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Featuring
Harry Chaplin & Tom Parkington

For our second installment of the "Training Temple” we visited one of CPC’s gruelling classes to see how free weights and a basic exercise programme can help on the rock. What’s great about the programme is that Tom and Harry don't use any expensive apparatus or equipment which means that all you need are some weights and a bit of space to try them out at home. Harry runs through the technique and benefits of each exercise below...

Tom & I have been running CPC in the form of weekly group-based strength & conditioning coaching classes for climbers for the past 18 months. We’re lucky enough to have access to Sheffield Hallam’s strength & conditioning gym facilities through Tom’s Sport based PHD at the University.

Through these coaching groups we aim to work with our clients to create stronger, more robust, muscularly balanced & injury free climbers. Climbers are generally pretty injury prone due to muscle imbalances (generally they can pull but not push) & weak stabiliser muscles. Exercises like deadlifts, bench press, rows & push-press are all great ways to counter these issues, plus there’s a lot of core work involved which is key for building a strong climber.

The coaching programs run over a 12 week period with one week of testing at each end, leaving 10 weeks of training. Testing involves establishing each individual’s 5 repetition max for a selection of exercises plus a body composition test. This gives figures surrounding skeletal muscle mass, body fat percentage & any imbalances on each side of the body. This is then repeated on week 12 to give an idea of progress & we’ve seen some amazing results.

The first half hour of each session is spent warming up & working on mobility & then we move on to an intense hour in the gym. Each client has a copy of the 10 week training plan with details of each exercise so they can record their progress. We’re extremely lucky to have a really motivated bunch of people of all abilities, right up to semi-professionals who regularly attend so the gym has an amazing atmosphere & everyone gets stuck in.

Key Lifts

Deadlift

Our key lift... Many of the skills required for lifts throughout the training plan & further progression rely on good deadlift technical & the mobility required for this. Fantastic for the core as a whole (not just the abs), the hamstrings & glutes (gluteus maximus)  provide the power from the legs & it evens helps with some grip strength as all the weight is hung directly from the fingers. On top of this hip mobility is improved. Good form is critical to avoid injuries, especially in the back.

Military Press

Simple but hard. Try & keep the elbows raised when the bar is at rest & then extend to locked elbows, nice & slow. This works shoulders, triceps & stabiliser muscles. 

Hip thrusts

Working the core with a focus on the gluteus maximus. Aim for a 3 second pause at the top & try not to over extend. The foam roller or something soft is key- the bar hurts!

Bent over row

Form is king with this exercise. Focus is on a straight spine & retracted scapula. Helps with core again & scapula (shoulder blade) retraction, the rest of the back & even the biceps are involved too.

Super Set 1

Super sets work like mini sessions of circuit training so the intensity is high & the rest is pretty minimal. Those who come to the sessions say these are the exercises that really make them suffer, thanks to the combination of the exercises.

Split Squat

An extended lunge, facing forward and maintaining an upright torso (approximately a 90-degree angle at the knees). The participant rises by straightening the legs & then returns to the starting position, much like a normal squat. Dumbbells in each hand can be used to raise the intensity.

Squat hold with band

Holding a squat position for 1 minute with the band around the knees. Push the knees outwards for the desired glute activation.

Super Set 2

Dumbbell press

Just like a bench press but with dumbbells. Dumbbells demand greater control from the stabiliser muscles as you have to fight to control the direction of the weights.

Single arm row

An alternative to the bent over row but in a more stable position, therefore allowing a greater focus on muscles across the shoulders & back without compromising good form. This exercise is performed with one hand & one knee on a bench & a dumbbell in the spare hand. Focus on keeping the scapula retracted & the movement controlled. The arm with the dumbbell moves like a piston, drawing the weight all the way up to the rib cage.

Super Set 3

Bear crawl

Crawl like a bear! Keep your hips low & knees open, try not to twist. Looks easy but really works the abdomen & shoulders.

Psoas March

Named after the psoas (pronounced with a silent "p") major muscles located through the lumbar region. Can be done in a number of ways but we tend to go for lying down with straight legs & drawing one leg at a time as close to the torso as possible, before lowering & repeating with the alternate leg. This works the abdomen really well too.

Plank Rotations

Adds some intensity & imbalance to the standard plank. Raise each limb one at a time for roughly 5 seconds - keep cycling round until you reach a minute.

To find out more about Climbing Performance Consultants visit their Facebook page.

More photographs from the class

Rab’s very own Harry Chaplin and Tom Parkington, a PHD student from Sheffield, run Climbing Performance Consultants, a sport science service for climbers. CPC focuses on conditioning and muscular balance for improved performance and the prevention of injuries.

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