Front Lever Goals - Letter from Tom Randall

Hey it’s Tom here. I wanted to drop you a bit of a personal story this week as I think it’s something that all of you may relate to in some way or another and also it’s got a happy ending! 

As you probably know, I’m a climber who likes steep terrain. Anything that’s overhanging is my bag. I’ve been specialising in this high angled stuff for ten years or so now, so I’ve been able to really adapt my training to suit the demands of the pursuit and also reaps the improvements from the hard work put in. Hand in hand with this, I’ve also suffered from some big plateaus in my training as well – a particularly big one being front lever work. For quite a few years now, I’ve been someone who’s never really progressed beyond a slightly sketchy full front lever for about 2 seconds.

The first part of the story, started with Ollie Torr creating a new front lever progression video (click here for the full video) this past winter season. It gave me a kick of motivation to really dig into my training again and work out why I hadn’t progressed for so long. The more and more I looked at it, I realised that I’d simply failed to apply consistency and variety to my training for a long enough period. I’d previously told myself that perhaps I was too tall for a decent front lever or that I was too busy doing other things with my climbing training and overall fatigue was an issue. This time was going to be different though, as I’d been injected with a dose of Torr-reality (work hard, be consistent and it WILL work) and it also coincided with a big 2021 project needing a next level up of roof strength. I promptly watched all the video clips, spoke to Ollie, put pen to paper and got working. 

The following weeks will sound fairly familiar to a lot of you. I applied myself to a good variety of movements surrounding the front level S&C, I trained with consistency and I got the loading right. Initially I took a “greasing the groove” approach for the first 2 weeks and from there I fully immersed in structured sets and reps. It worked! But then it didn’t…. I moved forwards quickly in many of the exercises but yet again I found myself up against the ropes of stagnation. Each session I would expect to break my previous PB by just a nudge, but I couldn’t. My max became my physical and mental max and I started to have doubts. 

 

Now you’d think that as a coach and athlete for most of my life this wouldn’t happen – well, I can assure you I’m just as doubtful and anxious about these things as everyone is! I started to question whether I needed to break into a regimen of self massage to perhaps ease off some perceived tightness in my shoulders, or maybe my lower back was too weak so I needed some deadlifts? Then last week something rare happened. I ended up sleeping way more than usual and I also took some “stress” off my plate from one of the businesses I run. Today, I woke up (late) had a relaxed morning and got warmed up for a lunchtime session. I felt good. I warmed up into some lever progressions and felt good. Just a few minutes later, I’d repeated three full front levers for a full five seconds in good form.

Psyched!

Sure, it’s not some hard ascent or something that everyone struggles with, but for me, on lockdown, with only my year’s goals for motivation, it was big.

So what did I learn from this experience?

What can YOU learn?

Firstly, there are no special tricks or methods for getting stronger or fitter – the age old truisms of applied consistency, correct loading, appropriate rest frequency etc will all work. Even better, is that they can ALL be adjusted to you and your life. Second, is that doubts will always surface when you’re at your limit – it’s a reminder that you’re in the right place…. pushing and nudging that border of ability. Thirdly, is that you should always continue to look at other areas of your life to support the training you’re doing. Sure you can go on less sleep and fuel in a random manner or work 60hr weeks, but don’t think it will help you on your journey in the most beneficial way. Have a good look at those areas and check in with yourself to see if you can just take a little edge off here and there. 

Stay strong and keep the faith everyone. 

Tom