TBP 029 :: Climbing Trainer Adam Macke on MAT and Weight Training 2017-12-18T09:54:21+00:00

Project Description

Direct Download: LINK
Date: July 29th, 2015

Climbing Magazine HUGE Sale!

Climbing Magazine, one of the best media outlets for climbing news, training info, and climbing porn (let’s be real here), is giving you, my dear listeners, a year subscription to the magazine for $10. Yes, only $10, which is 83% off the normal price. Holy cats.

==>> Get The Discount

About Adam Macke

Adam Macke (pronounced “Mackey”) is a climbing trainer out of Chattanooga, TN. He works with people out of High Point Climbing and Fitness, which is a pretty new gym downtown. Adam has been personal training people since the early 2000’s, and uses weight training and Muscle Activation Technique (MAT) to unlock climbers’ potential. He’s also a climber of 8 years himself.

His methods with people in training for climbing are quite different than other trainers, so our conversation was pretty interesting and out of the box.

To find out more about him, go to www.mackefitness.com.

What We Talked About

  • How he differs from other climbing trainers
  • What MAT is and how it’s helped climbers
  • Why fingerboarding isn’t the best way to train finger strength
  • And what to do instead
  • Why campusing isn’t the best way to gain power
  • And what to do instead

Links We Mentioned

Training Programs for You

Please Review The Podcast on iTunes!

  • Link to the TrainingBeta Podcast on iTunes is HERE.
  • Please give the podcast an honest review on iTunes here to help the show reach more curious climbers around the world 😉

Photo Credit

Photo of Adam Macke by Corey Wentz at www.coreywentz.com. Thank you, Corey!


Neely Quinn: Hello there and welcome to the TrainingBeta podcast where I talk to climbers and trainers about how we can get a little better at our favorite sport. I’m your host, Neely Quinn, and today we’re on episode 29.

Before I get into that episode I just wanted to let you know that Climbing Magazine has been kind enough to give you guys a special offer of about 83% off of a year’s worth of magazines from them. You’ll get magazines delivered to your doorstep for $10 for a year which is, like I said, 83% off of what it normally would be. You go to www.climbing.com/save and you guys in particular get this amazing deal. Thank you for that, Climbing Magazine.

Alright, back to this interview today. Today I’m interviewing somebody that I had never heard of and my friend Blake Cash from Chattanooga – he actually doesn’t live there anymore but – is a strong climber, a good friend, and he emailed me and was like, ‘You need to interview this guy Adam Macke because he’s doing really innovative things, different things, and he’s a really great trainer. He’s helping the people in Chattanooga.’

So I contacted him and he was like, ‘Yes, I would love to talk to you,’ and it turns out, you know, he was kind of like, ‘I need to clarify some things. I need to make the point that some of the things that trainers are telling us to do are wrong.’ That’s exactly what we talked about today, about his differing opinions about training for climbing, about fingerboarding, campusing, weight training, and the basics of where he differs from everybody.

I really hope you enjoy this interview. I did. Sometimes I was a little bit lost, honestly, because what he was saying was so different. I think it’s great to have differing opinions, though, and he’s helping people with their climbing, it seems like pretty drastically so I think we should maybe take note of what he’s saying.

Okay, so here’s Adam Macke. His name is spelled m-a-c-k-e but it is pronounced ‘mack-ee.’ Here he is. Thanks for listening.


Neely Quinn: Okay, welcome to the show, Adam.


Adam Macke: Thanks.


Neely Quinn: Yeah. Thanks for taking time out of your day to talk with me and tell our audience the things that you know about training. If you could give us a little introduction to yourself and who you are, so pretend that somebody has no idea who Adam Macke is and just tell us a little bit about yourself.


Adam Macke: Great. Well first, thank you for creating this website and Facebook. I noticed you had 21,000 followers. That’s pretty awesome.


Neely Quinn: Thank you. We’re pretty happy with it.


Adam Macke: Right. My name is Adam Macke. I’m a personal trainer and climber. You know, I’m 36 years old and I boulder and I sport climb. I trad climb as well just not as much. I train full time with athletes, climbers, you know, regular people, professionals, and I had a great opportunity recently. I’m working in High Point Climbing and Fitness and I’m running my business there and it’s awesome.


Neely Quinn: Out of Chattanooga.


Adam Macke: Yeah, out of Chattanooga. I get to use muscle activation technique, which is a biomechanical process that I use to eliminate muscle imbalances or find weakness in the body and basically strengthen those muscles so that you can use them while you’re climbing.


Neely Quinn: Cool. I mean there’s a lot more to say about you and I’ll just ask you questions. You were referred to me by Blake Cash, who’s a – you know Blake, I’m assuming.


Adam Macke: Yes.


Neely Quinn: So he’s a mutual friend of ours and Blake’s a super strong climber, a highly respectable climber, and he was like, ‘You should interview this guy Adam. He trains people in Chattanooga. He’s doing a really good job,’ so I just want to know, you know – you’re not one of those super well known trainers but you’re obviously somebody who’s in the climbing community making a difference. I wanted to know – it seems like you take sort of a different approach to training.

First of all, why did you get into training climbers and how do you feel like you are different from other trainers?


Adam Macke: Right. I guess a little bit of my history, my background, my professional career would probably help answer that. Out of college I landed my first personal training job in a well-established, more of a sports club. High end, expensive memberships stuff, expectations of the trainers were very high. My manager, Aaron Lachanon, (spelling?) a great guy, one of the experts in the industry – he really pushed us into more and more education and I was there for about eight years.

I went through normal personal training certifications. I started with NESTA and then moved on to NASM, National Academy of Sports Medicine, then we really wanted more, more information about mechanics, biomechanics, how the body really worked, how to apply load to it, you know, the friction components, the physics really involved in applying load to the body. A lot of the other sort of certifications they might teach a little exercise, you know, and basic stuff but we got into this RTS, resistance training specialist, and it was the most difficult challenge as far as testing. Got through that, tested out, certified, and really applied that knowledge.

Wasn’t really climbing at the time. I had dabbled with it a little bit in college but that eight years that I was in Ohio I spent really working with people that could basically afford what we were charging for our rates. The value was there so that kind of left the climbers out of it.

