View Full Version : Rock Climbing - Measuring Progress

Greg Everett
03-21-2007, 10:25 AM
Looking for some ideas regarding measuring progress for a climber. Hard to guage the effectiveness (at least in the short term) of training as it transfers to climbing because of the nature of the sport - routes are graded, but the assignments are largely subjective and unavoidably biased by the grader's own strengths and weaknesses.

So aside from the obvious tests of gym variables that can be assumed to transfer, e.g. max pull-ups, weighted pull-up, grip stamina, flexibility, etc., anyone have ideas about how to measure progress for climbing?

Rick Deckart
03-21-2007, 11:00 AM
It's been over 20 years that I was in rock climbing, but fitness wise (I know you didn't ask for this) I would look into:

a) max pullup set, how many reps
b) one repetition max pullup, do a pullup, add 10lbs, repeat until no longer possible
c)one arm lockoff, pull youself with the chin over the bar, let go with the other arm, Variable is time until chin drops under bar
d)one set max of frenchies, that is pullups with rest in three positions (top, 90 degrees and 120 degree), each held for 6--7 seconds)
e) one set max of fingertip pullups on a 1.5cm wide edge
f) two arm lockoff on fingertips on same edge, Variable time till chin drops below edge
g) straight arm hang from a pullup bar for time.
h) situps number of reps
i) side split, distance to floor
j) high step distance to ground

I think that's the fitness test from expert climber Eric Hörst...

Not sure if this helps, but whatever

Mike ODonnell
03-21-2007, 12:43 PM
I'd say if you make it to the top....you win....other than that....performance for a rock climber would be timed routes? How fast to get up a certain distance....then come back and check on it a few weeks later? Dunno...my fat Irish ass doesnt get far off the ground.

Robert Allison
03-21-2007, 01:11 PM
Great question.

As someone who has climbed on and off for a few years, I tend to think that the only real way to measure progress in climbing is by climbing. This is not to suggest that weight lifting and other training methods (outside of time on rock) are not important, because they are. But depending on the type of climb attempted, the technical aspects of climbing can be as much of a limiting factor as strength, endurance, etc.

I am a great case in point. In terms of physically conditioning and strength, I am at a level equal to or greater than many of my climbing partners. But I am not nearly as good a climber as they are.

I don't know if that helps any. One of my friends is a guide and I will run this by him, to see if he has any feedback.

Andew Cattermole
03-21-2007, 04:50 PM
In terms of training
These would be best served on indoor walls for repeatable performance testing.

Campus Moves
Double Hand
2 rungs up one rung down for time

Single Arm Timed Hangs of Campus Rungs

I would look towards bouldering problem repeats for set time on indoor walls.
Take a V grade that is within ability and rehearsed
Then repeat it for a set time period for max number of sucessfull repeats.Rest off Wall.

Dyno’s for Height
Pick two good jugs in level position with marginal footholds(reduce the size of the foot holds to smears, or position on a angle wall).
Dyno for height with a slap.

For a Set Time Period for Laps
Top Rope Up (Hard) Routes
Down climb (easy) back up (Hard)
Rest only "On Wall"

Jonas Lind
03-21-2007, 06:04 PM
Having spent the last 10 years bouldering I do think you can get some help measuring progress by looking at grades. With experience you can always ballpark a problem by looking at it or feeling out the moves. It's not an exact science, it can never be, so you need to use a broad spectrum of problems.

Campusing is good but I think a really good way would be to use a System Board. On it you do problems by doing the same type moves on the same type holds from bottom to top. That would definately work when used right.

I can go into it further if you find axcess to one... they are not hard to build.

Kevin Scott Kett
03-21-2007, 08:00 PM
Years ago I injured my shoulder climbing on Mount Yonah GA.

We used prussic climbs to measure my recovery progress.

David Aguasca
03-22-2007, 01:38 PM
I'd say it's pretty tricky.

campusing strength is definitely only a small part of a climbing. i think it would be akin to testing somebody's clean and jerk by just testing their max clean pull. sure, you'll know how strong they are, but technique is a big (huge?) part of it all, isn't it?

the only way i can think of measuring progress in actual climbing skill (not campusing strength or grip strength/endurance) would be to attempt routes/problems outside. i say outside because unlike in a gym, routes and problems are usually (and IMHO should be) reset often. also, i think the psychological component in climbing is important, and climbing in a gym can often feel too safe, as well as not having the same amount of exposure as can be attained outside.

i think WHAT kind of climbing performance you are looking for is important. are you looking to test performance in a climbing comp, where athleticism is paramount, and all variables are controlled? what about the ability to climb in cold weather, snow, or maybe the opposite, on a baking hot wall with only 2 liters of water a day for 3-4 days straight?

i don't know if that helped or hurt, but that's my take on it.

