June 22, 2010 posted by

WFH: Shoulders & Arms

Hell hath no fury like a climber who can’t go outside on the longest day of the year. So instead of climbing the largest limestone wall in North America I’ve been hitting the WFH like a man possessed. I’ll go through each workout I do day by day. The first workout in the series is for shoulders and arms.

Training Overview

Each training block consists of a three day rotation, done twice per week with a day off after the second round, done for three weeks. The goal is to improve significantly each week. There is no recovery or transition week between each block because they are each so different it’s not necessary. Other than the workouts listed I hike daily and am doing a little (careful) climbing.

By far the hardest block is the first. It’s difficult for most people used to traditional weight training that generally consists of doing 15 repetitions or less. 30 reps shifts the energy systems stressed from phosphate to gycolytic. This transition is difficult and painful, like the difference between running the 100 and the 400. Doing 30 reps forces you to breathe in order to recharge your Kreb’s Cycle using oxygen. Theoretically you could do less than 15 reps holding your breath (though you would not want to). This is why Largo says “the difference between 20 and 30 reps is the difference between 5.8 and 5.12.”

Day 1: This is my hardest day. It’s very climbing specific and takes a lot of focus, which is why it has top billing on the schedule.

The Warm-Up

You can get away with a lesser warm-up during this block than the others because the top end stresses are very low. However, I begin each arm day with a fingerboard workout that is climbing specific, so I warm-up thoroughly.

Hangboard (fingerboard)

The workout I’m doing for the first three weeks is described in detail here. It will transition during each block.

I take a short break after this part of the workout, maybe 5 minutes.

3 sets of 30 reps for 4 different exercises. Whereas Largo’s version of the WFH stresses doing simple isolation movements I’m doing more climbing specific movements when applicable.

I rest of approximately one minute between each set.

Front delt pull-downs – This is very climbing specific. I use an exercise band and do a front straight armed pull-down from full extension up all the way down to my waist. Feel this in your front deltoid area. Keep your core very rigid.
Lateral raise
Standing rows
Standing dumbbell military press, elbows in

I won’t describe traditional exercises. Look them up if you don’t know what they are.

3 sets of 30 reps of 3 exercises. I do tris before bis because I think the exercises are harder.

Overhead tri extension w/ band (cable) – forward
Switch-grip kickbacks – rotate hand position every other rep
Overhead tri extension with weight – straight up


Dumbell curls
Hammer curls
Reverse grip curls – works forearm extensors


I do this workout.

pic: more back in the day: wolfie, the late german powerhouse, training his famous shoulders and arms in the valley


  • Why not do more sets for tris since it's a bigger muscle group than Biceps?Fingerboard twice a week isn't a lot?Thanks.

  • 9 sets of triceps is PLENTY. It's way more than you really need, actually, but this is supposed to be painful.2 (to maybe 3) hangboard workouts per week is about max anyone can handle if they are to failure and intense. And in most sitautions that is the only reason to do them. I'm climbing a little as well, but not hard. More for recovery. It's a LOT of finger training. Climbing is far less intense since a board forces all of the stress onto the hands while actual climbing distributes it.

  • Got it! Will try to religiously follow this routine after this phase. btw, I thought tony was fit and here I see you banging out 2-3 hangboard sessions per week Jeez!!!

  • Haha. Make no mistake, Tony is fit. I can't hang from my fingertips and ride a bike okay but I'm struggling with one-arms and muscle ups right now and Tony bangs those out with ease.

  • Tony basically is a power athlete or at least fast twitch muscle fibered. His cardio routines with all honesty and no offense to tony aren't too intense, but his resistance ones are pretty awesome. The guy is pretty amazing but lets not forget your feats of endurance 😛

  • Hmmm… You got me interested. Too bad this wasn't going on a few months back when climbing was still a no no. I'm tempted to try this out with you, but I'm also sort of psyched on projecting Hardboiled, and I've been getting some rad gains doing the traditional Shed thing, so this might not be a good idea. I'm wondering if doing 1 block a week would reap any benefits – maybe if I tweaked the workouts to be more sport specific (including bar work and the campus board for example).Whatever the case, I feel your pain on the "stuck inside" front. I only muster about 1-2 days a week of hauling my ass more than a hundred yards from the car.

  • I definitely would not try this during redpoint mode. Maybe jump in as soon as it gets too hot and get ready for fall. When are you coming out?

  • I'm not sure if or when I can get out to SLC. I'm trying to stay really consistent with the PT and acupuncture in hopes that I'll be walking sort of normally by sept when I move up to Eugene. But that's sort of a bad excuse isn't it…. Don't give up on me quite yet.

  • The pull-downs you describe would primarily use your lats. Your anterior deltoids would only be involved as stabilizers.

  • Good catch. Good to see someone paying attention. There's a reason for this in a climbing specific plan in that climbers ant delts tend to be weak in comparison and this isn't hard enough lat training to work for back days. Doing 30 reps with a band creates a lot of ant delt stress and the lat/delt relation is important in climbing and a specific weakness in climbers who only climb. This, however, will change as the reps drop as the lats are forced to take on a higher percentage of a resistance.

  • One last question before starting WFH tomorrow, do you do these exercises in a circuit format like shoulders, tricep, bicep repeat or do you train shoulders first, tricep second and bicep third?Thanks.

  • Hassan,It depends what you want to do. I'm doing the body parts seperately, old school style. Essentially to test it against what I've been doing lately (last more than a decade) which is all circuit work. Circuit work is more time efficient and, given your goals, I think it would make sense to just use the rep scheme of the WFH in your workouts (or BB workouts). If you want to try body part isolation it's probably ok too, especially given you haven't done it below most likely. In fact, the more I think about it the more I think doing it my way would be best just because it will be new.

  • Thanks for the reply, This is something cool to try so will do. Not doing any BB programs, wanted to try the new test workout #1 for p90x one on one, but I suppose that can wait till later.

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