Then we wanted more so we moved onto this muscle activation technique, which is basically a way to treat imbalance. That seems to be the biggest problem in the industry. Everyone’s trying to deal with correcting posture or they have tightness that they can’t eliminate, things like that. Went through that, certified, and I’ve been working with clients since – I started training in ‘01, ‘02 and then MAT-certified by ‘04 and I’ve been doing that since. I’ve logged over 70,000 hours of – this is my career. This is what I do.

It was funny, at the time I was doing great and loved it but something was missing and I figured out that it was the climbing. I loved to climb and I was not in a location that, you know, was conducive to that, being in Ohio. I moved to Chattanooga about seven years now and got back into climbing a little bit. Started out with some trad climbing for a couple of years and then it picked up into some bouldering. I think that’s when I started to realize there was some flaws in the training. I was reading a lot and talking to a lot of climbers, experiencing what was going on, and basically got out of the standard fitness gyms and went out on my own to, basically, make myself available to climbers and I’ve been doing that for almost four or five years now.

Blake Cash is one of them. I thought you might ask how many or who I’ve trained. So far it’s been about 120 local Chattanooga climbers that I’ve either done MAT or personal training with now.


Neely Quinn: Cool. What kinds of results have you been seeing with them?


Adam Macke: Great. I start out, I always start out with an assessment and I use the MAT, the muscle activation technique, assessment for that. I find a lot of basically inactive muscles, imbalances, weaknesses, that these climbers have.


Neely Quinn: Actually, I’m going to stop you right there because I think that a lot of people don’t know or they have no idea what MAT is, muscle activation technique, and I’ve had my own experiences with it. It’s, for what I have experienced, it’s extremely painful, really targeted – it can be really painful – muscle work that can be really effective at getting range of motion back and like you were saying, it allows your muscles to fire more freely and to do their job better. Is that sort of right?


Adam Macke: I think you’re confusing it with ART, which is active release technique. That’s more of a myofascial, trigger point where they’re going to try to eliminate whether it’s fascial or muscle tightness to free up some motion. Actually, MAT is not painful and it’s quite the opposite, actually.

In the assessment you find the muscles that aren’t able to contract and tightness is going to be your indicator that there’s a problem. That’s going to limit your range. We do some manual muscle testing to confirm that and then we take the muscle to its shortest position and then try to stimulate it to contract again.

There’s several techniques that you can use but basically it’s followed up with an isometric in the muscle’s shortest position and it’s active, it’s not passive, so you’re not forcing that position. You’re contracting that muscle. Basically, you’re trying to stimulate the muscle spindle and get more active

[unclear] bridging which allows the brain to communicate better with that muscle spindle, which is one of the receptors in the muscle. You know, then you reinforce it with contraction so it’s all isometric and in short position so it kind of looks like stretching but the forces are in different, basically, directions.


Neely Quinn: Cool. I was way off right there so I’m glad we clarified that because I wonder if there was anybody else thinking that it was what I was thinking it was. So you do that and you’re training people with – so you’re not necessarily training people using the wall. You’re deal at High Point is not to be a climbing coach.


Adam Macke: Yeah. Right. There’s movement coaches for that. They are more skilled than I am in that aspect and that’s not where my value in my time is going to be to that climber so basically, they’ll come in, I’ll go through the full assessment – there’s 330 positions I might check – find where those muscles aren’t contributing to joint motion or stabilizing. If they’re not – and I do this on a massage table so if they’re not working on that table, they’re not working on the wall.

There’s no exercise that they can go into the weight room and do or the campus boards or whatever to get that muscle to fire. You’ve already learned, if you can’t contract it on that table, you’ve already learned basically a faulty or a compensation movement pattern to not use that muscle because that’s not the most efficient path for your body to use. You would fall off the wall, you wouldn’t move the weight, whatever it is your goal is so you’ll find ideal patterns around that.

What we do is we retrain your neuromuscular system to start to use that muscle again. It starts out with the most simple thing which is going to be a simple isometric in a shortened position with minor resistance of my hand and then we start to progress into exercise. That is the least amount of unaccustomed activity so basically the next, most simple thing and where we’ll take the climber and we’ll go through the MAT process and when everything tests out that it’s strong and working again, then we can load the muscle. That choice exercise is critical and that’s where I see a lot of climbers messing up, too. Maybe everything works and they’re doing fine but then their exercise choice doesn’t really make sense for their goals and their load applications are not the best.


Neely Quinn: Okay, so this is really interesting and it makes me want to find an MAT practitioner but can you give us some more of a visual or a case study of this? Can you think of an example of a climber who went through this whole process and there were certain muscles or whatever that weren’t working and how you got those to work again and what it did for their climbing?


Adam Macke: So actually, interesting, I had a lady this morning, 53, she can’t climb anymore. She’s basically in a lot of cervical and shoulder pain, scapula is locked down, somebody might diagnose her with a frozen shoulder but she can’t climb now. I start on the assessment today and going through and her hips, her right glute, abduction in her gluteus minimus can’t fire. She can’t contract them. There’s no left spinal rotation, side bend, [unclear], it’s like half the muscles in her trunk aren’t able to fire which means there’s no stability, basically, in the whole lumbar thoracic spine so the scapula is not going to move.

You have to think about the muscular that attaches in the scapular region. You’ve got those erectors in the posterior side that they tie in there, your latissimus comes down and ties into your thoracolumbar fascia, you’ve got your glute max ties into that same fascia, so what your body does is it’s not going to allow any motion in that scapula, which is not going to allow the humerus to basically go into flexion. You have what’s called a humeral scapular rhythm. It’s a 2:1 ratio and you’re only going to get about 90० of shoulder flexion before the scapula’s not going to allow it. There’s going to be impingement, you’re going to be in pain, and that’s a perfect example of what I see on a daily/weekly basis with climbers. They have so much dysfunction in their trunk and hips that their shoulders can’t function properly and they end up injured.

That’s one example. You know…


Neely Quinn: What do you think about this? I’m sure you’ve seen something like this before. Do you think you could fix that?


Adam Macke: Yeah, I do. That was her today. She basically had about 90० of shoulder flexion in the assessment and all I did was activate those trunk and hip muscles and she went to about 160० of shoulder flexion without pain. I didn’t touch the shoulder.


