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Are you a strength/power person or an endurance person?
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By David Sahalie
From on the road again
Mar 7, 2013

frankstoneline wrote:
I heard a saying a while ago (might have read it) that really struck a chord with me and has been sort of fundamental in my recent endeavors. In so many words it was basically if you want to climb 5.13 you have to climb 5.13. That is, no amount of 5.12 climbs will prepare you for 5.13 moves, because they are simply harder. I think that has driven me to try harder routes on the dog, work out the moves and thus learn these new techniques and see renewed improvement. obviously, with the popularity of bouldering there are plenty of folks who have the power to do 5.13 moves, but dont, and I would argue that is largely a matter of tactics or lack of desire to develop any sort of endurance or something else.


In my experience, your analysis is correct.

I would posit that the 'something else' is being to boulder below your absolute grade with the least amount of power necessary.

In other words, to do 13a, you need to be able to do v5... sometimes 6, but you usually have to do it while pumped, and then continue do to more moves. So, you need to pull the crux move(s) with say 75% percent of your strength.

Often, I see the 'meat heads' pulling boudler problems in the gym, often hard ones (v8 and up) with the same juice they do a v5. They should be able to do a v5 without breathing hard, but they have trained their muslces to always fire at max level.

It is like using a Hemi to drive around town when a Mini would do, and you only have one gallon of fuel.


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By JCM
From Golden, CO
Mar 7, 2013

David Sahalie wrote:
In other words, to do 13a, you need to be able to do v5... sometimes 6, but you usually have to do it while pumped, and then continue do to more moves.


Hell, on some 13a routes you don't need to do anything harder than V2; you just have to do V2s over and voer again for a long time without rest.

Your generaly point is good, though. There are a lot of extra skills required to climb hard sport routes , other than just being able to crank hard to do the crux moves. In addition to being able to climb without pulling at one's maximum, the ability to find and utilize sneaky rests makes a huge difference.


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By Rajiv Ayyangar
From Portland, ME
Mar 7, 2013
Cut! Sadly my flash attempt met with dismal pump-failure two bolts later.

Charles Kinbote wrote:
I always find it funny when light climbers profess to be "skinny weaklings" and, therefore, technical masters by necessity, when they know damn well finger strength/weight ratio is far more important than total body strength.


As a "chunky weakling," I definitely find myself relying on pinpoint execution (and a healthy dose of speed) to get up climbs. I wouldn't consider myself a master technician, but I do have a predisposition towards refining beta over a multitude of redpoint burns (probably from a background in classical piano).

As for the interplay between strength and technique, I'm beginning to think they are really part of the same thing. There are some techniques that are just impossible to execute without a minimum level of strength (Jay - I'm thinking about the lower lieback crux move of China Beach, in particular - it seemed impossible before I did some hangboard training, but then once I figured out the move, it seemed like I wasn't using all my available power to execute it). Similarly, there are many cruxes that cannot be powered-through.

One of the things I love about sport climbing is that it forces you to find the most efficient way to climb sections that, were they on a boulder problem, you could merely power through. Sport climbing is the engineering to bouldering's mathematics. The "=" to bouldering's ">".

Ever since I started climbing, unable to do a single pull-up, I've valued technique over strength. But recently I've begun to think strength doesn't get the respect it deserves. I'm learning that sometimes better climbing requires, counterintuitively, more power. Sometimes the quickest, most efficient way to do a crux is to exchange 3 v4 moves for 1 v5 move. Another reason to respect strength is that power increases endurance, but not vice-versa: Your ability to recover on bad holds is roughly proportional to your maximal voluntary contraction[1]. Lastly, strength is one of the first things you lose during a hiatus or injury. For those of us who are not naturally inclined towards climbing "like meatheads," strength is extremely difficult to gain and maintain, requiring discipline, persistence, weight-management, and careful injury prevention.

One might say that strength (or strength-to-weight ratio), like technique, is a skill. One that I happen to largely lack.

[1] Macleod, Sutherland, Buntlin et al., (2007) Physiological determinants of climbing-specific finger endurance....


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By Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Mar 7, 2013
Sure, I can belay

David Sahalie wrote:
Often, I see the 'meat heads' pulling boudler problems in the gym, often hard ones (v8 and up) with the same juice they do a v5. They should be able to do a v5 without breathing hard, but they have trained their muslces to always fire at max level.


