All posts by SSD

The Programming Holy Grail: Progression – Part (2) Work Capacity

Shuttle Sprint Repeats are one of MTI’s favorite modes of training work capacity for mountain and tactical athletes.

By Rob Shaul

Vern Gambetta, and his book, Athletic Development, opened my eyes to the concept and potential of progressing work capacity efforts.

First – what is “work capacity”?

MTI defines Work Capacity as “Extended bouts of cardiorespiratory and muscular stress at high, but submaximal levels.” In terms of duration, we program work capacity efforts to be 30 minutes or less. 

Greg Glassman and Crossfit popularized multi-modal, gym-based work capacity efforts, often combining a loaded lift, with a calisthenic exercise, and a run or similar.  These gym-based,  multi-modal, intense events combine Aerobic Base + Aerobic Power + Muscular Strength + Muscular Endurance – or the ability to perform at a high percentage of VO2 max, with a high percentage of muscular strength.

MTI’s work capacity efforts can include multi-modal gym-based efforts, but also single mode efforts like shuttle sprint repeats. Indeed, my favorite work capacity “mode” is sprinting and shuttle sprints. The longer I coach, the more simple my work capacity event design evolves.

Progression & Work Capacity

“Progression” applied to work capacity programming has the same goal as progression applied to strength programming – progressive overload – or continually increasing the intensity/difficulty of the effort over time, so the athlete “adapts” and in the process, improves his or her fitness.

Three simple ways to program work capacity progression are:

(1) Keep the Work the Same, and Decrease the Rest

(2) Keep the Rest the same, and increase the work

(3) Density efforts – which keep the overall interval the same, but simultaneously increase the work and decrease the rest

I’ll use 25m shuttles, and provide examples of how each of these work.

First – keeping the work the same, but decreasing the rest: 

Progression 1
8 Rounds
1 minute 25m Shuttles
Rest 40 Seconds

Progression 2
8 Rounds
1 minute 25m Shuttles
Rest 30 Seconds

Progression 3
8 Rounds
1 minute 25m Shuttles
Rest 20 Seconds

**Note the decrease in rest interval between rounds as we move from Progression 1 to 3

Second – Keeping the rest the same, but increasing the work

Progression 1
8 Rounds
8x 25m Shuttles
Rest 30 Seconds

Progression 2
8 Rounds
9x 25m Shuttles
Rest 30 Seconds

Progression 3
8 Rounds
10x 25m Shuttles
Rest 30 Seconds

**Note the increase in shuttles per round as we move from Progression 1 to 3

Third – Density Effort

Progression 1
8 Rounds
8x 25m Shuttles every 1:20

Progression 2
8 Rounds
9x 25m Shuttles every 1:20

Progression 3
8 Rounds
10x 25m Shuttles every 1:20

**Note the increase in shuttles per round as we move from Progression 1 to 3 … but because the interval is set for each progression at 1:20, the rest also decreases. In Progression 1, the athlete has 1:20 to complete 8x 25m shuttles. The faster he finishes, the more rest he gets before round 2 starts. In Progression 2, the athlete now has 1:20 to complete 9x 25m shuttles. Again, the faster he finishes, the more rest he gets before round 2 starts. It’s safe to assume this will take him longer to complete 9x 25m shuttles than it did to complete 8x 25m shuttles (Progression 1), so not only does he do more work in Progression 2, but he gets less rest between rounds. Density efforts are brutal!

Below are the same progressions using a multi-modal, gym-based work capacity event instead of 25m shuttles.

