Reader Questions: System Boarding for Power.

Years ago, lying in the floor of my grandparents house, and reading an article about Alex Huber, I was taken aback by a seemingly audacious statement he made, "I have power to waste."  Really?

Interestingly enough, not long after, an article appeared, written by Huber, detailing an as of yet non-mainstream training device... the System Board.

Since then, the System Board has popped up in gyms and training fiends' homes all over the world, in nearly every incarnation imaginable.  But how the hell do you actually use it?  A reader, Matt, asked me a question I thought I might know the answer to. To be sure I did some research... and now I want a system board.

Matt writes:

Hi Kris. I love your blog. It got me re-psyched on training at a time when my motivation was waning. I'm a grad student who can only get outside (bouldering and climbing are nearby) about once a week. I have two fingerboards, a systems board, and a campus board in my basement that I have time to train on 4-5 times per week. My question is this: Do you have any thoughts on training power on the systems board or fingerboard? In my mind, these two tools seem more suited to training strength rather than power. I'm finding that when it comes time to train power, I'm spending a lot of time on the campus board. In the interest of preventing injury and adding a little variety to my sessions, I'd love some advice on how to use the systems board and/or fingerboard to train power.



Thanks Matt!  Glad I could help to reinvigorate you... we all need all the help we can get when motivation is getting low.  

You guys help me by leaving comments and letting me know how your training is coming, and I'm glad I can return the favor.

Now to get down to business.  I haven't used a system wall much, but I've always been intrigued.  Fingerboards I'm pretty familiar with, and I think you're right... they are best reserved for building finger strength.  When we at The Power Company speak of power... we're speaking of movement.  It doesn't have to be explosive movement, as most people see it.  It can be quite controlled.  If you don't understand... watch Angie Payne or Daniel Woods on real rock.  Pure, controlled power.

When Alex Huber and his training coach, Rudi Klausner, developed the system wall, they were making the astute observation that while campusing is a great way to build power... it shouldn't end in your forearms.  To apply that power to a rockclimbing situation, you have to understand how to harness it throughout your core, all the way into your toes. 

Isn't that what bouldering is for?  Well, yes, but the beauty of the system wall lies in both its symmetry and simplicity.  When in my local gym, I can often tell who set a problem by it's moves.  Some setters are always making hard bumps with the left hand, off a high left foot.  Some always set big right hand moves to a small crimp, or big left hand throws to a bad sloper.  Even when I set, I sometimes fall into my comfort zone.  With the system approach, all that is avoided, and it allows you to focus on specific holds, or more importantly, specific MOVES.

Here's where I think the general idea of a system board fails:  Most climbers, like Matt alludes to, are using it as a strength training device.  As they move up the board, their feet are doing the same things, over and over, generally on positive footholds and in the same positions.  The big variable is the hold type.  If you want to improve at pinches, you do laps on the pinches.  Crimps?  Laps on the crimps.  Etc, etc.

Most system walls, because of this usage, look something like this:

Recently, on Natasha Barnes' Facebook wall, I saw a system wall that I envied.  It was constructed how I believe I'd do it, if I had the time, money, and space.  This wall is at Planet Granite in Sunnyvale, CA, and is a wonder to behold.

Yes, you can change the angle.  Dope.  You'll notice that the middle is somewhat similiar to the widely accepted idea of a system wall.  But what the hell are the two outside edges for?  You can't reach all the way across the damn thing, can you?  Here's where the brilliance comes in.  You come up with a boulder problem on the left... with real moves, and also work on it's mirror image on the right.  Perfect.

Matt, I doubt you have this wall in your basement.  If you do, I'm coming over to train.  However, don't fret.  We'll just take what we've discovered, and apply it to your board.

Because the system board is made up of two symmetrical sides, you can easily create "problems" and their mirror images.  I'd suggest you start with movements that you know challenge you, or that you're unfamiliar with.  Make up moves of all types... explosive as well as static.  Basically... just boulder.   Then always be sure to work on it's twin.  This will reveal any chinks in your armor relating to movement as well as hold type.  If you have one really perfect sloper, and want to use it... bolt it onto the middle.  Then you can use it for each hand in your problem. To really train your power, be sure to have a few "projects" mixed in there... difficult moves that you try repeatedly, and hopefully eventually complete.

Another little gem that I stumbled across seems to have been devised by World Champion climbers Robyn Erbesfield and Didier Raboutou.  According to Neil Gresham, they wanted to eke out a little extra climbing specific core training during their power phases.  They began by screwing several small feet onto the system board.  Part of their workout consisted of doing hard moves using the small feet, then deliberately cutting feet after every move, and swinging them back onto the foot chips.  They continued these laps until they could no longer get their feet back on.

Matt, hope that helps.  Makes me wanna go set some mirror image boulder problems now.

Happy Systeming!

At Lee Smith's "The Lab".  I mean, how cool would this be??

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