July 14, 2010 posted by

WFH: Beefin’

I know, 15 reps is technically endurance but after three weeks of 30, 15 makes you feel like you’re training for Mr. Olympia. Back in the Shed Days, when Phil and I would venture into our iron phases we’d always have the same reaction: “I forgot how everyone at the gym is trying to gain weight.” As climbers all we ever wanted to do was get lighter. Most of our friends, in fact, thought we were high for going to the gym at all. Hence, weight lifting became known to us as “beefin.”

Climbers can’t afford a lot of beef. Gravity is too forceful. Gaining weight will offset any strength gains you can make so it becomes vital to only allow hypertrophy happen in muscles that you need for climbing. Large muscles may look good on the beach but they are anchors when you’re hanging off of one digit. This is why the Workout From Hell is structured the way it is. Most hypertrophy is gained when you fail between 8 and 12 reps, which is why there’s a phase of 15 and another of 5. We’re doing our best to avoid gaining mass.

Some hypertrophy will occur. There is no way around it and, frankly, it can be helpful if done right because your muscles need to function in balance. To accomplish this it’s important to both keep your schedule focused on climbing muscles primarily and to make sure you hit 15 reps. The latter is easier said than done as most of us are conditioned to fail in the 8-12 rep range. Eeking out those last three are vital. You should fail on occasion, of course, but don’t get in the habit of always picking up too much weight and failing early.

Largo said the 15 rep phase is for strength. While technically inaccurate—never tell a strength coach you’re doing 15 reps for strength without expecting to be slapped—you are teaching your muscles that got conditioned to endure 30 reps to re-focus on 15. As your engrams engage you are actually getting stronger. So Largo was correct even though you’re not working on muscle cell motor until recruitment.

My schedule is varies somewhat from the 30 rep phase. My reasons for changing are personal. Yours should be too. So instead of just reading this and following along you should assess your strengths and weaknesses and alter the schedule accordingly.


I couldn’t do even easy yoga for a while but now I can. I do Rodney Yee’s Back Care Yoga as a warm-up. This, of course, is very specific to my situation.

Day 1

I’ve described the new hangboard routine. I climb outside once or twice a week but only on easy routes, 12a and under, and I only do short sessions (up to about 6 pitches).

Front pull-downs get moved to day 2. This is interesting and personal. Using bands for 30 reps my rear delts were taking the brunt of this exercise early on because I was out of balance in this area and, using bands, the elastic force created more need for stabilization. Now they are mainly a lat exercise.

In place of these I’m doing forward bend lateral raises at about 30 degrees and have replaced the standing lateral raises to front raises.

I’ve stopped doing the band overhead tri extensions and replaced them with chair dips.

Day 2

I now do five back exercises. The first is band pull-downs which just aren’t that hard so they are like a transition exercise between the warm-up and the workout. I then add front pull-downs for a fifth exercise.

I then subtract a chest exercise. My chest, while not big, is much bigger than it needs to be for climbing. I consider each movement done here to be fairly climbing specific.

Fingertip push-ups
Close-grip push-ups.

I’m adding more legs and core as I can. Most notably I’ve begun using the Ab Roller in sets of 15.

Day 3


pic: kauk and gullich beef it with sly to morph into hollywood-approved climbers.


  • For some reason, slowly but still I am gaining mass either way. Maybe it's the puberty thing, but who knows. Doesn't more muscle mean more strength capacity which indirectly is good for climbing? or does that kind of strength differ?

  • Hi, in an earlier post I asked how long the 1st and 2nd phase took you in the gym. After your answer I tried it out and was just around 1hr 40. My question is due to my job and family situation it will be very hard to spend that time in the Gym.. so I was wondering if you know of a way to "Cut down" the workout to around 1hr or is there just no way around that?/Lars

  • Hey Lars,I replied but you've sorted it out anyway. Of course you can cut it down. The WFH is a concept more than a set schedule. Training can always be altered to accomodate your real life. The Day 1 (hangboard) days should be much longer than day 2. If you give me an idea of your goals, strengths, and weaknesses I could make some recommendations.

  • Insane, Age, yes, but like I said some hypertrophy will always occur. It will be limited somewhat but you're still pumping iron and failing. Muscles are stimulated, especially anything that is underdeveloped. You'll gain more mass in your next block when the time of each set is cut in half, but never the kind of mass that the kick sand in your face kind of guy is going to want. The third block sets are too short for much hypertrophy to occur but a slight amount will. As you will see, I diet a lot in the third block. Then we're going to add a forth block that's not in the original in order to integrate the next-found strength into "smart" sport specific muscle.

  • Hey Steve,Thanks for the great posts recently. I am a climber and for the past year I have been doing a loosely formatted cyclical training pattern. Because of the heat and loss of psyche to climb I recently revisited the WFH..and your posts have been great to read! I just started and am going to be keeping a log here:

  • Cool Daniel,When you finish I'll post it here to keep a log of how this works for everyone. It may end up being of some use to the community.Hassan,It occured to me during my workout today that you have probably never worked one body part at a time because you've been doing our workouts. It's different and you must rest between sets or you'll never finish the workout to its maximum. Back in the one-body-part-til-failure days the timing of your rest was everything; shorter for more endurance and longer for strenght. Pure power workouts have super short sets with ridiculously long rests (to fully recovery).

  • ooo Thanks. Usually for shoulders and arms it's shoulders first, then tris and then bis, but yeah I'll start taking longer breaks.Out of curiosity, for phase 3, since it's 5 reps and you train the muscles twice a week with 48 hour rest, how is that working power and strength? Don't muscles need to be fully rested before hitting them again to recruit as many muscle fibers as possible?

  • Beefin' may have also come from: I checked out from the community library during high school to get chicks. I believe I bought a copy for Bert's 40th birthday. It's probably wore through by now.

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