First – keeping the work the same, but decreasing the rest: 

Progression 1
8 Rounds
8x Hinge Lift @ 135/185#
10x Box Jumps @ 24″
Rest 30 Seconds

Progression 2
8 Rounds
8x Hinge Lift @ 135/185#
10x Box Jumps @ 24″
Rest 20 Seconds

Progression 3
8 Rounds
8x Hinge Lift @ 135/185#
10x Box Jumps @ 24″
Rest 10 Seconds

**Note the decrease in rest interval between rounds as we move from Progression 1 to 3

Second – Keeping the rest the same, but increasing the work

Progression 1
8 Rounds
8x Hinge Lift @ 135/185#
10x Box Jumps @ 24″
Rest 30 Seconds

Progression 2
8 Rounds
9x Hinge Lift @ 135/185#
11x Box Jumps @ 24″
Rest 30 Seconds

Progression 3
8 Rounds
10x Hinge Lift @ 135/185#
12x Box Jumps @ 24″
Rest 30 Seconds

**Note the increase in shuttles per round as we move from Progression 1 to 3

Third – Density Effort

Progression 1
8 Rounds, Every 2 Minutes ….
8x Hinge Lift @ 135/185#
10x Box Jumps @ 24″

Progression 2
8 Rounds, Every 2 Minutes ….
9x Hinge Lift @ 135/185#
11x Box Jumps @ 24″

Progression 3
8 Rounds, Every 2 Minutes ….
10x Hinge Lift @ 135/185#
12x Box Jumps @ 24″

**Note the increase in reps per round for both the hinge lift and box jumps as we move from Progression 1 to 3 … but because the interval is set for each progression at 2 minutes, the rest also decreases.

Careful Not To Progress More than One Element at a Time

One of the mistakes I sometimes make in designing work capacity progressions is progressing more than one element at a time. Most often, this means increasing the work and decreasing the rest at the same time.

Below is what this would look like from the multi-modal event above:

Progression 1
8 Rounds, Every 2 Minutes ….
8x Hinge Lift @ 135/185#
10x Box Jumps @ 24″

Progression 2
8 Rounds, Every 1:50 Minutes ….
9x Hinge Lift @ 135/185#
11x Box Jumps @ 24″

Progression 3
8 Rounds, Every 1:40 Minutes ….
10x Hinge Lift @ 135/185#
12x Box Jumps @ 24″

Note above how not only is the work increased each progression, but the density interval is also decreased?  Increasing the work while also decreasing the work interval – thus accelerating the decrease in rest – compounds the difficulty and the efforts quickly move beyond “progressive overload” to “impossible to complete.” As in all programming, simple is better and generally, most effective.

Nut Still To Crack – Work Capacity Progression Between Modes using Power

The examples above demonstrate how to easily deploy progression for the same work capacity event. What I haven’t figured out yet is how to progress work capacity efforts between events.

For example, in terms of basic work capacity fitness, how many 25m shuttles equal one round of 8x Hinge Lift @ 185# plus 10x Box Jumps @ 24″?

The want to do this comes from the unpredictable mission demands of the mountain and tactical athletes we work with.

For example, one of the work capacity modes we train mountain guides for is hard, short, rapid uphill efforts under load … think ski mountaineering guide bootpacking up 1,000 vertical feet with a 40 pound pack, in 30 minutes. This is something relatively predictable for a ski mountaineering guide.

However, let’s say on the ski down three of the ski guide’s clients were buried in an avalanche, and she had to rapidly fine, and dig out each client in 5 minutes. This is a full on, stressful, multi-modal sprint effort including sprinting through deep snow, and shoveling.

In a pre-season ski guide program I could possibly design specific gym-based work capacity efforts for each event, but what if the ski guide also had to carry one of the clients out? Or skin / sprint up to a nearby ridge to call for help?

At some point, I can’t predict and prepare the athlete for every possible scenario. This, having one standard measure of work capacity to program and progress would be very useful. So, instead of cutting rest periods for the same event, I could use multiple events, and progress using power. Progression 1 could be 200 Watts. Progression 2 could be 250 watts. Progression 3 could be 300 watts.

Rowers and cyclists use power now to progress endurance training to great effect, and recent smartphone applications and fitness monitors have begun to do the same for running.

But, for multi-modal events calculating power output is much more complicated. Take just one exercise – a power clean + push press at 135#. To calculate power not only would I need to know the weight of the barbell, but also the travel of the barbell and the speed of travel. The travel of the barbell would not be the same for each athlete – the barbell would travel farther for a taller athlete. So I would also have to know the athlete’s height, with arms outstretched.

