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Mountain Athlete: Weight Training for Climbing


Will Wetzel squatting at Mountain Athlete. Wetzel has been training with Rob Shaul's program since summer 2007.

Does it Work?

Early on I understood transferability is key. Training in the gym, which doesn't increase performance or durability on the mountain, is a waste of time.

Eric Horst, author of Training for Climbing and How To Climb 5.12 does not believe in general fitness training for climbers. His training is all sport specific.

Black Diamond-sponsored climber Rob Miller disagrees. Rob is an avid follower of CrossFit and a coach himself. He argues that an intense, general fitness program transfers well to climbing.

The fact that the Exum Guides who stuck with the program also happen to be among the most accomplished and senior guides demonstrates some value in our programming and in the idea that hybrid training can improve climbing performance.


But the most direct feedback came from my non-guide climbers. Andy Bardon reported climbing at a much higher level in Yosemite after several months of training at Mountain Athlete without any additional training. He has since climbed at Yosemite a second time, and wrote me after returning, "I can say without ego or emotion that I am stronger than I have ever been."

Connie Sciolino reports that the training at Mountain Athlete has made her stronger, but more importantly given her the confidence to begin lead climbing.

Looking Ahead

Our partnership with Exum Mountain guides continues into this new season, and several of the guides, who live somewhere else during the winter, will be rolling back into town and the gym this month to begin the guiding season, and training in the gym.

I don't advertise, but through word of mouth in Jackson, our website, and local and national press coverage, Mountain Athlete is developing a strong reputation for effective, intense mountain training. More and more non-guide climbers are knocking on the door or e-mailing questions and comments.

We also have branched to train outdoors athletes in non-mountaineering sports. Bikers and kayakers have joined our ranks.

Will Wetzel leading View To A Thrill (WI5), South Fork, Cody, Wyoming. [Photo] Andrew Bardon

Through the website we have also drawn interest from military, first responder, police, and other tactical athletes. I've received e-mails and questions from Navy SEALs, soildiers deployed overseas, and Coast Guard Rescue Swimmers. In our gym we've trained members of the U.S. Secret Service and local law enforcement members.

I am constantly tweaking and improving my programming and exercise selection. One area we'll be moving into is long, slow, endurance training. This type of training has to be completed outside the gym. I am currently researching how to combine endurance training like long runs and bike rides most effectively with the gym training.

Though our doors have been open just sixteen months now, I believe the hard training we are doing at Mountain Athlete is working to change the attitude and belief among many climbers, mountaineers, skiers, kayakers and all mountain athletes that training inside a gym is a waste of time.

I've always questioned the dogma that serious outdoors athletes shouldn't lift weights and train hard in a gym when serious athletes in mainstream sports long ago embraced gym training as essential to reaching full potential in sport. Football players don't just "play football" and sprinters don't just "run fast" to train for their sports. They bust their asses in the gym and deploy that strength on the gridiron and track.

My athletes will prove this point for me. Propelled by hard-earned strength and conditioning in our gym, they are stronger longer, faster farther, and mentally tougher than those who "just climb" to train.

I'll tell them to say "hello" and smile sweetly as they pass you on the way to the summit.

Mountain Athlete Tina Flowers at the Ruth Gorge in May 2008. [Photo] Nat Patridge

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Skipping I found to be good fun and great for climbing, creates balance, rhythm, coordination, agility. Autogenic training is also something to look up if you are looing to improve your head game and ability to relax on the rock. Yoga is probably one of the ultimate training tools for climbing. Iyengar in particularly helps build great focus and the ability to breathe through uncomfortable positions. Vinyasa is also a great form of yoga to improve breathing and flow through moves. Training on Olympic rings is also brilliant giving you phenomenal core strength and helps to improve should stability.

2017-07-08 07:34:32

I am real content with the mentation and don't conceive equivalent adding anything in it. It a perfect response.

Terrence ^<a href="http://www.trainwithmeonline.com"^>weight training

2009-09-29 17:24:17

Viva Alpinist. And that you Rob Shaul for his excellent article. I am been working with CrossFit New Paltz over the winter and it had a significant impact in my climbing strength and endurance.

Couple of thoughts/questions: One question I have is rest days. CF seems to say 3 days on, 1 day off. But how do you guide or climb after a workout? Or climb for 7 plus hours and then go train and then wake up the next day and climb again. My climbing performance is often way down the day after a workout. Any suggestions.

Two diet. Do you suggest some variation on the zone.

Three. Being from Brooklyn, I hate to get all hippie but I dont dig some of the competiveness around CF? As a woman who is working out with almost all guys I dont really want to come in last place. Its a downer anyway you cut it.

thanks again for an excellent article. Rock on.

2008-06-08 18:35:33
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