Monday, May 8, 2017

Posture Tips For Cyclists

Not the best title, I admit.

Maybe one day I can be the Bike Fit writer for Buzzfeed.

Let's accept the bad title in the hope more folks that need this will find it.

I see lots of advice on how cyclists can correct their posture. Terrible posture. So bad. I tried to find a picture of myself fresh off the bike but came up short. Below is the closest I could find.

Image result for gollum

I apologize for those who don't appreciate my sarcasm. I thought it was pretty good.

I think the importance of posture is pretty overblown. Take a quick look around the internet and you can quickly find any number of articles on "text neck" and other maladies of modern chairs and cell phones.

Why do I think it is overblown? Give this video a quick watch.

Fine, I will admit cycling isn't really ideal to cultivate textbook "perfect posture"...of course, if that was the goal we would all quit our sport and be security guards or something like that.

I think a variety of postures during the day are good and losing the strength or mobility to have options there is probably not a good option. The items I'll go over below are actually applicable to everyone, not just cyclists, which maybe means I AM writing Buzzfeed clickbait now.

Here we go. Posture Tips. I don't think these are in really any order because importance will depend on what YOU are missing.

1. Go for a walk - I really think 10,000 steps a day is a great goal. Get a dog. That will help. Maybe walk 30 minutes during your lunch break.

2. Stand up straight - Just like Mom told you. All the strength and mobility in the world is useless if you are creeping around like our friend Gollum above. Good posture should feel relaxed and easy. If you can snag a standing desk or one of the variable ones, go for it.

3. Stretch breaks - Build some short stretches into your day. Which ones? Lots of options and consistency goes a long way. How long to do them? Just do them. You'll figure it out.

4. Prioritize - Get some mobility work in early.

That's it. Nobody needs perfect posture but if you want to improve yours this should be a good start.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Foot Strength and Mobility. A Simple How To Guide

Between the PT clinic and fit studio, I see lots of feet. Some weird, some normal, most of them clean enough to let out in public.

I am writing this as I feel like lots of advice on foot function (meaning strength and flexibility) is overly complicated and ultimately aimed at selling something or proving how smart the dispenser of the advice is.

One thing I have learned is never assume anything about a client...TEST IT.

I had a fit client a few weeks ago who has had recurring calf issues for a couple years and asked me during a session if her feet might be weak or limited in some way. This gave me two options.

1. Go on a diatribe about the plight of modern footwear and how she needed to get back to nature and read three books on working the core muscles for her feet get the idea


Turns out strength and mobility were fine and we resolved the issue quickly after with a minor equipment tweak and some pedaling technique advice.

If you want a whole list of the maladies of wearing shoes, go elsewhere. There are plenty of sensational things written on this. I'm not doing it. I want to put forth a few things I have found easy to check for yourself at home.

The basic idea here is to test ALL OF THESE and work on whatever you suck at. Easy, right?

I am listing them in the order that I think makes the most sense. Importance of each will depend on your particular goals and athletic pursuits.





*With these many people will have feet that are not in perfect alignment due to individual variation. Don't roll an ankle or anything but perfection isn't super important either. Hold on to something with your hand for balance.

I think the above tests are the main things to focus on. 

If you are bad at one of them, well, I think working on that thing will help it!

Feet are stuck in shoes all day. It isn't a death sentence for them, but maybe not their perfect home either. 

Let's make the best of it, yeah?

Monday, April 24, 2017

Guest Post: Shake n Brake 2017 Race Report

Good writing from local rider Evan Koch below. Enjoy.