This can also be complicated for events or exercises which don’t include equipment.  The power calculation for a simple down-back 50m shuttle, for example, must not only take into account the distance and time, but also the individual athlete’s bodyweight. If a heavy athlete and a light athlete complete the shuttle in the same time, the heavy athlete would have done more work.

On the plus side, this type of progression is by definition, personalized to the athlete. On the minus side, this can get really complicated, and almost impossible to program for any type of group training.

As you can see, I’m still working on this…

Comments/Feedback?
Email rob@mtntactical.com

 

 

 

Arete 12.13.18

Military / National Security

Mattis calls for help in ending war in Afghanistan: ‘40 years is enough’, The Hill
A Commanding Problem: Historical Insights for Military Organizational Reform, War on the Rocks
This Generation Of Military Servicemembers Has The Opportunity Of A Lifetime, Forbes
US Army Awards Barrett .50 Caliber Sniper Rifle Contract, Tactical Life
Artificial Intelligence: Forget The Terminator For Future Army: LTG Wesley, In Homeland Security
Questions Remain Over Pentagon’s Strategy to Pivot Towards a Large-Scale Conventional Conflict, Small Wars Journal

 

Homeland Security / First Responder / Wildland Fire

Europe’s Five Strategies for Coping with Migration Pressure, Rand Corp.
Portland to Hire Unarmed Officers, Officer.com
‘El Chapo’ Trial Gives Inside Look At His Rise To Power, In Homeland Security
Apple launches online store with discounts for veterans and those in the military, Stars & Stripes
Florida Sergeant Disciplined for Wearing Patch While Greeting Vice President at Airport, Officer.com
November Border Arrests Jump To Highest In Trump Presidency, In Homeland Security
How is the shooting accuracy at your agency?, Law Enforcement Today
Philly firefighters explain why mealtime is ‘secret sauce’ of firehouse, Fire Rescue 1
Machine learning masters the fingerprint to fool biometric systems, Homeland Security Newswire
Police job applications decrease at most U.S. departments, Police One
Atmospheric scientists find causes of firenado in deadly Carr Fire, Science Daily
Marijuana education or illegal drug-selling? Instagram’s not sure., Washington Post
San Antonio Police Department Announces First Female SWAT Team Member, LE Today

 

Mountain

Can GoPro Make Me an Influencer in Three Days?, Outside
Mikaela Shiffrin Just Cannot Be Stopped Right Now | Expands Season Lead, Wins First Ever Super-G, Unofficial Networks
The Toughest Ski Runs in North America – Part One [Presented by Liftopia], Unofficial Networks
Off Piste: Tragedy in the Alps, AAI
Skiers Stuck On Lift As Chairs Swing Nearly Inverted From High Winds, Unofficial Networks
54 Avalanches In 5 Days Across Colorado | Snowpack ‘Teetering On The Edge’, Unofficial Networks
The Best Trekking Poles, Outside
What Women Want In Skis – A round-table conversation with Elyse Saugstad, Jackie Paaso, and Keely Kelleher about the gear and the support for women in the ski industry, Powder
How To Be A Better Ice Climber, Outdoor Research
Alpine Skiing Meets Big Mountain Freeriding, Red Bull

Fitness / Nutrition / Health

The Flow State of Strength Training, Breaking Muscle
We have two ages and your health and diet determines one, study reveals, Body & Soul
9 Ways Weed Can Help (or Hurt) Athletic Performance, Muscle & Fitness
Third-time national recognition for professor who unlocks music’s power for gym-goers and goal-scorers, Brunel University News
The science behind the perfect breakfast, Sydney Morning Herald
The Sweat Science Holiday Book List, Outside
Fitness Boom Energizes Free Market, Newsmax
I spent years hating running, until I changed my routine — here’s how I learned to love it, Business Insider
Almost Half of U.S. Adults to Skip Flu Shot, WebMD
5 Habits That Annoy Your Spouse the Most, According to Science, Fatherly
Office workers who stand at their desk to lose weight only burn nine calories an hour more, Daily Mail
How Elite Athletes Respond to Extreme Heat, Outside