Neely Quinn: She must have been so psyched.


Adam Macke: Oh yeah, she was really excited. You know – yeah, every climber that I work with I see a lot of dysfunction in their body and I know what it’s from. It’s the intense training that they’re doing, this infatuation with max loading on the wall and it creates a lot of compensation and their bodies shut down to that.

Now we’re starting to talk about periodization, which we could talk about later, but another example, a local climber, Jason Tanner, he comes in, he’s barely climbing 5.11, a sport climber, and he gets on the table. I must have found I bet 50 positions of inactive muscles and this all – in these positions, when I say, “These are muscles that don’t work,” when you have a muscle that doesn’t fire there’s an opposing muscle that’s very tight. That’s what everyone feels and they want to go and stretch that tightness but every time, 100% of the time, when you have a tightness it’s because there’s a weakness on the other side of the joint. That’s your body’s only ability to protect the joint from going into a weak, unstable position because if it did, you would get hurt.

Jason Tanner, he’s got 50+ positions and all I do is I get him on the table, I go through his treatment, a few weeks later and he gets on a 5.12. He sends a .12 and he’s excited, he makes a Facebook post. I mean, this is a guy, he’s mid-30s, he’s full time 9-to-5 behind a desk, engineer, you know, which is probably some of his…


Neely Quinn: Why he’s so…


Adam Macke: Right, but then you know, in his time he’s trying to climb Saturdays and Sundays and he’s out climbing, trying hard, and I’ve seen him out there. He’s fighting all this tightness which is from these weaknesses in these positions so I take him through the MAT and then I do some training myself but I also have trainers to help me. I don’t have – you know, I want to climb, too so I have other trainers and Al Smith, a great personal trainer, he’s been working with him and he’s been getting stronger. The guy’s climbing/he’s getting on 5.13s right now so the only thing we changed, you know, we didn’t change his schedule. We can’t. He works. Basically, he’s just training smarter now. We do the MAT and the exercise choice that he uses in the weight room and that’s basically all that we’ve done and his climbing’s just, he keeps getting stronger.


Neely Quinn: That’s awesome. I’m not going to lie, I’m Google-ing MAT practitioners. For instance, my husband just had shoulder – well, he didn’t ‘just’, it was four or five months ago now, and he had shoulder surgery for a torn labrum and he’s not healing well. He’s not able to climb really. Whenever he does much of anything it gets really inflamed and painful and I’m wondering if he has something like that going on. I mean, do you see a lot of surgery patients?


Adam Macke: So, it’s Muscle Activation Technique if you want to Google. There’s awesome videos out there. A guy named Greg Roskopf, kind of the founder, he developed the whole process. It’s manual isometrics, it’s manual muscle testing, I mean that stuff’s been around forever but the actual process that we take people through and a lot of mistakes, I think, that some other practitioners are making is yeah – you say a shoulder issue and they go right to the shoulder. They focus on the shoulder and what caused that problem? You can treat those symptoms with physical therapy. We can treat those symptoms but as soon as you go back to climbing or whatever, if you didn’t address the weak hip or trunk or whatever in that tissue chain that wasn’t helping stabilize those joints, you’re just going to tear the shoulder up again.


Neely Quinn: Yeah.


Adam Macke: I would suggest checking out the videos. There’s really cool videos out there to explain it, the process, and everything.


Neely Quinn: Cool. I’ll check it out. I had asked you earlier and we got sidetracked on this really interesting information, about what/how your theories and practices, besides the whole having the MAT as part of your practice, which seems like it’s pretty crucial to you, but you’re also training people in the gym with weights, so what kinds of things are you doing and how is it different from what other trainers are doing?


Adam Macke: So, it depends on their goal. I wouldn’t say I have any theories. I just basically use science as my base. There’s different periodizations and there’s a lot of exercises to choose from and each person/each climber is in a different place in their – you can call it your ‘functional continuum’ where any point in that, and not everyone keeps progressing, either. Some people, life gets in the way and you have setbacks and things like that so what you were doing before might not be the best choice then.

The exercises that we choose are, we’re considering force angles and duration, basically time under tension, the percent of load, how long the rest periods, things like that. How we’re different, I guess, from other trainers is we’re not necessarily going to follow some protocol or some cookie cutter program. We’re using all this science to help make the decisions for us, you know, and what’s going to be best for them.


Neely Quinn: Right, and to individualize the program.


Adam Macke: Right.


Neely Quinn: Can we go through another case study of a client of your’s?


Adam Macke: Yeah. Okay, Douglas Gregorie. He’s a full time ER doc, two kids, wife, you know, I mean the guy is super busy. Had climbed, when he was younger in college, and I think when he went to med school there was no time for it. He’s got two kids now. About a year ago, maybe two years now, and strong guy, you know? You could tell he had some climbing history. He seemed like at the time was V6/V7 strength, 5.12, and watching him in the gym and he’s just – the exercises really didn’t make sense, especially the way he was grouping them together. There was no – his rest periods were all wrong. It really didn’t make sense if you watched the guy and talked to him.

He had heard me talking to another climber about time under tension, MAT stuff, and how things work and he was really intrigued. He signed-up right away. Now, we’ve taken him through the process, taught him basically how to resistance train and the guy’s climbing 5.13 and I watched him do a V10 second try.


Neely Quinn: Nice.


Adam Macke: I mean, this is a guy that might actually get to climb five hours a week at the most, so yeah. It’s pretty awesome when you can use the science to your advantage and you can cheat and get stronger in the weight room and it can apply on the wall, as long as you know how to climb.

That’s the other thing, is everybody they want to go and only strength train and train their fingers and they really don’t understand movement, and there’s where I suggest you get a coach to learn some movement. I mean, there’s no arguing that climbing is the best thing for climbing but you can cheat in the weight room if you do it right. I think this is where climbers – you know, they’ve identified that with fingers. It’s funny, because they’ll train fingers in isolation and see the strength gains from that and it’s applied on the wall but then when it comes to all the other muscle groups they’re just kind of like, ‘Oh, let’s mimic climbing because that makes sense. It’s functional,’ and what you’ll find is if you, I mean – you have these programs on your website for fingers but what about the hips? What about the feet? What about elbows? There are other joints in the body that have muscles that you can do the same thing in the gym.