In April, we’re lucky enough to have two races in the Talladega National Forest – Southern Fried Ride’s Skyway Epic and Chain Buster Racing’s Shake n’ Brake. Both are beautiful races and are in different sections on the TNF (unless you’re an overachiever and did the Skyway 200, in which case you went through all of TNF). The park is beautiful and I really should spend more time there. I believe Eddie Freyer said they had 40 miles of multiuse trails close to the Warden Station where we started the race.
One thing to point out for those that don’t know me – I’m a race rider, not a race racer. I read someone else’s race report (I think it was from Oak Ass 2015) and thought it was a good distinction.
For this race, I took Revelate Design’s new Mag-Tank cockpit bag. Shoved some Gu, a set of tire levers, a pair of pliers, a spoke wrench, and two FiberFix spoke replacement kits in the Mag-Tank. This bag was a bit larger than the zippered bag I normally use and the magnetic enclosure worked really well. The magnet takes care of closing the bag when you’re done. This was my first race without a backpack - I’m trying to move away from my safety blanket of having tons of water and gear in my Osprey bag. In the back jersey pockets I stored a hand pump with some duct tape (to secure broken spokes) and a spare tube, and on the frame my Z cages had a multi-tool and another tube beneath the water bottles.
As usual, I started in the back of the pack. Since I’m not a competitor, I’d rather not have to fight it out in the starting lineup. I guess people learned from last year, because I didn’t see nearly as many people with flats in the northern loop. The views on the first 10 miles I think are some of the best in the race. Last year one of the CX riders had 2-3 flats in the first ten miles and ran out of tubes. I also came across two guys who were riding a tandem mountain bike and let them use my multi-tool to tighten up their handle bars.
Later on in the race I came across a rider from Gadsden Outfitters who was changing out a tube. I offered to let him use my tire levers, as he only had one, and my hand pump so he could save his CO2 cartridge for later. While replacing the tire, we discussed what an amazing athlete Randy Kerr, one of his team mates from Gadsden Outfitters, was. A few racers passed us as we chatted, and then the sweeper caught up to us. Turns out his spare tube also had a puncture, so I bid him farewell as he was loading his bike into the sweeper’s truck. I caught up to some of the people that passed me and finished out the race.

Knowing that the post-race food was from Moe’s BBQ and that not jiving with my diet, I packed four almond butter sandwiches in the car. The drive from the race to Heflin was 25 minutes, and those sandwiches were gone before I made it to I-20. Lesson learned – next year, make five or six. Definitely looking forward to next year’s race, might even do some real training between now and then.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Skyway Epic 2017

Firstly, I raced a few weeks ago at the 12 Hours of Iron Maiden and managed to slide into a 2nd Place spot behind Tim Winters from Georgia...then never wrote about it. I don't know why, really. It was fun, I rode well, and it stormed. All the makings of a great story. Ooops.

Brent Marshall's newly expanded (60,100, and 200 mile options) Skyway Epic was this past weekend. I initially signed up for the 100 and tried not to overthink how long my day would be with driving and whatnot. The week before, it really hit me and I dropped to the 60. In full disclosure, I also had an incredibly bad ride the Sunday before Skyway.

Started out dehydrated. Stayed that way. Still rode 5 hours like a complete idiot. Tingly hands. Hand cramps. Couldn't drive home and had to stop at our clinic to drink water for an hour with Melissa babysitting me. So yah, big confidence booster to go race. I considered just bailing totally but rode normally Tuesday so promised myself I would do the short distance and focus more on hydration than racing.

The real irony of my mishap was the carefully typed Fuel and Hydration Basics document I made about 2 weeks ago. Do as I say, not as I do?

The 100 and 200 mile folks started at 7AM and we pushed off at 9. Brent gave us warnings about directions, a downed tree, and jeeps. If Brent Marshall says something pre race...LISTEN. Everything was relevant.

I kept to my pacing promise (ride easy, eat, and drink) by starting near the back for the singletrack. This forced me to ride slower than I wanted but ended up in a good group with the SmithLock boys and Frank Davis leading the bunch. Spin, spin, spin. The singletrack at Lake Howard is twisty, kinda flat, and sooooo much fun. Our group absorbed Lennie Moon during the singletrack. He was ready to quit but took up our offer to "just go for a ride."

Soon enough, we were out on the rollers of Rocky Mountain Church Road. I started having problems here keeping up. I was way spun out on the downhills and barely able to keep up with the geared folks. The group was moving fast so I stuck it out until the first aid station at 19 miles. Kim Wynn was also in our group. She was quiet but riding really well. Focused. Great riding, Kim.

I left the aid station and saw a wobbly Jimmy Smith headed up the Bull's Gap climb. Hmmm. Chase? Or stay true to the plan? I kept him in eye sight and continued to ride really easy. Turns out Jimmy had crashed already and had a cramping incident. Not his greatest ride from what he said later. I really should have passed him headed out Skyway but left it alone. I was happy with my pace and felt good, so no sense ruining a good thing.

