Moved…

Due to some problems with the WordPress interface I have moved the blog to
www.exersci-climbing.blogspot.com. I have tried using the interface with several different computers and continue to experience the same problems. I will leave the past posts on this website for the next 6 months, but all new posts will be made at the new site. Hope to see you there.

My Training Rig

I wanted to share a photo of my training rig and why I set it up this way.

The setup includes: the overhanging BlankSlate, Metolius rock rings, and Revolution system holds. I also have my iPod touch attached to the crossbar.

I purchased the rock rings back in the day when I first started climbing simply because they were the cheapest fingerboard like device I could find but I’ve kept them over the years for a lot of reasons. The rock rings are very versatile and can be hung pretty much anywhere. Because the rings hang they move while the climber moves making them friendlier on the joints and works the stabilizing muscles in the shoulders more.

For the last couple of years I have been living in apartments (where there have been hefty fines for altering walls i.e. drilling and nailing) so I have been going to local parks to hang the rock rings and workout. However, when I learned about the BlankSlate I was excited at the possibility of training inside during the winter months. I chose the overhanging BlankSlate so the rock rings could still hang freely and high enough that my knees wouldn’t be touching the ground.

You guys know how much I’m a fan of having options when it comes to training. So my rig wouldn’t be complete without some system holds. I like the separate system holds compared to a solid fingerboard because I can do offset hangs off of different combinations of holds and distances rather than the same combination every time (i.e. large edge and and small edge.)

With the BlankSlate, the rock rings, and the system holds I can work on: vertical contact strength with the rock rings, vertical and overhanging contact strength with the rings and the system holds, and when I’m in the mood for a real challenge just the overhanging system holds. On my iPod in the “notes” app I have several different hangboard routines and I use the “timer” app to time hangs, rests, and total workout time.

Here are a couple of links to different hangboard routines.

Feel free to post photos of your training rigs!

Questions?

I want to provide my readers with the opportunity to ask questions that they may have regarding climbing as well as suggesting any new topics for blog posts.

I will do my best to answer your questions or at least direct you where to go to find your answers. Just ask your questions in the comment box down below.

System Boards

If you don’t have easy access to different climbing areas, a System Board is a great way to vary your climbing experiences at home.

The majority of what I have read regarding System Boards/Walls suggests that they should be used for interval training or for forearm strength gains, but I propose that System Boards have a greater potential for skill training and schema development. The standard System Board has holds (usually system holds[a hold with multiple edges so the climber can use various types of grips]) placed in a symmetrical pattern and the climber climbs up and down using the same style of hold, but to me the climber might as well perform pull-ups on a hang board. I suggest that the configuration of the holds look more like this:

The hexagons would be the system holds and the squares would be the footholds. If you remember from the previous blog post, when we are developing schemas we want to change only one aspect of the skill at a time.

Distance Drill

So if we are developing a distance schema we want to keep the hold type, size (if you aren’t using a system holds), angle of the wall, and foot placement the same throughout the drill.

  • The climber starts with both hands on the yellow system hold
  • Moves their right hand to red system hold directly above the start hold and then back to the start hold
  • Moves their right hand to the blue system hold directly above the start hold and then back to the start hold
  • Moves their right hand to the blue system hold at the top of the wall and then back to the start hold
  • The climber repeats the same sequence but now grabs(with their right hand) the holds that were to the right of the main holds.
  • The climber repeats the same sequence but now grabs(with their right hand) the holds that were to the left of the main holds.
  • The climber repeats this entire sequence but now with the left hand moving.

Sequence for the Right Hand

 

Sequence for the Left Hand

Other Drills

Use the same sequence but use a different type of hold, switch foot placement after each sequence, or if at all possible change the angle of the wall.

Several different hold companies sell their own versions of a system hold, here are just a few E-grips, Atomik, Revolution, and Pusher

Variability and Schemas

When discussing skill development, variability refers to the various aspects of the skill that will change it’s general outcome. Examples include the amount of force used to grip a hold, the direction that the hold is grabbed, etc.

