Thursday, January 30, 2014

Engine Room Sneak Peak and Upcoming Reviews

The Engine Room is mostly complete, and the first few weeks of sessions indicate that it is exactly what we'd been missing.  I'm psyched to get stronger than ever this training season with the help of the tools we've added to our lineup.

What exactly were we missing?   Several things seemed to throw off not only our motivation, but the effectiveness of our training.  First off, our gym, Rockquest, does an amazing job in constantly switching up the boulder problems.  This would seem like a good thing, and in fact, is, for commercial reasons.  However, when a boulder problem is only up for 4 weeks, and every week a new wall is reset, it makes it impossible to have projects, particularly of the long term variety.  With grading in the gym such a taboo and subjective subject, it's nearly impossible to gauge progress on new problems every week.  Not a good setup for long term gain.  Also, as is common, our setters would fall into ruts, where the same move would show up on every hard problem in the gym.  Not to mention it would always be throwing with the right hand off of a high right foot, or a compression move so stretchy that only 5 people in the gym can reach it.  Add those factors to the fact that Taylor and I climb at the top level of our gyms setting, and it's definitely not conducive to long term gain.

Our solution:  The Engine Room.

A small bouldering wall and an adjustable angle system wall make up the meat of the room.  The bouldering wall has named holds, like I had seen on Todd Skinner's old woody in Lander, Wyoming (where many of the holds came from), so that a problem is set and remembered via an abstract poem of sorts.  We keep the poems recorded in a binder, sorted by suggested grade.  The hold arrangement will likely never change, and among the hundreds of possibilities on the wall will be long term projects from V2 to V12 and harder.
The system wall is the crown jewel in my opinion, and you'll be hearing much more about it.  Sponsored by Atomik Climbing Holds, I've set it up in a configuration that will allow endless problem variations and their mirror images.  This allows us to really zero in on weak grips and movements on both sides of our bodies.  You quickly learn which side is stronger, and can attack it.



Also in The Engine Room we've got the full selection of Atomik Bombs, gymnastic rings, pull up bars, suspension slings, and the Transgression hangboard from Eva Lopez.  Add in a full selection of weight plates and weight vests, and we have everything we need.

In coming months I'll be writing reviews for many of the products we're using in The Engine Room, as well as detailing the workouts that we're doing on the Atomik Bombs and the system wall.

I'm currently following the hangboard plan that Eva Lopez suggests when you purchase her Transgression board.  It fits right in with my ideas on strength, hypertrophy, and power, and I'm excited to see how it goes.  So far, I'm a fan of the board.  While I'd heard initially that the edges were too sharp, Eva has released an updated, lighter version that is very comfortable to use.  I've worked up to hanging with nearly 100 lbs. on an 18 mm edge, and my skin is still just fine.  Be on the lookout for this review!





After the Atomik Bomb review, I was eager to check out more of what Atomik has to offer, and so I pitched the idea of reviewing a few of the holds from their extensive system line.  They generously provided enough holds for me to set the entire board, and thus far, I'm impressed.  As the system board is now the cornerstone of my training, I'll be spending more than enough time on it to give you an idea of exactly how these holds perform.  I'll tell you which holds I chose, why, and how they've worked out.






As our bouldering wall was being set (and still is... we're gonna cover it in holds), we began to pay particular attention to which holds were the friendliest, the most realistic, and the best for training, particularly when setting hard boulder problems.  I'll be reviewing several sets of holds, including the "Meatlets" from Teknik, the "2 Tex Pure Crimps" from Egrips, and from Vision Climbing, the "Acid Rain Pinches" and the "Bumper Pads".

Last but not least, I'll be posting more about how I schedule my High/Low sessions, and what kinds of workouts those sessions include.  It's about to get busy around here.

The Power Company.  We Build Machines.

22 comments:

  1. This. Is. Sick. Very psyched for future posts!

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  2. Nice to hear the Transgression Board got updated!

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    1. Galina, I haven't compared it to one of the originals, but a friend who has an original said that it's a major difference. Much friendlier edges. I plan to check his out before I write the review, as I'd heard so many complaints about the sharp edges.

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  3. Looks great!
    I'm also going to build a system wall. I see you use "rungs" as footholds. Are you satisfied with this approach? What are the depth of the "rungs" you use?
    How do you adjust the angle of the wall?