I think I'm guilty of this...
David, any progressions/drills for this or is it simply "get in the habit of not pulling any harder than you need to"


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By Rajiv Ayyangar
From Portland, ME
Mar 7, 2013
Cut! Sadly my flash attempt met with dismal pump-failure two bolts later.

reboot wrote:
My question is, are you naturally inclined toward strength/power sports/training or endurance based sports/training? Coming from a strength/power background, I always felt endurance sports/training was boring (because you are not giving maximum effort at any given time). But apparently (living close to Boulder and all), people naturally inclined to endurance sports/training (which seem like 99% of the population) think strength/power sport is boring, because you don't typically exhaust yourself after a workout (although I think giving maximum effort is quite mentally exhausting, albeit in a complete different way than endurance sports). Just curious what the climbing population is like in that regard (although I already have pretty strong suspicions). And hopefully for people like me who are too far on one end of the spectrum or the other, we can learn a bit from each other.


Speaking to the original question, I'm definitely inclined towards the endurance side of the spectrum (whether power-endurance or Red-style jug endurance). In the Aussie movie Smitten (highly recommended!), a guy explains his love of bouldering thus: "I like to fall off because it's hard, not because I'm pumped." For me the inverse is true. I like to fall off because I'm pumped. I've been plagued with many injuries since I started climbing, and the opportunity to try hard without fear of injury is rarer and rarer. These days I find that more often in a pumpy sport climbing section than in a heinous boulder problem.


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By Rajiv Ayyangar
From Portland, ME
Mar 7, 2013
Cut! Sadly my flash attempt met with dismal pump-failure two bolts later.

Mark E Dixon wrote:
I think I'm guilty of this... David, any progressions/drills for this or is it simply "get in the habit of not pulling any harder than you need to"


Try repeating a bunch of problems in a row (e.g. 4x4's), or at the end of a session.


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By frankstoneline
Mar 7, 2013

David Sahalie wrote:
In my experience, your analysis is correct. I would posit that the 'something else' is being to boulder below your absolute grade with the least amount of power necessary. In other words, to do 13a, you need to be able to do v5... sometimes 6, but you usually have to do it while pumped, and then continue do to more moves. So, you need to pull the crux move(s) with say 75% percent of your strength. Often, I see the 'meat heads' pulling boudler problems in the gym, often hard ones (v8 and up) with the same juice they do a v5. They should be able to do a v5 without breathing hard, but they have trained their muslces to always fire at max level. It is like using a Hemi to drive around town when a Mini would do, and you only have one gallon of fuel.


I agree entirely. Though for some people I think it's a difference of focus that keeps them off the ropes. Also, projecting sport climbs can be way more difficult from a tactical standpoint. You have to find a willing meat anchor to hike to whatever and let you dangle for hours while you put up redpoint burns. If you have a bouldering project, usually you can work it solo until you're ready to fire and then maybe if you need one haul a spotter up while you send/try to link.

But really the whole "sport climbing is the art of almost letting go" thing is huge. when I realized I could climb pumped, and in fact that a pump was manageable suddenly I felt way stronger without any gains in strength (i.e. not bouldering harder or hanging larger weights when on a board).


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By David Sahalie
From on the road again
Mar 7, 2013

Mark E Dixon wrote:
I think I'm guilty of this... David, any progressions/drills for this or is it simply "get in the habit of not pulling any harder than you need to"


I get pumped by traversing or doing 3x3 on a v1 then try to do say a v4 or 5. You are allowed to rest while on the problem.


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By Mark E Dixon
From Sprezzatura, Someday
Mar 7, 2013
Sure, I can belay

David Sahalie wrote:
I get pumped by traversing or doing 3x3 on a v1 then try to do say a v4 or 5. You are allowed to rest while on the problem.


You know, I'm feeling like my brain's not pulling very hard today either...

I'm pretty good at being unable to pull hard on holds. I do that all the time.
Seems like 4x4s and traverse to problem sessions would train the ability to keep pulling while tired. Kind of like the "climbing after pump" that Kris Hampton posted about in the past. Very worthwhile and something I need to do more of.

But is this also what you meant by NOT pulling any harder than you have to? Or does acquiring that skill require a different training approach?


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By David Sahalie
From on the road again
Mar 7, 2013

Someone who knows about the ins and outs of training could probably answer you better, but my guess would be that doing 4x4s means you have to climb efficiently. Your most efficient go may be your 3rd or 4th, even though you are breathing and trying hard you have to be efficient to hold on.


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By reboot
From Westminster, CO
Mar 7, 2013

I went hangdogging my way up a power endurance 13+ today instead of increasing post count of my own thread. And I'm pretty tired about arguing strength vs technique (my opinion remain the same).