Brent's warning of traffic on the course was valid. I saw lots of Jeeps out and a couple 4Runners. Everyone was really friendly and made passing easy, which was cool. I saw the leaders coming back our way a couple miles before the turnaround, and calculated about a 35 minute gap, less than I was suspecting. I arrived at midway with Jimmy, then promptly wasted a bunch of time fretting over how many Oreos I wanted and trying to find a gel I thought I had. It wasn't just any gel, it was a Gu Roctane. I really wanted it but eventually gave up and headed back with Jimmy now totally out of sight. Not good.

The temps were up around 70 now and the sun was bright. I still felt good but walked steeper hills on the way back to save effort. I lost more time coming back in but the goal was get back home safe with no weird shit going on with my hydration. The day was super low humidity which means not much sweating. I watered the bushes a couple times during the race, which was a good sign. The downhills on the Skyway ridge were harder than normal. Like, NO good lines, just a mess of ruts and rocks. Ah, the thrill of the unknown. Great fun!

As usual, Rocky Mountain Church Road hurt me on the way back. Sunny, hot, steep. My climbing was harder than I wanted it to be, which I am currently blaming on some equipment. Weak excuse? Maybe. I'll write an article on which equipment it was soon and let you decide if I'm nuts!

Coming back into the closing singletrack I got super confused about course marking and spent a few minutes roaming around and looking over course directions. I was still not confident but lucked out with my decision. I was really happy to be back in the woods and upped my pace. I waited 57 miles to ride hard, so enjoyed the last few miles as my only time at race pace. I felt good about hydration and nutrition. No chance of catching Jimmy but I wanted to at least get some good efforts in. At some point I realized the 60 was more of a 67 mile race than a 60. Meh. Bonus miles might as well be trail miles, so I'm not complaining. Oh, and about that precious Gu Roctane? It was still in the middle of the trail with about 2 miles to go. Off the bike, Gu in my pocket, back on the bike. Nothing to see here. I popped out of the woods in 3rd behind Randy Kerr and Jimmy Smith. Both are great riders and I felt proud to stand on the dirt podium with them.

I felt pretty normal thanks to my restricted efforts and immediately guilty I didn't race the 100! I think racing the 60 was the right choice as I didn't want someone responsible for me way out in the Forest if I had a repeat of last week's hydration problems. I planned better at Skyway and it paid off. What a relief. My concern level before the race was way high. If Trans Iowa nerves are an 8, I was a solid 7 out of 10 before Skyway.

Brent and everyone involved killed it again. The day was overall awesome and the real story is the 200.

Brian Toone won in right under 17 hours with Eddie O'Dea a few hours later. I am in awe of everyone that finished that distance including Pete Foret... I credit his success to wearing longer socks, of course!

 It's funny, 200 miles on a mountain bike is just, a long way. To finish is a huge accomplishment. I've done it a few times and it only takes a few hours in normal life to think, "How the hell did I do that?"

That is what makes long dirt races so great. The fear of the unknown and the curiosity of what you can do if you try hard. Thanks for giving folks that opportunity, Brent.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Snake Creek Gap TT. February 2017.

After last month's snowy and shortened Snake Creek Gap Time Trial, I don't think I was alone in my hope for better weather for this weekend's Finale event. As I tend to do, I checked the weather all week leading up to race day. We lucked out big time and ended up with an overcast sky and 55 degree temperatures at a race famous for bad conditions. This also meant I would be able to do the full 50 mile distance I signed up for a few months ago.

Prayers were answered Friday afternoon when I finally got my favorite sweatpants back from Pete Foret. I had severely missed them the past 5 weeks as they migrated from Matt Ward's truck into Pete's possession, where they served a long purgatory in the back seat of his car. We opted to stay at the same Days Inn in Dalton, the only difference being I was succesful in my attempt to sweet talk my way into a ground floor room. I immediately felt at home when I saw the license plate on the Porsche sedan parked next to us..."ROLL T." They might have been selling low T supplements but I am still telling myself it was a Bama thing.

We found a better spot for dinner this time. By "We" I mean Jacob found it and told me where to go. Cherokee brewing and pizza was really good and I was delighted to watch a 220 pound man call Pete "Pet" a few times thanks to a careless computer input. Jamie and Lennie joined us also and we had a great dinner. I usually count on a shitty night of sleep before a race and continued my trend.