Variability Training

To make variability useful with our training we want to change one aspect of the skill and keep the others constant. Practicing dynos is a good example. If we want to practice higher and higher dynos, the holds that we are dyno-ing to and from should be the same, and the direction we are dyno-ing should also be the same; the only thing that we are changing is the distance between the holds. On the other hand if we want to practice dynos to smaller and smaller holds we would keep the starting hold, the direction and the distance the same, we would just change the ending hold.

Schemas

Fortunately our brains are very smart and we don’t have to perform every single variation of a skill. Our brains develop what are called schemas, according to Schimdt and Wrisberg schemas are “a set of rules relating the various outcomes of a person’s actions to the parameters that the person sets to produce those outcomes”. In other words, if we want to dyno higher our brains understand that they need to tell the muscles in our legs to contract stronger in order to reach that outcome. As a result of schemas, if an individual learns to dyno with the holds four and six feet apart, that individual will have a greater success dyno-ing at a distance of five feet. Schemas work with all aspects of climbing including hold type, size, angle, direction, and wall angle.

If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments section.

Random vs. Blocked “Practice”

In the worlds of football, volleyball, and other ball sports the thought of practice is commonplace, but in climbing not so much. We often think of doing exercises to become stronger, or projecting a route or problem. However, every time we perform a move we are practicing a different skill.

Whether we are grabbing a jug or executing a drop knee we are either developing or re-enforcing what are called motor programs. Motor programs provide our bodies with a general idea of how to perform old as well as new tasks. So if every time we climb we develop motor programs, what is the best way to practice climbing?

Random vs. Blocked Practice

In Schmidt and Wrisberg’s Motor Learning and Performance, blocked practice is defined as a practice sequence in which individuals rehearse the same skill repeatedly. Random practice is defined as a practice sequence in which individuals perform a number of skills in a (quasi-) random order, thus avoiding or minimizing consecutive repetitions of any single skill.

In climbing blocked practice would be climbing the same route over and over and over, where random practice would be climbing a new route every time you got on a crag or wall. Studies have shown that when individuals participate in random practice they are less successful then those who participate in blocked practice initially. However, the individuals who participate in random practice show better performance later than those involved in blocked practice.

There are a couple of hypotheses to why this happens. The first is the elaboration hypothesis. Shea and Zimny state that the elaboration hypothesis is the idea that random practice during practice causes people to elaborate or discover the distinctiveness among skills (whereas blocked practice does not), which is beneficial for performance in a retention test. In other words, when performing the same skill over and over we don’t need to think of the nuances involved, but when we perform a different skill each time we often find a new aspect of the skill.

The other hypothesis is the forgetting or spacing hypothesis. Schmidt and Wrisberg state that random practice prevents the repetition of a given task on successive attempts, allowing short-term forgetting, which requires the learner to generate the solution on every trial (whereas blocked practice does not); the method of generating the solution is learned which is effective on delayed tests of retention.

What it all means…

I’m not suggesting that we all stop projecting routes and problems, but I am suggesting that we start climbing a greater variety of routes even if they are easier than our limits because there is always something new to be learned and you may find your ability to on-sight or flash increase.

A Brief Look Into Bouldering Nutrition

Here is another paper I wrote for my Sports Nutrition Class. My professor had never heard of bouldering so it starts with a brief description of the sport.

Under the umbrella of rock climbing, there are several types of climbing. Each sub group of climbing has its specific nutritional needs due to the duration of the climb and intensity of the involved movements. Bouldering is identified in the climbing world by its shorter routes (usually a boulder’s height), powerful movements, and ropeless climbers. By forgoing the rope, climbers can perform trickier, gymnastic-like moves. Due to their complicated nature, boulder routes are called problems and require greater amounts of thinking to complete than other climbing routes. Most boulderers (specific term given to those that boulder) don’t spend more than a couple of minutes on a boulder problem and rest anywhere from two to ten minutes between attempts. While climbing, the boulderer’s body relies heavily on the glycolysis system.

