Guidance on Hypertrophy Stage for young athlete

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  • #43712
    Joseph Dale

    Would someone be able to give me some guidance on what exercises to incorporate into a hypertrophy training phase to build upper body muscle?

    I’m pretty sure I am part of the group that UA talk about who are new to training & young to need to build muscle mass as I simply don’t have enough muscle fibres to convert into long term strength. For example, I can’t do a single pullup, but I am new to training (I’m 21, 6ft2 and 75kg slim).

    Guidance on the frequency of training and how to know when to stop and begin a standard strength training routine would be great too! For context, I’m looking to train for climbing right now with Alpinism as a longer-term goal.


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    Anonymous on #43721


    Thanks for writing in with your question. I’d recommend focusing on gaining STRENGTH and not muscle mass. A max strength based approach should see you able to improve your pull ups. A mass gaining approach is less likely to do that. Adding mass will mean that you have a heavier body to pull up to the bar. So you will have to gain more strength than you add in mass.

    Look at the best rock climbers who have very high levels of pulling strength and they are all quite lightly muscled and lean. Contrast that with an NFL lineman who have lots of mass and many can’t do a pull either.

    Getting past the first pull up is the hardest part. The way we usually help folks with that is by having them get on a stool to get their chin above the bar as a starting position. Step off the stool and hold this top position for a count of 3 if you can and then slowly lower to a count of 5. Repeat this 4-6 times with a one minute rest between each rep. Do this 2x/week. Time under tension is a great strength stimulus. You may gain some muscle mass in the process but that will be a side effect of the strength.


    Joseph Dale on #43722

    Makes sense! Thanks Scott.

    David Thompson on #43749

    Joseph, the most functional types of hypertrophy come from gains in mass as a result of doing your chosen activity. This is to say that you will gain muscle simply by climbing, and doing climbing-related strength work: Pull ups; Rows; Hang boarding; etc. If however, you sought to gain muscle by doing traditional bodybuilding tactics, the gains in muscle mass would not appreciably transfer over to making you a better climber, and would likely hinder you for the reasons that Scott mentioned.

    I you can’t do a pull up, then band-assisted pull ups are also an option.

    In terms of the aforementioned exercises (Pull ups; Rows; Hang board) 2-3 days a week, spread apart so you can have 48-72 hours rest in-between sessions is a good place to start.

    Conclude the strength session when your form begins to break down, or you start to feel noticeably powered-down.

    Hope this helps.

    Joseph Dale on #43750

    Very helpful, thank you!

    Can I continue to climb while working on these exercises? If so, is it better to do them on days where I am climbing or days when I am not (climbing rest days).

    I also wonder with training core; is it better to do this on days I climb or climbing rest days?

    David Thompson on #43785

    Emphasize climbing, and climb as much as possible. You can do anything on any given day, but if you do any supplemental exercises on climbing days, you will want to do them after climbing.

    Joseph Dale on #43787

    To clarify – are you saying that it would be fine to do a core or pull up workout both on climbing days and climbing rest days? Noted that if they’re on climbing days it should be after climbing.

    For example if I was to climb Tues, Thurs, Sat; should the core and pull up workouts be done on those days, or on the rest days in between (mon, wed, Fri)?

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