Neely Quinn: Okay, sorry for the interruption here but I just want to remind you guys that Climbing Magazine has been super generous with us. They’re giving TrainingBeta podcast listeners a special deal where you guys can get a year’s subscription to actually get the paper magazine sent to your doorstep for only $10. It’s normally $60 so that’s 83% off of the normal price, which is pretty awesome.

If you go to www.climbing.com/save that’s where you’ll find that super easy sign-up sheet where you can pay the 10 bucks and get it. Climbing Magazine is, as we all know, one of the first and definitely one of the best climbing magazines out there with awesome pictures and awesome training information. They really are trying to focus more now on training and how to do it properly so it really fits in well with what we’re trying to accomplish here at TrainingBeta.

So yeah, go to www.climbing.com/save and you’ll get that deal. Thanks to Climbing Magazine for giving us that. Alright, back to the interview.


Neely Quinn: Okay, so I’m really curious. You said that guy’s name was Gregorie?


Adam Macke: Douglas Gregorie.


Neely Quinn: Douglas Gregorie, okay. So what did you have him do? How did he get so much stronger?


Adam Macke: Basically, upper extremity for him. It came down to about six movements, you know. A bench press, a seated machine row – you’ll find with posterior thoracic, basically your back/your scapula muscles in the back, there becomes a problem. If you want them to get stronger I hear people talk about TRX, which is a great tool, but you’ll find that it becomes easy very quickly and if you want to load those muscles to have them produce more force and that to transfer onto the wall, you have to brace your body.

This is where the seated row machine or a pulley row or a T-bar, these are great exercise choices because we can basically brace our body and only work those posterior muscles. Then we can hit the right periodizations because if we’re trying to hit 85/90% of our one-rep max on those exercises you can’t stand up when you do that. You’ll pull yourself over. You can’t create enough friction on the floor and I think that’s a great example of how climbers think they need to mimic the motion on the wall and that’s where the TRX and the rings come in handy or they try to do a front lever or things like that. If you really look at what seated row is, it is a front lever from your humerus. It really doesn’t know the difference so we can produce more force than what our body has to offer as a body weight or less if, say, the climber’s in a state where they can’t move their body weight. Maybe they can’t even do a pull-up. That’s where a lat pull-down machine might be a better option.

So, we take Doug through these exercises. Bench press, rows, we do some shoulder military press or dumbbell press, bicep curl, tricep, but we change the periodization per muscle group. You can hypertrophy certain muscles which is going to make you gain body weight, which that makes you stronger as well but then your body weight goes up and your strength-to-weight ratio is off. That’s no good, but then certain muscles we might want to hypertrophy like biceps and lats versus traps and quadriceps, things like that. Those muscles, we want them to produce force and be as strong as they can but we don’t want to put weight on them.

We do pretty simple movements, more traditional is I guess how you would classify it so that we can isolate that muscle group, make sure it’s working, and we’ve got the accurate amount of load on there to hit the goals that we need for that muscle group.

For the legs, we really like to do more isolation. I think this is another part where the climbers – you know, know climbers are talking about a dead lift.


Neely Quinn: Right. You know, that’s what I was going to ask you.


Adam Macke: That just came up. I’ve listened to the podcasts and it’s funny. You listen to them and you’re like, ‘Wow. It took them 25 years to figure out that there was hip extension and there was a lot of force production out of the hips.’ If you step back and really just, I mean, somebody really doesn’t even have to be a climber, all they have to do is understand biomechanics and force application to see that and it’s funny. Now we’re starting to get into this and you’ll see the industry is going back to more traditional stuff because that’s the only way that you can load those muscles.

What we did with Doug is we take him through/we did some deadlifting. The problem with the deadlift is it becomes higher risk. You know, like I said about that whole functional continuum, there’s a place for an exercise in your process when what your goals are and where you are in that timeline – basically, the deadlift becomes very heavy. Then we’ve got a lot of stress on disks, basically, in the vertebrae in the back. Because it’s still a compound movement, there’s a lot of muscles involved. What’s the next step? Where do we go from there? We’re taking him, basically, into isolation of those hip muscles using cable as resistance, a pulley, cables and pulleys, and lay him down to do that and have him just work on abduction because it’s too difficult to stand up. We’re laying down with these cables loaded.

The other thing with the deadlift is it’s really just sagittal plane. It’s just straight and it’s not how we climb. We climb in positions where we’re in full abduction and hip flexion of the hip and we have to produce force there, on our toe, that’s really almost above our shoulder. The only way that you can hit these angles in these joints is to use a pulley cable and that’s basically with an ankle strap on so it kind of looks like some old school Jane Fonda stuff but it works. With the cable machine you’ve got settings in 3-5 pound increments so we can load those muscles exactly how we want versus: ‘Here’s a dead lift, pick this up.’ It starts getting silly. Doug can dead lift like 275 pounds. Do we want to keep doing that to his back? It’s like, you can take it down to where you isolate only the glute max so it’s not going to be able to produce that much load by itself or just the gluteus minimus or just the external rotator. We do that with him and then that’s for the legs.

Of course, there’s loading for the trunk. Lots of isometrics in the trunk and we use, basically, some body weight, some bands, cables, whatever. There’s always, each exercise you’ll find that there’s a better way to load the muscle and we’re not favoring free weights or favoring a TRX or anything. TRX is a great benefit for some exercises; some exercises it’s terrible because the force application is all wrong, the force angles are off and it loads the muscle when it’s completely lengthened out and there’s no load when you’re in a fully contracted position. We might choose a free weight exercise for this. It just really depends on the muscle group and how you load it.

Basically, taking Doug through that and not changing anything with his climbing and the guy’s climbing hard. I think he’s climbing harder than he did when he was in his 20s when he really wasn’t working or doing anything.


Neely Quinn: Nice. That’s great. So you don’t/it sounds like you don’t do much with finger training. Do you give that over to the movement trainers? Like, the coaches?


Adam Macke: No. I mean, we talk about it a lot. Finger training is – you’re talking about on the fingerboard?


