The definitions below are designed to help you understand climbing training, as such they gloss over a lot of details that aren’t so important in this context. This is particularly true for the biological processes described (energy systems, ATP-CP etc.)
One rep maximum. The maximum weight you can move for a single rep. e.g. “My 1RM deadlift is 100kg”.
Two rep maximum. The maximum weight you can move for 2 consecutive reps. e.g. “My 2RM weighted pull up is 50kg”.
A decrease in the volume of a muscle due to the degeneration of its component cells. Not what we want to achieve when training! See also Hypertrophy.
An anabolic process is a metabolic process in the body that builds macromolecules from smaller chemical units, e.g. the production of protein from amino acids. It usually costs energy to complete. See also Catabolic Process.
An anthropometric measurement that looks at the difference between height and arm span. Calculated as ape index = arm span – height and typically measured in inches e.g. I am 5ft8 and have a 5ft9 arm span, so my ape index is +1 inch.
Ape index typically ranges from around -3 inches to +3 inches, though more extreme cases are not uncommon.
Adenosine triphosphate. A chemical that provides energy within cells. ATP is the only source of energy for muscular contractions. It is stored in small amounts within muscles and when it is depleted the other energy systems re-synthesise it. See also Energy systems, Anaerobic Glycolysis and Aerobic system.
Adenosine Triphosphate and Creatine Phosphate, the first of the 3 major energy systems. Also called the anaerobic alactic system. These chemicals are available within your muscles and are able to provide energy to the cells very rapidly. Typically stores of ATP and CP within the muscle can produce energy for 8-10 seconds before being depleted. See also Energy systems.
A training tool consisting of a rope ladder mounted diagonally between 2 points for the purpose of campusing between the rungs.
The amount of energy, measured in calories, required for the body to function at rest.
Information about a route or boulder problem. For example, information about the sequence of moves to use on a boulder problem, or where a good resting position is on a route.
Blood flow restriction. This is a technique whereby arterial blood flow is restricted (typically using a pressure cuff) during exercise. Most often used in a rehabilitation environment to elicit muscular fatigue at reduced training intensity and aid in hormonal response and adaptation.
The lactate buffering system delays the onset of fatigue by decreasing the acidity of the blood which fuels the exercising muscles. An excess of H+ ions causes muscles to cramp and therefore failure and that feeling of ‘powering out’ occurs.
The amount of energy required to heat 1g of water to 1 degree celsius. Measured in Kcal.
The formation and development of a network of capillaries to a part of the body. Usually trained by aerobic exercise.
A catabolic process is a metabolic process in the body that breaks down complex molecules into smaller molecules , e.g. the breakdown of glycogen to glucose. It usually releases energy. See also Anabolic Process.
The center of gravity of an object is the point at which weight is evenly dispersed and all sides are in balance. A climbers center of gravity can change as they take on different positions. Being aware of ones center of gravity will aid in finding more stable positions on the wall and is an important part of good technique.
Fatigue associated with the central nervous system; the brain and spinal cord. Central Fatigue can be caused by prolonged or repeated exercise bouts and effects exercise performance and muscle function regardless of peripheral factors affecting muscle function. See also Muscular Fatigue.
A circuit board is a training tool that allows a climber to do long (typically >20 move) sequences without having to use a rope.
For a given exercise, a plot of the intensity of that exercise vs. the duration for which it can be sustained.
Different measures can be computed from an athlete’s critical force curve, primarily the critical force itself and W’. In turn we can infer the behavior of the athlete’s energy systems from these measures.
A dynamic movement with the aim of catching the target hold at the very top of the jump. If performed correctly this minimises the force required to hold on.
Flexing the ankle in the motion of bringing your toes towards your shin. Opposite of plantar flexion.
Colloquially, the ability to exert yourself for an extended period of time. In a climbing context, typically refers to efforts of 5+ minutes. E.g. “That 40m sport pitch required a lot of endurance!”