Interesting

10 cool facts about the Army astronaut at the International Space Station, Stars & Stripes
The CEO of one of America’s biggest homebuilders sounds the alarm on a ‘housing slowdown’ (TOB), Business Insider
Australia dispatch: Were Killings at an Australian Cliff a ‘Massacre’? And Who Gets to Decide?, NY Times
The Deadliest Snowstorm In History Dropped 26 Feet of Snow in 7 Days | 4,000 Killed, Unofficial Networks
A bit of a stretch… material that thickens as it’s pulled, Science Daily
The New Old Age: Older Americans Are Flocking to Medical Marijuana, NY Times
The 10 Best Science Books of 2018, Smithsonian
Largest continuous oil and gas resource potential ever, Science Daily
How Are Food Influencers Changing The Restaurant World?, Forbes
The best STEM toys you can buy for kids, Business Insider
Social media outpaces print newspapers in the U.S. as a news source, Pew
Liberals Like What Patagonia Has Been Doing Lately, Forbes
2018 was a rough year for many retailers. Here are the messiest stores we visited this year., Business Insider

The Programming Holy Grail: Progression Part (1) – Strength

By Rob Shaul

My first direct experience with the concept of “Progression” happened when I was a sophomore in High School – I was attending school in Rock Springs, Wyoming -a “big” school by Wyoming Standards, – big enough in 1984 or so to have a before-school strength and conditioning program.

I was way too small to play football, but liked to train, so I jumped in with the football team. The lifts I remember were the bench press and box squat – and we did a simple 5-3-1 percentage-based progression based on a 1RM.

My guess is the cycle length was 4-6 weeks, but I do remember my initial bench press 1RM was 95 pounds …. so light that there were two females who trained with us, and though I lifted more than them, I was placed with them as lifting partners for the next 6 weeks!

No matter, at the end of the cycle, my 1RM had increased to a respectable 135#! Other than the programming, now much coaching occurred during those sessions that I remember. It was the simple progression in the programming that made me stronger.

This idea of progression in programming is so simple and straight forward, you’d think every strength and conditioning coach, or even personal trainer, would deploy it – but that’s not the case. Now, when I look at other coaches’ programming I don’t pay any attention to the exercises – I only look for how the loading, work capacity, or endurance training is progressed. Most often, it isn’t – or, worse, the progression doesn’t make any sense.

I’ve tortured assistant coaches and interns with progression detail questions over the years, and today, as part of any coach or intern hiring process, I have the applicants design a programming cycle, and the first thing I look for his how he or she progressed the training.

None of MTI’s programming is “random” and if you’ve completed at least three weeks of any of our cycles, you’ve experienced some type of progression – either in the strength work, work capacity, endurance, or chassis integrity, and more likely, more than one.

It’s so key to our work now, that when I make a progression mistake, athletes call me on it. Multiple times I’ve made a typo, or simply made a mistake and received an email from an athlete completing the programming remotely, asking me if what they were reading was wrong.

Strength Progression and MTI

When I opened Mountain Athlete in 2007 (to later evolve into MTI), I began my strength programming using the Bigger Faster Stronger progression I’d seen in high school. Years and experience passed, and today, MTI has 8 separate strength progression methodologies in our programming tool box that I rotate through when designing training cycles.

The most effective of these deploy some type of initial repetition maximum – either a 1RM or a 3RM – and base the follow-on progressions on these loads.

Our “Rat 6” Strength Progression is one that deploys an initial 1RM effort, followed by a simple progression based on this loading. Each progression below is completed two times. For this example, let’s say the exercise we used was the Back Squat:

Progression 1:
5 Rounds
3x Back Squat @ 80% 1RM

Progression 2:
5 Rounds
3x Back Squat @ 85% 1RM

Progression 3:
5 Rounds
3x Back Squat @ 90% 1RM

Re-Test 1RM, and re-set the progression.