Neely Quinn: Yeah.


Adam Macke: So I do not think that’s the most effective way to strengthen the fingers.


Neely Quinn: Woah. What did you say?


Adam Macke: Yeah. Here’s the problem: we’re hanging from a board. We’re using our body weight as resistance. We know we can change the size of the pad that we’re using, we can change our closed grip, open grip, things like that but basically we have this problem: it’s our body weight. Then we’re like, ‘Okay, I’m too heavy,’ so we use a pulley with a weight on the other end to pull us up. Then, ‘Well now I’m strong and I can hold this so now I’m going to add the weight to pull me down.’ We keep playing these games just to load the fingers, not to mention we’re in full shoulder flexion the whole time.

If you really think about it, it’s difficult. We’re playing these games to try to get the fingers stronger and load them and it’s like now I’m starting to see a couple of Facebook posts recently for people who are just doing old, traditional finger rolls on the bar. Now you’re seeing people that are coming up with a way to pinch a little block and hang weight off of it. That’s starting to make sense to me because then we can start to load those finger flexors at an accurate – to hit those periodizations. These are all the systems that we see in the workouts, and the time, so it’s like we’ve really got that down with the fingers but the actual loading is still not the best choice. I’m not saying it doesn’t work. Don’t get me wrong, but I said it’s not the most effective way to strengthen your fingers.


Neely Quinn: Because you’re stressing your shoulders or because…?


Adam Macke: Because you’re fighting this game of trying to add or take away weight from your body so why not just either stand in front of a pulley and choose a grip to attach to that cable. Stand there so we don’t have to worry about hanging and we can individually load one finger at a time, or all the fingers, or two fingers, or three fingers, whatever – any grip we want and train those finger flexors. We can do isometric, we can do isotonic, it doesn’t matter. Whatever the goal is but I think the reason why the finger board became popular is because it’s cheap and easy, which is now, I mean, we have access to a lot of cool equipment. Most people do, in the gyms, so we need to take advantage of this.


Neely Quinn: What are finger rolls? Let’s go back. I actually just got an email from a guy who was like, ‘What do you think about finger rolls?’ and I was like, ‘I have no idea.’ Can you explain what you meant by that?


Adam Macke: You take a traditional Olympic bar and there’s different grips. I’ve seen people hold it behind their back, in front, whatever. You can even go on your thigh, so you’re basically using the weight of the bar and rolling it down your finger and back up. I, personally, don’t do those and I don’t do those with a client.

You know, if you really think about climbing the fingers are pretty isometric so they’re not really moving. They need to hold tension so when we train fingers, we’re just doing isometrics. The finger roll wouldn’t do that unless you’re just holding the bar so there wouldn’t be a roll but what’s cool is people are identifying, like, ‘Oh, I can really load the muscles in the way that I want,’ and that’s a concentric/eccentric way to do it but again, why not just use some kind of grip? You could take a climbing hold, you could take a bunch of holds, and fabricate something where you can attach an i-bolt to the little piece of wood that it’s attached to and hang a weight off of it and hold it with one finger, two fingers, whatever.

What I prefer to do is to stand in front of a pulley that’s about chest height and use the grip and train individual fingers. That, to me, seems like the most effective way to load a finger. It takes all those other variables out and we don’t have to worry about our body weight. We can train those fingers muscles and then make them stronger.


Neely Quinn: So you mean attach a weight to the other end of the pulley and then just pull?


Adam Macke: You could do that. If you have access to a gym you’re going to have a pulley with a weight stack attached to it with a selectorized pin that you can choose 3-5 pound increments and yeah – so you’re standing there. It’s not hard to stand there because you load one or two fingers and you’re only going to hit like 20 pounds. That’s all that they, guys with the strongest fingers, they still are not going to hold a lot more weight than that so when you add all 10 fingers together then yeah, then you can hold a couple hundred pounds on a one-pad edge but you start breaking them up and what you will find is everybody has a finger that’s not as strong as the other side or they have weaknesses.

This is a great way to – you know, it takes time, but this is something you’re going to see more of because the traditional hangboard is just not the most effective way. It’s like a TRX. It’s a cool way and you’re kind of hanging there and you’re using your body weight and you’re moving, and I’m not saying that the fingerboards don’t work. It could be the best thing for a new climber, just to learn how to hang on their fingertips. The thing that I fear the most is that when you make the exercise to replicate too much of your sport, it might actually change your recruitment patterns, which I’d love to talk about campusing, too.


Neely Quinn: Well let’s talk about campusing.


Adam Macke: Same thing. What’s the goal of the exercise?


Neely Quinn: To create power/to build power.


Adam Macke: Power, okay. If we’re using climbing holds and we’re in the climbing gym and we do that often, would that maybe change our technique on the wall?


Neely Quinn: I don’t know. Would it?


Adam Macke: Yeah. Absolutely.


Neely Quinn: How so?


Adam Macke: Okay, so if you – we have these ideal patterns that we use to get from the bottom to the top, right? There’s a force application on the fingers and on the toes, and sometimes there’s knee bars and other positions that we might use. Not really on the indoor gym; that’s more of an outdoor technique. So, we’ve got this contact of our fingers on the hold and that contact is friction and that’s what’s going to keep us on the hold. To apply that friction it takes a compression component from not only the fingers, okay? You have/there’s a thing called ‘resultant.’ This is a physics term but basically when you have two opposing forces pulling in different directions, that object is going to be pulled somewhere in the center. It’s basically the mean, the average, of those two forces so if one’s pulling harder than the other it’s going to go a little in that direction.


Neely Quinn: Okay.


Adam Macke: When we’re on the wall, if we’re applying force on the fingers and then our foot is on the wall and it’s pushing, it changes the direction of pull of your body and which way it’s going. It changes – the foot can change the pressure on the finger, okay? So when we’re hanging from just our hands it’s an entirely different recruitment pattern for our whole body and as soon as the foot is applied it changes the pressure on the fingers. This is why climbers talk about good technique. Well, it’s not to cut your feet. Keep your feet on.

Now there are appropriate times when yeah, we cut the feet and it’s a more effective way to transfer the body/the center of gravity over to the other hand and then we can transfer feet in a different direction, but a lot of times there’s those key feet. I mean, to keep that pressure opposing the other hand or the inferior hand – this is really hard to explain.


