That’s a Wrap!

The Lazy H, all cleaned up with a temporary hangboard mounting structure installed.

The Lazy H, all cleaned up with a temporary hangboard mounting structure installed.

Last week the Lazy H Barn was the star of its own film.  A big part of launching the Rock Prodigy Training Center is creating a few short videos about the board (describing the key features of the board, how to install it, and how to use it), and Trango decided to use the Lazy H for the shoot location. She was very excited, so I spent some time getting her in tip top shape for the camera.

Adjusting the lights and positioning the camera crane to shoot the RPTC.

Adjusting the lights and positioning the camera crane to shoot the RPTC.

Trango pulled out all the stops for the shoot, sending out Ben Fullerton and Travis Ramos to direct and film the videos.  These guys were super-professional; I was totally blown away.  They had all sorts of fancy equipment, including boom mics, camera cranes, adjustable light stands and this thing they called a “slider” to get super-smooth panning closeups.  They even had a “slate” for marking down the scene and take (with a clacking hinge for shouting “action!”). This was easily the highlight of the day for Adam (that, and trying to find a restaurant that would deliver to the middle of nowhere).      

Ben (L) and Adam Sanders (Trango Product Manager and RPTC Brainchild) prepping the first shot of me walking into the barn.
Ben (L) and Adam Sanders (Trango Product Manager and RPTC Brainchild) prepping the first shot of me walking into the barn.

It was really interesting seeing the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of modern climbing film-making. You have no idea how much work goes into making a really professional film until you participate in the process.  We shot for 8 hours straight, and the end product will probably be around 5-7 minutes of video. Ben and Travis did a great job of arranging the shots and coaching me on my acting skills. I got my first taste of what to expect on the first shot of the day, a straightforward shot of me walking in to the barn.  We did 5 takes of this, varying my pace, what I was looking at, and even how I opened the door, until I got it right.  I had no idea I was such a bad walker–it takes practice to nail the perfect pimplimp 🙂  Keep that in mind the next time you’re watching a climbing film with a shot of climbers casually strolling to the crag.

Ricky Bobby

The whole experience was a blast, with lots of goofing around.  A hot topic was what I should be doing with my hands during the narration, and we kept joking about the scene in Talladega Nights when Ricky Bobby is being interviewed for the first time and keeps lifting his hands up by his ears. 

Filming the on-screen narration
Filming the on-screen narration

The narration was fun but exhausting.  I was expecting to do voice over, as opposed to on-camera narration, so I didn’t have any of the lines memorized. The script was extremely wordy, with phrases like, “A good selection for an intermediate climber might include the Warmup Jug, Large Open-Hand Edge, Deep 2-Finger Pocket, Small Semi-Closed Edge, Shallow 3-Finger pocket, Wide Pinch, and a Sloper.”  Everybody was extremely patient as I fumbled the lines over and over again. 

Reading the voice-over. This part was a breeze, and apparently the Lazy H has stellar acoustics.

Reading the voice-over. This part was a breeze, and apparently the Lazy H has stellar acoustics.

Once the on-screen narration was filmed, I did a straight voice-over read of each script.  This will be used to lay over the action shots.  This part was much easier because I could simply read the script.  Also there was no need to re-load the camera memory cards, so this process went really quickly.

With all the sound captured, we got to do the fun part, filming the ation.  This part was much easier, but we still had to do certain steps numerous times to get different camera angles and so forth. 

Travis manning the slider while Ben gets the wide shot.

Travis manning the slider while Ben gets the wide shot.

I was amazed by how much work it was to set up a single shot.  Lights had to be moved around, then constantly tuned (in terms of position and brightness) to get the right look.  Sometimes it might take 30 minutes to set up for 2 minutes of filming (of which only 10 seconds will make the final cut).  At the end of the day, I was blown away by the professionalism of the people involved.  They did an amazing job and I can’t wait to see the final product; I’m sure its going to be stellar. [Ed. Note: The final videos will be hosted on Trango’s site. I’ll post a link from my blog once the final videos are up and running.]

Finally, this was my first opportunity to try out the production version of the Rock Prodigy Training Center. It’s literally a pleasure to hang from.  I’m almost tempted to cut short my season so I can start hangboarding again as soon as possible 🙂 

The RPTC ready for action.

                                                  The RPTC ready for action.

Whole-Body Strength Training

My training philosophy emphasizes finger strength training above all else.  For a number of mostly obvious reasons, I’m convinced that finger strength is the single most important physical factor (as opposed to mental or technical factors) in rock climbing.  That said, there are other elements of physical strength that are relevant, and worth training, if you have the time and energy.  In particular, the “pull muscles”, biceps/triceps, shoulders, and core muscles all have important roles to play, and we can benefit from strengthening these muscles.

