7 September 2006

Review - Performance Rock Climbing

In the coming months I’ll be reviewing the books out there that cover all aspects of training for climbing. Most climbers I know have at least one book on training or climbing technique on their shelf. There is a massive difference in standard from the best to the worst book out there. And finding a book that you can connect with and re willing to refer back to can make a crucial difference to your training motivation and success. I’m going to kick off with Dale Goddard & Udo Neumann’s 1993 book, Performance Rock Climbing. It was the first book I ever bought on the subject (circa 1996) and the most used looking book on my bookshelf. The picture link with each of my reviews takes you to Amazon where you might find more reviews and can even buy it!

Isn’t it true that sometime the old school is always best! Performance Rock Climbing was one of the first serious efforts at a comprehensive guide to getting good and staying good at rock climbing. It came out in 1993, which seemed like an exciting time with new things being discovered and applied all the time about training for climbing – campus boards, periodisation, more structured mental preparation and of course the explosion in climbing walls. Not a great deal has changed since then in the fundamentals of training practice among climbers at large, so the book hardly seems out of date 13 years on.

The authors devote a fair bit of space in the first third of the book to trying to help you understand the activity of climbing, from a technical, physical and mental point of view an how they influence each other. Chapter 1 – ‘The Weakest link Principle’ was definitely a good place to start. I’ve heard other users of the book bemoan the extended explanations here, but like most advice that is repeated over and over, it really is worth going through. Without the theoretical knowledge, planning your training activities becomes a hit and miss gamble that you make the right choices. More often than not, you will choose activities that suit your likes and habits, and what you are good at. But training is about stepping outside your comfort zone.

Parts of the sections on the nitty gritty of physical training are dated and their legacy is evident in several schedules I still see being followed. For instance we now understand better that muscle hypertrophy is very slow to appear after strength training, and the neural changes happen rapidly in the initial weeks – not the other way round! However, all the main elements are there and easy to follow. Their efforts at suggesting specific exercises to work on technique seem to depart a little from the principles of training, but they do highlight all the issues and their suggestions might work well for some. The sections on how general aerobic conditioning affects climbing performance are extremely useful and the writing is clear throughout. I particularly like the way the text is punctuated nicely into short titled essays which make quick referencing very easy. Summary: Clear, safe advice and easy to refer to. 4 out of 5. Oh and don’t be put off by the cover, it was 93…


Niall the Nipper said...

Yeah!! Performance Rock Climbing was my first book on training and I used to read at least one chapter every night when i first bought it. The technique sectionreally made it clear to me how important it is for all aspects of climbing and why it is usually a priority for most climbers rather than strength. Oh, and wasnt the cartoon chick a total fox?!

Adski said...

There's nothing like a healthy dose of Euro Fluoro on book covers and covering skinny sportclimbers' legs!

And as for the cartoon chick, I never understood what she saw in Bruno..

This book undoubtedly raised the bar

Lee said...

One of my Bibles. Even though I've read it cover to cover, I still leave it out and skim through it from time to time, and funnily enough, I brought it into work to read on the train today. A winner.