Forearm Pump

Funny, I just checked Kevin’s blog, and he is writing about preparing for a climbing trip. I guess we’re in sync on that one. I have definitely started preparing, and this morning I feel the aftermath of a real good pump – fire in my forearms.

I agree with what he says about gym climbing. It does get old. It’s no more than exercise, a mere workout, a faint shadow of the King of Sports – Rock Climbing (that’s what I’ve heard John Long call it) is all about. But it serves this purpose well if you do it right, and as you grow and progress as a rock climber what you get out of going to the gym changes, and if you’re lucky it gets better.

I used to hit the local gyms at least twice a week to meet with others and have a good time climbing 35 feet of plastic holds. Sometimes we’d spend 3 hours at the gym. Climbing, resting, climbing, resting… it was all great fun. My arms got stronger fast and so did the bonds with fellow climbers. That, of course, was before parenthood. Nowadays, although I miss hanging out more with the climbing buddies, I just don’t have the time nor will to spend that kind of time when I could be enjoying the evening hours with my son and wife. So a new kind of climbing work-out has emerged.

I’ve been going to the gym almost every 2 days the past 2 weeks, and I never stay for more than 60 minutes. I try to get both a cardio and strength work-out at the same time. Though strength is a funny thing. I am never sure I’m getting much stronger past a  certain point. Rather, I get better at holding on when things start hurting, at forcing myself to climb and not let go. It’s not the kind of strength for pumping iron. Climbing is about lifting no more than body weight (in fact I saw an interesting book only bodyweight only workouts the other day I need to look at again). To keep your body weight in the air rally doesn’t take that much strength. Getting stronger for climbing is about the kind of resoluteness and endurance that makes you push the threshhold of pain and positive thinking, hanging from virtually non-holds and forcing yourself to let go and reach for the next non-hold. Basically it’s all in the head.

Yesterday, I climbed 10 5.8 laps on overhanging jugs with a couple of crimpy 5.10 laps in between. By the time I finished, I simply couldn’t pull the last moves off anymore. My arms were shot, completely wasted. I had climbed to the point of failure, and that, you read, is the best exercise for climbing endurace. For the kinds of climbing I enjoy and would like to get better at, that is a useful workout, not working a 5.11+ bouldering blitz move on boulder size slopers… climber talk, I know.


One Response to “Forearm Pump”

  1. 12 laps? That’s no workout. You need to try a 15×2 — 15 laps on the crack at Summit mixed in with 15 laps on face routes.

    I usually only do about 10 laps at TCU but try to keep the difficulty at 5.10 or higher. Climbing twice a week like that I don’t get any stronger but I can maintain my climbing fitness.

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