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    1. I think that the rungs are the way to go. They're harder to stay on, which is a positive. I have alternating 3/4" and 1/2" rungs I believe. The angle is adjusted by chains at the top that are connected to the C-channel steel beams above. 4 strap hinges are on the bottom where it connects to the kickboard.

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    2. Scratch that... 3 strap hinges.

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  4. I just discovered your blog, Kris, I'm really enjoying it.

    Mark

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    1. Thanks Mark, I appreciate that. You've been an inspiration from Day 1. My partner and I were always Skinner and Piana, Kauk and Bachar, or Hudon and Jones. Thanks for the motivation to keep at it. Hope you find something in here to repay some of that!

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  5. Thanks. The best part, I've found, is that what you give out to people always comes back somehow, in some shape, form or manner.

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  6. May be too much to ask and but I'd love to see some footage of you guys on the system board.

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    1. Not too much at all. It's in the works, actually.

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  7. Great stuff as usual, Kris! I'm particularly looking forward to more info on how a high/low hangboard session is set up. I'll likely try the high/low next cycle because I primarily boulder.

    May I ask where you ordered your Transgression hangboard from? I have read that it is not unusual for these boards to break during shipping, this has put me off trying to locate one of these boards. Do you know if this problem has been addressed? Cheers! -T

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    1. I believe you can get them here: http://www.jmclimbing.com/index.php/en/products/16-content/69-training-boards

      The new board that I have is made of plastic with a light texture on the edges, so it's far lighter and less sharp than the original, poured version. You'd be hard pressed to break this on during shipping.

      I'll be checking with Eva for more details soon.

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    2. Hey Kris. Loving the blog and the wealth of information included. I have always been torn between doing repeaters or single hangs. Ever since I started getting serious about my training, I’ve been doing repeaters, but I think I may try to give a phase of single hangs a try. Hopefully you can help shed some light on my questions below

      1.) Repeaters or single hangs? The duration and volume of hangs while doing repeaters has always seemed borderline strength endurance to me rather than hypertrophy as many call it. In your experience, which have you seen more strength gains from? Generally during a Repeaters phase, I can progressively add 5lbs between each or every other workout, starting to plateau once I hit around 35lbs added total. Everyone is different, but do you notice similar gains when doing single hangs following the Eva Lopez protocol?

      2.) During a repeaters workout, I’ll train 4 different grip trypes (Open hand, half crimp, 3 finger open, and full crimp). From what I’ve found online, it seems like the Eva Lopez protocol calls for only one grip type, open hand or half crimp. Is that correct? If so, I would feel that from a specificity standpoint, neglecting other hand positions would cause you to only gain strength for the hand position being worked. Maybe you’ve noticed translation between the positions though?

      Thanks for keeping up such an invaluable tool!

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    3. I've never really been a fan of repeaters. My very first cycle of hangboarding was in a repeater fashion, and that cycle showed by far the biggest gains, but largely because I had never really trained my fingers. I'd spent the majority of my climbing time on cracks, rather than holding small grips. After that initial cycle, repeaters never gave me much. I struggled with going fully into what I would consider a real strength workout until Eva's research verified that it did indeed work. Now that I'm in my first cycle of her workouts, I feel like I've gotten a steady increase in my finger strength. Time will tell the full story I suppose. Like your experience with repeaters, I've made gains nearly every session.

      I train with only open hand and half crimp, mostly half crimp. I personally don't train crimping because my fingers don't like it. I use it when I must, but nearly always climb in an open hand or a half crimp. If I'd have started training my tendons for climbing before I was 30-something, then maybe I would crimp more. That said, I do feel that there's been some translation, but as I don't climb fully crimped very often, I couldn't even begin to say how much.

      Hope that helps!

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  8. Hey Kris, how do you think the Transgression board compares to other boards you have used and/or your home made board out of wood?

    I'm currently debating between the new Trango Rock Prodigy board, making a new board out of oak and getting the Transgression. I'm not rich, so it would only be one of the 3. Just trying to research which one would be most useful.

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    1. I haven't tried the Rock Prodigy board, so I can't compare that one, but it looks interesting. I suppose it depends on where you are in your training, and how you prefer to train. The Transgression allows a very systematic approach and measurability, far more so than any other. The wooden board is still my favorite, and adding or changing rungs is easy and cheap if you need to. It looks great, costs very little, and is great on the skin.