This is the relationship between energy intake and energy expenditure, measured in calories.
This is the amount of energy left over, after exercise, that is available for the body’s basic functions.
This is the energy released from the body which is made up of BMR, Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenisis, Exercise expenditure and the thermic effect of food (energy used in digestion).
This is energy taken into the body as food. We can also store energy in the body in the form of glycogen and adipose (fat) tissue.
The concept of applying training load to a specific energy system to improve the gains you see from that training relative to the work put in.
Outward rotation of the femur/hip.
Outward rotation of the upper arm (humerus).
A group of deep muscles involved in the external rotation of the hip including; piriformis, superior and inferior gemelli, obturator internus, and quadratus femoris.
The group of muscles involved in external rotation of the shoulder. Includes infraspinatus and teres minor.
A tool for training finger strength. Typically consists of several types of hold mounted so that the climber can perform isometric hangs from them.
Force exerted by the forearm flexor through the fingers. In the context of climbing training, this usually means the maximum force that can be exerted e.g. “My finger strength is 130%BW in a 2 handed hang”
To climb a route or boulder problem first try, having not practiced the moves. Information about the climb is allowed, for example beta from a friend or watching a video of the climb on youtube.
Colloquially, flash pump is becoming extremely pumped when not properly warmed up. It can take substantially longer to recover from than a normal pump.
By not warming up properly, the climber has failed to prepare their body for maximal work and the hormonal changes that take place when warming up have not occurred. Hence, capillaries have not dilated and blood flow to the muscles is limited. This means that the muscles end up working very hard with a limited energy supply, as well as finding it even harder to deal with the byproducts of maximal work. They fatigue quickly and this fatigue tends to be harder to recover from due to the inappropriate environment the muscles were asked to work hard in.
The range of movement in a joint or series of joints, and length in muscles that cross the joints to induce a bending movement or motion. It is important to differentiate flexibility from mobility.
A polymer made up of glucose molecules that is used to store carbohydrate in the body and can be broken down to provide glucose.
A grip position where the index, middle and ring fingers should be at 90 degrees, with the pinky typically a little straighter. Everyone is anthropometrically different, hence in those climbers with a shorter index, they may struggle to get every finger to 90 degrees. The thumb should be off to the side or under the hand.
The half crimp is the most common grip position used for fingerboard training as it offers the least mechanical advantage and therefore the greatest training stimulus and potential strength gain.
Moving the leg away from the mid-line of the body.
The muscles located on the outside of the hip that are involved in hip abduction. These include: gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and tensor fasciae latae (TFL).
Moving the leg in towards the mid-line of the body.
The muscles located in the inner thigh that are involved in hip adduction. These include: gracilis, obturator externus, adductor brevis, adductor longus and adductor magnus.
Bringing the knee towards the chest. For example, a high step move would involve hip flexion.
Muscles involved in hip flexion including; iliacus and psoas muscles, also known as your iliopsoas, the rectus femoris and sartorius.
An increase in the volume of a muscle due to the enlargement of it’s component cells. For example, a common goal of a bodybuilding exercise is muscular hypertrophy. See also Atrophy.
The intensity of a session or workout refers to the relative effort of the exercises involved. For example, Max Hangs should be performed close to a maximum effort and are therefore a high intensity session. Conversely a session focusing on technique will typically be low intensity to allow the climber to focus on their movement.
Inward rotation of the upper arm (humerus).
The rotator cuff muscles involved in internal rotation included subscapularis and teres major. The pectoralis major and latissimus dorsi are also involved in internal rotation.
Straightening of the leg i.e. moving from bent to straight leg when contracting your quadriceps.
A Lattice Board is a systematic training tool that allows you to do long sequences of moves at a consistent level of difficulty. It also allows you to target specific techniques in a regimented fashion.
Because the difficulty of each move on a Lattice Board is consistent it is also a useful profiling tool.