By some combination of super cheap blanket and my collection of bike clothes on the bed, said blanket managed to develop a static charge of a magnitude I didn't think possible. I was sleeping poorly in the hot room but attempts to separate the Days Inn bedding delivered quite obvious sparks in the air. Nope. Nope. I'd rather be hot. 4 hours of sleep and we did about the same routine as last time. Self shuttle to the start is the way to go here if you have the bike rack situation to make it work easily.

There were lots of riders at the Dry Creek parking lot, which is the start for the 34 and 50 mile race. The line to the facilities was about 30 deep with the folks who had failed to make race weight back at the hotel. Oops. The forecast called for rain so I strapped a shell to my bike and wore a vest also, which I ended up not needing at all. Since the race is a TT, it starts with one rider every 30 seconds or so, but due to the volume of riders once in the singletrack it is pretty much a mass start scenario. The first 18 miles of the 50 sent us through the Dry Creek loops before starting the traditional Snake Creek Gap course.

The singletrack was very fast and quite loose in the corners with loose rock over hardpack. I am overdue for a new rear tire but have a supersition of changing nothing before race day. My mental comfort of keeping tradition was countered by the dramatic lack  of rear traction in the corners. Oh well, at least my fork was operable. With  Tyree's help, I was able to fix a Reba that really wanted to wallow mid travel and refused to fully extend. Turns out Rock Shox uses a Solo Air system that is really a hidden Dual Air. Inside the fork leg is an extra air valve that can return normal pressure if it goes wonky and leaked air between positive and negative chambers. This fix happened much later in the day Thursday than I was comfortable with but hey, fixed is fixed.

I used a heart rate strap but turned off any indicator I could see during the race. I strictly paced off perceived exertion but still rode too hard during the Dry Creek Loop. Pete started right behind me, so we rode together almost all of the first 33 miles. I was spun out during much of the first 2 hours of the race which turned out to be pretty exhausting. We caught Carey Lowery around maybe mile 12, who I figured was having a bad day or was much better at pacing than us. It turned out to be the latter, as I would discover soon enough.

Thomas Turner came by us on Dry Creek and I very suddenly understood what it takes to ride a 4:09 on the 50 mile. He chatted for a minute and was quickly completely out of sight. We got through the first 18 miles in 1:44...WAY faster than I expected or planned. I started getting tired around this point due to making passes on the trail. It takes extra energy but in the end I think is smarter than riding behind slower riders. The trail turned slower and more technical through here, which I was happy with. I rode a 34/22 gear on my Superfly, which was better suited to this type of riding. Pete got away from me here and I really thought he was gone for good. I got a bit down during this time, also soon I realized I was hot. Like, really hot. I shed my arm warmers and vest on one of my increasingly common hike a bike walks. This brought some renewed energy and I picked up the pace. 10 minutes or so and I was back with Pete. Around this time Carey came back around, looking smooth as can be. Suspicion confirmed...I started too fast.

I got around Pete on the Horn Mountain descent and started feeling more comfortable on the descents. I was riding better with each hour and feeling good. I was diligent about nutrition and water as the penalties are big in a race this long. I think of the Snake 50 as 3 17 mile races that get harder and harder as you go along. I was happy to see the Snake Creek Gap parking lot as this meant I knew the rest of the course! The prospect of riding the rockier parts  of the course without snow and ice was very motivating. I saw Jeff McCord in the parking lot, who quite simply looked like hell. I could tell he didn't feel right so wished him luck and headed up the steep Mill Creek climb. My legs started to come around here and I was able to ride almost the whole way up. I yo yoed with Rachel Millsop for much of the race and a couple other guys. I got away on descents and they caught me during the hike a bike sections. I felt good on the Swamp Creek descent and climb back up Hurricane Mountain.

I got a bit confused around this point and thought I only had 7 miles to go, which I was wrong about. Not by much but I was concerned at one point I was off course. Wishful thinking maybe? I really enjoyed the rock gardens through Snake Creek Gap this time. I rode all the first two rock gardens and almost all of the third one. This was a pleasant change from January, where I basically had a long ass hike with cleats so packed with ice  I coudn't clip in. I was very tired but my legs had hurt so much already by this point I was used to it and decided I wasn't going to cramp so kept pushing hard. Most of my body hurt at this point actually, but I expected that. It is a super rough course and if you ride the descents hard it beats you up. I kept thinking I had one mile to go and was wrong. This happened a few times and I couldnt figure out when I left Snake Creek Gap trailhead, which I had tried really hard to remember. I was fried and started to get irritated, but calmed down some after talking with a guy I was riding with. I put the mileage calculations out of my head and tried to focus on the trail.