Jesse Woody
03-22-2007, 05:02 PM
Unless I missed it, I don't think anybody mentioned what kind of climbing he's involved in. There will be a totally separate set of demands required between bouldering and long adventure climbing. What's his specialty, or is he an all-around climber of sorts?

Haha, never mind, David mentioned that right above me :p I'd say figure out his aims, then some of the standards that Andrew set would be great. If he's like me, and wants to be a world class boulderer along with a standard-setting crack-climber, he'll probably have some problems...some people are never happy :p

Andew Cattermole
03-22-2007, 05:38 PM
Totally agree that the clients focus/goals (V10 or Astroman??)
and what type of climbing is important.
And ofcause real progress is seen in improving onsight,redpoint or flash ability outdoors.
But I took Greg's question to mean repeatable tests for a short cycle of training.
Since most climbers (who Train specifically for climbing) train at indoor gyms. then indoor would give them verifiable(same holds/same problem /same routes) repeatable tests to compare after a short cycle of training.

I didn't mention it but for beginners
Hang Board Drills
Sloppers, Chins for set time
Pinch Locks Offs for time etc

And the system board is good stuff as mentioned by Jonas,but if not available a reheresed boulder problem/s would mirror the same principle.

I would be interested in what you put together and the results if happy to share.

Greg Everett
03-22-2007, 08:30 PM
SHE is just a sport climber - so bouldering and mainly short to mid-length routes. no super pro or anything.

andrew - i think i posted her initial program on here somewhere.... can't find it right now. i will try to locate and link

Greg Everett
03-22-2007, 08:31 PM
ok found it:

David Aguasca
03-23-2007, 09:15 AM
I like that program. I'm about to start something similar: One day of Starting Strength, 1 day on rings, and 1 day bouldering inside, then 1 day doing long routes outside.

so, as far as the measuring progress goes...i think the system board idea is great, if you can find/build one. i also stand by my earlier suggestion of setting short term goals (problems/routes to send) just out of her reach. maybe 2-3 of them. if she's looking to perform outside, then do it outside. if inside, then inside.

Chris Rice
07-08-2007, 02:10 PM
Measuring and training are two different things of course. Comparisons of measurements of the difficulty ratings of a fairly large number of routes including various types (crack, face, etc) should take care of the "are you progressing" question - harder numbers equals harder climbs done.

Training. Climbing is about climbing - not about lifting and 25 years of climbing and almost 50 years of lifting have driven that home to me repeatedly. Climbing is about fixing weak points and lifting may or may not address your particular weak points. Often something like Yoga or Tai Chi can make a bigger jump in your numbers than doubling your chin up numbers - depending of course on what you need. Those of us that love to lift see it as the cure for everything and climbing is just so multi faceted and yet horribly specific than it won't fit into a simple category that way. If there is a secret to climbing - it's learning the engrams and body positions that keep the weight off your hands as much as possible as long as possible - saving them for the times when there is no choice but to use them. I run a climbing wall and also coach climbers there, the single biggest problem I see is climbers "climbing" instead of "practicing" - and the difference is huge. To be a better climber you must constantly be working on improving "engrams" or movement patterns that allow the most efficient manner of movement possible through a difficult (or easy) section. Only after this does increased strength matter.

That being said - one rep max strength does matter - especially in regards to the infamous "pump". At a certain percentage of 1RM, blood flow effectively stops through a muscle - usually thought to be around 60%. So increasing 1RM finger and forearm strength does work. You must to constantly aware of gaining weight - even muscular weight - as it is the enemy of better climbing. All strength work, diet, and supplementation must be done with this in mind.

A real analysis of weak areas and a plan that addresses them will work better than an overall approach of strength and fitness. For beginners and intermediates especially, climbing and "practicing climbing" on something like a system board will give better results than weightlifting.