Like other athletes that participate in high-intensity short-duration sports, boulderers train for longer durations than the time it takes to complete their “event” or boulder problem. Training specificity is very important for boulderers, but they also engage in resistance training. The typical training session lasts about 2 to 4 hours and includes: a warm-up, several attempts at a specific route, interval training, and a cool down. Because of the great stress that is put on the body, specifically the finger joints, training is limited to two to three times a week. These breaks allow the boulderer to replenish the muscle glycogen that is often depleted after their long training sessions.

Out of all the types of climbing, bouldering is the most popular when it comes to competition and statewide competitions are planned every 3 months. Some boulderers climb specifically to compete with other climbers, while others compete against themselves trying to climb a harder problem every week or two.

Zach Bradford is a local boulderer and agreed to be a part of this paper. He is 25 years old, 5’ 6”, and 135 pounds and considered one of the strongest climbers in the Cedar City area. In an interview, Zach stated that he trains about two times a week in addition to one trip a week outside where he really tries to push himself. When he trains, he usually does so for about 4 hours at a time and mainly performs interval drills. Zach mentioned that he doesn’t have a typical eating schedule when trains but says the most commonly eats a bowl of cereal with 1% milk and drinks a glass of water. After his training sessions, he usually eats a bowl of pasta and has another glass of water. When he climbs outside he doesn’t eat much and drinks just over half of a liter. In addition to what Zach normally eats he takes a multi-vitamin, a b-complex vitamin, and a joint health supplement containing glucosamine, chondrotin, and MSM. He explained that he takes these supplements because he doesn’t eat enough calories, have enough energy, and wants to prevent injuries. After the interview, Zach’s age, weight, height, and activity level were inputted into ChooseMyPlate.gov’s My Daily Food Plan tool.

Zach was asked to keep a diet log with amounts for three days but went the extra mile and tracked his eating habits for four days instead. The MyFoodpedia tool, also found on ChooseMyPlate.gov’s website, was used to look up, calculate the number of calories, and establish the exchanges for the food he ate during those four days. Once those numbers were collected, a daily average was calculated for calories, consumption of grains, whole grains, protein, dairy, vegetables, and fruit.  Those averages are as follows: Calories – 1910.5, Grains – 9.5 ounces, Whole Grains – .375 oz, Protein – 4.375 oz, Dairy – 2.06 cups, Vegetables – 1.18 cups, and Fruit – .375 cups. As well as keeping track of his eating, Zach also tracked his water/fluid intake over this time and drinks about 1.45 liters a day.

Based on the information provided by the My Daily Food Plan tool it is suggested that Zach should be consuming an average of: Calories – 2800, Grains – 10 ounces, Whole Grains – 5 oz, Protein – 7 oz, Dairy – 3 cups, Vegetables – 3.5 cups, and Fruit – 2.5 cups. This information shouldn’t be too surprising to Zach because he feels like he isn’t getting enough calories and is taking a multi-vitamin to try to make up for his lower intake levels.

Several suggestions can be made to improve Zach’s diet and his climbing performance and changing a few things can have a large effect on filling the holes in his diet. When it comes to his diet, Zach is eating enough grains (though he should be working on eating more whole grains) so he should put more focus on consuming vegetables and fruit. Along with increasing his vegetable and fruit consumption this should help with his caloric deficit and provide the nutrients he is looking for in his vitamin supplements. Drinking fruit juice within 30 minutes after his training sessions and climbing outings would be beneficial on multiple levels. With workouts as long as his, it is important to replenish fluids and carbohydrates and fruit juice is a good source of both of these. Not only will fruit juice after his training sessions help with recovery, he will be increasing his fruit intake. It is still a good idea for him to continue to eat pasta after his training.

Zach could also do well by increasing his protein intake, but a few things should be kept in mind. Because climbers and boulderers want to maintain a high strength to weight ratio, the protein sources he should seek out should be lean. By choosing to increase his intake of beans and peas, Zach will not only increase his protein consumption but his vegetable consumption as well. During the four days that Zach kept track of his diet he didn’t consume any seafood. Seafood is a good source of protein but also of Omega – 3s. If Zach increased his consumption of Omega – 3s, he could reduce the amount of joint health supplementation almost to nothing. Research performed on the ingredients contained in this supplement have been inconclusive and the anti-inflammatory effects of Omega – 3 would be more beneficial in preventing and recovery of orthopedic injuries.