For some, “just climbing” will do a decent job of developing strength in these muscles.  However, just climbing is often not very efficient or effective at improving strength in these areas, for the same reasons it’s not very effective or efficient at improving finger strength (lack of isolation, control, quantification,…).  Furthermore, if you follow a periodic training program like the Rock Prodigy method, you are likely spending significant periods of time with minimal climbing, perhaps only hangboarding.  Hangboarding is ideal for developing finger strength, but it neglects the muscles discussed above.  The fact that the hangboard-heavy Strength phase precedes the Power Phase (where whole body strength is most beneficial) exacerbates this problem.

For all these reasons, it’s a good idea to include some “Supplemental Exercises” to your climbing-specific workouts, especially during strength or hangboard phases.  This post will present a few Supplemental Exercises that I like to do to get the rest of my muscles strong for climbing.  There are many other possibilities, but I’ve found these work well for me.  As for all your training, document what you do so you can track your progress over time.

I introduce these exercises at the start of each Strength Phase.  I will select about 4 or 5 exercises from the assortment provided below, and I perform one set of each initially, building up to three sets of each exercise by mid-Strength Phase.  These exercises are always performed on the same day as my climbing workout, at the end of each workout (so, on a hangboard day, I finish my hangboard workout, rest 5-10 minutes, and then perform these exercises).  I do these in a “circuit” fashion (completing one set of each exercise before performing the second set, and so on), but they could also be done in serial fashion.

During the Power Phase, I adjust the type of exercises and number of sets depending on the day’s climbing activity.  On Campus Training days, I skip all the “Pull” exercises and biceps curls, to avoid excessive strain on my elbows, etc, but I perform three sets each of the remaining exercises.  On Limit Bouldering days, I perform the same 4 or 5 exercises used during the Strength Phase, but I only perform two sets each.  During the Power Endurance Phase, I do as I would on a Limit Bouldering day, but I often vary the exercises somewhat (for example, favoring Lock-Off Laps over other pull exercises).

During the Strength Phase, I perform on the order of 6-8 reps of each exercise.  During the Power Phase I try to increase the load and keep the reps in the 3-6 range.  During the PE Phase I perform on the order of 8-12 reps. 

Here is an assortment of potential Supplemental Exercises to choose from, with a few notes where applicable.  My favorites are shown in the videos that follow.

Pull Exercises:
– Explosive Pull-ups: Use free-hanging rings rather than a fixed bar or hangboard to reduce joint stress.  Emphasize exploding upward, as for a campus move, and then lock-off the top of the contraction for a breath.

– 1-Arm Inverted Row: More sport-specific than pull-ups. Reach with the inactive arm to make these more difficult.

– 1-Arm Pull-ups: These are a bit of a parlor trick, but in the higher grades, the ability to perform a 1-arm pull-up (or 1-arm lock-off) can come in handy on occasion.  Only recommend for advanced climbers.  Use a pulley system or inactive hand to take off weight if necessary. In my experience these are more a function of body weight than strength.

– Lock-Off Laps: These are my favorite pull muscle exercise.  Very sport-specific and outstanding for improving lock-off endurance.  Reach and hover the inactive hand to increase the difficulty.

Shoulder Exercises:
– Shoulder Press: Allow your palms to rotate as you press. Can also been done as “handstand push-ups”

– Lateral-to-Front Raise: Be careful with these if you have back issues.  Use low weight and perform slowly.

– Dips: Not very specific, but can help build general shoulder strength.

Upper Arm Exercises:
– Biceps Curls: Do these slowly and in control.  Be conservative if you have elbow issues. 

– Most of the Pull Exercises will also improve upper arm strength to some degree.  Shoulder Press and Dips also train the Triceps.

Core Exercises:
There are countless core exercises, here are my two favorites:
– Hanging Leg Raises: Perform from hanging rings for added difficulty.  Beginners can do these with knees bent, but try to eventually do these with legs as straight as possible (I lack the hamstring flexibility needed to do these with straight legs).

– Leg Lifts:  Lie flat on your back.  With legs straight, raise your feet 12-16″ off the ground, hover a few counts, then lower and repeat.  These are less specific than Hanging Leg Raises.

Rock Prodigy Training Center First Production Run

First production units fresh out of the mold.

First production units fresh out of the mold.

The initial production run of the Rock Pordigy Training Center was completed last week!  Here’s a picture courtesy of my friends at Trango.  At this point the actual product is ready for sale, but we’re still finalizing the packaging.  We’ve written instructions for installation and put together instructions for an intermediate workout that will be included with the RPTC.  Next week we’ll be shooting some photos for to go along with the written instructions and shooting a video that will describe the new features of the RPTC, how to install it, and how to perform a proper hangboard workout. 

Once that is finished, the printed instructions can go to the printers and the RPTC should be available for sale shortly after that. We’re shooting for October 1st, but it depends on quite a few moving parts so we may not make it that quickly.

In related news, my book, The Rock Climber’s Training Manual, is now completely laid out.  At this point Fixed Pin is finalizing the cover graphics and text, and waiting for companies to provide ads, then the book will be ready to go to the printers.  I’ll let everyone know when that happens, as I will be very happy and relieved 🙂