“The Classic”

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Spanish research team experimental training protocol

DANGER: this is a protocol described in a research experiment. Extreme care should be taken before choosing to follow this protocol.

Below is an experimental training protocol used in multiple studies to train maximum grip strength.  These studies include:

  1. “The effects of a weighted dead-hang Training program on grip strength and endurance in expert climbers with different levels of strength” by E. López-Rivera and J.J. González-Badillo (2018)
  2. “Comparison of the effects of three hangboard training programs on maximal finger strength in rock climbers” by E. López-Rivera and J.J. González-Badillo (2016)
  3. “The effects of two maximum grip strength training methods using the same effort duration and different edge depth on grip endurance in elite climbers” by by E. López-Rivera and J.J. González-Badillo (2012)

Context: The latest study (2018) was on 22 climbers of different finger strength abilities who averaged an 8a (~5.13b) redpoint ability level.  The researchers essentially wanted to see who benefits more from the training: a group that started at lower finger strength, or a group that started at higher finger strength.  Tests included: finger strength on a 15mm edge with maximum weight added for 5 seconds, and finger endurance on an 11mm edge hang to failure. 

An image of Eva López-Rivera’s “Progression” Training Board, which helps facilitate working on smaller edges.

Result: The low strength group saw a 35.78% strength increase and a 35.59% endurance increase whereas the high strength group saw a 3.69% strength (non-significant) increase and a 4.22% (non-significant) endurance decrease.

  1. Ensure you’re warmed up.
  2. Start with 3-4 progressive sets at 50%-90% of the previous session’s maximum (more progressive, structured part of the warm-up)
  3. Use the half-crimp on an 18mm edge.
  4. 3-5 sets of 10-second maximum dead hangs with 3-minute rests, two times a week for 4 weeks.
    1. the participants were instructed not to go to failure, but rather to keep a 3-second “reserve”.
    2. Each subsequent set was varied by 2-5 kg (depending on body weight) depending on how they felt about their perceived effort regarding the reserve.
  5. 30-minute cool-down between above training and other workouts.
  6. Note: these were climbers who averaged French 8a Redpoint level, were 31.5 years old with 12.2 years of climbing experience. The “Low Strength” Climbers tested at 22.71 kg +- 7.72, which is the maximum weight a climber could hold off a 15mm edge for 5 seconds.

Fun historical note: Eva’s transgression and progression hangboards are associated with this protocol.

Note1: The original study (2012) is classic and follows an experimental training protocol involving two 4-week training blocks separated by a week of strength training rest.  The two groups either used a Maximum-Added Weight (MAW) approach for their first 4-weeks, followed by a Minimum-Edge Depth (MED) approach for their second 4-weeks (MAW-MED) or a reverse MED-MAW approach.  Improvements in strength and endurance were greater for the MAW-MED approach but I suggest contacting Eva directly since she’s had a lot of time to refine her methods, often based on different types of climbers.  Also, I recommend reading the paper as well, since there are some caveats to the improvements I mentioned.

Note2: I’ll discuss the 2016 paper in a separate entry since it’s important from the perspective of comparing two typical protocols used by climbers: maximal strength training and “repeater” (called ‘intermittent contraction’ method by Eva) training.