Notice above how in designing this progression we had two components to chose from to progress – (1)  the number of reps per round, and, (2) the loading. What I’ve learned the hard way over the years, is it’s generally best to progress just one element. So here, instead of progressing both the rep per round count, and the loading, I just progressed the loading.

An example from MTI’s programming where the reps, rather than loading, are progressed comes from most of our bodyweight strength programming – including all of our military and LE PFT training plans. Again, for most of these cycles I deploy an initial assessment, and then base the progression on that assessment.

For an example using push ups, let’s use an an initial assessment of max push ups in 2 minutes. Each of the  following progressions would be completed twice, before moving to the next progression:

Progression 1:
6 Rounds, every 75 seconds …
30% Max Rep Push Ups

Progression 2:
6 Rounds, every 75 seconds …
35% Max Rep Push Ups

Progression 3:
6 Rounds, every 75 seconds …
40% Max Rep Push Ups

Then re-test max rep push ups in 2 minutes and re-set the progression.

Perhaps the most brutal, and most effective, strength progression methodology we’ve developed over the years is our Big 24 progression. Like Rat 6, our Big 24 progression keeps the reps the same, and progresses loading, but instead of using a percentage-based progression, uses simple math.

Big 24’s progression is build upon a modified 3RM (3x Repetition Max – or the most weight you can lift for 3 reps). Each progression below is completed two-three times. Again for this example, let’s say the exercise we used was the Back Squat:

Progression 1:
5 Rounds
3x Back Squat @ 3RM Load minus 10 pounds

Progression 2:
5 Rounds
3x Back Squat @ 3RM Load minus 5 pounds

Progression 3:
5 Rounds
3x Back Squat @ 3RM Load

Re-Test 3RM, and re-set the progression.

So let’s say the athlete’s 3RM Back Squat was 225#. Below would be his loading for each progression:

Progression 1:
5 Rounds
3x Back Squat @ 215#

Progression 2:
5 Rounds
3x Back Squat @ 220#

Progression 3:
5 Rounds
3x Back Squat @ 225#

Max Effort Strength vs. Strength Endurance vs. Working Strength

The Rat 6 and Big 24 progressions from above are designed to build an athlete’s Max Effort strength – or the most he or she can lift for 1 repetition. In contrast, the push up example from above is designed to improve Strength Endurance.

Importantly, Max Effort strength is different than strength endurance, and programming specifically for one rarely improves performance in the other. For example, doing a Rat 6 progression for bench press likely won’t significantly improve your max push up in two minutes effort. Likewise, completing the push up progression above won’t significantly improve your bench press 1RM. For whatever reason, the two types of strength, and the fitness needed to improve each, are different.

Somewhere between Max Effort Strength and Strength Endurance is what I call “Working Strength.” I define “Working Strength” as the ability to lift a high percentage of your 1RM in any one exercise for multiple reps. The loading is too heavy, and generally, reps too few for this to be called “strength endurance.”

Working Strength is my youngest strength progression – I just developed it earlier this year, and ideally I would have a specific rep range defined for “Working Strength” – but I’m still working with this concept and fitness and haven’t one defined yet. Two of our cycles currently deploy Working Strength progression – SF45 Foxtrot and County Singer Tammy.

Unlike Rat 6 and Big 24, Working Strength Progression aims to increase the reps under the same load. Unlike Strength Endurance, however, the Working Strength Loading is heavier.

For example, let’s again use back squats, and have the athlete work up to a 5RM (5x Repetition Max – or the most weight you can lift for 5 reps). Each progression below is completed two-three times:

Progression 1:
5 Rounds
4x Back Squat @ 5RM Load

Progression 2:
5 Rounds
5x Back Squat @ 5RM Load

Progression 3:
5 Rounds
6x Back Squat @ 5RM Load

Re-Test 5RM and re-set the progression.