The towers at the end of Dug Gap meant I only had to descend the road and I was done. The descent was really fun and fast, and much more pleasant in 55 degree temps compared to last month. I came over the line in 5:47 which was well under my 6 hour goal. I rode really well the last 17 miles and was pretty well trashed at the end.  So much so that I totally forgot the belt buckle for completing both races! It took a couple good meals for my brain to get back on track and I am still pretty tired today. I understand the appeal of this race now and it is one of my favorites. Incredibly hard but rewarding. Thanks to everyone that helped make this race happen, it is one of a kind and draws a great crowd of folks. I think I can do better now that I am familiar with the course and will be back for sure.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Snake Creek Gap TT #1. Snowblind.

So. Snake Creek Gap.

I have wanted to do this race for well, the entire time it has been a thing. Problem is, it is a thing that usually starts New Years weekend. Busy weekend for many, including me, so I usually just whine and moan about doing it "next year"...

Last year I realized it was a more attainable schedule with 2 races done in January and February with the first one the weekend AFTER New Years. Also included was the addition of a 50 mile option with an initial 17 miles of the  Dry Creek trails added in. I will admit, none of this means a damn thing until you have been there!

I committed to The Snake a few months ago...along with PMBAR...and the Cheaha Ultra. I have been accused of overdoing things before and it is just my way. Pick what you love and get to work. With Snake Creek on the horizon I got in a few good weeks of training. Lots of work on West Ridge and chatting with anyone who had raced Snake Creek before which is, well, pretty much all my riding friends. I have learned that nothing is for certain, and as they say...Shit Happens. The Shit in my case was a case of Strep 10 days prior the the January edition of Snake Creek. I will mention here this is not the reason I didn't win. I wouldn't have won if Brian Toone loaned me his legs for the weekend. Backstory is fine in the context of a backstory but once it becomes a Shoulda Woulda Coulda, everyone has their own. Sickness, bad is a rare thing to go race and everything go by The Plan.

10 days of no riding hurt me some but my main concern was the weather on Friday morning. I left work at 11 AM with my car and bike covered in ice. Once home, I was quickly joined by the Angel and Devil on each shoulder. Melissa was full of reason and good judgement, which I am always thankful for. Pete Foret sat on my left, brimming with confidence with his Subaru's AWD system. With too much pressure building in the house, it took a trip to Mr. Chen's to lock down a decision. Go to The Snake.

The drive up was pretty uneventful and I enjoy any chance to chat with Pete. Once in Dalton we quickly found out the 50 and 34 mile options would be doing only the last 17 miles of the course...which is nice in the fact it is the highest regarded portion of Snake Creek Gap but sucked because we came to ride 50. I was happy to see a beagle in the Snake Pit as well as plenty of friends from Birmingham, along with some new ones from other places.

Explaining Rule 5 

 Tony's Italian was the spot for dinner and I cannot help but mention I don't really know what carb loading is. People ask me about it all the damn time and I just don't know. I sign up. I go to the mountain town and go wherever everyone wants to eat and I eat. End of story. As I have said before, I am not a nutritional role model. Trying to sleep was a real treat. Pete is a champion snorer and the folks behind the wall were definitely not arranging gear for Snake Creek...

As predicted, it snowed overnight and we woke up to an ice covered Dalton with a "clear and bitterly cold" 5 degree windchill.

Snake Pit parking lot. 8 AM

 For those in the dark, Snake Creek is a point to point race, so you either depend on the race shuttles or make your own. We went the DIY route with Pete, Jeff, and Matt Ward driving us to Snake Creek Gap for the start. The drive was pretty icy and generally awful road conditions. The countryside was awesome to take in and I was pretty stoked to ride still. Our Plan was to warm up in the parking lot before the start but after 3 meandering laps I realized the stupidity of this "warmup" and checked in to start. We started out with a pretty decent climb where my hands immediately went numb with cold.