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  9. Hey Kris,

    And greetings from Finland! I've been a guest of your site for a little over a year now and have found your posts and reflections on climbing and getting stronger extremely informative and useful. In fact, combining your insights with Dave McLeod's work has seen me push through my first plateau as well as re-find my psyche for climbing and training.

    I'm writing to you - as many are right now - to ask you a couple of questions about your High/Low approach to training. First of all a little background:

    My climbing consists pretty much exclusively of bouldering. I am also what you might call an enthusiastic novice, who started climbing with pretty poor athletic standards. A year ago I decided that plateauing at occasional (and very particular kinds of) V5s just was not doing it for me and something had to change. As such I started looking into your articles on planning and training and went through a cycle of changing it up, worked my weaknesses, focused on strength, power and power endurance in 3 week cycles with rests and saw myself much more comfortable on a whole range of problems, knocking on harder grades, and generally feeling stronger. Great!

    However, in the latest cycle from last fall something odd happened. My power-endurance phase in December didn't add anything to my strength or performance. In fact it did the opposite through a combination of being just simply wrecked to the point of having to rest for almost a week, as well as loosing some of the finger strength gains I had registered in November. This lead me to your High/Low approach, which I've been trying to follow now from the start of January 2014.

    Initially, the High/Low approach felt ace! On the High days (that I've been doing thrice a week wed, fri, sun) I've been trying really hard and making significant gains specifically on projects that revolved around 3-5 moves on the smallest of holds on steep walls. On low-days (mon, thurs) I found it nice just moving through the low grades and focusing on foot placements and technique (putting to practice some of the many drills that Dave McLeod talks of). However, after three weeks I noticed something odd: while my fingers were getting stronger, and I was able to campus higher (in single moves) than ever before, I was starting to lose strength in my core understood as pretty much everything between my shoulders and knees. Especially 'iron-crossy' moves have started feeling more difficult than before, and I've also noted that I'm sagging in at times clumsy ways. This (finally) leads me to my questions:

    1. How should I figure in core-workouts into the High/Low approach and what should they look like? I assume the idea is very similar to the high-approach in bouldering of intense efforts at maximum effort, or do you think that these muscle-slings ought to be subjected to more 'building'-type workouts?

    2. Does what I'm experiencing sound like over-training and under-resting? Should I be jacking the High-to-Low ration the other way and focusing core-work on the low days?

    Sorry for the long post Kris and thanks again for your thoughts and openness when it comes to our sport.

    All the best,

    Paavo

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    1. Psyched for you Paavo! Stories like yours keep me motivated, so thanks! It does indeed sound like that PE phase was a case of overtraining with not enough rest. The current issue sounds like a simple case of neglecting your core. Easy to do with so many other things to think about!
      As far as your current High/Low workouts and where to put core, I still do core workouts on my high days. During my strength phase I do heavier core (levers with ankle weights, leg lifts with resistance, etc.) closer to a maximum effort type exercise (for core I stay around 8-10 reps max) and in my power phase I use only bodyweight and do many more reps. The core is shockingly easy to maintain, particularly when you're spending quite a bit of time on steep walls, so it wouldn't take much to keep you on track, or to even gain strength. 10-15 minutes or so of intense core after a high session will likely be plenty.

      I don't know that my method is the best out there... but it seems to work for me. Hope it helps.

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    2. Thanks so much for your super-quick reply!

      Your reply pretty much confirms what I thought as well. Makes perfect sense.

      On a related note - one thing I've found about the bouldering, exercises and what not I've been trying on High days (taking to heart your description of what 95%+ should feel like) is that it is a very good - but tough - mental exercise as well. I'm constantly amazed at the difference that can be mustered through focus, determination and will power. Its a kind of a kinesthetic learning experience which is very familiar from skateboarding where you don't only think about your upcoming trick, but you actually 'feel' it before hand and 'know' whether or not you're going to make it just seconds before actually doing it.

      And as with everything, of course there is no 'one best method' out there just as there aren't two identical human beings. The reason your articles strikes a chord however is the openness about what you do and for what reasons. A very refreshing - and honest - approach in comparison to the numerous 'magic-bullet' schemes out there, that more often than not just come across as the training equivalent of a ponzi scheme.

      Looking forward to reading your upcoming pieces. In the mean time, all the best with the machine building.

      Paavo

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    3. Thanks Paavo. As a former avid skater myself, I love your analogy. I hadn't thought of it in quite that light, but it's perfect. I'm sure I can find a way to relate that same thought to all of my "machines"!

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