You may ask from above how come the first progression has the athlete completing just 4x Back Squats at the 5RM load – instead of 5. The reason is the athlete initially found his 5RM (5x Repetition Maximum) for just one set or round … not 5 rounds! He wouldn’t be able to complete 5 rounds of 5 reps at his initial 5RM load – hence the 4x reps for the first progression.

TLU Strength Progression is the Outlier

MTI’s “TLU” Strength Progression is one of my favorites, but also doesn’t follow a strict progression based on loading or reps. TLU strength sessions aim to train a total body, lower body and upper body strength exercise each training session, but modulate the intensity (loading) of each exercise between Heavy, Moderate and Light.

Strength Session 1, for example, the athlete would train a total body strength exercise with heavy loading, a lower body strength exercise with moderate loading, and an upper body strength exercise with light loading.

We dictate the loading for the Total Body exercise in this example via an initial 1RM effort, and percentage-based set/reps directly following.

We dictate the loading for the lower and upper body exercises in this example using reps per round, or total volume. The higher reps per round, the lower weight the athlete will be able to put on the barbell. Below is bare-bones example of a TLU Strength session:

Warm Up:

3 Rounds

  • Barbell Complex @ 45/65#
  • Instep Stretch

Training:

(1) Work Up to 1RM Power Clean + Push Press (Total Body Strength Exercise)

(2) 5 Rounds

  • 2x Power Clean + Push Press @ 85% 1RM (from your effort above)
  • Stretch

(3) 6 Rounds

  • 5x Front Squat (Lower Body Strength Exercise) – increase load each round until 5x is hard, but doable
  • Stretch

(4) 6 Rounds

  • 8x Bench Press (Upper Body Strength Exercise) – increase load each round until 8x is hard, but doable
  • Stretch

From above you’ll see the total reps completed (volume), minus the reps to get to 1RM, for the Power Clean + Push Press to be 5 Rounds x 2 Reps per round or 10x total reps – at a “heavy,” 85% 1RM load or intensity.

The volume for Part (3)’s Front Squats is 6 Rounds of 5 reps per round, or 30x total reps. By dictating the reps per set, we can manipulate the barbell loading or intensity of the effort, without needing to have him complete a 1RM effort. I’ve found over the years that a lower and upper body total volume of 30 reps, and 5 reps per round, results in “moderate” loading or intensity of around 70-80% of the athlete’s 1RM.

Think about it this way. If we were to dictate for Part (3), 6 Rounds of 2x Front Squat – increasing load each round until 2x was hard but doable, his final load for two reps would be much heavier than his final load doing 5 reps.

This principal holds true for part (4)’s, 6 Rounds of 8 reps per round of Bench Press – for a final total volume of 48 reps.

Our TLU design rotates which exercise type is heavy, moderate or light, each session. So for a LUT session, the lower body strength exercise would be heavy, upper body strength exercise moderate, and total body exercise light in terms of loading.

A UTL session would have upper body heavy, total body moderate and lower body light.

Overall, TLU Strength Progression is “loser” than progressions like Rat 6 and Big 24, which have strict progression rules, and accordingly, doesn’t achieve the same type of strength gains.

So why is TLU one of my favorites? For Hybrid Athletes – those with multiple fitness demands like tactical and mountain athletes, TLU design ensures that each strength day, the athlete trains strength for the full body. As well, because TLU progression isn’t quite as strict, the athlete doesn’t need to get out his or her calculator to determine the loading for each lift, each part of the session.

Finally, TLU strength sessions, with all their variety, are simply fun! They are fun to coach, and complete.

Comments/Feedback?

Email rob@mtntactical.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using Time Under Tension as a Basis for Rock and Ice Climb Program Design

MTI Lab Rats Training Strength via short, 10-second dead hang intervals on the campus board.

By Rob Shaul

A decade ago when I began programming for climbers I bought every book on climbing training in print, read like crazy, and tried to apply the programming other coaches described.

It was a disaster. Vague terms like “power,” “power endurance,” “strength,” and “endurance” were defined around a hard to quantify measurement tool called “hand movements.” For example, the effort was considered a strength effort if it involved six or less hand movements and pushed the athlete to near failure.

