Post-activation Potentiation
September 14, 2010 posted by

PAP Smeared

My climbing specific postactivation potentiation training is finally coming into focus. The downside is that with October around the corner I only have another week or so to test it before I’m climbing 100%. The upside is that I see winter training going very well indeed.

But we’ll get to that during winter. For now, the goal is to integrate the Workout From Hell into climbing (i.e. convert the big dumb muscles I created into explosive and efficient machines). Since the WFH isn’t climbing specific the PAP workouts should not be either. So I’m splitting each week into lower body, upper body, and climbing specific (trunk/core done differently each day) with the rational that if the entire body was trained in the base phases all the new muscle must be coverted to enact higher threshold muscle cell motor units. Today we will look at a sample upper body routine.

I am 100% convinced that the best climbing training is specific, and this is not. The WFH is offseason conditioning only. In the on season there should be a peak where all you do is climb, perhaps with a day per week doing a maintenance workout.

There is also a question as to whether or not legs and trunk should be trained much for climbing. Certainly weight gained in this area is a bad idea and no amount of muscle strength will offset gravity. Trunk of course is vital but legs trained effectively can become efficient without gaining any mass. I feel it’s helpful, especially if any muscular imbalances exist (and they likely do) and you do any sort of approaches during your climbing season.

I’m only doing each workout one day per week, then climbing outside (still pretty easy) two days and doing one long easy day of something (hiking, riding, climbing long easy trad routes). Ideally I would do two per week but given there is a lot of trial and error and I want to peak soon not overtraining is a priority.

in my backyard blurring the line between recovery and breakdown, climbing and hiking, and offwidthing and standing on gert’s ridge, mt. olympus

The Workouts

An example leg workout was given in the last post. Keep in mind these are only samples and are based on what my weaknesses are. They are generic enough that you should be able to experiment with them youself.

For upper body

The warm-up is dynamic. After some easy mobility movements (reachers, huggers, other 90X stuff) I do 3 sets of 10 reps of 4 different exercises with the bands: flys, one-arm rows, military presses, bus drivers (band version is pulling the bands to each side). These sets are light. I follow this some dynamic medicine ball movements to activate fast-twitch muscle fiber, followed by foam rolling my upper body muscles: 3 sets.

First complex is 4 rounds of:

Curl to Press (done slow with max weight) 5 reps, Clap push-ups (exploding as high as possible) 6, Inverted Rows (upside down push-up or pull-up with feet high so body is horizontal) 10, bus drivers (heavy band this time) 20 seconds.

Second complex is 3 or 4 rounds (depending on how I feel) of:

Towel pull-ups (holding onto towels for forearms) 5, Push Press 10, Low to High Wood Chop w/heavy weight 5, Wall Clock 8 pumps each side (sort of like this).

Core Work is two sets of 2 minutes of plank on elbows and 1 min or supermans.

Rice bucket.

Stretch out.

When I look at these workouts on paper they don’t look so bad but they absolutely destroy me. I think it’s because I’ve so little power work and so much endurance work over the last decade. Then again, at P3 I see a bunch of folks who do power sports for a living struggling as well, so maybe it will always be like this.

pic: isabella dans l’extreme, at least in her fashion sense, in another amazing cover of alpi rando, certainly the only magazine ever dedicated to edgy women’s climbing fashion.


  • I'm looking to do an overall strength phase, like 3-4 weeks or so. I'm not training for a specific sport at this point just general strength. Would it be good for me to apply these principles to the muscle grouping workouts from p90x? Like chest/back one day, shoulders arms another then the core work in place of something like ARX (probably parts of the ARX2 one on one). So slow lift for a set, then explosive, etc.

  • If your base is solid it would. It would take a little thought to alter 90x but it certainly could be done. Tony does this a bit but it's somewhat random throughout the program–in some ways by design because a power specific program isn't necessary for everyone, though some amount of muscular efficiency is. But as 90x evolves specificity will play a greater part.

  • I'm currently doing an advanced bodybuilder split (20 sets per muscle group) once a week, training each muscle group individually (aside from arms). I've made enormous hypertrophy gains, but how come these big dumb muscles have made me climb better than ever? I'm thinking it could be the 6-8 rep range that's working strength as well as big compound lifts?

  • That's pretty common. Big and dumb are still muscle where you may not have had it before and it, at times, can be effective for improving performance (an inefficient bodybuilder can still life a lot more weight than a super efficient skinny guy). However a huge part with you is that you are new to climbing and you are going to progress no matter what. As you skill development stops progressing so fast you'll be more dependant on other physiological things for improvement. Doing a pullup with 100lbs will always benefit your climbing, but not nearly as much being able to launch a six foot dyno off of two dime size edges. Eventually explosive sports come down to power.

  • aahh… So specific training right now is only a small part. I backed off from climbing training and still saw good gains. I'm liking this bodybuilder/climbing combo. I do wonder if I would suck at doing 1500 push ups?P.S Wait, what happens if you can't complete a part of your birthday challenge? Hall of shame?

  • Nice fist jam.And not completing a part of a Birthday Challenge is no Hall of Shame. It only means that it was a true challenge. Nothing to be ashamed of in trying something tremendously difficult and failing. It's a lot more shameful to finish everything and have it be a breeze.

  • That is a fist STACK! Soul climbing.I agree with Bob. If you finish you probably made it too easy. The goal is probably to ever-so-barely fail. You don't want to catch the carrot.

  • If you think there's a chance you'll complete your challenge, just add more booze and food.-J

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