Improving climbing strength to weight ratio

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  • #52839

    I’m a big guy – 6’2 250lbs. My peak fitness level was 6-8 years ago when I was training 20+ hrs a week and competing in long distance triathlons. I was never below 220lbs at the time. I still have a fairly sound aerobic base despite my size. More recently, I’ve been focusing most of my time on rock climbing and climbing specific strength training but can’t seem to build up adequate strength to complete even moderate routes (ie. 5.10+ range). I’m wondering if a shift in training to focus more on weight loss (with appropriate nutrition, of course) would be more beneficial than climbing specific strength training. Focus on the strength vs the weight or a little of both?

  • Participant
    David Thompson on #52878

    Hi Jay,

    For strength-to-weight based activities like climbing, the important factor for any individual is to try to find the optimal weight for their frame. To answer your question, certainly focus on both building strength and perhaps some weight loss. But that said, there is one other — and probably the most important — factor. That is applying your strength, for whatever weight you are, to the rock. And that is gained through continually learning and refining proper technique. My recommendation is to increase your volume in the 5.9 to 5.10- range predominantly, and then flirt with 5.10c or d on occasion. That will likely get you there the quickest. Hope this helps.

    russes011 on #52929


    Based on the information you provided, weight loss will significantly improve your ability to climb harder grades. As David astutely points out, just practicing to climb will also significantly improve your climbing.

    So to answer your question, doing both will likely get you there the quickest, and they are not mutually exclusive training goals.

    Diet, not exercise, determines weight loss. For a variety of reasons, adding exercise to diet doesn’t necessarily lead to more or less weight loss.

    I would suggest: 1. a caloric deficit diet high in protein to slowly reduce your weight while maintaining muscle, 2. no aerobic exercise, and 3. practice climbing 3-4days per week. Adding some basic finger training, like the programs found free on UA, would also be useful (due to your weight you may be at a higher risk of pulley ruptures). I would only ‘try hard’ in the gym like 25-33% of the days you climb, and just practice and have fun the other days–maybe incorporate some drills. Would shoot for a body fat ~12% as an initial goal, and not a specific weight per se. Many scales provide this metric, and it’s decently reliable, at least as a relative value over time.

    Of course, if you have the time, which I think you implied that you don’t in your original post, then adding some aerobic training would also be fine, but keep in mined its to develop aerobic fitness and not for weight loss per se.

    Best of luck.

    — Steve

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