But on the subject of technique, I don't completely subscribe that they are best trained when you are fresh. It may be true that they are learned when fresh, but I think they are often refined when you are a bit tired, but before you are fatigued (i.e. you still have good form but with decreased strength/power).

I have longer background in martial arts and I don't know how many times I've found myself executing powerful techniques effortlessly in the latter half of the practice. And being mindful of that feeling and how I'm performing these moves efficiently have paid huge dividends to my techniques. Same w/ climbing, even if I execute the same basic moves, there's typically a bit of subtle change to my body position, timing, momentum that improves the efficiency. But unless you have a good movement coach that can point these out to you, you need to develop a keen sense of body awareness (and engaged mind) to learn that quickly. In martial arts, I've gained a lot more from 100 mindful repetitions than I have from 1000 mindless repetitions.


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By J. Albers
From Colorado
Mar 7, 2013
Bucky

reboot wrote:
I went hangdogging my way up a power endurance 13+ today instead of increasing post count of my own thread. And I'm pretty tired about arguing strength vs technique (my opinion remain the same).


Reboot,

I think that there are actually some nuggets of good information in your posts. Sh*t, I even agree with some (though not all) of what you have to say. That said, its sort of hard to read your posts with an open mind because you seem to feel the need to make snide comments while talking down to people. Obviously you can do whatever you want (it is the interwebs after all), but unless you want people to think that you are a dick, then perhaps tone it down a bit, eh?

Have a good one.


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By reboot
From Westminster, CO
Mar 8, 2013

J. Albers wrote:
its sort of hard to read your posts with an open mind because you seem to feel the need to make snide comments while talking down to people.

I admit I was deliberately picking on your comments & I apologize. I don't have anything against you or anything. I guess becoming a little more anonymous makes it easier to be dickish.

I see where you are coming from: you see guys who should be climbing close to your level but are not because they have shit for techniques. I see rascals that can bulldoze over problems that I have to carefully plan & execute (although there are plenty of 5.14/15 climbers in my gym with excellent techniques well suited to their strength/weaknesses). As reasonably intelligent people, we all pride ourselves on being able to do something in the most efficient manner. But at the end of the day, I care less about whether I can climb something w/ the best technique than I do about being able to free my dream route(s), and I think I have a better chance focusing a lot more on strength than technique training (although change in strength invariably changes the optimal technique a bit).


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By J. Albers
From Colorado
Mar 8, 2013
Bucky

reboot wrote:
I admit I was deliberately picking on your comments & I apologize.
No worries man; likewise, I apologize if my posts were violating MP Guideline numero uno.

reboot wrote:
But at the end of the day, I care less about whether I can climb something w/ the best technique than I do about being able to free my dream route(s), and I think I have a better chance focusing a lot more on strength than technique training (although change in strength invariably changes the optimal technique a bit).


This is an interesting point and I think it may explain a bit of the difference between where we each come from. For me, I think one of the most important parts of climbing is how the movement feels when I am doing it. I get a huge amount of value out of the feeling I get when I am floating up a route using very little power. I dunno, I'm not into yoga, but I suspect it is a similar feeling. That's not to say that I don't get something out of those focused "kiai" moments, just that I really enjoy the floating sensation when I am "effortless".

For example, last year I was working a project that was super technical (right down my alley). The route involved a lot very subtle moves...half-pad thumb presses, tips gastons, and foot smears that I couldn't hold (much less move off of) unless my core was dialed tight. In short, when I sent it I felt like I was exerting very little strength because I had the technical aspects of the moves dialed in pretty well. Surprisingly, while I was excited about sending, I was a bit disappointed about a few portions of the route where some of my footwork wasn't as laser precise as I wanted. F*cking OCD, huh?

The above situation is probably why I tend toward more technical climbing and I have a hard time getting psyched on some other forms of climbing. For example, when I lived in CA, I would regular go out to Jailhouse because that is where a bunch of my buddies climbed. I just could never get into it because the important technique there is kneebaring (and scumming) and this just doesn't subscribe to my internal idea of aesthetic climbing. As a result, I never invested a lot of time there despite the fact that it was easier (in a physical sense) for me to send hard routes there versus vertical granite (I actually onsight way harder on overhanging enduro stuff than I do on technical granite, despite the fact that I spend most of my time and effort on the latter).

Anyway, perhaps I would be well served to take the advice that your original post mentioned, that is, spend more time working stuff that I don't like doing (i.e. strength training). Chances are it would pay off. Honestly though, I just have a hard time getting psyched on bouldering and finger board workouts.


