Have We Overvalued Strength Training?

Our patrons recently got a bonus Board Meeting in which @njdrolet and I discussed whether or not we’ve - as so many of us inevitably do - taken it too far. Strength training that is. Much of it isn’t very specific to climbing, so how do we know when we’ve done enough and can put it in maintenance mode?

How do we know? I’d say when one value is significantly higher than what we’ve deemed necessary for climbing strength.

For example, if I’m at 115lbs and my max p/u is body weight plus 115…I’d wager to guess I don’t need to put much more work into upping this value.

Maybe the question is, who gets to determine “what is enough/necessary” strength for climbing.

And…for each person that value is probably different.

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@Bswitze How do you feel about, as a community, how it’s been pushed vs. skill development or going climbing in general? Our work included. I went pretty hard years ago to push it, when it seemed like zero climbers were strength training, but now I feel like there is a lot of missing the forest for the trees.

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This is a big part of what goes into the assessments. For any given measurement if you’re already 2ish standard deviations above the central tendency for the data at whatever grade you’re try to climb the probability of further improvements in that measurement helping you achieve that grade is really, really small. Your time is better spent training some other aspect you’re not as strong at or God forbid just trying climbs at the grade and learning how they work. Raw strength is great to have but its important to avoid taking a reductionist view and just hoping that the sum of your strength measurements is going to magically add up to climbing performance. Climbing is still about climbing.

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As a community, I think it’s easy for folks to get sucked into doing everything they can (except climbing) to get better at climbing.

In some ways, it’s much easier to lift weights or follow a hangboard protocol than to put in thoughtful climbing practice.

I’m all about the 75/25 rule.

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Maybe easier on the ego too!

Listening to the Curious Climber Podcast and the episode with John Kettle on How to Move Well raises this argument that it is an easier thing to swallow, as a climber, that you are found lacking in strength as opposed to being faced with the reality that it is ones technique and way of movement that demands work.

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This! The Problem is not the strengthtraining itself,it‘s definitely worth it i think just not forget about about climbing…

The problem is with all the data and charts we now have that people like to chase numbers for the next grade.I fell for that trap too when i wanted to raise my redpointnumber the last time. The first thing i wanted to make sure was that my added weight matched the data for this grade,wich was bullshit in the end as it kept me from climbing the thing for far too long….

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With regards to the 75/25 rule, I believe there are times when I’ve needed my crosstraining/climbing ratio to be more 50/50 for there to make gains. I count hangboarding, campus boarding, and anything else done out of the climbing shoes as crosstraining for this.
Obviously this time period needs to be balanced with adequate time actually climbing hard so that (its possible that what is happening is) those strength gains can percolate up into my limit climbing.

The recent Steve Maisch nugget podcast put words into something I think a lot of us have intuitively known for a while: the idea of “climbing strength”. As a facet , this may be something a weight room assessment cannot quantify - sum of too many parts perhaps? Quantifying it would be an interesting project. It’s also possible that most of our current crosstraining methodology is slightly tangential to pure “climbing strength” and so while climbing is a strength sport we haven’t properly isolated what that strength…is yet. So maybe the anecdotal evidence of “overvaluation” is partially a byproduct of the current methods being inadequate?

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Strength training does feel like it’s one of those hot topics these days, eh? However, I’ll keep strength training as a vital part of my programming because:

  • As I get older it’s increasingly important to avoid injury, being strong helps with this.
  • It’s still a great means of maintaining overall fitness, full stop.
  • Climbing specific training is taxing on my joints/tendons, the cross training feels really good.
  • I’m practically able to climb outside year round, rain or shine, so I feel like I’m regularly working on technique during pyramids, etc. Am I missing the point?

15 years ago back in college I had a skinny-kid complex and I thought strength training was just about getting jacked. It worked, but it certainly did nothing for my climbing. If only there was PCC and Climb Strong back then… lol

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