30 March 2007

Off the Wall Exercises for Climbers – Review

Now most of us like our training for climbing to involve actual climbing. And not just for fun; specificity is the one of the core principles of physical training for sport. So weight training is usually off the list of priorities for most climbers. But not all of us can get climbing as often as we need to improve, but our jobs or schedules mean we have time to get to a gym or homemade training facility to make the most of what we can get. Lisa Wolfe’s book on strength exercises for climbers covers the range of exercises you can do away from climbing walls and crags. For those of you who only have access to a weights gym and know the areas or muscle groups you need to focus on, but not the exercises, then this book will be useful.

I was hoping for a bit more though. I expected to see a simple but thorough explanation of the pitfalls for climbers spending a large proportion of their overall training time using weights or basic strength exercises. The only discussion on this critical point is a passing comment in the introduction “Give off-the-wall training a try… What have you got to lose?” Quite a lot actually and the book fails to warn of issues such as the common loss of emphasis on good technique in many climbers for whom basic strength training gets addictive. Nothing on the pitfalls of developing large body mass on climbing specific strength-weight ratio either. No guidance for prioritising exercises for specific performance weaknesses. The book is a seemingly exhaustive list of exercises for all muscle groups of the body and not much more. The whole time you ask; “how do I choose which exercises are highest priority for me?”.

Readers will have to seek advice for which of the exercises to prioritise from other sources. This will keep coaches in business : ) The book is certainly useful as a reference is the training priorities for different circumstances are known, but the opportunity was there to make a book more complete for self coached climbers.