Well fuck. If they are this cold at 170 heart rate how could it improve?!

Turns out just fine and I was totally warm the rest of the race which ranged from actual air temp of 15 to 19 degrees F. Clothing list at the bottom of this post.

I passed a good many people up the first hill then saw Jeff McCord stopped. After a chat about his mechanical issues I grabbed some of my Nuun slushie and headed on. The entire bottle lid was already ice and I made a mental note to watch them closely so I could actually drink later. I set out at this point to simply go for a nice, snowy ride in the woods and not worry about Racing. My priority was to not do anything dumb and get done when I got done. This was thoroughly evident in the 13 minute addition in stopped time to my 2:25 moving time for the race....Oops.

The views were awesome and I was enjoying the trails, up and down. I hiked a ton but I expected to. The climbs are pretty steep and on a singlespeed you WILL hike a bunch. The first 7 miles I thought were quite easy but got tougher after the Sag station. I used a heart rate monitor and was rewarded with lots of blinky lights confirming the aerobic impact of my recent sickness. I had no idea what to expect from the course and the snow cover on the trails made the rocks tougher to see. Jackson and Frank both passed me around mile 10 and were looking very good.  The descents were steep and covered in either leaves or snow. I figured walking would be dangerous too so went ahead and rode. Heavy feet, light hands, hope for traction. Braking with heavy gloves on was pretty weird and I spent an hour or so trying to decide if my brakes were failing. Turn out, no, the only failure was my perception of them.

Once into the harder climbs of the course Stewart Miller caught me and we rode/ hiked together a bit. I rode, in retrospect, very conservatively, most of the race to pace for the unexpected. On top of the ridge I came to appreciate the full fury of The Snake. Very technical, very slick,  and I had never seen  any of it! I rode where I could but hiked a bunch. I had some real issues with cleats icing over which took lots of stick poking to remedy. I finally started to figure out the rocks some and ride more once I was alone. I messed up and rode behind a nervous and somewhat frustrated guy for too long but eventually scooted around. The scenery was amazing and I took plenty of  time to look around at the snow covered  valleys. While anticipating more rocks and elevation gain, I popped out onto  a very long road descent. For some reason, I looked over my bike before heading down and saw the rear through axle flipped open from one of many rock hits. I snugged it up and headed down the icy road to the finish. I felt a bit dumb as I realized I could have ridden a good bit harder until this point. Safety first, I guess.

I finished mid packish and had an awesome time. I am more excited for the full 50 with a better idea of the trails. Once finished I felt the cold for real in the Snake Pit trying to change into warm clothes.

After 15 minutes of thawing time

 Matt Ward popped up around this time with a wet belly, and some frosty looking track pants. We heckled him most of the way back to the start area to swap cars around. Good company makes a good race even better!

As I mentioned, I rode 2.5 hours in 5 to 10 degree windchill and didn't get cold much at  all. From the bottom up, what I wore:

Feet: Shimano MW81 winter boots with Hot Hands things in the tongue. Ice Breaker mid weight  socks.

Legs: Twin Six bibs with 12 year old Polartec ski tights.

Torso and arms: Defeet SS wool base. 626 aero jersey. Thick Defeeet wool arm wamers. Gore Phantom Windstopper jacket.

Gloves: Giro Merino base liner with Gore Thermo thick gloves over that.

Way up top: Rapha (I it) neck gaiter. Castelli Windstopper X hat.

The race was for sure a learning experience and aside from getting sick, I prepped for it pretty well. See everyone again Feb. 11!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Strength Foundations for Climbers by Markham Tuck

And now for something a little different.

Below is a guest post by my friend and rock climber, Markham Tuck. Although this is focused towards climbers, it has relevance to those in many other sports as well.


If there is one thing you can count on a climber for, it is being injured. If not currently climbing through an injury, you can damn well bet they have a laundry list of issues or a few scars for show and tell. By nature, climbers tend to be pretty intense & possibly a bit of a masochistic bunch. Once the climbing bug bites, psych for the sport is high & time dwindles so that there is not much else outside of climbing.

The same tenacity that leads to success can lead to problems over time.

One:  Climbing relies on the strength of connective tissue (tendons, ligaments, fascia, etc) in addition to muscle tissue. “Great!”, you say. Well, connective tissue has a limited blood supply compared to muscle or skin. What this amounts to is connective tissue adapts to load significantly slower than muscle tissue. Around ten times slower. “Shit!”, you say.

