7 December 2007

Deciding about specificity

Alex just sent me an email:

“Obviously you'll get loads of questions so probably can't reply to most but both a question and article suggestion.. Specifity is often mentioned in talk about training, but so is working weaknesses. Obviously weaknesses are often the aspects we use least in our outdoor climbing, so how would you advise splitting time between each of these? Eg. I mainly climb onsight on long-ish single pitch trad (30-50m), and most of my goals are of this style. On bolts again I tend to prefer stamina-based routes rather than powerful bouldery ones or those focusing intensely on power endurance. My weaknesses, unsurprisingly, are doing hard moves and -to a lesser extent - power endurance, whilst I do well at hanging around on vert and slightly overhanging terain for a long time. During the summer I spent any training time focusing on bouldering, fingerboard sessions and power endurance to work these weaknesses safe in the knowledge that my aerobic stamina and capiliarisation were getting worked on my 3/4 days a week out climbing trad and sport. Having recently moved to Sheffield I've started bouldering a lot more, and have noticed getting stronger but losing stamina. Thinking about goals for next summer, they're still of the same style as before but I don't know how to divide my training up during the rainy winter: how much to keep focused on bouldering and power to put me in a position to do harder moves on routes, and how much to focus on the stamina I'll want for these pitches but which I know I'm naturally more adapted to. Any advice/info on how much training time should be focused on each? Clearly the answer will depend to how weak the weaknesses are, etc. but I find it confusing when some articles stress working weaknesses whilst others stress working specifically for the type of routes I'm aiming for (which play more to my strengths).. Alex”

My response:

If you look closer at the task of onsighting a long route you’ll see that it often is strength or anaerobic endurance that lets you down. Where do you fail on long routes? It’s either on the crux, or at the end of a long strength sapping pitch. No matter how long the route is, if you aren’t strong enough to get through the crux, you’ll not be getting to the top. Also, anaerobic endurance is what gets us through the hardest sections of routes or keeps us on when we misread the crux and end up hanging longer than planned on the smallest holds of the route.

The specificity rule is “what you do, you become”. If you never practice for cruxes and only practice for the long ploddy bits, the crux is going to be where you always fall off. The specificity rule and your weaknesses are not at odds. Long routes have cruxes, and ploddy bits unfortunately. You need to be moderately good at both. Separate them, and train them until you get to the stage where you fall off at the crux 50% of the time and the end of the long draining pitch 50% - then you have got the balance right.

For your periodisation – train the strength aspects year round because they take longest to gain and can’t be shortcut without injury. Endurance responds quickly so you can shirt focus more onto this closer to when you’ll need it for the big routes. If you want the detail exactly optimised for you without having to do the research yourself, you should get a training program!

No comments: