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 Conditioning for Rock Climbing and Hiking 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Keeping Fit by . View all columns in series


Latissimus Dorsi, Posterior Deltoids, Biceps

Overhead Press

Deltoids, Triceps, Upper Trapezius

Assisted Chin-Up

Latissimus Dorsi, Posterior Deltoids, Biceps

Assisted Bar Dip

Pectoralis Major, Anterior Deltoids, Triceps

Rotary Torso

External Obliques, Internal Obliques

Forearm Extension

Forearm Extensors

Forearm Flexion

Forearm Flexors

Strength Training Design

Exercise Repetitions

Obviously, muscle endurance plays a major role in rock climbing excursions, which makes it tempting to advocate a strength training program that emphasizes high repetitions with low resistance. While this is certainly acceptable, our research has revealed excellent improvements in both muscle strength and endurance from the standard training program of eight to 12 repetitions per set. In fact, we have found no significant differences in strength development when using low (six to eight) or high (13 to 15) repetitions per set, indicating that all of these repetition protocols are effective when training is continued to the point of muscle fatigue. To increase both muscle strength and endurance in an efficient manner, we recommend training with about 75 percent of maximum resistance for eight to 12 carefully controlled repetitions. When you can complete 12 repetitions in proper form, you should increase the resistance by about five percent.

Exercise Sets

Research has clearly demonstrated that single-set strength training is highly productive for stimulating muscle development. Although you may certainly complete more sets if you so desire, excellent results can be attained by performing one good set of each exercise. If you do one set of the 15 exercises presented in Table 1, your entire strength training session should take approximately 30 minutes, assuming about one minute per set and about one minute between exercises.

Exercise Speed

Due to the tensive nature of rock climbing, we recommend relatively slow lifting and lowering movements that work the muscles more effectively. Rather than using fast, momentum-assisted repetitions, it is better to maintain constant tension on the target muscle groups with controlled training speeds. While the standard six-second speed (two seconds lifting and four seconds lowering) should be sufficient, rock climbers may experience greater benefits by performing very slow repetitions. Research studies have shown that four to six 14-second repetitions produce significantly greater strength gains than eight to 12 six-second repetitions in beginning exercisers. While the so-called Super Slow training technique is physically and mentally tough to perform, it would seem perfectly suited to rock climbers.

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 About The Author
Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., is fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the......moreWayne Westcott PhD
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