H-Tape for Injured Finger Pulleys

I came across an article entitled “Impact of Taping After Finger Flexor Tendon Pulley Ruptures in Rock Climbers” a couple of months ago and decided to write up a review. The article proposes a new taping method for torn pulleys called the H-Tape and compares it to the Ring and Figure-8 methods. The authors’ goal was to “evaluate whether this new taping method [could] effectively change the course of the flexor tend and therefore reduce the tendon-bone distance.” Through their study they found that “[t]he new taping method decreased the tendon-bone distance in the injured finger significantly by 16%” resulting in a closer imitation of a real pulley ligament during a crimping position.

The article states “[t]he method for the application of the H-tape is as follows: A tape of length of 10cm and a width of 1.5 cm is cut in half longitudinally from both ends, leaving a bridge of 1 cm standing in the middle. After adjusting the proximal straps at the distal end of the proximal phalanx, the PIP joint is flexed and the remaining two distal straps are wrapped tightly around the proximal part of the middle phalanx.”

These instructions aren’t very clear unless you have taken anatomy or a medical terminology class, so here are my instructions:

  1. The article calls for 1.5 cm wide tape, which isn’t a standard size of tape, so 1″ or 1.5 ” (split in half) can be used.
  2. Unless you plan on having a ruler with you every time you tape take the time to find a reference for 10 cm on your body. The tip of my thumb down to my palm is about 10 cm. 
  3. Isolate the injured finger as much as possible to help with tape application.
  4. Lay the piece of tape across your finger, so your finger divides the tape 1/4 and 3/4.
  5. Cut the tape towards your finger.
  6. Starting with the pieces closest to your body, wrap the tape around your finger.
  7. Slightly flex the injured finger.
  8. Wrap the rest of the tape around your finger.

**If you squeeze the end of your finger and it doesn’t fill back up with blood the tape is too tight and you will need to redo the tape job**

The authors mentioned that they “did not test the effect of a prolonged use of the tape as would occur during climbing a route or a larger boulder. Although tape is made of a rather stiff material, it will nevertheless stretch during a prolonged use and thus have less effect than what [they] measured immediately after having applied the tape. [They] therefore recommend renewing the tape after every route in order to have an optimal support of pulley system during the climb.”  I haven’t suffered any finger injuries lately, so I haven’t used the H-Tape for a prolonged duration. If you try out this tape method please leave a comment so we can all learn how well and for how long the H-tape works.

GlucoChondro, A No Show?

Here is a copy of a paper I wrote for my Sports Nutrition class last semester regarding Glucosamine and Chondroitin supplementation. A week or so after I turned in the paper I came across this web page, which provides the research that the NCCAM has found on the effectiveness of GlucoChondro.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have been a popular choice for athletes to relieve their joint pain and other symptoms of osteoarthritis. These drugs are great for providing relief for short periods of time, but have some negative effects that can delay injury recovery if taken long-term. (4) One alternative to NSAIDs that has been suggested in the last decade is glucosamine/chondroitin supplementation. It is believed that glucosamine helps in the formation of cartilage as well as its repair.  Chondroitin has a similar function and helps with the elasticity of cartilage. Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are chemicals that are naturally produced by the body.  Because their production isn’t dependent on the individual’s diet, it is suggested that supplementation will either increase cartilage growth or decrease its breakdown. (5)  Rock climbers are known for the strain they put on their bodies, especially their joints.  Taking a glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplement is strongly encouraged within the climbing community (6,7) to prevent osteoarthritis though the research regarding the effectiveness of such supplementation is conflicting to say the least.