Neely Quinn: Yeah. I mean, I see what you’re saying but how do you think we should train power then?


Adam Macke: Well, while you’re climbing. You could take – again, I’m not saying that campusing doesn’t work but what are we using it for? Is it a skill building tool or are we using it as a strengthening exercise? Here’s the problem with the campusing: the goal is to get from the bottom to the top and we’re not going to use our feet so yeah, it’s effectively going to challenge our hands a lot and our upper extremity but how is that going to transfer onto real climbing?

If you talk to some of these more veteran climbers, they don’t do a lot of that. I mean, there’s some that do and they sell programs and things like that but it seems like unless you’re a pro climber, you shouldn’t have a lot of time for that and again, I wouldn’t use it as a strengthening too. I would use it as a skill building tool. We need to know how to campus. It’s an effective skill that we need to use on the wall but if we’re going to use it or strengthening and power, you’re going to get – yes, if somebody starts campusing they’re going to gain a lot of power but really when we’re climbing, is that power all coming from the upper extremities or the legs? Again, is that going to change our recruitment patterns on the wall?

All the guys I see that do a lot of campusing, they kind of have sloppy feet and the people that don’t have the power, that don’t campus, they have really good feet. Do you see? It’s like we need a little of both but to use the campusing as your strengthening tool? I don’t know. You’re going to spend a lot of time doing it, you’re going to change your whole recruitment patterns for climbing, and it’s going to affect it. How much should we do? What percentage? You’re not going to put a percentage on it and it’s different for every climber but then, we’re not even talking about the compensation factor that’s involved.

All these climbers that I get on the table and I do their assessments, I find these major imbalances and weaknesses. You think, ‘Oh, they have to have strong lats, they have to have strong hips.’ They don’t. They don’t even work but they can still campus and they campus awesome because their body finds an ideal pattern around that weakness and the strong muscles get stronger and the weak ones get weaker. If you’re going to do a huge, open-chain exercise like campusing, you’re going to compensate for weaknesses and again, the skill of campusing needs to be done but I don’t know if I would use it as a strengthening tool all the time. I might choose a traditional exercise which we can do any kind of periodization and we can do any kind of percent load, basically, because the increments are not using our body weight.


Neely Quinn: I’m trying to understand what you would use instead. You say ‘traditional.’


Adam Macke: Well, I would just go in and isolate individual muscle groups that are involved. If we identify that someone’s got some weaker upper extremity muscles and they don’t have the power to produce on the wall, yeah, we could take them and campus and campus for strengthening and play all the games that we have to get stronger at campusing, and then we’re going to take away from some of their climbing skill with their feet. It’s going to happen because we’re holding climbing holds and we’re moving up a wall and instead, why not just go to the gym and load the lats? Load the teres major. Load the biceps. Individually, get the force production we need out of those muscles then go and practice campusing as a skill and rock climb.


Neely Quinn: So you’re saying you would just be doing, like, one-rep maxes or something?


Adam Macke: No. You probably want to Google this, too. You have/you can look-up ‘periodization for strength training’ and you’re going to get a chart. It’s going to say things like, “maximum strength.” That’s going to be at the top and it’s going to say, “duration 4-10 seconds.” Your rest period is going to be a minute and a half up to five minutes and your percent of your one-rep max is going to be 85-100% so that’s how you’re going to get the adaptation for that muscle to produce maximum strength.

The speed is not as important as the load because what you’re going to find – yeah?


Neely Quinn: That’s what my question is here, because with power I thought it had a lot to do with speed, basically.


Adam Macke: Right. Well, strength is the foundation of power.


Neely Quinn: Okay.


Adam Macke: Don’t get me wrong. Like I said, you have to practice campusing, you have to practice explosive, bouldery moves.


Neely Quinn: The stronger you are the more power you’re going to have.


Adam Macke: Exactly. Look what happens if you watch a guy who comes into the gym who’s never climbed before. What’s the first thing they do? They campus up the wall. Why do they do it? Because they have the strength to do it and they think it’s cool. They go, ‘Oh, this looks awesome. It looks like Stallone in Cliff Hanger,’ you know? They don’t know. They already have that force. I’m talking about more of your typical meat head, gym rat. That’s what they come in and do and it’s not an effective way to climb but they can already do it because they have the strength. What they actually figure out is they don’t need as much strength as they have because you run into the strength-to-weight ratio problem.

Basically you can, like I said earlier, you can cheat in the weight room, you can hypertrophy some muscles, you can maximum strength some muscles – you have to choose the muscles where you do want to put on the weight and where you don’t then you go practice the skill of campusing and then you go and try hard boulder problems and everything will come together. If you don’t have the strength to begin with and you choose something like campusing, you’re going to compensate for the weak muscles and you’ll find your way up the wall and that’s going to transfer onto your technique and kind of be a little bit of a downside to that. But yes – you’re going to get stronger. Everything that we do usually makes you stronger but we’re trying to figure out what’s the most effective way to do that.


Neely Quinn: Okay, so like you’re saying that there’s a time and a place for campusing but maybe not very much.


Adam Macke: Oh yeah.


Neely Quinn: So like, once a week? Twice a week? I mean, for an elite climber?


Adam Macke: It depends. Where are they at in their season? What their goals are, their assessment – you see, I’m not going to put a certain percentage or number on a type of exercise or anything like that because it’s all individual, dependent on assessment and goals, health history – things like that – climbing techniques. Some of these guys that have impeccable technique, man, the best thing that they could do is go and campus.


Neely Quinn: Right.


Adam Macke: They could learn how to get more force production out of it but it seems like a lot of people are going to that as their strength tool. That’s all I’m trying to point out, is that it’s not really going to be the most effective way to make the muscle produce more force. You have to know how to do it, though. How much time? I don’t know. It really depends on the individual. I’ve gone through cycles myself, I’ve seen climbers go through it and you know what? They usually end up on the table, injured. That’s what I’m seeing so then you’re like, ‘Oh yeah – I got stronger there for a little while and then this one day, my shoulder hurt.’ It’s like – okay, if you look at the way you’re loading it, there you go.