The process of trying boulder problems that are at and above your current limit. This would typically involve working moves extensively with the aim of linking them together to finish the boulder problem.
An isometric pull up-style exercise where you stop mid-way through a pull up and hold the position for a period of time. Also performed on one arm.
Carbohydrate, protein and fat. The major nutrients required for a healthy diet. See also Micronutrients.
A shorter cycle within a periodised training plan. Lattice typically uses 4 week mesocycles.
A number of chemical reactions taking place in the body used to sustain life, thus allowing organisms to grow and reproduce, maintain their structures, and respond to their environments.
A microcycle refers to the smallest unit within a periodised training plan; usually a week of training. See also Periodisation.
Vitamins and minerals found in foods that are needed by the body for a variety of processes. See also Macronutrients.
The active range of one’s flexibility. Given that climbing is an active activity, measuring mobility where possible is very important.
An element of good technique related to how efficiently a climber moves. Specifically, the energy expended to perform a given sequence of moves relative to an optimal sequence. For example, pausing in the middle of a crux sequence would show poor economy of movement.
An element of good technique that maximises progress through a route or problem while minimising the risk of a fall.
The decline in a muscle’s ability to generate force e.g the forearm after a 40m endurance pitch. See also Central Fatigue.
Maximum Voluntary Contraction. A measure of strength that looks at the instantaneous maximum force that is able to be exerted. Typically this is measured using a strain gauge. In climbing, MVC is typically used as a measure of finger strength.
Non-linear periodisation is the technique of varying the volume and intensity of exercise during a macro- or microcycle with the aim of improving the training response.
Nutrition is the science that interprets the nutrients and other substances in food in relation to maintenance, growth, reproduction, and health. For climbing, we are concentrating on staying healthy whilst providing the body with energy to endure and adapt to training / climbing loads.
Colloquially, nutrition can also refer to an individual’s intake of nutrients e.g. “I’ve been focusing on my nutrition recently.”
Post activation potentiation. Acute excitation of the neuromuscular system following some form of exercise, typically to aid a subsequent performance. For example, a 5RM weighted pull up may be performed prior to a max hang test. There is some evidence that this type of protocol can improve performance in the subsequent test.
Personal best. Your own best effort in a given exercise or measure e.g. “My 2 arm max hang PB is +20kg”.
Climbers spend most of their training year in a base period preparing to peak. As a peak period approaches this base is tapered and fine tuned to allow for those top end performances to be reached. Peak periods typically last 1 – 6 weeks and due to the reduced workload a detraining effect does occur, which is accentuated the longer the peak progresses.
A technique exercise where you focus on repeating boulder problems or routes you have already climbed with precise technical execution.
A group of muscles at the posterior (back) of the body, referred to as a chain due to the synergistic contraction of these muscles in movements such as hip extension (e.g. deadlift). These muscles include the hamstrings, gluteus maximus, erector spinae, trapezius and more.
Exerting a force over time. In particular, accelerating or decelerating during a movement. E.g. “That’s a powerful campus move!”
The feeling you when failing to complete a medium to long (5 to 30) sequence of hard moves. Unlike pump, failure is much more sudden and hard to predict. You can go from feeling fine to powering out in matter of moves. Powering out is more closely associated with failure of the anaerobic system.
Getting a spotter to take some of your weight while you attempt a move or short sequence so you can focus on remembering the required movement and technique.
The main muscle or muscles involved in a movement e.g. the prime movers of a pull-up are the biceps and latissimus dorsi. See also Stabilisers.
The feeling of being pumped is closely associated with route climbing and the aerobic system. Unlike powering out which is much more sudden, pump often creeps up on a climber and in well trained individuals tends to be manageable, or at the very least predictable i.e “If I don’t get to a jug within 10 moves, I’m going to fall off. “
The period in between workouts where your body repairs and strengthens itself in response to the training load you have applied to it. Proper recovery is an essential part of effective training.