When I tried to deploy this programming at the local rock gym many issues arose. Bouldering problems and top-roped climbing routes with the same climbing rating could have vastly different actual levels of difficulty. As well, once we seemed to be able to get a group of problems identified which would work for our programming goals, the gym’s route setters would change or move one or more of the routes, causing us to start all over from scratch.

Without a way to clearly quantify training load, volume and intensity, I was programming blind, and as a result, the training did not result in measurable improvement for my athletes.

I needed a new approach to climbing training, and a new method of measuring training load and intensity. I went to my notebook and developed time under tension as a basis for MTI’s rock and ice climbing program design.


The Barbell Comparison
Imagine you’re in my gym and standing before a barbell resting on the floor. We’re doing deadlifts, and I ask you to begin loading the barbell and work up to your 12RM – or highest load you can lift 12 reps for.

After, I ask you to now find your 6RM – the most load you can lift 6 reps for.

Finally, I ask you to find your 1RM – the most load you can lift 1 rep for.

For each final effort (12RM, 6RM and 1RM) I secretly time you – to see how long it takes you to complete the actual reps. The chart below is your loading and time to complete the effort:

Effort   Load     Time to Complete

12RM     225#         16 seconds
6RM       275#         10 seconds
1RM       315            3 seconds

What you’ll see here is that the higher the load, the less time it took you to complete the required reps. Another way to say this is the higher the intensity (load), the shorter your “time under tension.”

This idea of “time under tension” is used by some coaches for free weight-based strength training, where instead of prescribing reps, they will prescribe a load and ask the athlete to complete the maximum number of repetitions possible in a certain amount of time.

In applying this “time under tension” concept to rock and ice climbing training, and to keep it simple, I developed three categories of training based on duration, (1) strength, (2) work capacity and, (3) stamina, and based on my experience, assigned durations to each.

Below are the simple training charts I developed years ago that still serve me today. As you look at these charts notice the difference in work capacity and stamina durations for ice climbing. This is because ice tools with their ergonomic handles are simply easier to hang on to than rock holds.

Rock Climbing:

Category              Duration
Strength               <1 Minute
Work Capacity       1-4 Minutes
Stamina                  4+ Minutes

Ice Climbing:

Category           Duration
Strength               <2 Minute
Work Capacity       2-6 Minutes
Stamina                  6+ Minutes

Above – Ice Climbers training Work Capacity (5-minute intervals) on our “tech board.”


Back to the Rock Gym – and more Failure!
Armed with these new training categories, and corresponding training durations, I was able to develop focused training sessions built around the categories – for example, a strength session build around short, loaded hang board dead hangs, or long “stamina” sessions build around extended efforts (4+ minutes) on the traverse wall. However, with the exception of the hang board dead hangs, I found the dynamic climbing route situation at the rock gym too hard to manage, and eventually built four types of “system” boards inside my own facility.

Before I describe the system boards, it’s important to understand how I applied the duration and training categories in my programming.

My goal for the strength and work capacity categories was to have the athletes at near failure, a couple intervals in. For example, if I had athletes completing 6 Rounds of 1 Minute dead hang intervals on a hangboard, by the third round, I wanted them barely hanging on at the end of the minute-long interval.

Continuing with the hang board example, if I had the athletes begin hanging on the board’s “sloper” holds, and they were making the intervals easily, I would have them move to the 2-finger pockets for the next interval – a smaller, harder hold. By having the athlete move to the smaller holds, I essentially added weight to their barbell, and made the effort more difficult while keeping the interval the same.

This idea is what I built into MTI’s initial system boards – a way to quickly increase intensity while using the same interval.