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By Evan Sanders
From Westminster, CO
Mar 8, 2013
Flaming Pumpkin

Back when I was quasi-serious about climbing and trying to get better (I no longer am trying to get better, just trying to have fun in my own way), I discovered that my weakness was my power. In my quest for climbing my first 5.12, I tried 5.12 after 5.12 after 5.12....and yes I got better, but very very slowly.

I then got tired of making so little progress so slowly, so I went to bouldering. At the time, I could only boulder like V2. So I exclusively trained on bouldering until I could boulder V3 (didn't take very long at all). I then tried a 5.12 and what do you know, I flashed the first one I tried. (SPPRRRAAAAYYYYYY)

My point is, I have no idea what I am now.


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By JCM
From Golden, CO
Mar 8, 2013

Evan Sanders wrote:
My point is, I have no idea what I am now.



Oh dear god, what have I become?


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By Kirk B.
From Boise, ID
Mar 8, 2013
belay slaving on some route I forgot the name of way right of Bloody Fingers.

Hang in there, bitch. Momentary "strength" ain't worth shit.
Will you live to see the sunrise?
Hang in there is my mantra.


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By Mike Crandall
From Superior, CO
Mar 8, 2013
Super Crack

When I train (maybe 1x/yr for 12 weeks) I follow a discipline of Endurance -> Strength -> Power. This has worked for me personally to accomplish my goal of enjoying the sport. I believe Alex Huber was a pioneer in training specifically for a particular route. If you have a specific route in mind, then I recommend training for that route. If in general you want to just get better than I recommend doing it all.


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By Kirk B.
From Boise, ID
Mar 9, 2013
belay slaving on some route I forgot the name of way right of Bloody Fingers.

Wait.
This is a "Sport"????


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By Chad Volk
From Boulder, CO
Mar 10, 2013

Here's a Rock and Ice article that provides some tips for improving one's climbing technique.


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By Finn the Human
From The Land of Ooo
Mar 11, 2013
Mathematical!

In response to the original question:

I ran cross country in high school and I sucked. I think I'm built more for power (6'3", broad shoulders).

In response to the Technique vs. Strength argument:

Both, duh. Focusing only on one will only allow you to progress so far. Quit trying to act like one is vastly superior to the other. That said, if a beginner climber asked me what they should work on, I'd definitely tell them to focus on technique. This is because strength can be gained (relatively) quickly, while technique is something you just have to practice at over and over and over and over.


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By Will S
From Joshua Tree
Mar 11, 2013

Fin the Human wrote:
strength can be gained (relatively) quickly, while technique is something you just have to practice at over and over and over and over.


IMO this is completely backwards. Strength does not come quickly, particularly if you are reasonably trained/developed and not Joe N00b. Tuning up for a specific rock type/angle/style, by contrast, comes very quickly (to me, anyway). We're talking days to weeks for making big gains in specific technique(s) vs. months to years for building strength, power, and AE.


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By Finn the Human
From The Land of Ooo
Mar 11, 2013
Mathematical!

Will S wrote:
IMO this is completely backwards. Strength does not come quickly, particularly if you are reasonably trained/developed and not Joe N00b. Tuning up for a specific rock type/angle/style, by contrast, comes very quickly (to me, anyway). We're talking days to weeks for making big gains in specific technique(s) vs. months to years for building strength, power, and AE.


I see it differently.

Assuming you are decently fit to begin with, you can become fairly "ripped" in a matter of months. Go do some push ups and pull-ups and you're there.

Technique, on the other hand, can take years to really develop. Understanding all the nuances of efficient movement, and when to use certain moves over others is not something new climbers learn in a matter of days or weeks.


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By Will S
From Joshua Tree
Mar 11, 2013

Fin the Human wrote:
Assuming you are decently fit to begin with, you can become fairly "ripped" in a matter of months. Go do some push ups and pull-ups and you're there.


Taylor Ogden, I don't understand what you're getting at. Nor why you need a different username to say it.

"Ripped" has almost nothing to do with strength. Plenty of tubby assed powerlifters throw around WAY more weight than ripped bodybuilders.

We'll just have to disagree on this one.


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By Dustin Drake
Mar 11, 2013

Apparently technique and overall climbing experience are the same thing to a lot of people.

I agree with you Will. Strength takes way more dedication. Technique is something you learn and once you got it you got it. Experience on applying your technique in a multitude of situations can take a long time, but it is something that you can continuously build on at any time. Strength requires long term commitment that if you don't consistently try to improve upon, will wither away faster than it takes to gain.


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