the pulling we do as climbers is somewhere in-between straight in front of you (bench press) and straight above you (one arm press) it’s a good idea to train both of these antagonist exercises.  Why not throw in some presses from the various turkish get-up positions as well?

Here’s a great video/article for the one arm press.  It works your “core” too!:


Don’t Lose Focus

A very strong a talented young climber shows you a collection of exercises that she uses:

What will YOU do with this information?

Hopefully, you are already following a fantastic training plan, and you’ll do very little with this video.  You’ll stay focused on your unique goals, strengths & weaknesses.  You’ll value consistency over variety. And you’ll continue to work steadily towards your optimal climbing ability, injury free.  You are a master of your sport.

If you’re like a lot of people, who don’t have a plan, you might be tempted to write down all the exercises in the video and start using them somewhere in your workouts.  Be careful. This might work if you’re young, resilient, and built like the climber in the video, but if you’re old and cynical like me, then you’re probably going to hurt yourself.  Even if you do get stronger, this probably is not the best approach for you.  You need to come up with your own plan.

There is a science to this stuff.  Random exercises are for climbers who don’t know how to train smarter.

Climbing Training


You Are Not A Pro Climber

One of the biggest mistakes that I made when I first started training, was thinking that the pro climbers had all the answers.  I even had this idea of trying to interview all the top professional climbers to gain some insight into how to train better.

Now I realize how disastrous that would have been.  The first reason is that I don’t have the genetics, youth, and time that most pro climbers have.  Their training plans (if they even had one) would fail on me, because my body and lifestyle cannot support them.  Plans need to fit the individual climbers needs.

The second reason is that most pro climbers don’t train that smart.  Some do, I’m sure, but most don’t, because they don’t have to.  They are athletes, not coaches.  As my mentor Steve Bechtel puts it, “do you think Mike Tyson would make a good boxing coach?”.   I believe that a lot of them just “climb more” and throw in some random hangboard or campus board exercises into their workouts.  They haven’t studied exercise physiology or strength and conditioning, and they haven’t written training programs for the average climber.

So quit thinking that they have the answers.  And quit thinking that if you train like them, then you’ll climb like them.  Find your own path and prove to yourself that it works.  Then obsessively refine it until you are the best climbing athlete you can be.

P.S.  If you ARE one of those young, genetic anomalies and you need some help, then send me and email.  I want to train you!

May 16 Workout

Context:  After feeling beat up after 3 aid pitches, I decided to add in some Metabolic Circuits to my plan (for 4 weeks, then re-evaluate).  This is non-aerobic, high intensity cardio.  I am targeting my weak ass and legs, to help me up the big wall (load carrying, hauling, and jugging).  I avoided any exercises that would work my main climbing muscles.  That way, I’m able to do these on my rest days from serious climbing training (spread the fatigue).

These are also great workouts for fat loss and general conditioning.

I should’ve warmed up, but I didn’t (besides some vacuuming).  I went straight into this:

2 Rounds of
30 sec Lateral Ski Jump
15 sec Rest
30 sec Explosive Step Up
60 sec Rest
30 sec Mountain Climber
15 sec Rest
30 sec Burpee
60 sec Rest

2 Rounds of
30 sec Walking Lunges
15 sec Rest
30 sec Alternating Lunge Jumps
90 sec Rest
30 sec Pushups
15 sec Rest
30 sec KB Swing
90 sec Rest

Less Gooey Protein Shake than yesterday.


May 15 Workout

Context: A day after Intensity Bouldering session  in the gym.  I wanted to do some easy strength training, hangboard and wrist rehab.  Decided to “warm-up” with a metabolic circuit to help improve my general conditioning, especially legs.  I got a bit beat up the weekend before after doing 3 pitches of aid climbing (I only lead one) with a 40 min(?) approach with a 50lb pack, and I realized that I need to add in more general fitness (and maybe drop some bouldering training) if I want to make it up a big wall.

Warmup – foam roll, glut activation

2 rounds metabolic circuit =
30sec KB swings
30sec rest
30sec step-ups with weight
60sec rest
30sec body weight jump squat
30sec rest
30sec mountain climbers
60sec rest

4 rounds of
TGU with 2 reps KB shoulder press from the TGU elbow position
30sec plank
30sec side bridge right
30sec side bridge left
30sec bird dog right
30sec bird dog left
8 ankles to bar
good rest

Wrist rehab – reverse wrist curls, pronators, supinators, eversion, inversion.

Hangboard 4 rounds of
5sec small crimp with 7lbs
30sec rest
5sec 3 finger open hand pocket with 7 lbs
30sec rest

Gooey protein shake.

Any questions?  Feel free to ask!