In climb train programming, there are 6 ways to increase intensity under the same duration:

(1) Same Holds, Increase wall angle

(2) Same Wall Angle, Decrease Hold Size

(3) Same Wall Angle and Hold Size – Add Weight to the Athlete in a backpack

(4) Same Wall Angle and Hold Size – But Don’t allow the Athlete to shake (both hands must be on the wall or tool at all times)

(5) Same Wall Angle and Hold Size – But make the Athlete have constant movement (no shaking and no hanging on in one place)

Ultimately, for rock climbing, we ended up building four types of “system” boards:

(1) Shallow (10-degree) board with easy holds used primarily for stamina efforts (4+minutes)

(2) Tech Board (20-degree) with moderate holds used primarily for work capacity efforts (1-4 minutes)

(3) HIIT Board (45-degree) with easy holds for strength efforts (<1minute)

(4) Campus Board (10-degree) with hard (small) holds for strength efforts. (<1minute)

Importantly, these “system” boards did not have climbing routes designated – they are not bouldering walls. Rather, they had the same, uniform holds throughout – so our work would focus purely on fitness, not climbing technique.

 

We can use the 45-degree HIIT Board to train strength for rock climbers, and work capacity (2-6 minute intervals) for ice climbers.

Programming and Progression

The time under tension programming methodology, and our four types of system boards, gave me the ability to finally build simple training cycles and individual training sessions, which included straightforward progressions.

Our training cycles evolved to be multi-duration, in the sense that in the same 6 week training cycle, we would concurrently train strength, work capacity and stamina often using our fluid periodization methodology.

We could build individual training sessions focused purely on short durations and strength, medium durations and work capacity, or long durations and stamina. Or … we could design individual training sessions which trained two or more durations. The 60-minute training session example below hits all three:

Warm Up:

  • 5 Minutes easy system board

Training :

(1) 8 Rounds (strength)

  • 1 Minute Campus Board (feet on), Constant Movement
  • 1 Minute Rest

(2) 4 Rounds (work capacity)

  • 3 Minutes HIIT Board
  • 1 Minute Rest

(3) 2 Rounds (stamina)

  • 10 Minutes Shallow Board
  • 2 Minutes Rest

In terms of Progression, using this time under tension approach I can easily “progress” this session … for example:

Warm Up:

  • 5 Minutes easy system board

Training :

(1) 8 Rounds (strength)

  • 1 Minute Campus Board (feet on), Constant Movement
  • 30 Seconds Rest

** Note the decrease in rest between Campus Board intervals.

(2) 4 Rounds (work capacity)

  • 4 Minutes HIIT Board
  • 1 Minute Rest

** Note the Increase to 4 Minutes for the HIIT Board intervals

(3) 1 Round (stamina)

  • 20 Minutes Shallow Board

** Note the increase to 20 minutes for a single effort.

Above: Campus Board Lock & Reaches for training strength


The Moon Board and Our Latest Programming

Late this November, we completed a 7-Week Rock Climbing cycle where I tested some new programming which included two new Moon Boards we put in the gym last Spring. Moon Boards have been around for some time, and are super-efficient bouldering walls.

Essentially you purchase a set of holds, a set of LED lights for each hod, and build your own climbing wall from three sheets of plywood at a designated angle. Moon Board has a smartphone application which connects to the climbing wall via your smartphone and bluetooth, and allows you to chose different bouldering problems based on grade. When chosen, the blue LED lights for the problem light up on the Moon Board.  The genius of the Moon Boards is they offer literally thousands of bouldering problems without changing or moving climbing holds – all on one 8×12 climbing wall.

MTI’s old system boards were great for training climbing fitness, but not for training climbing technique. The Moon Board, with its easily changeable bouldering problems based on rating, essentially gives us an entire bouldering gym full of routes on a single wall – where we can use the problem difficulties to train technique using the V-Sum efforts.

For this most recent cycle, I used short campus board working intervals and lock and reach efforts to train strength, V-Sum efforts on the Moon Board to train work capacity, and long efforts (up to 40 minutes) on our shallow system board to train stamina. We’ve only received a little feedback from the field, but my climbers report they are climbing at their highest levels ever. More to follow …

Comments/Feedback:
email coach@mtntactical.com

Climbing Lat Rats training the V-Sum on one of MTI’s two Moon Boards