I have been opposed to time-driven strength sessions for most of my career. This position is based on the fact that load is the most important factor in gaining strength and taking the time to provide enough load each session is key. This means that worrying about holding rest periods to a specific length should not be important. Several hangboard programs control for both work and rest. Climbers are comfortable with this set-up because they don’t have to pay attention to what is happening in their muscles – they just respond to the beeping of the alarm.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this type of training. In fact, there are several physiological factors that contribute to good climbing that result from reduced or limited rest, including mental toughness and strength endurance. I still prefer, however, to lean toward creating the maximum strength possible.

 

TOOLS
TIME
CYCLE LENGTH
Hangboard with a small edge and a medium-sized pocket, a pinch block
34 minutes, after warm-up
12 sessions

It is a rare climber that is not familiar with the 7-seconds-on-3-seconds-off cycle of intermittent hangs. It is an effective and rightly popular program. Like every program, however, a climber will see fewer adaptations with each training cycle, to the point that such a program will no longer result in significant gains.

This is exactly where one of the best redpoint climbers in the world was last year when we spoke about hangboarding. He has seriously strong fingers, but had plateaued for the last year or so and was seeking a way forward. A fan of 7:3 hangs, he wanted to know how to manipulate the program he was on in order to start progressing again.

In trying to gain significant strength one of the first places we look is increasing load. Since this climber had probably maxed out what he could do – there is no lack of motivation or toughness here – we next looked at recovery between repetitions. A 7:3 work:rest ratio calls for more than twice as much work as recovery, which is firmly within the realm of hypertrophy and muscular endurance training. In order to keep things simple and maintain the format he liked, I suggested a plan that would reverse the ratio, and we built the 7:13 (approximately a 1:2 work:rest ratio) protocol.

The session called for working three grip positions (edge, pocket, and pinch). Each position was held for 6 repetitions each set, 7 seconds on, 13 seconds off…a total of 2 minutes. This work was followed by a two minute rest. After resting, you’d then repeat the same position for two more full sets. You then follow the same protocol with the pocket and pinch grips. Stick with the same grips for the entire training cycle, and adjust load as needed as you gain strength.

Edge

Pocket

Pinch

6 x 7:13 (2:00)

6 x 7:13 (2:00)

6 x 7:13 (2:00)

Rest 2:00

Rest 2:00

Rest 2:00

6 x 7:13 (2:00)

6 x 7:13 (2:00)

6 x 7:13 (2:00)

Rest 2:00

Rest 2:00

Rest 2:00

6 x 7:13 (2:00)

6 x 7:13 (2:00)

6 x 7:13 (2:00)

Rest 2:00

Rest 2:00

Most climbers would do a higher-volume session like this in a dedicated strength phase. I suggest doing the sessions 2-3 times per week for most athletes, but aim for the 12 sessions rather than a specific number of weeks. These sessions can be effectively combined with weight lifting sessions or high-intensity core work. Some amount of skill work and easier bouldering can be placed at both ends of the focus session.