donderdag 24 maart 2016

Why all climbers should do push ups

All climbers should do push ups. Period. Well, that is my opinion... I have some arguments to back it up though that may sway the many climbers that dismiss push ups as a useless exercise for climbing: 
  • Pushups work the triceps and pecs: important antagonists for the pulling muscles that we use in climbing moves. Keeping the antagonists just as strong as the pulling muscles helps keeping a balanced, injury free body. But it doesn't stop here: both the triceps and the pecs are recruited in many actual climbing moves: when moving up one hand, we (should) push down with the other. The triceps does this. And think of all the moves that require the pecs to come into action: sidestepping, locking off sidepulls, compression moves, etc.
  • Pushups train core strength and stability, especially when instability is introduced by doing the excersice on one leg, using rings, a suspension trainer or a fitness ball. Core strength is required in nearly every climbing move, especially when the terrain gets steeper.
  • Pushups can train a variety of shoulder muscles by varying in hand positioning (wide, narrow, above the shoulders, close to the waist, etc.) and by introducing instability to the hand using gymnastic rings, a suspension trainer or a fitness ball. Shoulder injuries are common among climbers and can hold you back for months or longer. Chronic shoulder injuries are almost impossible to get rid of. Strong shoulders are much less likely to get injured. By varying the push up excercises a lot of shoulder muscles can be trained, including all the small, tiny ones that get tweaked easily (think rotator cuff...).
There are endless variations of push up excercises. Varying them is important. Which ones you like comes down to personal taste, but I would recommend introducing some sort of instability and doing only exercises of which you can do at least a few good repetitions. It is easy to injure the small stabilizing muscles with an exercise that is too tough. That kind of defies the purpose of the exercise, wouldn't you say? 

For inspiration I've made a little video of the excercises that stuck with me and keep coming back regularly in my trainings. Enjoy training!

woensdag 24 februari 2016

Ramblings from an old man

My God, am I a bad blogger! Months went by without sharing a single post. And all of the sudden 2015 is over and it's almost March 2016. Many goals for 2015 aren't realized, although it's easy to blame that on me landing on the intensive care and taking over half a year to recover to old fitness levels. A collection of uncorrelated, impossible to combine snippets of written story is scattered across a series of draft posts and by now there is no point in finishing them all and publish a tedious cluster of posts about the past months... Instead it seems more appropriate to wrap up the gap briefly (I've posted two 'new' video's from 2015 to the videos page). save you - my beloved reader - ploughing through my ramblings, and end on generally positive note rather than dwelling on the things I didn't do.

I'll go awry straight away: I tend to trivialise the physical impact of the illness I suffered this summer and expect to be climbing on the top of my game consistently again. Even without the illness that would be unreasonable, so unsurprisingly I've been disappoint myself regularly. I climbed ok, but not great. Honestly, I should be thankful to return to this shape and not having sustained some serious permanent damage. But my immune system suffered noticably (probably due to the fact that all of my blood plasma has been replaced...) and I'm tired and ill much more frequently than I used to be. Obviously that isn't complementing my training very well. I'm just returning from a four week break from training (longer even than after the intensive care!) and I hope I'll be able catch some momentum again now. It's frustrating to really want to go for it, but not have my body cooperate. Maybe I'm just getting old...

On a brighter note: lacking my sharp edge regularly is learning me to enjoy easier climbing without feeling the pressure to outperform myself all the time. I get better at picking climbs because I want to climb the line, not the grade, making every day out a more enjoyable experience. I try to broaden my palette again, the need for which was pointed out by a comp I participated in following the advice of climbing coach Jan Martin. I performed badly and discovered some weaknesses I have developped. Although I didn't feel too good during the comp and got ill the day after and I may blame part of the sub par performance on that, those weaknesses are unrelated to fitness. So I'm changing my training routines a bit and shifting my outdoor focus towards volume and fun for 2016. Lets see what the year brings!

maandag 21 september 2015

Crash, crush!

Another strength training cycle is finished! For thirty days I religiously followed the training plan and it seems to have paid off. A few weeks ago I already wrote that even though the first sessions weren't good - number 2 being soul crushingly bad - a promising upward trend became visible after five trainings. The sessions that followed absolutely blew my mind: in terms of volume training number 6 was the toughest I've ever recorded and all the following trainings surpassed the previous. The volume graph below (in red) shows the rapid volume increase through the cycle compared with the previous cycles. After ten trainings I've set personal records on the added (and total) load for every single grip position (see second and third graph). I am amazed! After the 'big crash' this summer I set my hopes on reaching old strength levels again and didn't dare thinking about actually crushing them.

This is the first quantifiable result since I started recovery and it seems that through the course of the past thirty days I've fully reached my old (finger) strength levels again. Now let's hope the measured gains will translate well into power and increased climbing performances… Campus training is up next and I hope to get out on the rocks soon again!

Workout volume and time under tension per training (explained here). A rapid increase in volume during the third cylce is visible. The last five trainings exceed volume levels of previous cycles. Note that season 1 and 2 are hardly comparable, due to the much lower T.U.T. in season 1. Season 3 shows improvement over season 2 for similar T.U.T. though.
Added (or substracted) load per grip position (the exact excercises are described here). Personal records on all grip positions were reached. The figure below shows this also holds for the total load, which includes effects of body weight fluctuations.

vrijdag 4 september 2015

Relapse, return

Just after sending my project 'Super Surfer', my life was thrown upside down. I started feeling ill on wednesday and found myself on the intensive care by saturday. Luckily the days of absolute misery that followed went by in a bit of a blur. One thing was made very clear though: if Michelle hadn't dragged me to the hospital, I would have died. Possibly on the same day. My liver was failing, my kidneys were failing, my brain was failing and my blood values were dropping like a brick in free fall. Not good. Although I was promised at least a month in the hospital, the doctors released me after a week. To this moment they are failing (and still trying) to identify the cause of my relapse, but after five days of intensive treatment and administration of a high dose of prednisone I started recovering rapidly. Two days later I slept in my own bed again. And for a few weeks, that's what I've mostly done: sleeping. Initially, even reading was too much of an effort. I got pulled through by Michelle, who arranged to be at home and take care of me for weeks.

As psychologically provoking and cathartic the experience may have been, I somehow fail to write down anything meaningful about it. I try to remember and to forget simultaneously. Most of all I want to feel healthy and strong again. It's severely testing my patience… After ten days at home, exactly three weeks after climbing 'Super Surfer' I tried climbing on my woody again. It was terrible: I couldn't finish a single boulder. Even the warmups of my previous trainings were too hard. I felt miserably weak. I was miserably weak. Since then, I did some sort of rehabilitation training on almost every single day: yoga, light crossfit, long walks, bouldering, anything to get back into climbing shape again. Gradually the intensity increased and after three weeks of rehabilitation I climbed a 7b route in Teuto again. Although still a long way from 8a, it was a massive confidence booster. I deeply enjoyed the following weeks of holiday, being able to enjoy live, to walk with Michelle and the dogs for days in Luxembourg and even do some more climbing in the lower half of the 7th grade. Higher 7's felt completely impossible though.

I will need one or more full training cycles to get back to my previous shape again. When work started two weeks ago, I kicked off a new cycle and began with strength training. Anticipating disappointment, I started with low loads. I was disappointed nevertheless… Because fingerboard trainings are very quantifiable, the results left little doubt about the fact that my initial performance sucked big time. Perseverance is paying off though and after two demoralizing first trainings I got the hang (pun fully intended) of it again. Now, five trainings in, it seems I'm on track to reach the high points of my previous season again. I'll be back!