Two:  Climbing as a sport is on “the fringe” & relatively young. There is not a lot of training information out there & many climbers lack any formal training from other sports. Ultimately, the foundations of athleticism are highly under utilized.

I grew up playing all the typical American sports & even enjoyed some of them! I found climbing during my undergraduate studies. Needless to say, it has stuck & like most climbers, I have sustained a few injuries along the way. Fast forward to my doctorate studies where I learned to love weightlifting just about as much as climbing. I have consumed more literature than I care to recall on both of these disciplines. What I will review here is what I believe every climber should be doing to have a long & healthy climbing career.

  • “Do No Harm” - D.F.Y.U – see reference below

  • Go on a walk daily, take the stairs, & make a habit of the 5-minute flow – see reference below.

  • Practicing the specific without the general usually leads to short term gains followed by injuries. Sound familiar?

  • Spend your time wisely - 80% on your sport, 10% on strength, 10% on everything else.

  • Getting strong is easy, so do it the easiest way possible.

  • Your strength regimen should deliver great strength gains without exhausting your energy or time.

  • Aerobic conditioning has value for all types of athletes, but dose varies.

  • There is value in bilateral lifts, unilateral lifts, & bodyweight exercises.

  • For self trained athletes, some level of coaching has value. Don’t totally go it alone.

  • “A chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link.” Get screened & tested.

  • Be careful mixing up sport specificity and strength training. If you aren’t sure, do your sport & get stronger in the basic lifts/movements. Skip all the junk.  Do the basic human movements listed and go climb. Anything added to that, you should be more wary of.

  • Keep the goal, the goal.

  • Train barefoot when possible or as close as possible. (i.e. vans, converse, etc.)

If you have made it this far, you are probably wondering, “Now where the hell should I start?” Let’s go through this stepwise to ensure you leave with something actionable.

Logistics: Time & Equipment.
Okay, what do you have? This part I cannot answer for you. Take stock of what equipment & time you have available. You do not need much of either to develop & maintain a strength foundation. Remember, keep it simple. Ideally, access to a set of rings, barbell, dumbbells, &/or kettlebells would be great, but you can get away with little else outside of your bodyweight. If you are looking to purchase equipment of your own, nothing is superior to a couple kettlebells & a set of rings. They are cheap, portable, versatile, & compliment climbing well. Will you be training at home or in a gym? How many times a week will you go? 2 times a week is a good minimum and you can even do a 5 day a week program like Even Easier Strength.

This will go hand in hand with your time commitment. Remember how total training time should be allotted: 80% climbing & 20% for strength, mobility, & flexibility work. Let’s say you climb 3-4 times a week for a total of 6-8 hours. Roughly 5-6.5 hours should be spent dedicated to climbing & the rest should be spent on your strength, mobility, & flexibility work. For instance a gym session could be: you warm-up with strength, mobility, & flexibility work, climb, & then finish with strength, mobility, & flexibility work as well.
How Much:
  • A total of 10-30 reps of any movement broken into a few sets is fine. Don’t go to total failure on any set.
  • Do mobility work in between sets of strength exercises – bird dogs, stretching, joint circles, anything from the Groundwork category below.
  • Get the technique correct, THEN start adding weight or difficulty.
  • Remember, to perform your lifts AFTER climbing so that you don’t pattern poor climbing technique.

For more information on programming, consider the “Easier Strength” & “Even Easier Strength” from Dan John. These could be done year round & I am willing to argue this is all an athlete needs during their “on season.” During “off season”, focusing more time on strength gains may be beneficial, but that is outside the focus of this particular article.

Below you will find a list of the fundamental movements everyone should be training. A session should have a mix of ALL of these movements with proper technique. There is no need for isolation of body parts unless you are looking to compete in bodybuilding. If that is the case, then this article is not meant for you.