You can isolate one muscle at a time and get it to produce more force, practice campusing so you know how to do the skill and then boulder. Then you can periodize your actual climbing.


Neely Quinn: Okay, so I saw – and this is all making sense, I get it now but it is just really different than what we hear about from other trainers. There’s no other trainer who has ever said these things to me.


Adam Macke: It’s because you’ve got traditionalists, and I don’t mean trad climber. Traditionalists would be climbers that have been climbing. They are the veterans, they’ve been climbing or a long time and this is what worked for them and this is what everyone else should do versus what I’m saying. This is all science-based. This is not my opinion. This is biomechanics, this is physics, gravity, loading, friction forces, recruitment patterns, movement, and that’s the science of it. I think a lot of exercises get glorified because they look cool where an exercise that doesn’t look so cool might be the most effective way to reach your goal for that muscle group or what you’re trying to achieve.


Neely Quinn: So speaking of exercises like that, that don’t necessarily look cool, I was in the gym recently and one of the trainers in Boulder, a climbing trainer, was in there and he’s not so great at campusing. He uses a lot of traditional weight lifting techniques and so what he was doing was he had a big bar set up with pretty heavy weight and he had it on the floor. He would bend over and lift it up really quickly to his chest and then lift it up really quickly to his chest and he was trying to mimic the action of campusing. Do you think that would be effective?


Adam Macke: No, because if he can move the weight that fast that means the percent of load is less than 85% and again, trying to mimic – that’s what we need to get away from is mimicking climbing when we’re strengthening. He should just go practice whatever movement it was on the wall that he was struggling with: power. Practice it so that you can dial in that recruitment pattern and then it sounds like they were doing like a modified deadlift or power clean or something. Is that what they were…?


Neely Quinn: Sort of, yeah. Yes, but his butt was out. He was in an L shape when he was doing it.


Adam Macke: It sounds like a straight-legged deadlift, basically, so his knees weren’t going into flexion. I mean, if you’re trying to get more power you’ve got to be at 85% of your one-rep max and to move 85% fast is difficult. I don’t know that you can. What’s going to end up happening is, and people that deadlift will understand this, 85% of your max we’re talking, for Douglas Gregorie, that might be 220 pounds. He’s going to be still/it’s not going to be fast. It can’t be but the force production out of the muscle, he’s going to get more cross section fibers going which is going to increase the strength of the muscle and produce more force.

Speed on the the exercise isn’t, on the strength training exercise, isn’t as important as when you’re on the wall and moving. That’s where your skill comes from because you could take someone that, they don’t have to strength train to get more power, they could do it on the wall but like I was saying earlier, you can do it quicker in the weight room and then go and practice your climbing.


Neely Quinn: Right. So there’s really not many ways to actually train climbing power in the weight room?


Adam Macke: No. Power is the ability to create the quick force production necessary and the orchestration of all the individual muscles in every joint to produce the force to move your body in a direction. Basically, you’re trying to take advantage of inertia to move your body against gravity, quickly, and that – yes. You practice that campusing, you practice that with hard boulder problems, but to strengthen, I would just strengthen the muscles in the weight room.


Neely Quinn: Alright. I have lots of more questions for you but we have been talking for 57 minutes and we should stop. I’ve actually had complaints from people who are like, ‘You need to make your podcasts shorter,’ and I’m like, ‘You can’t really get much done in less than an hour.’

Okay, so number one: do you train people over the phone or can they only see you at High Point?


Adam Macke: No, virtual training is about impossible. I mean, you can do that but no. You’ll have come to High Point. I’m going to want to do an assessment, see what’s going on in the muscles, so yeah.


Neely Quinn: What’s your – do you want to give your website?


Adam Macke: Oh, you can just go to the High Point webpage or Facebook and there’s links to all our personal training.


Neely Quinn: Because I saw, also, that you have www.mackefitness.com?


Adam Macke: Yeah, Macke Fitness. When I had my own studio that’s what we used but everything is through High Point now.


Neely Quinn: Okay, alright, cool. Do you have any place on Facebook where people can find you or do you do blogging ever? Where can people find more?


Adam Macke: I have a closed Facebook called Chattanooga Climbing Fitness and people can ask to be in that group. We talk about a lot of this stuff. It’s pretty awesome. You can hit me up personally on Facebook. Yeah, I’m pretty easy to find.


Neely Quinn: Would you be willing to be on the show again?


Adam Macke: Absolutely.


Neely Quinn: Because I didn’t get to ask you half the questions I wanted to ask you.


Adam Macke: Yeah, I love talking about this stuff.


Neely Quinn: Alright, well thank you very much and yeah. Do you have any last words for us?


Adam Macke: Just a couple shout-outs to Tick, Tape, and Tighten, and Anvil Crash pads. Awesome guys. Check them out.


Neely Quinn: Tick, Tape, and Tighten? What’s that?


Adam Macke: Yeah, so you’ve got setters in the gym and there’s a guy, Cody, at High Point, and he’s taking it to a whole new level. He’s making a profession out of it and he’s not just getting his certification levels but he’s got a Facebook page – it’s a whole step up from what’s the typical standard in the industry. This guy, this is what he wants to do for his career. Set holds and set for comps and so he’s got a really cool page and group and forum going and so if anyone is interested in, basically, setting problems in the gym, get involved. This guy is legit.


Neely Quinn: So he’s – is he teaching people more about route setting or is he just offering his route setting services?


Adam Macke: His service is in High Point and he’s trying to create a – like, in any industry you have forums and you have places you can go to get information and things, and that’s his goal with the whole deal, is to create more of a professional industry out of setting. It’s the most important thing in the gym and he’s taking it to that level. This guy, you watch him and he’s got tool boxes and all these different devices that he uses and he talks. You’ll see. Go to Tick, Tape, and Tighten, his website, and he’s got forums on there. Check it out. It’s really cool and it’s new to the industry so these guys – check it out.


Neely Quinn: And then what was the other shout-out that you had?


Adam Macke: Anvil Crashpads, a crash pad rental.


Neely Quinn: Oh, what? Is that just in Chattanooga?