Rehabilitation. The process of recovering from an injury e.g. “I’ve been rehabilitating a bicep strain.”
RED-S. This is a situation of low energy availability where there is not enough energy remaining for basic bodily functions. This can be a result of undereating and/or overtraining relative to fuelling. It can be intentional (eating disorder or psychological component) or unintentional (accidental mismatch between energy intake and expenditure). There are a range of short and long term health consequences.
A fingerboard exercise involving repeated reps of time hanging on the fingerboard followed by a rest period. E.g. 7 seconds hanging followed by 3 seconds rest, repeated 6 times to complete a full set. Many variations on hang time and rest time exist.
Rate of Force Development. The rate at which your muscles can start producing force. Typical measures are the force developed 200ms after the start of a contraction and the time to 95% of peak force of the contraction. See also Contact Strength.
Rate of perceived exertion. A 1-10 scale used to describe the perceived intensity of a training session. Typically used where it is impractical or not possible to use an objective measure of intensity (such as a percentage of max).
The motion of bringing an arm overhead.
The shoulder girdle or pectoral girdle is the set of bones in the shoulders which connects to the arm on each side. In humans it consists of the clavicle and scapula.
The concept that an exercise should be specific to the goals to elicit maximum gain from the training stimulus.
Muscles involved in stabilising a joint during a movement or contraction e.g during a pull-up the triceps, pectorals and rotator cuff muscles act to stabilize the joint as the latissimus dorsi and biceps are the prime movers.
The maximum force that a muscle group can exert. E.g. “I did a one arm finger strength test and can pull 23kg with my left hand.” See also MVC.
Strength to weight ratio (SWR) is defined as the total load lifted / bodyweight. For example, if you could deadhang with +15kg and your bodyweight was 60kg you would say your strength to weight ratio in this exercise is (60 + 15) / 60 = 1.25 or 125%.
Strength to weight ratio is a useful measure as performance in many exercises is strongly correlated with bodyweight. For example, if a 90kg male has a 2RM pull up of +10kg for a total load of 100kg this is significantly less impressive than a 60kg male who has a 2rm pull up of 40kg. They both have a 2rm of 100kg total load, but the former has a SWR of 111%BW while the later has a SWR of 167%BW. Because climbing is a bodyweight sport the climber with the higher SWR will be at a significant advantage.
A woody where the holds are arranged in a systematic fashion. Typically this means the holds are symmetric so that identical climbs may be attempted on the ‘left’ and ‘right’ hand sides.
A technique is a climbers way of executing a particular movement. Technique should be effective in allowing continued movement through a sequence of moves. Often there is no right or wrong method as every climbers body is different. That said, some techniques are consistently less efficient than others. Those climbers that choose more efficient techniques tend to need need a lower level of physical training to operate at a given grade. See also Movement Economy and Movement Effectiveness.
A series of workouts scheduled over a period of time with a particular goal in mind.
The trunk includes the chest, back, shoulders and abdomen. The stability of one’s trunk points towards the ability of these muscle groups to work as one. Hence, a lack of trunk stability could suggest over-compensation of one muscle group or a lack of development elsewhere. Good trunk stability facilitates movement economy on the wall.
The volume of a session or workout refers to the total workload of the session. In climbing this is typically measured by the number of moves. For example, a circuit board session where you climb 500 moves in 2 hours would be a high volume session whereas a limit bouldering session might only mean climbing 10-20 moves over 2 hours and would thus be a low volume (but high intensity) session.
Your capacity to perform work over a given period of time. Colloquially this is often over the course of a training session or a full day e.g. “You need a good work capacity to climb El Cap”. Also used in the context of a specific exercise e.g. “your work capacity during 50% repeaters is exceptional!”
The work capacity that may be completed above Critical Force is termed as W’ (often described as the “energy store” component). W’ is limited by progressive depletion of high-energy phosphates and accumulation of metabolites associated with peripheral fatigue. See also Critical force curve.