Ro­tat­ing-Wall Workouts

Climbing - - TRAINING CLINICS - BY HAI­LEY MOORE HAI­LEY MOORE be­gan climb­ing in the North Carolina moun­tains and criss­crossed the U.S. be­fore land­ing in Boul­der, Colorado, for a Climb­ing in­tern­ship. An avid boul­derer, and veg­e­tar­ian of 12 years, Moore plans to con­tinue ex­plor­ing clim­bin

The body uses two en­ergy sys­tems to power its mus­cles: aer­o­bic and anaer­o­bic. Con­di­tion­ing the aer­o­bic en­ergy sys­tem, through Aer­o­bic Restora­tion and Cap­il­lar­ity (ARC) train­ing, a term coined by Mike and Mark An­der­son in The Rock Climber’s Train­ing Man

ual, trans­lates to in­creased ef­fi­ciency, faster re­cov­ery, and a foun­da­tion of fit­ness. The ARC method tar­gets the fore­arms; main­tain­ing a steady stress load on this mus­cle group will re­sult in more lo­cal cap­il­lar­ies, mean­ing bet­ter blood flow and less pump. Mean­while, anaer­o­bic train­ing in­volves high-in­ten­sity climb­ing for du­ra­tions of two min­utes or less. In­creas­ing anaer­o­bic ca­pac­ity helps with harder bursts of crux climb­ing on sport routes or with long boul­der prob­lems.


Bill Ramsey, first as­cen­sion­ist of Omaha Beach and

Transworld De­prav­ity (two 5.14a’s at the Red River Gorge), has used ro­tat­ing-wall ARC train­ing for two decades. Be­cause you can grad­u­ally in­crease re­sis­tance, by steep­en­ing the an­gle, adding a weight vest, or in­creas­ing the speed, Ramsey says, “It’s the best way to break through a typ­i­cal plateau that is due to in­suf­fi­cient en­durance or an in­abil­ity to re­cover prop­erly at a rest.”

An ef­fec­tive ARC work­out in­volves pin­point­ing the level at which you can sus­tain climb­ing de­spite feel­ing a low-level pump—roughly three to four let­ter grades be­low your red­point. Flamed fore­arms are not the goal. (The An­der­sons rec­om­mend com­plet­ing ARC train­ing workouts two to three days a week over four to six weeks. See their book for more.)

Start your timer (or a pod­cast, playlist, or al­bum that lasts the set du­ra­tion) and be­gin climb­ing. Aim for three sets of 20–30 min­utes each, though you can also do two 45-minute ses­sions.

Sweat­ing and heav­ier breath­ing af­ter about 10 min­utes in­di­cate the right in­ten­sity, but you should never feel at risk of fall­ing. Prac­tice in­hal­ing through the nose then ex­hal­ing strongly through the mouth as you climb. Fo­cus on ef­fi­cient move­ment, and find coun­ter­in­tu­itive rest po­si­tions, stems, high steps, and holds where you need to al­ter­nate hands. Set a jug on the side of the wall within reach of the on/off switch to stop the wall and shake out for a few sec­onds pe­ri­od­i­cally. Af­ter each ARC ses­sion, rest as long as the time spent on the wall, or un­til the pump has sub­sided.


Andy Raether, who made the first as­cent of The

Eg­g­porka­lypse (5.14d, Ne­vada), uses the wall for ul­tra-high-in­ten­sity train­ing. This means, says Raether, that you can “barely fin­ish” each set—go­ing full anaer­o­bic. Once you see im­prove­ments, you can in­crease the wall’s an­gle or add a weight vest. For best re­sults, com­plete this work­out twice a week, with one or two days of rest be­tween ses­sions.

Map out a 30-move route. Pre-run the route to en­sure that the moves are at a high in­ten­sity rel­a­tive to your abil­ity—think hard flash or on­sight. Com­plete five sets, rest­ing 2 min­utes be­tween each. Raether mon­i­tors his heart rate dur­ing the in­ter­vals, aim­ing to keep it at or be­low 90 per­cent of his max heart rate. (The av­er­age max heart rate for 20-year-olds is 200 beats per minute, for 30-year-olds 190 bpm, and for 40-year-olds 180 bpm.)

Climb at a steady pace and in a pre­cise man­ner. Fo­cus on proper breath­ing, grab­bing holds well, and pre­ci­sion hand and foot place­ment. This will trans­late to bet­ter per­for­mance on dif­fi­cult projects later.

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