Adam Macke: Yeah, it’s basically Brian, he figured out that there was a need for people who travel to Chattanooga. They fly or they try to cram a bunch of people in a car and you can’t fit crash pads in there. If you’ve been to Stone Fort you can get quite a few highballs and you want some pads so he rents them out. It’s pretty awesome. This guy’s got a store.


Neely Quinn: You guys have the best community for climbing out there with the hostel and such easy access to such awesome bouldering. It’s so cool.


Adam Macke: Right. It’s awesome. I love this place.


Neely Quinn: Cool. Alright, well again, thanks Adam and I hope you enjoy the rest of your day fixing people, teaching them how to be stronger.


Adam Macke: Thanks.


Neely Quinn: I’ll talk to you soon.


Adam Macke: Alright. Later.


Neely Quinn: Alright, thank you so much again for listening to that interview with Adam Macke, who you can find at High Point Climbing and Fitness in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He says ‘chad-uh-noog-uh’ and I say ‘chat-uh-noog-uh.’ I feel like I’m saying it wrong but anyway, I kind of wish that I lived in Chattanooga right now so that I could see what he’s talking about. Like, I want him to work on me and figure out where my muscles aren’t firing and I did look up somebody in Boulder and I think that Seth might go see her to see what it’s all about and see if it works, so anyway.

I hope you enjoyed that. Again, I’m Neely Quinn and let’s see, next week we’re actually going to have Beth Rodden. I’m interviewing her tomorrow and hopefully that’ll be really interesting for climbers, trad climbers, but also women who have or couples who have children, because she just had a baby and she’s been doing a lot of blogging on that, which is something that’s interesting to me right now because Seth and I are considering the prospect of having a kid. I’m 37 so I guess it’s almost time for me to do that soon so I’m excited to talk to Beth about that and how hard it is or easy it is to have a kid and still climb.

Other than that, I wanted to remind you guys, actually, that we’re having a sale right now on our site, on our eBook training programs. Like the six-week power endurance, the eight-week endurance program, the nutrition guide, the injury prevention guide, and Steve Bechtel’s strength program. All of those are on sale right now for 30% off but only until Friday, which is August 1st I believe. That’s 2015 in case you’re listening to this way far ahead of here, so if you use the code ‘summer2015’ at checkout for any of those products, you’ll get the sale, the 30% off.

I think that’s all I want to talk to you about today. Thanks for listening. If you liked what you heard I would love an iTunes review. You can do that on the TrainingBeta podcast, iTunes page. Again, I really appreciate you listening and I hope you have a great weekend. I’ll talk to you next week.



  Click here to subscribe


  1. […] and a few other exercises. I’ve adopted this philosophy partially after listening to TrainingBeta’s podcast with Adam Macke and in conjunction with Kris Hampton’s High/Low approach. Typical periodized […]

  2. Nick September 15, 2015 at 1:29 am - Reply

    70,000 hours?
    I6 hours a day for 12 years. I think he is exaggerating a little.

  3. Alex Diehl August 14, 2015 at 9:20 am - Reply

    Hey Kenn, so have you tried MAT?
    When I first heard about MAT, the first thought was there is no way Im going to pay for that. Its just another one of those fad exercise things that guarantees results. And as I am a skeptic I didn’t buy it. Then one day I sat down and learned about it, how it works, and realized it is the only thing of everything I experimented with that has the ability to address my athletic issues. After the first session I am sold. So ever since I was a kid my body was uneven, weak left side, imbalanced muscles. As I became a teenager and dove into climbing those imbalanced muscles resulted in uneven muscular development and a locked shoulder back muscle that was always in pain. Since then I have tried everything to correct those visible imbalances in my chest and shoulders I have done years of yoga, chiropractic, massage, lifting and cross training as well as my climbing but the imbalances persisted to my discomfort and dismay. Then six months ago at 24 I tried my first MAT and found the root of the problem that wouldn’t allow my muscles to pull right. Adam Macke found a large muscle in the left side of my abdominal was not and probably never had been firing as well as a small portion of left hip flexor and left psoas. The result being that the upper body chains of muscle on my left side had no support to lock into when firing. Leaving a huge imbalance that my shoulder and back compensated for. After he fixed these problems I left to go climb and suddenly the constant tension in my back released and the pain went away. Since then new muscles in my upper body and core that have never worked before are getting stronger. My climbing performance has shot up a grade and a half and my visibly imbalanced musculature is well on its way to perfect symmetry. Granted since that first visit I have had to lift weights to isolate various weak muscles and it has been six months of training to even this all out. But I say this to say that MAT fixed the foundation for my muscular body that everything else I tried missed. And every one of my climbing buddies that has gone or goes to Macke has similar results. If they do a study Im sure it will reflect these results, but till then I’m convinced.

  4. Kenn August 1, 2015 at 8:52 pm - Reply

    I found NO studies (quick google scholar look) showing MAT is proven to work. I understand that people are getting value out of it, but I also find it weird to see that there are no studies proving or disproving the technique.

    I am glad Coach Mackie see’s results with the technique. I am not saying it is good, nor am I saying it is bad. I just find questions with techniques without any scientific studies showing it works.

    • steve August 7, 2015 at 12:57 pm - Reply

      I’m not surprised there are no studies. That’s true with pretty much all climbing training and much else besides. Research costs money so who is going to fund it and with what aim? If it’s not going to make more money then its unlikely to get funded.

      Even if it was studied how conclusive would the results be anyway? Studying biological systems and humans in particular is fraught with difficulty because such systems are so complex, compared to other sciences like physics or chemistry. Its usually only after many studies have been carried out and people then do meta-studies that firm conclusions can be drawn.

      Research into homeopathy concluded that it was an effective treatment but it seems the positive results were entirely down to the placebo effect.

      There’s an interesting short video by the founder of MAT which is pretty interesting:

  5. Timm July 29, 2015 at 2:58 pm - Reply

    So could you put a hang board on pulley and flip it upside to “pull” on?

    • Eric October 3, 2015 at 7:35 am - Reply

      I’ve adopted using a single rock ring on a pulley with weights since hearing this podcast. Basically doing seated one arm Lat downs. I’m able to isolate the motion, gradually increase the weight, and I can work each hand/arm independently to address any imbalances.

Leave A Comment