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.
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.
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.
I’m adding more legs and core as I can. Most notably I’ve begun using the Ab Roller in sets of 15.
pic: kauk and gullich beef it with sly to morph into hollywood-approved climbers.