  • 1. Push – Push Ups, Bench Press, Kettlebell Shoulder Press.
  • 2. Pull – Batwings, Pull-ups, Chin-ups, Rows, IYT’s.
  • 3. Hinge – Bridges, Bulgarian Goat Bag Swings, Deadlift, Kettlebell Swings.
  • 4. Squat – Goblet Squats, Front/Back Squats, Split Squats, Pistol Squats, Lunges.
  • 5. Loaded Carry – Farmer Walk, Suitcase Carry, Waiter Carry, Sled Push/Pull.
  • 6. Groundwork – Bear Crawl, Crab Walk, Get Back Ups, Bird-Dogs.
  • 7. Core – Ab Wheel, L-Hangs/Sits, Windshield Wipers, Windmills.
  • 8. Climber specific – Forearm Antagonist Work & Shoulder Work.

***The majority of these exercises are able to be performed in some variation no matter the equipment you have access to & if done with proper technique, “core” will be worked in all movements. Using tension properly will transfer over to climbing. Climber’s should be doing forearm antagonist & shoulder work daily or at least before & after every climbing session. Climbers typically have pull covered, stick with IYT’s, especially on climbing days.

During a climber’s (or any type of athlete’s) “on season”, “Even Easier Strength” by Dan John is king. Find more on this type of training in Dan John & Pavel Tsatsouline’s book “Easy Strength” – see reference below.

Are you getting better or just tired?
  • Progression in climbing grades; Ease/Efficiency of movement.
  • Standing broad jump. Should jump body height. Landing measured at heels.
  • 30” dead hang to strict pull-up. Repeat. How many can you do?
  • “Know Thyself: A Climbing Self-Assessment” – Steve Maisch
  • Strength Standards

Strength standards to strive for – see Dan John’s article for progressions.
Push (Bench Press)
1.25x bodyweight
.75x bodyweight
Pull (Pull-Up)
bodyweight + 75%
bodyweight + 50%
Hinge (Deadlift)
2x bodyweight
1.5x bodyweight
Squat (Single Leg Squat)
5 reps at bodyweight
5 reps at bodyweight
Loaded Carry (Farmer Walk)
.5x bodyweight per hand
.5x bodyweight per hand
Strict Hanging Leg Raise
10 reps at 3 sec count
10 reps at 3 sec count
***Groundwork – you either do it, or you don’t. No standards to measure.

In closing, I want to touch on a few last items:
  • Remember that you don’t need to feel exhausted in order to gain strength. In fact, it is better to leave a little in the tank. Why exhaust yourself in the weight room when you really want to be performing while climbing?

  • Check your ego at the door. Is lifting heavy rewarding? Hell yes. Is lifting heavy with poor technique rewarding? Hell no. Poor technique with load ends with injury. The whole point of this is to prevent injury & perform well. Do not be afraid to regress or re-learn the basics. The best of the best know the basics better than anyone. “Move well, then move often.” - Gray Cook.
  • Remember to be intentional about what you are doing. I often see climbers performing antagonist movements with limp wrists, lazily flopping around weight. If you cannot execute technique, then back off the weight. Once again, check your ego. I can assure you, no one gives a shit how much weight you are using for wrist extensions.

  • Developing & maintaining a foundation of strength will aid with injury prevention & promote endless health benefits. Strong is healthy.

  • Climbers like to think climbing is such a unique sport, but we have a great deal to gain from looking at what has worked in other sports. Especially when it comes to foundations. When it comes to sport-specific strength training (i.e. finger strength) trust the experts who have excelled before you. I focus on foundations here since they are largely overlooked in the climbing community.

  • Keep a training journal. For yearly planning, write out goals, dates, & a general plan based on what has worked in the past & what has worked for others. Acknowledge times of year you cannot train much. Make checklists and follow them. Keep your brain free.

Countless discussions with John Karrasch have inspired me to put this down on paper. I owe him a great deal of thanks for contributing to this & for always engaging in a good conversation.

– Dr. Markham P. Tuck, PharmD

“Easy Strength” – Dan John & Pavel Tsatsouline

“Intervention: Course Corrections for the Athlete and Trainer” – Dan John

“3 Flexibility Exercises Everyone Should Do” – Max Shank

“D.F.Y.U.” – Andy Kirkpatrick

“Climb Strong: Strength: Foundational Training for Rock Climbing”  – Steve Bechtel

“Know Thyself: A Climbing Self-Assessment” – Steve Maisch

“Strength Standards” – Dan John

Videos for forearm antagonist work, shoulder work, & IYTs

Basic Movements and Mobility Work Guide from Dan John