If you played football and you were a receiver, you wouldn’t spend time throwing a football. I suspect you would spend time catching, running routes, and learning plays. The same is true for any sport, the truth being that you should train and practice in a specific skill building manor. Before we continue lets be clear that a athletes fitness regime should include; training, practicing, and performing. All are different but they all intermingle with one another. Training is the act of strengthening specific muscles or skills needed to perform your sport. Practicing is going through the exact motions you will encounter in your sport. And performing is the time when you put all the elements together, game time.
Rock climbing is a sport in which you are highly dependent on your core and grip strength. When we talk about specificity of training in regards to rock climbing what comes to mind? Sit ups to strengthen your core and kettle bell farmers carries? If you said yes, well you are partially correct. You will get a stronger core and grip from doing these movements, but how well will they directly translate to what you would be doing on the wall? A better more “specific” option to strengthen or “train” your core is to think along the lines of body tension. When we are using our core in climbing you are tensing up, while suspended, in order to take a point of contact of the wall and to remain in balance. Therefore think TRX bands or gymnastic rings in order to utilize your core like you would on the wall. Can you see the difference between training your core for climbing that way appose to sit ups? When it comes to your grip, is hanging weights below your waist specific to what we are doing when climbing? When we are climbing we have our hands over head in open, not closed hand grips. Yes I occasionally intermingle the “less specific” movements into my clients training regimen, but they are not staple movements. They are simply put in to keep things interesting and to avoid burn out.
If you ever participated in a organized sport or have watched a team practice did you notice any thing? Were the teams playing a game, performing, each practice? Probably not (unless it was some scheisty unorganized league) they were more likely going through drills and various skills. You would see them taking time to emphasize skill development. When it comes to rock climbing, we usually go into the gym or to the crag with a mindless approach to sending routes. While this is all fine and dandy if you want to have fun and socialize but if you really want to progress you should go in with a different approach from time to time. Spend days in the gym to focus on how you are moving, do drills and have someone critique your technique. If you are really serious, get a coach to watch you on the wall to point out technical flaws. Build your practice time up to a certain trip or time outdoors when you really want to perform and send some goal routes.
I hope this post is a starting point for you to think about your fitness regimen. Is what you are doing in the gym going to give you the best chance at performing at a high level on the field? Think about that and try to dissect what you are doing and why you are doing it. If you need more ideas or a set of eyes on your practice habits, you know where to find me.