The usual dose for glucosamine and chondroitin is 1500 mg/d and 1200 mg/d respectively. (1,5) The larger doses are due to the fact that the supplement’s bioavailability is only 12 to 21%.  Glucosamine/chondroitin supplementation is relatively safe due to a small number of adverse effects. As a supplement, glucosamine is derived from the exoskeleton of shellfish like shrimp, lobsters, and crabs and can causes allergic reactions in individuals who have seafood allergies. Chondroitin can have a blood-thinning effect and should be avoided by individuals taking blood-thinning medication. Other adverse effects that have been reported are nausea, abdominal pain, headaches, and back pain. (1)

Most of the positive evidence regarding glucosamine/chondroitin supplementation has been obtained from experiments involving animals. Though these studies do not directly related to human patients they do provide information that would be difficult or unethical to obtain from human subjects. One study involving cows used the cartilage and ligament cells surrounding the metacarpals joints as cultures and concluded that glucosamine/chondroitin not only stimulates cartilage growth but ligament growth as well. (4) Another study conducted on rabbits suggests that glucosamine/chondroitin supplementation cannot improve already healthy joints. (2)

A study comparing a mineral supplement, Aquamin, a glucosamine/chondroitin supplement, and a combination of the two in their ability to relieve osteoarthritis pain happened upon some shocking results. This study tested the functional capacity of subjects with moderate to severe osteoarthritis in their knees. Aquamin is a supplement derived from seaweed that contains minerals such as calcium, magnesium, salt, and other trace minerals. The subjects were tested by walking as far as they could until their pain was too much. The distance they could walk was measured several times during the 12 week study.  The study found that Aquamin provided the greatest amount of relief and allowed for the greatest distance of walking, followed by glucosamine and chondroitin, the placebo, and the combination of the two supplements. (8) The performance of the combination treatment suggests the ingredients of the two supplements must be counteractive in one-way or another. This topic would be very interesting to study.  The results of the study should be viewed with caution because Marigot Ltd, the manufacturer of Aquamin, paid for the study.

The clinical practice guideline approved by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons is based on a review of published studies regarding osteoarthritis in the knee. The purpose of the review is to compile a list of recommendations of non-invasive treatments for osteoarthritis. One of these recommendations is to refrain from prescribing glucosamine and chondroitin to patients. This recommendation is based on another review of studies that concludes that glucosamine/chondroitin supplementation doesn’t provide any clinical benefits to the patient but is superior compared to a placebo. Unfortunately, the guidelines do not define clinical importance or specify what clinical benefits are. Though the guidelines do not suggest glucosamine/chondroitin supplementation they do suggest the prescribing on NSAIDs as well as acetaminophen despite the long-term implications. (3)

With this review of the research literature it would be suggested that glucosamine/chondroitin supplementation should only be recommended as a last resort treatment for osteoarthritis.  Supplementation hasn’t been shown to prevent joint injuries or the onset of osteoarthritis so it should only be tried by those that have already suffered injury. Also supplementation should be considered if the duration of injury recovery is longer than the suggested duration of NSAID use to avoid longer delays in recovery. Because research suggests that improvements due to glucosamine/chondroitin supplementation take 6 to 8 weeks to show (1); supplementation should stop after 8 weeks if improvements aren’t noticed.

References

1.     Leburn, CM. GLUCOSAMINE (and Chondroitin). American Journal of Medicine and Sports. 2004 May/June

2.     Bradley-Popovich, G. Sports Injury Management: Do Diet and Supplementation Play a Role?. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 2004 October

3.     Richmond, J; Hunter, D; Irrgang, J; Jones, M; et al. Treatment of Osteoarthritis of the Knee (Nonarthroplasty). Journal of American Orthopedic Surgeons. 2009 September

4.     Lippiello, L. Collagen Synthesis in Tenocytes, Ligament Cells and Chondrocytes Exposed to a Combination of Glucosamine HCl and Chondroitin Sulfate. Advance Access Publication. 2006 December

5.     Dunford, M. Sports Nutrition. American Dietetic Association. 2006

6.     Horst, E. Training for Climbing. Falcon Guide Publishing. 2008

7.     Rosenberg, Thomas. To Supplement or Not To Supplement? Climbing.com

8.     Frestedt, J; Walsh, M; Kuskowski, M; Zenk, J. A natural mineral supplement provides relief from knee osteoarthritis symptoms: a randomized controlled pilot trial. Nutrition Journal. 2008 February